Relieve holiday stress and tension with these 5 relaxing and restorative yoga poses…
It’s no secret that stress is terrible for your health – both mental and physical. Unfortunately, this joyous time of year often comes with a lot of stress, which can lower your immune function and increase your susceptibility to illness. Yoga and meditation can be wonderful ways to help reduce the stress of the holidays – or just life in general!
The 5 poses (asanas) below can help to relieve both physical and mental stress, and realign and rebalance your energy for more sustainable health and energy throughout the holiday season and beyond. Be sure to listen to your body as you move through each pose, giving extra time for poses that feel challenging, and relaxing longer in poses that feel especially good to you!
There are lots of yoga poses that will help to relax your body and mind and relieve holiday stress, but these are 5 of my favorite (click the links for detailed instructions on each one):
1.) Child’s Pose
Sit on the shins; bring the big toes together and knees a little bit wider than the hips. Crawl the arms forward to lower the torso, placing the head on a prop if necessary to keep the neck long and easeful. Keep the butt close to the heels. If necessary, place a blanket or bolster on top of the heels to keep the seat from lifting high. Lengthen and strengthen the elbows and wrists, pressing the hands down evenly the width of the shoulders. Breath into the side and back ribs, enjoying the traction in the back and side body from the seat to the hands.
For a more restorative option, place the torso on a bolster or neatly folded blankets. Turn the head to rest on one ear, and bend the elbows to let the forearms drape down onto the floor on either side of the prop.
Come up calmly after a few breaths or a few minutes—whatever feels best for you.
2.) Supported Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor or on folded blankets with the legs extended in front of you. If necessary, place a pillow or rolled blanket under the knees to keep from rolling onto the lower back. Place a bolster or a few pillows on top of the legs (running the same length as the legs) and fold the torso over the pillows, adding more as needed so the belly, chest, and head are supported.
Let the arms drape by the sides. Switch the turn of the head after a few breaths on one side.
Breathe calmly in and out of the nose, wide into the side of the ribs.
(In yin yoga this is often referred to as caterpillar pose.)
Stay for up to 5 minutes; sit up slowly when finished.
3.) Cow Face Pose
Stand or sit tall; have a towel or strap or belt nearby. Reach the left arm out to the left, turn the palm to face the wall behind you, bend the elbow and swing the back of the left hand onto the middle back—use the right hand to help scoot the left forearm and hand up the middle back, keeping the left collarbone wide.
Holding a strap/belt or towel in the right hand, reach the right arm up, bend the elbow up, and place the right palm on the upper back—right armpit rolling in and right upper arm close to the right ear. Grab onto the prop with the left hand if needed, or link the fingers together and curl them in to form a sturdy grip.
Keep the left inner elbow wide and the right upper arm long, pulling the elbows gently apart. Maintain a tall spine without popping the front ribs forward. Breathe gently in and out of the nose, directing space into the shoulders and side/back ribs.
Slowly unwind and come to center before repeating on the other side.
Lie on the back, knees bent and feet flat. Place the right ankle on the left thigh above the knee, keeping the right foot flexed and active so the ankle doesn’t roll, right knee open to the right. Either stay with the left foot flat on the floor, or draw the left thigh toward the belly and interlace the hands behind the left leg (right hand goes through the open space between right and left leg, left hand wraps around outside edge of left leg).
Keep the right inner knee open to the right and the collarbone wide as you breathe in and out of the nose, directing space into the right hip or wherever feels tight for you. Slowly release and come through center before repeating on the other side.
We hold a lot of tension in the hips—when they are less gripped, they can reveal more emotional freedom and space for creativity to flow. Try it out for yourself and see how you feel.
Place the hands shoulder-width apart with the wrist creases parallel to the front edge of the mat, drawing the biceps in and up. Measure the length of downdog by coming to plank pose, then lift the hips up and back. The feet can be hip width apart or as wide as the mat, kneecaps engaged so the legs are both long and strong just like they were in plank (separate the feet wider if the spine does not easily extend up and back). Press into the hands evenly, lift the side ribs up into the hips, let the chest widen back toward the thighs. Press the thighs back from the lift of the kneecaps, creating a long-line of energy from the hands up to the height of the hips. Relax the neck and let the head hang. Take a round of five breaths and if you stay for longer, continue to let the breath both invigorate and calm the body and mind. For assistance, press the heels down into a wall and energize the limbs up away from the floor.
Find more stress-relieving yoga poses at MindBodyGreen.com…