The clocks have gone and the nights are already closing in.  For some people this is a welcome change – the leaves on the trees turning orange, the heating coming on and cosy evenings snuggling up on the sofa. For others, it is not so much fun. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or your body clock just does not adjust to the shorter days of Winter, this can be a very difficult time of year.

But fear not. Yoga may be able to help you through the challenging darkness of the Winter months.

Look for poses that reduce stress, increase energy and boost your crown chakra (the pineal gland that converts serotonin to melatonin helping to regulate the body’s circadian and seasonal rhythms.) Use breath work, meditation and visualization to help get you back in sync.

Your yoga practice is all about connecting mind, body and spirit, so give the following suggestions a try to see if they can help you.  Remember to wrap up in your favourite blanket in some of the poses if you are feeling a bit chilly!

Downward Dog

I love a good downward dog.  Ensure your head is below the heart to relax and soothe the nervous system and tailor it to suit your mood.

1

Standard downward dog

– Start on your hands and knees. Place your hands under the shoulders, your knees under the hips and roll the toes under bringing the bum up into the air.
– Press the fingers and palms on the floor, let your head hang and nip the shoulder blades together.
– Keep your hips high and your heels pushing down into the floor bringing in your ujjayi breathing to stimulate the heat (agni) in the body.

Walk the dog

– Bend one knee as you push the opposite heel into the floor after five breaths swap over so the other knee bends as the opposite heel pushes down.

If it cheers you up to visualise yourself as Michael Jackson moonwalking then all the power to you!

Twisty downward dog

– Place the left hand and the feet into the floor as you reach the right hand towards the outside of the left leg – and for good measure sniff your armpit.

-As you take the head towards the armpit, reach further into the twist, energising the spine and activating the nervous system.

Benefits:
– Calms the brain.
– Energizes the body.
– Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands.
– Strengthens the arms and legs.
– Improves digestion.

Standing Forward Fold

2

– Standing tall, inhale the arms up above the head, keeping the shoulders down.
– Exhale, folding forward from the hips keeping your back nice and long until your hands are resting on your shins. If you can’t reach use your fingertips or palms to touch the floor.
– Release the head and relax into the pose as you exhale.
REMEMBER to bend your knees slightly if you have tight hamstrings

Benefits:
– Stimulates the liver and kidneys.
– Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips.
– Strengthens the thighs and knees.
– Improves digestion.
– Calms the brain .

Headstand

3

Only practice a headstand if it is part of your regular practice and you have been taught how to do it properly. I purposely have not included instructions on how to do a headstand here – either you can do it or you can’t.  Take no risks with your beautiful neck.

Benefits:
– Calms the brain.
– Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands.
– Strengthens the arms, legs, and spine.
– Strengthens the lungs.
– Tones the abdominal organs.
– Improves digestion.

Legs Up The Wall

image-4

Use this posture as an alternative to a headstand. One of my student’s delights in telling me that this is her favourite pose to do next to her favourite drink with a straw so she can sip away till her heart is content.  I’m guessing that her favourite drink is NOT coconut water.

– Lie with your bum up against a wall and extend your legs up toward the ceiling.
– Support the back of your head and neck and relax.
– Hold this position for as long as you like. Try Meditating, practicing some abdominal breathing or even doing it while you watch TV.

Benefits:
– Stimulates circulation around the internal organs, face and brain.
– Grounding and calming.
– Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet.
– Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck.
– Relieves mild backache.
– Calms the mind.

Backbend

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Backbends are great to open the chest and shoulders, and if like me you hunch up when you are cold, a backbend is a nice release from hugging yourself warm!

– Set yourself with lots of cushions underneath you to support the middle of your back, grab your blanket and your eye pillow and relax.
– Practice your abdominal breathing in this pose, taking advantage of the rib cage being open.
– Fill your lungs up with as much air as possible so the abdomen rises, hold the breath for the same amount of time and then slowly exhale for as long as possible allowing the body to release and relax.

Benefits
– Opens the heart, chest and shoulders.
– Relieves mild back ache.
– Calms the mind.

Check out more from Claudia Brown here.

One thought on “Using Yoga to Beat the Winter Blues

By Yoga Teacher Claudia Brown

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