Brrr...Baby it's cold out there. Deceivingly cold. From my warm house, I see sunshine, plenty of it. So I go for a walk, round a corner in the neighborhood and wham the wind hits me. Now I am warm again and grateful. Grateful for the warmth of my home but also grateful for my brisk walk outside. I appreciated soaking in nature with all of its mighty thrust. What can you do to stay active this winter, while still honoring the season, where hunkering down is natural and necessary.
Here are several practices to illuminate your winter. Compliments of several yoga teachers from Kripalu.
Visualizing the Light Within (Todd Norian)
(Meditation to build heat)
Visualize a candle flame in each of your chakras, starting at the base of your spine, and moving to the sacral region, navel, heart, throat, forehead, and crown of the head. Then visualize the candles glowing in both palms and on the soles of both feet. Now imagine all the flames simultaneously aglow.
Warming Breathwork (Erin Casperson)
Practice Kapalabhati, or Skull-Polishing Breath, a series of short, sharp exhalations and passive
inhalations done while pumping the belly. "Kapalabhati is a warming breath that clears the cloudiness from the mind while stoking the internal digestive fire," Erin says. It is also good for clearing the sinuses.
Daily Warm-up (Sarajean Rudman)
Move your body to the point of breaking a sweat everyday. "This can be a vigorous yoga flow, or perhaps dancing, some kind of calisthenics or martial arts, or a jog if it isn't freezing out, " says Sarajean.
Breath the Air (Erin)
Each morning when the sun comes out, I make sure to go outside and breathe, even when it's freezing cold or cloudy. Exposure to the morning light keeps us aligned with our natural diurnal rhythms, she says.
Move Inward (Miriam Greenspan)
Welcome the introversion that this season naturally encourages. "Just as the winter brings with it col and frost, many people in this season find their hearts constricting a kind of interior winter weather," Miriam says. "While tis can feel distressing, it's actually a signal to bring our attention inward."
Ujjayi Breath (Victorious Breath)
A breath to center you, help with focus. Energizing and warming to the body. Great for better respiratory function. Another benefit may be humidfied air going in, dust particles going out of the nostrils and lungs. Supports releasing feelings of frustration or anxiety.
Air is drawn in through the nostrils (inhalation) and the back of the throat (glottis) is slightly closed which moves the air down the trachea and into the lungs more efficiently creating a warmth. The exhalation releases from the lungs and travels up the trachea through this smaller opening out of the nostrils. The sound closely resembles an ocean wave moving into the shoreline or for Star Wars fans, Darth Vader sound. Don't tightly close the back of the throat in this breath, better a gentle close.
Legs up Variation
Props: 2 bolsters, 1-2 blankets, neck roll
Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch
Place one bolster horizontally on mat (for the knees) and one vertically (for the feet, ankes and lower legs). Arrange a triple-folded blanket horizontally (lumbar and thoracic spine area). Recline legs over the bolsters and lower the upper body on the blanket. Adjust so that the tips of the shoulder blades are right above the blanket. Add neck pillow under neck and move arms to Goddess position if comfortable for your shoulders. Otherwise, they can go by your side or stack hands on top of your belly. 10 to 15 minutes, dropping the weight of your body on the exhalations.
Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Allows breath to come in to the rib cage and belly more freely. Detoxifying. Can reduce high blood pressure. Relieves fatigue and insomnia. Safe for a Prenatal twist.
This can be a very prop intensive pose but once you are in it, it is worth it. Begin with right side of body, place the bottom of your right foot against the wall with leg extended. Left leg is bent at a 90 deg. angle and propped up with two blocks and a bolster with maybe a blanket on top. at least two blankets, S-fold blankets, and/or pillows placed along spine for support, lengthwise. Extend your left arm out to the left side and lay it on a smaller stack of blankets either s-fold or triple-fold out to your side. Right arm extends out to the right. This means the left arm is at a higher elevation than right. Head can remain neutral to ceiling or turn to one side. Extra blankets can be placed in spaces that need more support. Neck roll for cervical spine and eye pillow.
*we are digging placing the arms in Goddess pose (not pictured) so try that one out as well. Place blanket support under arms.
Props: blankets, including one for warmth, stuffed animals or eye bags for hands
Benefits: gently stretches the lumbar spine and para spinal muscles, and gives a release in the diaphragm, quiets the mind and comforting. Gives a sense of security.
2 bolster fold blanket placed lengthwise on mat on top of each other. One blanket at end of mat for ankle support. Make roll for ankle support. Rest of that blanket fills in gap where shin does not meet the floor. Make sure no blanket is on knee. This supports the knee in the pose. Top bolster folded blanket roll towards you in a wider roll to fit in chest and shoulder area. One more blanket folded so that its height is the same as the two bolster folded blankets. Come to all fours straddling the props, release to forearms and then fully recline on props. Ankles rest on small roll at end of mat, shins supported by the rest of that blanket. Rest the rest of your body at hip crease on the bolster fold blankets and lay chest on wider roll of top blanket. Head rests on additional blanket at top, turned to the side. Arms come out to the sides, releasing shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Placing an eye pillow or stuffed animal in palms as they face floor is very grounding and comfortable. Additional blankets for pillows tucked in as needed with student to create boundaries or make more comfortable.