Hygge (pronounced hyoo-guh) is a Danish word, and like many foreign language words, it does not have an exact English meaning. The many translations actually assign a special magical quality to this word. Hygge can mean “coziness for the soul,” “the art of creating intimacy,” or “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.” More translations include “to give courage, comfort, joy,” and “a form of everyday togetherness.” At this point, you probably get it. It’s a good, heartfelt word; it embodies an essence that we all seek to feel.
Hygge is about creating an environment—the actual experience—of feeling at home, safe, and at ease. As winter approaches, it is a great time of year to explore all the ways you can bring more hygge into your life. That includes warm mugs of tea, fuzzy slippers, and definitely some relaxing yoga. This restorative sequence is meant to create an environment of hygge in your heart and your home—fireplace recommended, but not required.
A cozy hygge-inspired yoga sequence
Supported Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Child’s Pose helps relieve tension in the neck and shoulders and engenders feelings of comfort and grounding. Start by kneeling on the floor in front of a bolster. Stack extra folded blankets over the bolster so they are high enough to relax onto completely. Lower your torso onto the bolster and blankets, resting your head to one side. If it is more comfortable, widen your legs to allow more softness in your knees and hips. Relax your arms alongside the bolster. Close your eyes, breathe, and let go. Stay for 2 minutes, then turn your head to the other side for another 2 minutes.
Supported Prone Twist
This pose supports the spine during a twist, lengthens the back and side muscles, and is remarkably comfortable. Begin in a seated, bent knee position such as Vajrasana. Move your knees to the right, sitting on your right buttock, and pull the bolster against the right hip. Square your torso to the bolster and your chest and belly down onto it. Turn your right cheek onto the bolster, or for an accentuated neck twist, turn onto your left cheek. Relax your arms alongside your props, close your eyes and breathe here for 3–5 minutes. Repeat on your left side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) with a block
This pose stretches the backs of the legs and lower spine while supporting the head, thus calming the mind and boosting your spirit. Start on hands and knees, and place a block under your chest at medium height. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog. Rest your head on the block, adjusting the height as needed. Lengthen the back of your legs, but keep your knees bent slightly to take strain out of your shoulders and wrists. Hold for a few breaths and come down to rest when you are ready.
Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This pose stretches the inner thighs while allowing your back, hips, and knees to be fully supported by the props. Set up your bolster lengthwise on the mat. Loop a strap from your lower back around the outer edges of your feet. Rest back onto the bolster, placing your arms alongside your body; use extra blankets under your arms for additional hyggelige (yes it’s a real word, we looked it up) support. Let your knees roll out onto the blocks. Close your eyes and hold this comforting pose for up to 5 minutes.
Apanasana (Knees-to-Chest Pose) with strap
Apanasana relaxes the body while releasing tension in the belly and lower back. Begin in a seated position and loop a strap around your waist, keep the loop in a loose setting. Roll onto your back, holding the strap at your lower back. Draw your knees into your chest and tuck your knees into the looped strap. Tighten the strap so it comfortably hugs your shins and around your lower back. Release your head and shoulders onto the floor, using a pillow if it makes the position more comfortable. Relax your arms to the floor, close your eyes and rest here for 2–3 minutes.
Modified Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall-Pose)
This variation of Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose reduces stress, releases tension in the belly, and soothes the lower back. Place a folded blanket or two on the seat of a chair. Sitting on the floor facing the chair, lie down and step your calves onto the seat of the chair. Adjust the distance of your hips from the chair so that your legs are fully relaxed and supported on the seat. Optionally, you can pull a blanket over you, tucking the edges under your sides, to encourage more hygge. Relax your arms alongside your body, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe for 3–5 minutes.