Try this gentle yoga practice to relax, recharge and restore your mind and body during this holiday season.
Are you feeling the holiday blues?
While the holidays may be “the most wonderful time of the year”, they’re also dreaded by many.
Once the sleigh bells ring, people become more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Those who have mental illness are significantly affected. In addition, many people are negatively impacted by loneliness, isolation, and grief, while others are adversely affected by financial and social pressures. Moreover, the current pandemic exacerbates these afflictions.
Research has shown that regular yoga and meditation practice relieves stress and contributes to depression reduction.
When you notice that you’re feeling more depressed, irritable, tearful, or exhausted, or find yourself having a more difficult time sleeping or eating than usual, maybe it’s time to roll out the yoga mat.
Here is a yoga practice that you can do to beat the holiday blues and soothe your tension and get you back into a cheerful holiday spirit. Try to do it once a day or as needed. And recognize that you may need to talk to a clinician if you have already been diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
Taking a few deep breaths before you head into a store or family gathering can help you centre yourself.
Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four, 1-2-3-4 steady counts in your head. As you do this, feel the air entering your lungs. Pause at the top of your inhalation. Then count to four as you exhale. Continue this process several times.
This breathing exercise supports a gentle shift into the parasympathetic nervous system when overwhelmed, anxious, or disconnected from your body.
Hold each pose for at least five to ten deep breaths. Then, focus on your breathing and give your mind a much-needed rest.
Come to a tabletop position, reach your hips back over your heels. Place your forehead on the mat, your stacked forearms, or a pillow. Close your eyes and hold the pose for ten slow, deep breaths.
In this pose, you will find yourself immediately calm and ready to deal with any challenges that come your way. To leave the pose, slowly move your body back up.
Downward facing dog
A gentle inversion that restores energy as it calms the mind. The pose encourages fresh blood to flow through your body, allowing you to feel energized and rejuvenated.
Start by getting on all fours; place your hands close to the front of your mat, and walk your feet backwards, to form an upside-down V shape. Spread your fingers wide and press down through all four corners of your hands. Bring the sit bones up and back and release your heels to the floor. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Balance poses can help you clear your head when times are tough. The trick to settling your thoughts is to keep your gaze fixed and your breath steady. Then, if you wobble or fall out of the pose, focus on your breath and gazing point.
Stand on one foot. Place the opposite foot inside your leg, above or below the knee or ankle. Lift both arms in the air as if they were branches of a tree or your palms are joined together in your heart. Hold for five deep breaths.
The easiest way to do this is to put your legs up the headboard while lying in bed. Next, put your feet up the wall until your body is in an L-shape. Let your arms rest out to the sides, or place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart. Focus on your breath, take a deep inhale and exhale slowly through your nose. You can hold this pose for as long as you like as you soak in its healing effects.
Reclining bound angle pose
I consider this pose one of my favourite poses because it evokes a feeling of surrender and effortless bliss. It is also very gratifying and deeply relaxing. An ideal break from anxiety and nervousness instils inner calm and serenity. It slows breathing, lowers blood pressure and calms the nervous system.
As you lie on your back, bring the soles of your feet together. If needed, place cushions under your knees or hips. Next, put one hand on your stomach and one on your heart while you concentrate on your breath. Stay in this position for 5 to 10 minutes. Then inhale, lift your knees off the floor, and extend your legs back to their original position.
Pay attention to the here-and-now. Close your eyes and bring your attention inward, focusing on your breath. Become a container for thoughts, feelings, or sensations in the body present in the moment and try to watch them from one moment to the next.
• Nerry Toledo is a Dubai-based yoga instructor, writer and consultant. Her passionate pursuit supports her love of yoga to understand and embody the practice on and off the mat. Her teachings aim to help students reconnect with their inner Self, allowing them to bring more depth and richness to their practices. With her inclusive approach to yoga, anyone can practice – regardless of age, size, shape, ethnicity, level of ability or circumstance. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook or go to Nerryfit Yoga.