Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise, which has been practiced in our country for a long time. Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga is the only exercise that focuses on the spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing of an individual.
Though yoga is practiced all-year round, there are some special benefits of doing yoga during the winter season.
During the winter season, the cold and chilly weather worsens joint pain. Practicing yoga asanas in ‘Vinyasa’ style or a flowing form helps to maintain mobility in the joints, increases blood circulation and alleviates stiffness in the joints. Heat is one of the best ways to ease pain, and the heat generated while doing yoga helps to keep the body warm. This heat relaxes the muscles in the body and soothes the pain in the joints.
An essential component of yoga is breathing exercises. In yoga, both inhaling and exhaling is done through the nose. Inhaling through the nose tends to warm the cold air entering the lungs. The groove-like passages that are present in the nasal airways filter the air before letting it go to the lungs. This helps to protect the lungs from certain allergens that would otherwise irritate the respiratory system of the body. Not only do breathing exercises such as ‘pranayam’ and ‘kapalbhati’ benefit the lungs, but they also strengthen the relationship between the respiratory system and the nervous system.
The skin regularly detoxifies the body in conjunction with various other internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and the immune system. A combination of central heating, cold winds and low levels of humidity tend to make the skin dry and dehydrated during the winter season.
Doing yoga during this weather helps to build up a sweat, which is the body’s natural way of cleansing the pores of the skin and maintaining skin hydration. This in turn, improves the texture and the suppleness of the skin. Since the person is sweating, the body has to work harder to cater to the energy demands of the body. Not only does this improve blood circulation, cardiovascular and respiratory function, but it also helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
During times of stress, the hypothalamus releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for alerting the body during stressful situations and regulating the immune system of the body. High levels of cortisol in the body compromises the body’s immune system and makes people susceptible to infections and diseases. Apart from keeping the body active, yoga also helps to relax the body. When the body’s nervous system is relaxed, the body’s immune system is more effective in attacking foreign organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
During the winter months, people tend to suffer from SAD, i.e., seasonal affective disorder. This disorder, also known as winter blues, has winter specific symptoms. These include a low mood, increased appetite, low levels of energy and the need to sleep more. The days tend to be shorter in winters, which means that people get less sunlight.
Yoga is a great way to make up for the low levels of light during this season. Incorporating ‘surya namaskars’ into your morning yoga routine will not only build heat inside your body, but it will also increase and improve the integrity of the cardiovascular and the respiratory systems of the body. This will then help to elevate your mood, make you feel energetic and re-balance the circadian rhythms (sleeping patterns) of your body.
So take some time out for yourself during the mornings to practice simple yoga asanas and breathing exercises. Not only will this help you maintain a healthy body weight but it will also protect you from infections and diseases during the winter months.
Sources: Australian Natural Health, Lybrate, Peaceful Dumpling, Reader’s Digest, Times of India, YogaHub.