Living in Winnipeg for the majority of my life has allowed me to experience my fair share of cold and snowy days. As cliche as it may seem, one thing has always held true for me when it comes to winter, and that is, its all in the preparation.
Those of you reading this who can totally relate to my plight know that a winter day is a lot less unbearable if you face it head on with a hat, gloves and all of the other accoutrements. Going out “exposed” if you will never works out favourably and leads to all kinds of problems; a few of which I will unravel below.
THE SHOULDER CLENCH
See if you can relate – you have chosen a light jacket and no other warmers and have head out on a very chilly (and high wind chilly) day. Your parking spot is inevitably far and you start your journey from vehicle to destination. As your body begins to become cold, you start to engage your mechanisms which often involves lifting your shoulders up to your ears in an attempt to stay warm. This is what I refer to as the shoulder clench and can be seen very often in Winnipeg during the winter months. Now anybody who has been to a yoga class of any kind has inevitably heard the instructor refer to some instruction about the shoulders and it may have been any of the following:
- Relax the shoulders down the back body
- Allow the shoulders to drop away from the ears
- Visualize the shoulders dropping towards the tailbone…. well you get the jist…
As you may have guessed, the shoulder clench throws all of that out the window, and if held in a prolonged way can lead to tightness in the neck, head, jaw, and even upper back. It may also actually cause the body to be colder rather then the desired result of warmth.
If you find yourself doing this during the winter months see if you can remind yourself to relax the shoulders and keep the tension away (opt for extra outerwear instead!)
THE HAND GRIP
Now I have to admit, I tend to be quite guilty of the hand grip. For a variety of reasons I often forget my gloves. When the hands get cold our tendency is to grip into the hands and curl the fingers into a fist. Yes, this may be a temporary fix to the fingers being cold, but in the long run it tends to bring tightness not only into the hands but this tension can also run up the arms and into the shoulders neck and head. I am already strategizing how to not forget my gloves so that my fingers can be relaxed and warm without bringing extra unnecessary tension into the body.
FROZEN FEET FIASCO
This one I am sure that many of you can relate to in some way, especially for you shoe affectianatos out there. From time to time during the winter, we are just going to make the wrong footwear decisions. If this happens occasionally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. But imagine the cumulative affect of the feet being cold day after day. You know what I am referring to, the kind of cold where you literally need to rub the circulation back into them when you come from outside. When we freeze our feet, we are doing just that – we are cutting off any flow into them that is needed to keep them warm and mobile. The practice of yoga asana is encouraging the exact opposite of this – yoga encourages circulation through the entire body through the breath and the postures. This circulation is what helps to keep both the mind and body healthy and calm. The feet are the body’s foundation; they need circulation to literally keep us up. Try to keep them warm this winter, if not all of the time maybe most of the time 🙂
Of course there are many more winter habits that many of us have, and many of them are easily preventable by taking a bit more time to prepare for what’s ahead. Keeping the body warm without having to create tension is important because we all know there is enough to be tense about in the winter without having to worry about our body’s ability to handle whatever may come our way.