Yoga for Reducing and Relieving Holiday Stress

The best poses to help keep your holidays stress-free

Shopping, parties, cooking and card-sending; for many, the time of year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the busiest of all.

With so much going on and so much to do, it's easy to become swept up in a whirlwind of stress. Not only can this be detrimental to your health, but when you think about it, it also sort of contradicts the true meaning of the season.

We all know the holidays should be about enjoying quality time with our loved ones, generosity and giving thanks, but unfortunately, sometimes that gets lost amidst the hustle and bustle of it all.

So, 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.

“When the goal is to calm the nervous system, it's more beneficial to do fewer poses and hold them longer,” she said.

She specifically recommends a focus on conscious breathing, which she says triggers a relaxation response. “This takes the body out of fight-or-flight and into rest-and-digest,” she explains.

She also noted that the stretching and strengthening of your muscles and joints will help to relieve aches and pains that might become exacerbated by stress and that yoga helps to boost the immune system as well.

“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.”

To help prevent, reduce and relieve holiday-related stress, Braverman recommends a daily practice of the following eight yoga poses.

Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadhi Shodan)

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. 

Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

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. 

Click here to see more yoga poses for reducing holiday stress.