Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Staying Connected Through the Cold of Winter


It's almost winter, that time of year when cabin fever can set in. On the one hand, our bodies acknowledge it by moving into a kind of hibernation mode--becoming slower, craving heavier, warmer foods.
We often fall into a pattern of slowness and stillness, spend more time inside. Rest, as we talked about last week, may bring us into contemplation and deeper thinking.

On the other hand, our bodies still crave and need activity. I think of running and sledding or having snowball fights outside as a kid, even in the fiercest of weather. Now that I'm in California, the seasons are more subtle and I can find myself going for a run or a hike in the middle of January, barring any rainstorms. But wherever you are, continuing to move your body through the winter months is essential not just for your physical health, but for your emotional health as well. Bound to inside, the body becomes restless, like a child. You might feel like it's crying out for an adventure, or just to unburden itself from the bundled clothing and into a stretch, a yoga class or run on a treadmill.

As much as we want to listen to the rhythms of our bodies, we also want to respect their need for activity and motion throughout the season of winter. If you could give your body a voice right now through your movement, what would it be? Would you go for a walk, even if it means wearing an extra layer, feeling like an intrepid traveler in the cooler air? Would you make time to go to that dance class you keep meaning to get to? The shift might even be as simple as stretching in front of the television instead of grabbing for the extra bag of potato chips.

It's too easy to get cut off from the body's needs in the vastness of winter. Much calls us to be inside and less active, but our bodies still want us to connect with them and use them. How can you be a steward to your body through the winter months, without cutting off into complete stagnation and hibernation?

If you need to, choose a buddy to remind you of your intention through this season. Take walks together or have a cup of tea followed by a stretch. If you have kids, let your kids' activity spill over into yours as they burst out into the excitement of a new snow or the chance to ice-skate. What would it take to join them?

Our minds crave the cave of winter, and our bodies certainly crave more rest and more substance. But they also don't want to be forgotten about, the connection to them lost under layers of clothing. I can remember growing up as a child in Maine feeling like the winter meant saying good-bye to the richness of my body's sensations until the warm sun of summer released them; when I finally started taking dance classes in a studio near my house, it was amazing to realize that no matter what the weather, there was a mirror, music and a wood floor waiting for me several times a week.

Make a commitment to stay connected to your body this winter, no matter where you live or what the weather. If it's snowing outside, ask your body what it would like to do to feel seen, stretched, experienced. When the sun comes back around next year, you'll both be ready to jump right in...

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