Maintain both your peace of mind and practice during the seasonal bustle.
It’s the most wonderful–and jam-packed–time of the year! As the holiday season ramps up, so does your stress level. Travel, work commitments, family gatherings and endless functions can take their toll, both physically and mentally. All those indulgences (and cocktails!) start to add up, you’re inundated by questions (yes, Aunt Nancy, I am still single) and your regular routine is completely thrown for a loop.
Luckily, taking the time for wellness can counteract these holiday woes. Use yoga to stay sane amidst the seasonal stressors. This way, you’ll be able to maintain both presence and patience with loved ones.
We spoke with yoga pro Gwen Lawrence to learn how to relieve and restore both body and mind using yoga.
Don’t forget to breathe! According to Lawrence, the ability to control the act of breathing can regulate and help calm the system. “Alternate nostril breathing balances the left and right side of the brain, oxygenates the body and offers you a moment to calm,” she says. She explains that this means “you’ll have the least reaction to the antagonists or negative situations.”
Try It: Start in a comfortable seated position with the spine vertical and shoulders relaxed. Allow your left hand to rest on the knee or thigh. Separate the thumb and join the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand. Press the paired index and middle fingers on the left nostril as you inhale via the right nostril. Press the thumb against the right nostril; lift fingers and exhale out the left nostril. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking smooth, steady breaths.
Rock & Roll
Lawrence recommends doing the “fetal rock and roll” for at least three minutes. “After the three minutes, nobody will bother you; you will be calm, cool and collected,” says the expert.
Try It: Begin by laying down on the back, drawing the knees into the chest. Breathing as deeply as you can, start rocking the body back and forth; eventually, you’ll come all the way to seated, then move the legs up and above the head coming as close back to plow pose as you can. “These movements will give you time to calm, to realign the spine, stimulate the nerves and increase blood flow,” explains Lawrence.
Simply drawing the arms up above the head may assist in “displacing anger, creating feelings of ease and establishing your own personal space,” says Lawrence.
Try It: Start sitting in an easy seat with the legs crossed. Inhale, reaching the arms up with the palms facing each other. Exhale, release the arms down with the palms facing down and away. Repeat these movements for two to three minutes.
Be Blessed, Not Stressed
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Practicing gratitude can and does shift energy; this energetic shift will actually help rewire the brain (as does meditation) to change though patterns and bring positivity and abundance into your life.
Try It: Putting pen to paper is a great way to begin. Keep a gratitude journal; the simple act of writing down things for which we are thankful retrains the mind to think about positive experiences which we might otherwise take for granted. Reframing and redirecting the focus from the negative to the positive will improve your mood and the manner in which you interact with others.
Detox Before You Retox
Holiday parties can also mean one (or three!) too many cocktail. Counteract the overindulgence with poses that utilize a twist. Twisting poses wring out the organs of elimination, stimulating enhanced function in the kidneys, liver, spleen and colon.
Try It: Revolved chair pose is a deep twist that aids digestion, putting gentle pressure on the kidneys, liver, and spleen in order to stimulate the removal of toxins, improving circulation in the blood, respiratory, and lymphatic systems. Raise the arms up above the head, pressing the palm in a prayer and sit back into chair pose. Draw the prayer to your heart, twisting the torso to the right, breathing in and out. Return to the center; twist to the opposite side.
Practice Self Care
Taking the time to unwind, restore and reset the mind and body is even more important during the holiday season. Allow yourself to let go of previous experiences, expectations of the future and grasping onto how you think things should be; instead, concentrate on what is going on in the present. Each breath is a new moment: you can restart at any time. Pranayama, an extension of life force or vital energy (breath) helps us remain in the present.
Add a little meditation to your practice to really free your mind and minimize stress.