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Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis, who will lead Yoga Journal’s upcoming online course Pillars of Power Yoga (sign up here to be the first to know when this fitness- and focus-boosting course launches), helps you warm up for winter with these 8 heat-building poses that stoke your inner fire and get you deeper into your body.
Breathe: Cultivate Ujjayi breath. Breathing slowly through your nose, slightly constrict the back of your throat and begin to heat the body with intentional breath. Let the sound and warming temperature of your breath be your anchor into your body.
Warm up: Start with 3 rounds each of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B.
Come into a high push-up position, stack your shoulders over your wrists, and hug your arm muscles to the bones. Root your knuckles down into your mat and look down, settling your drishti (gaze) in between your hands. Spread across your collarbones. Reach the top of your head forward and press your heels away. Lift your low belly up and in, stoking your inner fire as you hold for 5 breaths.
Ground down through your left hand, dial both heels to the left, and lift your right arm to the sky. Look to your top hand and spread your fingers wide. Lift your hips as high as you can and open your chest. Hold for 5 breaths.
Side Plank Variation
To intensify the pose, flex your feet, activate your legs, and raise your right leg high, reaching through your toes. Moving from your core center, bend your top knee into your chest, and catch your knee with your top hand. Pull everything up and in to stabilize. Mindfully build the progression step-by-step over 5 breaths. Gracefully step your right foot forward to the top of the mat.
High Lunge, Crescent Variation
Ground down into all four corners of your front foot, hug your inner thighs toward one another, and build your solid foundation for your pose. On your inhale, lift your arms and chest high. Draw power up from your legs into your core, and from your core root down into the earth. Settle in and hold for 5 balanced breaths. Lift your low belly and scissor your inner thighs in toward your centerline.
Crescent Twist with Open Arms
Reach your left arm forward and right arm to the back of your mat for an open arm twist (note: other side shown in photo). Send your tailbone down, lift through your low belly, and extend up through your crown. Stretch your arms away from each other, and shine out across your chest. Ride your breath: with each inhale lengthen the sides of your torso, and twist more with each exhale. Generate heat from your core as you deepen your twist and hold for 5 full rounds of breath. Unwind. Vinyasa through to the other side (plant hands, exhale, and jump or step back to Chaturanga, then move through Upward-Facing Dog and Downward-Facing Dog), and begin the sequence again on the other side starting with Plank.
Balance on your seat, extend your heels high, and reach your arms forward. Activate your feet, press the inner arches of your feet together, and fan your toes open. To modify, you can bend your knees to bring your shins parallel to the ground, and even catch your hands behind your knees for more support. Engage your low belly and lift your chest up and open. Stay steady and hold for 10 warming breaths. Cross your ankles, roll over your feet, and step back to Downward-Facing Dog.
Fire Toes Pose
From Downward-Facing Dog, walk halfway up your mat and drop down to your knees into a kneeling position. Tuck your toes under and sit back on your heels, stretching the muscles of your feet open. Hug your inner ankles together, squeeze your legs toward your centerline, and lift your hands to Prayer. Anchor your tailbone down, lift your low belly, and breathe steadily as you continue to stoke your inner fire. Hold for 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, bring your palms to the ground, untuck your toes, and flap out your feet on your mat. Then make your way to your seat.
Fire Log Pose
Stack your right shin on top of your left shin, with both legs parallel to the top of the mat. Flex your feet and keep generating heat through your legs. Press your hands down by your hips and scoot your hips back a few inches. Lift your heart high as you inhale and broaden your chest.
Fire Log Pose, continued
Ride your exhale down as you fold forward. Rest your forearms on the ground, or on a block. Drop your head and hold for 10 breaths or more. Slowly bring yourself back up to your seat, reverse your legs, and repeat Fire Log pose on the other side.