It’s no secret—along with all the cookies and carolers and ugly sweaters, the holiday season can bring some big stressors, from finances and family conflicts to overscheduling and more. Feeling more Bah, humbug! than Fa la la la la? We spoke with three local yoga studio owners and instructors and asked for some stress relief yoga tips to manage the not-so-cheery moments.
One of the main ways stress shows up and wreaks havoc is through breath patterns (holding the breath, breathing shallowly), which essentially convey a message to the body that we are not safe to let go, rest, digest or relax. Once that is the message of the breath, the physiology and psychology (and therefore the perspective) all orient toward that feeling. So a great way to reduce stress is to check in with your breath regularly. Intervene at the level of the breath to call yourself home to this moment.
I often tell clients to post notes all around that say “Deep Breath” to remind themselves to tune in. Or set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes and take 10 deep breaths.
Another powerful breath practice is extended exhales. Inhale to a count of four and exhale eight. You can do it driving, sitting or shopping. Just keep the breath’s rhythm steady.
—Jessica Patterson, owner, Root: Center for Yoga and Sacred Studies rootdownandgrow.com
Set the Navel
The holidays can pack a self-shattering punch as we are encouraged to be in too many places at once, spend beyond our means and succumb to fear-based advertising.
I love starting the day by “setting the navel” as a reminder to put myself first and to create a sanctuary of peace around myself before heading out into situations that trigger my darker, Scroogier aspects.
For this stress relief yoga pose, start in low boat pose and prepare for breath of fire—sharply exhaling through the nose by pulling the belly in. Do this for three minutes. Modify by supporting the head with one hand or placing one foot on the ground at a time.
Love is where we begin. We can either offer an open hand or a closed fist. So we practice, daily, one breath at a time, remembering that we can create chaos or we can create peace.
By practicing compassion and acceptance, we shed the veil of separation between ourselves and others and only then are able to truly understand peace. There are many opinions and beliefs that cultivate stress and create conflict. We’ve become overly protective and overly concerned; yet every day we have a choice to be mindful in how we interact with the world and with ourselves.
—Amanda Neufeld, owner, Yoga Studio Satya, yogastudiosatya.com
This article was originally published in December 2015.