Friday, January 14, 2011

Yoga in the cold

Hello yogis!

Well, one of the biggest changes in moving to England from the tropics is, of course, the weather!  One of the biggest shocks is the late sunrise - I practice yoga in the mornings and it has been hard to motivate myself to get out of bed and practice in the dark! I am used to the sun actually rising during sun salutations...

So, you readers who have experience in seasonal yoga, I asked the question on Twitter and will ask here again:

How do you motivate yourself to practice in winter?

I can't wait to read your responses!


  1. Honestly, you kind of have to change your schedule. When I worked 9-5 I got straight on my mat when I got in. These days I practice about 9am - at least it's a bit light then.

    That said, I can't get up at dawn to practice even in the tropics so what would I know!

  2. i hear you there. i get up and walk to work and it's dark and i walk home and it's dark. Thank goodness for windows in my office!

    i think the best motivation is enough sleep.... seriously. Recognizing that our bodies have a harder time waking up in the winter (just happens, every summer and winter for my 29 years of living in Canada has been like this for me). If you're already tired, it's extra hard. So lots of sleep (maybe even going to bed earlier than you would normally to balance it out.

    Lighting a candle to practice by might help...

    I am an evening practicing yogini for sure. I find that it just starts to happen that i'm practicing while it's dark outside. The earlier in the evening (right when i get home from work) the better.

    Maybe you coudl use this as an opportunity to visit some local studios- get your yoga practice in a little bit differently while in England.

    Sorry i don't have any other ideas- I just find it harder in the winter.... my body slows down- which i think is natural for us in this weather anyway :)

  3. I'm not ashamed to say that I crank the heat in my little apartment for winter practice, but still, it's drafty and difficult to keep a sweat going. I try to keep my practice pretty strong in winter to help keep me warm and take advantage of the fact that I don't tire as quickly because I'm not contending with the Texas heat.

    I like to practice as the sun is going down, so I've had to try to get on my mat earlier during the winter months. Once it gets dark outside, my energy changes and it's difficult to start anything new for the day.

  4. @Rachel - I have been so jetlagged this week that practicing in the evening was unthinkable! But I should be able to work up to it and see if that works for me. Funny because I used to only practice in the evenings and now I am so comfortable in my morning practice. Change always forces us to shake it up! :)

    @Eco - My new office has lots of natural light which is great! Sleep and light are excellent tips! And I am definitely going to try out some of the local classes here.

    @Misanthropic - It bugs me that I can do my whole practice and barely sweat! I am used to dripping in the hot humid tropics, and here I even consider leaving my socks on some mornings! LOL.

  5. I've been dealing with this myself the past couple of months. I moved from Melbourne, Australia to Manitoba, Canada. The winter here is so much more brutal than anything Australia could ever dish up and it gets dark early at night, with the sun not rising until almost 8.30am. I prefer to practice asana in the morning before work, but my body is so resistant to it during this winter. For a while I kept forcing myself out of bed to do it but I felt that I wasn't getting as much out of my practice, so now, if I'm struggling, I practice asana as soon as I get home from work, about 6pm. The nice thing about that is I can go so much further in the postures than I can get when my body's all stiff in the morning! I like the idea of altering practice to suit the seasons rather than being rigid.
    Hope you're enjoying England!

  6. The fan heather has been my best friend this winter... I'm such a wimp when it comes to cold weather!

  7. Winter is when I'm most active. I love the brisk cold, but being a vata I always need to warm up. :) My motivations are: that amazing, nearly indescribable feeling you get after yoga practice, feeling fluid and alive, and when I'm more active, the taking-care-of-myself seems to naturally become a priority in all other aspects.

    How are you? Are you loving England? I want to move there with you!!!

  8. Hello! I came across your blog today and I love it! I started my yoga practice in Montreal, Canada fall of 2009. Because of university and work, I was only able to practice in the evening at 7pm. So my body and mind got used to practicing at later times. As a physically active person, I needed motivation to go to the gym more often in Montreal's winter. Practicing yoga motivated me and helped bring my spirits up from gloomy to active. I moved to Dubai last summer, and, well.. we suffer opposite extremes here. It gets ridiculously hot! During the summer, practicing outdoors is impossible coz u will suffer from a sun stroke. During "winter", it doesnt get colder than 15 degrees, and it does not snow here but it gets really windy somedays for outdoor practice. I still practice in the evening because of work. What I like to do is get on the treadmill or elliptical machine and work up a sweat for 30 mins. I also practice ashtanga so no problem in keeping my body warm. I would recommend putting together a dynamic flow sequence, starting off with pranayama (ujjayi) 8 rounds of sun salutations (that's if ur not doing ashtanga surya namaskara A and B). Then, most of your sequence is standing asanas (warrior poses, standing splits, 3-legged downdog, twists like revolved half moon and revolved trikonasana). The last 10-15 minutes of ur practice are cooling seated poses and invert.

    I hope all is well in England!

  9. @Brigid - It's true what you say about not getting as much out of the practice. I am struggling to find a routine where I can practice in the evenings though... I guess it will take time to find my balance!

    @MixandMatch - I should totally invest in one of those!

    @YifY - I am also a vata and the cold really affects me, especially my hands and feet! Although my body seems to be adjusting a bit now. Love your motivations!

    @Jogini - Thanks for stopping by! I have been doing yoga in the heat for the past 7 years so it is quite a shock! Either way I think it takes a lot of time to adjust and learn how to cope.

  10. hey...
    just been revisiting your blog for the first time in ages - and love it just as much!
    i didn't see this post before, kind've interesting to read it here because I put out the same question when winter hit here in Pakistan a few months ago. and my question is not just 1. how do I motivate myself, but 2. how do you teach (what do you teach, to keep students safe?) when its cold - and you can't get the room heated as much as you feel it should be..

    here's what I worked out so far:
    - as others say here in that it worked for me to follow what my body wanted and my usual morning yoga became mostly after-work yoga during the winter.
    - secondly for both my own practice & teaching I've changed the pattern of the sequence. found that the practice I can do in the morning or a cooler room in the afternoon is a slow-starting one - so starting from the floor, lots of rolling around, gently getting the body moving - and heating up and moving to standing (usually I'm a very 'up & moving' right off the bat type)
    - another strategy has been to really think about energising 'firey' breathing and starting poses - so I've found starting with Kapalabhati for example and a good asana the table-top pose where you extend opposite arm & leg to engage core. kundalini & qi gong inspiration swinging arms and expanding hands, arms, shoulders, toes - movement but without extremes of range giving the body a chance to generate some heat before pushing the muscles.
    - employing the heater and being tremendously grateful when the gas ISN'T cutting...
    - finally, I have actually just accepted that its winter, and my body wants to eat and sleep more than it wants to move and maybe thats okay. so I have come round to the idea that sleeping or lying in bed enjoying resting and being warm is maybe a reasonable substitute some days - and you can do quite a lot of exploration of the muscles in your body just expanding and contracting bits and pieces

    so thats from my side - would love to hear if you had any further thoughts on this yourself!