Yoga practice

Winter yoga practice

When it’s cold outside, seek the warmth within

In these cold winter days, we can use some extra heat to keep our bodies warm and our minds active. The yoga exercises below will warm you up and make you move.

It is important to keep moving, even when you’d rather curl up in a blanket and stay inside. According to yoga philosophy, everything consists of three qualities: the three gunas. These are sattva, the pure and balanced quality; rajas, the quality of fire and activity; and tamas, the quality of heaviness and repetition. In winter, you can mainly recognize tamas. You can see more stillness around you in nature, the water is freezing, animals go in hibernation. Maybe you notice that you need more sleep or that you feel gloomier (think of the well-known winter dip). The good thing about the gunas is that they can balance each other. Since we have more tamas now, we can create a little more rajas ourselves for a healthy balance.

Rajas represents activity and fire. In yoga, the fire element is connected to one of the zeven chakras: manipura chakra. This chakra is located just above the navel and is associated with the digestive system. Targeting manipura chakra will boost the digestion, so that food is converted into energy. Manipura chakra can be found at the level of the pancreas, which indeed plays an important role in metabolism.

Moreover, manipura chakra represents willpower and dynamic movement. This means that both biological and psychological characteristics can be strengthened when manipura chakra is stimulated.

Which yoga exercises can activate manipura chakra?

A few powerful breathing exercises, such as ujjayi breath and kapalbhati (which is actually a kriya, a cleansing practice), make you activate your core, creating heat in your body.

In addition, many yoga poses are connected to the inner fire, particularly exercises for the core and twists. Some examples of core exercises are plank variations (high plank, side plank, elbow plank), boat pose and yogi bicycles. For twists, think of seated twist, twisting from high lunge or twisting from chair pose. These will all boost the digestive system and create heat in the body.

With these exercises, you can sufficiently warm up your body and activate your mind too, which is exactly what you need in the cold winter season. Add on to this some warming foods and drinks, such as spicy dishes and ginger tea, as well as sufficient warmth in your surroundings (lots of candles!) and in contact with others (give each other a big hug). Then you will hopefully create all the warmth you need inside as well as outside!

In these pictures, you can see a sequence for your inner fire.

  1. To warm up, do a few breathing exercises (activate ujjayi) and sun salutations.
  2. Start in a downward facing dog and lift up your right leg (three-legged dog).

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3. Pull your knee towards your nose and bring your shoulders above your wrists. Repeat this movement 3-5 times to warm up.

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4. Step your right leg forward in a high lunge, then bring your hands in prayer pose and twist. After 5 breaths, step back to downward facing dog and repeat on the left side.

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5. Bring both hands right under your shoulders and step both legs to the back for a high plank. Hold for 5 breaths.

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6. Continue to boat pose, pulling your navel in and opening your chest. Hold for 5 breaths.

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7. From boat pose, grab your big toes with your index finger and thumb. Stretch your legs to the side one by one – you don’t have to stretch them fully, it’s mainly about balancing!

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8. For the final twist, bring your right leg on the floor (you can stretch it forward if you want to). Cross your left leg over your knee and pull your knee towards your chest. Then hook your right elbow over your left knee, support your back by placing your left hand behind your tailbone. On each inhale, lengthen your spine; on each exhale, twist a little deeper. After 5 breaths, change legs and twist to the other side.

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9. End your sequence in savasana.

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