For many, one of the pinnacles in surviving the winter months is hibernation. This doesn't mean crawling into a tree and sleeping until the days grow longer, or hiding beneath the covers until your SAD lamp arrives. As a consequence to fewer time spent in daylight, our minds can begin to recede inward, making us feel lethargic, sad and even depressed. This affects our bodies, giving birth to aches and pains that make the winter months seemingly unbearable. Long. As we carve into the thick of winter, its imperative to teach your mind and body the basics when it comes to healthy hibernation, because healthy hibernation leads to restoring your entire spirit, priming it for growth and movement come spring. Retreat is necessary, and it's important to embrace that knowingness so your body has time to recover from everything it experienced mentally, physically, and emotionally throughout the year. A proper hibernation and restoration practice is key to giving your spirit peace and relief from everything it's endured.
In part two of our Winter Survival Guide, Rachelle Taylor from Prairie Yogi teaches us the basics of this important duty of honouring our quietude:
WINTER MIND + BODY WORK
The dark, frigid winters we experience here on the prairies are really hard on us both mentally and physically. A spiritual practice is a tool you can use to balance body and mind with the external environment, which here in the climate of extremes, shifts dramatically from season to season.
For this week's Winter Survival Guide, I'm offering insight into how a spiritual practice, specifically yoga and meditation, in the winter months can bring balance and wellness in your state of being. Even in -30 windchills.
Consider adopting this modern hibernation + restoration technique, adapted for the busy bodies of today.
According to the Yoga Sutras, there are three gunas (or states of being) that make up all of creation. They are rajas (activity, passion, desire), tamas (inertia, darkness, ignorance) and sattva (purity, goodness, truth).
The three lie on a spectrum, with the balanced sattvic (sattva) state in the centre. We crave and seek to reside in the centre of the spectrum, sattva: a balanced state of being, because it helps to make us feel our best. Within each day, we experience a constant shift between these three states of being. Sattva is experienced most evidently during meditation, a time where we are both still and awake, but it can be experienced at any given moment in any activity within your day. However, rajas and tamas as the two we spend most of our time in.
Before we can come to meditation and find that sattvic state, we must shift our current state, which, let's face it... is often not a space of balance. Passionate rajistic energy can be brought closer to the sattva at the centre by practicing tamastic calm and rest, while tamastic energy can be brought closer to the balanced sattva by practicing rajas.
Given the darkness and the state of inertia in the winter months, this season is inherently tamastic. It makes us feel lethargic, depressed, and unmotivated whilst living in blackness (SAD, anyone?).
To relieve this tamastic state of inertia, we need to infuse our being with rajas (activity) to bring us closer to sattva. Fortunately, the New Year brings a lot of us to the mat, either for the first time, or to reconnect after a hiatus. Through asana (the poses you know as yoga) we incorporate the rajistic state we need to find balance.
Now is the season for a strong, fiery practice that will warm your body and ignite your mind.
While hot yoga is a popular method to create that heat, many vinyasa, or flow, classes are designed with this heat building in mind and work to spark your energy all the same.
I'm a fan of incorporating inversions into my practice, especially in the winter. Battling the elements on a daily basis, our perception in the winter can become negative and strained. When we invert, we literally turn our perception upside down and begin to see things differently. Inversions also have anti-aging and antidepressant benefits.
There are many variations of inversions, from active, heart opening hollowbacks, to passive, sweet legs-up-the-wall (my favourite post to finish off my practice with).
The rajastic movements derived from yoga asanas prepares your body and mind for meditation, to sink into the desired sattvic state. While there are a plethora of guided meditations available online you can use to assist your meditation, my favourite is simple: follow your breath.
HIBERNATION + RESTORATION PREP
1. Sit in a comfortable seat, with your sit bones elevated with a rolled up blanket or cushion.
2. Inhale, lengthen your spine, sitting tall.
3. Exhale and allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears.
4. Softly close your eyes and begin to breathe in and out through your nose.
5. Unclench your jaw and relax the muscles of your face. Notice how the breath feels as it fills your lungs, and how it feels as you exhale.
6. Repeat for 10-20 breaths.
As you plant the seeds of a new beginning with a new year, I invite you to incorporate a spiritual practice into your daily life. Don't have time? No problem... as little as 10 minutes a day (this five sun salutations and 10 deep breaths every morning or night) practiced daily will have a positive effects on your body and spirit in the deep freeze.
Come experience sattva with Rachelle, Van and other teachers, as we embark on a journey of self-care at SNOWFLAKE winter wellness festival, guided by some of the community's most inspiring instructors and speakers. This Sunday, January 24th at the Fort Garry Hotel. Tickets are still available: www.prairieyogisnowflake.com
Rachelle Taylor is a love warrior born and raised in the heart of Canada. This gypsy spirit searched far and wide for inspiration, beauty and bliss around the globe only to return home to Winnipeg where she created Prairie Yogi Inc. + Prairie Love Festival as expressions of her love for yoga, epic experiences, and community. A vinyasa yoga instructor (200RYT), eternal student, rookie meditator, and inspired speaker, Rachelle brings her enthusiasm, light and authenticity to her vinyasa yoga teachings.
Photography by This Sweet Love Photography.