This article first appeared on the Kula Yoga Blog.
Coming from California, it’s tough to imagine a cold July. Yet here in Australia, on the other side of the planet, I find myself smack dab in the middle of winter. If you’re in my neck of the woods these days, this one’s for you. <3
Feeling the winter blues? You’re not alone. As someone who thrives in warmer climates, I find myself particularly challenged by cooler Melbourne temperatures. This has presented to me a beautiful opportunity to reaffirm my own commitments and dedication to living a healthy, yogic lifestyle, particularly in moments when it doesn’t seem to come quite as easily.
One way to increase both our energy levels and overall happiness is through exercise, and much as we know this to be true, it can be all too easy to let our fitness regime slip as the temperatures drop (and excuses rise). It is during these cold, winter months that it’s most important to stay committed to our own health and happiness.
Improve your odds with these five tools for staying committed and active, even with the winter chill creeping up your spine.
As with most things, this is a practice that begins with the mind. We do not need to fall victim to the cooler climates– we are not victims here! Think of the weather as simply an added element that changes our experience, and draw in the sensations. Practice releasing judgement around them.
We might not be able to change our environment, but we can always change how we perceive it. If the weather patterns are getting you down, look for the beauty around you and remember that you hold the power to create your own experience.
Create Heat from the Inside
There are many ways to warm up the body from the inside, even when Mother Nature seems to have other plans. One of the best techniques for this is Kapalabati Pranayama, or “Skull-Shining Breath,” and is a great way to start a chilly day.
To execute this Pranayama, find a comfortable seat, with your spine tall, shoulders relaxed away from the ears. It can be helpful to place one or both hands on the belly to stay engaged with the contracting of the diaphragm.
Take in a deep inhale, and exhale half of your breath out.
As you begin Kapalabati, create a forceful exhale as you contract the belly inward and push the air out through your nose.
The forceful exhale is followed by a passive inhale – allow air to enter back in through the nostrils as the belly expands.
Repeat rapidly, for a count of 30. Take a few easy, natural breaths, and continue for two more rounds.
Once you’ve completed your Kapalabati Pranayama, sit for a few moments in stillness and in silence, and notice any energetic shifts that have occurred for you.
Create a reward system for yourself. Build a ritual around the completion of your fitness goals, something to look forward to, that is reserved entirely for this purpose. This could include taking a hot Epsom salt bath (great for detoxification!) with lit candles, calming music and your favorite essential oil (I love Rose or Lavender).
If baths aren’t your thing (or if you take them already), find something to treat yourself with. A piece of organic dark chocolate, a glass of red wine, or your favorite guilty pleasure TV show can do the trick. It’s helpful and fun to have something to look forward to – a little slice of heaven to follow a drizzly run or trip to the yoga studio.
Be Realistic & Go Easy
Accept that your fitness routine may take a completely different shape during the winter months – and that’s okay! Create new goals for the season, and be realistic. You might find more activities that you can do indoors and perhaps shake it up and try something new.
Give yourself a break, and know that sometimes it is better to stay in bed, or curl up by the fireplace and watch a movie. Give yourself space to make these decisions and to do what feels best for you. Self-care and self-love are both important to staying healthy – practice lots of both! Be mindful of self-love vs.resistance, however. You likely know when the laziness is creeping in and when you’re simply taking it easy because that’s what your body is asking for.
When in Doubt, Play it Out
On the fence about whether to go for the workout, or stay indoors? Play out the entire scenario in your mind, from start to finish. Think through the activity, and imagine how you will feel after. Does it feel worth it in the end? If so, GO! Don’t hesitate – go forth and feel amazing.