Wellington is not the easiest place to do a strong asana practice like Ashtanga Vinyasa in. Especially when there is a cold, biting southerly the temperature drops and you can feel the cold in your bones. After 10 years living and practicing in Wellington, Victoria and I have come up with a few strategies to help.
Stay warm. A friend of mine once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad dressing.” Dress warm. Plenty of layers and plenty of wool. I have also found that oiling my body helps to keep me warm. I use a beeswax based body wax but any vegetable oil will do. Not only is this good for the skin, but it keeps you warm. Drink warming drinks like lemon, honey and ginger. Heat up your practice space. If you don’t have a warm space at home to practice, then come into the school. It is always warm.
Do plenty of Suryanamaskara. In his “Yoga Mala” Sri K Pattabhi Jois writes;
“If we reflect on the saying, “Arogyam bhaskarad icchet [One should desire health from the sun], it is clear that those blessed by the Sun God live healthy lives. Therefore, for health—the greatest wealth of all—to be attained, the blessings of the Sun God must alone be sought.”
You cannot do too many Sun Salutations. When you begin your practice, keep doing Surynamaskara until you can feel that your body has begun to generate some heat. If this means doing 10 A’s and 10 B’s, then do them. There is no harm in getting the Sun God on your side, especially in Winter.
Practice less but more often. This is always true, but doing less more often will make it easier to get started on those cold, cold days when the burden of doing your full practice can sometimes feel like a mountain too high to climb. Winter is the perfect time to purchase a membership or concession card and get into the Yoga school as often as you can while outdoor activities are less appealing. Practice with lightness of body and of spirit. Accept that in the cold of Winter your body is not going to be able to go as deep into Asana as in the warmth of Summer. A light, brisk practice is the best way to bring some warmth into your life. Laugh and enjoy practicing.
Change the focus of your practice. Make your intention the mastering of the combination of Ujjayi breath, Bandhas, and Dristi. These three combined will bring lightness and suppleness and warmth to your body. I often find myself saying to people in class, “tuck your tummy and breathe steadily” and I don’t think people realise how powerful these actions can be. It is the combination of Breath, Bandha and Dristi that stimulate the internal fire. It is this combination that drives the Prana around the body, healing and de-toxifying. Whatever Asana you are doing, it doesn’t matter, as long as these three aspects are in place, it will be beneficial.
Listen to your body. The cold goes to your joints. This is not the time of year to push your knees!! Be gentle with yourself and remember that every practice you do is another step on the journey. Don’t be in a hurry. Always let your body decide the pace of your practice, not your ego. Most of all, ENJOY!!