Bears love to hibernate in winter and so do we. But, it’s important to stay active and keep our circulatory system in top shape even when we’d rather stay under the covers. How you hold up in cold weather depends a lot on your circulation.
Staying active in the dormant months is good for your health. Exercising in fresh cold air is shown to increase metabolism, burn more calories, boost immunity and increase blood circulation. But, extreme cold also poses some risks from hypothermia, to frostbite, to rigid joints which makes our bones susceptible to sprains and breaks. Maintaining healthy circulation is key to good health in colder conditions.
Winter sport athletes and Polar Bear plungers
may love the exhilaration of bracing the cold because they are more acclimatized to frigid temperatures, but most of us need to take precautions and take less radical measures to keep our circulation strong. But, these circulation tips and the Water Up, Fire Down principle can help keep your engine humming all winter long.
You don’t have to be as bold as those bears, but with these circulation tips and exercises you can stay warm, healthy and active this winter:
Warm Up for the Cold
Give yourself extra time in the morning to warm up before heading out into the snow and ice. To hold in your heat longer, linger longer in a hot shower, thoroughly blow dry your hair, brew a cup of green tea instead of coffee which tends to be dehydrating, and make a big breakfast. Also, wear plenty of layers. Maintaining a warm body temperature with insulating layers like wool socks and sweaters is easier than trying to get warm once you are outdoors.
Cold weather can be very drying to the skin and slow down circulation. Drink plenty of liquids, especially water at room temperature to keep your body moist and your joints lubricated.
One of the easiest and effective ways to get your blood flowing and your body tingling is with Whole Body Patting.
Whole body patting consists of tapping the body to help increase circulation and open blocked or stagnant lymph, blood and qi. Through the stimulation of patting, cells are strengthened and acupressure points are opened.
All age groups can perform this exercise. If you feel discomfort in any area of the body when tapping, pat more lightly, especially if you experience stomach distress. Do not press into tender areas. Instead, gently rub your hands together to warm them, then lightly massage that area.
1. Begin with your left arm, palm facing down. Pat the back of the left hand, then move up the back of the wrist and the outside of the arm, along the elbow, and back up to the left shoulder. Repeat for the right arm.
2. Continue patting with both hands at the middle of your chest, moving down to your solar plexus. Move your hands to your stomach and liver. Pat your abdomen on the left side while concentrating on the stomach.
3. Now, bend slightly at the waist as you continue patting. Move your hands over your lower back and kidneys. Pat all the way down the back of your legs down to your ankles. Then move up the front of your body, starting from your ankles. Pat along your inner calves, thighs, until you come back to your abdomen.
4. Pat your abdomen 100 times in a clockwise motion.
5. After you’ve patted your whole body, cross your arms with your hands on your shoulders. Sweep your hands down the front of your body as you uncross your arms. ‘Sweep out’ the rest of your body as well.
And, of course, if you have an area of your body you’d like to pat for a longer time, go for it!
Circulation Posture I
As its name suggests this posture is beneficial for circulation and provides a great spinal and hamstring stretch as well. This pose, similar to the plow pose in Hatha yoga, stimulates and opens the Bladder and Kidney Meridians, which run along the legs.
1. Lay on your back and hold the front or sides of your feet. Slowly stretch and straighten both legs to the best of your ability.
2. Keep your head and lower back on the floor as the pelvis is slightly lifted off the floor. You may experience a vibration in your legs. This means your Bladder Meridian is opening.
3. Completely relax your chest and shoulders.
4. Push out from your heels to fully stretch the Bladder and Kidney Meridians.
5. If there is too much tension in your shoulders when you try to grab your feet, modify this posture by holding your ankles or calves instead of your feet.
6. Hold for 2–3 minutes.
Circulation Posture II
This posture opens the Im-maek (eem-meck) and Kok-maek (coke-meck) Meridians that run along the front and back of your torso. It offers a wonderful spinal stretch.
1. From Circulation Posture I, bring both legs completely over your head.
2. Bring your arms over your head and grab the sides of your feet.
3. Keep your heels pushed out and straighten your knees. If you are unable to straighten your knees, just flex your ankles back. It is okay if your toes float above the floor.
4. Relax your shoulders as much as possible.
5. Focus on your exhalation.
6. Hold for 2–3 minutes.
7. Finish by bringing your legs back down to the floor and laying with your arms by your sides and eyes closed for a few minutes.