Yoga

Yoga for Seasonal Harmony

woman doing yoga by a window

Winter offers us the invitation to slow down, ground, and turn inward after the busy and mobile summer and fall.

The season is dominated by kapha dosha with dormant energy and typically dark, cold, cloudy, and sometimes wet weather. The stillness of winter calls us to rest, reflect, rejuvenate, and imagine. It is an opportunity to breathe fully and deeply, lean into the spaciousness of the atmosphere, and simply just be.

Given your inner nature and current state of balance, you may be soothed by winter’s qualities or aggravated by them. If your being is dominated by the calm, slow moving, and grounded energy of kapha, winter can leave you feeling lethargic, a sense of heaviness, and uninspired. It’s common for people to feel disconnected, dull, stuck, or lonely from December to March. In some cases, feelings of deep sadness (also known as the winter blues) and winter depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can creep in and take hold.

The characteristics of winter are not always straightforward, though, which makes balancing the energy within you a little more challenging than in other seasons. In some geographic areas, the kapha qualities of winter are present right at the beginning of the season. While in other areas, the vata characteristics of fall (dry, mobile, and windy) remain prominent in the first half of winter, with the kapha characteristics coming more to the forefront in the second half. And still in other areas, the weather can fluctuate between kapha and vata dominance daily. On the days vata energy is high, it is common to feel worried, anxious, or like your thoughts are on fast-forward.

One of the most supportive actions you can do for yourself during the winter months is to account for the weather outside your door and remain self-aware of how the energy is affecting you so that you notice the signs your body is giving you of the love and attention it requires. Shifting your practices to promote balance and care as the energy of nature changes will be important in uplifting kapha energy or grounding vata energy as needed.

Yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation are powerful practices all year round and are incredibly supportive rituals for winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, and anxiety because they can help decrease the intensity of your symptoms. They’ll also complement the direction you are receiving from your therapist, doctor, and other health care personnel. Allow yourself to feel empowered to listen to what your mind and body need this winter with the knowledge that you can meet yourself there with asana, pranayama, and meditation practices to bring yourself back into balance.

Asana (and any exercise) is favored during the hours of 6-10AM during the winter to help balance the cold, dark mornings and give you the grounding or uplifting you need to start your day at ease. Honoring which dosha is dominant outside your door as well as within you will be an important factor for balancing your mental health and keeping your nervous system functioning well during the winter. Here is some guidance for your asana, breathwork, and meditation practices based on whether kapha or vata energy is most prominent.

Yoga Practices to Soothe Vata Energy

When you’re feeling worried, anxious, or like your mind is on fast forward

Asana focus:

Favor a slower, more gentle and grounded practice

This is not a time to push yourself to your limits but remaining within 50-70% of your capacity so as to not push too far and overstimulate vata. Options to consider:

  • Take a good time warming up
  • Breathe through your nose
  • Sun Salutation: Move slowly with intention and fluidity through gentle flows (nothing jerky or jumping)
  • More or longer forward folds
  • Longer holds in standing strength and balance poses
  • Favor seated shapes for more grounding or even use the wall.
  • Gentle inversions
  • Prone twists (facing the ground)
  • Crocodile
  • Extended savasana (5-20 minutes)
    • Consider placing a rolled thin blanket or towel under your knees and cover yourself with a blanket
  • Restorative practice

Pranayama

Slow inhales and exhales as well as Belly Breathing are especially helpful and grounding in the moment when vata is high. Practices that are supportive for vata energy ongoing, even when you’re not feeling affected: Full Torso Breathing to create deeper, more even breaths, and Alternate Nostril (Nadi Shodhanam) for balance.

Meditation

Yoga Nidra is the science of deep conscious rest and an ancient technique designed to help you detach from your unpleasant thoughts, release tension and pain from your body, promote peace throughout your being, and tap into your innermost need. As a result, it can also improve your ability to relax, rest, and sleep.

This guided meditation experience will calm your nervous system and improve its functioning, balance your endocrine system (yes hormones!), and stimulate your cell regeneration and repair. Yoga Nidra offers you a deeper connection to your body, energy, mind, intuition, and bliss. This practice will support you in shifting your state of being so in time, you’ll begin to function in a more easeful state.

Yoga Practices to Invigorate Kapha Energy

When you’re feeling lethargic, a sense of heaviness, or uninspired

Asana focus:

Favor a more expansive, dynamic, and uplifting practice

Create heat and intensity while practicing at about 60-80% of your capacity. Options to consider:

  • Take your time warming up
  • Breathe through your nose
  • Sun salutation: Move with intention at a pace that allows your breath to quicken
  • Warrior Poses: I, II, Reverse Warrior
  • Forward Folds: seated or standing
  • Backbends: Cobra, Bow, Dancer
  • Abdominal strengthening to stimulate digestion like Side Plank, Leg Lifts, or twisting abdominal variations
  • Strength training - change up moves or more complicated moves, shorter rest periods,
  • Supported savasana - place pillow or rolled blanket under torso (5-10 minutes)

Pranayama

Explore three breathing tools: Kapalabhati (skull shining breath), Bhastrika (bellows breath), Surya Bhedana (right nostril breathing) to create warmth, boost energy, increase circulation, and support digestion.

Meditation

In a quiet space, envision spaciousness within an area where you feel safe. Spend time simply just allowing the space to be open while noticing all of its characteristics (sights, sounds, smells, sensations, energy). You can also envision growth steps for the desires you’d like to nurture.

This winter, remain tuned in to the conversation your body and mind are having with you. Notice the energy that is present within and around you so you can meet yourself with the grounding or uplifting you need. Allow your yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation practices to support your nervous system, mental health, and overall well-being like a soft, warm, and cozy blanket throughout the season.

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