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The snow is falling and everything feels still and heavy. Twenty-three inches of snow are due to fall across parts of the East Coast. It’s amazing how life stands still in a snowstorm. There is something astonishing when Mother Nature can get our attention so completely and stop us in our tracks. It’s as if we are meant to just be still for a moment and reflect.

Some of the winter season pitfalls are sleeping too much and eating too much

There is something even more mysterious when we stop and reflect together, when all of nature seems to point us in the direction of our internal world. We may curl up by the fire and read a book, or spend more time in meditation or writing in a journal. This moving inward is part of aligning with nature and the seasons. Recognizing their impact on our lives and well-being is part of learning to care for ourselves and our place in nature.

Different seasons seem to support different behaviors and activities. They even require different ways of eating and sleeping. In the summer months, we may find ourselves more active and living outdoors more. We may search out foods that are cooling like salads and fruits. We may need less sleep and have more energy due to the support of the sun and its powerful impact on our energy levels.

Yet in the winter we may crave warm soups and cooked foods, while we may feel sleepy earlier and sleep longer due to the lack of light and heat that keep our energy levels up.

The tradition of Ayurveda, an age old system that promotes self care, recognizes how each season holds its own specific notes on how we can stay balanced and healthy while living mindfully in relationship with our environment and nature.

Ayurveda recognizes that with the heaviness and coldness of winter comes an opportunity to move inward. Yet when that inward motion of our energy and attention becomes too great, we can find ourselves lacking in the energy and enthusiasm necessary to stay on top of everyday duties and responsibilities. This balance of introspection and activity takes sensitivity and awareness to navigate.

If we spend too much time sitting still, we may have to deal with the effects of gravity and stagnation. Some of the winter season pitfalls are sleeping too much and eating too much. We may start to look more like my neighborhood squirrels who slow down their pace and start looking more like balls of fur than squirrels. If we hibernate too much, we may find ourselves feeling out of balance. Yoga and Ayurveda offer many suggestions for staying in balance and finding your healthiest self amidst the seasons and elements.

How to Find Balance in Winter

Let some of these simple suggestions be a guide as you seek to balance your inner world with your outer world to maintain a deeper level of health and well-being this winter.

 1. Try Eating Less

When we overeat, we feel that same fullness and heaviness that is part of the winter. We are also putting a strain on our digestive system. Eating less allows us to feel more buoyant and therefore bring more balance to the heaviness of the season.

 2. Eat Green

These include foods that are grown above the ground and have the most “sun energy” like kale, spinach, broccoli, and sprouts. (See post, Deck the Halls with Bowls of Greens).

These vegetables are exposed to more sunlight than root vegetables like carrots and squash, and when we eat them we are getting the life force they contain. In yoga, this life force is called Prana, and it is a major part of understanding our own internal energy patterns.

3. Make Sure to Exercise Daily

Sometimes shorter and more frequent sessions can be a bigger “pick me up.” Research suggests that 2 minutes of walking per hour is linked to 33% lower risk of deaths. (See post, How Two Minutes of Walking Per Hour Can Save Your Life). It can also work wonders to improve mood and energy levels.

4. Include More Back Bends

Yoga postures like cobra  and fish pose counterbalance the inward movement of energy and awareness. They are opening and expansive, and they stimulate the lungs and heart in gentle ways. Even twisting can invigorate the lungs and heart and move stagnation.

 5. Don’t Oversleep

The more we sleep, the harder it is too wake up. Oversleeping can add to the sluggishness that winter brings. Try to get up before the sunrise and start the day with your postures and meditation.

How do you stay balanced and energized during the sluggish winter months?

 

 

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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