Winter Archives - Peacock Tree Yoga

If you dream it…

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It’s all over. The celebrations, the January sales, the resolutions. We’re into the second month of a brand new year and, even with a Wintry bite still in the air, there’s a distinct sense that Spring is on its way. So what about all those good intentions you had for 2018? If you feel like you’re on the back foot, here’s the good news; you haven’t missed the deadline! In fact, there’s still plenty of time. Right now, the best thing you can do is hunker down with a pen and paper, and create your ‘dream list’…

Making your dream list

Dreamy beach in Sri Lanka

Make your list, open some doors…

Although there’s no harm in setting goals or making resolutions at the start of the year, there’s no need to rush ahead and attempt to make good on them immediately (find out why, here). Instead, we recommend using nature’s ‘down time’ to make a dream list. Think about what you’d like to experience this coming year – the places you’d like to go, the artwork you’d like to see, the languages you’d like to speak, the new tricks you’d like to learn. Share your dreams, and listen to other people’s.

Creating the right setting for making your dream list

It might sound simple enough, jotting a few ideas down on a piece of paper, but there’s more to making a list than that – it requires a little bit of planning:

  • Identify the people you’d like to do this with, unless you’d prefer to do it alone.
  • Schedule some time – set a reminder on your phone, put it on the family calendar, write it in your diary. However you do it, be sure to allocate yourself this time.
  • When that time comes, switch off your computer and your phone – filter out the distractions, and give your mind the freedom to explore the topic in hand.
  • Arm yourself with a pen and a notebook (good excuse to treat yourself to a lovely new journal!).

What to put on your dream list

Think big and think small, but think always about YOU. So often, we have lists that are mostly to do with nurturing and supporting those around us – as is evident in the responses given to the artist, Alice Instone, who gathered “prominent and inspiring women’s to-do lists and made a number of art works from her own lists”, for an exhibition, entitled The Pram in the Hall. But this is a time to top yourself up with what you need. Besides, the better you feel, the better you’ll be able to continue to serve those around you.

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list ~ Michelle Obama


These are some of the things on my list for 2018:

Daydreaming by the fire

PJs, a fire, time to dream…

As you may be aware, we’ve got our hands full at the Harvey household, with a new family member to nurture, a long list of fiddly jobs to finish in our recently renovated house, a yoga school to run, and all the other demands of daily life! But these aren’t reasons to NOT have a dream list; quite the opposite – these are reasons to HAVE one! This is what I’ve got on mine:

      1. Print and frame 10 family photos and put them on the wall
      2. Connect with three old friends
      3. Log 50 hours of Tai Chi lectures and practice
      4. Schedule monthly morning / breakfast dates with Daniel

Put some dates on your dream list

Visualise the year ahead, see its nature – the growth of Spring, the colour of Summer, the harvest of Autumn, and the deep rest of Winter. Some of the things on your list will naturally fall into these categories – for example, you might paint your allotment shed in Spring, go to
a lively festival in the Summer, make a photo album of your holiday snaps in Autumn, and book a Yin Yoga retreat for Winter.

Other things will be suited to any given time of the year. But nature’s rhythms can still help, particularly when it comes to actually identifying what it is that you want to put on your dream list.

      • Illustration of a girl having a dream

        Visualise the year ahead…

        Spring prompts us to ask ourselves what we want to grow

      • Summer invites us visualise how it will look when it’s flourishing
      • Autumn asks us what we will gain from it, what we will reap
      • And Winter wants to know if it’ll let us settle

Hold on to your dreams

Whether you transfer your list to your mobile phone notes, keep it on a scrap of paper in your purse, or learn it by heart, keep your dream list close. Check in with it whenever you get a moment. Seek out and create those moments. Then stop and really feel the joy of manifesting
your own dreams, however ‘big’ or ‘small’ they may be.

“Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike

The thing about New Year resolutions…

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The tradition of making New Year resolutions is totally flawed. Of course, the idea of identifying areas of our lives that can be improved is a good one. But doing it in the middle of Winter? Really? That’s not such a good idea.

PTY New Year resolutions blog Sleeping cat

Cats don’t make resolutions

Annual statistics tell us that every year, less than 10% of those who make New Year resolutions claim to have been successful, and under half get beyond six months with whatever it is they’ve promised themselves they’ll do less or more of. There’s a reason for this…

As California’s Institute of Classical five-Element Acupuncture so neatly puts it in this article about ‘The Season of Water’, “Winter is for us, as it is for all of nature, a time for internal work: meditation, containment, concentration, and the storing of our energy. We use this season for rest and the filling and maintenance of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead… Like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest with strength if our energy is dispersed or drained.”

Resolve to get cosy

Harvey family for new year resolutions blog

Get cosy with your favourite people

If you really must make a New Year resolution, then make it this: to get cosy. There’s actually a word for this which has become rather fashionable in the last year or so: Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). We’ve borrowed it from Scandinavia, where the practice developed in response to the region’s long, dark days and the population’s need to find moments of happiness, warmth and comfort within them. Easy to see why it’s become such a popular concept in England!

Perhaps the most lovely thing about hygge is that it’s best done with others, as this New Yorker article explains: “It’s possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a cup of tea, but the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.” Handily, this is precisely the right setting for gently discussing how we’ll use our energy over the coming year – what our priorities are, what’s important to us, we’d like to achieve.


PTY New Year resolution blog Socks and mug

Woolly socks and tea make good hygge!

Although Springtime is nature’s morning, the time when we begin to see blossom on the trees and new lambs in the fields, there are many signs of growth which come as soon as February. And it’s possible that as we approach the end of January, you’ll begin to feel the culmination of your cosy time and be ready to pour your energy into new projects, too – particularly with us stepping into a ‘fire rooster’ year, according to the Chinese calendar.

For now, however, resist putting demands on your energy – top yourself up instead. Do things that leave you with a full heart, not a lack of energy. Get the fire lit, put a pan of hot chocolate or a bean stew on the stove, slip into your longest, woolliest socks, and gather your favourite people for some good hygge. And don’t forget to bring your woolly socks and fleecy blanket to your yoga classes, too!

The cool winds of vata…

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If you’ve noticed an increasing sense of unease lately, and have been feeling scattered, exhausted and anxious, then you’re probably wondering why – and worrying if it will ever end.  The good news is, it will, but maybe not until Spring – unless you choose to make some adjustments now. And how do you do that? Well, as Bob Dylan so memorably put it, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…

bob dylan album cover for PTY vata blog

Bob knows all about vata

It’s typical at this time of the year – when the Autumn winds are shaking down the trees and Winter’s long fingers begin to give us an icy poke, as though warning us of an impending deep freeze – for our bodies to respond. We can feel stiff and fragile, we might experience difficulty sleeping, and develop dry skin – as though the wind and cool temperatures are shaking us down, too. And when our bodies feel under assault, so do our minds.

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda (a system for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, which developed alongside yoga and is considered its sister science), when we experience these changes, it’s due to an excess of ‘vata’.  The cooler months of the year are renowned for creating this effect.

What is vata?

Vata is one of the three doshas, or types of energy, which Ayurvedic science tells us each person is made up of (the others are ‘kapha’ and ‘pitta’). None of us are the same, according to this theory; we’re all composed of different amounts of each dosha – and it’s a matter of maintaining our individual constitution in order to maintain optimum health. If you’re curious to know your dosha type, you can find out very easily and for free on the Chopra Center website (in return for your email address).

For our purposes, the point is this: whether vata plays a dominant role in your make-up or not, Autumn and Winter still have plenty of potential for creating excessive amounts of this fast and flighty kind of energy – an energy which, when in balance fuels our creativity and vitality, makes us quick and bright, joyful and active, but causes fear and anxiety when in excess – as well as countless other symptoms, as listed in this article from Svastha Ayurveda, a holistic healthcare practice based in Colorado.

‘That which moves things’

Windmills and vata

Vata in balance brings joy, not stress

So, what to do with all this ‘vata’ swirling around in the November air, moving through us and within us? Well one thing we can do is play vata at her own game. If we translate the word ‘vata’ from Sanskrit to English, we get ‘that which moves things’ – and therein lies the answer: we move – mindfully. In doing so, we soothe the nervous system whilst generating lubricating and nourishing heat in the body.

A fluid, yet grounding yoga asana practice, such as the one we’ll be working on in our classes this week, offers us the perfect way to raise the temperature and focus the mind. But it’s not only the healing effects of asana that yoga brings to the Ayurvedic table. Pranayama, meditation and relaxation also help to stop our swirling thoughts, our fluttery stomachs, our shortness of breath. In short, yoga can help us remain calm, joyful, warm and secure, in even the strongest of winds.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the yoga student adjusts the sails” ~ William Arthur Ward (paraphrased!)