Warm your spirit this winter by taking your yoga practice outdoors.
Maintaining a regular yoga or meditation practice can go a long way toward battling the winter blahs.
But if you keep your yoga routine inside, you’re missing an opportunity to reconnect with nature—and, some might say, your true self. Instead, incorporate your practice into outdoor winter activities and defrost your icy outlook on the season.
“The more time we spend indoors, the more we get cut off from our true nature,” says Andrew Criswell, a yoga instructor in Canadian Lakes, Michigan, who leads classes that mix yoga with cross-country skiing. “Subconsciously, in our deepest selves, we feel lost and lonely and sad when we’re not out in nature. It’s so important to find some activity that gets you outside.”
Die-hard outdoor yoga enthusiasts can get creative with their wintertime practice. Katie O’Connell, owner of Dragonfly Yoga Barn in North Sandwich, New Hampshire, created a retreat that blends yoga and snowshoeing. Though the activities are typically done separately, O’Connell says her clients do sometimes practice “snow-ga” while trekking.
“Tree pose or warrior pose with snow pants is just fine,” she says. “Then if you fall over, you just make a snow angel and all is well.”
Even a simple, mindful walk around the block during winter can help alleviate the seasonal blues, says Margaret Burns Vap, founder of Big Sky Yoga Retreats in Bozeman, Montana.
“The refreshing, cool air makes a difference in waking you up and perking you up,” she says. “Close your eyes and feel that you don’t have anything between you and the sky. Feel the snow on your skin. Appreciate whatever it is that’s going on outside, and be thankful for that.”
Try these poses on a snowy day:
Warrior sequence: Focus on bringing warmth to your core and negotiating the snowy terrain with your feet.
Tree Pose: You may find that balance poses are easier with the aid of sturdy boots, along with a compacted, supportive surface.
Triangle Pose: Change your perspective by gazing steadily toward the sky as you open your heart.
Corpse Pose: A delicious way to cool off after an afternoon of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing; top off your practice with a snow angel!
Take a few deep breaths and focus on the smell of the air and the sounds that surround you. Notice the pristine beauty of snow. Observe how the winter sun shines through the ice crystals. Listen for the not-quite-silent snowfall.
Just as the cycle of life is always continuing, you too are in a constant state of change. The snow will melt and the trees will bud again—all in their season. Winter is a time of rest and restoration.
Open yourself to love, and accept these changes of the season. Then focus your love and acceptance on changes you see in yourself and those around you.
Previously published as "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in Spirituality & Health's Jan/Feb 2014 issue.