By Michelle Peralta, BS, RYT-200
Holidays can be stressful for everyone. Whether you are hosting the party or travelling some distance to enjoy the time with family and friends, we all seem to have additional stress around the holidays. In this article you will find a few poses that will help alleviate any pain and mental stress you might be experiencing.
This pose can bring is all about being mindful: Be here now. It is a great pose for relaxation. Try to use the mantra: “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.” If you make time for one pose this holiday season, this is the one!
Start out sitting on your knees, with your bottom on your heels. Keeping your toes touching, open your knees wider than your hips. Inhale. On your exhale, fold your body forward with a straight back, your forehead on the floor, and stretch your arms out in front of you. Use the photo above to guide you. You will feel a great stretch along your spine, your shoulders and your hips. This pose is about letting go. Repeat your mantra, “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
Stay here for as long as you like, focusing on your breathing.
We’ve stretched out your back, so let’s counteract those muscles with a nice stretch up the front of your body. This pose is called a heart opener because we are stretching our chest, shoulders and abdomen muscles, opening up the muscles that tend to be dismissed.
Start on your belly with your arms by your sides, then bring your hands up, placing your palms right next to your chest. Inhale and push up with your hands and lifting your head up and back. You should feel a stretch through your belly, chest, and the front of your throat.
Hold for 10 deep breaths.
When we get stressed out, our minds and bodies fall out of balance. Warrior III is an introductory balancing posture that can help strengthen the shoulders and back, and tone the abdomen. Don’t worry if you fall out of this pose or if you wobble – it happens! Just ease into it and hold for as long as you like on each side; this pose is about improving your balance and posture. Focus on a single point to help facilitate your balance.
Start out standing up with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your hands to the sky for Tadansa and slowly drop into a forward fold. From here, bring your left foot back to make a high lunge. Rest your torso on the midline of your right thigh; bring your hands to each side of the right knee. Lift your torso slightly, straightening your right knee out. Reach your hands out to the front of the room and your left foot reaches to the back of the room. Just breathe here and concentrate. Use the photo above as a guide.
Stay here for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe. When you are ready, switch sides.
A gentle twist helps detox and improve the digestive function, maintain spinal rotation, and reduce back pain – not to mention DE-STRESS! We are hunched over computers all day, sit in chairs with poor back support, and slouch when walking. All of these habits lead to back pain. By providing spinal twist, we can restore and maintain mobility while strengthening our core back muscles.
Sit on the rug or yoga mat with your legs out in front of you, then bend your right leg at the knee, tucking your right foot just under your left buttock. Bend the left knee and place your left foot in front of the right knee, like in the photo (left). Inhale, and when you exhale, twist to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of the left knee and your left hand onto the floor behind you.
Let your head align with your shoulders, there is no need to crank the neck in a cervical twist. Let your body do the work. Take 10 deep breaths in this position. Repeat with the opposite arms and legs.
When we are feeling moments of stress, our breath comes from our shoulders and chest. Instead, we should be breathing from our bellies. Place one hand on your chest, and one hand on your belly. Bring your awareness to your belly and slowly inhale for a count of 4, expanding the breath to your belly. Exhale for a count of four. Try to close your eyes; this helps people to focus on the feeling of their breathwork. Repeat this deep breathing pattern a few times.
Once you’re feeling relaxed, try to clear your head and focus on your deep inhalations and exhalations. If a thought does enter your mind, don’t worry! Just greet that thought with no judgement, and let the thought move away. Meditations do not need to be 60 minutes long. When we are under stress this is very hard to do! Try meditation at 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes to a sense of calmness into your life.
Michelle Peralta, BS, RYT-200
Michelle is a Yoga Teacher who completed the Center for Integrative Medicine’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training and is a trained Reiki Master. She has presented Yoga As Medicine workshops to the University of Maryland medical students and taught high school students at Mission Thrive about fitness, health and yoga this past summer.
She is the Education Coordinator at the Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM), part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She spearheads the organization and coordination of CIM’s Health and Wellness Conference, as well as other education workshops for health professionals and medical students.
In 2013, Michelle started Baltimore Foxette, a community engagement page for the city of Baltimore on healthy city living on Facebook. She teaches monthly pop-yoga around Baltimore City. You can also follow her tweets @BmoreFoxette and her pins on Pinterest.
Prior to her position as Education Coordinator, Michelle worked with various non-profits in Philadelphia providing education on health, fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle changes. She has a BS in Kinesiology from Temple University.
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