Ah, the holidays. Nippy air, warm scarves, hot chocolate in frozen fingers, gifts, family, and — stress??
How does a yogi survive when crossing the continents and oceans to see family, fighting crowds for last-minute gifts, and eating just one more bourbon soaked chocolate ball?
Let your yoga mind rest easy. With this easy simple routine, you’ll have a quick yoga bounce-back for the airport lounge room, family guest house, or the backyard patio in between dinner and dessert to get you back on your feet with warmth and cheer. Simply lay out your mat, set your worries aside, and breathe easy knowing you’ll come out the other side.
Benefits: Child’s pose naturally calms the nervous system while stretching the back—a common place to hold tension.
Step-by-Step: From all fours, lower the shins down, and shift your hips back to rest over your heels and the tops of your feet. Extend your arms forward with palms facing down, and allow your forehead to rest on the mat. Let your chest soften over your legs and relax. Stay here for up to a minute, seeing if you can count to five on each inhale and exhale.
Variation: Make fists with your hands with the thumb side pointing up. Stack your right fist on top of your left fist, and then rest your forehead on the top of the right fist. Your forehead should be resting on the thumb and index-finger side of your right hand.
Benefits: This gentle, relaxed pose opens your heart chakra for practicing gratitude and loving all family members.
Step-by-Step: Place a pillow or block beneath your bra-line or just below your shoulder blades. Lie back with your arms down at both sides, palms facing upwards, and your legs extended where they naturally fall. Keep a steady breath and allow your chest to slowly open, breathing through anything that may arise. If you feel pain in your chest, lower the blocker or pillow. This should be a gentle, relaxed release of any tension.
Sanskrit: Supta Matsyedrasana
Benefits: Another easy, relaxed pose. Spinal twists compress the stomach for a gentle organ massage aiding holiday food digestion and kidney flushing for holiday liquor.
Step-by-Step: Lying on your back, inhale your knees into your chest, pulling in your pelvic floor as you do so. Release one of your knees back onto the mat, and let your arms stretch out to the sides in a “T” with palms facing down and fingers reaching into the floor. Let your bent leg reach from the knee across the body to one side, and gently turn your head in the opposite direction, eyes resting on a fixed point. Gently breathe for five breaths, and on your last inhale, pull your knee back to center. Exhale your foot to join the other on the mat, take one generous rest breath, and then inhale your knees back in to the chest for the other side.
Variation: If this is difficult, use a bolster or pillow to support the knee crossing the body. Only pull the knee across the body far enough that it will not cause strain in your hips. If you feel strain, pull your shin back towards your center until you feel realigned.
Benefits: Forward bends are stress relievers, especially when the knees are slightly bent. The head hangs below the heart and reverses blood flow for a euphoric feeling.
Step-by-Step: Starting in Tadasana, extend the arms up and fold forward. Bend the knees and let the chest hang over the legs. Hands can reach down towards the floor or rest on your shins. Stay here for up to a minute, counting to five for each inhale and exhale.
Benefits: This grounded pose aids in digestion and is said to help reduce anxiety.
Step-by-Step: Start standing in Tadasana. Step your right foot forward, three to four feet in front of your left, and extend your arms out to the sides with palms facing down. Straighten your right leg and extend your right arm forward, creating length through the torso. Let the right hand land down on the mat, below the right knee, and extend the left arm upwards. Anchor down through the left foot, while opening the torso to the left. Stay here for 5–10 breaths; then come up to standing and repeat on the left side.
Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana
Benefits: After hours sitting in cars, airplanes, and at the dining room table, Bound Ankle Pose releases tension in the hips for easy motion and relaxation.
Step-by-Step: Sit with your legs in front of you, and hands to your sides. Inhale, and exhale to bring your heels towards your pelvis with your heels touching. Use your hands to gently meet your feet together, and grasp your big toes with the first and second finger and thumb of each hand, or, if this is difficult, hold the ankle. Breathe here for ten breaths, thinking of the top of your thigh bones releasing to the floor (this focus will gently allow your knees to fall open rather than forcing them!)
Variation: If your hips are feeling tight and your back is rounded in this pose, sit on a pillow as high as you need, even up to a foot high.
Sanskrit: Viparita Karani
Benefits: This passive pose is a wonderful stress reliever, especially if you place a small towel or eye pillow over the eyes. It is thought to reverse aging (score!) and relieves stress by reversing gravity on the legs, giving your heart a break from pumping so hard.
Step-by-Step: The name of this one says it all—lying on your back with your legs up the wall. Lay here for up to five minutes with your eyes closed.
Benefits: Savasana triggers the body’s relaxation response, calming the nervous system and lowering blood pressure, which is why this is the ultimate holiday de-stressor.
Step-by-Step: Start by laying flat on your back. Extend your arms long by your sides with your hands next to your hips and your palms facing upwards. Widen your feet slightly more than hip-width distance, and allow your toes to angle outwards. Alternatively, if your lower back bothers you, place a pillow underneath your knees to reduce any pressure. Cover your eyes with a small towel or eye pillow. Stay here for five minutes, ideally with no distractions. Slowly rise from Savasana into a seated position, taking a few breaths to center yourself. Then venture back out into the world with a renewed sense of well-being and holiday cheer.