Feeling those winter blues? Having trouble sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? Winter is the time that Mother Nature conserves and restores her energy by drawing it back into herself, and since we are all a part of nature, this may be why the season sometimes feels more difficult than the others to get through — especially when we want to expend as much of our energy as possible toward our goals.
According to Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of holistic medicine), excess kapha dosha in the winter can make us feel sluggish and lethargic. It can also disrupt our emotional well-being by making us feel more negative, and may even worsen congestive symptoms from illnesses like the common cold or flu by increasing mucus production.
Trying to work toward to our goals as intensely in the winter as we might in the summer could lead to burnout quicker and more easily than we might think. While we may be feeling ambitious at the start of January to move toward our resolutions in full force in hopes of making great progress by the arrival of spring, a better plan would be to tone it down a bit to promote balance and harmonize ourselves with the current season.
Sleep a little more and a little later.
Keeping a healthy and regular sleep schedule is especially critical in winter to help combat drowsiness that might seem worse thanks to the colder weather and shorter days. While many people can typically do great on just 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep, you may need to increase that amount to 8 or 9 hours during the winter months to align yourself more with this extra restful season. Allow yourself to sleep in until 7 a.m. if it suits your schedule.
Simplify your yoga practice.
Simplifying your practices doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a vigorous workout. Sticking to 10 rounds of simple sun salutations shortly after waking can help stimulate your metabolism and digestive system while building heat to help you shake off some of that lingering slumber. Follow your sun salutations with savasana, a seated meditation, or a final favorite restorative pose.
Nourish yourself with warming foods and herbs.
A diet designed to keep kapha dosha balanced without aggravating vatta dosha is best in winter. Feed your digestive fire with foods like oatmeal, rice, barley, wheat, and healthy oils. Warming spices to use include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamon. It’s a good idea to avoid dairy products in the winter since they can contribute to mucus production. Honey can help with having the opposite effect on mucus, and it can even aid in soothing a sore throat thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Say “no” to more things that keep you busy and “yes” to more self-care.
Keeping too busy in the winter season by tending to other people’s requests while trying to check everything off of your own to-do list could not only lead to physical exhaustion, but possibly also to negative mental states like attachment, envy, greed, frustration, anxiety, and depression. It’s more than okay to scrap several things from your own to-do list that aren’t urgent and say “no” once in a while to others so that you can have some extra time to focus on soothing and reenergizing yourself.
Remember that winter is a time to turn inward, so make sure to listen to your body. If your body is saying “take it easy,” then make sure you do exactly that.
You may have big goals for the New Year, but it’s better to take it slower if need be rather than making too much progress too fast and then being unable to maintain your momentum. Keep in mind you can still make good progress while focusing on balance.