Find energy during the darkest months with these seven tips.
In the heart of winter, there is a natural shift toward being a homebody and staying inside. It’s a great time of year to be more introspective, to focus on your well-being and to practice self-care. However, during the winter season, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of being sluggish, heavy and lazy. If you’re unwilling to recognize and change these bad seasonal habits, they can develop into a stagnant and low-energy lifestyle. In the cold, dark, quiet and lethargic winter, spark your energy by implementing these fiery changes in your yoga practice.
1. Turn up the heat.
One simple way to inspire more heat in the heart of winter is to turn up the heat. Literally. If it feels as if your body takes longer to warm up in regular yoga, try hot yoga. Bikram yoga is great if you like to work on refining your poses and hold them until you are pushing your edge of comfort. If you crave dynamic movement, hot vinyasa is fast-paced and offers a nearly constant flow of poses. Both are excellent options to sweat it out.
If hot yoga is not your preference, you can create heat from within yourself just by using your breath. There is a specific breathing technique whereby you inhale and exhale deeply and intentionally through your nose. Your inhalations should match your exhalations in duration, and should be consciously prolonged, but not forced or harsh. If your breath is audible to anyone but yourself, you are using too much effort to breathe. This specific breathing technique creates internal heat and works both while practicing yoga poses and sitting still.
3. Challenge yourself.
There are many ways to challenge yourself in yoga. You can simply set a goal to attend 25 classes in a month. Some styles, like Bikram yoga, have 30-day challenges to give you a sense of how a consistent practice can benefit you. There are many Instagram challenges that are fun because you get to try new poses and start conversations about them. In your home practice, you can challenge yourself by practicing 108 sun salutations or 10 wheel push-ups. You can also use a timer to hold poses. It could be as mild as holding a down dog for five minutes or a low plank for 30 seconds. Or, it can be as spicy as attempting to hold a handstand or forearm stand for two minutes against the wall. This will give you direction and inspire a fiery passion. However, make sure it does not turn into a competition. As soon as you feel any physical pain, misalignment or you notice yourself becoming too rigid and tough on yourself, reassess your approach.
4. Listen to music.
Sometimes it just takes some of your favorite tunes to get you off your couch and onto your mat. Create a fun playlist for your home practice. Put your headphones on when you have to venture outside to avoid cringing in the cold. Music inspires creativity and keeps your mind distracted from the weather.
5. Mix it up.
When you feel stuck during the winter season, try something outside your normal routine, whether it’s a new yoga style, a completely different physical activity or a new hobby that’s completely unrelated to yoga. Often by trying new styles of yoga, it reignites your love for the practice. It shifts your perspective and keeps you thinking about and engaging with your practice during this stagnant time of year where the tendency is to shut down.
6. Take care of yourself.
This time of year demands that you take care of yourself. Instead of fighting the urge to fall asleep early or to sleep in late, embrace it. Allow yourself to really be aware of how you are feeling this time of year. Self-care techniques, such as drinking a warm glass of lemon water in the morning, soaking your feet, following a regular morning routine of movement or exercise, or allowing time for rest and recovery help tremendously to keep you feeling healthy and invigorated.
If the winter season is dragging and you’re feeling stuck, it’s a perfect time to plan a trip somewhere sunny and warm. This is a great way to break up the monotony of winter. There are many yoga retreats available to anyone and any level of student. If you do your research, you can find very affordable yoga retreats. By exploring new destinations and being around like-minded people, it often helps to recommit to your practice. If nothing else, you’re just going on a vacation to reset.
If you’ve already dropped the ball on your New Year’s resolutions, or if you’re at the point where the mere idea of resolutions makes you cringe, it’s time try a new approach. Yoga is the practice of putting your intentions into action. With yoga, you set goals for yourself and take logical steps toward reaching them. Every time you step on your mat, each pose and each breath is a renewed commitment to yourself and your vision. Set the tone for the New Year: Make a commitment to yourself, stick with your goals, and make it the best year yet with the support of yoga.
The first step in yoga is to set an intention. To live a fulfilling life, you have to work toward something you truly care about. Focus on how you’d like your vision to feel. Aim high – why not? Be as specific as possible so you can take logical steps toward achieving your vision. For example, “By June 1, I will be the yoga trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles.” This way you have clear direction for your goals and can move forward with clarity.
There’s a misconception that the practice of yoga is not concerned with goals or aspirations. Yoga is a practice, not a thinking session. While setting a clear intention is important, it’s only part of it. You have to put your plan into action. How you move forward to achieve your goals makes all the difference in living a meaningful life. That’s one of the main intentions of yoga: to love your life and flourish in it.
Practicing the physical postures in yoga is humbling. There are very few people who come to yoga capable of doing more than half of the poses, and fewer who can achieve them with healthy alignment. Everyone comes to their mats with their own strengths and weaknesses. When you practice thebalancing poses, inversions and arm balances, you must take a leap of faith to attempt them and be willing to fall out numerous times to succeed. Through time, you train your mind to be relentless without being harmful. This practice builds a strong work ethic and helps to develop a mentality that is paramount in reaching your goals.
The most important quality of a good yoga practice is that it is efficient. You want to be sure that your efforts on your mat are bearing results. This means do more of what works and less of what does not. In yoga, you learn to listen to your intuition. If something does not feel right, or if you are getting stuck, stop and try using a different technique. How many times do we get derailed in our paths to obtain our goals because the method to reaching them is not working? It takes guts to take a step back and re-approach a task from a different perspective. Yoga demands you learn to practice in a way that empowers you and to let go of what does not.
When you are practicing yoga, whether you’re alone or in a group class, it’s a personal experience. From how you stand physically to how you stand individually, your perspective is completely unique to you. Through this more intimate experience, you get to know yourself more completely. With this knowledge also comes a sense of personal responsibility: You know exactly what you need to do to be in a healthy place within your body and mind. This also means that if you don’t align your poses in a way that feels good, you feel responsible for your actions. You develop a strong sense of personal liability that helps you move forward with your goals.
In a society that is always demanding that you do more, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not good enough or that nothing you do is good enough. In yoga, you take an attitude that supports abundance rather than living your life from a place of scarcity. This idea means that you have everything you need now, and you’re going to need everything you have. This is not to say you’re not striving to be a better person, but that you are worthy.
Many of the physical poses and the variations also lend themselves to building confidence. One example is in the evolution of a handstand. First, you start by achieving a strong “down dog.” Then you progress to attempting variations against the wall, and lastly, you move to balancing in the center of the room. As you commit to your practice, you cross many thresholds and achieve a level of health you never thought was possible. This inspires optimism and a sense of overall confidence.
A little bit of encouragement goes a long way. If you surround yourself with positive, like-minded people, you set yourself up for success. The yoga community is welcoming. After some time, you begin to trust your fellow yogis and share your aspirations with them. Before you know it, you have a group optimistic people who are looking out for you and every bit of support helps.
A common stigma that comes with yoga is that it teaches flightiness. If you are clear on what you want to achieve and who you want to become, you will be more reliable and focused than ever. If you arepracticing yoga for any extended period of time, you have to find depth in your practice. You have to work the fundamentals so intricately that they are no longer fundamental.