Join Morgan, a member of our Yoga District Community, as she explores the effects of a season upon us.
In this series, she will consider how seasonal changes, including elements such as weather, environment, and other seasonal stressors affect our bodies and minds.
For us in D.C., spring, summer, fall, and winter tend to have distinct qualities for each season. Even if you live in a place where the weather changes are not as drastic, the progression from one season to the next can still be a difficult and stressful transition. We can learn about our planet and ourselves by paying attention to the seasons.
The time of year affects our lives in more ways than we realize: it determines the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, how we exercise, and the holidays we celebrate. The seasons can impact us in subtle and unexpected ways, too. Our attitudes, circadian rhythms, and stress levels follow seasonal patterns (1). In this series, we bring awareness to the ways in which the seasons impress upon our lives. We will start with winter, a season when we often feel fatigued and under the weather. Learn tips for boosting your mood and immunity during the colder months.
Yogi’s Guide to Winter
Although the days are getting longer and sunnier since the winter solstice on December 21, 2020, winter is not over yet (2). If you live in a northern climate, you may be beginning to feel winter’s dark skies and cold temperatures sap your energy, warmth, and cheer. With the added stress and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, this winter is no exception.
According to the National Institute of Health, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, seasonal affective disorder, and other mental troubles (3). Vitamin D deficiency is common in winter because our bodies are not exposed to as much sunlight as they are in the warmer months. Sunshine helps our bodies produce vitamin D naturally. Exposure to sunlight alone accounts for over 90 percent of the vitamin D requirement for most individuals. Going for a short walk outside or sitting by a sunny window can help you meet the daily intake requirement. Light therapy and vitamin D supplements have also been proven to boost vitamin D levels, and may be extra beneficial for people living in extremely dark and freezing places.
In the winter, as in all seasons, it is important to maintain a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods to keep your energy levels balanced. Eating warm foods like soup, oatmeal, and rice can heat your body from the inside out (4). Warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cayenne and black pepper, spark your metabolism and digestive flame (5).
Practicing yoga can benefit your immunity, energy, and temperature during the winter by activating the respiratory, lymphatic, and muscular systems.
Respiratory system: To prevent colds and flus, try practicing poses that open the heart, lungs, and sinuses: such as Locust Pose, Fish Pose, Bow Pose, and Camel Pose (6).
Lymphatic system: Inversions help to get the blood moving to prevent stagnation, since cold weather tends to keep us indoors and less active. Shoulder Stand, Head Stand, Forward Fold, and Downward Dog pump blood to the extremities (6).
Muscular system: Practicing Khalabati Pranayama and Sun Salutations will warm your core and muscles, and kindle your internal fire (7).
Winter is a natural time to rest and draw inward. If you aren’t feeling active, listen to your body, and consider taking it easy. Sleeping, journaling, or reading a book by the fire are calming activities to rest your body and mind.
Still feeling down?
In some cases, mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and experiences daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change then you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that is related to a changing of the seasons (8). It is normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you have prolonged symptoms that are profoundly affecting your life, it is best to see a professional.
Spring Cleaning: How It Started and Why We Should Keep Doing It
This post will delve into the history of spring cleaning and how it emerged as an annual tradition. It will also highlight the psychological benefits of spring cleaning, and explore how it can prepare us for the seasons ahead.
The Summer Solstice
The summer solstice, or “midsummer,” marks the middle of the summer season and is the longest day of the year. In this post, we will explore the significance of this day and why it is celebrated around the world.
Ecotherapy: How Nature Improves Mental Health
In our modern world, where we spend so much time indoors and behind computer screens, we are often deprived of the physiological benefits of nature. In this post, we explore ecotherapy and the healing effects of connecting with the natural world.
- Circadian Rhythms, https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx
- Winter Solstice, https://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-winter-winter-solstice
- Vitamin D Deficiency, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908269/
- Eating for Winter, https://www.yogabasics.com/connect/yoga-blog/the-yoga-of-food-eating-for-winter/#:~:text=Focus%20on%20eating%20warm%2C%20slow,body%20and%20keep%20agni%20strong.
- Warming Foods https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/food-diet/qa-cold-warming-foods-according-ayurveda/
- Winter Yoga Poses, https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/yoga-for-all-seasons-winter
- Yoga Practices to Keep Warm, https://www.doyou.com/winter-yoga-practice-and-tips-to-keep-warm-in-the-cold-months-69551/
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651