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Warming yoga poses for cold winter days.

Brrrr. Winter months are cold; there's no doubt about it! walk around town all bundled up and huddled over--our shoulders hunched up by our ears, arms crossed over our chest, and head looking down. These physical actions can cause us to become emotionally depressed and physically constricted. Other than move to the tropics, what can we do? We can, for one thing, adjust our yoga practice to include more warming and opening poses. We can, in addition, hold the poses for longer periods of time and/or do more of them. If you are a new practitioner, I suggest that you practice the same pose several times during a practice session until your body feels warmer and able to hold that same pose for a longer duration. More experienced practitioners can hold an active pose for an extended period of time to help the body warm up. You can move from one pose to another without much time between them as well, as long as you are still mindful about your alignment. It's easy to get sloppy if we move too fast--in life as well as on the mat!

As you practice the suggested poses (asanas) you may feel stretching and strengthening sensations in your muscles. That's great! However, you should not feel discomfort in your neck, low back, or any of your joints. Muscular fatigue is common; occasional muscular discomfort (not pain) is OK. Be mindful and compassionate with your body. Befriend your body with yoga; don't punish it!

Try some of the following poses to see how they help increase your body beat. Here's a sample sequence for you:

Mountain Pose It's a simple yet challenging pose. Stand up straight. Press into your heels, lift your chest up and relax your shoulders as you stretch your arms (including your palms and fingers) toward the floor. Do this pose between each of the following poses.

From Mountain Pose, lift your arms high up into the air and bend your knees to move into Powerful Pose.

Cow Face Arms Pose brings flexibility as well as warmth into your shoulders so do it next several times without holding it for very long.

Now, invigorate the backs of the legs and the chest at the same time by moving into Intense Side Stretch. Keep your hands on your hips, behind your back holding your elbows, or on a chair if you can't (yet) bring your hands into Reverse Prayer Position.

Warrior I Pose opens up the fronts of the thighs and the upper chest as it strengthens your back. Notice how the rear leg is in the same position here as in Intense Side Stretch.

Revolved Triangle Pose is next in this series of warming poses. The practice of this pose creates mobility in the hip joint as well as in your spine. Still, the rear leg position is the same as Warrior I and Intense Side Stretch.

At the end of your practice, lie on your back with your eyes closed for five to ten minutes. Place a blanket or cushion under your knees if your low back is uncomfortable. Be certain to stay warm here, too by covering up with another blanket if necessary.


1. Stand with your feet together and your arms by your sides, palms by your outer legs.

2. Press into your heels, lift your chest and extend through your arms and fingers toward the floor.

3. Lift your thighs strongly (tighten them) as you balance your weight evenly between your two feet.

4. Breathe fully and deeply without strain or force.

Mountain Pose is the primary standing pose. Its home base, You can practice this pose anywhere--in the grocery line, while talking with a friend, or anytime you are standing. The practice of this pose lengthens your spine and tones your abdominal wall. It creates space for your organs which then work more efficiently for enhanced overall health.

From Mountain Pose, extend your arms upward without changing anything else and you'll be in Upward Arms Pose (Urdbva Hastasana) which lengthens your sides, back, and abdomen.

POWERFUL POSE * Utkatasana

1. Stand in Mountain Pose

2. Extend into Upward Arms Pose.

3. Without bending your elbows, bring your hands together compacting your outer arms reward, or keep the hands apart.

4. Lift your abdomen in and up as you bend your legs at your ankles, knees, and hips, until your thighs are eventually parallel to the floor. Practice!

5. Descend your inner thighs. Keep your heels on the floor.

6. Move your buttock flesh toward the floor.

7. Lift your chest, using your upper back (never your lower back).

8. Straighten your legs and bring your arms down to return to Mountain Pose.

Benefits & Cautions This pose tones and strengthens the back and abdomen to create space in the side ribs and chest, leading to freer breathing, and lengthens the gluteus muscles. Don't practice it if you're pregnant, menstruating, or have a heart condition.

COW FACE POSE--ARMS * Gomukhasana Details & Variations

Cow Face Pose Arms can be practiced in Mountain Pose, or in a sitting position such as Hero Pose.

1. Cow Face Pose Arms prep--upper arm. Sit on a block. Extend your right arm forward and take it up toward the ceiling. Roll the outer arm forward and the inner arm backward. Turn your palm to face the back of your body. Maintaining the extension, bend your right elbow and take the palm down your back. Hold your right elbow with your left hand and draw your right arm toward your right ear as you extend from the armpit to the elbow. Inhale and exhale softly. Release and bring both arms back into a neutral position. Repeat with your left arm as the upper arm.

2. Cow Face Pose Arms prep--lower arm. Sit on a block. Take your left arm behind your back at the sacrum, with the palm facing outward. Move your outer left shoulder back and your left shoulder blade into your back by pressing your left hand into your sacrum. With your right hand, kindly and compassionately grasp your left wrist and move your left hand across your back. (Never, ever force any part of your body into any pose.) Continue drawing your outer upper left arm back as you bring your left armpit chest forward. Release the grip and bring both arms back into a neutral position. Repeat with your right arm as the lower arm.

3. Use a strap. Place it between the upper and lower hands.

INTENSE SIDE STRETCH * Parsvottanasana

1. Stand in Mountain Pose and place your palms together behind your back, fingers pointing downward Turn the fingers toward your back, then bring your hands up between your shoulder blades into reverse prayer position (see inset photo).

2. Separate your feet three to three and a half feet apart. and turn your left toot in 75 degrees and your right foot and leg out ninety degrees.

3. Turn your entire body to face toward your right foot. Line up your heels as you lift and firm both thighs.

4. Extend through your left calf and into that heel as you bring your left side ribs forward.

5. Press into the right big toe mount and pull your right hip back, pulling inward with the entire outer leg.

6. Lift and broaden your chest, elongate your neck, and lift your head to look up. If there is discomfort in your neck, simply continue to look forward. Inhale.

7. On an exhalation, bring your head back to a neutral position, keep the lift of your chest, and extend out over your right leg.

8. Release your neck and place your head on your shin.

9. To come out, inhale as you lift your sternum and torso up and descend your buttocks. Lift your chest and head as you did earlier, exhale, and return to Mountain Pose.

10. Repeat on the left side.

Benefits. What doesn't this pose do? It relieves stiffness in the shoulders, back, and hips. As the chest expands, the upper back is toned, reducing curvatures of the spine. Breathing becomes easier, and anxiety may be reduced. It massages the abdominal organs, which in turn improves digestion and elimination. Practicing this pose helps ready the body for Headstand.

WARRIOR I. Virabhadrasana I

1. Stand in Mountain Pose.

2. Separate your feet four to four and a half feet apart, and stretch your arms out to the sides to broaden your chest.

3. Extend your arms overhead with your palms facing each other.

4. Turn your left foot and leg out ninety degrees.

5. Turn your right foot and leg in sixty degrees and line up your heels.

6. Turn your entire body to face your left leg.

7. As you press back into your right leg and heel, bend your left leg until the thigh is parallel to the floor, knee directly over your heel.

8. Roll your right thigh inward, and bring your right hip and side ribs forward.

9. Strongly lift your chest and side ribs up. Extend your neck and, only if you have no tension in your neck, look up.

10. To come out, straighten your left leg, bring your head back to neutral, and turn your feet and legs to the right.

11. Bring your feet and arms back into Mountain Pose.

12. Repeat on the right side.

Benefits & Cautions. This version of Warrior pose (there are three) creates mobility in the legs, hips, shoulders, and back, and it tones the leg muscles. Like all of the Warrior poses, it promotes willpower. Practice this pose for a shorter amount of time and keep your hands On your hips if you're hypertensive or pregnant.

REVOLVED TRIANGLE POSE * Parivrtta Trikonasana Details & Variations

Press firmly into the root of your front big toe and pull the outer hip up and back. Draw your outer front calf. thigh, and hip inward. Maintain the stability of your outer front leg as you pull your lower shoulder blade deep into your back to open your front chest. Your breathing may be shallow. Creating space between your pelvis and chest allows your torso to turn more easily. Create space first by pressing your hips back and pulling your sternum forward.

1. Place a block or chair under your hand to create more space in your spine (with or without the wall. hand on inside or outside of foot).

2. Place your hand to the inside of your front foot if turning or balancing is challenging. With practice, you'll eventually take your hand to the outer side of the foot.

3. Use a wall and block. Stand with your left side touching the wall. Step forward three and a half feet with your right foot.

4. Turn toward the center of the room and extend your arms outward in line with your shoulders. Press into the four corners of both feet.

5. Keeping your back against the wall, take your left hand down to the floor (or a block) between your right foot and the wall.

6. To come out, extend through your right arm and lift up

7. Turn around and do the left side.

Reprinted with permission of Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., NY, NY, from Yoga Your Way: Customize Your Home Practice by Cindy Dollar and Susanna MacKenzie Euston, Copyright 2004 Cindy Dollar and Susanna MacKenzie Euston, published by Lark Books, a Division of Sterling Publishing Company.

A long-time yoga instructor and practitioner, Cindy lives in Asheville with her loving husband, 2 energetic dogs, and 2 lazy cats. She recently opened One Center Yoga at 120 Coxe Avenue. When not on the yoga mat, Cindy enjoys being out of doors in the sunshine.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Natural Arts
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Article Details
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Author:Dollar, Cindy
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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