We practice yoga under all circumstances. I just went from +30 degrees and sun in Brasil to cold and rain in Holland. Going so sudden from one type of weather to the other, made me realise how different my need is for practice. With cold weather yoga is a perfect practice to improve your immune system, to work on strengthening the joints and do breathing exercises for the lungs to prevent a cold.
I still love to do my vigorous fast paced sequences, although now I do spend more time on my joints and on my pranayamas (breathing exercises).
Yoga and your joints
It is always good to keep your joints healthy and active. However, in wintertime, they are colder and therefore automatically stiffer. This can create chronic joint pain and it becomes easier to misuse your joints, which can create wear and pain.
Yoga can help to move the joints, to lubricate them and to loosen them. Also yoga helps to relax and heat the muscles around the joint, which is the system that supports and protects the joint. Practicing yoga maintains mobility of the joint and it increases the circulation in the body.
David Lurey, a world traveling yoga teacher has a perfect sequence for this, which he calls: rolling the joints. He does this sequence every morning and swears it is the perfect way to warm up the body for the day after a deep night of sleep and he says it keeps the body healthy. When you do the sequence fully, it takes about 13 minutes. Click this link to see the movie.
Yoga and pranayama
Winter often gives us a cold, which has a negative effect on our immune system. To protect ourselves from a cold and protect us from a less functional respiratory system is consistently breathing through the nose. When we breathe in through the nose we heat up the air entering our body before the air goes into our lungs. This can help to prevent a cold. Secondly, breathing through the nose helps us to filter for potential allergens entering our body and lungs. The filtering of allergens is done via the passageways of our nose and the little hairs in our nostrils. When the air is filtered we have less chance to irritate the lungs.
Pranayama practice not only benefits the lungs, but it also strengthens the relationship between the nervous and the respiratory system.
Through the practice of pranayama (breathing exercises) we strengthen the practice of breathing through the nose and we clean our body and respiratory system. If you go online and look for pranayama, you will find many hits on google and many explanatory videos. However, when you do have a cold, there is a particular pranayama that can help: the Kapalabathi – the skull shining breath. In Kapalabathi we focus on our exhale and we pump the stomach by pulling it in when we blast out the air. If you are looking to do this practice, this is a good instruction video to try it out.
Yoga and asana practice
When you decide to do an asana practice, it really depends on your state of being what type of practice you need. If you feel well and you want to strengthen yourself and your immune system, it can be very good to do a practice at a higher speed so you stay warm and improve your circulatory system. Make sure that you warm up your joints properly and you focus on breathing through your nose.
An example of a sequence you can do is this one to boost your energy.
When you are not feeling well already, it is best to do a restorative yoga session. In a restorative yoga session you work on sitting longer in a pose and focus on the breathing. You try to calm the body and take away any stress there might be on your system or muscles. An example of a session of 30 minutes you can find here.