… and the blossoms of springtime are far off. Whether you love this season for the opportunity to hit the slopes or curl up with a book, dislike the short days and low temperatures, or anything in between, we are connected to our environments, and therefore respond to winter in various ways–whether they are clear or more subtle.

Yoga therapy can help us. Firstly, yoga allows us the opportunity to slow down and tune in to what is happening. This is the practice of svadyaya: self-study, as well as the practice of satya: truth, or being with what is. How are we in particular responding to winter, or for that matter, to life in general right now? What resides in the physical body, the energy body, the emotions, and the thoughts? Once we see clearly what is, therapeutic yoga can help us to balance this season of vata, or wind, in various ways. Three goals I’ll discuss here grounding, heart-opening, and calming.

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The earth is frozen, and that which is alive is further away from us than throughout the other seasons. The potential energy of trees, for example, is within their central cores and burrowed in their roots, instead of pushing out the showy blossoms of spring or producing rich green of summer leaves or splendid fall color. Essentially, the chi of living things, and of the earth itself, is in a sort of hibernation. Certain poses offer a chance to feel more connected to the earth. Getting our center of gravity lower to the ground–for example in Goddess Pose or Garland Pose–allows us to really experience our weight and the force of gravity on our body. Taking an opposite approach towards the same goal, balancing poses offer a great opportunity to work with the energy body, or “pranamayakosha.” If we are to stay upright in poses like Tree, Eagle, or Dancer, we have no choice but to depend on our energetic strength and proprioception to make up for what we lack in physical stability.

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You’re standing outside and huge gusts of icy wind blow right at you. What does your body do in response? We curl in, hunch down, and protect. It keeps us a bit warmer to tuck ears into coats and to feel limbs against the body.

The downside comes when we forget to rebalance–to unfold. Heart-openers as gentle as Smiling Heart or as vigorous as Full Wheel can help us to stretch the tissues that connect the arms and chest, which often grow shorter in colder climes. Other options are Locust, Upward Bow, and any pose with hands clasped behind the back.

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If the physical, energetic, mental and emotional bodies are all intertwined (and does anyone out there even doubt this anymore?), then what do you suppose might happen to our moods and thoughts if our physical body is aware of the world as a cold place, and is engaged in that protective, closed stance? “Negative” and “dark” are the two words that come to me first. This can look any number of ways depending on our personality, biochemistry and social history–how does darkness manifest for you? Perhaps words like dull, agitated, sad, restless, depressed, snappy, or anxious could apply. Yoga philosophy has many ideas and models to help us with these kinds of “fluctuations of the mind,” and very specific breath techniques exist to help us feel at once calm and alert. Meditation, an important part of the “Big Yoga,” whether on a mantra, with an image, by counting the breaths, or simply by being aware of the inhale and exhale of the breath, helps us to cultivate a calm abode within the self–a place where we are free from the cluttered mind.

Want to put it into practice?
Come to my annual Yoga for Dark Days workshop!

REGISTER HERE! or call 410-224-7220

In 2015, it will be every Sunday in February from 3pm-4:30pm at Evolutions. Put these ideas into experience and get yourself through the coldest days of the year to March!

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