The winter months can be tough on your physical and mental energy levels.
Having to exert more energy on commuting, staying warm, dealing with changing weather patterns, and shorter hours of sunlight can be tough on the body and mind. January’s commercialized efforts of “New Fitness Goals and Resolutions” may have helped many people to get back on track, stay motivated, and start new fitness challenges, however, learning to sustain these new physical levels of exertion can be particularly tough especially when external conditions such as the season’s changing weather patterns cannot be controlled, every week, let alone every day.
The concept of finding the balance between the Sanskrit terms, Sukha (“stability”) and Sthira, (“grace”) is always a practice of mastery at best in our busy, dynamic, ever-changing North American lifestyles.
The ability to find a steady foundation and the strength to maintain this seems like a common goal that we are always striving towards.
We build values through family bonding, setting relationship values, even teaching children in school a certain etiquette and performance expectation so we don’t feel uprooted when there is a shift in our lifestyle goals, habits, professions, and fitness regimens. We often look towards creating personal records (PR’s), journaling outcomes, setting expectations, and comparing ourselves to professionals, competitive athletes, and veterans within our profession.
We build routines, schedules, and make plans so we don’t feel lost, overwhelmed, and create a feeling of safety and security, but what about the moments when staying fixed and rigid to familiarity becomes less beneficial and more stressful as we try and accommodate for life’s very demands?
What about softening? Finding fluidity of movement to progress and regress from life’s physical demands. Being able to wait a few extra seconds, before coming to an impulsive response right away.
Emotionally, this may seem like a difficult feat for many people to even approach. Especially in the harsh winter months, we feel more comfortable sticking to our required goals and tasks of the day, such as our job performance, our family duties, our daily cleaning and meal prepping, and we are burdened even simply by having to walk or commute outside in the dreary winter climate.
The act of releasing your fascia for longer periods of time, to soften, to nourish the joints with hyaluronic acid (a chemical naturally produced in the body that lubricates and protects us from abrasion), even to release your immediate impulse for the need to control can do wonders for the adrenal glands and the nervous system. The need to control what others are thinking, the need to control how you should react - simply the release of letting physical and emotional responses become a little more agile and moulded to shape what best fits your immediate external environment are simple examples of this.
How do you incorporate both Sukha and Sthira?
Having too much Sukha, stability, creates sluggish movement, resistance to change, Kapha-earth like energy that can become dull, old, and rooted into habitual responses.
Too much Sthira on the other hand, Vata-air like quality can become easily manipulated and will never feel secure, concrete, or whole. There will always be inconsistency in dependability, reliability, and groundedness.
ACTIVITY: Wall Sit
Standing a few feet in front of a wall, land both feet on the ground, feel the corners of your feet into the Earth. Allow the ankle joints, leg bones, pelvis to stack, while trying to root your tailbone towards your heels. Slowly begin to stack each bone in the spine beginning with the lower lumbar spine, press the ribs back, press the shoulders back, reaching the sternum forward so the chest remains wide. Lastly allow the crown of the head to reach towards the ceiling, as you keep the chin tucked a few millimeters towards the chest. This creates a neutral spine free from compression, while standing.
Keep the feet pressed into the ground, begin to bend at the knees landing the back of the torso and head along the wall, maintaining length along the spine. Draw the belly-button into the spine and keep pressing the back of the ribs into the wall. Keep hips and knees in one line, while maintaining that the knees don’t move forward of the ankles.
This dynamic stabilization of grounding, pressing into the feet, pressing the back into the wall, while making small adjustment cues to maintain engagement of the core and length in the spine are simple examples of how both stability and grace work in an easy to interpret fashion. There is a lot of momentum to maintain a long spine in this leg and core-dominant activity, and as the legs fatigue, subtle cues such as drawing the tailbone down, tuck of the chin in allows more range of movement as the breath flows throughout the body.
Being able to find efficiency and effectiveness in your daily actions, as opposed to either sticking to the same itinerary day in, day out or being swayed by too many options and opinions, you will find a harmonious balance of feeling productive and not burnt out.
Observing how your body feels internally is incredibly important on a daily basis, and giving it tools to mobilize and stabilize from the inside out is more beneficial in preventing premature degeneration of tissues, stress reduction, finding empowerment, and alignment as we move into the warmer months of Spring.