Go with Winter.


It looks so lovely from indoors!   :)     Last night, in the Astanga class I attend, we spent some extra time on backbends, which is fabulous.  After all, in the Astanga Primary Series, there’s a lot of forward folding — which means that back-bending can provide a very welcome counterbalance.  

     But here’s the thing.  My body clearly thinks I should be hibernating.  Like many of you, I’ve felt closed in, sluggish, fatigued, depressed, heavy…



I’ve told a few students to try some mild backbends (Cobra, Upward-Facing Dog) in order to combat fatigue.  I know from experience that backbends perform this function rather well.  

Cobra. For a milder version, just don't come up as far. Keep back of neck long.

Upward-Facing Dog. The difference from Cobra is that the pelvis comes off the ground. Keep shoulders broad; gently look up.

So last night, I expected to feel invigorated.  Open.  Perhaps even (gasp!) energetic.

But when the body feels sluggish and closed-in, it often brings the emotions along with it.  

And it’s kind of a chicken-egg deal, because when our hearts are broken, or when we’re stressed, worried, depressed… we bring our physical bodies along with that experience as well.  

The mind and body are gloriously – and sometimes stubbornly – connected.

So last night I had this love/hate experience in which the backbends would feel open, exhilarating, freeing… But then immediately afterwards, I would feel deeply sad.  

As always, Yoga is a laboratory for the rest of life.  So what was this back and forth experience revealing to me about reality?  I had sensed my desire for openness and energy, but in the process I encountered my need for retreat, rest, and compassion.  

I wanted so badly to keep arcing up into that backbend.  I wanted to keep practicing and release further.  It felt amazing to open the heart area so broadly.

But that very opening also opened me to my own struggles.  This sounds cheesy, but seriously.  I’d been approaching life the way I was approaching this Yoga practice.  

Maybe you can relate:
It feels so great to throw yourself into life.

You combat feelings of fatigue by pushing more, stretching more, maybe demanding more.Getting things done!

You feel like you need rest, but you also need to get things done.  

Maybe the “need for rest” is just laziness.  Just the Winter blues.  Just a slump.

So you keep going, hoping that the next reach, stretch, accomplishment will miraculously eradicate all fatigue, depression, heaviness, whatever.  

But it doesn’t.  Maybe the next reach, stretch, accomplishment leaves you lower than before.  Maybe something about it only serves to point out your deeper, unmet needs.  

Like for rest.  Real rest.  

Or for compassion, patience, unconditional acceptance, wisdom, relationship, whatever it is for you.

So.  What’s the point?

Winter does bring its heavy weight, its fatigue, slow pace, numbness, and/or depression.  

And if you’re feeling it, it could just be the weather.

But probably not.

And if not, what would it be like to… go with it?  To go with Winter?  

What if the season is actually pointing out some of your very real physical and emotional needs; the ones you’ve been able to ignore in Spring-ier seasons?  Would that not be a gift?

What if the slowness of the season is an indication of your real, human need to slow down?  Can you?  Just a little?  What if the fatigue you feel is an actual request for true rest?  *sigh* What if the “depressing gray” of the season is pointing out the gray areas in your life, the areas that need attention, compassion, love, whatever?  What if the heaviness is an indication of something you need to shed?  

If any of these are possibilities, then Winter (and its “blues”) could be a kind gift… Even if it’s one that’s forced upon us.


So.  Backbends are wonders for down days.  Try a Cobra, an Upward-Facing Dog, or an Upward Bow if you’re an experienced student.  And then listen.  If the pose is opening you to the world, to possibility, to creativity, to energy, then wonderful.  Go with it.  Thank yourself for taking the time to invest in your own body/mind connection.  

And if the pose opens you to yourself, so that afterwards you sense even more deeply your own needs, requests, aches, or dreams (a positive version of this is possible, after all!) — Then go with that, too! Listen to your body and direct your attention where it’s needed.  

When you take care of yourself, you’ll have less conflict with the season.  And you’ll be more available to connect yourself and your gifts with the needs of the world.

Is there anything you’ve been ignoring in your body or mind, chalking it up to S.A.D.?  (It may truly be a seasonal issue, but spend some time with it anyway.  Investigate; listen; make yourself available to it.)

The Winter really is a great time for hibernating, for true rest.  Do you know how to rest deeply?  If so, any hot tips for other readers?  

Is your version of rest a couple hours on the couch, browsing online, chatting with a few different friends, updating your status, all while watching two different TV shows?  These things do provide a very real source of pleasure, connection, and entertainment – all of which is legitimate.  But it’s not rest.  What keeps you from turning it all off?  Do you feel like you need a routine to replace this one?

Any other Winter Tales?  Do share.  :)

Upward Bow, or Wheel.  Attempt only with an experienced teacher!  :)


One Response to “Go with Winter.”

  1. ah, thanks, tasha. that’s hard to hear, but good at the same time. i’ve been trying to let myself rest and recuperate when things feel overwhelming. but i shouldn’t settle too much into it. i don’t want to lose myself again… i should also be trying to find the edges, do a couple backbendy things, and see how that goes. :-)

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