Updated: Nov 24, 2018
As the seasons change, so do we. You will notice that in the height of summer, you seem to have an abundance of energy and jump out of bed early and are happily stay up to be social into the early hours of the morning, but in the winter you need a little more TLC to fight the desire to hibernate. Our energy seems to mirror our surroundings and we can adapt our yoga practice to reflect the seasonal changes.
Nature is slowing down after a productive summer in preparation for winter's long sleep and our bodies have the tendency to do the same. It is natural to slow down our practice and nurture ourselves a little more.
That’s not to say that we don’t ever want to fire ourselves up during the winter months and yoga can be an excellent way to burn those calories that aren’t being used up now that we are forced to spend more time indoors and less inclined to get our running shoes on or get out on our bikes. It is easy to stay active during the spring and summer when the long days and warm weather encourage us to get outside. However, it’s hard to maintain these activities moving into the autumn and winter.
There are many benefits to practicing yoga during the winter months and here are some examples of how it can improve your physical and mental health.
Practicing flowing vinyasa sequences can help to maintain joint mobility and increase circulation to loosen stiff joints. In winter we begin to stiffen up and bring our shoulders up around our ears in defence of the colder weather. A yoga practice session gives us the chance to open up our bodies. Heart and chest opening poses bring greater freedom of motion and help to maintain a sense of space within your body.
Yoga can also help protect the lower respiratory system. Breath is always a vital component in your asana practice, now is the time to consolidate this.
Consistent breathing through the nose will warm air before it enters the lungs, decreasing lung constriction that results from cold air entering the body. Deeper, rhythmic breathing can also help decrease nasal congestion and clear out mucus in the sinuses.
Numerous studies have demonstrated a whole list of physiologic benefits that come from regular practice of asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing). These include endocrine balancing, improved immune function, increased energy levels, improved sleep, and lowered stress response. All of these will have positive effects on prevention and treatment of seasonal respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu.
Yoga helps you build up your body temperature; that internal warmth and feeling that radiates throughout the entire day.
Lastly, yoga is the perfect antidote to the winter blues that creep in during the dark and cold winter months. Yoga can help reduce stress and elevate your mood, both of which help to ward off the winter blues. Coming together with a friendly group to share your practice on a cold rainy morning or a dark winters evening not only gets you out of the house and away from screens but offers you a social connection that’s healthy and supportive.
By committing to a consistent yoga practice each week, you are committing to improving your life, your body, and your whole wellbeing.