Contributed by Kimberly Black E-RYT200/RYT500, YACEP
It’s that time of the year again! You’ve got Holiday parties every other day. You’re still trying to find the perfect gifts. Maybe you have to travel and deal with busy airports. Baking cookies, family pictures, decorating, wrapping gifts, the list goes on. It might feel a little overwhelming, but yoga can help! Here are a few techniques to help you navigate through the stresses of the holiday season:
- Breathe! Seriously though, take a moment to simply slow your breath. By lengthening and slowing your breath you can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Try this simple counting technique: Inhale for a count of 3 or 4. Pause. Exhale for a count of 4 of 5. Do a few rounds of this and then check back in with yourself, and notice if you’re feeling more relaxed?
- Stretch the neck and shoulders. When we get stressed our muscles tense up and most of the time it ends up being in our neck and shoulders. Our shoulders start creeping up closer to the ears and that tension leads to pain in the neck, shoulders and back. Here’s an easy stretch to help loosen the neck and shoulders. This can be done seated or standing, start by rolling the shoulders back and down away from the ears. Drop your right ear to the right shoulder and stay here for 5-10 breaths. Deepen the stretch by shifting your chin and gaze to look down towards the right shoulder and stay for a few more breaths. Bring your head back to the center and repeat on the left side.
- Forward Fold. From standing roll all the way down into a forward fold and allow your body to hang heavy. You can grab opposite elbows and gently sway your body side to side or softly shake your head. Make this fold as comfortable as possible for you. If the hamstring muscles are really tight you can take a small bend in the knees. Or, if you prefer you can even do this stretch seated, whatever your body needs. Stay in this fold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Work out the stiffness. Whether it’s cold weather or being cramped in an airplane, the holidays tend to be a time when our body feels stiffer than ever. Do a few hip hinges to help loosen up through the hips and lower back. Start lying on your stomach in cobra pose. Shift your hips up and back, pressing them all the way to your heels. Then lower your chest and relax your head as you come into child’s pose. Gaze forward, lift the hips and press them forward and down into cobra pose again. Shift back and forth between these two poses 10-12 times and notice if the hips feel less tight.
- Child’s pose. After you finish those hip hinges press yourself right back into that child’s pose again and stay for a while. Since you’ll be here for a while make yourself as comfortable as possible. You can take the knees wide and bring the toes together; or maybe keep the knees narrow and instead of reaching the arms forward, take them back by your sides. Stay here for a minute or two and breathe deeply.
Remember that the holidays shouldn’t cost your sanity and use these tips to help keep your piece of mind!