I'll never forget my first experience with yoga as more of a whole self practice rather than just an exercise. A funny young man with a thick Indian accent not only instructed us on the movements and placement of our body, but on clearing our mind, and the warming and cooling breaths we could use to change our physical state. It made me realize that yoga could do much more than just make me more limber, but that it could affect my overall physical and mental state.
Ayurveda, a seasonal-based approach to health and wellness, is sometimes called the sister to yoga, so it only makes sense that certain postures in yoga can be more beneficial at certain times of the year. Use these poses to warm yourself up as we ride out these last months of deep cold winter.
- Utkatasana — Powerful Pose or Chair Pose
From a yoga perspective, your pelvis controls the flow of energy to your spine, so getting it into alignment with this pose will open up a varitable font of energy for your whole body. From a purely physical standpoint, it requires work from many of the large muscle groups, which will also warm you up.
- Virabhadrasana — Warrior 1 Pose
Another pose that works several major muscle groups, Warrior 1 can seem simple, but it's actually a vigorous practice in multitasking. Concentrating on really aligning your body correctly in this pose requires a fair amount of effort, and will reward you with a lot of energy and warmth.
Backbend poses are considered warming poses in yoga, and there are many to choose from for all levels of practitioners. Backbends can be tricky, so don't try an advanced pose for the first time without the help of a trained yoga instructor.
- Arm Balances
Arm balance poses might sound scary, but if you can do Plank Pose, you can do an arm balance. These are also traditionally warming poses.
- Single Nostril Breathing
The warming and cooling breaths my yoga teacher told us about are called Surya Bhedana Pranayama. In Hatha yoga, the right nostril is energetically associated with our warming energy and the sun (while the left is associated with cooling energy and the moon). Practicing breathing through your right nostril only is thought to help increase that warming energy and warm the body.