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Transitioning into Winter
Adapting to live in harmony with the winter season
by Melina Meza, BSN, 500-RYT
Editor´s Note from Lexi Yoga: As we transition into winter we can begin to feel stagnant, sluggish or depressed from the lack of sunshine and colder weather. Melina Meza shares with us some Ayurvedic practices to help adapt and be in harmony with the winter season.
As we inch closer and closer to the winter solstice and begin to lose our daily dose of sunshine, do you find it more challenging to maintain your sense of health and well-being without the warmth and heat from the sun? If you are someone or know someone who starts to feel stagnant, sluggish, depressed, or notice your food takes a long time to digest and you feel tired after eating, perhaps some of these transitional practices will help you improve your inner fire, circulation, and mood.
In the fall and winter seasons, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend letting go of eating cold foods and instead they recommend eating warm cooked foods. If we apply the Ayurvedic wisdom, “like increases like, opposites balance” to our diet, cold raw foods eaten in the winter would increase cold within us. Instead, to maintain healthy digestion in the winter, you might consider doing the opposite to balance agni, your internal flame. Jatharagni is the actual word used to describe your digestive fire. It is the most important agni in the body and when well regulated keeps food digesting at the right speed, destroys toxins or pathogens in food, and controls your body temperature. To help keep your digestive agni strong, consider taking care of it like you would any fire by giving it healthy fuel (food) and some air and space in between meals. Eating until we are full (versus stopping when you no longer have hunger) or drinking too much liquid while eating are typical ways you weaken or dampen your jatharagni. If you overload a fire with too much wood, it will go out or smolder; the same is true with food as too much can put out the flame in your stomach.
Do you feel nourished after your food or tired and distracted? Ideally we all learn to find the diet that works best for our constitution (dosha) and aligns with our external environment. This way, food becomes medicine and nourishes us as our needs change from season to season. In Ayurveda, foods are rarely described as good or bad; instead we say, “can you digest what you eat?” If someone has a strong digestive fire, they may tolerate foods that are seemingly “bad” whereas someone with weak agni might have trouble eating the foods we consider “good or healthy.” It all boils down to the health of our agni. Ideally in the winter months we will discover the appropriate diet for our constitution and begin to add more spices and warming herbs like ginger, clove, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic, turmeric, and black pepper to what we eat or drink.
“All the world seeks food. It is the life source of all beings. Clarity, longevity, intelligence, happiness, contentment, strength and knowledge are all rooted in food.” ~ Charaka
Trataka – Candle Gazing Meditation
Trakaka is a wonderful winter meditation to help develop concentration, generate heat, and single pointedness in the mind while receiving the light emitted from a flame into our eyes. This light generates energy that improves the function of our pineal gland. The pineal gland is also known as our “third eye” and feeds off light and heat for optimal functioning. Hindu texts say practice of trataka develops the faculties of greater intuition and that the past, present, and future all begin to appear with equal clarity.
To practice trataka, light a candle on your altar or wherever you sit for meditation. Sit in an upright position to ensure that the spine stays erect and that prana can flow easily through the subtle channels of the body.
It is recommended that the candle flame be kept about 12 to 24 inches from your face, and at eye level. Begin trataka by taking a few deep breaths or a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. When your breath is stable, begin focusing your eyes on the flame and keep your gaze without blinking for as long as you can. With time and practice, your peripheral vision will fade away until you have no visual awareness of anything but the candle flame; in a sense, you become one with the flame.
Add any of these essential oils to your Epsom salt or sea salt baths for an invigorating, energizing, anti-depressant, muscle relaxing antidote during the winter season: eucalyptus, rosemary, pinon pine, ylang ylang, ginger, juniper, grapefruit, or bergamot.
Watch this quick video on how to make your own bath salts:
For asana inspiration, check out Art of Sequencing books or Yoga for the Seasons DVD.
If you are in the bay area, consider attending my upcoming Seasonal Ayurveda and Yoga Immersions with Dr. Scott Blossom
What is Seasonal Vinyasa - Yoga for the Seasons?
Seasonal Vinyasa describes an artistic style of sequencing asana and seasonal daily rituals. The main inspiration for Seasonal Vinyasa comes from the Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda traditions, two complementary sciences that promote health in body, mind, and spirit. While inspiring the self-knowledge to adjust day-to-day choices and align with what is occurring outside in nature, Seasonal Vinyasa emphasizes the teachings of the yogis—that there is no separation between humans and nature.
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About the Author
Melina Meza has been exploring the art and science of yoga and nutrition for over 18 years. She combines her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, whole foods nutrition, and healthy lifestyle promotion into a unique style called Seasonal Vinyasa. Her devotion to yoga and eating well, to teaching and nutritional counseling, and to traveling and experiencing different cultures combine to create a colorful and enlightening perspective from which to share that which she loves about yoga in its entirety. Meza is the author of the Art of Sequencing books and Yoga for the Seasons – Fall Vinyasa DVD. www.melinameza.com