Christmas and New Year is a hectic time of year. We’ve dealt with the end of year work commitments, got through long journeys to see family and friends and are now deep in the social aspect of it all. Long lunches, sale shopping, rich foods and possibly too much alcohol. We fit more social occasions into the space of one month than we do for the rest of the year. Sometimes this leaves us feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and even run down. We’re so busy trying to keep everyone else happy, we sometimes forget how important it is to keep ourselves healthy and happy too at this busy time of year.
One of the best things about yoga is that you can practice it just about anywhere. Consciously taking just a few minutes a day just to breathe will help you slow down and appreciate all the excitement this festive time of year brings. Plus, there’s a pose for every single thing you’re going through. Really.
Each yoga pose has specific benefit. Twists and inversions will boost your immune system when you’ve been burning the candle at both ends. Twists, forward bends and inversions will help support your liver from over indulgences on rich foods and alcohol. Standing poses, twists and inversions will increase your metabolism. While forwards bends, twists, inversions and seated poses will ease Christmas stress, anxiety and family tensions!
Try these 5 yoga poses to help you re-centre and be festivity ready. You can simply take a few minutes and breath into the pose that serves you best, or you can flow through the five poses, holding each pose for about 10 deep breathes in and out of your nose. For a slightly longer practice start with three rounds of your preferred sun salutation.
Downward Dog / Adho Mukha Svanasana
Benefits: An inversion is any pose where your heart is above your head. Downward dog ticks that box and is a very good pose to take to reap the many benefits of inversions. Inversions aid digestion, balance the nervous system, ease anxiety, stress and tension. They also boost your immune system and metabolism.
How to: Hands shoulder width apart, feet hip width apart, press into your hands, fingers spread. Broaden the collarbones, back of the neck long and relaxed, head in line with your ears. Lift your sit bones up high and stretch your heels down towards the ground. Top of the thighs press back, roll your inner thighs back and hug your outer hips to the midline. Take 10 deep breaths.
Go deeper: Start with knees bent first, press firmly into your right hand and the balls of your left foot. Hold and take a few deep breaths before swapping over to pressing into your left hand and balls of your right foot.
Prasarita Padottanasana / Wide Legged Forward Fold
Benefits: Forward bends are very calming. Anytime you find yourself getting overwhelmed take a quiet moment to yourself and take a forward bend. If your situation doesn’t suit a wide legged version take a forward bend with the feet hip width, clasp your elbows overhead and let your upper body gently hang forward.
How to: Stand with your feet wide with your inner feet parallel. Inhale, lengthen up through your spine, exhale, hinge forward at the hip joint. Place your fingertips on the ground directly under your shoulders, inhale here. Exhale bend your elbows back and fold forward, working towards walking your hands between your feet, fingers facing forward. Crown of the head reaches down with length in the spine. Take 10 deep breaths.
Go deeper: Explore how the forward bend feels with your feet at different distances. A wider stance will stretch the inner groins and a narrower stance will challenge the hamstrings more deeply.
Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II
Benefits: Standing poses builds focus and quietens a busy mind. They also are energising, increase the metabolism and get your circulation going on colder days.
How to: From Downward dog, ground your left foot at a 45 degree angle and on an inhale step your right foot between your hands. Check for front heel to back arch alignment, exhale here. Inhale, press into your feet to come up, open your hips to the side of the mat and reach your arms your shoulder height, palms facing down. Stack your front knee over your front ankle, working towards your front thigh being parallel to the ground. Lift your inner thighs, roll your outer left thigh down, hug your right hip in and gaze to your right fingertips. Take 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side
Go deeper: Press into your the big toe of your front foot. Press into the front heel and pull it back towards you to feel a strengthening of the hamstrings.
Malasana / Garland Pose
Benefits: You might find over the Christmas period you consume rich foods your system is not used to processing. Which can leave you feeling uncomfortable and sluggish. The simple squat is an absolute go-to pose for aiding digestion and getting things moving. Spend some time in your squat and take some deep breaths.
How to: From standing, feet wider than hip width, inhale, hands in prayer position. Exhale, bend your knees and sit down into a deep squat. Press your elbows against your thighs, hug your outer hips in towards the midline and lift the inner arches and inner ankles of your feet. Boaden through the collarbones and lengthen up through your spine to the tip of your crown. Take 10 deep breaths.
Go deeper: Let the weight of your pelvis become heavy and sink towards the back of your heels. Place your right hand on the ground to your right and reach your left arm up high, repeat on the left side.
Marichyasana III / Sage Pose
Benefits: For times when you’re feeling very low on energy, take a restorative seated pose. Seated poses ease anxiety, stress and tension with the added benefit of a twisted to aid digestion and boost the immune system.
How to: From seated, bend your right knee and place your foot fist distance from your left thigh, press your foot into the ground. Press out through your left heel, thigh pressing into the ground. Place your right hand on the ground behind your right hip. Inhale, lengthen up through the spine, exhale, twist to the right from the waist. Wrap your left arm around your right leg or place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Take 10 deep breaths.
Go deeper: Wrap your left arm around your right knee and reach towards your left waist. Reach your right arm around your back and take a bind.
Ruth Delahunty is a 200hr Yoga Alliance certified teacher and founder of Yogaru.ie, a yoga lifestyle website that promotes a yoga way of living both on and off the mat. For more information visit yogaru.ie