image by dthoskins
It’s November and the holiday season is basically here…can you believe it? While this is typically a beloved time of year, it also tends to be the time when we invite lot of stresses (shopping, eating, spending, traveling, hosting, etc.) into our lives. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, but I’m here to offer some ideas for slowing down and managing the stress that we all experience in one form or another. And we’ll focus on a topic I know and love: yoga.
My favorite definition of yoga is “the settling of the mind into stillness” (Patanjali). It may seem kind of new-agey, but don’t let this intimidate you. This is actually good news, since it means yoga is not about becoming a human pretzel or standing on your head (although that’s fun stuff to try out, too). Instead, yoga is about learning to notice your thoughts as they move all over the place – from holiday shopping lists to travel plans – then using your body and breath awareness to stay present and relaxed.
Before we launch into a few of my favorite stress-management yoga poses, pause a moment, close your eyes, and send your attention to each individual part of your body from the crown of the head down to the toes. Is there a place (or several places) that feels tighter than the others? If so, this is probably where you hold your stress. Maybe it’s your shoulders, your neck, your low back. Wherever it is, make a commitment to give some extra love to that part of your body throughout the following poses and the coming months. Exchange shoulder massages with your significant other while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or take some slow neck circles while you’re in line with your kids to see Santa.
Now, on to the yoga poses. Read on:
– Supported & reclined bound angle (supta baddha konasana)
This is a great restorative pose, meaning it helps the body slow down and rest. For obvious reasons, restorative poses are super important in counter-balancing the hectic stress of holiday errands. Visit Yoga Journal for the “how-to”
. I also recommend placing a rolled-up blanket tightly over the insides of your feet and under your ankles/shins. This provides some extra grounding support. Take this pose mid-day to open your hips and settle your mind.
–Legs-up-the-wall (viparita karani)
This is another yummy restorative pose. It’s great for nighttime, helping you settle your mind for sleep. It’s also fabulous for headaches, which are often triggered by physical, mental, and emotional stress. Again, Yoga Journal has a great “how-to”.
–Sun salutations (surya namaskar)
While restorative poses are some of the best stress relievers, it’s important to keep a healthy balance of slowing down and staying active. If you find yourself skipping workouts to make time for wrapping presents, sneak in a sun salutation. It will increase your heart rate for un-stressful reasons, and it has a good mix of forward folds (which are very relaxing, by the way), backbends, strength, and flexibility. Here’s a Yoga Journal video of a beginner-friendly sun salutation
I hope this helps you slow down so you can better enjoy the coming holidays with your loved ones. Remember that you don’t have to commit to an hour-long yoga class in order to reap the benefits. Just a few minutes for a couple of poses a day will help beat the stress as you move through your holiday season!
*Laura Whitaker is a registered yoga teacher in Lexington, KY. She currently teaches at Barefoot Works Yoga on Richmond Road. If you have any yoga questions, feel free to email her at laurabwhitaker (at) gmail (dot) com.