Warm up your inner fire with these yoga practice
Cold snap have you bundled and shivering? Get off the couch and onto your yoga mat.
Promise that the hardest part will be the walk from the couch to the mat. Once you're there the energy will begin to flow and you'll feel much better.
Here are a few ways you can use your body, mind, and spirit to transform cold, stagnant energy into something warmer and friendlier!
Heat Up Your Breath Work
Pranayama: Breath of Fire
The foundation of breath of fire is a forced exhale and passive inhale with all of the air coming through the nose.
Why does this help build heat?
Our nose filters air (thank you boogers and nose hairs). The nose also warms air up as it goes into the lunge (thank you blood vessels close to the surface of inner nose skin.). Lastly, the nose takes in and releases air a bit more slowly.
Next, our diaphragm is at work. The forced exhale is initiated by a 'snap' back and up of primarily the diaphragm and other muscles of the abdomen and pelvic floor. These Power Center chakra in yoga is the solar plexus. It is roughly in the same place in the body as where you feel the force of this 'snap'. The coordinated muscular effort creates action in the body, and action in the body generates heat.
Finally, this breath is not the same as slower, exhale-focused parasympathetic breathing that typically comes from diaphramatic breathing. This instead revs up the nervous system in a controlled way. Turning on your sympathetic nervous system stimulates more heat in the body. (yes, this is totally ok - unrelenting sympathetic state without being able to neutralize is the problem.)
So when you put it all together you have warm air coming in, muscular action forcing air out, a narrower pathway for air to escape keeping more warmth in, and a more revved up nervous system which gets your juices flowing.
Here's an example of how to get your diaphragm involved in this breath.
Heat Up Your Movement
"Big-Burner" Exercise with Leg & Hip Focused Moves
Thighs and glutes are some of the biggest muscles in the body. When you use these muscles it requires a higher demand of energy, and puts off more heat - literally.
Blood flow to these muscles will create more demand on your heart and lunges both to bring more oxygenated blood to these muscles to stay moving, but also to release the byproduct of that movement back out of the body.
So if you are feeling cold focus on using BIG muscles. Bonus: do it in an aerobic, continuous way. Aerobic exercise requires oxygen for fuel and will keep the heart pumping at an elevated and consistent rate. You'll feel warmer in no time! Plus your heart and lungs will thank you for the love.
Here's my BIG BURNER CIRCUIT as an example
Rev Up Your Power Center
Do a Yoga Flow that focuses on the manipura chakra.
Similar to pranayama practices like Breath of Fire that focus on the power center, you can organize an entire flow practice that moves energy to and through the center.
Manipura translates roughly to city of gems. It is the area that is associated with alchemizing your energy through fire. Fire is associated with the Yoga concept Tapas, and practicing Tapas means allowing the fire/challenge/heat of the moment to offer purification and clarity. This is sort of like when you put metal or gems or clay in a kiln and the heat of the furnace yields the material harder, more beautiful, and durable for use. The fire also will burn up anything that's not up to task reducing it to ash, a byproduct of the process to be swept away.
A Power Center practice is going to have a lot of stability and core work. This helps churn and burn the belly. This will get the juices flowing and help distribute the heat you accumulate in the belly all around the body.
It can be helpful in these practices to not only incorporate moves that are quintessentially core like planks, crunches, and bird dogs. But kick it up a notch with these two aspects to build heat. First, consider moves that challenge your balance & stability both in stillness - like tree pose. Also in dynamic stability like transitions through lunges and single leg balance. This will ask your core to kick on an extra stabilizing effort. Second, consider big sweeping moves that force you to incorporate the whole body from finger-tip to toe-tip. This will use the big burner muscles we talked about earlier, and it also will force circulation into the farthest reaches of your body. This will warm you up in no time!
Check out my Power Center Flow to rev your heat-building engine.