When the sun starts to set before dinner time, being inside is the norm, and I start to ditch the air conditioner for the heater, I know winter has made its way around. The colder months always nudge me to turn inward mentally and physically. Which makes sense because cold weather and less sunlight tend to have that effect on humans.
During the winter months in my little corner of the world, I find myself spending more time indoors, not doing as much as I do during the warmer months. I can usually attest it to being cozy in the couch corner with a large blanket or it being too cold to even walk across the house. This, by the way, is great for when I have to get a lot of work done. I also find myself journaling a lot more and resting more than usual. While this is wonderful to do every now and then, it can leave me feeling lethargic, restless, and even hit with the winter blues.
In Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, this is because two of the three energies (doshas) predominant during the season are vata and kapha, one is characterized by cold and the other by slow, respectively. In order to balance this (with pitta dosha), one must introduce more movement that induces heat and energy.
In both realms of healing, it is believed that exercise is one of the best things to rejuvenate energy and support optimal mental and physical health during the winter times. I use this 15 minute winter yoga routine to bring some fire into my body when I feel most stagnant. It’s especially uplifting in the morning as a “coffee cup” but I recommend doing it when it feels best for you!
Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)
The Sun Salutation is more of a mini sequence than a posture, and consists of 12 classic postures. Generally, you move with each in breath or out breath coordinating breath with movement. As the name suggests, it is perfect to wake up the whole body as all the postures together wake up almost every muscle. For this specific sequence, complete a total of 3, with 3 breaths at each downward dog position. Check out this full tutorial on a Sun Salutation.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Stand with your feet next to each other with toes touching and heels slightly apart, pull the belly button in, and relax the shoulders. Bring your arms up so your biceps are reaching for the ears as you draw your shoulders down the back. Start to bend your knees and sit the hips back as far as you can hold. Hold here for 5 breaths.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This posture is a great go-to for a cold-weather, winter yoga routine. Come up and relax into a forward fold. This posture is more of a counter pose for the chair pose. Feel free to bend the knees to allow your back to drape over the knees. Keep relaxing your shoulders. Hold here for 2-3 breaths and prepare for the next posture.
Revolved Lunge Pose (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
From a downward facing dog, step your left foot forward between your hands and lower your back knee to the ground. Inhale and lift your arms upward and exhale as you bring your hands to a prayer. Take a deep inhale and twist to the left. You may press the right elbow to the outside of the left knee but remember to keep lowering your shoulders. Keeping the hands at heart center in prayer, stay here or lift the back knee up and come up on to your back toes. Adding this twist to the traditional lunge pose helps stimulate the abdomen and can improve digestion. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
This pose requires strength and endurance. It generates heat and energy from the core and also draws upon energy from the glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders. From downward facing dog pose, roll forward and come into a plank. Bring your shoulder blades onto your back, activate your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine, and firm your quads and glutes. Hold here for 5 breaths.
Upward Facing Dog (Ardha Mokha Svasana)
Then, from plank, exhale to roll the hips forward into upward facing dog. You may begin to relax the knees onto the floor for a modified cobra, or stay there with legs activating pulling the knees off the floor. The upward facing dog is great to open up the heart center. Hold here as a counter for 1-2 breaths and relax all the way down to the floor.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
We will finish with a standing pose to keep the body warm and the mind alert after this winter yoga routine. Make your way to standing at the top of the mat and stand with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and envision yourself rooting from your tailbone into the ground underneath your mat. Close your eyes and place your palms over your heart, feeling the warmth of your hands. Continue breathing like this, focusing on the soft rise and fall of your chest for 5-10 more breaths. Open your eyes gently when finished.