With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, taking some time for yourself to practice yoga might seem a little far fetched. You’re busy cooking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cleaning, more shopping, more wrapping, etc. When the heck do you have time for yoga?
It’s precisely for that reason, being so busy, that you should make yoga a priority! Even if your practice is a little shorter than usual, it will definitely be worth your dedicated time. Here are 5 reasons yoga and the holiday season are like two turtledoves!
1. Give Stress a Lump of Coal - The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of year, but it shouldn’t, and doesn’t need to be! Yoga has been proven to reduce stress in practitioners (thanks endorphins!), leading to more focus, more productivity off the mat and a better appreciation for life in general.
2. Focus More, by Focusing Less - Sound contradictory? It is! By taking time to do nothing but move your body, breathe, calm down, and chill out, you’ll clear your head of unnecessary clutter. You’ll leave your practice with a better perspective on what needs to be done, what should be your main focus (maybe family and friends?) and what you can put on the back burner for now (that old fruitcake recipe).
3. Boost Your Mood - If you are stressing, chances are your mood is suffering along with your nerves. When you practice yoga, your body releases serotonin which is a hormone responsible for all kinds of goodness, from increased mood to enhanced focus and motivation. This seratonin production, combined with the satisfaction that you’ve just accomplished something you knew was good for you, can change your outlook on the day!
4. It’s Easy to Access - If you feel like you need to move your body around the holidays it can be hard to find a gym that’s open, or a studio with classes on Christmas and New Years Eve. Maybe you’re even on the move and have no idea where to find a fitness center. Fear not! You can practice yoga anywhere! While a mat or YogaPaws are handy, they’re not absolutely necessary to get your asana on. A towel can provide enough grip for a full practice, and there are some great online resources for yoga classes like yogadownload.com, that will play classes on either a computer or your mobile device.
5. Yoga Can Fit into Your Busy Schedule - Only have a few minutes to spare? That’s fine! While a longer yoga session will release more serotonin, a short and sweet practice, meditation session or breathing practice will get the job done! If you’re short on time and just need a pick me up, try a few sun salutations, or the following breathing sequence. Neither should take longer than ten minutes, and can be done anywhere you either have a little room or can sit with a long spine!
I suggest you read through the steps for the breathing practice several times before starting so you have a clear understanding and can get the most bang for your buck! (Don’t worry, you won’t shoot your eye out)
Close your eyes. Take several long, slow deep breaths, in and out of the nose. Begin to think about controlling the breath.
Start to fit your inhales and exhales into a space lasting 4 counts each. These 4 counts are at your own pace, so they are counts, not seconds. This is the base of the breathing exercise.
Take 6-10 breaths at your 4 count length.
Increase the duration of the inhale and exhale to 6 counts each, and take 6-10 breaths.
Keeping the inhales and exhales at 6 counts each, add a 1 count pause between the inhale and exhale. After exhale, suspend the breath from the lungs for 1 count. After the inhale, retain the breath in the lungs for 1 count.
Once more, while maintaining the 1 count pauses after inhale and exhale, increase the duration of the inhale and exhale to fit the space of 8 counts. Breaths should be slow, calm, full and not forced. Take between 6-10 breaths here. If 8 counts is too much, don't force it, continue breathing at 6 counts for 6-10 more breaths and skip step 7.
At this point, maintaining the 1 count pauses, you can either continue and increase inhales and exhales to 10 counts (if you do this, decrease counts incrementally by 2 until you reach step 8), decrease back down to 6 counts, or continue with 6 counts for another 6-10 breaths.
Maintain or return to the 6 count length, remove the 1 count pauses between inhales and exhales, feeling a nice, full round circle of breath. No pauses, just long, slow, deep breathing. Take 6-10 breaths.
Decrease the length of inhales and exhales to 4 counts, take 8-12 breaths here.
Release the controlled breath. Let your body regain control, breathe in your normal rhythm. Take this step SLOWLY, it can feel odd. use between 5-10 breaths to return to normalcy.
Don’t let your practice wane during the holidays, keep it going and zap stress and pressure, regain focus and perspective, be happy, be healthy!
The YogaTravelTree Team