The thought of Black Friday shopping, spending hours trying to find the perfect present for everyone, and the stress of cooking meals for my entire family give me instant anxiety. I find tranquility in a few easy yoga poses that even the novice yogi can master.
Though you may get some weird looks if you do a few cat/cow poses in line at the supermarket, all of these poses are simple to do at home. Here are four of my favorite poses I use to re-center myself after too many hours in the kitchen with my mother, or when Great Aunt Ruth gives me socks for Christmas…again.
1. Marjaryasana/Bitilasana: Cat/Cow Poses
The cat/cow poses not only work wonders on my neck and torso, but also help in reducing stress, massaging my spine, and digestive organs. Though they are two different poses, they are closely related and are grouped into one. For both poses, bend on all fours, so your knees are aligned with your hips and your wrists aligned with your shoulders.
Now, with your head looking at the ground, inhale; tilt your spine upwards and keep your knees and shoulders in place; this is the cat pose. Think of the traditional black cat on Halloween silhouette.
To move into cow pose, exhale as you go back to the neutral position then inhale while lifting your sits bones upwards as you lower your belly and tilt your hips towards the floor. While your hips are shifting, simultaneously bring your gaze upward. Exhale and return to neutral position and repeat this movement ten times, or until you feel a little relief from eating too much pumpkin pie.
From the cooking to the cleaning and shopping, not to mention running around with my nephews and nieces, by the end of the day I’m exhausted and ready for some relaxation. This pose will keep you relaxed and calm throughout the holidays.
This pose not only stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles but strengthens them too. From personal experience, this pose greatly helps to keep me centered during the holidays
You can approach downward-facing dog a couple of ways. My favorite is to transition into it from cat/cow pose (the one we just talked about). From neutral spine, tuck your toes and send your hips back into the air. Slowly work into this pose by shifting your hips from left to right and bending one leg and then the other.
Pretend you’re using your hands to push the mat away from you. When you elongate your arms and legs, you’ll find more space in your shoulders and back.
After my yoga teacher training in India, I learned that this pose is a great home base. Downward-facing dog helps to clear your mind and strengthen your muscles. This pose works wonders for me when I have decisions to make or need a relaxed mind after a long day.
3. Balasana: Child’s pose
Balasana is a resting pose and one of the first poses you learn as a yogi. Child’s pose may remind you of the fetal position. It allows you to calm your mind and relieve stress and fatigue. You’ll feel a gentle stretching of your ankles, thighs, and hips.
Begin by kneeling with your knees further than hip width apart and bringing your toes to touch behind you. Allow your behind to sit back and rest on the heels of your feet. Now, fold your body forward so that your forehead rests on the floor. Your torso should lay on your upper thighs.
You have two options for your arms. The more traditional route is to stretch your arms forward on the mat with your palms facing down. If my shoulders are tense, I like to pull my arms next to my sides with my palms facing up. Try gently rolling your forehead on the mat for a mini massage.
Balasana brings awareness to your breathing patterns. With you ribs compressed, you are forced to create evenness in your inhales and exhales.
4. Savasana: Corpse Pose
Whenever I speak of this pose, I prefer calling it Savasana as opposed to its more common name, corpse pose. That name can scare the faint-hearted, but in truth, it is very relaxing and has a wide range of benefits. I even use this pose when I’m trying to go to sleep at night, and my mind is racing.
Savasana is the epitome of a neutral position. On your back, allow both legs to spread out equally and let your feet to turn out slightly. Rest your arms on the floor alongside your torso with palms facing upwards. Now, slowly soften your lower back as you relax your tailbone away from your pelvis. Keep your neck, aligned with your spine.
I remind my students to soften their jaw and relax the space between their eyebrows. Both spots are common places to hold tension. Soften your whole body and drift away. Relax and breathe normally; you may even fall asleep!
All four of these poses will help to reduce fatigue, insomnia, headaches, calm your brain, and even lower your blood pressure. Personally, I suffer from mild anxiety and depression and find that yoga helps center me and clear my mind.
Yoga offers moments of relaxation and allows you just to be. With these four poses, you’ll feel refreshed and feel empowered to tackle whatever the holidays throw your way.
Valerie is on the content team for Siddhi Yoga and strives to spread her love for yoga around the world. She enjoys finding new depths to her yoga practice, hiking in Colorado, and walking her dog, Rita.