Winter Vitality

There was a time when people were living in complete harmony with nature. They were acutely aware of their natural environment, rising with the sun, eating food that was in season, and aligning their daily life cycle with the time of year. Times have changed. We are living further removed from our environment and the rhythm of nature. We are able to insulate ourselves from the outdoors, particularly in the Winter months and our food can be shipped from anywhere in the world. Human evolution and the advancement of technology has given us many great things, however it means that we are less in tune with nature and the rhythms of the seasons. Adapting our lifestyle in flow with the change of seasons enhances vitality and makes us more resilient. So how do we find our way back?

I find it helpful to look to ancient modalities such Ayurveda and Taditional Chinese Medicine as both teach that living in harmony with the seasons is essential for our well-being. The science of Chinese Medicine influences the practice of Yin yoga. It is a beautiful way to utilize a physical asana practice to enhance the flow of energy through the inner body including the organs. In this way, we cultivate resiliency from the inside out and restore our health and vitality naturally.

As we make our way into January we move into the heart of Winter. From the Chinese Medicine perspective Winter is the most Yin of all the seasons. Yin is the cool, dark, damp, slow moving energy. This time of year is all about replenishment and restoration, which allows us to recharge in preparation for the expansive energy of Spring.

The organs associated with Winter are the kidneys and urinary bladder, which govern the element of water in the physical body. The kidneys hold our body’s most basic and fundamental energy. To nourish our kidneys we need periods of stillness, rest, and inner reflection. These qualities coincide beautifully with the energy of Winter.

Here is a 3 pose yin yoga sequence designed to tone the kidney and urinary bladder meridians. Stay in each pose for 3-5 minutes resting in savasana or a comfortable seated pose between each and enjoy an extended savasana or meditation at the end.

Butterfly – Place a folded blanket under your seat. Sit upright and bring the soles of your feet together making a diamond shape with your legs. The feet should be out away from your seat. Stay here in an upright position or gently fold your forehead toward your feet. Remember to stop when the stretch is just right – not too much. To come out bring your knees together then straighten your legs and place your hands behind you. Lean back into your hands and sway the legs in and out.

Sphinx – Lay down onto your belly. Place your elbows under your shoulders with your forearms parallel and your palms flat. Relax your legs. If it is agreeable with your back and shoulders let your chest soften forward and down. If this is too strong for your back lightly press into your forearms and lightly engage your lower belly. To come out of the pose widen your elbows and lay flat on your belly before pressing back into a child’s pose.

Reclined Twist – Lay down on your back lift you knees toward your chest and roll them down to the right. Bring your arms up in line with your chest extended or in cactus arms. If it is alright with your neck turn your head to the left. If that is uncomfortable keep your head at center. I like to place a folded blanket between my lower legs to help neutralize the lower back. To come out of the pose engage your abdominals and lift your top knee then your bottom knee bringing your knees back to center. Repeat on the other side before resting in savasana.

To learn more about seasonal vitality for Winter and experience an extended yin practice please join me for my seasonal yin workshop on January 19.

Cheers to Winter!