• Grace Helen

A winter check in!

By this time into January it’s likely that you have been inundated with messages about New Year’s resolutions - whether this is not drink alcohol, to resist sugar and sweets, to do more exercise, to lose weight - it’s exhausting just thinking about. It can be tempting to want to kick an old habit or feel healthier after the excesses of the Christmas period. However, I think it’s time to take a step back from the pressure of social media and start thinking about things differently. Perhaps the new year is not the time to start afresh. Here’s why…

Looking to nature 

We can learn so much from the cycle of the seasons. The spring is a time of new growth, the summer is a time of abundance, the autumn sheds leaves and we add layers, and the winter cools right down. January is one of the coldest and darkest months of the year - animals go into hibernation, trees show their bare branches, and water turns to ice. It doesn't really make sense that we should use this time of year to restrict, resolve, and let’s face it, punish ourselves. We might try to challenge ourselves and then a week or two later are left feeling disheartened and much less motivated. New routines and habits are hard to sustain at the best of times, but in those long months after Christmas, a resolution feels pretty jarring. 

A note on a good cause

It is important to note that in the midst of all these advertising campaigns that make companies a lot of money, there is some really great work going on. Charities have jumped on the ‘new year new you’ bandwagon. Mind does RED campaign where we should Run Every Day to help your mental health. The incredible Veganuary is growing each year as our environmental awareness rises. And Dry January helps us look beyond alcohol for a fun night out. I think these are excellent campaigns and it’s wonderful that they raise awareness and money. If you think you can do this, then go for it, but just try not to be too disheartened if you can’t stick with it. Surely it would be better to make a habit easier to sustain so we can really make a difference to our health, animals or the planet. Not even slightly fun or sexy concept to promote - moderation. Oh well, I tried. 

It's all yoga

You might be thinking how all this relates to yoga? Well, I’d argue that it’s all yoga. Over the winter period we need to nurture ourselves and our communities. Check in on each other. Maybe this means bunkering down with a cosy blanket and a warm drink, or inviting friends over instead of staying out late. Perhaps for you it is more about going on an invigorating run to warm yourself up, or hitting the gym to get rid of that winter stiffness. My point is that we should check in on ourselves rather than apply force. This is unity with body and mind, our needs and our equilibrium - this is yoga. 

A winter check in

So, rather than setting a new year’s resolution just like you may have done each year, let this be a point in time to check in with yourself. Ask yourself a few questions: 

1. How have things been going this winter period? Perhaps you are new to the city or are just settling in. Maybe you are dissatisfied with your job and feeling pretty good about it. Checking in without judgement can be a really useful tool. 

2. What does your body and mind need? Are you craving sleep, stillness, energy? Do you want change, growth, or to slow down? Doing a mindful check in can really help notice things that often get lost in our busy lives. 

3. How can you find equilibrium? Should you go out more/less? Do you need to change your routine to suit you better? Perhaps a yoga class, a run, or even cancelling a few plans would help you find balance. 

Whilst Christmas has become about excess, January has become about restriction. And this doesn’t sit very well with me. I’d make a call for a winter check in. A time to realign. 

Check in at Prana 

If you’d like to make yoga part of your routine and keen to be part of something bigger, Prana is a space where you can nurture your mind and body. We have recently refurbished the space downstairs and added more classes - from restorative and yin, vinyasa and hatha, to energising power flows. Join a class and be part of the Prana community. 

Grace is a 500 hour yoga teacher with a specialism in yoga for mental health and pregnancy yoga. She also works in a research group at Oxford University.

Photo taken by Grace in Wytham Woods, Oxford.

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Website by Cassandra Cardiff. Studio photography by Rachel Movitz.