Ashtanga Blog

How to take care of your body during winter

How to soothe your body and counterbalance the harming effects of exposure to cold and humidity and absence of sun.

Tania Kemou performing Titibasana Ashtanga Pose in Serifos, Greece.

Raise your hand if you experience the following in winter: low energy, fatigue, muscle pain and stiffness. Those are signs that your body is telling you it is not happy.

As soon as the cold days settle in and the daylight becomes scarce, many of us experience these “winter” symptoms.

What to do? Even though moving to a warmer place remains the best solution there are a few things you can do to soothe your body and counterbalance the harming effects of exposure to cold and humidity and the absence of sun. Here are my absolute favourites:

1. Epsom salt baths

Epsom salts are easy to find and contain magnesium which helps with aching muscles and recovery from exercise. Fill your bathtub with hot water (37-39 °C), add 500 gr of salts and soak for 20 min once or twice a week.

2. Castor oil baths

If you don’t have a bathtub this is the best alternative to salt baths: rub castor oil (or sesame oil if you prefer) on your body, massage gently insisting on aching areas, leave for 10-20 min then shower. Castor oil has great effects on tired and achy muscles.

3. Get a massage once per month

My personal favourites are traditional Thai and deep tissue. They are intense enough to remove blockages and deal with deep knots which tend to get triggered by the cold…which brings me to the next point:

4. Learn how to treat your trigger points yourself

Trigger points are muscle knots that we all have and get triggered by several factors: overuse of the particular muscle, bad posture and cold weather being some of them. If the trigger point is active it causes pain in near areas (referred pain). As much as getting massages and having trigger point work done by a therapist are great, you cannot have them every day and you do need to work on persistent trigger points every day if you want long term results.

You will only need a tennis or lacrose ball. Depending on where the point is you can stand against the wall or lie on your back or side with the ball between your body and the wall or floor. Once you find the sore spot apply steady pressure for 2 min then release. Do it once every day, before or after exercise, it really helps.

5. Eat warming foods

Add fresh ginger and turmeric to your tea, juice, smoothie and warm meals. Not only do they have warming properties, they are also among the best anti inflammatory foods you can get your hands on. Which means they strengthen your immune system against colds, the other big enemmy in winter.

6. Get enough sunlight

Sun is health and you should not avoid it. Ideally you should expose yourself daily for 30 min to direct sunlight without sunscreen (counterintuitive but true). Now if you live somewhere where sunlight is scarce, get as much as you can when it’s there and check youself regularly for Vitamin D deficiency. If you experience fatigue and muscle cramps and weakness regularly this could be the reason and in that case you should supplement. Do not supplement without checking first and always consult your doctor beforehand.

Hopefully these will help getting you through winter as pain free as possible! Please do share your own tips and experiences :-)