As the chill of winter sets in with its snow and icy winds, it brings vicious ailments with it. From seasonal affective disorder (SAD), colds, and flu to skin issues and exhaustion, cold weather is tough on all of us.
While hunkering down under a foot of blankets with a good book is a very cozy option, making tweaks to your yoga routine can also make the freezing months a lot more pleasant. Here, yogis Sara Quiriconi and Kristin McGee open up about how to use yoga to thrive all winter long.
Why yoga is especially important right now
Yes, you should be doing yoga year-round. But lack of sunlight and low temperatures can dampen your mood like no other season, so keeping up your yoga practice is more vital than ever. "Yoga is a natural antidepressant," says Kristin. "Yoga can be done inside, so it's perfect for when we can't get outdoors."
Although she lives in Miami now, Sara is a New England native and remembers how important yoga was for keeping her joints healthy during brutal winters. "Cold temperatures mean joints can get short and tight very easily."
Poses to focus on
While any yoga practice is better than no yoga practice, if you have only a few minutes every day, keep some things in mind: Your immune system needs help, you're hunched over because of the cold, and winter is associated with the kidneys in traditional Chinese medicine.
"Any poses that help keep the kidneys moist like moving twists are great, and child's pose and forward folds help us go inward," says Kristin. "Also, heart-opening poses that counteract your hunch are a good idea."
In order to drain the lymphatic system and keep the immune system strong, Sara recommends poses like side bends in lunge postures, sun salutations, bow pose, triangle, and fish pose.
"Poses that open the chest, throat, and sinuses remove congestion in the respiratory organs include fish, boat, bow, locust, lion, and camel poses, shoulder stand, and the headstand," she adds.
Give these breathing exercises a try.
Breath is a powerful tool both for staying warm and keeping your mood elevated. Sara notes that breath of fire is great for building heat and that alternate nostril breathing is her go-to when her mood needs a boost.
Kristin suggests trying Kapalabhati skull shining breath as well. "Viloma is a simple technique that cuts the breath in sections and helps to expand the lungs," she adds.
Good luck out there, and let your yoga practice make this winter the best one yet.