Are you guys ready for the holidays? Getting together with friends and family to share food, gifts, and gratitude can be a lot of fun, but it can get overwhelming, too. Need a little help dealing with holiday stress this year? We’ve got eight simple yoga poses to help melt the anxiety away.
Related Reading: 4 Ways to Green Your Yoga Routine
Tension during the holidays can really sneak up on you, can’t it? One minute, you’re merrily wrapping gifts or planning a menu, and suddenly it just all seems like way too much to handle. Where will everyone sit? Where will they sleep? Are you planning enough food? When holiday-related anxiety strikes, the best thing you can do for yourself is step away for a few minutes and indulge in a little bit of self care.
What is Self Care?
If you’re not familiar with the concept of “self care,” it really is what it says it is. So many of us tend to put ourselves last, and that’s no more apparent than during a stressful time like the holidays.
Self care can mean taking a few minutes to have a hot cup of tea with your favorite magazine. It could mean watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show on the DVR. It’s all about stepping back, recognizing that you might be overdoing it, and taking some time to recharge.
Related Reading: 12 Yoga Moves to Overcome Anxiety
Engaging in self care doesn’t have to be time-consuming, which is why this yoga routine is a very short one. If even doing eight poses seems like it would just take too long, that’s OK! Just choose a couple that appeal to you. You don’t want this adding to your stress – think of this as your yoga break!
Up Next: Deep breathing to relax the mind
1. Deep Breathing Meditation
You can practice deep breathing for just a few minutes or for as long as an hour – listen to your body and enjoy the relaxation!
Start out sitting in a comfortable position. It could be cross-legged on the floor, like in the photo above, or you can sit in a comfortable chair or lean up against a wall to support your back. Place your thumb and pointer fingers together gently, with your palms facing up, and start out by taking a few deep breaths, taking your time on the inhale and exhale.
Now, bring your awareness to your diaphragm, and hold the next inhale for a slow count of four. Exhale for a count of eight, hold your breath out for another slow count of eight, and then repeat this deep breathing pattern a few times.
Once you’re feeling relaxed, try to clear your head and focus on your deep inhalations and exhalations. If a thought does enter your mind, don’t worry! Just let it pass through on the wave of your breath. Sit and breathe until you’re ready to move on to the next posture.
Up Next: Wake up your body with a spinal twist
2. Spinal Twist
A gentle twist helps restore balance to your body and to your mind.
Sit on the rug or yoga mat with your legs out in front of you, then bend your right leg at the knee, tucking your right foot just under your left buttock. Bend the left knee and place that left foot in front of the right knee, like in the photo above. Inhale, and when you exhale, twist to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of the left knee and your left hand onto the floor behind you.
Turn your head to the left gently, gaze behind you, and take 10 deep breaths in this position. Repeat with the opposite arms and legs.
Up Next: Release those emotions in a seated forward bend
3. Seated Forward Bend
It’s amazing what emotions can come out during a simple forward bending pose. Let those thoughts and feelings flow with your breath as you relax into this posture.
Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you, and flex your feet, pulling your toes toward your body. If possibly, you want your heels to come up off of the floor. Inhale, raise your arms over your head, and with a flat back dive forward, grabbing on to your legs or feet wherever you can reach.
Don’t push too hard. The woman in the photo is holding her toes, but you still get the benefits of this posture if you’re reaching to your calves, knees, or even thighs. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the stretch along the back of your legs, up your spine, and through your neck.
Hold for 10 deep breaths.
Up Next: Practice balance with a tree stand
4. Tree Stand
When we get stressed out, our minds and bodies fall out of balance. Tree stand is a simple balancing posture that can help restore what stress takes away. Don’t worry if you fall out of this pose or if you wobble – it happens! Just ease back into it and hold for as long as you like on each side.
Start out standing up with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your right knee and grab it with your hands. If you feel like this is as far as you can go, that is totally fine. Just breathe here.
Feel like going a little further? Walk your hands down to your right foot, and place your right foot on the inside of your left thigh, toes pointed toward the floor. When you feel stable enough, let go of your foot and bring your hands to prayer position at your chest. If you feel good here, try completing the posture by raising your arms above your head, like in the photo above.
Up Next: Clear your head in side angle pose
5. Extended Side Angle Pose
This posture combines balance and concentration with a deep side stretch to help clear your mind of all that holiday stress. It also stimulates your body’s organs, including the digestive tract, so it’s great before that big holiday meal.
Stand with your feet further than shoulder-width apart. Turn your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot out so the toes face the opposite wall. Reach your arms straight out by your sides, bend your right knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor, and on your next inhale, stretch out to the right, resting your right elbow on your right thigh with your left arm extended straight up overhead.
Exhale, and on the next inhale, move your left arm to the right until you feel a nice stretch in your side. Don’t worry about how far you can go. Focus on how good it feels to open up your heart and stretch the left side of your body.
Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Up Next: Open your heart with cobra
6. Cobra Pose
We’ve stretched out your back quite a bit, so let’s counter that with a nice stretch up the front of your body. Cobra pose is all about opening your heart.
Start on your belly with your arms by your sides, then bring your hands up, placing your palms right next to your chest. Inhale and push up with your hands and lifting your head up and back. You should feel a stretch through your belly, chest, and the front of your throat.
If you’re limber, you may be able to straighten you arms like in the photo above, but again don’t worry about how far you can go. Push yourself to a point where you feel a stretch but not to where you feel any pain, and don’t forget to engage those back and buttocks muscles!
Hold for…you guessed it!…10 deep breaths.
Up Next: More balancing and side stretching in triangle pose
7. Triangle Pose
Like extended side angle, triangle is about balance and concentration to help you find your center in the midst of holiday stress.
Come back to standing with your feet further than shoulder-width apart. Turn your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot out so the toes face the opposite wall. Reach your arms straight out by your sides, and on your next inhale, stretch out to the right. Inhale, and on the next exhale bend at your waist and try to put your right hand on the floor next to your right foot with your left arm reaching toward the sky. If you can’t reach your foot, grab your leg wherever you are. Look up to the sky, and hold this pose for 10 deep breaths.
Try not to let your left hip roll forward in this posture. Focus on staying nice and aligned, like in the photo.
Up Next: Finish up with child’s pose, the ultimate in relaxation
8. Child’s Pose
This is one of my favorite postures for relaxation. You can feel your tensions melting away! If you only have time to do one pose during the busy holidays, I can’t recommend this one enough!
Start out sitting on your knees, with your bottom on your heels. Inhale, and as you exhale, fold your body forward with a straight back, and rest your upper body on your knees and your forehead on the floor. Stretch your arms out in front of you, like in the photo above, or leave them resting by your side. Do whatever feels better to you – this pose is about letting go.
Stay here for as long as you like, focusing on your breathing.
Do you guys have any yoga poses that you turn to during times of holiday stress? Share your favorite stress-busting postures in the comments!