Embracing Winter is Elemental

Embracing Winter is Elemental

Winter can often get a bad rap and give us the wrong impression, for that which we often perceive to be dead, is really just lying dormant. And if we use this quiet time for contemplation, restoration and for sowing seeds of positivity, come the spring, we can reap the rewards as we find ourselves ready to blossom.

Fire

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Our ancient connection to fire and its importance in our lives dates back more than one million years, with our control over it seen as a cultural turning point in our evolution. As well as using fire to cook our food, it was also used as a tool for communication, ceremony, protection, warmth and light. And winter allows us to appreciate this connection even more. 

Last winter, I had the opportunity to take part in an Agnihorta fire ceremony, conducted by a reiki and sound healer on their property in the south west of Western Australia. But the ancient Hindu ritual can be performed anywhere, by anyone, after gaining a little background knowledge. With its roots in Ayurveda medicine, Agnihorta is a purification and healing ceremony originating in India, traditionally practiced outdoors at sunrise or sunset, where participants recite a mantra with an attitude of loving kindness and good intention for themselves and others. 

Mid-winter festivals around the world incorporate the use of fire. The winter solstice marks the darkest day of the year and often festivals occur around this time (such as Hobart’s popular Dark Mofo). The use of fire to symbolise and celebrate the imminent return of light and warmth, just as experiencing the darker moments in life, make it possible to appreciate brighter times. 

But you needn’t go to the extent of rituals or festivals. Simply gathering around a campfire, backyard bonfire, barbecue or indoor fireplace with friends and family during the colder months can be a great way to connect and invite warmth into our lives. People have been sharing stories and food around the fireside for thousands of years. It’s an inherent part of us that still brings joy today. 


Water

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Swimming is often avoided during the winter months but there’s a lot to be said about the practice of acclimatised cold water swimming, with everyone from athletes to medical professionals attesting to the benefits. While there is no doubt about the danger cold water can pose, such as ‘cold shock response’ inflicted on the body, research also suggests that cold water immersion can reduce inflammation, aid recovery after exercise, enhance the body’s ability to adapt to apparently unrelated stresses (such as high altitude stress), invigorate and even help with feelings of depression. 

Alternatively, heated water such as natural hot springs can provide health benefits due to their high mineral content and their ability to increase our circulation and oxygen flow. Indoor saunas, spa pools and float tanks are a great way to connect and experience the benefits of water in winter, with their ability to aid relaxation and muscle repair.  

And if you prefer to be on the water rather than in it; with the right gear, a walk in the forest in the rain or a kayaking or paddle board excursion on a calm river or lake can be a magical, even meditative experience in winter when it seems the rest of the world is asleep.


Earth

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Getting out and getting your hands dirty in the garden can be a great way to embrace earth during winter. When it seems there’s not much going on, it’s the perfect time to prepare for spring; by raking over and loosening up soil, layering compost, pruning plants and sowing seeds for vegetables such as onions, asparagus, broccoli and broad beans. 

If you don’t have your own patch, community gardens are a fantastic way to connect to others as well as the earth as they offer courses, projects and the chance to share friendship, tips and produce. 

Celebrate the comfort and warmth that food can bring during this season by preparing, cooking and sharing meals with loved ones. Buy vegetables in season such as greens, roots and citrus and as much other locally sourced produce as possible. Casseroles, curries, soups, roasts, and both sweet and savoury pies and tarts are perfect in winter, often best accompanied with a cheeky glass of local red… for health reasons, of course!

Air

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Sometimes in winter you can feel cooped up and in need of fresh air and exercise. This is when I love rugging up and getting amongst nature trails the most. Be it mountain biking, running on the coastal path, hiking through hills, or simply walking through the forest; getting out and being active gets our bodies moving, blood pumping, oxygen flowing, and seems to awaken and make us feel alive again.

And if you want something less strenuous, a yoga or meditation class can work wonders for your lungs. Concentrating on the breath during your practice is a common technique for improving awareness, as well as physical and mental wellbeing.  

Winter can often get a bad rap and give us the wrong impression, for that which we often perceive to be dead, is really just lying dormant. And if we use this quiet time for contemplation, restoration and for sowing seeds of positivity, come the spring, we can reap the rewards as we find ourselves ready to blossom.

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Globetrotting

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