Don't become a fair-weather yogi! A regular yoga practice through winter has a plethora of benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health, that goes well beyond the winter months.
Here's 10 great tips on how you can (and why you should) reap the rewards from your yoga this winter.
1. We create our summer body and mind in winter. Even though it's important not to limit our yoga and our motivation for practice to the physical body - knowing that a healthy body is just the tip of the yoga iceberg - the body is where positive self-awareness and self-esteen start.
It's a fact that when our prana, our lifeforce energy flows freely through the body, the body is able maintain homeostasis. That means it can naturally fight off infection, balance hormones and maintain a healthy body weight. Practicing a variety of yoga asana (postures) as often as you can is key. Standing yoga postures tone and stengthen the leg muscles. Foward bends stengthen the digestive system and tone the abdomen. Arm balances develop focus, confidence and upper-body strength. Back bending strengthens the nervous system and realigns the spine. Sun salutations warm and energise the whole body. Plus, when summer comes you'll help yourself avoid freaking-out at the thought of bearing your body at the beach.
2. Change your mindset. Know that what you choose to think and do, you become. The law of karma, as well as the scientific equation of cause and effect, says that every thought and action now has a corresponding future outcome or consequence. We are powerful creatures!
Each time you choose to set a positive intention to practice yoga, and you follow-through, you make it easier to set intentions and follow-through tomorrow. Like putting coins everyday into a piggy-bank, your savings soon mount up. Each time you choose and follow-through, your capacity to accomplish whatever you set out to do, in all areas of your life, is strengthened.
3. Catch procrastination. Don't be fooled by it, procrastination doesn't bring freedom. It's the mind's fearful way of keeping you stuck in unhelpful patterns of inertia and inaction. Like a hungry-ghost, procrastination tends to have an insatiable appetite that devours lots of energy - the same energy that could've been put into completing the very action you're putting off.
As a practice, catch the FIRST time you procrastinate about getting up early to do your home practice or put-off getting to your yoga class. Overcome it's message and take action instead. You'll feel much better for it. Each time you step beyond your procrastination, you create greater inner freedom.
4. Have full faith that your yoga and meditation works. The paths of yoga and meditation have been successfully trod for over 5000 years - and they work. Remember how you are today, compared to how you were before you started? Have full faith in your practice continuing to serve you well, to enhance your self-awareness and bring you health, vitality and inner calm - providing you continue to put the effort and energy into regular practice.
5. Be organised. Doing little things to organise and prepare yourself can really help. Arrange your work schedule so that you leave on time to get to your classes. On Sunday nights or at the start of each week, block out your practice or class times in your diary and set reminder alarms. Pack your yoga gear and mat in the car to save you time or a trip home. Roll out your yoga mat the night before. Make your practice space warm and inviting with candles. Simple habits can often make a big difference.
6. Reflect on and recommit to your long-term goals in life. How does your yoga or meditation practice link to your life goals and direction? Why do you practice?
Take a pen and paper and make a list of all the ways your practice helps you to live life with greater happiness and ease. Focus on the benefits. Maybe it's about being less anxious so that you can take the next step in your career with confidence. Or perhaps you want to be more patient and less reactive. Maybe it's about easing your back pain in the longer term. Or to go through your days feeling calm so that you remember to smell the roses and do what's most important.
7. Don't forget the breath. Pranayama or breath control exercises are a valuable yogic practice, especially during winter. The right nostril connects us to the warming, uplifting energy channel called the pingala in our pranic body. Doing practices where the inhalation or exhalation (or both) is slow and controlled through the right nostril energises and warms the body, as well as energises and uplifts the mind. Remember that you should always get instructions for pranayama from a competent yoga teacher first. And a period of still meditation or savasana should also be practiced after pranayama.
8. Register in our 21 Day Winter Challenge! Starting on 10 August this popular program is on again to help get you committed and accountable to practicing yoga or meditation at home or in a class at Momentum for 21 days. For those who are self-motivated, it's also the time to set clear intentions and to making a fresh start on accomplishing any goals that you've struggled with in the past. We'd love to have your participation.
9. Start again. Every day is a new day. If you've fallen off the regular practice wagon, don't beat yourself up. Learn and let go of the past and set a new intention to get back on track, starting now. Every student and teacher of yoga and meditation, me included, goes through phases where our motivation for practice waxes and wanes. Being able to brush-yourself-off, persevere and start again is always possible. Find what you can love about this beautiful season and flow-with the unique energy, light and depth of the winter.
10. You are not alone, share the joy. If the cold, wet or darkness of winter gets you down, share your practice time with a friend, it will help you to stay committed. Go to classes more regularly and enjoy the company of your fellow yogis, your sangha. The paths of yoga and meditation aren't easy alone and we are all here to inspire one another. Sharing your practice challenges, goals and intentions with a friend or your teacher helps to shift your mind and open you to fresh ideas.
Whatever the weather, whatever your mood, whatever your state of mind, your yoga and meditation practice remain your trusted companions to serve you through thick and thin.
Enjoy the winter wonderland.