I absolutely love this time of year. It's as though everything sparkles and chimes with joy. There's a nostalgia in the air as we celebrate traditions gathered with loved ones. While it's the most wonderful time of year, it can be a stressful time of year. With extended travel, gift-giving, big crowds, weather-stormed roads, demanding work schedules, party prepping, and the perpetual flu and cold season kicking into gear. This month I am focusing on practicing calm, I'll go over some of my go-to yoga postures that require only your breath and minimal movement. This month's blog post will be a great piggy-back on last month's meditation basics.
Whether you have 5 minutes or 20 minutes, any of the postures of one can be done at any moment throughout your day. Start by shifting your thoughts to committing to your moment of calm and begin taking long deep breaths in through the nose and exhale out of the mouth.
Child's pose, balasana
From a table top position with your knees hip-width distance, take your big toes to touch, and slowly hinge at the waist lowering the glutes to rest on the back of your heels. You can use a block, pillow, or a rolled-up yoga mat between the back of your thighs and calves. Stretch your palms long out in front of you allowing your forehead to rest on the earth or on a block. The third eye pressure point signals the brain that you are safe and brings a calm the nervous system. Let your chest and belly relax as the back body lengthens relieving stress in the lower back from long periods of sitting. Breathe here for about 2-5 minutes.
Standing forward bend, uttanasana
For the passive fold, stand in mountain pose, tadasana, with your feet hip-width distance. Inhale both arms up and exhale the arms down, folding forward at the hips. Bend both knees so that your head hangs below the heart, letting your belly rest loose on top of your thighs, rounding the back slightly. Grab opposite elbow creases and close the eyes. Slowly take your upper and sway to the right, come back through center, and off to the left. Come to a place of stillness with conscious breath in and out through the nose. Stay here for 5-15 breaths, to relieve tension in the spine, back, and neck.
For a more active fold, take downward-facing with your heels pressing into a wall. Slowly walk your hands back toward your feet as close as you can, while pressing your glutes, thighs, and calves into the wall behind you. To bring the earth closer to you, place blocks beneath each palm for extra support. This active fold will keep your upper-body weight in the front of your feet. While it may not be as deep as a fold, it will activate your legs, stretching your hamstrings and calves. Breathe here for 5-10 breaths, exit out slowly by walking the hand forward into downward-facing dog.
Legs up the wall, viparita karani
Lay on your back and scoot your bum against the wall. Walk your legs up, resting your heels against the wall. Place your palms face-down underneath your sacrum, at your low back, or take your palms up over your head to lift the chest and expand your ribcage. The belly releases towards the torso hanging into the back of the pelvis. The back of your head is pressed into the earth, to lift the chin slightly, allowing the air to flow without constriction. Stay here for 5-10 minutes. This is one of my favorite postures to relieve headaches or anytime I have tension in the lower back.
Shoulder stand at the wall, salamba sarvangasana
Start with your legs up the wall, see previous posture above, keeping the back of your head pressing into the earth and lengthening the neck so that your throat is open for airflow. Bend your knees and push your feet into the wall and lift so that your pelvis lifts above your shoulders. Place your palms at your low back with your elbows on the earth for extra support. Breathing here for 1 minute and extend your time with practice. Slowly lower down with great care hugging your knees in towards your chest for a squeeze on your back.
Anytime the head is below the heart or the feet are above the heart, these postures calm the nervous system. You can practice these poses in a quiet room at home or the office. If you're feeling overly stimulated from your honey-do lists or bringing outside stressors home from a long day, take some time for you, even if it's just one of the postures instructed above. This is the most wonderful time and sometimes the busiest time of year. Take care of yourself so you can take great care in connecting with loved ones during this season.
Merry Calming to you!