Winter Yoga Sequence For Stiff Joints
Brrr it’s definitely winter here in NZ! Keeping up your regular yoga practice is important in winter as we often tense the body more than usual when we feel cold.
Chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis often are aggravated in the winter months too so it is important to keep the joints moving and lubricated as much as possible.
With that in mind we have created a yoga sequence for you that would be perfect to do any time of the day, when you have a spare 10 minutes.
Beginner Yogi tip: try this sequence first thing in the morning to wake up and lubricate stiff joints followed by a hot shower or bath.
Crossed Legged Pose (Lotus or Half Lotus)
Begin in a comfortable seated position, either with the legs crossed or straight out in front of you. Feel free to place a block or cushion under the buttocks to elevate the hips. Close the eyes and mouth and place the hands in your lap, on your knees or at your sides if sitting with legs out the front of you. Begin to focus on breathing in and out of the nostrils, stay here for at lease 8 breaths and then open your eyes.
Staying in a comfortable seated position, inhale to prepare and exhale tilt your head to the right. Inhale and come back to centre. Exhale and tilt your head to the left. Inhale, come back to centre. Exhale, and tilt the chin to the chest. Inhale, and come back to centre. Exhale, and tilt the head back. Do 1-2 rounds of neck movements. Be gentle, there is no need to extend the neck too far, just 50% of your full range is perfect.
Bring the arms straight out in front of you with the palms facing up. Bend the elbows and place the hands on to top of the shoulders, elbows touching. Begin making circles with the elbows, rotating 5 times one way and then the other. Note: Do not do if you have a shoulder injury.
Eagle Arms Pose
In your seated position, either on your heels or crossed legged (with cushion or block support if needed) raise your arms out to the sides to shoulder height and then bend the elbows so the fingers are pointing up to the ceiling. Wrap the right arm under the left arm, trying to place the top of the forearms against each other or wrapping the forearms around each other. You should feel a stretch in the upper back and shoulder blades. See if you can send your breath to any tension felt in this area. To increase the stretch, lift the elbows up – but keep the shoulders down. Stay here for 5-8 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Wrist Movements and Rotations
Bend your right arm and place your left hand under the right elbow to support the right arm. Focus your concentration on your right wrist and slowly begin to rotate the wrist joint. Rotate in one direction and then pause and continue in the other direction. Repeat with the left side.
Begin with the legs out in front of you and draw your heels into your buttocks. Take hold of either the ankles or interlace the fingers around the toes. Inhale, and straighten the spine. Exhale, leading with the chest begin to bend forwards towards the floor, pressing your elbows into your knees. Don’t round the upper back, keep the spine straight, even if that means you don’t move too much. Repeat this 3-5 times, hold the last one for 3-5 breaths.
Seated Spinal Twist
Bring both legs out in front of you and place the right foot over the left leg beside the upper thigh. Take the left hand and place it behind you, fingers pointing outwards. Take the right arm and place it on the inside of the right knee. Inhale, slowly twist the torso to the left, your gaze looking out over your left shoulder. Exhale, and feel the twist in the torso. Stay here for 3-5 breaths, bring the head back to centre, followed by the torso and then repeat on the other side.
Bend the right knee and bring the heel of the right foot close to the buttocks. Interlace the fingers under the thigh. Inhale as you lift your lower leg up off the mat, exhale as you lower it back down. Repeat 3-5 times on each leg.
Ankle Bending and Rotations
Sit on the mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Pull your toes back and then flex them forward, do this 8-10 times. Begin rotating the ankles in one direction and then the other, do 8 to 10 circles in each direction.
Mountain (Downward Facing Dog) Pose
Come to your hands and knees, knees hip width apart, hips in line with the knees and shoulders in line with the wrists, fingers are spread wide apart. Inhale, tuck your toes under and raise your knees up off the mat, your buttocks pointing up towards the ceiling. Exhale, press the palms into the mat and the heels down towards the floor. Gently walk the feet up and down and move the hips to ease into this pose. Breathe into the navel area. Stay here for 30 seconds, building up to 1 minute, then 3 minutes with practice. To finish, lower the knees back the to floor onto your hands and knees.
From your hands and knees, lower your buttocks onto your heels and your torso onto your thighs. Your arms are straight out in front of you – elbows reaxed, along side your body or you can stack the hands on top of each other with your forehead resting on top of them. Stay here for 8 full breaths. If your hips or front of the thighs are stiff, use cushions under your buttocks or a bolster for added support.
From Childs Pose, come up to a seated position on your heels, knees hip width apart. Slide your right leg back, your knee on the floor and the sole of the foot facing the ceiling. Take 8 full breathes. To extend this stretch, gently guide the front foot forwards and lower the torso, resting your forehead on your hands. Repeat on the other side. Note: Do not do if you have a knee injury.
When you have done both sides, finish by lowering yourself into Childs Pose for 5 breaths. When you are ready, raise up to your hands and knees and lift back into Mountain Pose. Inhale, and look between the hands. Exhale, and walk the feet towards the hands and come into a forward fold. Keep the knees bent and slowly using 2-3 breaths creep your way up to a standing position.
Warrior 2 Pose
From a standing position step sideways on your mat about 2-3 hips widths apart. Turn the right foot to 90 degrees and the left approx 15 degrees inwards. Inhale, raise the arms up to shoulder height. Exhale bend the right knee and sink into your Warrior 2. Your right knee should be directly over your ankle and if you look down you should be able to see your big toe but your second toe should be hidden, adjust your knee accordingly. Stay here for 3-8 breaths and then straighten the right knee, lower the arms and do the other side. If you need to move in this pose, feel free to straighten and bend the knee as you inhale and exhale.
From a standing position, bring the palms together at heart centre and find a point in front of you to focus on. Shift the weight into the left foot and bring the sole of the right foot over top of your left ankle. Keep focused on your chosen point and don’t forget to breathe! To extend this pose, draw the right foot up to the left calf. Continue to focus and breathe for 8 full breathes and then gently release the right foot to the floor. Repeat on other side.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Lie down on your mat and close the eyes and mouth. Your neck is long, chin slightly tucked, both arms are at your sides, palms facing up. The feet are approx hip width apart, toes hanging outwards. Breathe in and out of the nostrils and feel the body relax and melt into the mat. Stay here for 1-5 minutes (or longer!), practice actively relaxing individual body parts or just focus on the breathe. Once finished, roll over to the right side and push your self up to a seated position. Namaste.