Seasonal Yoga Treats
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WINTER WATER ELEMENT

 


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Contemplation and resolve, preparation and coming to rest, are the activities of winter. Cold world, warm inner being; short, grey days; days when the warmth of the sun has difficulty reaching us despite the clear blue sky. That we have to rug up and preserve our energy means we’re following the clues that nature provides, that we’re responding to the dictates of our environment.

The yogic way of thinking recognises we should act in accordance with our surroundings and this is why we strive to move in a way that supports, and is supported by, our environment. This guiding principle means that our daily rhythms and activities, what we do, what we wear and so, accord with the seasons. Of course, working fixed hours in air-conditioned offices, and feeling pressured by constant demands, including after-hour schedules of exercise and entertainment often alienates us from the world around us.

As we come to know ourselves and to respect our bodies we understand that we should eat what feels right. In a culture that all too often uses food as entertainment and comfort, we may initially need to work hard to alter the patterns of eating we’ve grown up with, however, the benefits of eating appropriately not only support us but also the planet. For example, local and organically-grown produce will involve less packaging. According to the Oriental view of the cosmos everything, including the seasons, are governed or described by what are known as the five elements. These are: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Winter is governed by water.

A large part of our yoga practise during this season will be based on giving expression to the flowing, dissolving energy associated with this element. This is a dormant time of the year when deep changes take place. Plants lose their foliage and sap flows deep, establishing roots and buds that will later flourish. We should feel encouraged to follow this pattern by internalising our energy and examining our depths.

Each element governs a particular organ system in our body and has both a mental and spiritual aspect. Water presides over the kidneys and bladder. When these organs are healthy, a person will be able to adapt to situations and have the power to change because they feel a strong sense of stability and security. In its weakened state, the kidney system will cause an individual to feel jumpy, weak-willed. They will experience fear, have nightmares and lack physical and mental balance, which results in a high degree of stress. A poor bladder system will make a person feel insecure, particularly about the future; they will therefore have a tendency to hold on to their current circumstances and to resist change. Physically, a weak water element will often produce an uncomfortable lower back and weak ankles.

Becoming internally focused is important during winter. Warm foods that are baked or stewed for a long time are ideal. Dishes should be oilier, fattier and saltier than at other times. If you eat meat, this is most appropriate season to do so, especially fish. Nuts, buckwheat, lentils, and barley stews should be a feature. Mushrooms, cabbages, cauliflower and daikon support our bone structure, which is mediated by the kidneys. Soy-based products such as miso, gomasio, tamari and shoyu should be used because, along with the other recommended ingredients, they draw the body’s energies deep.