As Winter creeps into our bones and the cold, frosty mornings tempt us to stay snuggled under the Doona, we can begin to see the deep, underlying connection we have to nature and our environment. You can't deny it. The drop in temperature, shorter day length and dryness in the air can be felt in our bodies, as we crave hot chocolates and cups of tea, warmer nourishing ( and perhaps not so nourishing) foods like soups and porridge, chocolate puddings and muffins. On a deeper level, we feel it in our spirits. Feelings of slowing down, settling in, hibernating and recharge take over the busyness of the hotter summer months. However, these body and spirit sensations can also give way to feelings of stagnation, even sluggishness as we move less, eat heavier foods as our digestion becomes strained or sluggish and things in general can just feel stuck.
Here's where Yoga & Ayurveda ( Yoga's Sisters Science) comes in.
Yoga is a way of weaving the practices on the mat, to all that we do off the mat. How we move, interact, eat, talk, sleep, rest, recharge. And by following the seasons that we are immersed in, we can create an individualised approach to Yoga and our life. To bring ourselves back into harmony and balance instead feeling like we are constantly fighting it.
Yoga is in its purest form, is a systematic approach to re-member our essential nature ~ A deep intrinsic knowing that we are ALREADY whole. We have all that we need and that we are full and complete.
However there's a catch. You need to do the work to feel the benefits. Take the gym for example, you don't go to gym once a month and expect to be able to see improvements in your strength? You go 3-4 times a week, to see marked regular improvements. The same goes for Yoga.
1. Yoga can create change but only from Committed Consistent Practice.
Come to Yoga once a month, and you probably won't see much benefit; come to Yoga once a week, and you'll begin to slowly feel the effects; come to Yoga 3-4 times a week & you will begin to see progress in other areas of your life.
Commit to a daily Yoga Practice that at its core includes Pranayama ( breath work) & Meditation, Yoga Nidra and Asana also, and you will see transformative change in all aspects of your life.
From the choices you make about your food, to who you spend your time with, to the way you interact with people and most importantly how you interact with yourself. From this often marked change can occur in your life. As you become more attentive on your mat, this ripples out into the world to all aspects of your life, challenging you to recognise patterns or behaviours that may not be serving you well. And to have the courage to make the necessary changes in your life to evolve.
2.Yoga's Benefits ALL areas of your Physical and Emotional Health & Wellbeing.
Yoga brings you to the present moment.Again and Again and again.
And its from this mindfullness and from this state, our body remembers its not in a state of fight or flight. It just is and it can get on with doing what it does best.
We know from decades of medical research that Yoga, and more specially Meditation do the following:
* Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
* Reduce Stress hormones
Reduce pain and inflammation
* Reduce depression and anxiety.
*Improve your immune and digestive function
* improve cognitive function including memory, focus
* improve a sense of calm
* Improve a feeling of connectedness
And Improves our sleep.
Recent research has even shown mediation can reverse damage to our DNA.
So with all of this in mind, how can we target our Yoga to each season? Well, lets start with Winter, our current season. With its cold, frosty feels, Winter hibernation can be an all too easy and comfortable option. Take a guide from Yoga, start getting up with the Sun, start the day with some Warm water to stimulate your digestion and get things moving. Then some energising breath work, setting a daily intention and then some movement, ideally waking up your core, spine, shoulders chest and legs. Nothing fancy. Just warming and heating movements to stimulate the lymphatic and immune systems, wake up your digestion and clear out congestion and stagnation from the body. Include more fluid movements, repetitive movements to build heat, core work and twists and side body & chest openers to heat up, invigorate and clear out.
My favourite flows are just simple Sun Salutations adding in some arm movements, twists and core work.
End with some centring breath work, to invoke a sense of steady calm and ease, helping to then cultivate a clearer and more focused mind, ready for your day ahead.
Add in more nourishing foods such as soups, stews, slow cooked meals, porridge, cooked brown rice, plenty of vegetables, protein from your chosen source. And take time out to feed yourself what you want. Stop all the good and bad food. Stop with all the cheat days and guilty pleasures. And just have pleasures. if you have cake or a block of chocolate. Enjoy EVERY. LAST. BITE. No more shame about food, eat with your friends, sit in the sunshine, eat cakes and drink cups of chai.
3.Yoga Gives your all the tools to Experience a rich full and vibrant life.
For me the greatest gift of Yoga is that it has brought me back home. Yoga ultimately cultivates a sense of observation and judgement. So that instead of constantly searching for outside validation, outside material things or other people to make me happy, I have learnt that it all exists within me and that I AM responsible for that.
Its where I have the courage to do what is necessary.
And who doesn't want that. It teaches you so importantly that you are not the voices inside your head, you are the one listening. Whatever you give power to will increase.
A Consistent, committed, daily practice gives you the ability to see yourself clearer. To see yourself with more honesty. From this clarity comes the ability to listen to the repetitive narrative you have going on in your head. And from that seat of observation you can choose to tend to the flowers instead of the weeds. And each time you choose this, you are "remembering yourself home " ( as my teacher Elena Brower says.)
Instead of being stuck in a cycle of judgement and repetitive patterns/behaviours, your consciously begin to unravel yourself, layer by layer. Till you find; YOU.
You begin to see the bliss and the beauty in ALL that is around you.
Resiliency. Strength. Softness. Grace. Ease. Compassion. Freedom. Peace.
Its all yours. Its already within you. You are already whole & complete.
You just need the tools to remember and Yoga gives you those tools.
Are you ready to make Yoga a daily part of your life?
I invite you to start a 40 Day Practice of Yoga. Commit to 2-3 Classes a week, start a Daily Meditation Practice and then on the remaining days get your body moving with some hikes out in nature, Sauna sessions, gym, running around with your dogs, rock climbing; some gentle but vigorous movement that suits your body. (Sound counterintuitive but for example, by body dislikes running, but loves long hikes wiht lots of change in terrain, so instead of pushing myself to run, I hike instead) Also commit to practicing Yoga Nidra 2 or more times a week, especially if you are exhausted, over worked, highly stressed or working through life changes.
Not sure where to start? Want to remain committed but need accountability along the way?
Contact me and we can work together towards a sustainable home practice that will keep you balanced and nurtured. I create tailored Therapeutic classes, for YOU with pranayama, Meditation, Yoga Nidra, Asana and more.
Start a Membership with me at the Studio located within @RAFT Art Space ~ to keep accountable and consistent with your practice.
I guide & lead Seasonal Practices month by month, addressing the full spectrum of the Yoga Practice. And I also offer Monthly Deep Rest Practices aligned with the Dark Moon, Seasonal Sunrise Sessions & Workshops.
Winter in the desert is a challenge. We celebrate its arrival because the days are no longer above 40 degrees, and the desert feels like ours again to explore ~ to walk, hike, camp and delight in the magic of the land. But you also feel a coldness deep in your bones. Its windy and dry. A lot of our houses are built to withstand the heat and stay cool in Summer, which means in Winter it can feel like you're living in an ice box.
I've been here for 7 years ( maybe longer, but who's counting?) and I wanted to share with you some of my go-to's that I've found have enabled me to not only survive winter, but do so without getting sick every other week and not end up like a cold, dry, shrivelled up sultana!
1.Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate
Most of us LOVE our coffee or Tea, but they're not only acidic for the body but are incredibly dehydrating, so start your Day with 2 glasses of Warm water. Not only will this kickstart your digestion and get things moving, but it will mean you've already drunk 1/2 L or more before your days begins.
Keep this up during the day, but having an insulated water bottle and drinking warm water or even herbal teas. I drink Ginger tea all day long somedays, its warming and invigorating and great for flushing the kidneys and organs from stagnation.
Also Hydrate your face regularly especially in you're in an office with dry heating on. Use a rose water or other natural face mist.
2. Energising Pranayama and Yoga in the Morning
Start the day with some energising Pranayama, my Favourite is Kapalabhati followed by Nadhi Shodnana. I then follow this with any intuitive movement, usually some joint warm ups and Modified Sun Salutations and get my body moving in all directions to get fluids and organs functioning well.
In Winter, I really amp up my Yoga Practice. I tend to really feel the heaviness and stagnation of Kapha Season towards mid Winter and so I focus on heat building sequences that invigorate and energise my body, with plenty of strong standing postures, hip stability, core and twists. These help move the heaviness and lethargy I can often feel & also help stimulate the lymphatic, immune and digestive systems to all function optimally.
Ideally, you work up a sweat to feel cleansed and rejuvenated, but short of someone opening a Yoga Studio in Alice with Radiant Heating ( hint hint anyone wanna pay for that with me ??) then the best option is to do your Yoga, then a few times during the weak get your sweat on - Sauna, few quick sprints, whatever floats your boat. My body doesn't really feel its best on huge amounts of Cardio I prefer Sauna, Heated Yoga or just a really strong Yoga Flow. Your body might be different, so listen to it, MOVE IT and sweat it!
2. Dry Body Brushing before your Shower
This helps stimulate your lymphatic system and will give you a brilliant all over body tingle. Lets face it we could all use more body tingles!
3. All Over Invigorating Body Scrub
You can buy one HERE FROM RASSARA Skin Food but its super easy to make yourself, just get coffee grounds, salt, coconut oil, orange or grapefruit essential oil, even some cypress too. It makes a mess but it's so worth it.
3. Use a Body Oil Onto Wet Skin Straight Out of the Shower.
I use this one, from Rassara Skin Food but again you can easily make it up yourself. Here's some more info on Why Body Massage with oil is so great. It might seem like one more thing to do in the morning, but using firm and nourishing strokes to apply the oil onto damp skin, is such a great way to give a self massage and just take a mindful moment before the craziness.
4. Keep Neck Warm, Feet and Hands Warm
If you know me at all, you'll know I always have some type of scarf or neck warmer on and a beanie, and keep myself super warm and my skin away from the dry desert wind.
5. Warming, Healthy Nutritious Meals
Think oats or cooked brown rice ( as whole and close to the grain as possible) or Berry Crumbles, or Frittatas, with plenty of protein and add some fruit like stewed apples or rhubarb, warming soups, slow cooked meals, that are easy to digest and give your belly some lubrication with some ghee or little oil also. You can get more detailed from an Ayurvedic perspective if you'd like, but just eating foods that feel right for your body and keep you warm.
6. Preventive Herbs & Tonics
I'm no naturopath or Chinese Medicine Dr but I do use both a lot during winter.
Recently I got sick and although I still took time off work to let my body heal I didn't get anywhere as sick as some people and no chest infection at all! I take a mixture of herbal tonics that contain Echinacea, Olive Leaf to name a few and ensure i have adequate amount of Vit C and ZInc supplements. Best to book in with a Naturopath to sort YOU out .
Hope that's given you a few little prompts on some things you could integrate into your routines to keep healthy and strong during these cold months ahead & remember that over all, you know your body best. Rest when you need. Get out in that fresh air, sweat a little, potter in the veggie patch, catch up with friends over Chai and cake and take care,
Love Mid x
I'm a Yogi, tea-lover, wanderluster, truth seeker.