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Midwinter Yoga

A snowy forest scene
Winter can be wonderful despite the cold and dark

Wow, it's almost the end of the year. That happened quickly!

The festive season can be an exciting time full of social engagements, eating, drinking, shopping, gifting, catching up with family and being fully immersed in life. However it's also a time of cold and darkness for us northern Europeans, the daylight is painfully short (around seven hours at midwinter in Leeds) and even those of us who love the winter can feel sapped of energy. The spending and socialising can mean that we're giving away what little energy we have (especially for us introverts!), and along with our bodies having to process all that food (and maybe all that alcohol too) we often end up feeling tired, drained and that our immune systems aren't in the best place to fend off seasonal illnesses.

It's important to have celebrations and get togethers at midwinter in northern countries. Christmas is celebrated at this time of year but it's also Yule, the Pagan midwinter festival, from which we get many of our modern Christmas traditions including the Yule Log. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia around midwinter with gift-giving, feasting and drinking over several days. These celebrations help us to get through what are literally the darkest days of the year whilst strengthening our relationships and communities for the year to come.

Three people enjoying a Christmas party
Festive fun- but don't burn out!

All the planning, organising and feasting involved in the modern festive season can often leave us out in the cold when it comes to our own self-care routine. Throughout the year we may be careful to leave 'me time' in the calendar, ensure we get to the gym a few times a week, attend a weekly yoga class, and so on, but this may all go out the window in December, leaving us bloated and tired and feeling like we need to make an effort to do something different in the New Year.

So this is where midwinter yoga can really make a difference. Making an appointment with yourself to practice yoga semi-regularly throughout the darkest days can help to top up the energy reserves for whatever else you have on.

Slower yoga practices such as Yin Yoga, where we hold seated or lying poses for 3-5 minutes, or restorative yoga where we make ourselves super comfortable in a pose using lots of props, help to relax, unwind, switch off and focus on ourselves for even just a short time. These are perfect for when you don't feel you've got much energy to practice, but will often result in feeling more energised overall.

If you do have some energy, or perhaps particularly feel the need to move after being cooped up inside and or after eating more than usual, then a practice including hatha yoga postures can feel fantastic.

Including sun salutations at this time of year may seem counterintuitive- there's not much sun to salute to! But maybe it's all the more important to acknowledge what little there is. Sun salutations also help to build heat in the body (you'll know if you've done a number of them in a row!) and can really help to get you going on a cold winter morning.

To get some midwinter yoga in this year you could go to class (my final class takes place on the 15th December) or roll out your mat at home over the holidays.

If you don't already have a home yoga practice this may feel daunting on top of existing festive commitments. There are plenty of yoga classes to watch on demand online (SO many free ones on YouTube just for a start!) and this can be a great way to get some me time in when you have the chance. I'd particularly recommend trying out classes with 'restorative' in the title for when you just want to rest and unwind. Here's a lovely 30 minute restorative class using normal items you will have around the house to help you relax into the practice.

I'm aware though that practicing on-demand online yoga isn't everyone's cup of tea (or glass of mulled wine!). Sometimes you need the teacher to be there just to make sure you're confident in the routine, or to guide you through practices you find particularly tricky.

smiling woman with anjali mudra

As a result I'm offering special rates on both live online and in-person 1-1 and small group yoga sessions over late December and the New Year. You can get 20% off the normal price of a session delivered to you in the comfort of your own home either via video call or in person. Get some midwinter yoga in this year and feel more energised during the festive season.

And whether you're working, socialising, shopping, relaxing, cooking or doing a mixture of things this festive season, I hope you have a wonderful end to 2022 and a great start in 2023. Namaste!

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