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Winter Yoga Routine

June 2, 2011

“In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature”.  (Edna O’Brien). Winter is indeed a time of stillness, giving us an opportunity for inner reflection.  It can also be a time when we need a little extra motivation to keep up our yoga practice – an ideal time to stay indoors and develop a home practice.

The following yoga sequence will help keep your body warm, induce a sense of well-being and boost your immunity against seasonal illness this winter.  In tune with the natural tendency of nature to slow down during the winter months, practice the movements in a slow and gentle way, mindful of the rhythm and intimacy of the breath.

You can use the sequence as a stand-alone short practice or as part of a longer sequence after some cycles of Surya Namaskar(Salute to the Sun):

  • 1.        Start in Vajrasana, (Thunderbolt  pose) by sitting on your heels with your hands on your knees. Do a couple of cycles of deep abdominal breathing, extending the abdomen on the in breath and pulling back to the spine on the out breath. Continue the breathing cycle with Kapalabhati, (Skull Shining breath) as you take a long slow inhalation through both nostrils and exhale forcefully through the nose, simultaneously pulling your stomach back to the spine.  Repeat 10 times. Return to some long in- and exhalations to normalise your breathing. Caution: avoid Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, have heart disease, high blood pressure or a hernia.
  • 2.        Move into Balasana, (Extended Child pose) as you sit back onto your heels, stretching your arms in front of you with your forehead on the floor. With your feet hip width apart exhale  as you lift your knees away from the floor and straighten your arms as you move into Adho Mukha Svanasana  (Downward Facing Dog). Stay in the posture for 6 breaths .  Walk your feet forward between the hands into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), tucking the fingers underneath the toes – knees bend if required.
  • 3.       Raise the body up into Utkatasana, (the Chair pose) by bending your legs, dropping the buttocks and raising the arms in front of you shoulder height. Stay for 6 breaths.
  • 4.        Place your hands on the floor next to your feet and step or jump both legs backwards into Plank pose with the toes curled under, arms straight and hands positioned under the shoulders. On the next inhalation bring the right knee towards your navel as you round the back and on an exhalation release the right leg straight back into Plank. Repeat the dynamic plank with your left leg – 4 times each, working with your capacity.
  • 5.        Exhale into Downward Facing Dog. On an exhalation raise your right leg behind you and bring your right foot forward between your hands, lifting your torso and arms into Virabadhra I, (Warrior I pose). Repeat on the other side.
  • 6.        Use Downward Facing Dog as a transition pose before moving into Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, (the Pigeon Pose) by bringing your bent right knee forward between the hands to rest on the inside of your right wrist, right heel pointing in towards your body. Stretch your left leg behind you, the top of the foot on the floor, squaring your hips to the front.  Repeat on the other side.
  • 7.        From Pigeon pose push back into Downward Facing Dog before releasing into Anahatasana, (Heart Chakra Pose) as you release onto all fours, your hips aligned over your knees, stretching your arms out in front of you with the forehead on the floor. Stay for 6 breaths.
  • 8.       Slide forward into a supported Bujangasana, (Cobra Pose) with your elbows and forearms on the floor directly under your shoulders.  Enjoy for 6 breaths or longer.
  • 9.       Release your chest to the floor, arms stretched out in front of you before you roll over onto your back hugging both knees as you release the back.
  • 10.   To retain your body heat cover yourself with a blanket before you release into the restorative posture Savasana, (Corpse Pose) with your legs separated, arms relaxed by your side and palms turned up. Savour the delight of releasing and letting go.
  • 11.   For the first couple of minutes in Savasana do some rounds of Brahmari pranayama, (Bee Breath)  as you inhale deeply from both nostrils and exhale through the nose with a humming sound.  The humming vibration has a beneficial effect on the immune system. Notice the delightful silence and sense of inner stillness. Rest in Savasana for at least 10 minutes or more.
  • 12.   Retain the stillness as you gently roll up to a sitting position for your meditation practice.
Janetta van der Merwe is a certified yoga teacher through Ananda Kutir where she is currently teaching. She has been working in Higher Education in the field of copyright for many years and is a life-long student in Yoga, Buddhism and Psychology.
Many thanks to two wonderful yoga teachers Marion Bartko-McCabe for modelling and Victoria Fearon for assisting.
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