By: Cheryl Sidwell
Holidaze got you down? For many of us the holidays or more generally, the season of winter, can be a difficult time to navigate. Some of you may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, as the days grow shorter; others may simply experience depression or anxiety this time of year due to loss in your own life. Here are some tips from Yoga and Ayurveda that can help you navigate this season a little bit better. According to Ayurveda – Fall and Winter is the “Vata” time of year. It’s often characterized by cold, dryness and wind (depending on where you live of course – this is mostly for those in 4-season climate!). The nights are longer and the days are shorter, so we have less natural light. Making sure you get out in the sunlight everyday can help. If you work 9-5 hours, and you get a lunch break, try to get outside, even for a short walk. If you can’t get out in the sun, sitting by a fire in the evening can also be very beneficial.
Eating seasonally – hearty soups and stews and herbal teas can also help to warm you on the inside. Sweet, sour, and salty foods can also help to balance “Vata”. So, indulging occasionally in a sweet or salty craving may be helpful (I’m not advocating consistent over-indulgence which may result in weight gain – it’s important to balance it out – but let yourself have a treat now and then if your body is craving it – unless you have medical restrictions!) Exercise, music and friendship can also help to elevate our mood. Whether you take that afternoon walk or go to the gym, or take a yoga class, getting some activity can increase your endorphins and make you feel good, at least temporarily. Music is also a great “mood uplifter”, as is laughter. Make it a point to visit with friends – go see a movie or cook together.
Massage can also be wonderfully uplifting. If you can’t afford to get a professional massage, try the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage. Use a little almond, sesame or coconut oil – heat it up and add a few drops of a favorite essential oil if you desire. Lavender or Sandalwood can be calming; Orange, Bergamot or Grapefruit can be uplifting. Pay special attention to your limbs, feet, hands and joints. Take a hot bath afterwards – perhaps adding some Epsom salts to relieve muscle pain. Finally, make sure you get enough sleep. If you have trouble winding down at night, try practicing a few forward folds, like paschimottanasana, downward facing dog or child’s pose before bedtime. The restorative pose, “Legs up the wall” can also be soothing for tired legs and feet. (as pictured). A few rounds of left nostril breathing can be calming as it induces the relaxation response. Simply close the right nostril with your thumb and breath in and out slowly through your left nostril. If your mind is still disturbed, I suggest finding a Yoga Nidra tape that speaks to you. There are several available for free on Youtube or you can try our Yoga Nidra class at The Personal Wellness Center on Monday nights. With a little self-care and adjustment to your daily routine you can make the winter and holiday season a little more bearable.