Get Moving: Yoga Practice & Exercise Tips for Winter
In Ayurveda, cold weather is thought to stress the vital organs and disrupt their function, leading to sluggish digestion, oppressed breathing, and general congestion in the body.
Movement of any kind can counteract the cold by warming tissues up and promoting digestion, circulation of fluids and an easy breath.
A daily, gentle yoga practice is a perfect way to get your body moving and feeling good. The yoga poses should be simple, and not too taxing. Just something to help you feel more awake and connected to your body, so that you continue to move it throughout the day.
Beyond yoga practice, you could simply rotate joints like the wrists and ankles. You could dance to a favorite song. Or you can go for a walk in most weather, as long as you are dressed warmly enough.
Whatever you do, movement is key--not necessarily stretching or strengthening, just getting your body moving around. Aim to move a bit at least once an hour while awake, or any time you feel chilly or unfocused.
Here are some additional movement and exercise tips for each constitution:
If you have kapha in your constitution it is especially important to move your body in order to prevent stagnation, drowsiness, lethargy and the sense of heaviness that can drain your energy and motivation.
The best thing you can do to pacify kapha is to spend time in sunlight, outdoors if possible. Even on overcast days, soaking up some natural light can give your mood and energy levels a huge boost.
Go for a walk or hike when you can. Move quickly enough or on terrain that slightly increases your heart rate and builds a light sweat.
Your yoga practice can also be a little more physically challenging in the winter to build some internal heat. Emphasize standing poses that require some weight-bearing in the legs, like virabhadrasana (warrior pose) or utkatasana (chair pose), or even a version of surya namaskar (sun salutation) that will get you moving and warm inside. Focused breathing can also be very heat-building, but make sure you work with a qualified yoga teacher before beginning a pranayama practice.
A vata constitution really thrives on stability in the winter. Exercise and movement activities should be done more slowly, with the aim of creating a sense of strength and internal steadiness. Try Restorative Yoga, or any type of yoga which moves slowly and incorporates spending more time in each posture for breath awareness and focus.
Exercise activities should have a rhythm and routine about them. Try to exercise around the same time each day, and do something that has a lot of repetition, like the same yoga routine every day for a period of time, or walking the same path/route every day. The repetition is highly comforting and quieting for vata.
Spending time outside, especially on warmer, sunny days can be very uplifting. However, vata is disturbed by wind and cold, so make sure to wear adequate clothes, and cover the hands, head and neck.
Because Pitta tolerates winter so well, this season can be the best time to begin healthy and balanced exercise habits.
Something to watch out for is perfectionism, especially if it begins having negative effects.
Perfectionism can prevent you from taking a step in the right direction, and it can also drive you toward injury. If you feel like it's not worth doing yoga or exercising because you can't do a full hour, then perfectionism is definitely getting in the way of your well-being. Or if you are trying so hard to get a perfect work-out that you hurt yourself or damage relationships, perfectionism has become a problem.
When it comes to yoga, perfectionism cultivates an attitude of just "getting through" the practice or the idea that achieving something is the point, when yoga is really about connecting yourself, to what is here now. There is no finish line.
If you have pitta in your constitution, ease up a bit when it comes to exercise. Spend some time in natural spaces, so you can enjoy imperfection. See if you can occasionally use fewer numbers when exercising. Rely more on how you feel than meeting a goal of a specific time, distance, repetitions or even calories. Listen and look before deciding how things "ought" to be.