There is a selection of asanas concerned with improving the energy flow in the body and breaking down neuro-muscular knots. This group is called the Shakti Bhanda asanas. The word shakti in sanskrit means energy and the word bhanda is a sanskrit word for holding or locking so the shakti bhanda series of asanas is concerned with releasing the energy blocks within the body, mainly in the pelvic region, the spine and the chest.
These asanas are particularly helpful for those whose energy is feeling low and needs a boost. In winter you may find that long periods indoors, lack of sunlight and reduced exercise routines can lead to a reduction in your energy levels so this is a good time to explore the practices of the Shakti bhanda group.
According to the APMB* these asanas clear the energy blockages, activate the heart and lungs and improve endocrine function. They are especially helpful for menstrual problems and can be used before and after pregnancy.
Some of the practices like Chakki Chalanasana (churning the mill) are excellent for toning the nerves and organs of the pelvis and abdomen whilst Namaskarasana (salutation pose) has a positive effect on the nerves and muscles of the thighs, knees, shoulders, arms and neck. As this posture is practiced in a squatting position it also helps to increase the flexibility of the hips.
Kashtha Takshanasana (wood chopping pose)….. a favorite of mine, which can be performed squatting or standing helps to open the hips and works the muscles of the back between the shoulder blades as well as the shoulders and the upper back muscles.
It is also useful to raise the prana shakti during times of lethargy by focusing on different types of breathing practices such as Bhastrika or the bellows breath.
This breathing practice where you focus on taking short sharp inhalations and exhalations through the nose generating a pumping action in the abdomen, whilst the chest, shoulders and face remain relaxed, burns up toxins and charges the pranic system, creating alertness, heat and arousing body and mind. The rapid exchange of air in the lungs increases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of the bloodstream., stimulating the metabolic rate and producing heat, flushing out wastes and toxins. The practice of Bhastrika, however is contraindicated for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcer, stroke, epilepsy and retinal problems. Generally speaking you should seek guidance from a teacher before commencing bhastrika as it is a strong practice and needs to be done correctly to be effective.
Of course another way to keep warm this winter and beat that winter sluggishness that often strikes about the middle of winter is to reconnect to your practice of Salute to the sun or Surya Namaskara. The dynamic movement of this practice and the added visualisation of drawing within the qualities of the sun such as vitality, light, warmth and life force have a profound effect on all levels.
for more information on shakti check out …http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1980/emay80/sechealth.shtml
* APMB or Asana, Pranayama,Mudra ,Bhanda by Sw Satyananda Saraswati Yoga Publications Trust, Munger , Bihar, India