Wouldn't it be nice if holidays were really the way they're portrayed on television commercials? In TV land, photogenic families eat elaborate gourmet meals in homes that look like they were decorated by Martha Stewart. For most of us, the reality is much different. Squabbling kids, long lines at the mall, and cooking disasters can quickly turn your mood from joyous to frazzled. Luckily, yoga can help you regain your holiday spirit and reduce your stress level.
How Does Yoga Relieve Stress?
Although twisting and turning your body into challenging poses is certainly a key part of yoga, the practice also involves controlled breathing and meditation. As you shift from the Child's Pose to Downward Facing Dog, your tight muscles begin to loosen and relax. Meditation and deep breathing help you slow down and calm your busy mind. As you concentrate on controlling your breathing and performing each pose perfectly, you'll forget about your shopping list or the countdown to the holidays.
In addition to reducing stress and anxiety, yoga can also help you sleep better, relieve aches and pains, reduce your blood pressure and prevent headaches and migraines. The next time you start to feel stressed, find a quiet space and try one or more of these yoga poses:
- Corpse Pose. Lie on your back with your head on a pillow and your arms at your side with your palms facing up. Relax your legs, arms, and feet while you take deep, controlled breaths. As you breathe, clear your mind of stressors. Remain in the pose for at least five minutes.
- Child's Pose. Start the pose from a kneeling position. Inhale and sit back on your feet, making sure that your big toes touch each other. As you exhale, extend your arms straight in front of you on the floor with your palms facing down. Hold the pose for two or three minutes. You can also perform the Child's Pose with your arms at your sides and your palms facing up, if you prefer. The pose offers an excellent way to calm your mind, improve circulation and stretch your spine, hips and thighs.
- Legs Up the Wall Pose. Begin the pose in a seated position with your legs bent. Inch forward until your bottom is next to the wall. Lie on your back and slowly put your legs against the wall, keeping them straight, it possible. Extend your arms on either side of your body, with your palms facing up. Inhale and exhale slowly as you hold the pose for five minutes. If the pose is a little difficult or uncomfortable, use a bolster to support your lower back. The Legs Up the Wall Pose is an excellent antidote when your legs are tired and achy after a busy day at work or a shopping excursion to the mall. It also encourages relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety.
- Extended Puppy Pose. Start the Extended Puppy pose on all fours. Extend your arms in front of you, lower your chest toward the floor and touch your head to the floor. Neither your chest or your elbows should touch the ground when you perform the pose. Hold the pose for a minute or two. As you perform the Extended Puppy Pose, you'll feel the stiffness in your back and shoulders slowly diminish, along with your stress.
- Standing Forward Bend Pose. The Standing Forward Bend will get your blood flowing, improve flexibility and soothe your overloaded nervous system. Start the pose from a standing position with your arms resting at your sides. Inhale and extend both hands over your head. Exhale and bend forward, touching the floor if you can. If you can't quite reach the ground, place your hands at the back of your ankles. As you inhale and exhale, keep your neck relaxed and concentrate on lengthening your torso. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds, then put your hands on your hips and slowly return to the standing position.
Don't let stress ruin your holidays. These yoga poses offer an all-natural solution to stress and anxiety and can be performed almost anywhere. Do you need a little help perfecting your poses? Contact us to enroll in a class led by an experienced yoga instructor.
WebMD: Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity, 11/5/15
Yoga Journal: Yoga for Stress
CNN: 10 Yoga Poses to Beat Stress, 1/3/15
International Journal of Yoga: Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life, 7-12/11