The key to true mind-body balance? Understanding your body’s natural needs—how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal—through each season. In our online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda, and John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga's elemental sister science. Sign up now!
With shorter days and less sunlight, the long, cold winter can create a sense of loneliness and sadness—aka the "winter blues," says Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda and co-leader of Yoga Journal's new online course, Ayurveda 101. "According to Ayurveda, winter is vata season, meaning it's cold and dry. But there are Ayurvedic practices that can support you in feeling joyous and connected all winter long," she says. Here are 6 of her favorites, from kirtan to color therapy.
1. Build community, or sangha.
Take a class at a yoga studio, show up a few minutes early to chat with the students and the teacher, and hang out afterward for tea. Go out to an event; keep good company. It's easy to hibernate and feel separate during the winter. Nothing beats the winter blues like live interactions with positive, like-minded people.
2. Practice kirtan.
Kirtan, the practice of joyfully singing yogic songs, chants, shlokas, and mantras, which often happens with ecstatic dance, is excellent during the winter season, because it's one of the best techniques for feeling emotionally full, content, and satisfied. It's also one of the fastest ways to lift the mood and spirit and feel connected not only to others, but to the greater goodness in life. Try to find a kirtan class at a local studio near you.
3. Download some new yoga music.
Download music that is meaningful, uplifting, and positive to play in the car while you're driving, sing by yourself, or listen to while you walk. This is especially great if you can't get to a kirtan class. The key is to find NEW music, and not go back to music that already has associations for you. Try David Newman, Krishna Das, and Deva Premal.
4. Give yourself color therapy.
Don't get bogged down by wearing dark colors like black and grays. Instead, when you head to your closet, pull out vibrant reds, royal purples, and other rich, happy hues to add to some color to dreary winter days.
5. Rejuvenate yourself with aromatherapy.
Add a dab of essential oil to your daily massage oil or put it in a diffuser. Use fragrances that are uplifting, like eucalyptus, orange, lemon, or grapefruit, or sweet smells like rose or lotus. If you're experiencing the winter blues, or feel frazzled or stressed out, try lavender or sandalwood scents. Take in some deep breaths, and feel rejuvenated as the aromas lift your mood.
6. Stoke power in the legs.
Work the legs by adding more squats and lunges to your practice or workout. Working the legs enhances your strength, power, and courage, and lights your emotional fire. You will feel brighter and sharper.