How To Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga

November 23, 2017
Melina Meza
7 min read
Reducing Stress With Yoga

Does anyone else out there find the holidays stressful? If so, then perhaps it’s time to lean into your yoga toolbox for more support between now and the New Year. The following are some tips to reduce holiday stress with yoga.

I typically start my practice on the floor to meet the stable quality of the earth. Once I tune into the support below me, I focus on simple dynamic movements to improve circulation and get my body flowing. I engage my core to bring heat towards central organs so that they function their best during the cooler months.

To avoid the winter blues and reduce holiday stress with yoga, I’m suggesting asana and breathing practices six days a week. If possible, do them first thing in the morning before you go to work! During the day, take breaks and remember to move your body frequently (for example, every 30 minutes) to improve circulation. Basic yoga stretches and deep breaths can make a world of difference when you feel stressed out!

In addition to asana practice, I also believe that getting to bed early (before 10pm) and sleeping 8 hours can be helpful when you feel stressed out. Remember rest is an important part of any healthy ecosystem. From the perspective of your personal ecosystem, it helps your body and mind recover from the business of each day. The more you can simplify your daily and weekly schedules during this darker season, the more space you’ll have in the day for self-care. Then it will be easier to reduce holiday stress with yoga.

A Sequence To Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga 1
Supported Reclined Backbend – Use a bolster or thinly folded blanket under your spine to help open your chest and front of spine. Take time here to feel the support under you and release into in while you take deeper fuller breaths in and out. Exhale to let go of stress.

Supported backbends can help you breathe more into your chest and lungs. Breathing MORE is a great way to decrease stress.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Neck and Chest Opener – Place a blanket or support under your head then curl over to one side. Stack your hips over one another and stretch your arms out straight from the shoulders. When breathing in, follow your top arm and hand toward up and over the other side of the room. Allow your eyes to track the moving hand to help free your neck of some tension. Repeat 4-8 times.

A lot of people hold their tension in the next and upper back. This sequence can be helpful to alleviate some of your neck or chest tightness.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Curl Up’s – Lace your fingers behind your head and open the legs to Reclined Cobbler’s position. As you exhale, lift your shoulders and bring your knees to touch. Right at the end of your exhale, reach your elbows towards your knees then breathe and roll back down. Repeat 5-10 times to bring some circulation to your abdominal organs.

Curl up’s are great because they help stretch the back of your neck (which might feel tight with stress), warms up the belly area and promotes better circulation down to the hips. Inviting energy to move down away from your head and into the hips can support overall circulation and flow, which usually isn’t happening when we’re stressed.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Rock and Roll to Boat – Hug your knees to your chest then begin to rock forward and up to balance on your sit bones, eventually without holding your legs. Balance for a moment in Boat pose before rolling back down to the floor. Repeat 4-8 times. Keep your eyes open and looking up beyond your knees to lift your spirit.

Balance poses are great for bringing your more fully into the present moment, away from thoughts of the past or future.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
All Fours Diagonal Reach – Bring your legs parallel and hands under the shoulder line. Inhale and reach out opposite arm and leg while keeping the center of the body stable. On exhale, make a fist with the front hand then draw your elbow and opposite knee together to touch. Repeat 4-6 times keeping the center of the body stable.

Dynamic sequences are great for promoting overall circulation and working stress out of your body.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Reaching Under the Bed Pose – On all fours, place your knees under your hips, and anchor your ankles down to the floor. Inhale and reach one arm out to the side or up for a twist, exhale and reach the arm under the opposite arm as if reaching under the bed. Go back and forth a few times with your breath before staying in the pose to stretch your outer shoulder. Explore variations here to open your top chest and release your neck.

This dynamic sequenced linked with your breath can help free up any stiffness in your mid-back, shoulders, and neck.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Matsyasana Prep – Sit on your heels (or with a block between your feet) while making two fists with your hands. Keep your knuckles pressed together, hands in fists while you bend forward over your hands. Allow your fists to press into the soft part of your abdomen, massaging these organs and creating space in your back body. (If you are menstruating, do Child’s Pose instead).

The belly area can get contracted and tight when we’re stressed. Practice this pose to squeeze out belly tightness.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Sphinx – Come down to your belly, stretch your legs back and slide your elbows in a comfortable distance towards your chest. Rest your posture here while you belly relaxes into the earth on inhale, and lifts away from the earth on exhale. Stay a while and imagine your spine getting longer and wider with each breath.

I love sphinx pose to help relax my lower back and reset my pelvis if it feels off. If you tend to hold your tension in your lower back, try this poses for a few minutes to help reset your posture and invite deeper breathing into your back.

Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Tadak Mudra & Uddiyana Bandha – Finish your practice with a full body stretch on your back. As you exhale, take a moment to pause at the end of the breath and invite your navel down closer to your spine. The pause is a nice way to invite your senses to move deeper into the body and to magnetize the subtle winds of the towards your navel.
Reduce Holiday Stress With Yoga
Savasana with support. End your practice with the ground underneath you. Tune into the effects of your practice and how your body and mind feel. Start at the top of your head and work your way down the body scanning for any residue stress. Exhale all the stress out before softly breathing in. Set a time for 5-10 minutes and be quiet with yourself. Notice if you can fall more and more in love with the quiet gaps between thoughts and with the present moment.

This time of year I find it necessary to practice a lot! It’s so easy to lose motivation, to sleep in, or feel depressed with decreasing amounts of sunlight (if that’s an issue for you) and extra holiday stress. I hope these tips and sequence will help you to reduce holiday stress with yoga. Please refer to the Art of Sequencing – Volume Two book for suggestions on what asanas and breathing practices are beneficial for the winter.

If you’ve lost the fire of your home practice or daily routines, try setting up a private session with a local teacher to help design program that inspires you. Getting support makes this whole journey more fun.

About The Author: Melina Meza

Melina Meza has been sharing her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, and whole foods nutrition with yogis around the world for over 20 years. Melina pioneered Seasonal Vinyasa, an innovative multi-disciplined approach to well-being, and is the author of the Art of Sequencing books, creator of the Yoga for the Seasons – Fall Vinyasa DVD, and co-director of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers 200- and 500-Hour Teachers’ Training Program in Seattle, Washington.

Currently residing in Oakland California, Melina facilitates year-round yoga and Ayurveda workshops and leads retreats in extraordinary sanctuaries around the world. You can also find Melina’s unique offerings on the Yoga Anytime, Gaiamtv and YogaUOnline and practice with her from the comfort of your own home. Learn more about how to get in touch with Melina on her website.