He´s arrived! Cloaked in a velvet cape he skulks in and bites his freezing teeth at your toes before you venture out of your duvet in the morning! Winter has moved in and the solstice is well and truly upon us in all its magnificent chilly glory!
I love to observe my physical reactions to the seasons at all times of the year, particularly in relation to yoga practice, but winter truly takes the biscuit!
I´ll be honest, the thought of hybernating in that duvet with a giant pie of some sort is more than appealing. I´d happily camp it out wearing thermals all day long, every day! Of course, it´s just not practical, and i´d probably be vicious with all that carb rage from the pie, besides, have you taken a look outside?
How lucky we are to witness such natural beauty on our doorstep! We can watch the leaves (in some cases bare branches) transform in spindly wonder, the mountainsides sweeping a kaleidoscope blanket of visual arousal, the skies (generally) clear and brisk, and our breath is now physically observed.
Of course, other seasons each have their special elements, but there is something so magical about the koselig winter we experience.
The season is dark, cold and introverted. It´s an ideal time to withdraw and recuperate. To replenish ourselves, nurture it up with early nights, brisk walks when it is light and stodgy, succulent and salivatory menus (PIE!).
The heavy season might make us want to drag our feet a little (particularly at the thought of venturing out in the dark for a morning or evening practice for example), but with caring attention to ourselves, we can ignite the fire in our hearts and burn a glow to rival any Ready Brek hue (cultural reference here, please see youtube link to explain!).
Ayuervedic medicine describes every soul as being made up of parts of three dynamic forces or Doshas. Dosha means ´that which changes´and the word derives from the root ‘dus’, (similar to the English equivilant ´dys´as in ´dysfunction etc) and so we can interpret a Dosha to describe a fault or something not in balance to the cosmic rhythm we are part of. There are three Doshas, each of them comprised of two of five elements;
Vata (Air and Ether)
Pitta (Fire and Water)
Kapha (Water and Earth)
Each of these types are fascinating and i´ll be breaking down these badboys in future posts, but to relate this to our wintery howl, I´d like to take Kapha as a case study.
Kapha loves a pie. Think about the elements water and particularly earth. Strong, sturdy, structural, it´s the heaviest element. Kapha as with all of the Doshas reflects this via their build, personality and ailments. Kapha has immense patience, they like things tried and tested, the basics of life, a good home, food, sleep, you know, those creature comforts. In relation to their practice, they are incredibly strong! Warrior postures were created for the Kapha inclined among us. Those Trikonasanas held for eternity won´t ruffle the Kapha! However the combination with the water part of the Dosha can have the same results as in the physical element – mud! Kapha can get ´bogged down´in the mud, feel sensitive and down, freeze and create ice blocks, lead down the murky path of depression if not balanced! A good example is taking Virabradrasana II (Warrior II). You can get into the posture with ease, but this time you feel heavy, saggy, huffy, perhaps you´re thinking that you´re fed up and bored and you´d much rather do another posture…before you know it you´re just going through the motions, not engaging or connecting body and mind nor observing breakthroughs itching to be discovered! Now it´s important not to beat ourselves up about these feelings, we can all have off days! You know you´re not in pain (you shouldn´t be in pain!). Instead you´re just pained by lacking focus and drive to persevere.
Here´s where the practice bit comes in! We need to counter balance the Kapha Dosha with some heat! To lift the dull and heavy feeling and create light energy.
This is achieved through postures that counter balance the Kapha. Cue Pitta!
Now Pitta is a saucy minx. More athletic, dynamic, bossy (!), competitive or extreme sports, coffee, curry, all that heart attack stuff. This is if not conducted in moderation, mind! See Pitta can be a bit show-offy. A bit ego lead, wanting to be in control and rushing through without pausing to consider the moment.
So the magic formula here is to balance out both Doshas to create harmony. In this wintery period when Kapha is all up in the area, we need to introduce some Pitta to get the fire started and crank up some heat, thaw out the chilly gloopy mud and replace it with sparks of energy!
Henceforth, in our recent classes, we´ve been practicing more heat inducing postures and sequences. The vinyasa is a great way to get a little sweat on, but not without a good warm up so we´re not going too hard at the joints! It´s why we´ve been starting the sequences standing, and why we´re playing with firey fun postures such as Nataradasana (Dancers Pose) and Balasana (Crane). Of course we still need to keep Kapha in check and there´s always plenty of Warrior to go around, but radiating heat with the earthy posture by digging deep, taking it to our limit without harm, just enough to get a gentle ember glow!
So let´s celebrate this period of change, be mindful of our current balance and banish our wintery chills! Ignite your inner fire and get toasty!