How to wake up to spring
Despite the odd biting wind (why am I always on a touchline when this happens?), it feels like we can pretty confidently say spring has now well and truly arrived. Transition dressing has become a thing – coat or no coat, tights or bare legs, boots or trainers – getting up in the morning is feeling slightly less tortuous (which is a good thing because it’s taking sooo long to decide what to wear) and sticky toffee pudding doesn’t feel like a daily need anymore. In fact, you might even be contemplating pulling on some Lycra. For, in seasonal terms, now is the new year. “Spring is the perfect time for new year’s resolutions,” says Chalford-based yoga teacher and life coach Claire Beeley (who in January provided pearls of wisdom about how to survive winter). “In many Eastern calendars this is the new year, not January.” So, what’s the best way to seize this moment and wring out what we can from the season? Over to you Claire.
Wake up the bear – quietly
After a winter hibernation, you naturally feel gung-ho, buzzing with new ideas, projects and plans – the feeling of spring is a bit like a Ferrari revving up at the start of the race – but don’t rush into anything with too much haste or you may end up burning out with nothing to show for it. Spring is like morning and just as it’s harder to wake up than it is to go to bed, you need to give yourself space to transition. So be gentle, allow yourself some yawning and stretching time as it were. Make new plans and resolutions, yes, but don’t feel like you have to tick them off all at once. Pace yourself and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
Balance your energy
The spring equinox on March 20, when there are equal hours of day and night, is the official start of the season, and if you can tune into the idea of balance during this time, you’ll be doing yourself a favour. You’ll probably be feeling halfway between your veg-out winter mood and your let’s-get-out-there summer vibe, which makes it really important to try and tune into how much energy you have at any given point. You might have bursts of activity but then suddenly feel whacked. Capitalise on the bursts and if you hit a wall, don’t fight it, take a rest. If you can fit one in, a power nap is a perfect battery recharger at this time of year and can help you keep your energy levels balanced, especially as you might be going to bed a bit later and waking up a bit earlier.
Sweat, but not too much
Now is the time to generate some enthusiasm and heat but don’t go full pelt yet. A swim or brisk walk is the perfect way to get your body into warm-up mode, rather than anything more gruelling. When practising yoga, opt for an integrated class (a bit of everything) with dynamic vinyasas to help your body really stretch and shake off winter. A film of sweat on your body is the level of exertion you’re looking for, not one that leaves you drenched. Maybe step up the number of times a week you practise if you have time. Or, if you can’t fit in a class, do 8-10 rounds of sun salutations at home in the morning before you start your day – it’s a complete practice in itself if you finish with 10 minutes of relaxation. Focus on rhythm and breathing – you can hold each pose for a few breaths too. Add an inverted pose like bridge to promote strength and stamina, and open up the chest – gradually holding it for longer. Remember smooth, flowing, rhythmic breath is the sign of a good yoga practice. Finish with a seated twist for healthy digestion and spine. Again, be still and comfortable, and meditate on the breath. Lie in relaxation pose for 10 minutes at the end – don’t skip this bit! Always shower after practicing yoga even if you haven’t broken much of a sweat. It’ll really clear and freshen up your energy to face the day.
Eat fresh and seasonal
Now is a good time to make a resolution to include lots of seasonal fruit and veg in your diet. Go to a farmers’ market and see what’s on the stalls – spring greens, kale, cauliflower, spinach, purple sprouting broccoli, blood oranges, rhubarb are all in season at the moment. And when it comes to cooking, stir fry, steam or lightly heat – don’t go for a full raw diet, just add little bits. Remember, balance is the key! If you’re tempted to do a cleanse, see a dietician or kinesiologist first (never embark on a cleanse or fast without expert advice). And if you’re craving sweet foods, opt for a natural source such as raw honey or Medjool dates. Good teas to drink at this time of year are cinnamon, fennel, ginger, which are all stimulating and uplifting.
Keep mealtimes sacred
It’s not so much about what we’re eating, but how we’re eating. The key word is awareness. Always set the table, make it look inviting, create a beautiful space. Sit down – never eat or drink while you’re standing. And don’t eat if you’re angry or upset. If you can, try not to eat after 8pm to give your digestive system enough time to do its work before you go to bed. If you create a ritual around your meals, you’ll find you naturally start to eat more healthily. Unwise food choices are usually made when you’re stressed or distracted and not focused on what you’re eating.
Don’t be afraid of your emotions
Spring’s desire for renewal and change often triggers strong emotions from the past; it’s not unusual to suddenly feel upset about old memories you haven’t thought about for ages. This often happens when you’re practising yoga. Don’t suppress these feelings, let them come to the surface – if you can, try and just observe them as this will help you release them and move on. A good way to keep yourself grounded at this time of year is to light a candle at twilight and sit in silence for ten minutes or so. Because spring is a the start of the dynamic (yang) cycle, it’s easy to feel like you’re spinning off in a hundred directions, so a few moments of contemplation can really help you stay grounded and tuned into yourself.
Claire Beeley teaches yoga and meditation in groups or privately and also offers lifestyle coaching. Tel: 07768 973167. clairebeeley.co.uk