Warming Winter Practices
Although the Winter season offers abundant opportunity to ground and slow down, the effects of Winter can come on heavy: cold, darkness, low energy, stagnation. So how do we adjust our practice to cultivate balance? By bringing in lightness, heat and movement! The energy of this season is already slow and grounded, with short days and long dark nights. Use this as an opportunity to dive deep into your practice, clearing winter stagnation and cultivating clarity for the New Year. Here are three practices to bring balance into this season of darkness so that we may bring warmth to our spirit, vitality to our body and clarity to our mind!
1) Jala Neti
Jala Net is a Yoga Kriya, or cleansing exercise, that helps clear winter stagnation and mucus, improves the immune system and can provide relief from winter colds. This nasal cleansing practice is performed using a neti pot and warm salted water. Prepare by dissolving ¼ – 1 tsp of sea salt in to 2 cups of lukewarm purified water and fill your neti pot with this mixture. Cleanse the nasal passage by inserting the neti pot into one nostril, tilting the head and allowing the water to pour out of the opposite nostril. Repeat 2-3 times for each nostril. Notice the effects of lightness and clarity that this practice brings to the mind.
2) Pranayama: Breath of Joy
Boost your spirit with this pranayama practice that combats depression and low energy. This practice awakens your whole system, focuses the mind and has an energizing and joyful effect! You will be taking a 3-part breath in through the nose and one big exhale through the mouth with the sound of ‘ha’. The 3 inhalations are performed in quick succession.
Begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Inhale and fill up one-third of the lungs, (imagine that you’re just filling up the bottom part) while swinging the arms up in front of you, shoulder height, palms facing up. Inhale again (same inhalation), imagining that you’re filling up two-thirds of your lung capacity, while swinging the arms to the sides, shoulder height. Inhale filling up to full capacity while swinging the arms parallel along the front all the way up, over the head, palms facing each other. Then take one big exhale to the sound of ha, bending the knees deeply, hinging from the hips as you allow yourself to bend forward swinging your arms down and along the sides up behind you.
Repeat this practice as many times as feels appropriate, working your way up to nine rounds.
3) Asana: Sun Salutations
Cultivate a yoga practice that will bring heat, energy and vitality in to the body such as a Vinyasa practice with an emphasis on Sun Salutations to literally greet the sun in these short days. Sun Salutations will elevate your mood, increase circulation and boost your immunity. Balance postures and backbends are also a great way keep the body and mind alert and open when the tendency is to want to hibernate.
To practice Surya Namaskar A:
Engage Ujjayi Pranayama. Breath in through the nose and out through the nose with a slight constriction of the throat. Prepare to link breath and movement for sun salutation A.
INHALE, EXHALE bring the palms together in prayer position in front of the heart.
INHALE lift the arms up to the sky, EXHALE standing forward fold (FF).
INHALE halfway lift, EXHALE plant the hands, walk step or hop back to plank and lower through Chaturanga.
INHALE upward dog, EXHALE downward dog (DD). Hold DD for five breaths.
INHALE come up onto the toes, EXHALE bend the knees look forward,
INHALE step, walk, or hop up to standing FF. Halfway lift, EXHALE fold.
INHALE rise up with a flat back to standing with arms overhead, palms together. EXHALE mountain pose.
Repeat to bring in more warmth and energy into the body.