The “winter blues” affects even those of us with the sunniest of dispositions, sapping us of energy and creativity when we need it most. But breathing more deeply and practicing yoga can help, says Dana Flynn, yoga teacher and co-creator of Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in New York City. She lives her advice—to step into Flynn’s studio is to step into joyfulness. With brightly colored ceiling-to-floor curtains, glitter sealed into the studio floor, and a disco ball she turns on at the end of class when it’s dark, Flynn relishes helping students feel “fresh, inspired and alive.”
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For those who can’t pop into the Laughing Lotus for a cold weather pick-me-up, Flynn developed the following yoga flow that you can practice in the comfort of your own home.
Begin seated in cross-legged for some gentle breath work and meditation. Close your eyes and bring your hands into Lotus Mudra at your heart by sealing your thumbs and pinky fingers together, with the rest of your fingers and palms open. “Lotus Mudra opens the heart and invites the light while calling on our own creative power,” she says.
Become aware of your breath, allowing it to fall into a rhythmic pattern. Then try adding sound on your exhale with an audible “ahhh.” Follow your body’s lead, and when you’re ready, open your eyes.
Downward Facing Dog
Next, come into Downward Facing Dog. Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Turn your toes under and push up into an inverted-V position, with your heels reaching toward the floor, your palms pressed to your mat, and your head aligned with your upper arms.
Then, inhale as you lift your right leg behind you. Use your momentum to step your right leg forward between your hands, bringing right knee to right wrist. Your right shin should be parallel to the front of your mat. Lower your back leg to the ground, relaxing that foot, and coming into Pigeon pose. Draw your left hip forward while drawing your right hip back. “Rise up out of pigeon, using your hands to breath your head and chest up,” Flynn says.
Next, spin your left toes upward, keeping your leg long. Use your hands on either side to walk your torso forward and down across your left leg into Head-to-Knee pose. “Follow your breath and let some of the exhales become a sigh,” Flynn says. “Let go.” Explore this pose for 3-5 full breaths.
Inhale your way up to sitting and drop your right hand behind you. Press into your right knee and left foot. Lift your hips and reach your left arm high into Stargazer.
Switch sides, practicing the flow beginning with Downward Facing Dog again on the opposite side. Repeat as many times as feels good to your body and heart. When finished, return to seated, bringing your hands back into Lotus Mudra. Exhale several “ahhh” breaths and allow your palms to come together at heart center. “Celebrate your amazing life!” Flynn says.