Sherry Sidoti is the owner of Yoga Haven Martha’s Vineyard, and the Director and Lead Teacher at FLY Yoga School, MV’s first ever Certified Yoga Teacher Training program. “Seasonal Sanity” will feature her thoughts on how to shift into each coming season.
Despite the still-snowflakes and chilly days, it’s spring on Martha’s Vineyard! Time to take a BIG breath in, shed our winter “coat” and lighten up from the inside out for the busy summer ahead. So, what have you planted and what would you like to see grow in 2014? Like the soil, we too need to be tilled, sifted, and fertilized for our seeds of intention to grow.
Through the yoga perspective, we live an entire four seasons with every breath we take. Spring season is like a huge inhale, taking in new life, new ideas, and gearing our minds and lives for summer, which is, as most of us know it, like holding the breath at the top of an inhale—often so full to the point of pressure. Just as an exhale represents autumn — a sort of dropping down, releasing — think leaves falling, to the pause of holding out breath at the bottom of the exhale, which represents winter — an emptying of sorts, a hibernation.
This tendency to hibernate in winter asks that we collect, absorb and hold on to excess in attempts to stay warm. As we move out of the colder months and into the spring, it is important that we take on practices to help us shed our “winter weight”- in our mental, emotional, energetic and physical bodies. Winter is one of the harder months to exit, as it’s the longest season here in New England, with a very dense energy, so it’s difficult to “shake”. Turn up the heat! Do some spring cleaning! Make space for new growth!
Below are some suggestions for shedding winter and preparing your earth for planting the new seeds of Spring.
Centering with ourselves in nature: the simplest way to bring ourselves into balance is to connect to the earth and connect to our center. This simple reminder to ground and center reminds us of who we are, because at our very essence, we too are organic creatures of nature, with our own inner earth to boot. Noticing our connection to earth does for us the same as a little child reaching up for his mother’s hand to hold when feeling lost; it brings us back to home base.
1. Place a hand on, sit or lie down, or notice your feet touching the ground, outdoors if possible. Notice the connection of you to earth. Remind yourself that the earth is beginning to warm up again, even if it still feels cold, and new beginnings are sprouting underground. If you feel “stuck,” stressed or off balance, remind yourself that everything in nature is preparing to sprout again. Consciously let go of something that feels old, or cold, or no longer relevant to your new season — mentally repeat “I release____” three times.
2. Practice Ujjaii breathing, better known as “Darth Vader” breathing. Gently close off your throat from the inside so that when you take a breath in and out it makes a audible sound, similar to the ocean. Inhale to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4. This is a cleansing and centering breath that creates internal heat. As you hear your breath imagine the waves of the ocean coming in and out, cleansing all winter stagnation.
3. Twists: All twisted postures assist us in letting go of the past and embracing the new. They are like a spring cleaning of the body. Twists help to ignite our digestive system and wring out the “old” residue in our organs, and our energy body. Simple twist: lay on your back with arms spread out from shoulders on the floor. Hug knees into chest. Drop both knees to the right, keeping arms outstretched, stay for 5 breaths. Come back through center, hugs knees in again, and drop them over to the left. Stay for 5 breaths.
Turn up the Inner Heat: Come out of the cold with these heating practices to lighten up for new growth.
1. Add more spicy foods which tend to heat up our digestion AND add more raw foods into the diet to lighten some of the winter sluggishness.
2. Stretch out the inhales in your breathing patterns to make them longer than the exhale, which offers us a warming effect on the body and activates a focused mind.
3. Add an occasional outdoor run or bike ride or more Sun Salutations, core work or other heat generating exercises to your physical routine. Take a walk or spend some time outdoors during peak sun hours (with sunscreen:), and make sure to catch some Vitamin D.
In love & light,