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In the deep mid-winter…

Winter is a time of rest and consolidation – recovering from the autumn harvest and preparing for the energetic burst into spring.

I always think it is a bit of a contradiction that we are so busy in winter time – working and partying hard, preparing for the festive season, launching into new year resolutions – when our bodies would really like to be still and hibernate. Then we wonder why we come down with colds, ‘flu and sickness bugs!

So, I thought I’d share with you this time, some of our favourite tips, at Inside Out, for staying healthy during winter.

Winter is a cold, damp, heavy season and Eastern philosophies believe that the kidneys, lungs, pancreas and mucus membranes need the most help during this season.

In winter we also find we are more drawn to warm, comfort foods, which is right if these are wholesome warming foods we are choosing, but all too often in winter we crave sweet things and stodgy foods which do not serve us quite so well.

Our yoga practise, at this time, needs to be a beautiful balance of invigorating, heating postures and sequences combined with stillness and quiet time.

Warm up with these favourite practises:

  1. Sun sequences (surya namaskar) and Dru’s Inner Fire sequence (agni sarav). These will get your circulation going, boost your immune system, warm up your muscles, give your kidneys a massage (kidneys hate to be cold and really appreciate a bit of tlc) and stoke your digestive fires.

  2. Use back bends, such as camel (ustrasana), fish (matsyasana) and tiger (vyagrasana) to stimulate the kidneys and help clear mucus from the lungs. Always counter after with a forward bend. Try the seated forward bend (paschimottasana) which has the added bonus of really benefitting the pancreas, great if you have indulged a sweet tooth.

  3. Try working with pigeon pose (eka pada raja kapotasana), although it can be a challenging pose for many, it has great benefits to offer us in winter.From a kneeling position, extend your right leg behind you. Engage your core muscles, inhale and raise your arms in front at shoulder height, as you exhale rotate towards your back leg (ie. if your right leg is behind rotate to the right), bending the front arm at the elbow so it folds in front of the chest. Look along your extended arm. When you’re ready return to face the front again and repeat on the other side. Work with it slowly, do not tolerate any pain or discomfort and remember you can always use a chair – Sit on the corner of a chair, so that you can stretch one leg back, front leg bent at the knee so the shin is on the vertical.Avoid this posture if you have knee, hip or lower back problems.

  4. Give yourself time to do a proper relaxation. If you struggle to settle invest in a guided relaxation CD, it gives your mind something else to focus on, giving the body chance to relax.

  5. Focus on a candle flame (tratak) to help alleviate SAD.

  6. Try Pigeon Breath to help strengthen the lungs and clear the mind.

Do try some yoga at home, between classes, you will benefit and if you find remembering what to do a challenge ask your tutor to take you through the moves in class or ask about our range of CD’s, books and DVD’s designed to guide you through a home practise.

Next time I’ll be sharing some of our favourite non-yoga ways to look after ourselves in winter.

Take care and stay warm Ix

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