I’m personally a sufferer. In the past I’ve felt like I became a hollow, empty version of myself from November through May each year.
It seemed like it might never happen, but the cold weather has begun and with it the threat of feeling very S.A.D, also known as the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
Last year was a lot better though, and the difference was all in my yoga practice and, through it, finding contentment as a more natural state. In the fall, I had committed to a 200-hour yoga teacher training, which meant I had over three months of exploration to get me through fall and into early winter—deepening my asana but also connecting to the more spiritual side of yoga, alongside some truly incredible yogis.
I was practicing yoga on a nearly daily basis—something I had only done sporadically throughout my decade as a yogi. On top of all of that, I found a true passion for teaching, which created an internal fire that even February in Manhattan could not chill.
The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali teach us that before we master the physical practice, we should commit ourselves to Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances).
Among the five observances is santosha—contentment as a natural state. This is not an ecstatic state of happiness but a subtle peace.
Deepak Chopra tweeted about this natural state of contentment stating, “Our core self is Sat Chit Ananda—Existence Awareness Bliss.” So if this is our core or natural state—being filled with bliss simply because we exist—how do we stop the external from getting us down? How do we avoid being sad?
Based on my personal journey, here are a couple of contentment practices—perfect for the colder months:
1. Take it to the studio.
When those studio doors close, there’s no difference from summer to winter. We warm up, sweat it out, cool down and find rest whether the class is in August or March. Why not make the studio a daily mini retreat, where you are bound to find heat and light?
2. Practice healing rituals.
A warm bath with lavender essential oil can be the perfect cap to a cold winter’s day. Since the sun goes down earlier in winter months, adding pre-bedtime rituals to your evening is a great way to get your body ready for an earlier bedtime or take extra care of wind chapped skin. If a bath isn’t your speed try blending calming essentials like sweet marjoram, vanilla or lavender into jojoba oil to make a stress relieving massage oil that you can rub into your shoulders, neck and lower back before sleeping.
3. Meditate on Sat Chit Ananda.
Mantra meditation is a great way to find focus and help support stillness of the mind. By repeating Sat Chit Ananda with your breath for 10 to 15 minutes each day, you are bringing bliss into your mind, setting an intention to finding it as an everyday experience.
4. Find a community in which to grow.
Frequently the winter months cause us to slow down our social lives, cutting ourselves off a bit from a sense of community. Rather than becoming a complete hermit, make yourself a hub of community based on an interest or curiosity. Find some fellow musicians to invite over to jam with every Wednesday night or start an inspiring book club and meet for brunch every other Sunday to discuss. Pick anything you love and seek out a community with which to celebrate it.
5. Find something new to commit positive energy toward.
For me, teaching yoga became the passion that made winter months fly by as I assisted for the first time, taught my first community class and expanded my experience of different styles of teaching. Finding a new hobby, interest or goal takes the doldrums out of the colder months. Perhaps look for a charity that excites you and start volunteering or take those singing lessons you were always intrigued to try.
While any and all of these practices are great throughout the year, in the face of being S.A.D it’s nice to find that little extra something that will make you happy and—more precisely—content.
Author: Jeanette Doherty
Apprentice Editor: Cecilia Vinkel / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Courtesy of Author.