Winter is upon us, and with the cold season comes time to forge new connections with Mother Nature. It’s a time to rest and replenish your body, strengthen your immune system, and keep your energy and flow active while the world around you slows and shivers with the cold.

During winter, Mother Nature’s energy is drawn back within her. The fall harvest has been taxing, and now is time to recoup what has been lost. The water element dominates this time of year, with rain drenching some parts of the world while snow and bitter cold dry out and suck the moisture out of the air in others – a sensation we can feel in our throats and sinuses. Though this season is often associated with contagions and various ailments, it does not necessarily need to be: there are healthy ways to connect with nature during this time of year to help maintain your body’s fortitude and vigor.

Eat Seasonally & Improve Bala

The winter season is abound with its own treats and treasures. To combat the often arid and dry climates associated with winter, seek out the hearty, warm, replenishing foods that will help your body retain moisture and store energy: foods like winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, nuts, and oils are all healthy companions for the seasonal eater. The cold season is also the perfect time to increase your intake of salts, spices, and sweet foods. Salt helps keep the body warm in the same way it is used to melt ice in the cold, and keeping your healthy salt intake up also means you’re maintaining a level of mineral content in your body. Spices, like Turmeric, warm the stomach, throat, and mouth, and provide both a superficial and internally real sense of warmth. Sweet foods like winter squash and sweet potatoes have high water content, making them ideal for retaining moisture. Their often hot preparation helps warm the gut and provides a dense source of nutrition.

Through eating these wholesome foods, you’re working to maintain was is called ‘Bala’ in Ayurveda, which is simply ‘immunity.’ In this context, you’re fortifying your Kalaj (seasonal Bala or immunity) that fluctuates with the season, your age, and planetary alignments.

Evolve Your Practice

Your yoga practice also evolves with the season. Because the cold can often make the body feel sluggish and tired, it’s best to begin your practice with a series of bhastrika pranayama (bellows breath) first thing in the morning. This works to clear away excess mucus and lethargy by invigorating your body with prana.

Because of the rigidity and tightness that comes with the cold, you should put a focus on asanas that balance kapha (the relationship between water and earth, maintaining the body’s structure and lubrication). Start your practice with several sets of vigorous sun salutations, and work on poses that open the chest and improve airflow and fluidity in the body (strong back and forward bends). Asana such as vyaghrasana (the tiger), chakrasana (the wheel), and matsyasana (the fish), all open the chest and and help balance your kapha.

Craft Your Connection

The winter season does not need to be a time of sickness, cold, and stiffness. With proper dieting and an attentive yoga practice, you enable your body to remain both flexible and fluid, improving your immunity and inner strength while you wait for the spring and summer seasons to return. Remember to keep your diet varied, but incorporate as many warming, fluid foods in each meal as you can. For your practice, focus on apply opening poses that focus on circulation, the lungs, and the kidneys.