The holidays are upon us! For many, it can be a stressful time, so I put together five common holiday scenarios and my favorite yoga assists that can support, ground, and boost you through the season.
Holiday Scenario 1: Somewhere between takeoff, your layover, and the sniffly neighbor in the seat next to you, you started to feel an ache that could turn into a full-blown cold.
Yoga Assist: It’s common knowledge that being stressed, not enough sleep, and traveling can put you at greater risk for getting sick. Fight back with a few gentle restorative poses, which can have immune-boosting, stress-reducing, sleep-inducing benefits to help you get and stay well.
Start with balasana (child’s pose). Bring your toes together and keep the knees a bit wider than the hips. Rest your forehead on a block or your stacked hands. You can gently roll your forehead left and right as you slowly inhale and exhale, which can feel especially good for sinus congestion and may enhance the relaxation response.
Then roll onto your back and take supta baddha konasana (supported butterfly). Draw the soles of the feet together and support under each knee with blocks or pillows. Place an eye pillow over the eyes. Hold each pose for 5-7 minutes. Come out slowly by resting in the fetal position before gently sitting up.
Holiday Scenario 2: Between the holiday frenzy and the endless parties and family gatherings, you’re looking for a quiet space to feel centered.
Yoga Assist: Try to carve out time for yoga—even a few minutes on your mat can help you re-center. Only have time for one pose? Try adho mukha svasasana (downward-facing dog), a strength-building pose that is technically also an inversion since the head is lower than the heart. Stay grounded and in the moment by challenging yourself to try three-legged dog. Engage your core strength to stabilize, then slowly lift one leg up. Consciously choose to release any stress with each exhale.
For extra energetic detoxing, take a few rounds of lion’s breath. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth with the tongue out, and consciously commit to releasing any tension. Then switch legs. No room or time? Just sit quietly and try 3 lion’s breaths.
Holiday Scenario 3: You ate a tad too much turkey, or simply too much stuffing. Your belly needs help pronto.
Yoga Assist: Twisting poses stimulate and aid digestion. Start with modified marichasana (seated twist). Sit on the floor with left leg extended. Bend your right knee, and wrap your left arm around it. Let your right fingertips find the floor behind you. Take 10 breaths. Switch sides.
Holiday Scenario 4: You’re back in your childhood twin bed, on your in-laws’s fold-out, or bunking on the floor. Bottom line: Counting sheep just isn’t working. You’d kill to catch some Zs.
Yoga Assist: Restorative yoga to the rescue! Try viparita karani (legs up the wall). Swing your legs up the wall (or headboard of your bed). Support under the hips with a folded blanket or bath towel. Start with 5-7 minutes, breathing slowly and deeply. Extend each exhale for an extra relaxation boost. Rest here as long as you like.
Holiday Scenario #5: You’re heading home via plane, train, or automobile and your back is killing you.
Yoga Assist: Modified ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose) is a great release for lower back muscles. If possible, stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bring your right hand to your hip. Lift your left arm up and gently bend to the right. Stuck on a plane? This can also be done seated—press your palm against the seat of your chair or armrest instead of your hip. Reverse and do the other side.
For the upper back, try modified garudasana (eagle’s pose for the arms). Seated or standing, bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows even with the shoulders. Stay here, or drop the left elbow below the right and twine the forearms, bringing the palms together.
Take a few deep breaths and switch sides for each pose.
Whatever the holidays might bring you, taking a few moments each day in a restorative pose will help to keep you calm, energized and ready to take on the busyness of the season.
Photo credit: Jay Weeks
Shop Sara’s Looks: