Strip Down Your Yoga Practice For A Stress-Free Holiday Season
Time to Commit
The holidays are notoriously busy. Schedules change. Sleep is disrupted. We eat differently, usually worse! And we’re often confronted with the emotion —both positive and negative— of being with family.
These times are when it’s especially important to commit to our yoga practice. It helps us cope with stress, feel better in our bodies and be nicer to the people who challenge us.
Instead of pushing to harder and deeper postures in your yoga practice, go deeper in your relationship with yourself. Strip down to the breath. Deepen it. Connect with yourself instead of performing poses.
Use your practice to give you time and space to contemplate how you can simplify your life and make the important things your priority. Your inner connection and this sense of space will make the holiday season much less stressful.
Here is a gentle sequence to simplify your practice, but to reach most of your body. Arms, shoulders, sides, hips, feet and legs are all covered. All photos were taken by my husband Aaron, in October, under the glorious face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, a place that feeds our souls.
Place the instep of your left foot over the arch of your right foot, then sit back on your heels. (If knees and feet don’t like this, you can sit with your feet apart and your bum on a yoga block).
- Cross your right elbow atop your left and wind your left hand around to hook your right palm with your fingers for Eagle Arms.
- Lift your elbows up and push your hands out above them.
- Puff your chest up towards your chin.
- Settle into the posture and take a few steady, deep breaths.
- Keep your legs crossed, unhook your arms and stretch them wide like the horizon.
- Now lean to the right and place your hand on the ground.
- Raise your left arm over head and look up to the heavens.
Start with the foot massage, switching which foot is on top and repeat everything above to do the other side.
- Take a moment to stretch your limbs straight in Dog Pose.
- Breathe deeply to bring a fresh supply of oxygen into your body.
- Relax your tongue and jaw to create a deeper calm.
Side Opener Prep
- From Down Dog, step your right food forward, about half way to your hands.
- Turn it out ninety degrees, so it’s perpendicular to your yoga mat.
- Now, drop your hips down so you land on your outer left leg. (Your right foot might turn out more or slide towards your left foot as you do this.)
- Place your right hand on your right knee.
- Focus your gaze, or drishti, at your right hand or at something beautiful out on the horizon.
- Now push into the ground and lift your hips up.
- Press the sole of your left foot flat into the ground, as if standing on it, but use your right leg to help support your weight.
- Roll your right shoulder back and stretch your left arm alongside your ear.
- Turn your head and look up at the sky or over at your top hand to energize the pose. Look down toward the ground or your bottom hand to ground the pose.
- Step your legs wide and make them parallel.
- Lean your head down between your legs. (If you make it to the ground or have a block for support, adjust your stance so you are just reaching through, rather than crunching, your neck).
- Hands can be interlaced behind the back, holding the ankles/shins, or lined up with the feet between the legs.
- Sit with your spine erect for 2-15 minutes.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Allow your thoughts and emotions to rise and fall like waves, free of description or judgement.
- Lie flat on your back, or with support under your knees.
- Stay awake, but restful, as you allow your body to relax, be still and receive all that you have just offered it.
- After 5-10 minutes, roll to your side and sit up slowly.