In the spirit of celebrating the season for what it’s really all about, don’t let stress become a main component of the holidays this year. Instead, focus on devoting some of your time to relaxation with a few simple yoga poses. Certified yoga instructor, health coach & personal trainer Jill Braverman says that yoga—especially the following poses— is an effective and healthy way to reduce and relieve tension. “It helps us stay healthy when things get busy and we might not be sleeping enough or eating as well as we could,” she said. “Since the holidays are all about spending time with your friends and family, you will be calmer, less reactive and more pleasant to be around, which will make your holidays infinitely more enjoyable.”
This is a simple breathing technique that helps to calm the mind. Close your eyes. Begin by placing the index and middle fingers of your right hand between your eyebrows. Your ring and pinky fingers should rest near your left nostril and your thumb near your right nostril. Start the breathing process by gently pressing your thumb down on your right nostril and breathing out through your left. Next, breathe in through your left nostril before gently using your ring and pinky fingers to press over it lightly while removing your thumb from the right nostril and then breathing out on that side. Now breathe in from the right nostril and repeat the process to then breathe out from the left. Repeat the process alternating between the right and left nostrils for about nine cycles.
Begin in tabletop position on your hands and knees with a neutral spine. Make sure to align your knees with your hips and your wrists and elbows with your shoulders. Hold your neck in a neutral position with your gaze focused downward at the floor. On an exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling and release your neck so that your head falls to the floor (just let it relax, don’t push your chin towards your chest). Hold for a three to five breaths and on inhale return to the neutral table top position.
Begin in a neutral tabletop position. Spread your knees slightly and then slowly sit back drawing your rear towards your heels. Keep your arms extended out in front of you with your palms flat on the mat. Hold for three to five breaths.
Begin in a seated position. Bend your knees and draw your heels towards your pelvis. Let your knees fall out to the sides as you press the bottoms of your feet together. On an exhale, slowly lean back, first resting on your hands and then your forearms until you can lower your torso all the way down to the floor. You can deepen the stretch by placing your hands on your inner thighs near the knee and gently pressing down. Extend your arms out to the sides and let your entire body relax. Hold for three to five breaths.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. On an inhale, draw both knees towards your chest and then wrap your arms around your legs. On an exhale, release your arms and slowly let your legs fall to the right. Rest your arms on the floor, extending them to form a T shape. Hold for three to five breaths before slowly and gently untwisting and returning to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.
Begin in a seated position next to a wall with your feet on the floor in front of you and the left side of your body against the wall. On an exhale, slowly lie down on your back as you pivot your body in order to place the backs of your legs up against the wall. (Wiggle around gently until the position feels comfortable.) Your feet should point towards the ceiling, your back should be flat on the floor and your rear should be pressed against (or very close to) the wall so that your body forms a 90-degree angle or L shape. Hold for three to five breaths.
Lie down on your back with your legs and arms extended. Lift your pelvis slightly in order to tilt your tailbone and allow your lower back to rest comfortably. (Maintain a slight, natural arch in the lower back.) Your legs should rest about hip-width distance apart. Let your feet fall outward, relaxing completely. Lift your arms up over your head to spread your shoulder blades. Relax your shoulders and then lower your arms to let them rest beside you with your palms facing up. When you feel comfortable, take a deep inhale. On the exhale feel your body begin to relax and release any tension that you feel. Focus on your breath. Hold for five to ten breaths, or longer if needed.
Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation. Artof Living.org describes the relaxation method as a way to cool the body down after yoga. Their Yoga Nidra guide offers the following sequence: Lie down in corpse pose and close your eyes. Take a few slow, relaxed breaths in and out. Begin by taking your attention to your right foot. Hold it there for a few moments before moving it up to your right knee. Continue this process up your entire right leg, all the way to your hip and then move on to the left. Slowly continue this process for the rest of your body, moving up from the bottom ("genital area, stomach, navel region, chest, right shoulder and right arm, followed by the left shoulder and left arm, throat, face and the top of the head"). When your finished, take a deep breath in and observe how your body feels, taking a few moments to relax in corpse pose.