Winter season can create notable changes to our bodies and minds. Cold weather can cause us to slump over, tighten up, and hunch our shoulders to our ears. Holiday stress may aggravate this tension in our bodies, causing us to feel even tenser and more drawn inward. To combat winter blues, we can start from within by practicing yoga sequences that open our hearts. Try these five yoga poses to keep you happy, motivated, and energized through the long winter days.
Anjali Mudra seated meditation
Start your practice by taking a seat. Sit comfortably on a block, meditation cushion, or folded blanket. Draw your shoulder blades to your lower back and ground down your sit bones. Feel a lift in your crown. Close your eyes or gaze softly, and bring your hands together. Press your thumbs into your sternum. The Anjali Mudra gesture represents the unique gifts we get to the world. It also reinforces our compassion for all living things.
This gesture should be maintained for at least five minutes during seated meditation. Use the sensation of your chest expanding and contracting as an anchor to the present moment. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the present moment by focusing on your breathing.
Extend both arms straight out in front of your shoulders, palms inwards, and thumbs up.
Wrap your left arm under your right arm, bend your elbows, and wrap your forearms so that your palms touch. To feel your heart expanding, press your forearms towards the front of the mat. If you find this pose too intense, wrap your arms once or give yourself a bear hug by crossing your arms and grabbing opposite shoulder blades. Focus on the sensation in the back of the heart while you hold the pose for ten breaths. Repeat the exercise on your other side, but this time, wrap your left arm underneath your right.
Roll your shins over into a tabletop position with your hands and heels under your shoulders. Shift your weight from the tabletop to your left hand and your left knee. Kickstand your left leg so that the shin is parallel to the short edge of your mat. Extend your right foot backward with your pinky heel grounded. Open your chest and raise your right arm. Bring your right elbow over your right ear, and then hollow out your right armpit. As you press your hips up to the sky, breathe to create a feeling of widening on the right side. Hold this for ten breaths and then switch to the other side.
Dogs that face upward
Start by extending both legs to the plank, then flip on the tops of your feet and lower your pelvis until you are hovering off the ground. By bringing your kneecaps towards your pubic bone, you can activate your quadriceps. Lift your chest by drawing your chest into the openings of your arms. Hug your shoulder blades along your back. Lift your chin a little and look upwards to the area where the wall meets your practice space’s ceiling. The sphinx pose is good if you are experiencing compression in your lower back. Lower your legs, your pelvis, your belly, and your forearms down to the ground. Focus on the front of the heart space. However, you choose to do it. Hold for ten breaths.
Return to a chair with your spine straight and place a prop under your sit bones. Cross your shins, with the left shin placed in front of the right. Stay here if you can feel the outer hip muscles.
Bring your left knee up on top of your right. You can adjust your feet by using your hands to hold them parallel. Stay upright and focus on the sensations in your hips, as well as the lengthening of your spine. Or, you can walk your fingers toward the front edge of the mat while anchoring down with your sit bones. Feel the slightest backbend on each inhale as you lengthen your spine. Feel the expansion of your heart as you round forward on each exhale. Continue this breathing pattern for 15 deep breaths before moving to the other side.
We can develop a heart-opening sense that transcends our physical body by opening our space at the front, back, and sides. We can fight the winter blues by opening our hearts and embracing compassion.