We are truly in the thick of winter now, and while it might be quite tempting to just hibernate under a blanket until spring, some yoga for cold winter days might be a better way to care for our bodies and minds during these months.
When we’re cold, our circulation decreases, which hampers the effectiveness of our organs and lowers our body temperature even more. This makes our muscles tighter and our joints stiffer.
So while I know that snuggling up with some hot cocoa is super tempting, the cold weather is actually more of a reason to get moving! And yoga is just one wonderful way to do that. The yoga for cold winter days practice below will help you to build some internal heat that will keep you healthy and warm.
And if you’re looking for other ways to stay warm and take care of your body during these cold winter months, here are 7!
Warm Up on the Inside With Hot Water
I know how hard it can be to get on the mat when it’s freezing cold outside. Heck, it’s hard to get up out of bed, much less get on the mat!
But sipping some warm water right before your practice will start to warm you up on the inside so that you’re coming to your mat with some warmth for your upcoming movement.
If you don’t like the taste of warm water you can add some lemon juice spice it up!
Some styles of yoga view kapalabhati as a cleansing practice while others view it as a pranayama practice. Either way, it is wonderful for building heat in the body.
To practice kapalabhati, you want to sit with a long spine, and you can place your hands on your abdomen or your lower belly if you would like to help you get a feel for the practice. You’ll take an inhale and then begin sharp forceful exhales, pumping the navel towards the spine with each exhale. The inhales will happen naturally; you really don’t even need to think about them. Your only job is to focus on those forceful exhales. You can start at a slow steady pace and as you get more comfortable you can move a little bit faster.
Our yoga for cold winter days practice below will start with kapalabhati, helping us to build some of that heat at the start of our practice so that we can then move through our practice feeling a bit warmer.
The beautiful think about kapalabhati is that you can practice it any time you need a burst of heat; you don’t have to wait for your yoga practice to get the warming benefits!
Below are a few contraindications for kapalbhati – if any of the following apply to you, please take this practice very slowly or skip it altogether:
High or low blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, epilepsy, vertigo, migraine headaches, significant nosebleeds, detached retina, glaucoma, history of stroke, or if you have undergone recent abdominal surgery.
Sun salutations are designed to cultivate heat, so they’re perfect for those cold winter days! If you are practicing in a cold room or if you’re practicing first thing in the morning, you want to start nice and slow so that your body gradually opens up and warms up.
I recommend starting with some half sun salutations before adding more movements. I also like to hold plank a few times before moving into knees-chest -chin or chaturanga. Starting with shalabhasana, locust pose, before cobra or upward facing dog is a nice way to warm up the back.
Once the body is nice and warm and you’re comfortable with the movements, you want to keep your sun salutations moving. So maybe instead of holding your downward facing dogs for five breaths, you hold them for one to three breaths. Not only will the continual movement keep the body warm, but it becomes a sort of moving meditation.
10-20 minutes of these, and you’ll really work up a sweat!
Put Your Hands Up!
Lifting the arms upwards so they are in-line with the ears can increase heart rate and body heat. So you can play around with this in various poses like warrior two, tree pose, or triangle pose. You can even play with keeping the arms by the ears in seated forward fold or as you fold into a standing forward fold from tadasana.
We’ll play around with this in the yoga for cold winter days practice below!
Tune Into Manipura
Heat in the body is created from our center; from the center of the core. Energetically, that center is linked to the Manipura Chakra – the third chakra. This chakra is connected to the element of fire, so focusing on and working in this area can light our inner flame and warm us from the inside.
One way to do this is with some core work. And if you’ve practiced with me for a while, you know that I looove core work. Standing twists can also be quite heating while also toning the abdominal area
Practice Heating Inversions
Handstand, forearm stand (pincha mayurasana), and headstand are known as the three heating inversions.
If you feel up for it and you don’t have any wrist or shoulder injuries, try playing with some handstands at the wall during your practice, in between poses.
But please remember to warm up first – the shoulders need to be nice and warm before trying any of these heating inversions!
Maintaining ujjayi breath throughout your movement practice helps to keep heat in the body. You want to keep a smooth, steady pace on both the inhale and the exhale.
Not only will this practice keep heat in the body, but it helps to develop focus and concentration.
Cold winter days can often pull us away from our practice, and if we give in to that pull, we can become more prone to the low spirits and low immunity that tend to come with lower temperatures.
Use your yoga practice as a way to care for your whole well-being – body, mind, and spirit. To help you in this endeavor is our yoga for cold winter days practice!
Enjoy and stay warm out there!