Yoga Poses to Ward off the Winter Cold

Yoga to ward off winter cold, snow-covered wooden garden hutLast night, my yoga class was full despite the cold and icy weather. Luckily, the roads were all free, gritted and salted, and many students walked to class. But with the weather being rather unpredictable over the next few days, snow and ice might prevent us from going to our regular yoga class. A home practice can provide us with a good alternative to keep our yoga routine going.

Practising yoga at home has many advantages, as we can choose our own time, poses, and length and intensity of practice. It can be more challenging in other respects as we have to make sure to really commit to the practice, set aside the time, and ignore distractions like the telephone ringing or family members wanting our attention.

When it is cold outside, we often feel cold inside as well, we feel like curling up into a small ball with the result that our posture suffers as we round our back, hunch our shoulders, look down, and breathe shallowly. For a winter home practice, we want to counterbalance these physical effects by including the following elements into our yoga sequence:

  • Keep warm
  • Keep moving
  • Keep stretching
  • Breathe deeply
Keep warm

Keeping warm starts with dressing warmly. We may prefer comfy joggers to flimsy yoga pants.
A couple of layers of thin shirts or jumpers are preferable to one thick layer. Socks will keep our feet warm (there are even special yoga gloves available). Covering ourselves with a blanket during relaxation at the end of our yoga practice helps staying warm while lying still. Ideally, the room temperature is around 20 °C.

Keep moving

We start our winter yoga practice with a dynamic warm-up and carry on moving throughout the practice. Often, a few rounds of sun salutations Surya Namaskar are used to warm up the body, but there are less vigorous options, too, such as Cat Marjaiasana / Cow Bitilasana or a short sequence such as:
Child Balasana / Cobra Bujanghasana / Downward-facing Dog Ardho Mukha Svanasana / Cow Bitilasana / Child’s Pose.

A good way to keep moving is to come in and out of poses repeatedly; Warrior II Virabhadrasana II is a good example as we can bend and straighten the front leg repeatedly and include movement of the arms by raising and lowering them correspondingly. Again, we could run through a short flow such as:
Warrior II Virabhadrasana II / Peaceful Warrior Shanti Virabhadrasana / Triangle Utthita Trikonasana / Peaceful Warrior /  Warrior II.
Another benefit of repetitions is that they strengthen our muscles and heart, and we can work on deepening and refining each pose as we go over it again and again.

Keep stretching

To counterbalance any physical tightness as a result of feeling cold, we benefit from staying relaxed, easing out frequently and stretching tight areas:

Locust Salabhasana and Staff Dandasana help us strengthen the back.

Bridge Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Camel Ustrasana and other backbends stretch the front or our body and reverse the effects of hunching over.

Standing Forward Fold Uttanasana and Donwnward-facing Dog Ardho Mukha Svanasana are poses that stretch our hamstrings which might have tensed and shortened because we are sitting more than usual.

Tree Vrksasana, Eagle Gardudasana and Happy Baby Ananada Balasana are examples of poses, which bring flexibility to the hips, releasing tightness from too much sitting.

Supine Knee-to-chest Pose Apanasana and Supine Twists Supta Matsyendrasana can help us release discomfort in the lower back where physical and emotional tightness is often reflected.

And a bit of yoga for the feet and hands will make sure that our extremities stay warm, too

Breathe deeply

Shallow breathing, which is often the result of feeling cold or tense, signals to the body that there is danger, triggering a state of alert and anxiety. Deep abdominal breathing on the other hand is associated with relaxation and comfort. Who hasn’t heard the advice ‘just take a deep breath and calm down’? It sounds so simple but is effective nonetheless.

A simple breathing technique is to count to 5 while inhaling and to count to 5 while exhaling, making sure we inhale fully so we can feel our abdomen rising and falling.

When it is cold outside, what better way to pamper ourselves than a warming, nourishing yoga practice in the comfort of our own home? This way we really use yoga to bring a positive change to our life.

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life.”
T.K.V. Desikachar, Heart of Yoga