| By Penny Amman |
The holidays are here, and so is the stress and weariness that goes along with the holly and jolly.
As we scurry from one holiday event to another, shop till we drop, travel to family or even host loved ones in our homes, we can become over-stimulated, over-indulged and stressed. And the joy of the season ends up being tossed out with the wadded-up holiday wrapping paper.
Those of us not able to be with family and friends during the holidays not only suffer from tension, but also sadness. Less daylight hours and more darkness can bring us down, too.
There is no escaping the hustle and bustle of the season. Or is there?
I am grateful to tell you there is a simple yoga posture that can help us calm down and maybe even cheer us up.
My favorite stress-relieving yoga posture is Legs-Up-the-Wall pose. This posture not only gives the heart a rest as it has to work less hard to pump the blood to and from the legs, it also takes us out of the sympathetic nervous system (the place of fight-or-flight stress hormones) and into the calming parasympathetic nervous system.
Legs Up the Wall is the ‘ahhhh’ pose of yoga that I love bringing into my classes the most because I know how magical it is for stress and anxiety. If we have a tool to help us take holiday stress into holiday bliss, then the magic of the season can come back. If we have a tool to help us if we are down for any reason, it is a tool to be used as a tonic as many times and as often as needed to help us stay present and calm.
Directions for Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
Note: Please always check with you physician before starting any yoga or exercise program.
- Place a small folded blanket or towel against the wall. Make as many folds to make your lower back comfortable, usually one or two folds.
- Sit with your right side against the wall.
- Start to lay your back down as you swing your legs to the right up the wall, arms supporting you as you lie back, legs now in front of you as your lower back and upper body lie on the earth.
- Wiggle until there is no tension in the body, and allow yourself to melt into relaxation: eyes softly closed, shoulders and arms relaxed. Palms can face up or down, whichever your body likes better. If your hamstrings are overly tight, bring your buttocks away from the wall a few inches until you find comfort.
- For breath work, simply draw the inhale through the nose for a slow count of 4 and pause. Then slowly exhale out the nose for a count of 4, pausing again. Do only five rounds of this breath, and then return to a natural breath for the rest of the time that you hold the posture.
- Stay in position for 5-20 minutes or longer, depending on your time-frame.
- To come out of this posture, simply draw the knees to the chest.
- Then, roll to you right side, lying in a fetal position, resting your right ear on your right bicep.
- Take a few deep breaths here while the body acclimates from the inversion to a regular body stance.
- Sit up slowly when you are ready.
- Stay seated for a few breaths. Scan your body and just notice how you feel.
- Give yourself gratitude for taking this time for yourself, so you can be love for all your family and friends during the holiday season.
From my heart to yours, whatever you celebrate this holiday season, celebrate with joy, peace, and love.
Penny Amann is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), an American Council on Exercise (ACE) group fitness instructor and a Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) Level-2 coach. She teaches at Pure Yoga for Life in Clermont.