Not feeling the "New Year, New You" yet?
Although it’s well into January and you’re back into the thick of things at work, you might not feel as replenished and revitalized as you’d like, and you're not even sure what your goals look like yet?
Do you have that nagging feeling that you should be well into your intense juice detox by now, nailing your personal training sessions at the gym, and you really should have cleared and de-cluttered your desk/wardrobe/spare room by now…but you’re just not ready yet?
All the focus on setting new year resolutions, getting in shape and helpful tips for a ‘new year, new you!’, at the turn of the the new calendar year can actually leave us feeling a bit at odds.
Although it seems neat and tidy to start afresh on January 1, the trend for reinventing ourselves as soon as the clock strikes midnight, actually conflicts with our environment and nature’s energetic qualities at this time of year. Which can leave us feeling a bit out of balance (aka stressed, exhausted, confused and overwhelmed).
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, its still mid-winter, it’s generally pretty cold, dark, windy and dry (for some of us colder, windier, drier or wetter than others).
What does ancient wisdom tell us?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this time of year is associated with Yin energy, it’s the season for rest and retreat. Yin qualities are dark, cold, slow and inward energy.
In the medicinal science of Ayurveda, the seasons are also associated with specific energetic qualities.
Ayurveda is the ancient science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge), developed by the sages of India thousands of years ago, and reemerging in India and across the globe as one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems, living an Ayurvedic lifestyle means living in accordance to our own unique inner needs and qualities or ‘dosha’ and in tune with the environment around us for optimal health and vitality.
The three Ayurveda doshas are Pitta (governed by Fire), Vata (governed by Air and Ether) and Kapha (governed by Earth and Water).
As individuals we each have a make-up that determines our dominant or a combination of dominant doshas. Things like our physical body type, sleep patterns, digestion, energy levels, emotions, even the way we speak, tell us about our dosha type. We look to keep these in balance as much as we can throughout life and by paying attention to what we eat & drink (and when), how we exercise and move our body, our sleeping patterns, yoga practices and our environment (and much more) — we can lead a balanced, healthy and harmonious life.
The seasons are also closely linked to a particular dosha.
In Ayurveda, the winter season is associated with the Kapha and Vata doshas. Their energetic qualities are:
Kapha = cool, heavy, soft, oily, nourishing.
Vata = dry, light, coldness, rough, changeable.
How does this affect you?
In excess and when out of balance, Kapha can cause a heaviness and lethargy, and Vata, anxiety, stress and overwhelm. Physically, this time of year can cause our circulation to get slower, our lymph gets thicker, our digestion is not as fiery. As a result of this slowness, we begin to feel a bit tired, even run down and well, a bit sleepy sometimes.
So right now, in balance with our outer environment, we actually want to continue slowing down, reflecting, keeping warm, staying grounded and nourishing ourselves through the right foods and quality sleep. But we feel like we should be firing on all cylinders and nailing a list of new year’s resolutions already.
Of course, we still have jobs to do and things we need to achieve at work.
Making seasonal changes are a way to increase our fire or energy and maintain balance at this time of year, to be at our best and maintain a healthy mind and body.
Here’s some tips for keeping you in balance this season:
Increase your spices — add things like chilli, cumin, turmeric, pepper and ginger in your cooking. I usually have a hot water and lemon in the morning and add some ginger in the winter to increase the heat a bit which helps to fire up my digestive system.
Eat warming, nourishing foods and seasonal veg (think soups, stews and root vegetables, if that’s available to you).
Keep moving — yes we may want to stay at home and binge watch Netflix but exercise is most beneficial in the winter and spring seasons, so...
Cardiovascular exercise — anything that gets the heart pumping, circulates blood and oxygen around the body and keeps the lymph going (which helps prevent colds and flu).
Yoga — Vinyasa, an energetic Hatha flow and Hot yoga (obviously) helps to increase the heat in the body. Create a bit of sweat. Do more poses standing up. Have shorter rests between poses. Heart and Chest openers are great this time of year, as Kapha energy, or qualities, can accumulate in the chest and lungs. Try Cat/Cow pose, Sphinx pose, Bridge pose, Supine Spinal twists, Cobra pose, Warrior 2, Half Moon pose.
Take a brisk walk just after you’ve eaten to increase your digestive fire.
If you don’t always have time for exercise, doing some simple stretches in the morning (or ‘Kapha busters’ as my teacher calls them), helps to get things moving and create a bit of heat in the body. (Standing up, fully reach arms up to the sky and give your body a full stretch, do some forward folds, windmill your arms, rotate your shoulders, wrists, ankles and hips, do some gentle neck rotations).
Drink a glass of warm water early in the morning after brushing your teeth to wake up your digestive system.
Make some of these tips part of a daily routine, (in the morning can be easier to maintain), this helps to balance our Vata, calming the mind and staying grounded.
Use this natural reflection time to go continue going inwards — read nourishing books, journal, ask yourself big questions and write down your answers, write down your intentions and what you are grateful for. Goals will evolve from there.
Calm the mind through meditation. If you are new to a meditation practice, struggle to meditate or fit it into your day — try this 1 minute meditation.
Nourish personal and professional relationships — meet, talk, learn, build connections.
Remember, how we feel in our body affects the quality of our thoughts, and our thoughts & feelings affect how our body feels and operates.
The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together — Kurdish saying
The more we can align ourselves with the pace of nature, the better we feel. So if it’s winter season where you are, take this time to nourish your body and your mind, before nature’s real "new year, new you" season arrives in Spring.