By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Daylight-saving time has passed, and the solstice will be here before we know it. Whether we like it or not, winter is coming.
Being a Southerner, I am surprised at how easy it has been to adjust to the Midwest winters. I really am a sun-lover, so the realization that I actually anticipate the temperature dropping and the daylight shortening is a strange experience indeed.
As usual, I look to my yoga practice as the source of much of my internal balance. The inward turn of awareness that yoga teaches is helpful when the winter months hit. As a matter of fact, it is the winter that allows us the best opportunity to connect with our self at a much deeper level.
Winter can bring the actual experience of what yoga calls pratyahara, the drawing of the senses into oneself. The brilliance of nature begins to fade, darkness comes early, and our world is blanketed in white.
Our sense of sight is dulled to the outside world, which at other seasons keeps us distracted with color and light. Much of nature hibernates and rests, the blanket of snow muffles usual sounds, and the sound of our own breath and movement becomes more apparent.
We stay indoors, away from our usual “play,” and cover ourselves for warmth, so communication with others diminishes, and our sense of touch has closer and more inward boundaries.
In yoga class, we practice pratyahara at the end, after the physical work of asana (postures) is done. Savasana, or corpse pose, gives us a short time to draw in and allows the mind and body the time and space to assimilate what has been learned. But Savasana is only 10-15 minutes of our time, so how can we capture more of this experience in life? Winter brings us a whole season! After months of outdoor work and play, our body and mind have grown and experienced more than we can be fully aware of. Winter is a time for sitting still, tuning in and assimilating.
After the work of asana and the rest of Savasana, most students leave yoga class refreshed and renewed. We know we need this time of rest to be able to get through the next day or the rest of the week. So, why not feel the same about winter? It is a similar time of rest and renewal for our deeper self. We can prepare and refuel for the coming spring, knowing we can emerge a bit better, a bit wiser and a bit more connected.
Of course, the winter outside and the winter within can bring many feelings of fear and dread. Without the outer distractions of color and light, we are forced to see the world and our own self, bare and exposed. Sometimes it is not as pretty as we would like it to be, or it is colder than we expected it to be. However, the world as it is and what we are at that moment count the most. Our ability to be still, be aware and be at peace even during the dark times is what ultimately nourishes our growth into the brighter season.
Soon enough, spring will be here. We will be drawn out once again to the light and beauty of the outside world. Meantime, take advantage of the darkness, of the long, restful Savasana of winter. Draw your senses in, practice yoga and really enjoy the winter within.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the Nov. 24-30, 2010 issue