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Yogic lifestyle for winters

As winter comes along, the air gets crisp and dry. That has a direct effect on the metabolic functioning of the body. Yoga and Ayurveda strongly advocate to adapt to the changing seasons; hence it becomes important to make the necessary changes to your diet and exercise.

Nishtha Bijlani, a Mumbai-based certified Yoga Expert suggests different ways to deal with the winter chills:

1. Start your day with a warm glass of water. This helps to aid the sluggish digestion during the winters and helps clear the bowels effectively.

2. Practice the Yogic Kriyas as hereunder:

Kapalbhati: Kapalbhati is also known as the breath of fire. It increases the agni or fire element in the body. It improves the functioning of the digestive and respiratory systems. With regular practice, it helps cleanse the frontal lobes of the lungs, releases toxins and drains the sinus beds. Method: Sit on the mat in a cross-leg position or on a chair with your back upright. The focus is on active exhalation. The inhalation is passive. Keep the eyes and mouth closed as you start the first round with 20 active exhalations. Release the breath actively through the nose and belly. There will be a sound that accompanies your exhalation. You will notice the belly naturally pump inward with every exhalation. Avoid tensing the face and the rest of the body. You can gradually increase to 50 strokes of breath and more. Practice this early morning on an empty stomach. Avoid during pregnancy, menstruation and in case of high BP.

Bhastrika:Similar to Kapalbhati, the practice of Bhastrika is done with active inhalation & exhalation. It raises the heat in the body and helps clear the toxin build up. It gives great power to the lungs and leaves one feeling light and relaxed.

Method: Begin in a comfortable seated position on the mat or chair. Along with the breath we will create a downward pulling action with the hands. On inhale take your hands up and on exhale, make a fist to pull down. Continue this up-down action with the hands coordinating with the breath. Remember to keep both the inhale & exhale active. Practice this early morning on an empty stomach. Avoid during pregnancy, menstruation and in case of high BP.

Sukshma Vyayam: These are gentle movements done to lubricate and mobilize joints. Especially helpful in cold dry weather when the joints stiffen up. Practice of Sukshma Vyayam takes just 10-15 min and it has the power to unblock the stagnant flow of energy in our joints. It sharpens the senses, refreshes the mind and redirects life back in. Some movements that you can do: Neck movement: Simply move the neck in all 4 directions: up, down, left, right and back to center. Wrist rotation: Make a fist, extend your hands forward at shoulder height. Make outer circles with your wrists followed by inner circles. Point & flex the feet: Can be done standing or seated with legs stretched open. Point your toes forward in plantar flexion and then turn your toes toward you in dorsiflexion. Keep the movement from the ankle joints.

Dhanurasana: Dhanurasana is a backward bend, also known as the bow pose. Not only does help to effectively open the spine, but also improves respiration and digestion. It stretches open the body, releasing all stiffness and tightness. It helps to create suppleness in the spine and freeness in the breath. Method: Lie down in a prone position with your belly rested on the mat. Bend your knees and grab the outer sides of your feet. Using the strength of your legs, pull your chest up, lifting it off the mat. Remember to not pull your feet down to the hips. Keep moving the legs back and create the expansion in the chest. When you are done, slowly release the feet and rest on the mat. Avoid: If you have a back or knee injury.

3. Eat warm foods This is the season to have warm soups and meals. Choose to eat light home-cooked meals instead of heavy dense foods. As the digestion tends to get sluggish during winters, it's best to eat early dinners and keep the heaviest meal for lunch when the sun is the strongest. Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm that moves as per the sun. Hence, the digestive power is the strongest at noon. Stay away from cold salads, frozen meals and raw food. Include spices, nuts, ghee and honey. As the season changes, so shall our routine. This winter remembers to keep yourself warm, nourished and active with these simple changes to the lifestyle..