The holidays are a busy time full of shopping, baking, and time well-spent with family and friends. But don’t forget to squeeze some yoga in between wrapping presents and leaving cookies out for Santa! Here is a quick sequence of ten poses to help you take a step back and remember to give to yourself before anyone else this holiday season.
(Be sure to repeat the entire sequence on both sides.)
- Warrior 2/ Virabhadrasana 2
- From Tadasana/Mountain Pose, bring your hands to your hips, step your left foot back, bending your right knee at a 90 degree angle, aligning your right knee over your right ankle. Keep your right foot forward and turn your back foot at a 90 degree angle, or parallel to the back of your mat, and align your heels with each other. Extend the arms away from each other, squeezing the shoulder blades together, and gaze towards your front fingers, looking forward to all the opportunities in the new year ahead.
2. Peaceful Warrior/ Shanti Virabhadrasana
From Warrior 2, flip your front palm to face up and reach for the ceiling, bending in your left waist. Allow the back of your left hand to relax or slide down on your left (back) leg. Your gaze should follow your fingertips up, remembering to spread peace, love, and cheer not only during the holidays but all year!
3. Tree Pose/Vrksasana
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What is Christmas without a tree? From Peaceful Warrior, step both feet together back to Tadasana, or shift the weight to your right (forward) foot. Bend your left knee and lift your left foot, pressing the sole against the right inner calf or inner thigh, toes pointing toward the floor. Bring your hands to your hips or palms together at heart center. Tuck your tailbone and lengthen your spine through the crown of your head. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you to find balance and stability.
4. Elf on the Shelf (Standing Figure Four)
Begin standing crossing the left ankle over the right knee and keeping the foot flexed to protect the knee. Slowly begin to bend the standing leg, bearing the weight in the heel as the hips descend into a squat or chair pose.
5. Garland Pose/Malasana
Bring your feet about hip width or slightly wider than hip width apart and bend the knees to come to a yogi squat. Bring your palms together at heart center for Anjali Mudra and press your elbows against your inner knees to open up the hips further. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, focusing on your gaze ahead and your thoughts on being present and grateful for all you have. Opt to place a block or pillow under your sitsbones for a more restorative opening.
6. Warrior 3/Virabhadrasana III
Beginning in a high lunge, with your right leg forward and bent at a 90 degree angle and your left leg back with the heel of your left foot lifted, and arms parallel above your head, palms facing towards each other. Shift your weight into your right foot and slowly begin to lift your back leg keeping your toes pointing down, arms overhead or palms together at heart center, giving thanks to yourself for taking time to practice during this hectic holiday season.
7. Lord of the Dance/Natarajasana
From warrior 3, bend the knee of your back, lifted leg reaching your heel towards your sitsbones. Reach your left arm back to grip the outside of the left foot or grab the big toe with your two peace sign fingers and thumb. Inhale and lift the left leg up high, bringing the thigh parallel to the floor. Reach your right arm straight up or forward, in front of the torso and parallel to the floor. To take it a step further, reach your right arm back to grip the left foot as well. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, release slowly and gracefully.
8. Side Plank with Star or Tree Variations
Photo credit: http://www.naturallymeblog.com/2015_12_01_archive.html
Begin in a plank with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and back flat. Shift the weight to your right arm and lift the left arm straight up, turning the torso sideways, and shifting the weight into the outer side of your right foot. If this is hard enough, stay here. To become a star, hover your left leg off the right creating space between your two legs, or for a tree variation, bend the left leg, keeping the left toes on the inner calf or inner thigh of your left leg. Keep your hips lifted and gaze up past your left fingertips. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on opposite side.
Begin by lying on your stomach, chin to your mat, and arms besides you. Bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your sitsbones, the reach back with both hands to grab hold of your ankles. As you inhale, lift your heels higher toward the ceiling, lifting your thighs off the ground, as well as your head, chest, and upper torso. As you lift your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together drawing your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your gaze forward and remember to breathe. Hold for up to 30 seconds, strengthening your entire back so you can carry more presents than Santa! Exhale to release, gently lowering your thighs and chest back down to the ground, followed by your legs and feet. Place your right ear on the mat and relax your arms at your sides for a few breaths. Repeat the pose for the same amount of time, then rest with your left ear on the mat.
What better way to end your holidays than with a warm, cozy fire? Or in this case, firelogs pose, with the light inside you burning! Begin in a comfortable seat, sitting upright and lengthening your spine from your root to your crown chakra. Bend your left knee, placing your left shin parallel to the top of your mat facing forwards. Keep your foot flexed. Bend your right knee and stack your right shin parallel over your left shin. Let your right foot hang off your left thigh so that your right ankle passes your right knee—even if this causes your right knee to lift a little higher. Remain upright or hinge forward at the hips, folding over your stacked firelogs and keeping your spine as long as possible. Both feet should remain flexed. Stay for a few breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
As you close your practice and make your way into savasana, corpse pose, or a comfortable, meditative seat, close your eyes and let your breath flow naturally. Exhale anything that no longer serves you, and let those things remain in your past. Inhale love, gratitude, excitement, and only positive thoughts for the new year ahead. Let this be the best you and the best year yet.
Wishing you all a happy holiday and a blessed twenty-seventeen!