If this is the most wonderful time of the year, why do we all feel so stressed out? We should be enjoying time with loved ones, dressing up and attending fun parties, and celebrating the holidays with great food and drinks. Unfortunately the stark reality is frustration in the mall parking lot, long lineups at the cash register, tense family reunions, deep grief over loved ones who are no longer with us, unrealistic gift-giving expectations and financial pressures, awkward office parties, and delicious temptations everywhere, enticing us away from any good habits we’ve developed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Come into the present moment and hear these tidings of comfort and joy!
Yoga Is Great For Holiday Stress
A healing restorative yoga practice helps bring us into the present moment awareness of our breath, getting us out of the head and into the body, where we can give the busy mind a rest. We move gently within our comfortable range of motion, releasing physical tension, and improving circulation. We observe the breath carefully and move our body as though our breath is the catalyst for movement. This gentle approach can prevent holiday stress from building up, and it can also help us deal with the stressors that are already getting us worked up!
1. Sun Breaths
These simple movements open up the heart and release tension out of the shoulders and arms. As we age, the upper body becomes tight and uncomfortable, especially during more stressful times, when we feel the world’s weight on our shoulders! The deep breathing and arm movements of Sun Breaths keep our blood and lymph flowing in the upper body and brain, and our breathing becomes deeper and more satisfying.
2. Half Sun Salutes
Adding the forward bend to the Sun Breath, the Sun Salutes help us turn things upside down, improving circulation into the neck and head. We’re also releasing the low back, where many of us feel a lot of stress and emotional tension. The hamstrings and backs of the legs are also stretched out and this creates so much ease of movement after sitting for prolonged periods. Using the breath to guide the movement, and going very slowing is especially effective. Tip: Be gentle when moving into the forward fold by bending the knees and laying the belly on the thighs. This keeps the hamstrings safe from tearing.
3. Vitruvian Arm Variations
Working with the arms hands and shoulders to release tension and build strength is great for those extended shopping excursions. It’s not the load that’s the problem, it’s the way we carry it, and these arm movements can help us deal more effectively with all the bags and boxes we need to carry. Yoga views the energy of the heart as coming through the arms and hands, and we can feel more light-hearted and open minded after working with the arms.
4. Supported Forward Bends
Use bolsters, blankets, and pillows to help let the body rest in a supported way. When we fold forward and rest there for several minutes, we experience many physical benefits as well as emotional benefits. When we compress the belly, we’re moving lymph and blood around the digestive and reproductive organs, optimizing their functions, as well as stimulating our immune system. We’re also clearing out old emotional tension out of the belly and the low back.
5. Waterfall Pose – Legs Up the Wall
Whether you are exhausted and need to refresh for a party, or you are over-stimulated from the party and trying to wind down, Waterfall Pose is an effective antidote for holiday stress. The legs feel rested, circulation improves, and the parasympathetic nervous system establishes dominance. This means that our rest and digest functions kick in and our heart and breathing rates slow down, the mind becomes calmer and more clear,.
6. Breathing Fully
Breathing gently and fully throughout the practice is very effective at managing our stress levels, and we become more and more resilient though all the challenges of the Holidays! But don’t wait to get on the mat to experience this kind of breathing. Take it into every difficult situation and experience the difference yourself!
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