Find energy during the darkest months with these seven tips.
Taking prolonged, deep breaths through your nose can help bring heat to your body during the cold winter months.
IN THE HEART OF WINTER, there is a natural shift toward being a homebody and staying inside. It's a great time of year to be more introspective, to focus on your well-being and to practice self-care. However, during the winter season, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of being sluggish, heavy and lazy. If you’re unwilling to recognize and change these bad seasonal habits, they can develop into a stagnant and low-energy lifestyle. In the cold, dark, quiet and lethargic winter, spark your energy by implementing these fiery changes in your yoga practice.
1. Turn up the heat.
One simple way to inspire more heat in the heart of winter is to turn up the heat. Literally. If it feels as if your body takes longer to warm up in regular yoga, try hot yoga. Bikram yoga is great if you like to work on refining your poses and hold them until you are pushing your edge of comfort. If you crave dynamic movement, hot vinyasa is fast-paced and offers a nearly constant flow of poses. Both are excellent options to sweat it out.
If hot yoga is not your preference, you can create heat from within yourself just by using your breath. There is a specific breathing technique whereby you inhale and exhale deeply and intentionally through your nose. Your inhalations should match your exhalations in duration, and should be consciously prolonged, but not forced or harsh. If your breath is audible to anyone but yourself, you are using too much effort to breathe. This specific breathing technique creates internal heat and works both while practicing yoga poses and sitting still.
3. Challenge yourself.
There are many ways to challenge yourself in yoga. You can simply set a goal to attend 25 classes in a month. Some styles, like Bikram yoga, have 30-day challenges to give you a sense of how a consistent practice can benefit you. There are many Instagram challenges that are fun because you get to try new poses and start conversations about them. In your home practice, you can challenge yourself by practicing 108 sun salutations or 10 wheel push-ups. You can also use a timer to hold poses. It could be as mild as holding a down dog for five minutes or a low plank for 30 seconds. Or, it can be as spicy as attempting to hold a handstand or forearm stand for two minutes against the wall. This will give you direction and inspire a fiery passion. However, make sure it does not turn into a competition. As soon as you feel any physical pain, misalignment or you notice yourself becoming too rigid and tough on yourself, reassess your approach.
4. Listen to music.
Sometimes it just takes some of your favorite tunes to get you off your couch and onto your mat. Create a fun playlist for your home practice. Put your headphones on when you have to venture outside to avoid cringing in the cold. Music inspires creativity and keeps your mind distracted from the weather.
5. Mix it up.
When you feel stuck during the winter season, try something outside your normal routine, whether it's a new yoga style, a completely different physical activity or a new hobby that’s completely unrelated to yoga. Often by trying new styles of yoga, it reignites your love for the practice. It shifts your perspective and keeps you thinking about and engaging with your practice during this stagnant time of year where the tendency is to shut down.
6. Take care of yourself.
This time of year demands that you take care of yourself. Instead of fighting the urge to fall asleep early or to sleep in late, embrace it. Allow yourself to really be aware of how you are feeling this time of year. Self-care techniques, such as drinking a warm glass of lemon water in the morning, soaking your feet, following a regular morning routine of movement or exercise, or allowing time for rest and recovery help tremendously to keep you feeling healthy and invigorated.
If the winter season is dragging and you’re feeling stuck, it’s a perfect time to plan a trip somewhere sunny and warm. This is a great way to break up the monotony of winter. There are many yoga retreats available to anyone and any level of student. If you do your research, you can find very affordable yoga retreats. By exploring new destinations and being around like-minded people, it often helps to recommit to your practice. If nothing else, you’re just going on a vacation to reset.