7 Tips for Beating the Winter Blahs with Yoga

yoga during winter
Photo by Jer Harman

Spring is just around the corner according to the calendar (and Punxsutawney Phil), but that may seem like cold comfort to winter-weary yogis. While you can’t rush the season, you can utilize your yoga practice to help shift your attitude. Here are seven ways to stoke your inner fire:

1. Recommit to your practice. Are you just moving your body during asana, or are you moving your spirit? If the winter blahs have followed you to the mat, this is a good time to revisit your New Year’s sankalpa or intention. Turn up the tapas—fiery inner discipline—to revitalize your intention. If you’ve outgrown it, introduce a new challenge to help pull you out of the doldrums.

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2. Add fun. A daily routine can be wonderfully supportive, but it can also numb us to the joy of discovery at a time when we are already coping with kapha, winter’s dominant dosha. Refresh your practice by injecting some novelty into your usual routine on the mat. Try a new class (like Laughter Yoga), wear bright colors, listen to upbeat music—whatever adds some rasa (“flavor” or “juice” in Sanskrit) to your practice.

3. Bring the outdoors in. If it’s too cold to take your yoga practice outside, move your mat to a sunny spot by a window. Add flowers or green plants to your home practice space and hang an inspiring landscape photograph on the wall. Instead of music, listen to recorded nature sounds like birdsong or waves during asana.

4. Honor the sun. No matter what form of Sun Salutations you practice, imbue the movements with visualization, solar mantras, and a profound awareness of the sun’s grace. During Surya Namaskara’s various positions, we honor different aspects of the sun: as friend, nurturer, bringer of wisdom, etc. It’s no coincidence that Groundhog’s Day falls on a cross-quarter day—midway between winter solstice and the spring equinox, celebrated through the ages as Candlemas (Christian), Powamu (Hopi) and Imbolc (Celtic). Snow may cover the ground, but in the Northern Hemisphere, natural life is gathering energy for spring.

5. Uplift your mood with yoga therapy. Some 10 million Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. If your case of the winter blues isn’t resolving as the days get longer, try tapping into yoga’s therapeutic power. Focus on asanas and pranayamas that help ease anxiety or energize the spirit. Learning how to manage mood changes is the focus of LifeForce Yoga, developed by teacher Amy Weintraub, who believes that the source of depression are feelings of separation.

6. Step outside. (Of yourself, that is.) All too often, we can be our own worst enemy, spiraling deeper into darkness by focusing on what’s wrong with us. Sometimes the best way to recharge when feeling depleted is through helping others. Seva (selfless service) is not only good karma, it helps us shift our focus from the egoic self to the greater human experience. A few ideas: Volunteer to help spring clean the studio where you take classes, offer to host a sutra-study group in your home, or sponsor yoga classes at a local woman’s shelter.

7. Own it. The groundhog saw his shadow; maybe you’re meeting yours. Instead of railing at the snow piling up on your driveway, check in to see what’s going on underneath your bank of emotions. The more you learn about your dark places, the better equipped you will be to find your way back to balance. Asana is a physical mirror for the dance between light and darkness, but it’s when we take this awareness off the mat that we are truly in yoga.

How has your practice helped you get beyond the winter blahs?

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