The weather has transitioned to become beautifully crisp and cold over the last few weeks but as the temperature drops, it can sometimes feel challenging to get warm. While we can always wrap up in a warm blanket, sweater and socks, we can also find ways to move our energy from the inside and build up some heat from our center. When you feel warm on the inside, your whole body can soften, relax and feel safe.
Yoga can feel like giving yourself a warm hug, receiving permission to feel good about yourself – and has even been described simply as a sensation of ‘coming home’. One way to tap into this sensation and to build up warmth from the inside is to work through some simple ‘pratapana’, or warm ups. In addition to building physical heat, they increase the flow of ‘prana’ (or life force), energize the mind and can help us to be more present in the moment, which can be especially challenging at this time of year.
Being careful to avoid straining cold muscles, start by putting on some warm, comfortable yoga clothes. As you move into each warm-up, slowly deepen your breath and stay relaxed and loose in your body.
1. Lie on your mat on your back with your knees in at your chest. Start by rocking from side to side to warm up the spine. Relax your neck and allow the head to be heavy. After a while, slowly change direction and begin to rock forwards and backwards gently until you eventually come all the way up to sitting, with your shins crossed in front of you.
2. As you inhale, lift your arms up overhead, spin your little fingers forward, drop your shoulders down; as you exhale, keep the arms extended and release them all the way back down to the floor until the fingertips touch the ground. Do this 5-10 times to warm up the shoulder sockets.
3. Come over to hands and knees, with the shoulders over the wrists and the knees under the hips. Move through some cat / cow stretches – opening the chest and moving the tailbone up towards the ceiling on the in-breath, dropping the tailbone and the crown of the head towards the earth on the out-breath, rounding the spine. Do this 5-10 times to flex and extend the spine.
4. Stay in a tabletop position, keeping the palms pressed firmly on the ground. As you inhale, extend your right leg long directly behind you, parallel with the ground; as you exhale, draw your right knee in towards your chest, coiling in. Inhale, extend the leg out behind you, exhale draw knee to chest. Do this 5-10 times and then gently bring your knee back to the ground. Pause before you move on to do the same thing on the left side.
5. Press your hips back to rest on your heels in Child’s pose and notice the quality of energy in your body. Sit up tall on your heels and allow your breath to regulate.
Stay warm and happy holidays!