The change in season always, always throws me into a flurry, usually I’m mourning the sudden ease that comes with getting out of bed in Summer or lamenting that didn’t go to the beach enough once Autumn arrives or get a chance to wear my favourite coat enough come Spring time.
As the seasons shift it honestly feels as though I may never swim again, ridiculous, I know, especially as my husband and I will be escaping to India during winter’s coldest part this year! Come September, the anxiety of not being able to wear boots and a skirt (one of my favourite things) will soon come.
It shouldn’t be like this, a change in season like all changes offers us a fresh start, a new beginning, renewal and a chance to live a different life for a while. This post is part celebration of Winter time’s glory, part survival guide from a Yoga and Ayurveda perspective.
Food and Drink
My little habits change with the seasons in summer I love to drink water with torn mint leaves in it for its cooling and refreshing properties in winter this is swapped for warm water with a knob of fresh ginger for its cleansing and warming properties.
Ginger is imperative in winter, not only will you need it for endless cups of chai but, I like to use fresh ginger for all day hydration, a 20 cent sized piece in a mug with hot water, if you prefer dried ginger (bought as loose ginger tea if you are unsure of what I mean) is also good, much stronger in flavour and therefore warming and if you know which mind/body constitution you are in Ayurveda and are Pitta (fire) dosha, I would stick to the fresh stuff and reuse the same piece of ginger it becomes weaker the more you use it.
If you feel you are fighting off a cold or flu try drawing a bath and adding 1/3 cup of dried ginger and 1/3 cup of baking soda and take a soak, watch your eyes though!
Avoid cold drinks, drink even plain water warm (this helps remove more toxins from your system) and use warming spices such as cinnamon (perfect on porridge) cloves, turmeric and black pepper. Eat warming, slightly spicy foods such as curries and soups, we need more food in winter than we do in Summer, so try eating a larger than normal lunch and keep the evening meal the same size for better night time rest.
I know we always say not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a yoga practice, you may find that in winter you need some nuts or dried fruit closer to your practice. (or even a cup of hot cacao or sweet milky, chai, unless you are Kapha (water) dosha as dairy is mucous producing and in winter we are trying to minimise mucous in Kapha.
Prepare meals mindfully, I particularly love meals in winter that take all day to cook such as slow cooked soups and curries that fill the house with warmth and delicious smells. Have a go at making chai- it is beautiful to look at and there is nothing quite like homemade chai!
Sleep in a little later, in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is said in winter to not rise before 7am. Winter is a time to be more withdrawn from the outside world, sleeping in is totally fine, I generally find that while in Summer it is easy to get up and practice yoga, I prefer to practice later in the day, usually after work. There is less chance of injury then, too much movement on freezing mornings can be dangerous for the body, a later afternoon or evening practice can also be quite a nice way of flaming the digestive fire before the evening meal and warming up before winding down for the day.
If you a prone to stiff joints and for all round health, massage warm sesame oil all over your body in the mornings. Sesame Oil is known as the “king” of oils due to the levels of antioxidants present. I cover myself in sesame oil each day and leave it on but you can massage it in and leave for 20 or so minutes before showering. It is warming, grounding and fabulous for those sore parts.
*with all oils always by cold pressed, organic oils not just sesame oil from the supermarket any health food store should be able to help.
I like to start winter practices with Surya Namaskar (sun salutes) or another type of vinyasa (flow) creating heat and opening up the heart, 6 x repetitions each side. While in Summer I would favour longer holdings and more cooling asana in winter I practice much more dynamically and leave time for a long savasana under a thick yoga blanket, make sure you rug up as it’s always surprising how fast and how much we cool down with the stillness of savasana. (any blanket is of course fine but the blankets found at most yoga schools are really snuggly available at yoga prop stores or a little tip- camping stores).
Practicing pranayama which builds heat and gets rid of mucous and toxins on the lungs is ideal in winter, practices such as Bhastrika or Kapalabhati creates energy as well as detoxifying the respiratory system especially if you know you are prone to coughs, colds and other Kapha disorders.
Enjoy the opportunity to spend long days in front of the fire, relish in the cups of tea and wear skirts and boots as much as you can before the swimming season hits!
With warmth, Namaste xxx