Stress is part of everyday life; no one will argue that. But what you might not be aware of is how it’s affecting you, especially if you rarely or never take the opportunity to slow down and relax your body and mind. But self-care, like yoga practice, is important in the winter and every season.
Stress comes from all sorts of different things. Students may worry about their grades, adults think about when their next paycheck is coming, and seniors have to plan out the rest of their lives, sometimes with limited resources. It can also come from general busyness, lack of sleep, and other day-to-day situations.
Think back. Try to picture the last time you took time for yourself. The last time you stopped to enjoy your life. The last time you were fully present in the moment. If nothing comes to mind, it’s time for a change.
When people go through stressful times, they react in different ways. Some people instantly look to medication for the answer to stress relief while others turn to more alternative healing. Why not try some energizing winter yoga to combat both your stress and the cold, white, snowy days?
Why Winter Yoga?
There are multiple ways stress can affect the quality of your life, from creating tension in your muscles to fogging up your mind to restricting your breathing. And, though many times you’re unaware of it, it interferes with your quality of life, preventing you from being your best self. This is why it’s essential to move your body regularly. If a simple walk can do you good, think of what serious practicing can accomplish.
What Are the Benefits of Practicing Winter Yoga?
Numerous studies show how effectively yoga can help you fight off the winter blues. While any exercise can reduce your cortisol levels—a hormone guilty of increasing your stress level—yoga seems to be particularly helpful. For example, the yoga pose “corpse” can help you fully relax after a yoga class or even at the end of a stressful day.
Another benefit of yoga is that it loosens your tight muscles. Many people accumulate stress in their muscles, like their shoulders, making them feel tight and tense. Yoga can help you relax every muscle in your body while simultaneously toning and stretching them.
Many diseases get worse during winter, like osteoarthritis, and if you suffer from any kind of muscle or bone illness or disorder, winter yoga will help relieve your pain. It will increase your blood circulation and make your whole body warm, including those feet that somehow never get warm enough.
Winter inevitably causes a deficit in the vitamins we take into our bodies. Even the fruits and veggies we eat are not fresh from the farmer’s markets but travel a long distance to reach us.
With all this in mind, grab your yoga mat and either find a yoga class nearby or start practicing at home. Your body will thank you.
Simple Yoga Sequence to Stay Loose in the Winter
If going to the gym is not your thing, you can easily set up a yoga studio at home. All you need is a yoga mat.
I’ve put together a simple winter yoga sequence you can do to get your heart rate up, keep your body in shape, and relax your mind:
Start in a cross-legged position with your back straight. Lift your hands towards the sky while inhaling and spreading your fingers wide apart. Quickly pull your hands down while exhaling with your hands in fists.
Repeat 10 times, each time being mindful of your breaths.
Get into tabletop position, so that your hands are under your shoulders, your knees are under your hips, and your back is straight. On your exhale, arch your back toward the ceiling, creating a backbend through your spine, lifting your belly up. Inhale and pull your chest towards the floor, lifting your chin and your butt toward the ceiling.
Repeat 5–10 times each, switching between the positions.
Backbend Yoga Camel Pose
Start in a seated position, with your feet under your butt. Straighten your back. On the inhale, lift yourself up, shooting your hips towards the ceiling, and lifting your right hand in front of you, then toward the ceiling, and finally grab your heel. Hold for a breath and return to sitting. Do the same with your other hand.
Repeat 8–10 times.
When looking to implement a yoga routine in the winter, don’t skip the tree pose. Root your feet to the ground and feel your weight distributed equally. Keeping your right knee unlocked, slowly lift your left leg off the ground and balance. Keeping your balance, lift your left foot’s sole and place it on your inner right thigh. Lock your gaze on a non-moving object, so you balance more easily. Hold for 5–10 breaths and lower. Repeat with your other leg.
Standing Side Stretch
Root both feet firmly into the ground. Inhale and lift your hands up and interlace your fingers, pulling yourself up toward the ceiling. Keeping your legs firm and your core engaged, slowly tilt to your right side. Return to center and repeat with the other side. Be careful not to bend too much; stop when you feel a good stretch.
Continue for 2 minutes, alternating sides.
Stand up straight with your feet rooted to the floor. On your inhale, slowly start bending your knees, like you would when you are about to sit down. Go as low as is comfortable, while lifting your hands straight towards the sky. Make sure your feet are firm on the ground, shifting your weight to the back. Keep your back straight and hold for a few breaths.
Repeat 8–10 times.
This pose is a great hip opener for winter yoga practice! Come onto your hands and knees in the middle of your mat. Walk your hands forward so they are not right beneath your shoulders. Lift your right leg and pull your knee forward to touch your inner left wrist. Lower your hips to the floor, keeping your back straight and your hips even. Your left leg should be straight. Lower down on your forearms and rest your forehead on your hands or the floor, moving your attention to your breath. Take 5–10 deep breaths, feeling your hips opening and your legs strong. Come back to your hands and knees and repeat on the other side.