It may be the month for New Year's resolutions, but there's no need for that hair shirt. Check out these tips from a yoga guru.
Here we go with the New Year’s resolutions then – the thrice-weekly runs, salad lunches and interminable juicing. Not keen? Don’t worry, I’ve got good news – it turns out that winter is completely the wrong time of year to be pulling on that scratchy hair shirt. Hurrah! In fact, according to Chalford-based yoga teacher and life coach Claire Beeley, this time of year should be devoted to restoring and recharging. Hibernating really. Like a bear. So get cosy and read on.
Winter is the late afternoon of the day
You know that 3pm slump you feel in the afternoon? Well, winter is that. It’s the equivalent to that time in the day when you want to reach for a cup of tea and take some time out to recharge your batteries. And that is exactly what you should be doing. Literally. Because this is the season when a bit of quiet time for self-reflection – about your day, your health, your relationships, your life – goes a long way.
Turn your cup of tea into a ritual
Buy yourself a beautiful mug, treat yourself to some luxury tea (or coffee), slow yourself down and focus on making your perfect hot drink, then sit down in your favourite chair and savour every sip while you do NOTHING else. Close the computer, put the mobile phone down, let the kids tear down the playroom. Just be in the moment. It’s only ten minutes. You need it. Every day.
Focus on stretching, not sweating
Winter is a time to conserve energy, not expend it, so go easy on the high-intensity cardio. If you’re addicted to an endorphin hit, maybe dial it down to just once or twice a week over winter and don’t push yourself too hard. What your body really needs right now is more restorative movement such as yoga. A form of energy management, practising yoga once a week will help you rebalance yours. But don’t approach it with too much vigour – you’re after gentle stretching not over extending, which will help you hit that sweet spot of effortless awareness. Try out different styles: hatha is great for focusing on the breath; yin, a slowed-down practice where you hold poses for up to five minutes, will take you deep into yourself; while vinyasa is more dynamic and will help your body get into a flow that your mind will naturally follow. Do a class three times before you decide if it’s right for you, but as a general rule, if you leave feeling calm, centred and energised, you’re probably onto a winner!
Eat warm, hearty meals
This is not the time of year to exist on salads and cold fruit. Your body needs to be nourished with hot food, so choose dishes such as stewed fruit and porridge for breakfast, hot soup for lunch and slow-cooked stews made with earthy root vegetables and mild spices like coriander and cinnamon for supper. Swap out cold drinks for warming herbal teas – try Pukka Relax or any other bedtime tea blends. Chamomile is an excellent morning tea for cleansing.
Do less and sleep
In winter, you need more sleep than at any other time of the year, so go to bed early and allow yourself extra snooze time in the morning. On Sunday nights especially, you should be aiming for a ‘school night’ bedtime (you’ll be monopolising on beauty sleep, too, as every hour before midnight is worth three afterwards). And don’t pack your evenings with social engagements. If you’re meeting friends, go for lunch not dinner, or invite them over to yours as the sun goes down and then finish the evening early. Schedule in rest time over the weekend like you would a gym class – think of Friday as ‘flop night’ after a busy week and don’t feel pressurised to go out; it’s better to save that for Saturday.
Put yourself first
Listen to what your body is telling you and really take care of yourself. Even everyday acts can be restorative, such as applying body cream or taking extra care over your makeup. Try to find time to do things that make you feel warm inside, whether that’s putting on your wellies and going out for a walk or getting into your pjs and watching an old film. Don’t be afraid to retreat and DON’T feel guilty. Guilt will kill your energy.
Claire Beeley teaches yoga and meditation in groups or privately and also offers lifestyle coaching. Tel: 07768 973167. clairebeeley.co.uk