5 Warming Yoga Practices

by Lindy Zupko
Defy a dark winter.

The cold, dark days of winter are the perfect time to roll out your yoga mat and enjoy a deep Vinyasa flow. Yoga warms your mind, body, and spirit with dynamic movements, poses, meditation, and breathwork. The heat you generate on the mat conditions your entire body from head to toe. On top of that, it feels fantastic.

A vigorous flow boosts your immune system and flushes your skin with healthy color, the yoga glow. A regular practice infuses the deepest parts of your being with energy and serenity – replacing the winter blues with bliss.

So, the next time the cold wind howls on the horizon enticing you to skip yoga practice, defy it. Throw on a cozy hoodie and joggers, and nourish yourself instead with a warm and healthy winter yoga routine!

Snow-ga, anyone?!

A woman sitting in a yoga pose in front of a sunlit window.

5 Heat-Building Techniques

These three foundational poses and two breathing techniques will warm you up and strengthen your flow. Feel free to use props and modifications as needed.

 

POSES (ASANAS)

Plank Pose (phalakasana)                                                     

(Tones core and gluteal muscles, while working the spine)

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with a neutral spine and wrists directly under your shoulders
  • Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands
  • Tuck your toes and push yourself up, maintaining a straight line from your heels to your head
  • Look at the floor and keep your head in a neutral position without tension
  • Hold the pose for as long as you can, gradually building time

Chair Pose (utkatasana)                                                        

(Builds strength and stamina in the thighs and gluteal muscles)

  • Stand with your feet facing forward, hip-distance apart
  • Inhale and extend your arms forward at shoulder height or straight above your head with palms facing each other
  • Exhale and bend your knees so that your thighs are close to parallel to the floor as possible. Engage your glutes and legs.
  • Tuck your tailbone in slightly, toward the floor, lengthening your spine. (Your torso should form close to a 90-degree angle over your thighs)
  • Shift your weight into your heels
  • Gaze forward and hold the pose for as long as you can – up to one minute
  • Release the pose into a standing forward fold

Warrior 3 (virabhadrasana 3)                                               

(Tones core muscles and improves balance)

  • Stand in a lunge position with your feet facing forward, with hands on your waist.
  • Shift your weight to the front leg and slowly lift the back leg toward the wall behind you as you lean forward with your right arm outstretched.
  • Keep lifting your back leg until your body forms a T, with your torso and back leg parallel to the floor
  • If you feel stable enough, straighten your arms toward the front to create a straight line from arms to extended leg
  • Keep legs straight and hips parallel to the ground for 3-5 breaths
  • Come back to standing and repeat on the opposite side

 

BREATHING (PRANAYAMA)

Victorious Breath (ujjayi)

The inhale/exhale of this technique sounds like waves receding on a shoreline when done correctly.

  • Take a deep inhale (to your belly) through your nose
  • With a closed mouth, exhale slowly through the nose while constricting your throat muscles
  • Use the same method to inhale, gently constricting the throat

Breath of Fire (kapalabhati)

Generate heat through rapid, rhythmic breathing. This exercise is not for anyone with high or low blood pressure.

  • Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position
  • Inhale through both nostrils, expand the chest
  • Expel the breath from the nostrils with forceful, short contractions from the belly. The navel pulls toward your spine repetitively for the duration.
  • Inhale deeply through the nostrils, exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Do not strain. Do not continue longer than one minute.

 A woman sitting in a cross-legged meditative yoga pose in front of the ocean.

This winter, invest in yourself. Explore the joy of a winter yoga practice. By spring, you’ll be glad you did. Of course, the first step of setting aside the time to get on your mat is the hardest. Hopefully, these five techniques will help get you started.

Close your eyes. Silence your mind. Focus on your intention.

Happy winter!

Namasté


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