"Warming & Restoring for the Winter Season" by Laurel Marsh

Winter is officially here and the holiday season is behind us.  With this comes cold temperatures, snow, shorter days and longer nights.

During this time of year our attention naturally wants to draw inwards (think of all the animals hibernating) and we should respect that.  It’s a wonderful time of introspection and yin yoga, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, and self-care practices support this.  However, due to shorter days, longer nights, cold weather, and a desire to turn inwards, the body tends to hold onto more and become stagnant.  This can cause poor circulation, stiff joints, weight gain, mild depression, lethargy, and a weakened digestive fire.  To counter the potential of sinking into the winter blues and to stay healthy during the chilly season, it’s important to move enough so that you’ll create some internal heat, but not to the point of exhaustion.  Think slow and rhythmic flows such as sun salutations, grounding but somewhat heating poses such as backbends, and poses that gently compress the belly.  Add in some restorative poses, a long savasana or meditation and you should be good to go.

To help keep you balanced, warm, and in good health this winter try incorporating one or all of these yogic practices into your routine. 

I would also like to invite you to join me for a 90-minute class: Warming & Restoring for the Winter Season on Saturday, February 2nd from 1:30-3pm.  Click here to register.

Ardha Surya Namaskar (Half Sun Salutations)

Laurel Marsh - Ardha Surya Namaskar

Laurel Marsh - Ardha Surya Namaskar

Benefits

  • Warms and awakens the body

  • Increases circulation

  •   Stretches and strengthens the back, shoulders, and hamstrings

  • Helps to establish a rhythmic breath and soothes the nervous system

  • Boosts mood, and alleviates stress and mild depression

How To

  • Start standing at the front of the mat in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

  • On the inhale, raise the arms overhead without flaring the front ribs (Urdhva Hastasana).  Feel the lift come from the waist and move out through the fingertips

  • Exhale, hinge forward and down from the hip creases while sweeping the arms out to the sides, landing in a forward fold (Uttanasana).  Bend the knees as needed in this transition to maintain length in the spine and an openness across the chest

  • Inhale, pull the chest forward into a halfway lift (Ardha Uttanasana) by placing the hands to the shins or blocks and straightening the arms.  Bend the knees as needed to create length in the spine and a broadening across the collar bones

  • Exhale, fold forward and down into Uttanasana

  • Inhale, float the arms out to the sides and up into Urdhva Hastasana.  Use the help of the hamstrings in this transition by lightly engaging just below the glutes

  • Exhale, arms to the sides of the torso, landing in Tadasana

  • Repeat 3-5 times while enjoying the slower pace

Forearm Plank/Dolphin Plank

Laurel Marsh - Forearm Plank

Laurel Marsh - Forearm Plank

Benefits

  • Strengthens the core, arms, shoulders, and legs

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves and arches of the feet

  • Increases confidence and energy

  • Relieves mild depression and stress

  • Creates internal heat

  • Builds strength and stamina

  • A “wrist free” alternative to Plank

How To

  • Come onto the forearms and interlace the hands up to the webbing.  Tuck the bottom pinky finger under so it does not bear any weight

  • Bring the elbows a touch narrower than shoulders width apart

  • Stack the shoulders directly over the elbows and extend the legs straight back, coming into forearm plank.  Be sure to walk the legs far enough back so that the body forms a long, straight line from the shoulders to the heels

  • Bring the feet hips width apart and press into the ball of each foot

  • Draw the frontal hip bones of the pelvis toward the lower ribs to help tone the lower belly

  • Use the help of the legs by lifting the fronts of the thighs away from the ground while extending the heels back

  • Lift the chest up into the space between the shoulder blades to prevent them from winging off the back.  Broaden across the collar bones and lengthen the sternum forward

  • Stay for 5-10 breaths or work up to a 30-60 second hold

Salabhasana (Locust Pose) with the feet down

Laurel Marsh - Salabhasana with feet down

Laurel Marsh - Salabhasana with feet down

Benefits

  • Strengthens the back, arms, and legs

  • Opens the chest, shoulders, and abdomen

  • Improves posture

  • Increases the digestive fire by massaging the belly

How To

  • Come onto the floor, belly down and forehead to the mat

  • Extend the arms alongside the torso, palms down and on the floor

  • Separate the legs to hips width apart with the tops of the feet pressing into the mat - big toes pointing straight back

  • On the inhale, lift the fronts of the shoulders, chest, and head to hover off the floor, while lengthening the sternum away from the naval

  • On the exhale, press firmly into the tops of the feet

  • Draw the inner borders of the shoulder blades in towards each other to help create more of a lift and opening across the chest

  • Roll the inner thighs to the outer thighs to help create space in the lower back and maintain the heaviness to the feet.  If the outer ankles sickle out, hug them in to keep the big toes pointing straight back

  • Stay for 5-10 breaths or work up to a 30-60 second hold

Salamba Matsyendrasana (Supported Twist)

Laurel Marsh - Salamba Matsyendasana

Laurel Marsh - Salamba Matsyendasana

Benefits

  • Creates a gentle compression to the abdominal organs

  • Stretches the back

  • Soothes and calms the nervous system

  • Therapeutic for digestion, insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure

Props Needed

  • A bolster, two blocks, and blankets

  • Bolster and blocks can be substituted with sleeping pillows or folded blankets

How to

  • Place one block to its medium height and the other block to its lowest height at the top of the mat.  Make sure there is a few inches of space between the two blocks

  • Place the bolster on top of the blocks so that it forms a slope

  • Sit behind the bolster, placing the outer right hip against the bottom edge of the bolster

  • The legs can stack on top of each other or stagger, whichever is most comfortable.  If there’s an extra blanket, it can be nice to place one under the bottom knee and/or sandwiched between the knees/leg bones

  • On an exhale, turn the belly and torso towards the bolster while placing the hands on either side of the bolster

  • Inhale, lengthen the spine; exhale, drape the belly and torso over the bolster landing in a gentle twist

  • Play with a head position that feels best for the neck

  • Arms can wrap around the top edge of the bolster or rest where ever it’s comfortable.  Feel free to drape a blanket across the torso for added support

  • Stay for 5-10 minutes and then repeat on the left side