It is 4:30 pm. The sky is pitch-dark. The wind outside has picked up as the temperatures drop from the cold air toward the even colder ground. Slip on those Uggs, grab another log for the fire, run a warm bath, and settle inside now. There’s nothing to do “out there” tonight! Welcome to winter on Martha’s Vineyard.
As we can feel but may not know intellectually, winter is a time when the Earth pulls back into herself with the intention to nurture and reboot. With the darker days and nights, colder temperatures, and more time spent indoors, our bodies too crave more internal time to rest, store, and hibernate.
In the yogic science, winter is associated with the constitution of kapha, or “that which nourishes the water.” Kapha has a cold, earthy, heavy, and very wet way about it. On the flip side, it’s also quite sensual, creative, and grounding.
Kapha is associated with our kidneys, lungs, and thymus, and the flow of the fluids of the body. In the emotional and psychic bodies, our kidneys are known to store the emotion of fear or courage; the lungs, grief or joy; the thymus can either boost or reduce our feelings of gratitude; and our fluids are the transporters of our emotions and thoughts, carrying them from the organs on out through our whole being.
Since we, too, are made up mostly of water (90% when we are born, and somewhere around 70% when we die), and winter being the season of excess wetness, it is easy to get affected by the season. When our internal kapha is excessive, we tend to get mucus-y and have more respiratory issues, as well as some emotional-mental imbalances such as fear, sadness, and feelings of lack.
The good news is, winter is actually the best time to boost our immunity. The inward nature of winter helps us to take on a more internal lifestyle that can actually build fortitude in all of our bodies. So how can we be more skilled at devoting the next months to boosting our physical, psychological, and spiritual selves, and staying healthy and sane this winter? Here are some practices to boost immunity and combat the down sides of winter.
Fire it up during the daylight hours. Practice vigorous exercises that make you sweat, burn, and dry out some of the wet. If you practice yoga poses, I suggest a few rounds of sun salutations to get synovial fluids moving, and postures such as back bends (which tone the lungs and uplift our mood) and forward folds (which wring out the kidneys, giving us more courage). Also, tap the sternum, or chest bone, with two fingers throughout the day to ignite the immunity-boosting thymus.
Practice mantras or affirmations of gratitude. In his Yoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali tells us that in order to find harmony and balance, we must find the way to “control the fluctuations of the mind.” With observation comes understanding, and with understanding comes the ability to “control the mind stuff.” Repeating affirmations helps with this; the word “mantra” literally means “that which protects the mind.”
Let’s face it, we are already doing this all day long, but often in reverse, by telling ourselves we aren’t good enough most of the time (“I’m too this; I’m not enough that”). So we might as well do this consciously and in ways that help, not hurt us! When we can gain a sense of control over our thinking self and what we are repeating to ourselves mentally, the physical and psychological bodies follow suit, creating an overall sense of well-being.
Meditate or create: Science shows the effects of meditation activate the frontal lobe of our brains, which in turn elevates awareness, gratitude, and consciousness. When we spend time in a meditative or creative mindset, we tap the parasympathetic nervous system, which then sends balance and health to the organs, skeletal structure, and muscles. If you are not one to sit and meditate, then create or learn something new, because both have the same impact on the brain: Paint, draw, sculpt, write, or take a class — any activity that helps us to zoom out of the monkey mind of daily tasks. When we are “in the zone,” we connect to a larger consciousness, or spirit of oneness, and our inner spirit is filled with a greater sense of peace.
And most important, don’t forget to snuggle with a loved one!
In love & light,
Sherry Sidoti is the creator, director and lead teacher of FLY Yoga School, the Vineyard’s first-ever 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher Training Program. Additionally, she is the owner of Yoga Haven, which offers daily classes, continuing education for yoga teachers and practitioners, and special workshops in the spirit of healing, harmony, and balance for the greater good of all. For more information, visitflyyogamv.com.