Winter has finally graced us with her trademark temperatures, a stark difference from the spring-like days we were enjoying only weeks ago. For many of us the cold brings with it feelings of sadness, discomfort, the desire to retreat and the longing for warmer and lighter days. Culturally we have subscribed to the notion that coldness and darkness are somehow inferior to warmth and light. But any true yogi knows that it is not the dark or the light, the struggle or the ease, that makes our experience, but rather it is our response to such things, our inner agreements that create the final meaning. 

Our bodies adapt. Each cell huddles beside the other to stay warm. It is this act of condensing that allows us to shed, or squeeze out, unneeded toxins, which upon their exit may take the form of an unwanted winter cold. With each cough and runny nose we are actually clearing old residue, shedding constricting patterns and outdated burdens. We cleanse that which no longer serves to make room for the new, the next, the coming. 

To settle into this clearing space we set ourselves up for renewed nourishment, the birthing of new perspectives, the imagining of loftier dreams. A stillness rushes through us to bring clarity and wisdom, to wipe away that which we can let go and to shed light on that which we have yet to embrace. The quiet, the cold, the snow, all act to enrich us. They help us find comfort and pleasure in slowness and stillness and act as fertilizer for the life waiting to burst through in the months to come. 

Intuitively we reach for warmer foods – stews, root vegetables, oatmeal, spices such as cinnamon and clove. We naturally find ourselves tucking into bed earlier, rushing home instead of stopping at the store or visiting a friend, engaged in the television or glued to the computer instead of out and active. 

As we experience this physical contraction we often find ourselves restrained, more contemplative, less energetic. Sure we may still squeeze in our daily sweat session (especially if we’re a regular at Focus!), but chances are we’re making less time for friends and socializing, in favor of warm nights in hovered by the fire or snuggled up on the couch.

In a society that promotes “productivity” as worthiness, it can be challenging for some of us to accept this wintertime reclusiveness and inactivity as valid. We may want to judge ourselves for being less motivated and inspired. We may call ourselves lazy or undisciplined. And it is here that I want to interject that perhaps we can instead allow ourselves to work with nature, to respond organically to the chill in the air, and whatever that brings for us, be it a slower pace, a quieter social life, or even an aggressive creative surge. 

The winter, in it’s seeming bleakness, with bare branches, ice dotted lawns, and minimal hours of daylight, is actually the starting place of life and regeneration. Nature cools, rests, and begins its reset. It slows and subdues, skies fade to gray and white, with full faith in the colorful season to come. In all her beauty and abundance the earth sits patiently, powerfully, as though a yogi on the mat, finding a fundamental strength that will carry her through the next practice, the next year. She feels no need to rush or manipulate anything. She accepts it exactly as it is with full knowing that all is well and that while the darkness and coldness is absolutely valid, there are no doubt brighter and warmer days ahead. 

Early winter is a great time for:

  • Self-reflection
  • Setting intentions
  • Letting go of beliefs/behaviors that no longer serve

Excerpt for the month, from Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga by Rolf Gates 

Blog Post written by Sarah Campbell