As the days become colder and shorter, everything in nature becomes quieter and more dormant. Winter can be a wonderful time for soul-searching; a time to reflect and reset our own energy. Winter can be a time to recharge our energy before the onset of Spring. This cooler and quieter energy is also related to Yin energy in the traditional Taoist philosophy. If this calming Yin-style energy is left unbalanced, it can lead to lack of motivation, lack of energy, and lethargy. To balance this energy, we can incorporate its opposite energy, Yang-style or warmer asanas, which heat up the body and mind during these cold Winter days. Here are a few of tips to help warm and energize your body and mind:
Practice a Warming Yoga Sequence
To begin asanas for wintertime, warm-up with a few rounds of Sun Salutations to heat up the body. Make sure to end your yoga practice with some restorative, calming asanas(poses) that allow time for you to reflect and recharge your energy levels. Some asanas to practice are supine and stretching asanas that are held for longer periods of time, such as: Savasana, Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), Extended Puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana), Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana), Plow pose (Halasana), and the Sage’s pose (Marichyasana C). When practicing yoga in the winter at home, make sure not leave your home (or studio) to quickly after a practice. Cooling down too quickly can tighten muscles and reduce circulation, which can put you at risk for muscle injuries. Waiting 5-10 minutes before going outside, and bundling up when you do, should be sufficient to allow for a proper cool-down.
Practice Breath Retention (Kumbhaka Pranayama)
In this gentle, beginner-level Kumbhaka Pranayama, we are working to heat the body. Kumbhaka is traditionally practiced holding the breath for 10 seconds, but keep in mind that this length is recommended only for advanced students. In this practice, begin with holding the breath for 2-3 seconds.
To begin, come sit in a comfortable seated position. Take a big inhale in, fully inflating the lungs. Next, hold the breath for 2 or 3 seconds. Slowly exhale out all the air from the lungs. Repeat for up to 10 minutes or longer.
Cold and gloomy weather can certainly affect your mood and disposition; don’t let the weather outside get you down. Be mindful of the benefits that yoga (and meditation) offer. Just a few minutes of daily yoga can set the overall tone for your day! Reading and studying books on yoga or going to a class can help boost your motivation. Can’t get out because of snow or ice? YouTube has some fantastic yoga classes!
Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can be an excuse for avoiding all kinds of tasks. But don’t put your yoga practice aside, the overall benefits are wonderful for your mind, body, and spirit.
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