A Yogi's Guide to Surviving Winter

New York is a city so full of moment that even in the most arctic of temperatures the puddles don’t freeze.  They grow a little solid around the edges, but the incessant stomping of passersby and the wheeling of hasty cabs leaves them forever liquid, usually just slushy enough to have you guessing whether it’s safe to leave the house in real shoes or you’ll need your wellies.   It’s a subtle reminder that indeed, the city does never sleep.  

In fact a recent sleepless night provided case and point. I woke up at the wee hour of 3 am just as the city was receiving its 1029388353 snow blanket of the year.  The slow, quiet fall of the snow, twinkling in the orange light of the street lamp on my block lasted approximately 22 minutes before the plows started passing by every 15, the bars let out and the usual star-crossed-lovers-brawl began below my window, and the landlords of every building busted out their shovels to begin clearing the sidewalks. 

Nothing stops New York.  As a New Yorker, it’s a fact that feels empowering at first.  It’s extremely motivating to live in a machine that never hits pause.  You feel lifted and high from it. But as the years pass, you find yourself chasing the dragon, and a bit scared of the machine.  Your excitement turns to adaptation, and you begin to question your beloved city.  This questioning becomes even more chronic in the winter months when your usual pick-me-ups are covered in grey slush and walking ten blocks requires the mustering up of superhuman powers.  

It’s rough, but before you decide to throw me a pity party let’s talk about what we can do to counteract the SAD.  Here are five tips to get you (and me) through the rest of winter:

1.     Find and force quiet moments to yourself, away from the machine of life.  Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective to get us out of our funk.  I’ve made a new effort to wake up earlier and enjoy a warm cup of tea in the morning.   When I wake up, all I want to do is stay in my cozy bed for as long as possible, but if I do, it throws my whole day off and I find myself playing catch-up until it’s time to get back in bed.  Finding a happy medium by starting slowly and quietly, literally just sitting in silence with my tea, has made even the short, dark days of winter feel longer and fuller.  I greet the day on my terms. 

2.     Turn your frown upside down.  I have a body that requires movement.  It’s part of how I express myself, work through emotions, and quiet my mind.  There is no better way to immediately change my mood than by going upside down.  Most of us hear the word “inversions” and we automatically think “advanced”.  The truth is, an inversion is any position in which the head is below the heart.  Yes, Down Dog counts, as does lying on your back with a few blankets underneath you and your legs up a wall.   Enjoy it!

3.     Bundle up, find a park, and go for a walk.  For the most part, winter is ugly in New York, but finding a park or even getting out of the city to witness a real winter wonderland is a beautiful reminder that not all of winter is ugly.  It can in fact be quite lovely and serene when you experience it in it’s unpolluted form.

4.     Practice Loving Kindness meditation.  Practice what? Loving Kindness meditation is the practice of wishing oneself and others to be happy, content and at ease.  In the yoga tradition, loving-kindness is seen as an opportunity to "cultivate the opposite." It’s the first of a series of meditations that produce four qualities of love: Friendliness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Appreciative Joy (mudita) and Equanimity (upekkha).  You can find guided Loving Kindness meditations online (my favorite is by my teacher, Elizabeth, and can be found here on her website) and you don’t have to be seated and silent to practice.  You can do it while your freezing your buns of walking from one place to another, in your car, or on the subway.  Trust me, you’ll feel happier about life and a little warmer inside afterwards.

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5.     Recognize that the situation is temporary.  My Dad has always been a big fan of the phrase “This too shall pass” and never is this more true than when it comes to seasons.  It shall pass, and before we know it Spring will have sprung and the depths of winter will be a distant memory.  In the meantime, add a little green to your apartment  and count down the days...