The landscape contracts her skeleton from the cold, and nature turns her efforts back down into the soft earth. Now is not the time to strive for sunlight and push new growth, but to squirrel away your energy, one acorn at a time.
With wise hands the wind takes ours, turning fingertips numb as our heat knowingly retreats to the hearth of our bones. When we listen to the slowing pulse of the earth, like a hibernating bear, we too follow the pale wallpapered chambers inside to find delicious conversations and simmering stews.
Watching the nature of water, we are reminded how to find the deepest places. Taking the path of least resistance, with a flexible fluid spine water tumbles its easy path to gather and fill. Winter is the time to press down into the deepest part of yourself, be still and let your cup fill.
In yoga, forward bends are the body’s way of turning inward; lengthening the exhaling breath, taking in becomes secondary to letting go. Child’s pose (Balasana), curls you inward like a soft fern frond in frost. Your kidneys (and their piggy-backing adrenal glands) nestle into the soft of your lower back, resting and drinking their thirsty fill. Listen to your body and shape poses to your individual needs. During pregnancy place a support under your chest and head to create a softer comfortable curve in your back and a rockpool space for your bump. Like winter, child’s pose offers opportunity to retreat and restore.
Whilst stilling is important, we also need to maintain our motivation and vitality through the dark of winter. Brhmana yoga gives us the warming and gently stimulating qualities of sipping chai tea on a cold day. These poses move us away from the potentially stagnating lethargy than can come with retreating from cold, and instead ignite our internal fire.
Your internal furnace, like all fire, needs space and oxygen to burn. Lunging poses that open your chest and invite your inhaling breath help stoke your inner fire.
Other ways to build heat in winter include eating slow cooked in-season foods. Root vegetables take time to grow, touched by the patient dark stillness of earth, they offer up the qualities we need this time of year. Pumpkin and sweet potato harness the deep slow heat of stews to warm us through. A brief flash of heat won’t do, we need consistent deep warmth and we need to sit long and still to absorb it. Ginger also offers the residue from living close to the pulse of the earth. Added to soups and tea its taste and effect on circulation snap our senses away from stagnation to rosy cheeks.
Daily rushing creates resistance to the stillness winter offers, and squanders your precious energy. Follow the natural urge to still yourself a little, let turbulent to-do-lists settle for now and invest your energy. Water slows to inert solid in winter, transforming entirely by succumbing to the cold and changing with it.
Pack your knapsack with some good books and warm drinks, descend under the doona and let winter do her work.