At some point or another, we have probably all wondered why we sometimes feel a bit off balance for no apparent reason. One possible reason could be that we have all lost touch with nature a little, and don’t fully appreciate the effect seasonal changes can have on our mood and body.
During the winter months, Mother Earth slows right down, so it’s also our time to rest, reflect and recharge. Use your Yoga practice to ground and centre yourself. Try to practice by finding a bit more ease in your postures. Allow your body and your mind to find the space to move into by itself, instead of pushing your way into it. This will help you to let your mind quieten, so you can let go of all the fuss around you. Dedicate your practice to creating new space and new energy, and you may find a sense of clarity. Here are just a few ideas for your practice…
Tadasana (mountain pose) with breathing technique
After the hectic festive season, it is good to find a bit of quiet, and to be in the present moment.
There is almost no better way to ground yourself than through your feet. Set yourself up just as you know your mountain pose, but make sure you keep your arms relaxed by your sides. Now bring your focus to your feet and see whether you can find the ground even a little more, and try to drop your heels (you need to relax your knees to do this). With your heels dropping into the ground, you’ll feel your pelvis relax. You should have a sensation of being in your back body a bit more. We are so used to always moving forward and looking ahead, that it may feel a little strange to trust our back body. Close your eyes.
Tadasana is a wonderful pose to practice this centring breathing technique in: keeping your eyes closed, breathe in from the crown of the head to your heart, and breathe out from the heart to the centre of the earth. Breathe in from the centre of the earth to the heart, and breathe out from heart through the crown of the head to the sky. Repeat this ten times. This is also a lovely breath to prepare for balances.
Surya Namaskar (sun salutation)
Energise to recharge the batteries, but be mindful.
Practice five to nine rounds of sun salutations, but try to slow them down a bit and make each breath a little longer, especially if you have the tendency to always push yourself in your sun salutations. Instead, just focus on creating an internal rhythm, which you will find generates lovely warmth and creates a different quality to the energy in your body. When you are finished, lie down and have some rest. Try deep abdominal breathing here, which will help you to slow down your heart rate again.
Virabhadrasana I, II, III (the warriors)
Settle and centre yourself, so you are ready for what may come in the New Year.
All the warrior poses are great to feel strong and to generate some energy. But again, just try to do a little less. Don’t make the warriors into a challenge. Explore to find a comfortable steadiness in your warriors. In version I and II, take your back foot out to the side a touch (i.e. if the right foot is your back foot, step it a couple of inches to the right). This means you have a wider, but more stable base, and you will find it easier to have your back foot pointing forward. Let your pelvis naturally face forward, even in warrior II. And now, connecting through your feet again, let the support from the ground travel up both your legs, which allows you to tuck your pelvis in and to lengthen out of your spine. Notice how you couldn’t be any more solid and stable in a posture without clenching on to anything or tensing up. Nothing could throw you off balance in this posture.
Don’t stress about all the plans for the New Year, things will happen if you let them.
Seated forward bends are great to include in your practice to calm your mind. They have a soothing effect on the nervous system, so you may find them helpful to relieve some of those New Year’s anxieties. Choose simple variations, which will allow you to ease into the forward bend. There is no pushing, shoving or puling, but just releasing with every breath. Only go as far as you are comfortable, and hang out there for a little while. With every out-breath, let go of any tensions. Observe where the space is to move into, and resist it for a little longer than you normally would. Your body will probably find that space to move into by itself, if you let it.
Buddhist breathing meditation
Leave all aims and ambitions and come into the presence.
This is one of the simplest ways to meditate, and you can do it anywhere, at any time, because all you need is your breath, which is with us from the moment we are born to the moment we die. Sit in a really comfortable position that allows you to easily keep an upright spine. Be honest here, and allow yourself another block, or maybe even a chair to sit on. Try kneeling, with your sitting bones raised on three blocks between your feet, which removes the pressure on the joints and the lower spine. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath, that’s all! As your thoughts wonder off, keep bringing your focus back to the breath. Observe every in-breath, and every out-breath. Try to do this for at least five minutes, and then start bringing your focus to the space between the in- and the out-breath, and the space between the out- and the in-breath. And again, every time your thoughts start wondering off, just bring them back to the breath and the spaces in-between. Keep your hands in Chin Mudra, which has a calming effect. In total, try to give this simple meditation at least ten minutes. To come out, just take a few deeper breaths, and slowly open your eyes.
Most of winter is still to come, but there is no reason to let the cold and dullness or self-imposed pressures get to you. Use your Yoga practice to find a presence and openness for the potential of the year ahead.
And if you haven’t practiced for a while, and can’t find the motivation to self-practice, just look up a local class, join in again, and find your way back to Yoga. How is that for a New Year’s resolution?