Jacqueline is a former member of the Canadian National Swim Team with over 10 years experience as a fitness professional. She holds a graduate degree in Health Sciences and is also a nutrition expert. Jacqueline is the co-owner of Move to Heal, a sport injury, yoga, and pilates clinic located in the heart of downtown Toronto in the Thompson Hotel Residences.
Cold weather, shopping, maxing out your visa, too-good-to-say-no holiday treats… this can all lead to holiday stress and weight gain. Your cortisol levels shoot up and possible mid-mall anxiety attacks take over. Instead of heading for the hot buttered rum (or you can, after yoga of course) try some yogic breathing and specifically designed stress reducing yoga poses to calm down and rid yourself of that pounding headache. Holidays should be a time of rest, relaxation, family, love, and togetherness, and hopefully these Yoga tips will help inspire a positive holiday experience rather than one that you dread. I also recommend popping in to your local yoga studio for a class or one-on-one session with a teacher as well. This will really help you to hone in on how to do the poses at home (or in the middle of the mall) correctly.
Yoga for Stress Reduction
Pranayama (deep yogic breathing): You’ve heard it mentioned in yoga class, but did you know you can use this breathing to keep you grounded and avoid feeling edgy and wired? Those edgy feelings very often happen due to overindulging in sweets and caffeine, being in overcrowded stores, waiting in long lines to purchase that perfect gift, or navigating through heavy traffic. Wherever you are, you can practice your breathing.
One of my favorite breathing meditations (which can be done anywhere):
- Feel yourself connect through the soles of your feet if you are standing or sitting in a chair.
- Find a long spine stacking shoulders over the hips allowing the chin to be parallel to the floor.
- Imagine your breath is a pool at the base of your spine. As you inhale, pull the breath in a cool stream up the back of the body, between the shoulder blades, the back of the neck, and end at the space just above and between your eyebrows.
- Pause briefly.
- Exhale out warm breath like a waterfall down the front of the throat, the heart, the belly, back into the base of the spine.
- Pause briefly.
- Begin again pulling the breath up the back of the body as if it was a cool stream, pausing, exhaling warm air down the front of the body, pausing, etc., etc., etc. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5.
This quick pranayama will pull you back into your body, back into a little peace, and leave you feeling very balanced and refreshed.
Yoga poses (Asana) to specifically reduce stress, fend off that nasty old friend we call fatigue, as well as combat holiday madness:
As you practice yoga, use each posture as a way to center yourself while at the same time enhancing your flexibility and strength. As you master the more physical aspects of yoga, focus on how the strength and patience you are building in your own body (both inside and out) can be transferred to dealing with the stress of the holiday season.
- Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal) – Practicing Anjali Mudra in easy sitting pose (Sukhasana) is an excellent way to tap into a meditative state of awareness
- Bitilasana (Cow Pose) – Easy, gentle warming of the spine
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose) – Massages the spine and organs in the belly region
- Uttana Shishosana (Puppy Dog) – Lengthens the spine and calms the mind
- Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) – Relieves anxiety and helps you feel grounded
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) – Encouraging opening via the heart (chest)
- Bharadvajasana 1 (Bharadvaja’s Twist) – Gentle twisting wrings out the abdominal organs and is a tonic for the spine
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) – Rejuvenating for the legs and calming for the mind
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) – Restorative to the whole body, promotes restful sleep, relieves tired, cramped legs, and calms the mind.
How do you help reduce your stress? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.