Find out why yoga is so important during the winter time

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- As we settle down for the rest of the winter season, it's highly important to strengthen your back, feet and legs so we don't slip during the cold Wisconsin weather.

"There are many yoga techniques that can support our intentions for healthy body, mind and spirit, especially during the winter months," explained Heather Van Dalfsen with 5 Koshas Yoga. Her tips are below:

1. For winter, Yoga can help develop our awareness to navigate snow and ice and increase the health of our bones, joints and muscle tone for strength and balance within our feet, legs and '360' core - abdominals, hips, low back. In addition, a winter yoga practice can help individuals mobilize their body, especially upper body, where we tend to hunch from the cold or stress of the season.
2. Breathing techniques within a yoga practice can support mental focus, optimal energy and stress management during the colder months of less sunlight.
3. Combining breath, movement and meditation can cultivate inner peace and calm.

Van Dalfsen said that just about anyone can practice yoga at any time during the day even if it's for just a few minutes. "We call this a 'Yoga Snack,' a short and nourishing practice. For example, four repetitions of standing postures such as Mountain pose (a standing balance posture for strong feet and legs, mobilization of upper body, increased balance practice and mental focus) and Chair pose (support strength in lower body) are accessible and effective postures that can be adapted to meet the needs of each person," Van Dalfsen explained.

Winter time yoga can become a healthy habit, like drinking enough water or getting regular exercise or fresh air.

When taking a 5-minute break from our desk for example, a short practice can be as attainable as pausing to bring awareness to the breath, stretching as you take an inhale and relaxing as you take an exhale.

Other options are as easy as committing to a group class at least one time a week, which can offer individuals an opportunity to support their physical and mental health in a safe space. Here they can develop their practice with the guidance of a teacher and the support of like-minded classmates.

"Strong core, feet and legs also need to be mobile as they can support more function and safety for individuals in the winter, and movements in a yoga class will support forward bending, back bending, lateral movements and lengthening of the spine, increasing circulation along the spine and within the whole body," Van Dalfsen said. "The lower body greatly benefits as this is where we generate our stability, mobility and balance to move through out activities of daily living, such as, getting out of our car, shoveling, snow blowing and favorite winter activities."

Van Dalfsen also wanted to get across that breathing can be a forgotten part of our health and wellness journey, so taking time to pause to deepen our awareness of our inhale and exhale for 4-8 breaths should be an ongoing practice for everyone.

These pauses of mindful breathing can help regulate our nervous system and 'reset' our physically and mentally well-being. For post holiday, an accessible breathing technique can be:
· Stand, sit or lie down
· Close eyes if comfortable and bring attention to the tip of the nose
· Take 4-8 breaths and feel the flow of the breath at the tip of the nose
· Take 4-8 more breaths, gently deepening both parts of the breath, keeping the breath smooth and steady
· Take 4-8 more breaths and with each inhale visualize peace and with each exhale visualize calm