How to winterise your yoga practice: build heath and stay cosy

Winter is the season of Kapha, the dosha that ayurveda (yoga’s sister science) describes as cold, wet, and heavy—like a blanket of new-fallen snow. Kapha is made of the water and earth elements, and it provides us with physical structure—the body’s tissues and fluids. Among the gift of Kapha dosha are strong bones, beautiful teeth, lustrous hair, skin and eyes, physical and emotional stamina.

The external influences of winter, however, can aggravate Kapha. Symptoms of excessive Kapha include a sense of heaviness or “stuckness” (or actual weight gain), chest colds, low energy, even depression. When Kapha dosha is out of balance, you may feel a resistance to physical activity, including asana, or your poses may feel like they never get off the ground.

To balance our Kapha dosha – and also because it’s unrealistic to expect our bodies and minds to run full-tilt for 12 months of the year – we should take advantage of the shorter days and longer nights to slow things down, focus on self-care, find our balance, and rejuvenate. With the change of the season, it’s important to also adjust our daily habits, food choices and yoga practice.

Prioritise your wellbeing

It is easy to prioritise other people’s expectations and needs, especially during a season where there are often a lot of social and familial expectations. However, you can’t be a jolly host or happy guest if you are frazzled and unwell. Taking care of your own wellbeing could actually give you more energy for others.

Our mindset influences our mood, wellness and relationships. To cultivate a positive and appreciative mindset, we should focus on the good around us. This doesn’t mean ignoring difficult things (or people) or pretending everything is okay when it’s not; rather, it emphasises gratitude for the small blessings of daily life.

Nourish your body

While we may wish to snuggle into our soft blanket whilst eating chips, such a diet is not in harmony with the movement of nature and will eventually drain our energy.

To keep the body warm from within, Ayurveda suggests nourishing and comforting foods such as honey, ghee, sesame seeds, Tulsi and dry fruit. Adding a spoonful of ghee to cooked pulses and vegetables helps enhance the taste of the food and is more nutritious for the body. You can also add honey and Tulsi to your cup of tea and replace sugary snacks such as biscuits and cakes with scrummy almonds and pistachios.

Preserve your inner fire with yoga

Having lived in cold winter weather places for the majority of my life, I know very well that a yoga practice definitely feels different in the winter than in the summer months. With the cold, it’s harder to feel open and flexible—and there is also a tendency to be more lifted or even hunched in the shoulders and upper back.

During the cold months, energising yoga practices such as Vinyasa or Dharma are especially helpful for heating, cleansing and invigorating the body.

Practicing an uplifting and warming yoga sequence is a wonderful way to oxygenate your blood and get your circulation pumping. Sweat releases toxins while the meditation and focus will calm your mind and balance your mood. Plus, the positive social interaction is an opportunity to recharge emotionally and feel the positive influence of like-minded people.

Though this is a season of darkness, when the earth appears to sleep, underneath the surface nature is gathering energy for the regeneration of spring. Take a cue from nature and make winter an opportunity to dive deeply into your inner realm.