Baby, it’s cold outside!
There is no denying that winter is here. Evidenced by the freezing temperatures and the snow that is accumulating in my laneway right now. My boys are hoping for the first “snow day” of the year tomorrow!
I confess I am not a winter person (this is bad form for a Canadian, eh?) I much prefer the heat of summer. I am always looking for ways to find that warmth in the cold months. For one, I love feeling the sun when I sit in the perfect spot in my living room on a bright afternoon – divine. Naturally in the winter I also seek warmth in my yoga.
Warming Yoga Practices
Last week I talked about fueling your internal flame by creating a consistent yoga practice. Practicing regularly, even for 10 minutes a day, can help you stay connected to your practice. Moving your body, moves your energy and heats you up.
Poses that Build Heat
Are you feeling the cold? Try some warming yoga sequences, such as sun salutations or other vinyasa flows. Definitely don’t ditch the gentler moves. But consider adding in some extra yang/sun practices – even if that means just adding in a new pose to spice up your normal routine.
Backbends are warming. Add an extra one to your regular practice this week. Warrior would be another good choice. The warrior postures recruit many of the large muscle groups simultaneously, which generates heat!
I really like this heart opening flow from Yoga Download. It includes both backbends and warrior poses. The 20-minute version is free and it’s just the right amount of time for a nice home practice that will wake and warm you.
How about a nice hot cup of Yogi Tea? It contains many warming spices such as, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper and cardamom. A couple of weeks ago, Cristy emailed me to say that she drinks yoga tea during flu season to stay healthy. Yogi tea is based on an Ayervedic recipe where spices are often used as medicine. Cloves, for example, are a potent antiviral.
Here is a recipe for yogi tea if you would like to try it out. I love that this recipe lists the benefits beside each spice.
For each cup:
- 10 ounces of water (about 1-1/3 cups)
- 3 whole cloves – cloves support the nervous system
- 4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked – cardamom works as a digestive aid
- 4 whole black peppercorns – peppercorns purify the blood
- ½ stick cinnamon – cinnamon strengthens the bones and immune system
- 1 to 2 slices fresh ginger root – ginger increases energy, boosts the immune system
- ¼ teaspoon or 1 small bag of black tea
- ½ cup milk – milk helps assimilate the spices
Bring water to a boil. Add spices. Cover and continue to boil gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Add black tea. Let sit for a few minutes, then add the milk and return to a boil. Watch carefully. As soon as it begins to boil again, remove from the heatand strain. Sweeten with maple syrup or honey.
(Recipe from: YogiTeaByYogiBhajan)
Breath of Fire
Kapalabhati breathing (or breath of fire) is a powerful and energizing breath that builds heat though the bellowing action of the abdomen. The word Kapalabhati is Sanskrit and translates to shining skull. I have seen it interpreted as “warmness of the soul.” What a beautiful idea – warming not only your body but also your soul.
Breath of fire is both calming and energizing. It is good for digestion and is detoxifying. It tones the abdominals and moves prana (energy) throughout all your systems.
Please note: You should not practice breath of fire if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease or epilepsy.
To do Breath of Fire:
- Sit tall with your your spine extended either with legs crossed or in Seiza (feet tucked under, hips on heels)
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale quickly and forcefully through your nose. When you exhale, your abdominal muscles will contract and pull your stomach in towards your spine. Focus on forceful exhales and let the inhalations occur passively.
- Right after the passive inhalation, exhale again forcefully and continue in a steady rhythm.
- Continue for about10 breaths and then pause. Do two to four more sets.
Have a look at this video to get an idea of what it looks like.
For an off-the-mat (and hilarious) use of breath of fire, be sure to have a look at Jill’s post here.
That is all for now. Hit reply and let me know how you plan to stay warm this winter!
Warmly (at least that’s my hope),