Nicole Mackintosh van Dyk is an experienced yoga teacher, mother and eternal student, passionate about living life to its fullest in the most holistic way. Today is the first of a series of blogs from Nicole – particularly well-timed to help you find some joy in the return of spring, even at this difficult time.
We all felt it, the first glimpses of springtime, teased with a smattering of sunshine, the daffodils are on sale and the magnolia trees are beginning to bloom, hello Spring… we have missed you.
Never a lover of the post-Christmas winter months, the dark days seem to drag on, the grey skies are never-ending and the rain, oh the rain! Whilst each season has its gifts, the winter months can be tough. With the continual dark and cold weather, we can often be left feeling sluggish, lethargic and generally depleted.
Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth, planting seeds for the future and shaking off that winter feeling as the temperature starts to rise. It marks the time of transformation and with the start of 2020 being pretty tumultuous so far, never before has it been more important to see springtime in with vitality, a renewed energy and balance.
Intentions, resolutions whatever they mean to you and whether or not you set them at the beginning of the year, now is a good time to take stock of what is important to you in 2020. What do you want to do more of and what might be holding you back? Perhaps you are reinforcing old intentions or establishing new patterns – either way, take time to give this some thought. Keep it simple, don’t overwhelm yourself with a long list of unrealistic expectations, just cherry-pick the one that resonates the most and make it your mantra.
Shake it off
Most of us tend to hibernate a little in the latter part of the winter months, subconsciously waiting for the longer days to arrive. Now the Coronavirus is forcing us to distance ourselves from our usual social interactions, many of us will feel isolated. During this time, it’s quite typical to accumulate negative energy which weighs us down and, as a consequence, makes us feel heavy and lethargic. Take some time to physically shake off stale, negative energy, using hands to brush away from the body, starting from the crown of the head moving down to the tips of toes in an outward action. Better still, put on some music, jump around. You might feel silly, but I guarantee you will feel lighter and invigorated.
Take off the winter coat
On a more physical level, adopt an ancient Ayurvedic ritual called ‘dry brushing’ or ‘garshana’ (translated it means friction by rubbing). A technique, as its name suggests, that uses a natural brush to massage the entire body from the feet upwards with long strokes moving in the direction of the heart. Ideally performed daily in the morning before showering. This self-care practice helps stimulate the lymphatic system, eliminate toxins, improve immunity, exfoliate dead skin cells and promote healthy skin – all of which are particularly important when heading out of the winter months.
As soon as the longer days arrive, we tend to find ourselves doing more and more – rapidly moving into a state of overdrive. If this sounds familiar, take the time to find a moment of stillness every day, however short, you will be amazed at how effective this can be at recharging the batteries. Just stopping for five minutes, sitting silently or meditating, lighting a candle and moving inwards, resetting your intentions or just simply shutting your eyes. Be still, this time is yours and it’s golden.
When the warmer weather starts to arrive, our cravings for the heavier foods of winter tends to dissipate. Fill your diet with a variety of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables. Decrease your intake of heavy, oily, cold, fatty foods and increase vitamin, nutrient and chlorophyll-dense foods such as dark, green vegetables and sprouts, strawberries, and blueberries. In short, eat light, eat seasonal, eat local.
Be mindful. It’s easy to have adopted a hazy view of the world whilst wandering through winter. The weight of the cold weather dampening our perspective. Start to open your eyes again to what’s around you and really notice the beauty of spring. It is a period of rebirth and transformation for the earth – try to find a connection with this amazing process. Connect with nature’s beauty whenever you can, take a moment of silence, breathe in its beauty, pull the weeds apart and see what’s going on down there, hug a tree! Anything that allows you to witness this beautiful transformation, to be inspired and to find new energy and light.
Twist and flow
In Ayurvedic tradition, the late winter and first part of spring is known as ‘Kapha’ season, which is governed by the elements of earth and water. This part of year is characterised by heavy, cold and wet qualities which can manifest into feelings of sluggishness, a lower-rate metabolism and weakened immunity, as well as a general lack of motivation and low mood.
To combat these feelings and to counter the downward pull of kapha energy, practice a cleansing and energising yoga sequence with a focus on detoxing the liver and gall bladder – both of which tend to get overworked doing the winter months.
A sequence that incorporates a variety of nourishing twists, energising heart openers and juicy side bends are particularly effective at this time of year. Asanaa (postures) that focus on the inner and outer line of the legs are particularly good at targeting the liver and the gall bladders which is where the meridian lines reside for these organs. Take your practice slowly, work into your alignment, hold each pose for a minimum of five breaths and close with a seated meditation and savasana.
For more guidance on spring yoga sequences contact me by email: email@example.com
Cultivate a new ritual
Encourage yourself to create space for those simple rituals that honour who you are and revitalise you on a physical, energetic and emotional level. Whatever it is, be present with it, whether it’s a daily walk in nature, a moment’s meditation, dry brushing or journalling, create a space for something new in your life that cultivates a feeling of wellbeing.
Embrace this beautiful new season with energy and vitality, be present, connect, notice the beauty unfolding around you, take time, nurture yourself, reset and welcome spring with a smile.
Love and sunshine