Winter Warmers… How to Keep Your Heart Open When Your Jacket is Closed!
After some playful hide and seek, Sister Winter is now fully upon us! As the hibernation season rolls in and many places around the country start to get darker and chillier, life doesn’t always slow down along with it. With the tendency to “push on through”, we must stop and reflect on how the season makes us feel. Are you sleepier? Excited? Less focused? More focused? Cranky? Always remember there is no “one size fits all” approach to health, and it’s important to notice how these planetary changes affect your unique internal balance, and find a way to ease the transition.
How are you staying grounded during the airy Vata season?? Click here to jump back to our overview of Ayurveda and tips to stay in balance!
When the air gets chillier, we start to pile on the armor, wrapping ourselves up in layers, keeping our faces to the ground and grumbling, scurrying from Point A to Point B. It may feel tougher to stay warm and open both in our bodies and our daily interactions.
From a Yogic standpoint, in the winter we like to focus on stoking the internal fire (Pitta) through heat-building postures and breathing techniques (Pranayama). We incorporate lots of ‘heart-openers’, or back bending, to rev up our adrenaline and counteract that slouched-over guarded posture common in cold (or stressful) months. Though sometimes it’s easier to grumble, the best way to warm your heart is with gratitude. “Give Love to Get Love.” We’ve all heard that old adage, and the Beatles sang about it, but how can we access it on a daily bases? Below are some tips for both you and your kids to keep you heart open when your jackets are closed!
1. Stoke the Fire.
Want to warm it up? Sitting by the fireplace and soaking in a hot bath sure feel nice, but the best heat comes from within. Play through some Sun Salutations as many times as you need to feel radiant. Then try in fast forward, slow motion, high volume and mute!
Try the FLY Breath of the Week: RADIATOR BREATH
Our kid-happy version of Ujjayi Pranayama, to build internal body heat, concentration and stabilize the body for yoga practice. With lips sealed, close your eyes and imagine a little fire inside your belly. Hold both hands palms toward you about an inch from your face. On an inhale breathe down into the fire, and on the exhale feel the warm air on the palms of your hands. Can you hear a quiet ‘haaaa’ sound radiating from your chest? In the nose and out the nose to build heat and keep it in!
Turn Warming Up into a game! No toys or technology required, just silliness and imagination.
Make Hot Cocoa! Sit in wide-legged forward folds in a big circle, or foot-to-foot with your child to make a big pot of milk. Reach of the cocoa, shake it in, stir it up, spin in around with blender arms, move & shake! Cover the pot by folding forward and heat it up! Ready to add marshmallows? Stand up and HOP! into the pot, landing in a little marshmallow ball hugging your knees, then slowly start to mellllllttttt and swim on your belly kicking legs and arms until you’re ready to add another handful. Then you can slurp it down, but don’t forget to release a biiiig cooling breath to cool it off before you taking a biiiig in breath to sip it down!
Play in the Snow! Roll up some snowballs on your back, hugging your knees and rocking back and forth until you’ve worked enough momentum, then build up your snowman! Squat down low for the base, puff out your belly for the body and your cheeks for the head. Then stretch your arms out really straight and wide like sticks, and add any imaginary decorations you’d like! When you’re ready to melt, take THREE Radiator Breaths as you slowly sink towards the floor….. then Open & Shut wildly like a Snow Angel!
2. Open Your Heart!
Back Bending relieves tightness in the back and shoulders (from cold chills, heavy coats and bags), increases lung capacity, increases blood circulation and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. These physical postures also symbolize opening the heart to receive, and to feel more compassion and connectedness. Don’t believe us? Try it! See if you can feel a surge of energy, and what kind of emotions it brings up.
Brooklyn Bridge Pose: Start lying on your back with your feet on the floor and knees pointing up. Press into your feet to lift your seat off the ground, and see if you can clasp your hands together beneath you! Lower your bridge when you are ready. Be sure to hug your knees into your chest when you come down to counter-stretch.
Up-Dog!: Lying on your belly, push down into your hands and the tops of your feet to lift your chest, belly, knees and thighs off the ground. Try to straighten your arms, send your heart forward, and stretch your throat to howl at the moon, “Awooooo!”
Watch Your Weather, then Play Through It!
With the weather acting all crazy, our emotions are likely to flutter as well. Anytime your young one is acting out of control, ask them to Make A Weather Report. What’s going on inside? Does it feel like sunny skies, or a cloudy, foggy day? Whipping wind or stillness? Thunder or Lightening? Instead of talking through difficult emotions, have your child be the “weatherperson” as they report the day’s forecast.
Identify it, then Play Through It! Physicalize and embody all qualities the weather person announces. For instance, if your child describes a Snow Storm: Ice and Sleet may be wild, sharp and slippery, while Flurries may be fast moving and light, soft Snowflakes may be graceful and slow beginning on the tiptoes and floating down to the ground.
If you’re in a group, urge students to be creative, use the whole space, and never stop moving. Allow everyone to have a chance to make their own Weather Report, and perhaps a fully choreographed dance will emerge.
Give a Little, Get a Lot.
Give a little love, get a lotta love. There’s no better way to feel happy and warm than through acts of kindness. Hold doors, smile through the cold, pick up dropped gloves, and tell those you love exactly why you appreciate them. Notice how one little extra effort towards others can bring light to a dark day.