Temperatures drop. The sun seems illusive. It’s all you can do to keep a smile on your face when passing by your neighbors to wave a friendly hello.
Winter is downright difficult. It feels unnatural somehow to layer up with heavy clothing just to walk your dog. But, that’s the way of the season. And sometimes the season lasts far longer than we wish it would.
For many of us, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) plagues our days. For others, depressive states become worse than ever. Lucky for us, yoga postures—specifically those that bend us backwards—have the power to uplift even the grumpiest Grinches among us.
So, let’s roll out our sticky mats, light a candle, and move our body-minds through a potent backbending sequence to stave off the winter blues.
Supine Backbend Over a Bolster
Because the winter is all about slowing down and hibernation, we’re going to begin in a simple, restorative backbend. You’ll need a bolster, and two blankets for this one. If you don’t have a bolster, roll up a blanket to mimic one.
Place the bolster under your knees. You’ll also need two blankets. Roll the blankets into tight cylinders, and place one beneath your shoulder blades, and the other under your neck.
Lie down on your back so that the bolster supports you, as do the blankets. Breathe as you move your torso into a mild backbend. Even this stretch can be intense if you haven’t been backbending regularly.
Take it easy, and breathe here for several cycles of breath. While closing your eyes, take your inner gaze to the third eye.
Allow gravity to sink you into the Earth.
Bridge Pose With a Block (or Bolster)
Next, you’ll need a block or a bolster again. Staying on your back, place the block or bolster beneath your sacrum. If using the block, take it to whatever height feels best for your body.
You’re now in bridge pose, while being supported by the block. You may want to clasp hands beneath you, while rolling the shoulders open. Alternatively, simply allow the arms to relax by your sides. Breathe here for several cycles of breath.
When you’re finished, slowly release the block from beneath you and come down one vertebrae at a time. Roll to one side, and press yourself up to sit on your knees.
By doing bridge pose, you strengthen your thighs and back. You also open and expand the chest, heart, and lungs.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel pose is one of the most effective mood-boosting backbends. Not only does it expand the chest, back, heart and lungs, it also opens the groin, and releases heat from the liver.
You can take any variation of camel you like. Just pay attention to your body and don’t push too far.
If you’re sitting on your knees, come up and turn your feet under. Placing the hands firmly on your buttocks, inhale, and gradually begin to arch your back.
As you move into camel, keep your chin on your chest. With every inhalation, expand through the chest. Imagine your heart and lungs expanding outward.
You’re creating space in your organs, and moving in the direction that’s counter to nearly every (hunched over) movement we do during the day.
Breathe in camel and gradually move deeper into the pose. To come out, engage the abdomen to support the back as you slowly release up and out of the posture.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana I)
Not only does cobra pose open the back, it also strengthens it. Cobra is also said to stimulate the sex glands, as well as the thyroid, and thymus glands.
Move onto your stomach. You may want to place a folded blanket beneath your stomach for additional support.
Place the hands below the shoulders. Exhale, and bring the front body up to meet the back body.
This is subtle, but bring your awareness to this action. Keep your head neutral and lead from the chest as you push with your hands up into cobra pose.
Be sure to keep the hips on the floor, and press all ten toes into the sticky mat.
Stay in cobra for several cycles of breath. To release the pose, slowly allow the belly to lead you back down to the floor.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Push up and back into child’s pose to round out the practice. Child’s pose is incredibly nurturing during the winter season.
While not a backbending pose, child’s pose is an effective counter pose to the backbends you’ve been doing.
With the forehead pressed into your sticky mat, bring your awareness to the third eye and breathe. After several cycles of breath, move out of child’s pose, and take a nice, long savasana.
Do this sequence every winter day if it helps! Not only will it boost your mood, it will also bring vitality to various organs of the body.
While this practice is simple, it’s effective, and accessible to all.
Take care of yourself this winter, and always practice self-compassion. Positive self-talk and a will to be generally optimistic, will support the yoga postures that help stave off the winter blues.