How to Warm up Your Yoga this Winter

Winter yoga

Cold temperatures and icy streets dampen everyone’s motivation to move. It’s tempting to curl up with a cup of tea or coffee and just avoid everything until it warms up. But, as a yogi, you know that getting yourself to your mat always helps you feel better about yourself and helps you ignore the weather. So, you probably make even more of a priority to get to class when it’s miserable outside. Or, maybe you take that as your time to design your own home practice and focus on what works for you. By the end of the practice, the chill feels just a little less unbearable and you feel less like turning into an icicle.

But, yoga can do a lot more to brighten your winter than just help you get through it. Even if you aren’t taking class in a hot studio, the way you sequence poses and the intent with which you execute them can make your practice a wonderful tool for igniting your physical and mental inner fire.

Of course, some techniques to do this are common sense—you can move more quickly or focus on more difficult poses. And, there are a few twists on standard poses that also help rev up your time on the mat.

When you’re trying to craft a warming practice, the key is to find poses and sequences that raise your core temperature. Vigorous movement and breath help (think Breath of Fire or strong poses like Plank Pose). Adding a flow or vinyasa between poses is another great way to bring the heat. The more dynamic your practice, the faster it will heat you up.

Here are some yoga tips for winter:

1. Amp Up Your Warm Up

If you usually start with three series of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), try five. The flowing movements of this basic sequence are a great way to warm up your entire body. Plank Pose helps you engage your shoulders, core and back. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) gently releases your hamstrings. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) helps lengthen your calves. As you get the blood flowing through each muscle group, your core temperature will start to rise, getting you ready for the rest of your practice.

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Yoga to increase body heat

2. Use Core Power

Engaging your core muscles makes your body work harder in any pose, and that drives up your practice. Think of drawing your navel to your spine in each pose you perform. Imagine your abdominal muscles drawing together to help lengthen your torso as you move. And, add in core strengthening yoga poses like Boat Pose to your practice during the cold weather. You can add it early in your practice to help get your core going faster, or at the end if you prefer.

3. Add a Dynamic Twist

While not strictly classical yoga, many of the movements that have become part of the lexicon for styles like vinyasa and flow help you get warmer. Try moving from Downward-Facing Dog Pose to Plank Pose. Or, you can try starting in Downward-Facing Dog and bringing one knee to the opposite elbow. Repeat on the other side and switch legs for a total of eight sets on each leg. Think of contracting your core as you perform these movements. You can also add in your arms in poses like Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I). Draw your hands into fists and exhale powerfully as you bring your elbows by your sides. (This variation comes from yoga teacher Sadie Nardini).

4. Involve Your Breath

Warming yoga poses for cold winter days

Breathing is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to heat your body. With every breath you take, imagine the warmth traveling throughout your system, from your head to your toes. As you exhale, visualize that deep heat being retained in your body. Keep your breath deep and even—breathing faster doesn’t help. Instead, try to make each breath as deep as you can.

5. Use Visualization

It can also help to set a heat-related intention for your practice. Take a minute before you start your session to visualize a warm place, color or object. As you practice, put yourself into that image. Feel warm air on your face. Imagine your muscles loosening in the heat. At the end of the practice, take your time in Corpse Pose (Savasana) to let those feelings run through your body before you leave your mat or hit the studio door.

6. Be Practical

If you are practicing at home, you might want to wear warmer clothes than usual. If you are going to a studio, make sure you have plenty of warm layers so you don’t get chilled leaving the studio.

These are just a few ways to help your yoga heat you up inside and out. Do you have any other ways you warm up your yoga in cold temperatures? Please share them in the comments!

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