Habits for Surviving the Bleak of WinterNovember 11, 2019
Life is constantly changing, so it is important that we change with the seasons just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices. During the winter season, the energy of the Earth and its creatures is drawn inward. We can use this time for restoration and introspection, just as many plants and animals use it for hibernation. We have plenty of distractions to keep us from focusing on our health and taking care of ourselves as we would normally. Furthermore, once the holiday season is over, many people experience a lull in their motivation to stay active. Some people begin to experience depression or feelings of anxiousness over expenses that accumulated throughout the holidays. Others let diet and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Often, given the weather, exercise is sacrificed for warm nights spent indoors on the couch. So with shorter days and colder weather, finding the motivation to stay healthy and fit can be difficult… And that can lay the foundation for a weakened immune system, posing a greater risk of developing illness or injury. No wonder they call it the winter blues. The colder weather creates a number of safety risks to us and to those around us, and some of these we may not even be aware of.
In preparation for the spring, it is important to slow down and rejuvenate. Recognizing safety risks and patterns of illness or low energy ahead of time is key to preventing them — or at least to dealing with them as they arise. There are countless winter wellness tips and ideas available to ensure you have lots of ways to stay healthy, fit and safe this holiday season and beyond. These healthy winter habits will help you to recognize where your health falls short and what you can do to boost it during this time of year.
5 WINTER YOGA POSES
The winter months are notorious for colds and flus, so poses that open the chest, throat and sinuses will aid in improving congestion and supporting your respiratory organs. The following poses are metabolically invigorating and help to warm the kidneys and clear phlegm.
1. Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara): This invigorating invocation to your yoga practice helps build heat in the body. Do up to 12 rounds.
2. Fish Pose (Matsyasana): This supine backbend/inversion opens the throat and chest. Do up to three sets.
3. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana): Open your chest with this backbend. Do up to three sets.
4. Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana): This supported inversion helps with stagnation of lymph. Do one time and hold for a minimum of 12 breaths.
5. Locust Pose (Salabhasana): This “baby backbend” opens the chest while strengthening the back. Do up to three sets.
6. Follow this sequence with Breath of Fire Pranayama, also know as kapalabhati breathing, a practice that builds internal heat and eliminates mucus from the respiratory tract. These are rapid, sharp exhales, passive inhales, and a snapping of your lower abdomen. You can start with cycles of 30 breaths and gradually increase up to 100, for 3-5 rounds.
End your practice with Savasana (Corpse Pose).
WINTER FOODS AND HERBS
If your natural tendency is to eat warmer and heartier meals during the winter, you are on the right track! In response to cold weather, the body constricts the pores on your skin and the superficial connective tissue to prevent heat loss. This directs heat away from the peripheral tissues and into the body’s core. Because of this, your appetite becomes stronger in Winter.
However, although we are designed to eat more in the winter, the selection of foods is still important. Try to pick foods that will keep your immune system vibrant and that minimize congestion.
• Eat a plentiful amount of soups/stews, grains (oatmeal, rice, barley, quinoa, etc.), healthy oils (coconut, avocado, olive, ghee) and cooked seasonal root vegetables (kohlrabi, turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, carrots and turnips). Avoid vata-provoking foods, such as salads and cold drinks.
• Drink warm teas, and if you’re looking for a good bottle to keep it warm all day try our 32 oz Stainless Steel Wide Mouth Bottle. An occasional glass of wine is also seasonally appropriate! One glass of dry and warming wine a day may be beneficial in the winter to encourage circulation, improve appetite and stimulate digestion. It is beneficial to start and end the day with a glass of warm lemon water to aid with digestion.
• Be sure to eat a hearty, warm breakfast to break the fast of your night’s sleep, feed your digestive fire and lubricate your bodily tissues. Oatmeal, porridge, or cream of wheat are all good options.
• Warming spices to include to any and all meals: cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, fennel, cumin, coriander and nutmeg.
According to Fitness Magazine, during winter “your body’s chemical switch has flipped to storing more fat.” This means that, although it is now harder to stay active, it is actually more important. Not only that, but winter is the season of cold and flu. It is too easy to let the colder darker days get the best of your routine. Here are some small adjustments that just might help you push through the winter months with your health intact – and not all involve getting out in the cold!
• Kapha is the slowest moving of the three doshas, so a good workout routine will combat your kapha tendencies. Try doing some kind of invigorating exercise in the morning to boost immunity and mood and kick-start the movement of lymph. This helps prevent build-up of mucus and congestion.
• Start your day by 7:00 a.m. This might be a bit later than you are used to, but Winter encourages us to hibernate a little longer at night. Remember that Winter is a natural time for resting. So at night, do peaceful and calming activities that promote a sense of stillness. Try to go to bed earlier than you are used to.
• Use a warm-mist humidifier at night to help keep your sinuses clear. And use a neti pot once a day to irrigate and moisten your nasal passages.
• Soak up as much sunshine as you can by sitting by a window or taking a winter walk. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D (which is crucial to ward off illness), relaxes the muscles, combats seasonal mood disorders, and aids the body in maintaining healthy sleep cycles. But remember: Sunscreen is a must, even in Winter! No sun in sight? Try mood-boosting light therapy.