During the holiday season, we’re out of our routines, we tend to eat and drink more, and we might be dealing with some cyclical grief that comes up during the darker season. Not to mention family stress, visitors, and the ravages of holiday traveling. All these things can throw us off our center. This gentle yoga practice supports calm, digestive health, and immune function to help you get back into the swing of things. This sequence can be done pretty much anytime, including first thing in the morning or right before bed.
Come to all fours. As you inhale, tip your tailbone and chin to the sky in a little backbend. As you exhale, round your back and press your belly button to your spine. Continue like that for around ten breaths or longer, and feel free to add anything else that feels good, like moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles. This moves the joint fluid around the spine and helps us check in with the shoulders, hips, neck, back, and belly.
2. Low Lunge with Side Bend
From hands and knees, step your right foot forward into a lunge. Lengthen your stance enough that your back knee is behind your hip, not right under it, and your front knee is right over your ankle. Tuck your back toes under. Feel free to pad your back knee with a blanket.
Reach your arms up to the sky. Point your tailbone down to the floor while pressing your hips forward at the same time. Look for a stretch at the front of your left thigh.
Now bend your left elbow so your hand comes roughly in between your shoulderblades. Hold the elbow with your right hand. Pull your belly in, keep your tailbone down, and begin to side bend to the right. This releases your hip flexor, shoulder, and side, and can open up some space for your digestive organs. Hold for around five breaths, more if you like.
Gently come back to all fours and then repeat on the left side.
3. Wide Legged Forward Fold with Shoulder Stretch
Carefully come to standing. If you’re comfortable with downward dog, you can use it as a transition: lift your knees into downward dog, walk forward into a standing forward fold, and then gently roll up.
Step your feet wide apart on your mat with your feet parallel.
Interlace your fingers behind your back and squeeze the shoulders together, opening the chest. Carefully fold over your legs, letting your fists rise to the sky.
Keep a small bend in your knees and press the legs out to the sides. If your shoulders bother you, simply let them come to the ground. Breathe here for five or more breaths. This pose stretches the legs and shoulders and is an inversion, which is healthy for the digestive organs, the brain, and the heart, and is soothing for the nervous system.
When you are ready to come out, hug the shoulders onto the back, look forward, and keep your back straight as you gently come up to standing again.
4. Restorative Backbend
Sit down on the floor and find a bolster, a long pillow, or two pillows in a line. Place your prop behind you so you are sitting in front of it. Lay back so that your bum stays on the floor but your head is supported by the prop. Bring your feet together and let your knees open to the sides with support from more props (blankets, pillows, etc.). If that’s uncomfortable, keep your legs straight.
Let your belly relax as you breathe deeply here and let your shoulders fall to either side of your prop, allowing your chest to open. Relax here for five or ten minutes, as long as you like. When you are ready to come out, roll over to one side in the fetal position, press up to sitting, and move on with your day.