Yet another morning with a covering of snow on the ground.  It has become so routine to see white, feel cold, take in the rawness to this unprecedented winter.  Is this my winter of my discontent? Nope, sorry, I have not joined the naysayers of winter. Yes, I have had to drive in the icy, wet stuff.  Yes, I’ve had to clear the car, the driveway, the sidewalks. Yes, I feel mummified in my layers which take what seems like hours to put on and take off.  I’ve been lucky that these are the only hardships that I’ve had to go through. But, it still is a wonder for me to witness the boldness of Mother Nature.

Giving Winter the Boot

So what is the purpose of these winter months?  A friend recently sent me an insightful article entitled, “Awakening Your Impulse to Germinate” by Lynn Jericho in the Lilipoh Magazine (Winter 2014).  In the article, the author states that if we can peel ourselves away from the influences of our season-less technology, we can realize how useful the season are to our own growth.   On a very subtle level, we notice the longer days of winter and shorter nights. The warmth within the earth is slowly finding its way towards the surface where upon the ripening of spring, new life will burst forth. But what happens if you apply the seasons to your self consciousness?  Which seeds lie in wait within your self?  What do you do to nurture these seeds within you?  Winter is a time to slow down the pace a bit, to take care of yourself, to gear up before these seeds burst forth with life.  Ask yourself during a time of stillness the following question from Lynn, “What seed of selfhood is ready to germinate within me?”  Do this with the knowledge that spring is coming and you have sent the roots not only upward but have cultivated some deeper roots within the context of winter.

The Breath
Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)

This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain.  We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced.  A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.

Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
Right Nostril
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,

The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down.  Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm.  Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril.  Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round.  Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more.  Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.

Other variations of this breath are:
  • Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed. 
  • Extending the exhale longer than inhale
  • Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed

Mental Nadi Shodhana.  Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils.  Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)

The Poses

Child Pose

Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster.  It may be more comfortable without blocks.  Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props.  Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure.   Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side. 

Variation: Straddle Forward Fold – for those with discomfort in their knees.  Support the knees with blanket rolls and straddle the propped up bolster with additional blankets on the top, if necessary.

Sublime Side Lean

Props: bolster or 2 or 3 pillows or blankets
Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area.

Place bolster or the 2 or 3 blankets or pillows horizontally on your mat or floor. Lie on right side with hip at the base of the blankets or pillows.  Torso should rest on the stack.  Right arm rest on the floor with the palm up.  The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch.  Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath.  Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine.  Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you.  All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth.  Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported.  Breath deep and exhale soft and long.