Travel Off the Beaten Path

4 Poses to Help Maintain Holiday Cheer Amidst the Chaos

The holiday season is here once again! Christmas is now less than a week away! Another chance for families to gather together and celebrate, eat and be merry. I LOVE getting together with my family.

There is the chaos of bringing multiple branches of family together under one roof.  There is the family politics to navigate.  There is order to keep among the kids, as well as cooking, cleaning and holiday cheer on top!  It is CHOAS, not to mention limited personal time or space.

Really, don’t get me wrong; I really do love holiday gatherings with my family.  I just need a way to find calm amidst all the chaos in order to keep my holiday cheer going.  Of course I turn to my practice for a little self care.  I have found that taking 10 minutes out of my day to practice a few poses along with some breathing and short meditation supercharges me with holiday cheer (cheesy, yes I know).  I could even do them in bed!

I practice this in bed right when I get up because it is the most efficient time for me and a great way to start my day.  But by no means is this a mandatory time or place to bring this practice… just an alternative if you can’t find a space for a yoga mat anywhere.

Pavanamuktasana ~ Wind Removing Pose

Set-Up (single let)
Begin by lying on your back and exhale your right knee up to your chest.  Interlace the fingers all the way to the webbing and place this grip on your shin just below your knee joint.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Wind-Removing-Pose-Single-Leg-Side-View

Keep the back of your head grounded as you shrug your chin to your chest and look down the centre line of your body.  Press the tops of your shoulders away from your ears, shoulder blades grounded beneath and elbows hugging into your waistline.

Into Pose
Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs up as much as you can.  On the exhale, also through the nose, begin to pull your knee joint down towards your armpit.  Stop when you run out of breath.  Maintain the compression you have gained as you take another breath (tuck your chin in even tighter to the chest as you inhale).

Again on the exhale continue to pull the knee cap down towards the armpit.  I like to imagine I might one day nestle my knee cap into my arm pit one day.  Your leg should not get stuck on the top of the rib cage; it should be grazing the outside edge of the right side of the rib cage. Repeat inhale chin in, exhale pull the knee in for 3-5 rounds.  Release right let down and repeat on the left leg.

Double-leg Wind Removing
Bring both legs up to the chest and wrap your arms around your legs to grab opposite elbows (if this is not possible then grabbing forearms or wrists works as well).  Keep back of head grounded and chin shrugged into chest.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Wind-Removing-Pose-Double-Leg-Side-ViewTake a full breath in and on the exhaled begin to hug your legs straight down into your chest and torso for the complete exhale.  Hold your legs where ever you have hugged them into as you take another deep breath in tucking chin in tighter (fabulous stretch for neck from base of the skull to tops of the shoulders).

On the next exhale continue to hug your legs into your torso.  Inhale maintain the compression in hips, exhale continue pulling.  Do this for 3-5 rounds of breathing.

Slowly release legs to the floor and enjoy the sensation of blood rushing back into the hip joints to flush out the crud.

Note: It is pretty normal for most, especially when we are not warmed up, to feel a pinching sensation in the hips.  Don’t be frightened of the sensation.  Use your breath to try and work through it slowly.  However, if you ever feel a piercing pain back off.  Sensation good, pain bad.

Benefits

• Nourishes your digestive organs to help keep them happy and you regular
• Massage the thyroid gland which helps to support a healthy metabolism
• Stretches the back of your neck from the base of the skull to the tops of the shoulders
• Compresses and detoxifies your hip joints so they don’t feel quite so achy

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana ~ Modified Bridge Pose

Set-up
Lie on your back, knees bent with feet on the ground hip width distance apart.  Check your feet are parallel to one another and heels as close to your sit-bones as physically possible.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Bridge-Pose-Side-ViewPress the back of your head gently towards the ground, chin off of chest.  Place your arms alongside your torso, palms facing down, shoulder blades ground and tops of shoulders pressing gently away from your ears.

Into the Pose
Feel your feet and arms touching the ground; take a breath in and on the exhale press through your feet and arms to lift the hips and pubic bone up off the ground until thighs approximately parallel to the ground.  Your bum will likely engage but do not let it be the driving action to lifting the hips and pubic bone.  You do not want to tuck your tailbone.

Check that your head remains gently pressing down to the ground beneath it, chin off the chest, and tops of shoulders continue to press away from your ears. Again in this pose you should again feel a great stretch in the back of the neck.  Your shoulder blades should also still be ground so you feel an opening sensation in the front of the chest.

Keep your hips, knees and ankle joints all in one line.  Hug in your inner thighs, press down with the inner edges of feet your fee and engage your quadriceps to help with maintaining the alignment here.

Remember not to over use your gluteus muscles (bum muscles) otherwise you may end up tucking your tailbone. Instead focus extending your tailbone away from your head, stretching and decompressing the spine.

When you find your edge (where you feel your legs working and neck/should/chest stretching and a lot of space to fill your lungs with air) hold the pose for 30-60 seconds. Stay connected with your breath. The moment that you start holding your breath, your muscles will no longer want to work for you.

To Release
Slowly roll the spine back down to the ground and extend the legs out.  Take several slow deep inhales and exhales before moving on to the next pose.

Benefits
• Great counter for wind removing, which compressed the hip joints, as it stretches the hips, which encourages increase blood flow to the stretching region
• Stretches the chest, neck and spine
• Stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs and thyroid
• Calms the mind by sending blood with higher oxygen levels to the brain

Supported Reclined Twist

Set-Up
Bend your knees and place feet flat on the ground.  On an exhale, lift your knees so they stack above the hip joints and lift you feet so your ankles are in line with your knee joints with shins parallel to the ground.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Recline-TwistInto the Pose
Bring your right hand to the outside of the left knee joint.  On an exhale, slowly guide your legs over to the right hand side of your body until your right leg is resting on the floor with the left leg stacked on top of it.

If your left hip is not stacked above the right then shuffle your hips to the left so you can comfortably line your left hip atop your right.

Take your right hand and place it on top of the outside left knee joint.  Inhale your left hand straight up towards the ceiling and on the exhale slowly lower it down to the ground on the left hand side of your body.  You should end up with your finger tips in line with the top of your shoulder or below the shoulder joint, not above the shoulder joint.

Gently turn your gaze over to your left hand.  If you feel discomfort in the neck as you look to the left, bring the back of your head slightly more towards the right before turning the head to look to the left.

Now focus on taking full lung breaths in and on the exhales relax your left shoulder down and use your right hand to gently press the left knee down. Hold on the inhale and work deeper on the exhale.  Complete at least 3-5 rounds of breathing.

To release and move to the other side: bring your gaze back to center.  Bring your right hand beneath your right knee joint and on an inhale slowly guide your legs back to center.  Then place your left hand to the outside of the right knee and, with your exhale, slowly guide your legs to the left and repeat above.

I hope this little mini practice is helpful to you during your holiday celebrations.  Share these poses with your family and friends and help spread holiday calmness as well as cheer!

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