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December 26, 2013

A Post-Christmas Yoga Sequence.

Now that Christmas is over, we may have found that we’ve over-indulged on the food, booze or adrenaline.

Like many, I didn’t get enough sleep the night before Christmas. While there’s still New Year’s Eve to look forward to, I find that after Christmas—aka The Big Shebang—I can finally allow my body and mind to relax a bit.

One of the best ways I have found to get back in touch with both my mind and body is to practice a yoga sequence I designed for myself a few years ago. The best thing about this sequence is that it can be practiced by newbies and seasoned yogis alike. It can also be done just about anywhere. (I snuck a few poses on a plane once.)

Therefore, I encourage you to try this. This may be just the thing your body and mind is craving.

1. Sukhasana or easy seated pose.

I love starting in this pose and feeling its settling effects. Sitting here for at least a minute also allows me to get a good idea of what it going on with both my mind and body. Start by just scanning the body from the top of the head until you make your way to the toes. Notice what is happening in the mind and resist the urge to tell yourself what you should be feeling or thinking. Instead, take the advice of the Beatles and let it be. From here proceed to the next pose.

2. Cat-Cow pose.

This is my favorite pose for waking the spine. Christmas often involves a lot of heavy lifting—Christmas trees, presents, decorations. Plus, if you’re like me and enjoy cooking, hunching over a hot stove can take its toll as well.

If the lower back is especially tight, imagine you’re trying to press that arched back to the sky in cat and then imagine you’re trying to touch the buttocks to the back wall when you come into cow.

3. Adho mukha svanasana or downward facing dog.

There’s nothing like good old down-dog to stretch the spine and the hamstrings. If there’s any achiness in the low back, then keep the legs bent here. I like to walk the dog by bending one knee and dropping the opposite heel toward the ground. The only key here is not to overdo it. If your hamstrings are ultra-tight, err on the side of caution, really bend those knees and only drop the heels as low as they want to go.

4. Malasana or garland pose.

I love this pose for opening up those hips. If the heels are high off the ground, roll up your yoga mat or place a roll up towel underneath of it. Go into the pose slowly. Turn the feet out Charlie Chaplin-style if that allows you more stability and closer proximity to the ground. I like to take my hands to the heart in prayer in this pose, but keep them on the ground or on blocks if you have them if balance is an issue.

5. Vrksasana or tree pose.

No post-Christmas yoga series is complete without a balancing pose.

If balance is an issue, come to a wall for support. The sole of the foot can press anywhere into the side of the leg except directly into the knee joint. A drishti or gazing point is especially useful here. Make sure, though, it’s a stationary object.

Notice if you this comes easily to you or if you keep falling out. If it’s the latter, don’t worry. Perhaps it’s just a sign you need more balance in your life in general.

6. Seated twist.

I love twists for wringing out the organs and overall detoxification. I’ve found seated twist the easiest after a big Christmas celebration. It provides all the advantages of the deeper, more challenging twists, but is more easier to do on a bloated belly.

To begin, sit in easy pose. Start by taking the left hand to right knee and twist from the torso. (If it’s helpful, imagine that the torso is a giant pepper grinder.) Sit up as tall and straight as you can and see if you can twist a bit deeper. If there’s any pulling on the neck, move the head 180 degrees or so. Hold for up to five breaths and repeat on the other side.

7. Moving mediation or savasana.

Okay, so this is not a yoga pose per se, but I like to take a walk even if it is just up and down the aisle of a plane like I did one occasion. If you can get outside, then go for it. I find that’s even better and allows me to better connect with my mind.

If you prefer to end in savasana or corpse pose, that’s great too.

The mediation for both poses is the same: allow any thoughts and emotions to come into the mind. Acknowledge and see if you can let them go. (It may be helpful to imagine them as soap bubbles drifting away.) Just like we began, resist the urge to push them away or replace them with the things you believe you should be thinking. Eventually, allow the mind to go blank.

In closing, the above post-Christmas yoga sequence can be done just about any time or anywhere and it may be repeated throughout the day.

Try it for yourself. It may allow you reset and prepared you for the rest of the holiday festivities that still lie ahead. A more relaxed, peaceful you is the perfect way to ring in the new year.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Elsie Escobar/Wikimedia Commons, elephant journal archives

 

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