Taming Holiday Overload: 4 Stress-Relieving Poses

It’s holiday time again! While the holidays can be wildly joyful, they can simultaneously rob us of our sanity. An excess of holiday parties with delicious food and desserts (zero judgements for wanting seconds of Aunt Mary’s famous chocolate cake) combined with the whirlwind of cooking, entertaining and shopping can result in exhaustion rather than holiday joy.

When you start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, a few minutes in a restorative yoga pose can reset your energy and provide a much need break. Research affirms that people who practice yoga regularly have been shown to have lower cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) levels. Additionally specific poses, such as the twisting poses, can relieve a wide range of digestive symptoms.

So if you’re worried about being as stuffed from eating too many holiday cookies or feel like the holiday jingles are jangling your nerves, give yourself the gift of this restorative sequence. 

4 Poses to Relieve Holiday Stress

When feeling pressed for time, take 5 minutes to practice one of the following poses or do all four (4) for a mini stress-relieving sequence to tame holiday overload.

You’ll need two bed pillows and two blankets. Each pose can be done on the floor using a yoga mat or on a firm bed. Enjoy!

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.

Position a pillow crossways under your knees towards the lower half of your mat. Place the two folded blankets beside you. Press the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees open wide. Then, place a blanket on top of your feet, wrapping it around and underneath both ankles. Give the blanket edges a gentle tug, as if you were tucking yourself in. If this isn’t comfortable for your knees or hips, simply stretch the legs long using the pillows for support under the knees.

Next, use your hands to support yourself as you lie back, placing the second blanket behind your head. Take a moment to lift your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels. Rest your hands on your lower belly. Sink into the softness of the support beneath you. Let go of all the endless to-do lists and “shoulds.” Allow yourself to open to this moment and take 8-10 relaxing breaths.

To come out of the pose, release your feet from the blanket and stretch out through your heels as you float your arms overhead.

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.

Slide the blanket out from underneath your head. Push into your feet to lift your hips, arranging one or both pillows underneath your pelvis. Relax your hips into the pillows. Arms can rest at your sides, on your belly, or in cactus pose. Breathe deeply, softening your neck, throat and face muscles. Stay here for 8-10 breaths or longer.

To leave the pose, lift your hips and remove the pillows from underneath your hips. Rest flat for several breaths allowing the back of your 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.

Bend your knees to bring your feet flat to the mat and reposition one blanket under your head. Slide the pillows to your right side and the second blanket to your left. Stretch your arms out to gently open the chest and shoulders, snuggling your shoulders down toward the floor. Anchor your left shoulder to the mat as you allow both knees drift to the right. Use the pillows to support your knees. Nestle the second blanket behind your waist so your back is fully supported.

As you surrender into the pose, sense yourself yielding into the support of the earth beneath you. Observe the gradual unwinding of your softly spiraled spine and notice the subtle shifts of your breath. Rest here for 8-10 breaths before switching sides.

To exit the pose, inhale your knees back to center. Hug both knees to your chest and gently rock side to side a few times. Next, place your feet down, allowing your knees to gently knock together. Place your hands on your belly and take 3-4 deep breaths, acknowledging a sense of peace and groundedness.

4) Side-Lying Corpse Pose (Savasana variation) 

Side-Lying Savasana is especially effective at relieving fatigue. If you need help with digestion, lie on the left to encourage the natural flow of waste through the intestines.

From your back, roll to your right side, repositioning the blanket comfortably under your head. Extend your right arm in front of your chest palm up. Place a pillow between your legs, from mid thigh or knee to your ankle. Bring another pillow in front of your belly, so that your top arm can drape over it and you can hug it into your chest. If your knees and ankles aren’t on the same plane, put a folded blanket under your calves and ankles to elevate them. To get the optimal benefit of this pose, stay here for 10-12 breaths or as long as 20 minutes.

Taking time to relax, even if only a few minutes, will do wonders for your body, mind and spirit so you’ll have the energy to complete all the things on your list. Happy holidays!

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