I get the feeling I'm not the only one who feels like staying under a blanket with a plate of cookies. My cat seems to be sleeping more than 20 hours a day. My 7 year old is actually keen (!!!) to go to bed at 7:30pm. And, morning practice sessions at Mysore Melbourne are a little quieter than usual. It's only natural that we, in the Southern hemisphere, feel like hibernating, and pulling our energy and attention inside at the moment. The winter solstice is only a few weeks away and each day is a little darker than the last.
Steady routines, warm food and drinks, comfy socks, an early bedtime, daily yoga practice, and love will nourish your body and soul in these cold, quiet times. Without proper nourishment (on all levels, not just food), its pretty easy to get sick, or sink into the winter blues. Whilst it can be really difficult to get out of bed on a cold wet morning, practicing in the toasty warm shala is nourishing. The heaters, candles, chants, breathing sounds, practice mates and soft adjustments warm the mind and heart. And, if you need friends, you can always head over to Little Henri after Saturday led class and hang out with your Mysore Melbourne practice buddies.
Something that helps me through dreary winter weather, is an annual habit of attending a solstice bonfire. Weeks ahead, I begin to plan and anticipate the night. I can hear the sound of the fire in my ears. I imagine the feeling of its warmth on my skin. I close my eyes and see the ash and sparks rising up into the starry sky. When the night comes, I take my little boy and disappear into the crowd. My heart sings in the collective joy felt in welcoming back the light. In the days afterwards, I watch the plants. They seem to know of the change in the light.
As Ashtanga yoga practitioners, we follow the cycles of the moon. I see this as a vinyasa. The moon grows full, so does my breath. The moon slowly grows dark, my breath fades out. This is a pattern occurring around me all the time. The sun rises and sets, life blooms and fades, and the seasons change. The winter solstice in the end of an exhale. It is time to pause, feel the darkness, and then let the breath and the light return.
Cultivating a steady practice, year round, will bring insight into both your own energy cycles and those occurring in the greater world around you. Learn to be steady without resistance. This means practicing in a way that is open and responsive to whatever is arising. It's perfectly appropriate to practice asanas with great energy and enthusiasm at times, and with tenderness and quiet at others. The same sequence of asanas can be practiced with a totally different approach and feel from day to day, according to your current state. It takes time and practice to become self-aware, and to learn how to be be soft at the right times and strong at the right times. Keep practicing!