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Yoga has forever been an integral part of Asian culture as an expression of spirituality and a means to attain better mental and physical health. It amalgamates specific movements, breathing techniques, and meditation practices.
The past couple of decades has witnessed the rise of yoga in western culture, with more and more people practicing some form of yoga for physical activity or meditation. Yoga offers a unique antidote to the physical and mental problems faced by people in the modern world.
When you deep dive into the ancient literature that deals with yoga and its benefits, you can find that yoga can benefit several aspects of your life. In this article, we will deal with such attributes of yoga; how to use this practice for care and protection in winter.
Further in the article, we will discuss five ways yoga can help during the winter months. So read on to know more about these excellent benefits of yoga for winter.
1. Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
The winter months bring familiar, biting cold air, which, when inhaled, can cause respiratory issues such as sinusitis, sore throats, headaches, and so on. It is because our bodies are not accustomed to the cold, which becomes a massive problem for our health. Breathing exercises commonly practiced in popular yoga-based programs solve many of these problems.
Here you need to focus on two specific yoga-based breathing exercises:
Surya Nadi Pranayama
These two popular breathing exercises provide our bodies with the heat necessary to combat the cold winter air. Kapalbhati and Surya Nadi Pranayama are popular forms of Pranayama that can be performed by people who struggle with cold and cough infections during winter.
Let's see how Kapalbhati, with these forceful breathing techniques, forces the body to produce heat when done correctly with certain precautions.
You can think of it like stoking a fire in an old brick oven. To correctly perform the Kapalbhati breathing exercise, follow these steps.
Sit upright with your legs folded above each other in a criss-cross pattern.
Place your hands on your side or your knees, based on your preference.
Now try to breathe in and exhale with a sudden burst (try to be forceful while exhaling).
Your stomach must contract during this process; try to inhale in short bursts while exhaling with a sharp hissing noise.
People new to yoga can do this exercise for 5 to 10 repetitions. However, you should contact a registered yoga practitioner before trying this out.
2. Asana (Physical Postures)
Many people new to yoga believe that yoga only involves mindfulness and meditation practices. That is entirely untrue, as ancient yoga does have a specific branch that deals with physical postures and movements collectively known as yoga asanas.
Yoga asanas are an excellent way to increase overall mobility and muscle flexibility. Some yoga asanas have other benefits, like providing your body with eternal heat that can help fight the winter weather more efficiently.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation): This therapeutic practice opens up the mind and body to the sun's heat, helping to build heat in the body. Doing 10 to 20 Surya Namaskars in the morning can effectively beat the winter chill and boost your overall immunity. Additionally, you can try incorporating this pose into your yoga practice or use it as a standalone warm-up before engaging in other physical activities.
Twisted Chair Pose: This pose improves upper body flexibility and imbues heat, helping to boost immunity and fight off winter ailments. Try incorporating the twisted chair pose into your yoga practice, or use it as a way to stretch and warm up before engaging in other physical activities.
Downward-Facing Dog: This pose provides a gentle stretch for the entire body, helping to improve circulation and boost immunity. Incorporate the downward-facing dog into your yoga practice, or use it as a way to stretch and warm up before engaging in an exercise routine.
Cobra Pose: This pose helps stimulate the digestive system and boost immunity by improving circulation to the abdominal organs. It is also a great way to stretch the spine and release tension in the back.
Triangle Pose: This pose improves balance, strengthens the legs and hips, and stretches the spine, hips, and hamstrings. It also helps stimulate the digestive system and boost immunity.
Warrior Pose: This powerful pose strengthens the legs and hips, improves balance, and stimulates the immune system. It is also a great way to build heat in the body, especially during the colder months.
Child's Pose: This pose is a gentle stretch for the back and hips, helping to release tension and improve flexibility. It is also a great way to calm the mind and reduce stress, which can have a positive impact on the immune system.
Cat-Cow Pose: This simple and gentle flow between the Cat and Cow poses can help warm up the spine, improve circulation, and boost immunity. It is also a great way to release tension in the back and neck and prepare the body for more active yoga poses.
3. Meditation & Mindfulness
For most people, it is hard to understand how yoga for winter can be beneficial. But many ancient cultures believed that meditation and mindfulness were the keys to understanding the mental aspects of the body and how it feels. Hence, you can use meditation practices during the winter to heat your body and protect it from harsh temperatures. A particular type of meditation in yoga is tummo meditation.
One can perform tummo meditation by being seated in a comfortable position and being mindful of breath and body heat. It involves meditation with breathing and visualization techniques. When the air leaves our lungs, it can generate heat, and you will experience warmth.
One of the biggest mistakes people make while meditating is that they tend to force their body to meditate, which is wrong and not mindful. Meditation practices should never be done with a specific goal; they require patience, supreme calm, and concentration to execute appropriately. For beginners, one of the best tips is just to relax and focus on your breathing. Try to be mindful of your surroundings and at peace with them.
Some specific techniques, like guided meditation or YOG-NIDRA, can help beginners start meditation.
Yog Nidra, also known as "yoga sleep," is a type of guided meditation that is typically practiced lying down or seated in a comfortable position. The practitioner is guided through a series of mental and physical relaxations, focusing on different parts of the body and releasing tension. Yog Nidra is considered to be a deep form of relaxation and is said to have a calming and rejuvenating effect on the mind and body. It is often used to help alleviate stress, anxiety, and insomnia and to improve mental clarity and focus.
4. Ayurveda & Self-Care Rituals
Just like Pranayama and Asana are related, ayurveda is also associated with the ancient practices of yoga and meditation. During the winter months, along with performing yoga regularly, you need to take special care of yourself for the best results. Ayurveda can offer several tips to help you get through these harsh months.
Herbal teas are a great way to provide essential heat to the body, but these teas also have several ingredients that offer immunity to your body during the winter months. Herbs like turmeric and cinnamon also have several heat-producing elements, so including drinks that have a generous dose of these ingredients can help us beat the winter.
Warm-mist humidifiers are a great way to beat the harsh dry winter air. These humidifiers can be spiked with several essential oils, providing an overall pleasant environment during the dry winter days.
5. Diet & Lifestyle
The old school of Ayurveda believes that we are what we eat. Hence, you must take care of your diet during the winter. One of the best ways to avoid the winter chill is to eat more healthy foods. Foods like soups and stews are a great way to provide your body with essential nutrients and external warmth, which can help you better sustain yourself during the winter months.
Another thing you can do to beat the winter chill is to eat a little spicy food. These must not be unhealthy foods, but spices like peppercorns, fennel, coriander, cumin, etc., which are good to have during the winter. These spices can provide warmth, which can help beat the heat of the harsh winter months.
In terms of lifestyle changes, people can incorporate some small changes, like taking brisk walks during the winter months. You can include some form of exercise and yoga movements regularly. Soaking up in the early morning sun is another way to boost the body's vitamin D production and is good for health.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How yoga helps in winter?
Our bodies get stiffer in the winter—and that's not just because we're bundled up in sweaters and scarves! Our muscles and joints can also get stiff in the cold months, so it's essential to keep them loose and limber.
Yoga is a great way to warm up your muscles and joints, improve circulation, reduce stiffness and cramping, and help you stay active all day.
Here are five top benefits yoga provides, especially in winter
Boosts Immunity: Certain yoga poses, such as twisted chair pose and cobra pose, can stimulate the digestive system and improve circulation to the abdominal organs, helping to boost the immune system.
Increases Circulation: Yoga poses, such as Surya namaskar (sun salutation) and warrior pose, can help increase circulation, keeping the body warm and preventing cold-weather ailments.
Relieves Stress: Yoga practices, such as pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation, can help to relieve stress and improve mental clarity, which can have a positive impact on the immune system.
Improves Flexibility: Certain yoga poses, such as the child's pose and triangle pose, can help to release tension and improve flexibility, especially in the back and hips, which can become stiff and sore during the winter months.
Promotes Relaxation: Yoga practices, such as Yog Nidra and guided meditation, can promote deep relaxation and calm, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being.
Incorporating regular yoga practices into your winter routine can help you stay healthy and well-balanced, both physically and mentally. However, it is important to practice under the guidance of a trained Ayurveda and Yoga teacher, as improper technique can lead to negative side effects.
2. Can we do yoga in the winter season?
Yes! Yoga is a great way to stay fit, warm up, and relax your mind and body during the cold winter months. And the best part is, you don't have to go anywhere special to do it—you can practice yoga at home.
3. Which yoga is best for winter?
During the winter, there are different poses that you can do to keep yourself warm and healthy. The sun salutation is a sequence of poses that help build heat in the body. The fish pose opens the throat and chest. Bow Pose opens your chest by bending backward. All these poses can help you warm up your body.
Incorporating regular yoga practices into your winter routine can have long-lasting positive effects on your overall well-being. Not only does it provide immediate relief from the harsh winter winds and keep you healthy, but it can also improve flexibility, boost immunity, increase circulation, relieve stress, and promote relaxation. These benefits can continue to positively impact your life even after the winter months have passed. So don't hesitate to pick up your yoga mat and start reaping the benefits of this ancient practice today.