How Yogis Can Beat Holiday Stress
Are you feeling it yet? The down slope into holiday madness strikes, generally, the day after Thanksgiving and we get to be the recipient of a most unwelcome gift: stress.
It really is the gift that keeps on giving and is a tremendous problem in our culture that pulls double duty during the yuletide season. Stress is, unequivocally, the MOST detrimental thing to our overall health and wellness. It’s been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, lower immune function and a plethora of lesser and more well-known diseases and ailments.
Lucky for us, there’s yoga. Or as I like to call it....yogaaaaaaah. :) There are specific yoga techniques you can employ to fight stress.
Remember to breathe. Funny how often in the thick of all the rushing around we hold our breath. Taking a moment to simply pay attention to your breath can bring you into a quick state of calm and peace.
Pranayama (deep yogic breathing): You’ve heard it mentioned in yoga class but did you know you can use this breathing to keep you grounded and avoid feeling edgy and wired? Those edgy feelings very often happen due to overindulging in sweets and caffeine, being in overcrowded stores, waiting in long lines to purchase that perfect gift or navigating through heavy traffic. Wherever you are, you can practice your breathing.
One of my favorite breathing meditations (can be done anywhere):
- Feel yourself connect through the soles of your feet if you are standing or sitting in a chair.
- Find a long spine stacking shoulders over the hips allowing the chin to be parallel to the floor.
- Imagine your breath is a pool at the base of your spine. As you inhale, pull the breath in a cool stream up the back of the body, between the shoulder blades, the back of the neck and end at the space just above a between your eyebrows.
- Pause briefly.
- Exhale out warm breath like a waterfall down the front of the throat, the heart, the belly back into the base of the spine.
- Pause briefly.
- Begin again pulling the breath up the back of the body as if it was a cool stream, pausing, exhaling warm air down the front of the body, pausing, etc, etc, etc….repeat 4 more times for a total of 5.
This quick pranayama will pull you back into your body, back into a little peace and leave you feeling very balanced and refreshed.
Yoga poses (Asana) to specifically reduce stress, fend off that nasty old friend we call fatigue as well as combat holiday madness:
As you practice yoga, use each posture as a way to center yourself while at the same time enhancing your flexibility and strength. As you master the more physical aspects of yoga, focus on how the strength and patience you are building in your own body (both inside and out) can be transferred to dealing with the stress of the holiday season.
- Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) – Practicing Anjali Mudra in easy sitting pose (Sukhasana) is an excellent way to tap into a meditative state of awareness.
- Bitilasana (Cow Pose) – Easy, gentle warming of the spine
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) – Massages the spine and organs in the belly region
- Uttana Shishosana (Puppy Dog) – Lengthens the spine and calms the mind
- Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – Relieves anxiety helps you feel grounded
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – Encouraging opening via the heart (chest)
- Bharadvajasana 1 (Bharadvaja’s Twist) – Gentle twisting wrings out the abdominal organs and is a tonic for the spine
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) – Rejuvenating for the legs and calming for the mind
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) – Restorative to the whole body, promotes restful sleep, relieves tired, cramped legs and calm the mind.
I call Viparita Karani the “two-for” (meaning two for the price of one) and encourage people to take Savasana while in Viparita Karani. Be sure to allow yourself a good 5 minutes here to reap the full benefit of this pose. You’ll feel refreshed and restored!
Practicing yoga helps us find the ease, or sukha, in the present moment so that we can truly (and happily) kiss stress goodbye and enjoy each and every second we get to spend with our family and friends.
Call on your practice, whether you're on your yoga mat or busy battling the long lines at the mall or grocery store, throughout this season. Remember the MOST important thing is to just breathe and be merry!!!