Stress Relief for the Holidays.
'Tis the season.
We enjoy delicious food. Laughter. Giving. Family. And catching up with old friends. With all of this occurring it is hard to set aside time for ourselves. And when we don't we can start to feel a bit spun. Or in yoga terms, un-grounded. What does this mean?
We are constantly giving. From stories and conversations. To hosting parties, cooking and gifts. If we do not recharge ourselves. We become drained. And the feeling can be one that resembles that of a cold coming on. We find ourselves almost depressed, sluggish. And not wanting to do too much. I have been there before. Not just during the holidays. But after trips and events. Where I had to be fully engaged. And putting out all my energy. What I found, accidentally was a few yoga poses help reinvigorate me and my energy.
These poses can be done in the morning before everyone wakes. Or post dinners. You can be alone or have the family join in. But if others are joining in. Make sure who ever is guiding the sequence has a chance to do the flow as a student too. Otherwise the energy drains still occur and recharging does not happen.
If you have never done yoga, these poses are a great introduction. You can use a yoga mat, but if you do not have one, find a towel or blanket. Thicker the better. A pillow can be used as well.
Childs Pose. Starting on the hands and knees. Allow your big toes to touch. Spread your knees out wide. Shift the weight back, meaning bring your butt back towards your heels. Top of the feet will lay flat on the ground. It is ok if they don't touch, don't force it. Walk your hands out in front of you, towards the top of the mat. The belly and chest will come down on top of the thighs. And the crown of the head will come down to the mat. If the body is uncomfortable, put a pillow under the butt and another one under the chest. Exhale all your breath through the mouth. And begin to settle in. The next round of breath will come in through the nose. And out the nose. Stay for 10 breaths.
Come to a seated position. Let the legs reach straight out in front of you. If this is uncomfortable place a pillow or folded blanket under your tail bone. Find the height where you can sit for a bit. Once you are comfortable, pick your chin up as if you were looking straight forward. Roll your shoulders up towards the ears, then slide them down and back. Feel the chest broaden. Extend out through your heels, if the legs still feel awkward a pillow can be placed under the knees. The hands can rest on the thighs. Allow the exhale of the breath, through the nose to lengthen. Sending all of the air out of the body. Bring the inhale back in through the nose. Keeping it long and steady. If you are feeling that you need a bit more. Reach the hands up over head, but keep the shoulders heading down and away from the ears. The shoulders have a tendency to shrug up to the ears, this will prevent that from occurring. Begin to reach the hands out towards your toes. But stop half way, let the hands be half way between over your head and reaching towards your toes, a 45 degree angle. See how you feel. Are you breathing? On the next exhale, keeping the proud chest reach the chest in the direction of the hands. Keep the spine straight. And then allow the hands to come down to the thighs, floor or maybe even toes. Stay with the long breaths through the nose. Stay for 10 breaths. Or a few minutes.
Supported Bridge Pose.
Laying on your back. Bend the knees and place the souls of the feet on the ground. Allow the feet to be about hip width or a bit wider. Place your thumbs against your butt. And reach the index fingers to the heels. If you can not touch your heels slide them closer to your butt. From here if you have a block or hard pillow, move it close to you. On your exhale, your hips will rise up off the ground. Keep the core engaged, and the thighs too. Think of holding a pillow between your legs. Your booty should not be engaged, if it is try and use the core. Grab the block or pillows and place them around the belt line. If you do not have a block or pillow, bring your hands to your lower back. Slide the elbows and forearms underneath the body for more support. The chest will reach up to the sky and towards the chin, but the chin will reach away from the chest. Keep the exhale through the nose and longer than the inhale. Stay for 10 breaths. Or longer.
Laying on your back. Hug the knees into the chest. Roll in circles massaging the lower back. Then switch directions. After a minute or so hug the knees into the chest again. Then straighten the left leg. And bring it down to the mat. Grab the right knee and hug it along the right side of the rib cage. Opening up the hips a bit. Make some small circles, left and to the right. Come back to neutral and let it cross over to the left side of the body. The left hand can guide it over as you roll onto the left hip. Reach the right arm over to the right and look at the hand. Keep the breathe through the nose and long. And after 10 breaths or a couple of minutes, roll back to center and repeat for the left side. A pillow can be placed under the twisting knee if it does not reach the floor.
Or in yogi talk savasana. This pose is more than just a nap. It is truly where the magic happens. Lay down on your back. If you are sensitive to light, cover your eyes with a pillow, blanket or dim the lights. Hug your entire body into a ball. Squeeze everything in. And hold for a count of 5. Release and allow your body to resemble a star fish. Legs, arms, head all reach away from each other. And let them rest comfortably on the ground. Notice as you sit is the mind racing and telling you to hurry. If so smile, and exhale all the breath out the mouth. Repeat this for three times. This is a cleansing breath. Allow the head to soften, the eyes, jaws all relax. The neck, shoulders, arms and hands sit heavy on the blanket. The spine, back, tail bone connect with the mat feeling supported. The feet may drift open. The hips, legs all surrender. Stay here for at least one minute. Allow the breath to be natural. If the mind keeps pulling you away. Focus on the exhale and not attaching to each thought. This is where the yoga begins to work.
These poses are a great introduction to yoga and can be used anywhere at anytime. Maybe you sneak away at the office. Or from family time. Before a presentation. Or an athletic feat. The goal with these poses is to ground us. To calm the mind and open the body up. One of the most important pieces is the breath. If it gets hard or you do not want to do it anymore check to see how the breath is. That will most likely be what has changed. The yoga. It has been a go to of mine for years. And it has and continues to change my life.