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In winter we look to strengthening the kidney and bladder meridians.
This will restore depleted energy and strengthen our immunity to ensure winter wellness. The kidney meridian starts in the toes and passes up the inner thighs, lungs and heart. The bladder meridian starts at the corner of the eye, runs over the top of the head, down the back and the back of the leg. Our winter practice will therefore include backbends and poses that stretch the inside of the thighs in order to strengthen these meridians. These meridians are associated with fluid and so our winter practice will also focus on moving fluidly between postures and increasing the circulation of lymph and blood around the body.
- Savasana – allow a few quiet moments at the start of your practice to settle into your physical body. Become aware of the breath and let the breath settle into a smooth, natural, rhythmical pattern. Then take your hands onto your abdomen, middle fingers touching and direct the breath to the area under the hands so that as you breathe in, the middle fingers part, as you breathe out, the middle fingers come together. Continue in this way for several breaths noticing the effect on the mind.
- Full Body Stretch Full Body Stretch – take a breath in, raise the arms overhead and press through both heels, moving the prana (life force) around your body then when you are ready to breathe out soften your legs and bring your arms back down by your sides. Repeat twice more.
- Gentle Twist – bring the heels towards the buttocks, the arms a little way from the body, palms facing up. Take a breath in, breathe out and lower the knees to the right, inhale back to centre, exhale lower the knees to the left, inhale back to centre and continue working mindfully with the breath. If you have problems with the neck, you can turn the head in the opposite direction to the knees.
- Apanasana – draw the knees in tightly over the chest and place the hands on the knees. Inhale press the knees away, exhale draw the knees tight in, lifting the tailbone from the mat and continue.
- Supta Padagusthasana (Hamstring Stretch) – Start with your knees bent and draw your right knee towards your chest to place a belt around the right foot. Straighten the back of the right leg, pressing the right heel away. Hold the belt in both hands and relax your shoulders. If you wish you can extend your left leg pressing the left heel away. Work with the exhale drawing your leg a little closer in with each exhale. If your knee starts to bend release a little. When you reach your maximum stretch hold for 5 breaths. Take both sides of the belt in your right hand, press your left hip down with the left hand and take your right leg up and out to the right. Hold for a few breaths then take your right leg to the left. Hold for a few breaths then return to centre and release the pose. Compare how one hip feels compared to the other. Repeat 2nd side. Come to all 4s.
- Spinal Rolls – Sit at the front of the mat, right leg crossed in front of the left. Hold the big toes with the thumb and first finger. Inhale, lengthen the spine, lift the chest, exhale roll back. Inhale back to the start position and repeat several times. Repeat changing the cross of the legs.
- Cat/Cow + Rolling Cat – Inhale, exhale arch the back and take the bottom back towards the heels, inhale through and continue + Tiger – from an all 4s position, inhale draw the right knee into the chest, exhale and keeping the knee bent take the knee back. Inhale take hold of the right foot with the left hand and press the right foot into the hand back and up. Repeat 2nd side then come to a prone position.
- Locust Variation – Press the tailbone back and take the arms into cactus position. Inhale lift the head, chest and arms. Repeat several times. Rest with the right cheek on the back of the hands. Take the arms by the your sides, palms facing the side seam of the trousers, forehead to the mat. Inhale lift the head, chest, arms and legs, exhale lower. Rest with the left cheek on the back of the hands then repeat. Press back into Swan.
- Swan – come towards the back of the mat, and take the knees wide. ‘Walk’ the hands forward taking the head to the mat. Have the fingers spread wide, the elbows lifted. Feel the movement of the breath in the back body.
- Frog – Turn to face the long edge of the mat and come to an all 4s position. Take the legs wide (one at a time) so that knees are level with the hips, the shins are at a right angle to the thighs and the feet flexed. Inhale forward, exhale back.
- Downward Facing Dog to Core Plank – Repeat several times. Repeat 2nd side. Step forward to Standing Forward Bend, inhale take the arms out and up, exhale hands to heart.
- Moon Sequence – start in Tadasana at the centre of the mat facing the long edge. Inhale step the feet wide, turn the toes out, exhale bend the knees and take the arms into cactus, Goddess Squat. Inhale straighten the knees, turn the toes to the right, the arms to shoulder height, exhale extend over the right leg bringing the right hand onto the right leg, and raising the left arm, Triangle Pose. Inhale windmill the arms up, exhale take the hands to the hips. Turn to face the right leg, hips level to the short edge of the mat. Inhale lift the chest, press the elbows back, exhale fold over the right leg, releasing the hands down to the mat the chest towards the thigh, Intense Side Stretch. Inhale lengthen the spine forward, exhale bend the right knee, drop the left knee to the mat. Inhale take the arms up and back, curling the spine back, Crescent Moon Pose. Exhale take the hands down to the mat on the inside of the right foot. ‘Walk’ the hands to the left, bending the left knee (if you have knee issues stay high), Sliding Squat. Bring the hands either side of the left foot, inhale take the arms up and back, curling the spine back, Crescent Moon Pose, 2nd side. Exhale take the hands down to the mat, press into straight legs, bowing the head towards the knee, Intense Side Stretch 2nd side. Inhale raise the right arm, Triangle 2nd side. On the next breath in, windmill the arms up, turn the toes out, exhale bend the knees and take the arms into Cactus, Goddess Squat. Inhale straighten the legs, exhale step the feet together, arms by the sides of the body, Tadasana. Repeat the sequence leading with the left side.
- Wide Leg Forward Bend – take the feet wide and have the outsides of the feet parallel to the short edges of the mat. Take the hands to the hips, elbows pressed back. Inhale lift the chest exhale fold releasing the fingertips to the mat and ‘walk’ the fingertips back under the hips. Come to seated with legs extended, spine long, Dandasana.
- Baddha Konasana – bend the knees bringing the soles of the feet together and let the knees fall to the sides. Hinging from the hips and with a straight spine fold forward.
- Shoulder Stand (contraindications – menstruation, high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma. Stay in Legs up the Wall) – place the short edge of the mat against a wall and sit with the right hip to the wall knees bent. Swivel so that the legs come up the wall and lie back with your arms by your sides (Legs up the Wall). From here press the soles of the feet to the wall so that the hips lift and place the hands on the back for support. Do not turn the head in shoulder stand. To go further, straighten the legs one at a time, ‘walk’ the hands further up the back and bring the legs one at a time over the hips and shoulders. To come out of the pose bring the feet back to the wall, release the hands and lower slowly back down onto the mat. Turn onto your right side and rest for a moment to allow your blood pressure to normalise then come up and move your mat away from the wall. Alternatively if you are familiar with Shoulder Stand, you could do the pose without a wall.
- Fish (contraindications – neck issues. An alternative would be Cobra) – lie on the mat, roll towards the right and place the left arm under the body. Repeat with the right arm. Bend the elbows so that the chest lifts and bring the crown of the head to the mat. Do not try to move your head or speak in this position. To come out release the head by tucking the chin, straighten the arms and release the arms from under the body. Roll the head slowly from side to side.
- Reclined Twist – bend the right knee in towards the chest and take hold of the right knee with the left hand. The right arm is a little way from the body, palm facing up. Inhale, exhale draw the right knee to the left (support with blocks/cushions if you are unable to bring the knee down to the mat) and if there are no problems with the neck turn the head to the right. Realign the spine and repeat 2nd side.
- Savasana + Ocean meditation – lie back in a comfortable Savasana and allow your body to let go of all the efforts of your practice. Feel your muscles softening away from the bones and allow a feeling of sinking into the mat. Then bring your attention to the breath. With each exhale imagine letting go of any tension, any thoughts. Imagine yourself by an ocean, the sun warm on your skin, the sand soft beneath your feet. Smell the salty air. Stand on the beach watching the waves softly break on the shore then retreat. Hear the soft sound this makes. Continue here for as long as you wish. Then imagine soothing waves of relaxation moving through your body, releasing any tension, refreshing, rejuvenating and restoring each and every cell of your body. Continue to relax. After 10-15 minutes begin to deepen the breath and make whatever small movements you need to in order to bring you back to the here and now. Then turn onto your right side, drawing the knees up to the chest before coming to seated and continuing with your day.
Have a happy, healthy winter
Om Shanti Om