The holidays, while synonymous with joy, can also be a time of unremitting stress. With all the to-do lists to check off, last minute guests arriving, challenging family conflicts, unrealistic hosting duties, commuting/traveling, there is every reason to get stressed out — and sick in the process of stressing out — during this time of year!
All you might be wishing for is for some semblance of normalcy to kick in after the New Year. You are not alone!
Fortunately, there are some key yoga poses that can help you dial down your stress, temper any rising tension, and help you to truly focus.* Try them any time you need to reclaim your sense of calm and balance. You don’t even need any props, tools, or yoga mats. Just bring your (stressed out) self!
Feel free to focus on just one pose at a time for a minute or two, or combine different poses for a total of 5 minutes. Mix and match as you wish, and see how you feel afterwards. Your mental, physical, and emotional health will thank you.
Extended Side Angle Pose:
You may find that in the process of gearing up for the holidays, you’re often sitting and waiting everywhere you go — be it at work, in a class, while stuck in traffic, or on an airplane. The holidays often mean that you’re spending a lot of time on your backside. Extended side angle poses opens up the whole side of your body, counteracting any hunching over you may be doing while bringing in more air, and energy into your lungs — something we can all use!
With your right leg extended in a lunge, your right knee should be directly over your heel and your thigh should be parallel to the floor. Place your right hand on the floor, reach your left arm over your head — pointing in the same direction as your right foot. Make your extended left leg strong into the ground and breath into the stretch. This can be repeated on the opposite side of the body.
This pose will also help to counteract any shallow breaths you might be taking if you are feeling particularly anxious.
The Eagle Pose helps to build concentration as you wrap arms and legs around themselves, opening the joints of your hips and shoulders. Your focus should be on keeping your balance.
In the process of focusing on your balance, you will also be stretching your upper back and shoulders, relieving any tension you might have there, while strengthening your lower body.
Cross Legged Forward Bend:
If you find yourself feeling tense and anxious and you want to rid yourself of nervous energy, then this seated pose is for you!
Whatever the cause, your tension levels are probably mounting along with holiday to-do lists, party plans, and maybe even debt. This pose is restorative in nature, which not only helps relieve physical strain, but also lets you take a mental break as you breathe into the pose.
Additionally, it’s a good way to release tension in the hips, something many of us have developed from focusing on forward-motion activities like walking, and running or jogging.
Wide Legged Forward Bend with a Twist:
Let’s say sugar cravings are calling your name a little bit more around the holidays. A wide legged forward bend with a twist can help to conquer the problem on a couple of levels. The forward bend gives you a moment to pause and reflect — translation: “Do I really want that brownie?” — while the twist helps to stimulate digestion, so you may realize you’re not hungry after all, or that you may have simply confused your hunger or craving for actual thirst.
Stepping your feet wide apart, on an exhalation lean forward and fold at the hips. Place your hands on the floor with elbows relaxed and bent. On the next exhalation, reach your right arm straight toward the ceiling behind you, twisting through your torso — not your hips. This can be repeated on the opposite side of the body.
The Altar Pose:
Do you find that you are constantly gazing at your device all day, your neck is killing you, and you have developed “text neck”? Try this pose, which you can do without even getting up. Seated in a chair, with both feet flat on the floor, lift both arms overhead and clasp your fingers together.
All the hours you spent hunched over while scrolling through your smartphone or tablet can lead to knots, tight shoulders and back pain. The altar pose provides quick relief by stretching the neck, shoulders, and upper back, while providing a fuller range of motion for your muscles. It is also an energizing pose, which means you’ll have a little more zest to get you through the day.
Practicing these quick yoga moves whenever you have the chance (yes, even at the airport, or on the road) will go a long way towards promoting optimal focus and tranquility during the crazy busy holiday season — and hopefully beyond that specific timeframe, all year around if you are truly consistent with the poses. Doing so will help you navigate any stress you are feeling like a pro, with the bonus of not getting sick, feeling healthier in the mind, body, and spirit, and at your very best in 2018!
*Yoga is not for everyone. If you are pregnant or have other medical concerns please consult your physician. Listen to your body and always work within your own personal limits and abilities.