Winter of 2018
Meteorological 1st December to 28th February
Astronomical 21st December to 19th March
Winter Solstice 21st December
So here in the UK it is Winter, we have made it to December! High five and a pat on the back to yourself and to anyone else around you!
For me personally, I find the cold weather and the shorter days demanding on the mind and body. I look to the things around me to find comfort and joy! In this post I will write a little about the joy that I find around me and I will be interested to hear what they are for you too!
The purpose of this post is to look at the season of Winter as a way to turn inwards and look at how we can replenish and restore after what has no doubt been a busy year. I will address the areas listed below:
Caring for The Mind
Caring for The Inner Body
Caring for the Outer Body
Being honest, I find winter a bit of a slog, I really need to pay that extra bit of attention to how I am feeling and what impact that has on myself and the people around me. It's the little things that bring me joy! I was remembering a couple of Christmas’s ago we visited https://www.watergatebay.co.uk/ and stayed there with our lovely friends and all the (not so small kids!). It was gorgeous!
We bought home festive cheer, lovely memories and a beautiful cotton throw that the hotel often have on their beds. The throw has been a lovely reminder of the wonderful time we had that Christmas, and the character it adds to our room as it is tossed over our bed definately brings joy to me! It may sound daft, but with its vivid mustard hues and rich textural weave it really gives our bedroom the cosy factor and I am happy to stay wrapped under it for as long as time allows! (link to their shop is on the picture below).
Caring for The Mind
During the festive season we may be experiencing all sorts of emotions. Perhaps you are fighting a cold, wanting to hibernate, getting ready to say goodbye to loved ones as they go away for the festive seasons. Or you may truly love the Winter, the way that the colder wet days almost demand that you pause and take stock. Whether you are excited or not, Christmas can be demanding. There are get-togethers to organise, there may be financial pressures, kids off from school, pressing work deadlines and I have no doubt, much, much more.
So, what to do?!
Well, I believe it is to be well!
Slow down, feel calm, find joy and really enjoy special moments that you will remember once the festivities have subsided.
Here are some tips on how we can achieve this.
I have recently downloaded an app on my ipad which draws together all my calendars, work appointments and tasks. Once I have figured out how to use it properly 😉 I am sure it will help me keep everything in check! As like many others, I can feel quite overwhelmed when I have a lot to do, this reduces my productivity. I need to be organised so that I am effective with my time.
Little by little I get things done.
Be mindful about what you are saying yes to.
Try not to over commit over Christmas. It is all so easy to be going here there and everywhere, dropping off gifts, hosting dinners. Just be careful to do what you can and take it easy! It’s meant to be a break!
Yep, my favourite! SLOW DOWN!
Remember to breathe. What about some Winter yoga? Ground yourself, mind and body!
Caring for the Inner Body
Here are some tips to keep yourself nourished and well during the Winter holidays. We know that Christmas can encourage over indulgence, which is all well and good, but be mindful of your self-care practice and do your best to maintain habits that make you feel good! If eating six mince pies makes you feel sick, have less! If a saucepan of mulled wine causes you an incredible headache try and have a mug! Easier said than done I know, but look after yourself. During Winter we draw our attention to the kidneys, we make sure that we keep the body hydrated which many struggle to do during cold temperatures. Drink water, even if it is hot with a slice of orange and lemon!
What I put in my shopping basket in Winter
Keeping in the spirit of seasons, the following items are readily available in the UK during Winter. Please check what is harvested in Winter near you!
You can see my Autumn post for my favourite Autumn Warming Tonic https://www.elementsofwellness.co.uk/blog/autumn
However, my Winter go to has to be a Turmeric Tonic!
What you need
A lovely big mug!
1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain milk (I use Cashew milk!)
1 (& ½) teaspoon ground turmeric. It has a strong taste so go easy!
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
You can add sweetener of choice (e.g. maple syrup, coconut sugar to taste)
What you do
Use a small saucepan, add your milk, ground turmeric, ground ginger, cinnamon and sweetener of choice in to your pan.
Use a whisk to mix the ingredients all together and gently warm it over medium heat.
Heat until hot, but don’t allow it to boil. Keep whisking and feel happy that you are exercising your wrists whilst doing so.
After you have heated the ingredients, remove the pan from the heat and taste. You can adjust as you wish! Perhaps add more sweetness or spice!
Serve immediately, fill up your mug, find a comfy spot and enjoy!
If you make a big batch, increase the ingredients accordingly and once cooled, store in the fridge for a couple of days.
My Favourite Winter Dish
My best friend Sharon recently treated me to a mushroom foraging day for my birthday. Being around all those fun-gi’s (ha ha ha! Sorry, couldn’t help myself) reignited my love for the mushroom! Although I am still undecided about foraging for my own mushrooms, this is what I create once I have purchased them from my local store!
What you need
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons of oil – I use truffle oil because I LOVE it, but olive oil is also delicious.
Punnet or two of mushrooms. I like to mix it up with chestnut and whatever other species is on offer.
Pinch of salt
2 bay leaves – we are lucky enough to have a bay tree in the garden, so I use them all the time.
2 cups of Arborio rice
2 cups of vegetable stock
What you do
Cut the clean leeks, onion, garlic and mushrooms in any manner you wish
Gently heat you’re the oil in a large shallow pan.
Add all the leeks, onion and mushrooms and allow to soften. Keep stirring and then add the garlic.
Add the stock, the rice, the bay leaves, heat and then allow to gently simmer.
You can the toss in the chestnuts and allow them to break up as you stir them in.
Once the liquid has been absorbed, you can remove from the heat. Taste and add a little salt if necessary.
Caring for the Outer Body
I will talk about stretching and moving the body through the winter season, but first I wanted just to mention the gift of walking. It is perhaps one of the most precious things we can do and it’s even more enjoyable when we gather friends, four legs or two (or wheels) and take to the footpaths or coastal lines to enjoy the fresh crisp air, chit-chats and perhaps a cheeky stop at your favourite watering hole!
So, if the opportunity presents itself over the Christmas break, put on those festive socks, pull on your wellies, button up, batten down, put your best foot forward and get outside!
In my yoga classes throughout winter, I invite people to mentally connect with their hands and feet…you may wonder why, but I do this as a way for you to give your hands and feet a little bit of love and appreciation. Our feet our busy taking us to all the places we want to go, and our hands may feel like they are typing, writing and wrapping without ending.
Look at your hands and feet, hold them, massage them, rub them together and make heat! They are seriously amazing tools, use them kindly and wisely.
The Surya Namaskar
(Sun Salutations/Saluting the Sun)
There is little else that can lift your mood and energise you better than a few rounds of Surya Namaskar. You can slow this repetition down, or speed them up, find what feels right and good for you in the moment. Either option you choose will help you generate heat in your body, strengthen and tone and still the mind. Leaving you feeling energised and ready for whatever is coming next in your day. If you can practice up to twelve rounds ideally, but please just make sure that however many repetitions you do, the same number is done on each side (left and right) – for balancing the mind-body.
- Begin in Prayer pose (Pranamasana). Standing straight on a yoga mat with feet together, big toes touching if possible. Inhale, opening your chest, and relaxing your shoulders. On the same inhalation raise your arms, join the hands back together into prayer and exhaling draw your prayer hands to your heart space.
- Inhale and lift your arms up, leaning backwards gently, ensuring your biceps are near your ears. Allow your entire body to elongate and stretch.
- Exhale; bend forward from the hips bringing your arms downwards to the mat, placing the palms of your hands either side of your feet with your fingers and toes in line. Place the hands beside your feet. Your knees can be bent, just ensure that your spine is as straight as feels right.
- Inhale, bring your left leg behind you, into a low lunge position, on the same breath bring the right leg to join the left so that you are now in plank position. Hold your breath.
- Inhale, tucking your elbows in to your ribs, press into the palms of your hands and lift your chest and head off the ground gazing upwards. Draw your shoulders away from your ears (this posture is also good for relieving headaches). (This is called Bhujangasana 1 – cobra)
- Exhale, tucking your toes under, draw your tailbone up to the sky into you downward dog, you can gently try and bring your heels to the mat, but the focus is a long, strong, straight spine.
- Inhale, take your gaze between your hands and draw your left foot forward and place it between them. On the same breath, bring your right foot to join the left.
- Exhale into your forward fold position.
- Inhale, bring your arms out and up overhead into your extended mountain. Draw the palms together into prayer and then exhaling bring your prayer hands to your heart space.
- Stand here for a breath in Tadasana – your strong mountain pose.
Now repeat this sequence on the other side of your body, now leading with the opposite leg. Keep alternating sides each round.
Benefits of Surya Namaskar
Surya Namaskar energises the entire body. It strengthens the back, abdomen and supports the nervous system. It is also said to improve blood circulation and people often report having a glow on their face after practicing; leaving you feeling invigorated and radiant.
The Matsyasana (The Fish Pose)
The Matsyasana is heavily connected to the throat and chest area – particularly the Visshuddha Chakra – located at the throat space and also the Ajna Chakra – located between the brows at the point of the minds-eye. It therefore comes as no surprise that during these months it is regarded as one of the most beneficial postures to embrace and support the mind-body and associated energy meridians.
- Sit yourself into Dandasana (Staff Pose). Connect your sit-bones to the mat, bring your hands besides your buttocks, palms gently pushing flat into the mat; keeping your legs together, extend them in front of you ensuring your spine is straight and core is engaged.
- Gently roll your back onto your mat. Bend your knees with soles of feet on your mat.
- Inhale and gently raise the right side of your pelvis off the mat. Slide your right hand, palms facing down, fore finger and thumb open, down under your right hip. Take an exhalation here.
- Inhale and gently raise the left side of your pelvis off the mat. Slide your left hand, palms facing down, fore finger and thumb open, down under your right hip; meeting the thumb and fore finger of your right hand creating a diamond shape around your coccyx.
- Now, relax your buttocks onto your hands. Remember that your hands remain connected to the mat throughout the entire posture.
- Ensure your forearms and elbows are tucked into your sides of your torso.
- Inhale and press your elbows and forearms into the ground, raising your chest up to the ceiling. Allow the head to lift away from the mat.
- Very gently lower your head to the mat. Your back will naturally arch and your chest will raise a little further. Go to your own ability and what feels right to you on this given day.
- To release out of Matsyasana, exhale and lower your mid-back to the mat, allowing your head to come flat on the mat underneath you.
- Once you are out of the posture, bring your knees into your chest, interlacing your fingers over your shins and allow the lower back to release. You may want to gently tuck in your chin, drawing your forehead to your knees and release the back of your neck.
- Do not allow your head to take a large amount of weight in it, you are gently trying to rest the crown part on the mat. This keeps your neck protected and safe.
- Keep your legs engaged and straight, heels together.
- To begin with, hold the posture for as long as feels comfortable (potentially 20 seconds or so maintaining a normal equal breath).
- Do not attempt this posture if you have any of the following conditions; heart conditions, peptic ulcer, hernia, severe back condition, pregnant.
Benefits of Matsyasana
Chest and shoulder opener; good for softening the thoracic (mid) back,and is particularly good if your job requires you to lean forward at a desk for example; opens and stretches the front and back of the neck; good for asthma, cold, coughs; balances moods, emotions and stress; creates a sense of balance and relaxation.