The winter is one of my favourite times of the year. I love the festive seasons, the cosiness and darkness that follow as the days get shorter. Everything about me changes in winter – and I let it happen. Winter is a time to enjoy the pleasures of solitude, to dream and contemplate. It opens up a space in which I can bundle my energies, to restore and repair. As, nature is calling to start hibernating, to flow along with the coming absence of light. Unfortunately, it is not always possible with our current lifestyles to heed this calling, to retreat. Which can leave us fatigued, tired & without any energy, but there are definitely ways for our bodies to stay in sync with the natural rhythms of life. So that we can flourish throughout the darkest months. Feeling restored and rested. Here are 4 pillars to lean on so that you can stay in sync with the patience & solitude of winter.
"We have much to learn from nature’s way of using the winter months as preparation for the hustle of spring and summer"
1. Do as the season does & rest
During summer time it always feels very easy to wake up in the very early mornings, going for sunrise surf sessions or 6 am yoga practices. But in the winter time this all changes, In the winter I can sleep for hours, surrendering to my bed early in the evening, and drowsing there until after sunrise. According to Ayurveda* we need to rest to reconnect with the natural rhythms of the season and ourselves. Giving yourself permission to slow down. To go to bed early and snuggle that bit longer under the duvets in the mornings.
(*Ayurveda just like Yoga originated in India. They are interrelated, together they encompass healing disciplines in the body.)
2. How to eat
Food is a game changer and it isn't just about what you are eating but how you are eating it. Focus on natural dense foods & balance your blood sugar by adding plenty of protein to all your meals snacks & fruits. Throughout the years I have found that my body type works very well with animal protein so I add foods like organic grass-fed beef to my meals and I always eat fruits with a handful of nuts to balance out the blood sugar spike. During the winter months, my body always asks for cooked nutrient-dense foods and one of my favourite recipes is this slow-cooked medicinal grass-fed beef bone broth:
"Food is really and truly the most effective medicine"
Makes around 3 litres of broth
2 pounds raw grass feed beef bones (organic if possible)
4 liters water
2 tablespoons traditionally aged vinegar, I use apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon unrefined salt
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
1 to 3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Chinese medicinal herbs:
5-10 Shiitake (Shiitake helps regulate the immune system and has antiviral agents)
5- 15 grams Astragalus ((huang qi) improves immunity, strengthens the body, and is a general tonic adaptogen)
Place the bones, vinegar and water in a big nonreactive stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid off. Return to a simmer, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting so the broth is at a bare simmer and cook for 16 - 24 hours. Alternatively, combine the water, bones, vinegar and salt in a slow cooker and cook on low for the same amount of time. For the last two hours of cooking, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and Chinese medicinals and simmer for an additional 2 hours.
When the broth is cool enough to work with, remove the bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Discard the vegetables, herbs and medicinal ingredients. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a heatproof bowl. Pour into containers and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to five days, or freeze for up to several months.
3. Mindfully move throughout the colder seasons
During the winter season, we might naturally feel called to explore slower styles of movement and exercise. If this feels true to you might consider sticking to or exploring a hatha yoga practice. But I find that in my own practice adding a mix of yoga, cardio & strength training is the way to keep my body heated, supple & restored throughout the winter season. I do this by adding mindful HIIT practices & weights to my routine or going for a brisk walk through the forest after my yoga practice. And if where you live allows it: one of my favourites is a winter surf. Truly embracing the magic that this season offers us.
4. Embracing the winter sun
Connecting with the natural world is a vital part of a healthy life. Spending time outdoors can reduce stress, enhance immune function, bring a sense of purpose, and reduce feelings of isolation. In the winter months, it can be hard to engage with nature as we stay indoors and yet, it is as important as ever. Mindfully spend time in nature that is accessible to you. The sun, even in its subdued winter form, holds a treasure trove of health benefits that extend far beyond its ability to simply brighten our mood. As it enhances your mood, helps with vitamin D synthesis, boost your immune system & regulates your circadian rhythm.
So, as winter blankets the world in its icy embrace, make a conscious effort to step outside, bask in the gentle glow of the sun, and reap the countless rewards it bestows upon us. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
I hope these 4 pillars will take you through the magic of the winter months feeling restored & re-energized for the vibrant energy of spring and summer. Our first yoga, surf & nourish retreat will take place again in April 2024. A place to literally retreat yourself. A place to take a moment to reconnect, to bring your mind to your body. A moment at Yogaion retreats.