THE SEASONS OF YOGA... MAINTAINING PRACTICE AS THE SEASONS SHIFT
My practice shifts with each season, at times I feel stiff, tired, overloaded but the one thing I know is I am always grateful for the time I spent on my mat even if it is only ten minutes.
Winter officially begins with the Winter Solstice today, December 21, 2018. This is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year.
In 2018, the winter solstice arrives on Friday, December 21, at 5:23 pm EST. Coincidentally, December’s full Moon—the Full Cold Moon—will also appear on the night of the 21st, though it will not be at its absolute peak until the next day. So, keep your eyes peeled for a (near) Winter Solstice Full Moon that night! (Believe it or not, the next full Moon to actually peak on the winter solstice won’t be until 2094!) - The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can’t wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. You’ll notice a peaceful sort of silence when you walk through the woods—a muffled kind of quiet.
Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather. In colder regions, winter often means shoveling, snowblowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable temperatures. In warmer regions, the winter temperatures become very mild or cool, and places such as Florida fill up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.
"As the time of year shifts, we tend to get antsy. Even if we are in a part of the country that doesn’t have large transitions in the weather, we can still see the changes happening all around us. Decorations in our favorite stores change, the flavors of food available in our markets and at our favorite restaurants modify to reflect the availability of certain foods, and we start thinking about the holidays that are imbued within the coming months.
With each seasonal transformation, we have new demands on our schedule, claiming our precious time. We never want to give up those things that we know are good for us, but all too often, something has to give. As each new challenge arises, the start of the school year, the beginning of the winter holiday season, the start of summer and increased travel plans, we are met with the challenge of how to maintain our yoga practice as a constant in our lives while everything around it is changing.
Each and every one of us gives into the occasional skipped class. Taking our best friends to dinner on their birthday, or a work obligation that we just can’t get out of – these things happen. The key to preserving our practice throughout the seasons comes with remembering a few key components to practice.
First – it has never been too long since you’ve come to the mat. No matter if you had to skip a day because of an office party, or a week because of a vacation, or a season because of taking care of a loved one that fell ill, the mat is always there, it’s always part of you. Your body might rebel and give you a hard time if it’s been a while, but we have to remember that just as autumn is the season of hard work, finding and storing up energy for the long winter ahead, pushing through these discomforts is good for us. Not only are they are reminder that we are doing something good for ourselves, they are actually actively strengthening us, forming new muscles in the bodies we carry. If we can find beauty in the hard parts of coming to the mat, remembering that the dormancy of the trees mean that beautiful fall foliage is just around the corner, we can too find comfort in knowing that yoga is always there for us, ready to welcome us back.
Second – there is no ‘perfect’ in yoga. Yoga is about practice, about betterment, and about growth. We can use the seasonal shifts to remind us of that. Just as in winter, the plants pull back and become dormant, this too is part of their growth, making it possible for their bodies to be stronger and become heartier. Sometimes we need to accept the laws of nature in our own lives. Those days or weeks in which we are struggling to bring ourselves to the mat have a purpose in our lives, just as winter is a season that looks dreary, but is making way for the allowance of new growth.
Third – Yoga opens us up to new success. Just as spring gives way to new life, so does yoga. We have all accepted there is a gaining of physical strength in yoga, but remembering personal growth is just as important will keep us coming back, class after class. Through yoga we cultivate all the progress we are making, not just with strengthening our bodies, but also shifting our perspectives and bettering our mindsets. Spring is a time for renewal, and often a time of excitement because we are emerging from a cocoon of protection from the harsher elements of winter. Yoga too is about renewal of spirit and a readiness for that which is to come.
Fourth – Yoga, Just as the seasons shift, we too can find the best place for us within each time of year. Our yoga practice doesn’t have to stop just because our schedules change, in fact it can help the transition be even more fulfilling."
Wisdom from Tim Miller ❤️
"Krishnamacharya said that one’s yoga practice should change with the seasons, both with the seasons of the year and the seasons of one’s life. It’s not appropriate to practice the same way in winter as one does in summer. In the springtime of our life we are young, filled with energy and enthusiasm, and our practice should reflect that kind of energy. The summer is a time of the ripening of our practice, and finds us at our physical peak in terms of our asana practice. With the coming of the autumn of our life the natural evolution of our practice is for it to become more introspective—to devote more time to pranayama, mantra, devotional practices, meditation and philosophical study—and to begin to back off a little on the intensity of our asana practice. As the winter of our life begins—that’s me right now—our practice becomes even more introspective. It is important to continue to do enough asana to remain healthy and reasonably supple, but it is unrealistic to think we can practice the same way at 65 as we did at 35. Even though I have a few more aches and pains now, am a bit thicker in the middle, and don’t have quite the strength or flexibility I used to, I still love the practice and continue to do the first and second series regularly. On some days I do my special “Ashtanga for Senoirs” practice, which contains parts of first and second series, done with fewer vinyasas in the space of an hour or so. The one great gift of the aging practice in regards to asana practice is this: the longer you practice, the better the quality of attention that you bring to the practice. Isn’t this what it’s all about anyway?" - Tim Miller
What does winter mean to you? Let us know in the comments!