There are so many benefits to a yoga practise, and so many ways we could spend our time. But specifically, how could yoga help when the days are cold and the nights are long?
Yoga can help us find warmth from within in the colder months. Both physically through our muscles and emotionally through self-compassion. Some forms of yoga have a fast and/or dynamic movement practise, that will quickly build inner heat. Or perhaps postures held for longer such as in a Hatha yoga class, will bring warmth to the large muscles in the body.
Just as important is the warmth we give ourselves emotionally. Winter can be a time when we start to be hard on ourselves but what we really need is some kindness and gratitude for what we are already doing.
Yoga encourages awareness of how amazing our body is and being content with where we are at. The physical Asana (poses) in yoga can help to release tensions held from being cold. If your posture changes in cold weather it may create tightness and we can release this on the mat. Poses such as twists, back bends and heart openers can release commonly held tightness in the chest and shoulders as we hunch against the cold.
Yoga can also boost the immune system which is beneficial when many winter bugs go around. It strengthens the lympathic system which rids us of toxins, which unlike our circulatory system doesn’t have it’s own pump. It relies on movement of our body, so forward folds and inversions are great for this.
Additionally, through focus on pranayama (life force) we can improve and control our breathing. We can learn how to breathe more fully, which may help us fight off respiratory illnesses like colds and coughs that abound in winter. It can help us to embrace the turning wheel of the year and the challenges that we face in life. Struggles on the mat such as balancing on one leg can carry over into our life. That maybe literally keeping your balance on an icy path, or it maybe overcoming feeling low or other obstacles we face in the rest of our lives.
Yoga can help improve our mood and beat the “winter blues”. Movement and meditation reduces stress and can trigger feel good hormones. Being in the present moment, moving our bodies, learning greater awareness of our bodies, all brings us to feeling calmer and better about life. We can feel encouraged to take things at our own pace. Yoga is non-competitive and not about pushing yourself to the max. In the depth of winter this is not what we need!
Many practises within the term yoga can be very still, and we can lean into the stillness of nature in wintertime. Plus you can stay warm! Yoga is usually practised inside this time of year (even in your own home!) and you can wear layers and even blankets for Shavasana (relaxation). Put on some candles and get cosy! As a yoga teacher in Norwich and North Norwich I think yoga is the perfect winter movement practise!
Check out more about Amber over on her website – https://www.yogawithamber.co.uk/