Winter Yoga For The Soul
In the lead up to winter, the air element has increased during windy Vata autumn season, and during winter we can begin to feel cold, heavy and lethargic; qualities of Kapha which related to the earth and water element in Ayurveda. Sometimes we can feel really stuck and find it hard to get motived when the earth and water elements become excessive - imagine soil, mixed with a bit of water creating a sludge like texture that’s hard to move through. It sounds like some of my winter dog walks underfoot! In high excess this sludge can almost grind us to a half and bring about a low mood. To help feel a bit lighter and brighter it can be nice to focus on the sunshine, focusing on its warmth, its energy, it’s vitality and is exactly why I chose to connect to the sunshine in a couple of my winter yoga flow classes.
During winter we’ve also done bellows breath, a tool that can be done to stimulate the solar plexus and bring heat, helping to spark the fire within and melt away any heavy sludge from the inside out. Bellows breath (known as Bhastrika in Sanskrit) involves creating a short active inhale and exhale, helping to stimulate the system and get stagnant energy flowing. This breath technique is suitable for most people, although it does some with a few cautions as it might be too stimulating for someone who suffers from panic disorders for example. Kapala bhati is another stimulating and highly cleansing breath, which focuses on an active and dominant exhale. Really pushing out any stale energy! Both also really great for toning the organs and stomach!
A couple of hand mudras that I’ve chosen to share with my yoga community are using are Prithvi and Agni Audra. Agni in Sanskrit can be translated to fire. Prithvi mudra, which involves touching the thumb and ring finger tips together increases energy, temperature and inner stability. Agni mudra is similar but bring more fire element whereby the thumb is placed on top of the ring finger which is curled down towards the palm, it increases heat, energy and strength. Mudras are powerful tools to support self-care and wellbeing, that have been developed over thousands of years. To be more specific, the term mudra applies to the use of hand gestures that carry specific goals of channeling your body’s energy flow. In Ayurveda it said that each finger and thumb connect to a different one of the 5 elements; earth, water, fire, air and space.
During sun salutation, we actually begin drawing the arms and our focus upwards towards the sun ‘saluting the sun’, sun salutations in itself is an energising sequence, ideal to help us to get going in the morning with a couple of rounds! It’s also very powerful as it links to movement with the breath, creating this connecting between the body and mind, helping to feel more centred.
Yoga poses to uplift the spirits during winter include expansive poses such as puppy pose, cobra, bridge, dancer - which are all heart opening back beds, also the warrior poses can help to ignite the inner strength! In contrast resting and relaxing yoga poses include Childs pose, knees to chest and seated forward folds, which all draw the focus and energy inwards. These restful poses help us to surrender to the slow and stillness of winter.
I truly believe that working with the seasons will help support wellbeing, what do you think?