Three Ways To Balance Your Winter Yoga Practice
Brrr! 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 comprised of the water and earth elements, and it provides us with
physical structure—the body’s tissues and fluids. Strong bones; beautiful
teeth; lustrous hair, skin, and eyes; physical and emotional stamina—these are
the gifts of kapha dosha.
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.
1.) If you are feeling the effects of winter too strongly,
you can balance by introducing more heat and lightness to your asana practice,
emphasizing vinyasa, balances, and backbends. The Chopra Center offers some
simple and helpful tips for balancing
kapha dosha through asana. A practice from the Bihar yoga tradition
that is especially effective for warming up is named, appropriately enough, Chopping
Wood (Kashta Takshanasana). It not only heats the body but also boosts the
2.) Another way to “unstick” yourself is to try something
new, such as learning yogic
cleanses (the shat karmas) from an experienced teacher. Using a neti pot
and practicing kapalbhati
pranayama help to reduce excess mucus, another sign of aggravated kapha.
Traditional yogic cleanses also include “blinkless
gazing” or trataka, usually done by concentrating on a burning candle,
which seems fitting this time of year when we invoke light with yule logs,
ornaments, tinsel, and other things that sparkle and glow.
3.) At Winter Solstice (December 21), welcome the return of
longer days by imbuing your Sun
Salutations (Surya Namaskara) with mindfulness. Slow down this familiar
vinyasa to incorporate chakra
awareness and the twelve mantras that correspond to each movement. Each
an aspect of the sun. (Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s text Surya
Namaskara: A Technique of Solar Visualization is a helpful reference.)
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 practice. Explore your inner realms. Making peace with
your shadows—including the long-buried impressions known as samskaras—is
a good way to clear the slate for a new year.
What are some of your favorite energizing winter practices?