Yoga helps us in many ways to transition through the seasons: it shows us how we are intuitively attuned with nature, it makes us more sensitive to our bodies and what they’re telling us, and it encourages us to let-go and be comfortable with change and growth (amongst many other wonderful things). As we move into the season of spring, and shake off winter – much like nature, we have this stored energy & inertia that inspires growth, renewal, new life, and requires a cleansing of the heaviness of winter.
This is the perfect time to adjust your practice to align with the changing season, and really reap the benefits of that potential for growth, expansion, and new beginnings that spring brings. You may feel called to more vigorous practices which help to build energy & heat, and cleanse the body of heaviness left behind from winter. Some asanas (postures) in particular can also help with the transition from the cold and stagnant season of winter, to the warm and active state of spring:
- Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) are invigorating, and a great way to invite in the sun’s warmth & energy, while moving any stuck energy or physical blockages.
- Twisting Postures (held in stillness or with movement) which “wring out” the torso, help to eliminate blockages & stimulate internal movement by increase digestion & circulation.
- Inverted postures (legs up the wall, shoulder-stand, headstand, etc) will drain excess fluids from the lower extremities (further assisting in the detoxification of our bodies), but also help us to see things differently, change our perspectives, and prepare for something new.
- Backbends and heart-openers, are also particularly energizing for our whole system, but also help us to remove any insulation or shield we’ve developed around our heart space, so we can experience more gratitude and love in our lives – which are important qualities to have when working on growth and change. You can read more about heart openers in my earlier blog-post “Opening your heart through Yoga”.
- Forward folds (either seated or standing postures) are great for stimulating the kidney and liver to strengthen their ability to support the body in clearing out toxins.
In addition to dynamic full-body movements and postures, we can also work with the breath (prana) to stimulate energies of spring. In moving into spring, we can continue to work on clearing out stagnation & heaviness, and building heat, vigor, and energy through breath work. Two great Pranayams (breath techniques) for this are Breath of Fire, and Kapalabati. Both are similar, in that they involve a pumping action of the low belly (the naval point), where the air is “pushed” out in short and rapid strokes. Both breath techniques will build heat & energy in the body, stimulate and tone the lower abdomen (again assisting in elimination & digestion), clear out excess mucous from the lungs & nasal passage (which can be especially helpful if you have seasonal allergies), and increase circulation of highly oxygenated blood (to boost alertness and stamina), among other benefits. For guidance on these breath techniques, visit any of our classes and ask our teachers to show you, or it may just be included in the class anyways.
Along with yoga asanas and pranayams, adjusting your diet for seasonal change is very beneficial too. You may already feel like eating lighter meals, with more spice and vibrancy (the more vibrant color your food, the more nutrients it has), as these types of meals will add heat to the body, and help in removing toxins and blockages. Foods that are particularly good for this are:
- Green vegetables: which are natural cleansers for the body, and are high in nutrients that will help fuel you with clean-burning energy.
- “P” fruits (pears, peaches, plums, etc): which are higher in fiber for removal of toxins and waste.
- Herbs like parsley, cumin, black pepper, cayenne and ginger: which are natural cleansers, heat-builders, and also add great flavor to food to help reduce your salt intake.
- Lots of water! This is a good idea year-round: drinking lots of water (there’s no such thing as too much), helps with removal of excess waste, toxins, and even fat, and keep you hydrated so your body’s systems can work efficiently and quickly.
Lastly, there are some lifestyle tips that can really help in the transition from winter-spring. Winter days are short and dark, and we often feel like staying in bed a little longer. It’s important to start to shed that habit, and begin to wake-up with the sun (ideally before 7am), and if possible get some natural sunlight exposure first thing in the morning. But this doesn’t mean sacrificing sleep – it’s still important to get adequate rest (around 8 hours of sleep every night) for your body to repair and prepare for more growth. This helps to sync your body’s circadian rhythm to nature and will help in balancing changing moods, hormones, and increasing energy levels. Then adding in some exercise, stretches, and dynamic movements (see asanas and pranayams above, - or come try a 6am class) first thing in the morning will give your body the boost it needs to burn up excess heaviness & sluggishness while also boosting your immunity. Another favorite practice of mine for boosting energy, and shaking off the stagnation and heaviness of winter, is listening to good music and singing (take a tip from the birds)! It doesn’t have to be in public – even just singing at home on your own has wonderful mood-boosting benefits. Furthermore, the vibrations from uplifting music can help shape our thoughts, the energy of our spaces and ourselves, so that we move in a more positive direction – which is important when we’re in a season of more intense change and growth. For a deeply effective experience with singing and music, try out one of our Kundalini classes, which always include great music, and positive mantras (chanted or sang) for a potent effect on your whole system.
I hope that you might be a little more inspired to look around at nature and seek to align with the changing season. With our inner landscape harmonized with the environment that surrounds us we can take full advantage of the benefits that the Spring season brings (growth, new life, and cleansing), to remove the heavy, insulating shell of winter and burst forth with renewed energy!