Yoga and Your Winter Health
It is ridiculously cold outside. Someone told me it is supposed to be -25 degrees wind chill factor tonight. So, do we forego the yoga class and stay home bundled up in a blanket? No. Go to your yoga class and bundle up in the blanket afterwards! Here's why...
Between the asanas (poses), the pranayama (breath work) and dhyana (meditation), you will be strengthening your immune system to help you stay healthy.
Yoga Journal's article, "Strike a Heart-Opening Pose", explains why the heart opening poses are so beneficial. Before I give you the quote, let me explain what a heart opening pose is. Your heart chakra is located in the center of your breastbone. Any pose that would have you moving the heart center forward would be considered heart-opening: cobra, fish, wheel (or it's more compassionate counter-part, bridge), reverse warrior, camel, to name a few.
Dr. Hema Sundaram says, "Heart openers stimulate blood flow to the thymus, an organ nestled behind the breastbone that is instrumental in the growth of T-cells, the immune system's frontline."
Forward bends and inversions "relax the nervous system through the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, relax, digest) and boost the body’s innate ability to heal itself through the immune response", according to Australia's Natural Health Magazine (ANH).
And, almost all poses massage the spleen in some way, whose job it is to fight infection, but twists and side bends are especially effective at targeting this organ.
As for your breath, if you already are a "yoga breather", you are used to breathing in and out though your nose.
ANH: "...the lungs constrict when the air coming into the body is cool, and inhaling through the nose warms the air before it enters the lungs..."
Your pranayama practice also encourages your use of the full lung, not just the upper region (sorry, chest-breathers!), so the lungs are stronger. But, it is never too late to start learning how to breathe with both the lower and upper lungs. Try googling 3 Part Breathing to start with. In class tonight, we focused on Right Nostril Breathing to help stimulate the Pingala nadi, which is warm and stimulating as it is the solar line of energy.
To keep the mind and spirit healthy, try a short meditation. You can meditate in silence or try out the guided meditation on my website's home page; it's only about 9 minutes long!
Settle in the Here and Now by Danna Faulds
in the here and now
reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink in this holy peace
feel relief flood into every cell
nothing to do
nothing to be
but what you are already
nothing to receive
but what flows effortlessly from the mystery into form.
nothing to run from
or run toward
just this breath
awareness knowing itself as embodiment
just this breath
awareness waking up to truth