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Winter is a time to turn our attention inward. During this time of year, we may start to mimic nature, noticing the desire to slow down, rest, and retreat. It’s this season of shorter, darker days and warming foods that can lend itself to a naturally rejuvenating hibernation.
One source of winter replenishment is gentle yoga. This slow, inward-focused practice is known for its ability to restore both body and mind. Whether young or old, fit or just beginning your workout routine, anyone can reap the restorative benefits of gentle yoga. In fact, yoga is one of the only physical activities that gets better with age. A recent study even found that yoga can improve the glucose levels and other biomarkers of people with type 2 diabetes.
As we head into the holidays and a more stressful season, consider trying our gentle flow with five different poses meant to soothe and restore. The poses listed below are meant to be a guide; if you find yourself short of breath after any one of them, pause. Take a breath. Try to hold each gentle yoga pose with slow and steady breathing before moving on to the next. And remember, yoga is a practice—it takes time, effort, and patience in order to glean its many rewards.
Moving through these five gentle yoga poses will take about 30-50 minutes.
Be mindful of any physical limitations you may have. You may need to avoid or modify certain poses if you have a history of injuries or experience pain. If you feel discomfort beyond a gentle stretch, ease out of the posture and only do movements that feel safe for you.
Set this pose up with legs stretched out in front of you; begin to walk your hands forward, rounding your spine and releasing your chin toward your chest. Breathe deeply into the parts of your body that may feel tense. Aim to stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes.
When you’re ready, slowly back out of the pose. Take your time to recline onto your back. Do your best to stay here in stillness and notice any sensations (with no need to react) in your body.
Warrior II Pose
Standing with your feet together, take a big step back with your left foot. Point the toes of your left foot slightly outward. Press the soles of your feet downward.
Extend the crown of your head away from your shoulders, elongating your spine. Reach your fingertips out to your sides at shoulder level, actively pressing them away from your shoulders. Bend your right knee and sink into the posture, allowing your bones to become heavy. Turn your head to gaze toward the fingertips of the right hand. Hold for five slow breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
On all fours, bring your right knee forward to your right wrist. Depending on your comfort level, it may be just behind your wrist or at the outer edge. Place your right shin at an angle, so your right ankle is in front of your left hip. Release your left leg back, so that it’s flat on the floor and pointing directly back. Square your hips to your front.
To deepen the stretch, slowly lower down onto your forearms in front of your right leg. You can stack your fists and gently rest your head on them or you can lower all the way down, resting your forehead on the floor. Rest here for five to 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, push back through the hands, lift your hips and move your leg back into all fours. Repeat on the other side.
Lying on your back, bring your right knee towards your chest and lift your right shin until it is parallel to the floor. Gently lower your right knee over the left side of your body, twisting the spine and lower back, keeping shoulders flat to the floor. Breathe and hold for four to six minutes.
When you’re ready to release, inhale and roll the hips back to center, keeping your right knee at a 90-degree angle. Then, exhale the right leg back down to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Sitting on your heels, press your sitting bones downward, into the floor. Press the crown of your head away from your shoulders. Lift your tailbone and allow your torso to come forward, with your forehead resting on the floor and your arms at your sides.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Alexa Stelzer, RDN, LD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.