A reluctant spring: Yoga poses to shake off winter
For a smooth transition between the seasons, try these cleansing asanas.
Tue, Apr 08, 2014 at 03:54 PM
Spring has been a long time coming this year. Although the days are longer, the cold and rain keep on coming. This can be hard on our bodies and our minds because spring is supposed to be the time of cleansing and renewal. How can we feel renewed if we’re still stuck in the winter blues?
The transition between seasons is considered a powerful time for transformation and release. We are still in the time of winter’s end and spring’s beginning. Winter is the season of water, the depths of emotions, and the deep planning for what we want to grow in the coming year. Spring is the season of wood, of putting the seeds in the ground, or watching the seeds push through the snow, the concrete, the Earth — whatever is in its way. The seed will emerge. That is the potency of this time. Knowing that spring will come, you can harness the energy of this in-between murky time to help push yourself through the final doldrums of winter.
Energy medicine yoga can help you navigate this muddy, semi-frozen time between seasons, and below you'll learn about poses to help you do just that.
There are five seasons in traditional Chinese medicine, and each season is ruled by an element. Each element has a corresponding movement and motion, an asana, to help balance the extremity of that element and bring all five elements into coherence with each other. Each asana also has a sound that resonates in the body and helps strengthen the organs that go with that element. At this in-between time, I like to go back and forth between the two elements at play, to both encourage and balance the disparate feelings and emotions. It helps to process your own subconscious feelings and emotions that are also coming up organically with the change of seasons.
Winter can be a time of fear — the darkness and isolation, the uncertainty of the future. It is the time of the child emerging into the world from the watery, womb-like depths. The organs ruling winter are the kidney and bladder, responsible for our cleansing processes as well as sending life force energy through all our meridians. To come through the fear into the more empowered emotion of courage, we do a yoga pose called "Blowing out the Flame."
Then we move into spring. This can be a time of anger. All the debris both physical and mental from the long, cold winter, and now the messy melting, are front and foremost. We get stuck in mud; we get caught in rain. We try too hard, and miss the mark. Our anger can be oversized in reaction to seemingly small events. These elements of spring are ruled by the gallbladder and the liver. Responsible for helping digest fats and dispose of toxins, these organs are forced to work through the junk we throw into our system and keep us running smoothly. The liver governs the smooth flow of chi and the smooth flow of our emotions. To get to a place where the anger is flushed out and replaced by a sturdy confidence, we do an asana called "Expelling the Venom."
Together, this is a one-two combo to help you move into the height of spring, feeling powerful, confident and clear.
Blowing out the Flame
Start in a squat. You can put padding under your heels if you need to. If you can’t balance completely, you can wrap one arm around your knees and put the other on the floor to help balance you. If you can balance in a squat, hug both arms around the knees. Tuck your head, inhale, close your eyes, and let whatever fears you have wash over you. Then look up, imagine a candle flame in front of you, and blow it out, using the sound, “Whoooo” as you do so. Do this two more times, curling inward, feeling the inner child in all the insecurity and curiosity and uncertainty, and look up, blowing the candle out, knowing you can handle the dark.
Expelling the Venom
After the third time, lift up into chair pose, with the knees bent and the upper body lifted facing forward. Now bring your hands in front of you, and gather in your hands all the things that make you angry, frustrated, fearful, uncomfortable and stuck. Pull it all together and up and swing your arms back and up overhead. Now release them forward, throwing your hands down to the floor with the sound, "Shhhhhhh."
Practice this once more — gather the junk, swing it up and over. Release it to the earth. Now for the third time, do it slowly, up, and over, and “shhhhhhh” down to ground.
You can go back and forth between these two asanas a few times. They fit wonderfully into a sun salutation practice, and they can be done on their own as both a physical warm up and as an emotional clearing.
After your last Expelling the Venom, allow the body to release forward into a full-forward bend. Hang there for several deep breaths, allowing the energy to release from your body and the ground. Then slowly start to stand up. Weave your hands back and forth in front of your body as you rise up, pulling up the earth energy and weaving it into your aura. Feel the strength of the growing light, and your own growing clarity.
Related stories on MNN:
- 20 yoga poses to channel your inner animal
- Which meditation technique is right for you?
- 7 destinations for a wellness getaway