If cold weather is your catalyst for freezing feet and stiff legs, you’ll know all too well how difficult it can be to deal with poor circulation. Whilst layering up in socks and knitted jumpers are a couple of ways to keep out the cold, there are a few other ways to stimulate full-body circulation, and they’re easier than you may think.
One of the kindest things to do for your body each day is massaging it – even for just a few short minutes. In Ayurveda, this is known as Abhyanga and is an important part of daily self-care. Doing this first thing in the morning is a quick way to instantly enhance circulation around the whole body, relieve overnight stiff muscles, and prepare for your morning yoga practice.
Self-massage not only does self-massage help physically – it also encourages a better connection with ourselves and enhanced body awareness (i.e. awareness of posture, breathing, sensation etc.). When you wake up, gently massage the feet with your thumbs – firm circular movements on the soles of the feet works well for ‘breaking up’ adhesions in the plantar fascia, and can go a long way towards more flexible legs, hips and back. Adding a little ginger essential oil to the soles of the feet can also stimulate digestion and circulation further. Massage towards the heart, squeezing the muscles gently to boost circulation. Using an oil with warming qualities such as sesame or mustard can add to the warming effect, and be sure to pay special attention to any areas you hold tension.
Increase your digestion
Our digestion is fascinating, we eat something and it transforms into energy. It’s basically our powerhouse. For yoga and its sister’s science Ayurveda, a bad digestion it’s the root cause of most of the diseases. When our digestion is weak or lazy, we get sick. We are made of what we eat, of what our gastrointestinal tract is able to digest. However things as not as simple as they seem.
Many people lack, the energy needed to transform fully the food they ingest into good and necessary nutrients. Indigestion, constipation, constant bloating and acidity problems are considered normal today.
People have more food intolerances and allergies than ever; it’s really time to be more conscious and aware of what we eat and how we eat. In order to feel energized, increase circulation, and allow the body to work properly, we need to enkindle digestive ‘fire’, also known as Agni. You could think of maintaining digestive fire a little like throwing logs onto a real fire. If the logs are damp or made out of something that won’t burn efficiently, the fire will eventually go out. If the logs are thrown on gradually and they’re made of exactly the right material, the fire will keep burning brightly for a long time.
Cold, frozen, raw or ‘damp’ foods are usually best to avoid at this time of year, as they can slow down and prevent digestion, and raw foods especially can be difficult to digest, causing bloating and gas. Warm, cooked and easy to digest foods such as soups, stews, dahl and curries are some of the best foods for colder months, and adding spices such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, mustard seeds, cayenne, chilli pepper and cumin can all work to enhance digestion and warm the body up.
When we are feeling cold, our blood circulation decreases, which not only slows down the effectiveness of the organs, it also lowers our body temperature. This can lead to constriction of the muscles, joints and even our perspective.
When it’s cold outside, it’s now time to apply some methods to increase heat that may not be best during the hot summer months.
Warm Up With Hot Water
If you are feeling cold in your practice space, sip a cup of hot water right before you start. That will start to warm your body inside and you can pick up the warmth with your upcoming movement. Add some lemon if you don’t like the taste.
This is a fairly safe cleansing technique that some styles of yoga view as a Pranayama practice. Sitting in a comfortable position with a very tall spine, place a hand on your lower belly, below your belly button. After receiving an inhale, exhale forcefully from the lower belly, feeling the hand quickly move towards your back body.
Then do it again, without inhaling. our job is to focus on exhaling, over and over. Start at a steady pace, allowing each exhale to complete itself. As you get comfortable, this may start to move faster.
After about 25 repetitions, exhale all the air out and allow a large inhale to move in, holding the breath for a few seconds, then slowly releasing it. When it starts to feel comfortable, you can repeat this cycle two more times, allowing a rested breath in between rounds.
This practice removes carbon dioxide from the lungs and can begin to bring some energy to the body. (For asthma people, this will not be appropriate for you.)