Feeling the Christmas stress? Try to switch up your yoga practice and do some gentle, restorative poses to help regain your energy, soothe the nervous system, and help get your mood back up. Here are some yoga poses to keep you relaxed during the holidays.
1. Happy Baby Pose
Begin lying down in savasana. After scanning the body and tuning in with the breath, take your knees into your chest. Then, separate your knees wider than your hips. Take hold of the outer edges of your feet, then bring your feet parallel to the ceiling. Slowly guide your knees closer to your armpits, then rock from side to side.
Happy Baby is a hip opener that also stretches the low back, so you may feel the muscles around the lumbar spine being released. You may also feel the inner thighs and groin open up, as this shape also stretches out the adductors. Rock the hips side to side, to help massage your glutes.
There are different variations of Happy Baby. If you’d like to open up the hamstrings a bit more, then try straightening one leg out at a time. If you’d like an even deeper stretch for the inner thighs, consider pressing the soles of your feet together and opening your knees out into butterfly.
Stay here for a few breaths, before hugging the knees back to the chest.
2. Sphinx Pose
When your hug your knees to the chest, roll over the side and the over to your belly. Extend the legs back behind you, soften your hips down, rest on your forearms, and open your chest. Try to actively push down on the forearms, then spread the collarbones.
Keep the neck in center, in between your shoulders. This gentle backbend brings your entire spine into extension. If you’d like to add a deeper release in your neck, though, feel free to do neck circles or simply look from side to side.
Sphinx helps promote myofascial release of the abdominals, so it’s also nice to perform this backbend after a tough core workout. That said, it helps massage the internal organs and help promote healthy digestion. It also helps stretch out the chest muscles and frontal shoulders.
3. Saddle Pose
Much like Sphinx, Saddle also provides a gentle backbend and helps stretch out the abdominals. More importantly, it helps promote more spaciousness across the lungs and encourages you to breathe more fully and deeply.
Sit on your heels, then place your hands behind your hips about mat-width apart. If you can, lower down onto your forearms. You can also lower down completely, with your entire back resting on the mat. A good modification of this pose is Supported Saddle with a pillow against your back or your head.
Channel your breath by taking your hands onto your belly and feeling the depth of your inhalations and exhalations. Feel your belly, ribcage, and chest expand when you inhale. Feel your belly pull against your spine when you exhale.
After staying here for a minute or two, support yourself with your arms as you come up to seated. Again, you may counter this pose with child’s pose.
4. Banana Pose
Lie down on your mat, with your knees bent and feet as wide as your hips. Then, as if you were coming to Bridge, lift the hips up. Land your hips to the right side of your mat, then extend your legs to the opposite (left) side of the mat. Cross your right ankle over the left.
Then, lift your arms up overhead and gently hold onto your right forearm with your left hand. Side bend over to the left side, mimicking the bent shape of a banana.
Banana Pose helps release the mid-upper back, as well as the psoas, obliques, belly, and intercostal muscles. In Yin Yoga, it also helps stimulate the liver and gallbladder meridians.
Stay here for a minute or two, before switching to the next side.
After doing Banana Pose on both sides, simply come into your final resting pose. Spread the legs wider than your mat and allow your feet to relax to the sides. Let your arms spread out across you as well. Scan your body from the tips of the toes up to the crown of your head.
Allow every inch of your body to soften and relax. Let the breath deepen, and feel the presence of the breath in the most subtle areas of your body. This is a good time to meditate on gratitude for the holidays, or simply let the mind be still.
Stay her for two to three minutes. Then when you’re ready, open your eyes. Every time you feel stressed, do these yoga poses to keep you relaxed during the holidays.
First published in December 2020; updated December 2021