Top Cold-Weather Yoga Hacks

I asked my Canadian yoga-teacher friends from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, to share their top tips for getting to the mat when the temperature drops. They responded with some really enticing and cozy ideas, none of which involve practicing in a 35-degree room. Clearly, we Canadians have got this winter-yoga thing down! 

Thanks to Christine Guenette, Eliot Acuna, Erin Moon, Janie Pelletier, Melanie Richards, Nathalie Keiller, Robin Golt, and Sara Lamb for weighing in!

GETTING READY

  • I light beeswax candles, definitely! Sara
  • Wear layers - this way I can start feeling warm, then peel off the layers as my body heats up, and have everything near by for a cozy savasana. – Christine
  • Playing some chants or other slow, steady music seems just right for winter. - Sara
I have discovered that the warm red glow of a simple infrared bulb draws me to my mat on chilly days in winter, especially when I have been at my desk for a while and feel creaky.  Available in the reptile section of your favourite animal supply store. – Robin

I have discovered that the warm red glow of a simple infrared bulb draws me to my mat on chilly days in winter, especially when I have been at my desk for a while and feel creaky.  Available in the reptile section of your favourite animal supply store. – Robin

  • Team up to go for a yoga class... that will give you the extra motivation to leave the house on a cold day:) - Janie

WHEN TO PRACTICE?

  • I practice when the sun is just going down if I can, finishing in the dark, covered with a blanket. Early morning is the same thing - embrace the dark and warmth and cosiness. - Sara
  • When sunlight is short I move my practice from first thing in the morning, to later morning or early afternoon.  Keeps my motivation strong, and prevents feelings of discouragement that I sometimes feel when stepping onto my mat in the dark. - Christine
  • Use snow days to practice; it's a little gift of time you didn't know you were going to have! Sara

WHAT TO PRACTICE?

  • What warms me up the most is to stay in caturanga dandasana and in utkatasana as long as I can. I find actually that holding postures for longer periods in the winter brings beautiful, deep warmth to the body. – Eliot
  • I put the emphasis on the following attributes: serenity, warmth, grounded-ness, and steadiness.  This is mainly done by moving slowly and consciously, using strength and applying muscular energy to create heat and weight. I favour sitting and standing poses to strengthen the legs and stimulate circulation in the lower body (the seat of Vata), perform easy backbends with care, as well as forward bends and simple twists to harmonize the digestive system. - Nathalie
  • Winter is traditionally a time of hibernation and introspection, so it's a good time to focus on restorative yoga and deep relaxation. - Melanie
  • Honoring the simple grounding that nature is doing at this time of year, juxtaposing our crazier time of year, by doing a more grounding slow repetitive practice and bumping up my restorative practice.  – Erin
  • On cold winter days, I like to practice Ujjayi breath or breath of fire as I'm walking down the street. - Melanie
  • Honoring Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and Brahmacharya (non-excess) – Erin
  • Metta meditation - Erin

My 2-cents? All of the above, plus:

This heat dish has earned its place among my favoite winter yoga props.

This heat dish has earned its place among my favoite winter yoga props.

  • A hot shower before practice helps to loosen up joints and warmup the muscles.
  • Begin with whatever you love that feels good. Rolling movements or ball work can be good for morning stiffness. Then, hold a few heating poses like Plank, Side Plank, Jatara Parivartanasana, Standing Poses, or Handstand a bit longer than usual.
  • I love supported backbends for opening the chest, releasing tightness in my neck and upper back and breathing deeply. Lying over blocks, bolsters or chairs counteracts the shoulders-forward-and-down posture I tend to adopt to combat winter's bluster.