Winter is a difficult time to be motivated enough to get out of bed and practice. Unless you are a die hard Yogi, chances are you will decide to lie in bed and listen to the rain, especially on your day off……… And that’s not a bad idea either!!
Start your practice in bed! You’ll be surprised what you can do in bed to gently activate the body. Rotations are a good start. Our joints are very effected by the cold so you want to keep them as lubricated as possible. I love to start in bed with ankle & wrist rotations. Shoulder rotations are harder while laying down, so I often just press one shoulder down firmly into the mattress, then the other. You can try gently snaking the spine to help enliven & wake up it up. Jigging or rocking the hips can help loosen them and gets the circulating moving.
You can simply lie in bed in Supta Konasana (soles of feet together, knee out to the sides). Also reclining twists are good bed, maybe just keep the feet on the mattress rather than lift them – too breezy otherwise! Even just starting with whole body breathing can be a great way to start your winter’s day.
You’ll be surprised how much you can do under the covers! See what else you can come up with! Use your creativity!
When it come to a practice on your mat, this may seem obvious, but very important. Make sure the room is heated!!
Heat the body before you stretch. When it comes to warming the body it doesn’t have to be strictly Yoga, any sort of jigging, shaking, jumping or body tapping will help here. Why not try playing some uplifting music and start off with a dance!
Keep the body moving!
This is a simple rule of thumb, especially at the beginning of your practice. So salutes are good, but maybe the body isn’t really warm enough to even do those comfortably. So brake down your salutes, repeat the movements in each place, feel into the body & where is tends to be stiffest & work carefully but consistently to warm it up.
Lots of repetitive movements are good. In out in out in out. Up down up down up down.
I also use things like rotations while performing postures, swaying or moving the torso/spine, even simply shaking my hand or something while holding a pose.
Be playful and experimental. Let your own body wisdom show you the way!!
Work with postures that are good for producing heat.
Certain types of postures will produce more heat. Pretty much all standing postures will be good for this. So these might make up the main bulk of your practice. Good strong Warrior postures, wide squats, balances. You can hold these postures to produce heat, but mostly I like to move in & out of them, like flowing from Triangle pose to Reverse Warrior and back. If you add a vinyasa (the flow-y bit in the middle bit of the Salute) in-between, then this will warm you up even more! (But this can also tire you out, so you need to make sure you have the energy for that!! Remember, we want our practice to give energy, not take it away.)
Core exercises are wonderful for warming the body. I love to work with my core during winter. Winter is a time when in nature everything is drawn back into its centre, into it’s core, conserving energy during the colder months. So coming back to your core is a good way of working with the natural forces and keeping warm at the same time. I also find that strengthening & working with the core is very grounding and helps keep me at a steady pace – in my practice and in life.
Backbends are also great body warmers. You don’t need to do the big fancy ones in cold weather; working on baby ones are perfect for this season and will compliment core work you may do. Salabhasana (locust pose shown in photos) is one of my favourites. And there are sooo many variations to do, you won’t get bored! Bridge pose is also good and there are a number of variations here as well.
Twisting is also useful in winter. Not only good to keep the spine warm, but also to stoke the fire in the belly. Keeping your digestion working well in winter is important as we tend to eat more and heavier foods. Any twists will work. Find them in your standing poses, in your lunges, while seated or on your back. The menu for twists is varied and delicious!
Inversions (being up-side-down). These are not for everyone. Still, they are good as they can be heating, but they also have a meditative quality to them. Winter is a time for slowing down and is good for contemplation and our inversions are good for cultivating that quality. Be sure to practice these at the end of your practice though, when your body is all warmed up and you are really beginning to draw your senses inward.
All this sounds pretty energetic and being winter, that is not always where our energy is at. So it’s great once you are warm to perhaps finish with some Restorative poses. When it comes to slowing the pace of the practice down, don’t allow yourself to get cold or cool down too much. Try working under a blanket or in front of the fire if you can!. Also using jigging and rocking with your inclined (lying on the floor) poses can help keep the circulation going without using the energy.
I had every intention of giving you a sequence to work with here, but as I’m preparing to keep myself warm this winter by going to Bali in a couple of days, I’m just going to leave with a couple of baby backbending photos for some ideas.
Have Fun, Keep Warm, Be Creative!