The holiday season is full of cheer, joy, togetherness, delicious meals and traditions. Still, it’s quite easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle that accompanies the season.
Let’s face the facts: statistics show that a whopping 69 percent of people feel stressed during this time of year. That can be due to a variety of factors, most commonly because of a lack of time, less money to cover the bills and necessities, as well as the pressure to give or receive gifts.
You don’t have to feel so overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are strong and in control. In fact, you can even slow down your heart rate by practicing yoga every day.
When you notice your heart rate rising, hot flashes, rapid thoughts and any sure-fire signs of stress: take a nice, deep inhale. As you breathe in, count to four and then pause for a brief moment. Exhale for four seconds and then repeat.
Several different forms of breathwork are applied during a yoga sesh, and the combo of deep breathing and physical movement is soothing, de-stressing, and at times appropriately energizing. That sudden boost of energy can provide yogis with the motivation to cook, clean and host during the upcoming holidays.
So, let’s get to it. If stress has you feeling like a Scrooge, roll out your mat and bust out five of our fave yoga poses for reducing holiday stress.
Reclined Cobbler’s Pose
Also known as reclined bound angle, this pose is the ultimate calming experience. It’s a restorative yoga pose, and they’re ideal for relaxation. You can practically feel your stress melting away.
In addition to promoting a sense of calm, your inner groin muscles will open up while the hips and thighs will receive a nice, deep stretch. When you practice reclined cobbler’s pose every day, you’ll be more flexible and mentally at ease.
Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Press the soles of your feet together while bending your knees, allowing your legs to drop open to both sides. Lower your back to the floor slowly while making small adjustments in your posture to lengthen your spine. With your arms beside your body, flip your palms so they’re facing upward. Rest here with your eyes closed for as long as you need.
Standing Forward Fold
When practicing standing forward fold, most people experience a sense of peace, in addition to their whole body being rejuvenated. Although it’s an intense stretch, the main goal is to relax and have fun. Your head sinks below your heart level, and that is known to calm the mind. This pose also helps alleviate tension, headaches, daytime fatigue and anxiety.
Start by standing tall like a mountain. Elongate your body, and keep the sides of your feet pressed together. On your next exhale, bend forward at the hips. Press the palms of your hands against the floor, while remembering to breathe in and out.
Depending on your level of experience, there are several modifications you can make to prevent injury or discomfort. You can bend your knees as much as necessary, or firmly press your palms into a yoga block while bending forward. Remain here for one to five minutes.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is one of the most popular yoga positions—and for good reason. Not only will you feel more chilled out; your entire body will thank you. Whether you’re in the car a lot, working at a desk or sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress, hanging in this pose will stretch almost every muscle and relieve stiffness and aches.
When you’re finished practicing the standing forward fold, step your feet back until you’re in plank position. On your next exhale, lift your hips upward and press your heels down to the mat. Keep your toes pointed forward. Many people enjoy pedaling their legs, lifting one leg at a time, or making any movements that release bodily tension. There’s no such thing as perfection in yoga, so do whatever feels comfortable for you. When you need a break, return to this pose for a few minutes.
This go-to pose is often practiced as a break amid a fast-paced and sweaty vinyasa class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relax in child’s pose when you feel like you need a break from life.
The benefits are endless: practicing this posture stretches the hips, spine and thighs, promotes healthy blood circulation, helps people stay present in the moment, reduces anxiety and so much more.
Begin on your knees and sit back onto your heels. On an exhale, sink your torso forward onto the thighs, and allow your forehead to connect with the mat. Let your arms rest next to your body. For a deeper stretch, you can walk your hands forward—above your head—and press your palms firmly onto the ground.
If you’re looking for an intense hip opener, separate your knees hip distance apart for the entirety of this pose. Relax here for as long as you want, whenever you want. Your practice belongs to you, and only you.
Shavasana, a.k.a. corpse pose, is generally practiced after a full yoga class or when yogis are seeking a little extra zen. You’ll benefit from embracing calmness and a clear mind. When stress gets the better of you and begins interfering with your sleep, this pose can help you get a good night’s rest. You can even practice it off the yoga mat, on your bed.
Lay down on your back and adjust your arms so they’re roughly 45 degrees away from the side of your body. Your legs can rest on the mat, hip distance apart. Observe the thoughts that pop into your mind, and notice as they pass. Everything in life passes. Nothing is permanent.
Being mindful is key. When you’re in a meditative state like this, it’s important to bring your attention to your breath. Count to four with each inhale, pause and count to four again with every exhale. Repeat.
With practice, your body will feel as if it’s floating. Stay in shavasana for five to 10 minutes, then slowly wiggle your fingers and toes before rolling onto your side. From there, you can lift up into a seated position. You may even enjoy falling asleep in corpse pose at night, as many yogis do.
Have fun with this, practice at your own pace, and most importantly, don’t forget to breathe. You deserve to relax throughout all of the upcoming festivities. Namaste.