If you have ever tried yoga or regularly practice it, then you may know that it is a practice that prioritizes consistent movement (the physical postures or asanas), along with other principles such as a proper diet and nutrition as a means to live a healthy life. Yet when winter approaches in the Channel Islands, this level of self-care and upkeep of a healthy lifestyle can present itself as a challenge.
This is primarily because when our bodies are cold, our circulation is decreased, and our muscles become tighter. Not only do we experience constriction in a physical sense, but feeling unable to move as well or as freely can lead to a mental obstruction as well. When our muscles and joints are stiff, it can be tempting to spend our winter on the islands cuddled up on the couch, when really this is a time when we should be moving our bodies the most.
Luckily, there are a variety of ways you can build some heat and stay healthy during these cooler months through your yoga practice, as long as you are willing to adapt your practice, along with other daily habits and food choices.
Here are a few practical ways and tips for finding some balance and incorporating yoga into your winter season:
Try cold yoga
Okay, it is likely you have heard of hot yoga before, but cold yoga?! That sounds bonkers!
Well, there are some studios that are testing out this new craze, as cold yoga is said to have some unique perks and benefits. First off, it is a known fact that your body works hard to maintain a normal body temperature when you are cold, which means it is burning more energy (and likely more calories, too) trying to produce heat.
While many people turn to hot yoga as a way to lose extra weight through yoga, they are really only losing water weight from the sweat. It is possible that heading outside for a chilly winter flow can be even more effective in terms of physical and physiological benefits.
However, the physical movement is only one element of yoga – the true benefit of yoga really shows up when it comes to increasing levels of awareness and focus, helping one to become more present-minded. Should you decide to roll out your mat outside this winter, the cooler temperatures are also thought to help one be more present as you focus on taking deep, warm diaphragmatic breaths.
A type of breathing known as Ujjayi breathing will also increase concentration; Ujjayi breathing helps your body prepare for your asana practice as it creates friction of the air entering your lungs and creates body heat that massages the internal organs, helping you feel warmer from the inside out.
Incorporate some “winter” yoga poses into your practice
Like many other people, you may prefer doing yoga outside to foster and maintain an even deeper connection with yourself and with nature. But unfortunately, during the winter, practicing in nature may not always be an option when it is a bit too chilly out.
If you want to stay connected with yourself and light up your inner fire, the following poses are excellent for a winter flow, even if you just decide to stay inside.
This is not just one pose but rather a series of poses that are perfect for warming up and building heat in the body. I try to practise this every morning and it perfectly prepares me for a day.
Bow Pose or Camel Pose
Either of these poses will work well for opening the chest, which is a useful thing to practice for your respiratory organs in the winter season, known for colds and the flu.
Fire Log Pose
This one just sounds cozy, right? While it can take some practice to stack your right shin perfectly on top of your left one (then vice versa), the point of this pose or any yoga pose, for that matter, is not perfection. The idea here is to build heat through your legs by keeping your feet flexed. This pose will also invite you to open up the chest as well.
Eat winter foods
Eating the right foods and herbs in the winter is important to help maintain good immunity and prevent heat loss. A glass of warm lemon water is a great idea for the morning or before bed to help with digestion and circulation. A glass of red wine is acceptable for this too!
If you have ever heard of Ayurveda, then you may know that cold foods and drinks in the winter will not support your health and feeling of being balanced as well as warm or spicy ones. Soups, chilis, and stews are a healthy food choice in the winter months that help with digestion, circulation, and lubrication of the body’s tissues and joints. When it comes to adding spices, opt for warming spices like pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
When the winter chill sets in, it’s easy to want to bundle up and keep from moving, but turning to your yoga mat with a hot cuppa tea instead is one of the best things you can do for your health this season.
If you feel like cold yoga is not your thing, you can try hiking: Hiking Through the Channel Islands During Winter