Winter mini flows
The first months of the year are the perfect time to reflect on your self-care routines and proactively take some preemptive measures to stay well over the colder months. By Ruth Delahunty
Yoga can support you through winter days where the temperatures suddenly plummet and your immune system is being bombarded with winter viruses. It also helps you when work and life demands are pulling you in both directions and no matter how deep you dig you just can't find the energy to get out of bed in the dark mornings!
Yoga is hugely beneficial at any time of the day – from an early morning stretch, a lunchtime de-stress or an evening wind-down. These sequences are designed to be short, efficient and easy to incorporate at any time of day. They will reset your system, stretch and strengthen your whole body and alleviate winter stiffness. They will prepare you for whatever the day has in store for you when practiced in the morning, or set you up for a good night's sleep when practiced in the evening.
Each of these sequences is designed to combat four different winter challenges and set you up for the shorter days and long months ahead.
The benefits of immune system flow
On those colder days when you can't get warm, no matter how many jumpers you layer on, twists are your saviour! They fire your internal generator and boost your circulation. They bring fresh oxygenated blood to all the organs of the abdominal region – fuelling them for optimum functionality. These biological functions naturally create heat which keeps you warm, cosy and glowing from the inside out. Starting your practice with any of the Surya Namaskars will very quickly build whole body heat too.
The benefits of internal generator flow
The immune system can get quite a hammering over the winter months. A simple head cold can lower your defences enough to kick start a run of nasty winter viruses. Backbends and twists massage and stimulate the lining of the gut and help it work more efficiently at its many jobs – one of them being producing 80% of the immune system. A healthy gut fuels all the cells of the body and builds a strong, reactive immune system. Inversions and twists also boost blood and lymph circulation to help the body carry oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to all the cells of the body, and remove toxins.
The benefits of stress relief flow
Ever heard of the winter blues? Yes, it's a proven fact that we are inclined to feel more stressed and depressed over the winter months. Symptoms of stress crop up in many different ways. Tension in the hip join can be brought on by sitting for long hours, but it can also be a sign of chronic stress as the body gets stuck in fight or flight mode. Hip opener poses help to shift this physical tension, and in turn release emotional tension too. Practice this sequence at a slower pace, pause in poses and take some deep breaths to help calm the nervous system.
The benefits of energy burst flow
There is a reason why you might feel more tired and sleep longer in the winter months. When there are less daylight hours, or days where the sun doesn't make much of an appearance at all, melatonin, our sleepy hormone, continues to be produced and leaves you feeling a bit lethargic. Backbends and twists are very energising. They stretch the muscles of the respiratory system and help expand the breath – drawing in extra oxygen and circulating it around the whole body. Standing poses use the big muscles of the legs and increase circulation making you feel more awake. The challenge of the balancing poses instantly wake you up.
Exploring winter mini flows in your practice
Each mini flow will take around 15 miunutes. If you would like to practice for longer, add more rounds of Surya Namaskar C, illustrated above, in between each standing mini flow. When flowing through the mini flows indicated by the arrows, start with the right leg forward first, and then repeat this group of poses on the left side. Keep your transitions simple and when in doubt, link pose through a Downward Dog or come back to Tadasana at the top of your mat, and step back into your next pose. Take your time and enjoy the poses that nourish you, remember you are the boss of your practice. If you are really struggling to get on your mat just try a few rounds of the Surya Namaskar. They are the adaptogens of the yoga world. When you need calming, they calm you, when you need energy, they energise you!
Ruth Delahunty is a RYT500hr yoga teacher, founder of Yogaru and creator of the 108 Asana yoga sequencing cards product range.