Yoga Winter Warmup

When I was a kid, in Kingston, New York, where winters are serious business, I had a fairly long walk to school. In an attempt to keep myself warm, or at least distract myself from the cold, I came up with an elaborate visualization: I imagined a self-propelled flying machine that I could fold up into a small case the size of a laptop (bear in mind that this was well before pc’s, let alone laptops!). So when I left the house, I’d “pull out” the case and start unfolding. The assembly process was complex and lengthy and lasted a good part of the walk. I remember many intricate details of the interior, including big, wide windows, a comfortable swiveling seat, a control panel worthy of the Star Trek Enterprise, and a small stove with a pot of hot cocoa bubbling away. As I approached school, I’d land and start the slightly less laborious process of folding it and packing it back up. Once that was done, I nonchalantly walked into the building as though nothing magical had just happened..

When it’s cold outside, it helps to call upon your imagination and inner reserves to warm you up. A good parka keeps you warm but not because it is a source of heat itself, rather, it warms you by trapping your own body heat. With that thought in mind, here’s a grown-up version of my flying machine: try imagining that your body is like a cylinder, with a vertical pipe running from your head to your toes at your core, and that inside that pipe is your body’s furnace. As you inhale, feel the breath drawing downward and inward, the breath becoming warmed as it moves past that inner furnace. Then hold the breath within, imagining the warmed breath spreading throughout your body. Exhale the warmed breath out so you make room for another warming inhale.

Once you come in from the cold, or before you go out in the cold, here are some poses to try which incorporate that breath and visualization. You should start sitting, taking several smooth breaths as described above, and end with a resting pose.