When the holidays roll around, it’s a time of celebration and a great opportunity to add a little sparkle to your classes. As you’re crafting holiday yoga sequences, it’s easy to fall back on the classic holiday favorites - personally, gratitude is always at the top of my list - it’s an amazing intention and one we should hold all year long, not just during the holidays. But there’s so much more to explore!
Once we step beyond gratitude, there are many fun and creative themes we can use to jazz up our yoga classes during the most wonderful time of the year - so let’s dive in…
Holiday Yoga Class Themes to Consider
The holidays are about family, celebration, and which all rest on the backdrop of spirit.
When it comes to giving our class a spiritual message or a theme, here are some holiday ideas you may not have thought of yet:
- Celebrating our bodies and the ability to move
- Celebrating our breath and connection to ourselves
- Celebrating our practice and all of our teachers along the way
- When we cultivate a deep connection to ourselves, it also means deeper connections to others
- Recognizing that when we practice yoga, we improve our relationship to ourselves and other people in our lives
- When we open ourselves up, other things in our lives open up too
- Giving and receiving are synonymous with exhale and inhale - one begets the other
- Relationships are like breath - a living thing that can ebb and flow - and change!
- Be the light: when you shine brightly, everything around you does too
- Peace begins with us, cultivate stillness of mind
- Be present! The presence is the gift
- Think like a child getting a gift - approach your practice full of curiosity and wonder to see what your body can do
Holiday Peak Pose Themed Classes
Thanksgiving lends itself to a class based on birds - even though there is not a “turkey” pose per se, there are other bird related poses that can make for a fun holiday yoga sequence/theme.
There are great suggestions for building a peak pose flow in this article.
Here are some ideas for peak poses during Thanksgiving:
- Crow Pose: build up to crow using low squats and blocks to eventually “fly”
- Garudasana or Eagle Pose: wake up all the joints in preparation for this balance pose
- Pigeon Pose: Incorporate a variety of hip openers to get the body ready to take pigeon pose or any of it’s variations.
- Heron pose: If your class is on the more advanced side, try heron pose - this intense hamstring opener also stretches the quadriceps.
- Bird of Paradise: use a variety of shoulder, hip and hamstring openers to make this challenging pose more accessible to all levels.
The December holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa) are all about light, so adding a touch of sparkle and levity to classic poses is a fun approach.
Some ideas to weave into your December holiday class:
- Tree Pose with twinkling lights (arms extended, wiggling fingers) or for the adventurous, turn out the lights (closing the eyes)
- Five Pointed Star Pose with arms and legs outstretched in a v-shape, and extend the fingers like jazz hands.
- Any and all backbends - remembering to lead with an open heart is a wonderful intentions during this time of the year.
New Year is a chance to reflect and begin again - a fresh start.
Some ideas to give people a chance to let go:
- Twists - a chance to twist out the old, “wring” in the new. Think chair pose twists, lunge twists, revolved half moon - anything to move the spine and create a new flow of energy.
- Breathwork with lots of exhaling, like kapalabhati breathing. Let go of the old, breathe in the new.
- Any sequence that goes from being tightly wound up to expansive, like opening up from eagle into half moon, or rolling from being in ball on your back up into standing tadasana.
So much of the holidays is from the excitement and buildup… and then there’s the come-down. As much fun as it is to celebrate, it’s equally important to recover our bodies. To help soothe and alleviate holiday energy hangovers, breathwork can be great tool.
To slow ourselves down, try teaching breath work that extends the exhale - as a longer exhale stimulates the relaxation response. Here is simple breathing pattern to calm our stressed nervous system:
- Breathe in through the nose for 2 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 3.5 seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds
*Repeat for two rounds, then if desired, extend the time:
- Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds
Beyond breath work, calming down with a candlelight yoga experience is a lovely way to offer your students a calm reprieve during this busy time. Whether it is a flow or chill class, the low lighting and soft flicker of candlelight does wonders to the nervous system. Layer on some long holds and deep stretches and everyone will melt away their stress.
Looking for new creative ways to add holiday cheer to your classes? Create a Holiday playlist. This could be traditional hits or low-key versions of holiday classics.
In fact, if you’re really onboard with having fun with music, you could theme your whole December with holiday tunes, maybe a different genre or decade each week leading up to the New Year.
Always remember have fun with holiday themed classes or workshops. As yogis, we like to celebrate in the way we know best - on our mats, so however you can weave in the potent messages of the holidays while still giving people a chance to move their bodies, it will be a success.
Shine bright and have fun this season!