Envision a dark snowy winter evening, a roaring fire in the fireplace and you are covered with a puffy down comforter while reclining in a large cushy chair. While sipping a cup of hot chamomile tea, you are getting a foot massage with warm lavender oil.
Early in the day, just before dawn, you wake up slowly while gently stretching and quietly doing a yoga series called Salute to the Sun. You complete your early sadhana (practice) by sitting still, comfortably deep breathing as your mind clutter disappears.
Your breakfast, eaten after a warm hot tub, consists of organic oatmeal with raisins, a scoop of vanilla protein powder in yogurt and homemade multigrain toast with fresh whole blueberry jam. After reading the Alternative Medicine Journal and finishing your last cup of organic hazelnut decaf coffee, you slip into your work clothes for a short day of chopping wood for your wood burning stove which heats your house naturally, of course.Getting up just before dawn, retiring before 8 p.m., eating more earth foods that are slow burning and doing long meditations is actually what the good health doctor ordered for the winter season. The human body functions exactly like our seasons. In the winter, the natural tendency for our biological clock is to slow down, hibernate, rest, repair and store up nutrients, allowing time to process past seasons and rejuvenate for new and better growth.
Bringing silence and stillness into your winter days is not only beneficial for stress reduction but actually very necessary to be in synch with the purpose of winter. Winter colds, head and chest congestion and endless sinus infections are a result of the way we take on winter–working 60 hours per week, getting tense driving on icy and snowy roads, picking the children up after school at 3:15 p.m., running to ballet by 4 p.m. and then home for a late, rushed dinner.
Many cultures use the winter season to connect with their families, eating long relaxing
meals at home and finishing projects. Slowing down is winter’s message, but Americans have a hard time with being quiet, still or silent. The rush is always on, especially after Thanksgiving. Everyone collapses after the holidays and spends most of January fighting fatigue, burnout, depression and winter colds.
There is hope. Bring winter into your life. Be aware of the purpose of winter. Here are some ideas for the weary winter warrior:
- Relieve winter stress with silence. Silence provides relief from constant stimulation and disoriented mental chatter.
- Go to bed earlier than usual and get up slowly in the morning.
- Work a flexible schedule, go in later or ask for vacation days then work a four-day week for eight weeks.
- Plan one day a week with truly nothing to do.
- Get consistent bodywork. In the winter, getting regular lymphatic massages prevents the winter blahs.
- Take extra vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and beta carotene in the winter, besides an herbal immune builder.
- Eating less in the winter is actually more, and eating before 6 p.m. is best for winter digestion.
- Breathe, breathe, breathe. Remember to breathe deep and expand the lower ribs (to the sides) for a more relaxed breath.
- Do your breathing practice for at least 20 minutes each day, especially in winter.
(Censor the reaction: “I don’t have that kind of time!”)
- Juice organic vegetables daily, carrot juice especially. Add a little celery or other greens. Drink within 30 minutes because the live enzymes which are so healing for the body are best when fresh. This is a remarkable habit to get into for winter.
- Rest often in winter. Your immune system requires more rest because your body slows down and is in a state of repair.
- Sweat as often as you can. It helps eliminate toxins from your system and relaxes your muscles. Take a hot bath with one cup of epsom salt. Soak for 30 minutes, then wrap up in a bathrobe, lie down, cover up and sweat. Take a cool shower after. Steam baths, saunas or hot tubs work well.
- Do nasal flushes weekly. Use a nettie pot or a dropper, with a saline solution or diluted liquid chlorophyll (gargling with chlorophyll also helps).
- Last but not least, drink water. More than 70 percent of the body is water, and the
balance of minerals in the body depends upon drinking six to eight glasses every day. No, coffee doesn’t count!
Winter can be a blessing in disguise. It offers an opportunity to reflect, to slow down and to be still and heal. The body knows what it needs, but the mind often gets in the way.
Yoga teacher Sandra Anderson says in the perfect state of stillness, we transcend our identification with the body. Then we glimpse the true self.
May the longtime sun shine upon you.