Out of all the holidays I celebrate, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite.
However, it can also be the most stressful. Even if I am not going out of town and not expecting the guests, I still feel stressed out. (Perhaps part of that is because I put so much pressure on myself to have the “perfect day”, “perfect dinner”, etc., but that is another post entirely.)
In any case, whether I am celebrating at home or away, I always try to sneak in a few yoga poses. Not only does it help to relax my body, but I find it helps calm the mind as well.
The best thing about these poses is that they don’t require a lot of time and can be done just about anywhere or anytime you have a few minutes to yourself.
Therefore, while the turkey or tofurkey is browning in the oven, take a few minutes to do some or all of these poses. Your body and mind will thank you.
1. Uttanasana/Standing Forward Fold
This is my go-to pose when I need to settle my mind and stretch my hamstrings. Like many, I spend a lot of my Thanksgiving Day on my feet preparing food and cooking which can do a number on the hamstrings and cause them to tighten.
Plus, there is something about having my head towards the ground that just allows me to settle my thoughts.
Keep the knees bend if the hamstrings are especially tight. Even if your head is no where near the shins, try imagining that the forehead is going to touch them. For an added touch of mindfulness, try keeping the eyes closed for a 2 or 3 breaths.
2. Parsovottanasana/Intense Side Stretch Pose
This is a great one for those who have spent a lot of driving or sitting on a plane. This pose stretches the hips, hamstrings, and provides a nice stretch along the shoulders as well if you chose to take the hands behind you in either upward or downward facing prayer. For those that want do not desire a shoulder stretch or just want to feel more physically grounded, keep the hands on the floor.
3. Modified Camel Pose/Ustrasana
Backbends not only stretch the back and chest, but can leave you feeling energized which is always a boom at Thanksgiving or any other festive time. Full Camel is a pretty advanced pose, but one of the reasons I love this pose and have included it on the list is that it is easy to modify even for absolute beginners. If you have knee issues or injuries, try to do this on a yoga mat or a folded towel. If your using a towel, place it under the knees and make sure they are at least hip distance apart.
Now, place the palms of the hands on the kidney area and start to arch the back. (It may be helpful to imagine you’re trying to touch the torso to the ceiling. Only go back as you feel you feel comfortable. If you have to chose between less or more in this pose, err on the side of the former.
For those who feel able to do so, try to take hold of one or both feet with the hands. Where ever you are in this pose, take a few deep breaths letting the head fall back if it does not hurt the neck.
4. Sukhasana/Comfortable Seated Pose
If you can only find time to do one of these poses try this. If possible, take this pose in a quiet place. (If all else fails, you can even do this one on the bathroom floor.)
Let the hands rest somewhere between the upper thighs and knees. Let this be effortless.
Now, check in with the breath. Resist the urge to try and breath in any particular manner. Instead, just notice the natural rhythm and flow.
Next, check in with the mind. What is happening? What thoughts are going through the head? Much like the breath, resist the urge to criticize or fill your head with that you think are the “correct thoughts.”
Spend at least a three minutes just breathing and observing. If you have more than three minutes, great. Ideally, spend up as much time as you need. When you decide to return to your previous activity, see if you can take at least a minute or more to slowly rise from your seat.
Imagine you have all the time in the world to return to the “real world” and take the time to thank yourself for carving out this time for yourself.
Thanksgiving can be a joyful yet stressful time for many, but there are ways to help lessen the latter. Whether you happen to be a host, a guest, traveling far or staying home it’s a good idea to sneak a little yoga into the day to help both the mind and body.
Perhaps by doing so, you can even find a little more thankfulness than you usually do on that day.
In any case, it can’t hurt.
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