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inner balance during the shortest and coldest days

Yoga teacher Jeffrey Duval offers insights on, from an ancient perspective, how to survive the Holi-daze and the coming winter months.

Winter is here and it's time to sync with the natural rhythms of mother nature.  As the light of day decreases it may become more difficult to balance your state of being and wellness.  The Winter Solstice is fast approaching, and we also have a Lunar Eclipse at the same time which is considered to be very Auspicious.Usually at this time of year before The Winter Solstice and holiday season, we typically fall into one of two categories.

If you feel the need to hibernate and go into a cave then you are probably depleted from the activity of life, and feel a strong desire to be still and nest.

If life is picking you up and expanding into a million directions, then you are feeling the opposite of the cycle that the planet is undergoing.

In both cases Kapha can either be enhanced or balanced.  Kapha is one of the three main doshas or constitutions in Ayurveda.  A 5000 year old system of wellness from India, Ayurveda has endured due to its life-enhancing and rejuvenating effects.  It could be considered a sister art to yoga.

When the Kapha dosha becomes out of balance we begin to feel sluggish, tired, not as productive, lethargic, and the urge to hibernate sets in.  While winter seems like an ideal time to relax, sleep in, watch tv, and eat comfort foods, we can learn a few guidelines to help balance Kapha before it actually starts to increase and become what Ayurveda terms "deranged".

The following guidelines are inspired from Maria Garre, an Ayurvedic Practioner in Albuquerque, NM.  These are great ways to find balance as the stillness of winter embraces us.

1. Wake up before the sun rises. Enjoy the quiet and stillness of a winter morning, this is also a good time to sit and meditate.

2. Drink room temperature or slightly warm water with lemon. Avoid ice in water and cold drinks.

3. Favor rich hearty stews. These seasonal eats not only hydrate you, but are easily digested, as there is often less activity in winter months and less digestive fire.  Foods that are moist, saucy, warm, and juicy will be most beneficial at this time.

4. Practice Abyanga at least 4 times per week. Abyanga is a self-massage with warm sesame oil.  This practice will not only keep your skin looking and feeling great, but balances the mind, and is very detoxifying as the skin is the largest organ of the body.

5. Stay active! While you may just want to watch movies and remain still, it's important to exercise.  Walking, doing yoga, Pilates, or another form of  physical activity will help maintain your overall balance.  And get out while the sun is shining, if possible.

6. If you have a strong desire or time to take a nap, consider meditation or doing Shavasana or Restorative Yoga.  Long naps can throw off your sleep cycle. The moonlight is much more predominant than the sunlight.  Go out at night and see (or visualize) the moon, and drink the healing soma, or "nectar"!

During this time, you may notice that your natural tendancy right now is toward more food and sleep.  This is because the body is trying to pull all of the energy into the internal organs, which is the body's natural defense system.  Therefore, allow yourself to sleep more if that feels natural and ease-inducing.  Even though you may have good intentions to loose some weight for your New Year's resolutions, the ideal time for that practice would be in the Spring, which will be here soon enough!

Written by Jeffrey Duval