For many, the holidays mean long to-do lists and not enough time to plow through them.
They are stress-inducing even for the most relaxed. But this year, release the stress dragon for happier holidays by practicing yoga for stress relief.
“Typically, what happens with the stress response, as well as anxiety, is that the sympathetic nervous system is triggered,” says Jennifer Fuller, E-YRT 500, a yoga instructor in Lake Tahoe, California. “This is the fight, flight, and freeze response. This elevates our stress hormones, including our cortisol levels. Having this response elevated for long periods of time can really start to take a toll on the body.”
Even if you don’t feel overwhelmed and frazzled, you might be struggling with sleep issues and daytime fatigue, as well as weight gain — especially in the belly, some studies have noted — headaches, indigestion, muscle tension, and other issues.
But yoga can help relieve stress, even over the holidays.
Best of all, you can gain major benefits by just doing a few poses mindfully and slowly, says Fuller.
Here are six she recommends most.
1. Child’s Pose
Begin on your hands and knees on the mat.
Untuck your toes and bring your feet together.
Spread your knees out a bit further than hip distance apart and sit back on your heels.
Extend your arms all the way out and place your forehead on the mat. Hold for as many breaths as you’d like, but at least 10.
2. Puppy Pose
Start in a tabletop position on the ground with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
Keeping your hips lifted and arms straight, walk your hands forward until you can rest your forehead on the floor. (Or place it on a yoga block.)
Press your chest toward the floor and hold there for 10 breaths or longer. You should feel the stretch in your shoulders, upper back, and chest.
Begin in a tabletop position, with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and knees aligned under your hips.
With each inhale, arch your back and look toward the ceiling (this is the cow).
With each exhale, tuck your chin into your chest, pull your tailbone under, and round your back and shoulders (this is the cat).
Switch between the two for 10 breaths or longer.
4. Thread the Needle (Child’s Pose Variation)
Start in a tabletop position with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. The tops of your feet should be on the floor.
Push your hips back and down until your glutes are on your heels, and then walk your hands forward until your forehead touches the floor. This position is known as child’s pose.
Thread your right arm under your body to your left, pressing your right shoulder into the ground until you feel a stretch.
Hold, and then return to child’s pose (both arms forward).
Repeat with your left arm.
5. Seated Spinal Twist
Start by sitting cross-legged on your mat. Move the flesh away from your sit bones and sit up tall with a straight spine.
Take your right hand to your left knee and rest your left hand behind you. Relax your shoulders, relax your stomach, and shift your gaze over the left shoulder to stretch your neck.
Hold for 10 or so breaths, then unwind to face forward.
Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Legs up the Wall
Lie flat on your back with your left side pressed against a wall.
Lift your knees toward your chest, turn your body so that your bottom is against the wall, and then extend your legs up it toward the ceiling, allowing your arms to rest naturally by your sides, palms up.
Hold for 10 to 15 breaths or even longer.
Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or staying put, you can have a yoga teacher right in your pocket when you try Yoga52.
Let Beachbody’s world-class yogis tame your stress while strengthening your body and mind, with classes at all skill levels.