Spring into Spring!
Spring is a time of new beginnings, when we traditionally look to let go of the old and embrace the new. It is the perfect time to de-clutter and revitalise our homes and surroundings. This period in nature’s cycle is also a great opportunity to extend these new beginnings to ourselves, re-evaluating our mental patterns and habits or strategies that we have come to use to cope and make sense of our daily lives.
It is very easy, particularly over the winter months, to fall into bad habits that can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health and wellbeing, such as unhealthy eating, poor sleep patterns, and/or a more sedentary life style. Together these aspects of our lives can lead to a detrimental effect on our health that can be difficult to overcome.
Yoga is a wonderful tool to help address these issues, working on mind, body and soul to create lifestyle improvements that can become tangible and visible almost immediately as we begin to make a commitment to regular practice.
Focusing particularly on mental health, in the winter months, the body and mind can often almost go into hibernation mode, preferring to stay inside in the warm, socialise less often, comfort eat and sleep more. We become more lethargic and lack can in motivation. All of these things can lead to negativity, for instance if as a result we may have gained a little weight, thus feeling less comfortable with our bodies. We may feel sun deprived and perhaps have shied away from social interaction with friends and family, due to the winter weather.
Spring is a great time to begin to embrace life more heartily once more, resolving to get out and about more often with the improved weather and giving us more opportunities to engage in outside and social activities. With an increase in the hours of sunlight, there are more light hours in the day to engage in positive activities such as yoga.
Our yoga practice can give us a wonderful opportunity to set new intentions or resolutions to take better care of ourselves with the coming of Spring. Here’s a small list of ways we can use yoga to improve how we feel mentally and physically.
The breath – yogic breathing exercises are a great way to help us develop a calm and even state, by slowing the breath and encouraging a sense of calm within body and mind. Physically too controlled breathing or pranayama helps our breathing by bringing improvements to conditions such as hay fever and asthma, by increasing lung capacity and clearing the sinuses. Breathing practices such as analoma viloma (alternate nostril breathing) leave us feeling relaxed and centred as well as helping us with issues such as insomnia.
Balance – Any simple balance that we perform helps us to centre ourselves and improves our focus. The control and concentration required enables us to turn our attention inwards, keeping our attention in the present moment and helps us to engage with the feedback that our body provides to us. Arrow, wobbly man and tree (Vrksasana – see image above) are nice simple, subtle balances that can be practiced anywhere, or whilst we are engaging in another activity (such as queuing or washing up even)!
Flowing Movement – Flowing sequences such as Suyra Namaskar (sun salutations), Sun Power Series 1 and Chandra Namaskar (moon salutation) are great for cardiovascular fitness and getting our endorphins going to bring us into a more positive state of mind. Yoga poses activate the parasympathetic section of our central nervous systems and release the relaxing, happy-making hormone, oxytocin. Again, the focus on the postures and the breath naturally calms the mind and helps us to stay single pointed in our focus on the present moment. These sequences have the added bonus of simultaneously working almost all the muscles in the body, helping us to stay supple and improving our vitality and overall fitness.
Relaxation and Meditation – Taking time out to be still and focus inwards helps us to clear our mental clutter and gives us the opportunity to set intentions for positive changes we wish to make within ourselves. The first step in creating change, is, after all, to affirm and set the intention in motion for what which we wish to achieve! Once we give an idea clarity and focus with our thoughts, it becomes easier to make our wishes reality and create change in ourselves.