It’s the holiday season … a time of dark, cold mornings, short days and busy nights, tending to the hustle and bustle of getting things done for various holiday celebrations, all the while gorging ourselves on delicious — but often calorie-laden— holiday foods. The average day passes quickly, and you usually find yourself collapsing into bed at the end of it feeling completely exhausted.
Although this is a time to enjoy and feel a sense of gratitude and belonging, it can also be incredibly stressful. That is why it is so important to have and maintain a regular yoga practice to keep mentally and physically strong. But who has the time for yoga when there are gifts to shop for and dinners to prepare?
Below, you’ll find both ways to make room in your schedule for yoga, plus my favorite yoga poses for the hectic holiday season.
Make time for yoga
Here are my top five ways to fit yoga into your busy holiday schedule. Believe me — it will be worth it!
1. Focus and tune in. Yoga is about focusing on inner health as well as outer health and balancing body and mind, so before beginning your practice, tune in to what motivates you.
2. Commit to realistic goals. Set a certain time of day that you can realistically do your yoga practice and start small. You may have only 15 minutes the first few times you do it, and that’s a great start. Keep building on that foundation as you go. Or, stick with 15 and resolve to up your practice after the New Year begins!
3. Explore your options. If taking a yoga class for the first time feels too intimidating, try exploring your options through DVDs in order to get a better idea of what styles of yoga are available, as well as what the poses are called and what they look like.
4. Branch out. Look at the schedule of classes at a local rec center, gym or yoga studio and find a time that fits your schedule, as well as an instructor who motivates you. Try a few different ones and narrow down from there.
5. Reap the rewards. A regular yoga routine is life-changing. Studies have shown that you’ll sleep better, have more energy throughout the day, tone your muscles, increase your flexibility and be able to manage stress better.
Top 3 holiday yoga poses
Yoga is a full-body workout, opening up and adding flexibility to all areas of the body. The following are three standard yoga poses that can be done anywhere, at any time of day, and that only take a few minutes. They’ll help reduce the stress of the holiday season and leave you feeling empowered.
1. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): This deep hip opener stimulates the internal organs and alleviates sciatic pain.
2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Downward Dog calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, energizes the body, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands, and improves digestion.
3. Warrior 1, 2 Poses (Virabhadrasana I, II): Warrior Poses open the chest and lungs, strengthen the shoulders, arms and back, and help ease sciatica.
Once you’ve established a schedule for a few weeks, you should see the mental and physical benefits of a yoga routine and feel inspired to continue to grow. However, another way to keep a schedule is by becoming part of the community in a yoga class. As you continue to attend class, you will get to know the instructor and other attendees and soon find yourself at home.
As with everything in life, to see progress it’s important to continue to be challenged. In my experience, the three best ways to be challenged in yoga are to explore different styles of yoga, work on the more advanced poses and delve into the philosophy. This can be done by talking to your yoga instructor, looking at the other styles of yoga classes offered at your local studio, gym or recreation center and exploring those different styles, and reading books about yoga philosophy, such as The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates.
Creating and maintaining a consistent yoga practice is an important way to awaken the energy within you to stay mentally and physically strong. As you embark on your practice this holiday season, take a little time out to notice how your holidays are infused with more vigor and let this flow into the New Year.