The Kapha qualities outside can make you feel heavy and lethargic and/or pull you towards foods that promote weight gain or the use of recreational drugs and alcohol to cope with depression, stress, and the winter blues; here we again see the precept “like increases like.” It’s not easy to break out of this cycle, but it is possible.
The main intention behind my winter seasonal vinyasa practices is to help you ward off typical Kapha imbalances by raising your core temperature, enhancing your metabolism, and increasing your circulation and spirit by offering you dynamic, invigorating, rhythmic sequences that keep the earth and water from going out of balance.
With this said, I do believe it is important to get ample amounts of sleep, rest, meditation, and retreat space in the winter (1/22-1/29 in Hawaii, or 2/17-2/20 in Mazama, WA). After all, most of the natural world becomes dormant during this season. Since it’s not possible for most of us to crawl into a cave and sleep for three months, take whatever quiet space you can and sit in the cave of the heart, meditate, and reflect as often as possible on your spiritual nature, nurturing your sacred being. The more imbalanced you get at this point, the harder it is to get back on track in the springtime. Discover what inspires you to stay healthy!
If the Kapha elements go out of balance in the winter, consider using the “opposites decrease” sutra. How will you know if your elements are off balance? You will know if your Kapha imbalance is too extreme when it prevents you from leaving the house after you’ve filled your freezer with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and rented multiple HBO series! If you find yourself in this situation (or even a milder version), consider finding a way to get up and exercise every day, no exception! It can be a home yoga practice, a gym work out, or a brisk walk or run, or a snow adventure such as snowshoeing, skiing, or sledding—whatever it takes to get the earth and water elements moving.
Also, try eating less to keep your digestive fire bright, supplementing your diet with vitamin D, omitting sugar and alcohol to reduce mood swings, enjoying a hot bath, sitting by a fire, or spending five to ten minutes in a tanning bed or in front of full-spectrum light bulbs. These are just a few alternative ways to move you towards sukkha, and away from suffering, or dukkha, during this dark season.
Mild depression is natural during the winter. It’s important to remember that not every moment in life should feel good. If we are attached to the idea of everything feeling good, we miss the other half of the human experience, and will be disappointed often. I have found that forming a relationship with discomfort makes happiness richer. Through embracing life’s challenges, the law of contrasts has helped me grow, mature, and gain a few seeds of wisdom.
For more inspiration and support around Winter Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga themes, please visit my book, Art of Sequencing – Volume Two or My Yoga Online videos.