For many, the holidays mean long to-do lists and not enough time to plow through them.
They create stress even for the most relaxed. But this year, unleash the stress dragon for a blissful holiday 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, yoga instructor in Lake Tahoe, California. “It’s the fight, flight and freeze response. It increases our stress hormones, including our cortisol levels. Elevating this response over a long period of time can really start to take a toll on the body.”
Even if you don’t feel overwhelmed and depressed, you may struggle with sleep problems and daytime fatigue, as well as weight gain — especially in the abdomen, some studies have noted — headaches, indigestion, muscle tension, and other problems.
But yoga can help relieve stress, even on vacation.
At best, you can get big benefits by doing a few poses mindfully and slowly, says Fuller.
Here are six she recommends the most.
1. Child’s pose
- Start on your hands and knees on the mat.
- Open your toes and bring your feet together.
- Spread your knees slightly wider than hip distance apart and sit on your heels.
- Extend your arms all the way and rest your forehead on the mat. Hold as many breaths as you want, but at least 10.
2. Puppy pose
- Start in a tabletop position on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Keeping your hips lifted and arms straight, reach your arms forward until your forehead rests on the floor. (Or put it on a yoga block.)
- Press your chest toward the floor and hold there for 10 or more breaths. Your shoulders, upper back and chest should feel stretched.
- Start in a tabletop position, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees aligned under your hips.
- With each inhale, arch your back and look up at the ceiling (that’s the cow).
- With each exhale, pull your chin into your chest, pull your tailbone down and round your back and shoulders (this is cat).
- Alternate between the two for 10 or more breaths.
4. Thread the Needle (Child’s Pose Variation)
- Start in a tabletop position with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. The tops of your feet should be on the floor.
- Push your hips back and down until your glutes are over your heels and then reach 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 hand.
5. Seated Spinal Twist
- Begin by sitting cross-legged on your mat. Remove the flesh from your sit bones and sit tall with a straight spine.
- Bring your right hand to your left knee and place 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 more breaths, then open your mouth forward.
- Repeat the same procedure on the opposite side.
6. Legs up the wall
- Lie flat on your back and press your left side against a wall.
- Lift your knees toward your chest, rotate your body so that your bottom is against the wall, and then extend your legs toward the ceiling, allowing your arms to rest naturally by your sides, palms down.
- Hold for 10 to 15 breaths or longer.
Whether you’re traveling or staying on vacation, you can have a yoga teacher in your pocket when you try Yoga52.
Let Beachbody’s world-class yogis manage your stress while strengthening your body and mind, with classes for all skill levels.