Easy Yoga Moves to Help Ease Holiday Stress

Being mindful of tension is key to letting it go

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During the hectic holiday season, keep stress under control. So this is a perfect time to quiet the mind and body with yoga.

Wait — what? You don’t do yoga. That’s for people with mats and loose clothes and 45 minutes to spare. That’s not you.

Yet most of us practice yoga every day. We just don’t call it that.

Most of us practice yoga every day (but don’t realize it)

Certified yoga therapist Judi Bar says many of the things we do naturally contain the basic elements of yoga — a simple, less strenuous style based on hatha yoga, which this study suggests is a good choice for stress management.

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For instance: “When you settle into your bed at night, relax your muscles, and let out a big sigh to release tension through your mouth, you’re working through the basic tenets of hatha yoga,” says Ms. Bar.

Through this simple act you:

  • Breathe deeply, promoting oxygen flow to the brain.
  • Are mindful of letting your tension go.
  • Pose your body toward complete relaxation.

When you go to bed, you have to work with your body work to quiet your mind. With practice it can happen in a couple of minutes, Ms. Bar says. “It’s a biophysical response.  We need to be conscious of the fact our mind is moving rapidly.  Using these tools allows the body to calm and the breath to even, which gives the mind a chance to slow down.  It stops the monkey mind.”

That’s yoga.

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A few quick exercises to help you de-stress

Ms. Bar suggests a few quick exercises you can easily integrate into your day when you’re feeling those holiday jitters (or any kind of everyday stress).

  • First, be aware. The most important thing is to be mindful of your tension, Ms. Bar says. “When we’re aware of what we’re doing we can relax our muscles and breathe deeper: we have to feel the tension, then let it go.”
  • Breathe easy. Running around in a last-dash shopping rush? Slow down by sitting down and lengthening your exhale. Let your belly expand when you inhale.
  • On your way to the store. If you’re on your way to the big-box store you’ll be able to drive safely doing this: Take a big breath in while you bring your shoulders up. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale, let your shoulders fall.
  • In that long checkout line. Take in a big breath. Squeeze your palms tightly into a fist, tightening your muscles. Open them. Feel your muscles relax.

“It’s amazing how simple it is — and how quickly you can feel better,” says Ms. Bar.

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