The heart of winter often beckons a need to cultivate warmth and movement. The nature of the season is to slowdown and allow introspection. This natural cycle can be deeply healing and rejuvenating. It can also lend itself to cold stagnation. If you find yourself feeling cold and sluggish try these very quick and simple yoga practices to easily address these imbalances.
Sun Salutations will get your blood moving through your entire body while bringing in the sunny warmth of your core. Sun Salutations can be very simple and gentle or can be vigorous and athletic. There are myriad variations on the Sun Salutation so find or create one that fully meets you where you are. Try this simple salutation: Inhale and reach your arms over head, exhale and fold fully forward, inhale and step your left foot back to land in a lunge, exhale and bring your right foot back to meet left in Downward Facing Dog or simply come to both hands and knees in table, inhale and come to plank pose or arch the spine from table to cow pose, exhale back to Down Dog or from cow pose to cat pose, inhale and step the left foot forward to lunge, exhale and step right foot forward next to left landing in forward fold, inhale stand and reach the arms over head, exhale bring the arms down to the sides of the body, repeat beginning with the right leg stepping back into lunge.
Seated Twists awaken the sunny center of the body while having a detoxifying effect on both the gut and the ego. Ensure both sits bones are on the floor, cross the right foot to the outside of the left leg so the right knee is bent and the right foot flat on the floor. Reach the right hand behind your seat to the floor and hug the right knee into the chest or cross the left arm all the way to the outside of the right knee and begin twisting to the right. With each inhalation feel yourself grow more vertical. With each exhalation actively draw the abdominals deeply to the spine and rotate until the head is fully turned to the right and the eyes are gazing as far right as comfortable. Stay with the subtle movement of the breath for at least 5 breath cycles. Unwind the twist on an inhalation and switch sides.
Lion’s Breath is wonderful for breaking up stagnation of the lungs and throat while expelling toxins. Not to mention that it’s so much fun to do! From a comfortable seat inhale deeply scrunching your face tight and balling your hands into fists, exhale with mouth open stick your tongue out as far as you can making a breathy “Haaaaa” sound while sending the eyes to look fiercely to the third eye point and extending your arms, hands and fingers like giant paws. Repeat several times and then sit with face, neck, shoulders, arms and hands relaxed while breathing easy and noticing the effect of the Lion’s breath.
Spending just 15 minutes a day with these practices will vitally increase your warmth and fluidity throughout your whole system. Once you have practiced these three simple steps find a comfortable seat and quiet your mind and body for at least 5 minutes of meditation. Following your asana and pranayama practice with quiet reflection helps you to honor the nature of the season and to benefit from the cool stillness of winter without suffering from cold stagnation.
Blessings on and off mat! Namaste, Carolyn Yates