Over the last few blizzardy days I’ve deeply felt the conundrum of the winter in me. Nothing I do will melt the snow, bring back the sun or warm the deep regions of my body. I feel my limitedness, the fight of my ego resisting reality and know that it is in these time that I must live my yoga. In year’s past this dead season has brought with it feelings of suffocation and depression that have caused me suffering and resentment. This year, something’s different. First, I’ve been through enough years of it to recognize the face of the winter blues as simply that – I’m not self destructing, it’s nobody’s fault and no other catastrophe’s are the cause of these feelings. Second, I’m so in love with my child that I feel that whatever has attempted to debilitate me in the past doesn’t hold a candle to the deep committment I have to my her to remain present amidst life’s seasons. So, something deep calls me to enter the winter the way I enter a seated forward bend. With reluctance but commitment. With resistance but also the deep wish to not be controlled by the things that I don’t prefer.
Part of this is a willingness to surrender to death, to nothingness, which winter embodies. A willingness to bear the sensations of immobility or suffocation and show up to them with as much commitment as I would the sensations of freedom and deep breath. When I can bear the feelings of my life I’m no longer imprisoned by the desperate need to control circumstances so that I only feel things that I’ve deemed pleasant. Instead of a slave to preferable sensations I have the possibility of allowing all of life through me. This is freedom. And sometimes I can feel the gentle hug of it’s nurturing arms enfolding me.
As I snuggle into a commitment to winter yoga reminds me of a few essential things:
– Rather than avoiding a posture I don’t like I must move into it. I move consciously resistant, deeper into that which I avoid so that it doesn’t control me. So the challenge is to move deeper into the sensations of boredom, isolation and chilliness of winter and slowly learn to honour them too.
– Embrace the struggle, but don’t be a masochist. Allowing the sensations of something difficult to be there doesn’t mean wallowing in it. I may move into a forward bend but also balance it with other postures. In the dark, cold of winter I can find the balance of these energies through light movies, conversation and warm food, company and clothes.
– Watch for the ego’s exaggeration of your winter blues. Feeling the effects of winter doesn’t mean you have to move to the Carribean (but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either!). It doesn’t mean that your grump needs to be dumped or that summer is the only time for liveliness and energy.
– Find yoga postures that honor your feelings and balance your feelings. Spend half of a practice honouring the fact that you have lower energy or feel a deep chill in your bones through soft, restorative postures. And then, heat up the rest of your practice with warming movements and backbends.
– And, finally, remember again and again, that there is virtue and vice to every season externally and internally – be fair, remember Life’s inherent wholeness, and share a warm Chai and a good conversation in honour of that!