Taming Holiday Overload: 4 Stress-Relieving Poses
It’s holiday time again! While the holidays can be wildly joyful, they can also rob us of our sanity. Holiday parties, indulging in delicious holiday treats (zero judgment for wanting seconds of Aunt Mary’s famous chocolate cake!), cooking, entertaining, shopping, wrapping– it’s no wonder we feel worn out and less than joyful!
When you start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, consider taking a few minutes to refresh your energy and take a much need break by practicing yoga. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, practicing poses like twists and forward bends, can help relieve a wide range of digestive symptoms that come from over-eating. While all styles of yoga provide these benefits, restorative yoga is king when it comes to lowering stress and recharging your batteries.
So if you’ve eaten a few too many holiday cookies or feel like the holiday jingles are jangling your nerves, give yourself the gift of a half hour to decompress in these four restorative poses. Enjoy!
4 Poses to Relieve Holiday Stress
When feeling pressed for time, feel free to choose only one of the following stress-relieving poses. Stay in it for a minimum of five minutes. Poses can be done on the floor or on a firm bed. You’ll need two bed pillows and two blankets.
1) Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Reclined Bound Angle is one of my favorites. Helping to relieve symptoms of stress and mild depression common during the holidays, it stimulates the heart, improves general circulation and stretches the inner thighs, groins, and knees.
1) Position a pillow lengthwise at the top of your mat and two folded blankets beside you.
2) Sit with your back to the pillow and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees open to the side. Tuck a blanket under each knee, adjusting so your knees are comfortable.
3) Next, gently lie back so the pillow is supporting your head and spine. As you settle, lift your hips slightly and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels. Take time to make any other adjustments so you feel fully supported and comfortable. Rest your hands on your lower belly or at your sides.
4) As you rest here, imagine sinking into the support of the floor beneath you. Let go of the endless to-do lists and “shoulds.” Allow yourself to open to each moment as unfolds. Stay here for 20 slow, relaxing breaths.
5) When you are ready, come out of the pose by first stretching your legs long. Float your arms overhead and take a full body stretch. Bending your knees, roll to your side and remove the pillow from behind your torso.
2) Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Supported Bridge calms the brain and helps alleviate stress, anxiety and fatigue. In addition, it stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid and improves digestion.
1) Bend your knees so your feet are standing on the floor. Push into your feet to lift your hips, sliding a pillow underneath your pelvis. Release the weight of your hips into the pillow. Arms can rest at your sides, on your belly, or in cactus pose.
2) As you relax into the pose, breathe deeply, softening your neck, throat and face muscles. Stay here for about 20 breaths.
3) When you feel ready, press into both feet to lift your hips, sliding the pillow out from underneath you. Bring your spine flat to the floor. Rest here for several breaths, inviting your back body to soften into the mat.
3) Supine Supported Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana II)
A grounding pose, this gentle supported twist calms both the body and the mind. It also massages the abdominal organs, encouraging the flow of fresh blood to the digestive system.
1) Roll to one side and place a folded blanket under your head. Place the pillows to your right and the second blanket to your left.
2) Lying on your back with knees bent, gently open the chest and shoulders by stretching your arms out in a T-position. Take a moment to snuggling both shoulders into the floor.
3) Next, anchoring your left shoulder to the mat, drop both knees to the right. Use one or both pillows to cushion your ankles, lower leg and thighs. Reach behind you to tuck the second blanket in close to your waist so your back feels fully supported.
4) As you settle into the pose, visualize yourself yielding into the support of the earth. Observe the gradual unwinding of your spiraled spine and notice any subtle shifts of your breath. Rest here for 20 breaths. Be sure to repeat on the opposite side.
5) To exit the pose, mindfully bring your knees back to center and into your chest. Hugging your knees, slowly rock side to side a few times. Place your feet wide on your mat and allow your knees to gently knock together. Rest your hands on your belly and take three deep breaths, acknowledging a sense of peace and groundedness.
4) Side-Lying Corpse Pose (Savasana variation)
If you are only going to do one of these poses, this would be my pick. Side-Lying Savasana is especially effective at relieving fatigue. To aid with digestion, lie on the left to encourage the natural flow of waste through the intestines.
1) From your back, roll to your right side, repositioning the blanket comfortably under your head. Place one pillow between your bent knees, arranging it so the knees and ankles are supported. Extend your right arm on the floor in front of your chest, palm up.
2) Next, hug your second pillow into your chest and belly, draping your top arm over it. For added comfort and warmth, cover yourself with the second blanket. Now let go. Sink into the warmth, comfort and support. Linger here for at least 20-30 breaths (or up to 20 minutes). Heavenly!
Taking time to relax, even if only a few minutes, will do wonders for your body, mind and spirit. It can also help you recharge so you have the stamina to tackle all the things on your holiday to-do list.
published 12/6/21; updated 11/30/23