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Practicing in the Changing Seasons

Written by Emma Isokivi, our Mysore director, for ideas about how to have a successful practice in the colder months of home practice ahead. Geared towards an Ashtanga/ Mysore student but lots of take-away ideas for any yoga practitioner. 

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There’s no denying that many of us are feeling the change in the season and temperature, especially for those who are jumping onto our mats in the early mornings.  As we continue to practice at home because of Covid regulations, it’s extra important that we find ways to navigate this season so that we don’t slowly creep into rigamortis over winter. 

Firstly, acknowledge that it can be harder. It’s darker, colder and many of us are practicing at home for the first time ever in our yogic lives. 

In Ayurveda we call this the “vata” season, drier, windy, rougher, colder in its Autumn nature. 

We are all in this together, and having a community to help support stoking your fire is such a positive thing, as well as finding ways you can do this yourself.  So I hope the below helps you find some ways to find extra care in this next bit of change together. 


Here are some top tips from our Mysore team to how to have some success both mentally and physically: 

  • The day/night/ time before practice is vitally important in the set up for success. I re-read Angela Jamison’s “How to wake up for practice” and laughed hard because she hit the nail on the head. Do read it here: http://www.ashtangaannarbor.com/wordpress/2011/11/02/how-to-wake-up-for-yoga/
  • Do some good research with your own scheduling around the evening before practice (if you practice in the morning). Noticing the food, technology consumption and whether you simply get enough sleeping/down time.
  • Lay your clothes out the night before (including something warm to start practice in that you can peel off). 
  • Set your alarm and put your alarm a fair distance away from your bed, so you have to get up! Avoid looking at emails/ social media/ news before practice, we all know this wormhole. 
  • Especially in these colder months, I’d highly recommend getting in some hot water before you practice, shower, bath for a few minutes. 
  • Drink something warm. Lemon water, coffee, tea, whatever you need. 
  • Buy yourself a small space heater or time your boiler to go on at the right time, you’ll just have it on for a few minutes at the start of practice, but it will make that Namaskar more appealing as a thought from your warm duvet if you are practicing in the morning. 
  • CONGRATULATIONS! You got to the mat. Be grateful that you did this, and just keep following the breath, you’ll be surprised to see what unfolds. 
  • Stoke some fire in your practice. For those practicing Ashtanga here are some ideas: 
    • Do more Namaskars, 5-7x A, 5x B if you are struggling to build heat. 
    • Return to Samasthiti regularly in your practice if for example you are practicing Primary series and it feels like lots of downward (apanic) energy.  Returning to standing is like a breath of fresh air, hitting the reset button and builds more heat as it provides more vinyasa! If you’ve never done this before talk to your teacher about it.
    • Don’t dawdle. If you are taking extra care with a specific posture, great, but don’t get too soupy/cold and keep some pace at this time of year. 5-10 breaths in and out, of a posture or prep and move on. 
    • Stay positive and get excited about specific areas of your practice. I always have a “project” or 2 in my practice, it could be unpacking a new āsana or learning a new chant. 
  • Put warm oil on your body. In India, they would recommend castor oil, but for this temperature and climate, something lighter like coconut, almond or sesame oil can be a good alternative. Apply on your whole body, leave for at least one hour before washing (or leave it simple on to soak in).   Look up Abhyanga in Ayurveda for more details. 
  • Choose wisely how you eat. Depending on your Ayurvedic dosha, you might find eating warm, cooked food particularly helpful during this time. Kitchari, soups and nourishing food will help your body and mind. Sipping water beverages over the day.  Some of our community will do an Ayurvedic reset/ cleanse at the change of the seasons, contact Clare Fulton or Kate O’Donnell for more details.
  • Lastly, have some accountability. You could say “see you tomorrow” to your teacher at the end of your practice, or you could have a yogi buddy who will hold you accountable to getting your body out of bed if this bit of the puzzle is proving to be the hardest.  COMMUNITY is king and having a group of fellow minded practitioners beside you helps immensely, here's one more quote I liked about the Mysore community:   “I’ve found myself overwhelmed by this kind of inspiration; I am filled to the brim to have hard-working peers greet me each morning. While I am disgusted by my own sweat and slime, I am also proud to be part of a group that values hard work and dedication. It’s what keeps me coming back, and it’s something I’ve come to seek out in other parts of my life. I love the proverbial worker bees and I want to be around them and hear what they are doing.” (Sarah Weaver)

 

For anyone looking to dive into an Ashtanga or Mysore style practice- have a read of this blog "Demystifying Mysore" or contact [email protected] for further questions. 

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