24 Nov Off the mat winter practice
By: Mariah Laqua
Another Minnesota winter’s arrival welcomes in temperatures dipping below freezing, oversized jackets, scarves and hats. Whether walking, cycling, waiting for the bus or going from car to building, the cold easily and hastily affects both the third and fourth limbs of yoga – asana and pranayama. Asana is the physical postures of yoga and pranayama the controlling of the breath. With the simple incorporation of yogic principles, one can find warmth and light on the coldest of days.
Winter hunches the shoulders forwards, curling the body inwards to protect the internal organs. Our breath can become rapid and forced, with wintry winds often causing a sudden gasp as if plunging into icy waters.
Rather than allowing the brutal cold to contort one’s posture and breath the next time you are outside on a cold day try taking these simple steps to bring your practice off of the mat and into the world.
- Open your shoulders and relax your arms at your side as if taking tadasana (standing mountain pose).
- Feel your stomach and legs engage to support the expansion of breath through the chest.
- Breathe here. You can incorporate counting on your inhale and exhale, sighing out through the mouth, or other pranayama practices to your taste. If it is especially cold a scarf, buff or balaclava over the mouth can help ease your breath.
- Start walking, maintaining the integrity of your posture and controlled, steady breathing.
This practice can be a simple trick to help our body use the cold to boost its immune system, or can even be incorporated as the starting point for moving meditation. Controlling the breath helps the body receive oxygen and blood flow to the extremities, keeping us warm. It won’t hurt to visualize a sunny beach, either.