January has felt like a year in itself. I have struggled to write an email that was coherent this month. I finally realized I’m wintering.
Or as the writer Katherine May writes in her meditative book Wintering:
“Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs…
“It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it’s essential.”
Earlier this month I joined a yoga class series on a whim based on this idea. Having primarily lived in Arizona or Southern California, I know winter mostly as a visitor. But I long for its coziness and take full advantage of rainy LA days, those few days a year when it feels like nature gives us permission to slow down and pause our usual routine.
Wintering can happen at different times in our life, not just the season. The idea is to allow ourselves those fallow times when we need to retreat from the world. I find they often come when I feel unsure of my way forward .
We could think of the pandemic in different ways as a winter season. A time when we aren’t able to be productive in the same ways we were before. We either aren’t doing as much or we’re having to take care of more than ever and some things have to slide.
The idea of wintering fits nicely with what’s known as Kapha season in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science. Kapha is one of the three doshas in ayurveda, which are those things which change us. It can be the season, the food we eat, the time of our life. When we are in balance with the season, we recover our sense of wellbeing.
Because we are interconnected, it helps to consider the seasons and what’s happening in the world around us as we consider what we am need to feel balanced, which is the purpose of both yoga and Ayurveda. To be balanced is to have clarity, to feel a sense of energy and ease.
Like the late winter and early spring, kapha qualities are cold, wet and heavy. When we are out of balance, it can be hard to get moving. We sleep more. We can feel sluggish. We can feel indulgent. Grief is a quality of kapha. So is insecurity is a kapha quality. So is depression.
But in balance, kapha has a nourishing, resilient quality. It is patience. It is calm and steady.
To balance kapha, we can change our diet, adding in food to stimulate our digestion, greens to detoxify, nourishing soups and meals that heat our body. But we can also use our practice to support us. We can move in a way that lifts our mood and warms our body to get us moving.
In balance, Kapha holds the quality of resilience. So we can fill our reserves.