Written by Lauren Weaver
The holiday season inevitably brings joy, stress, and many things in between. This article offers suggestions for using yogic practices to enhance your season and everyday life in just a few moments.
Four of the eight limbs of yoga are asana (body exercises), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (restraint of senses), and dharana (direction of mind). For a rough translation, we will refer to the last two as mindfulness in this article. When you find yourself waiting in shopping lines, at the dinner table with loved ones or lying in bed at the end of a long day, try some of the practices suggested in this article and notice the benefits for yourself!
Waiting in Line
Body Exercises: Notice how your weight is distributed in your feet and body. Then make small adjustments to balance between the left and right and the front and back of your body. Bonus Points: Balancing on one leg at a time, lift your knees up high in front of you to warm up your hip flexors; maybe even throw in some ankle circles!
Breath Exercise: To calm your nervous system and bring in more oxygen, relax your belly. As you take long slow inhalations, let your belly billow out. As you exhale, the air moves slowly out of your lungs and the billowing belly recedes. Continue in this way.
Mindfulness: Standing in line surrounded by movement, sounds, and lights of a store can be both exiting and overwhelming. Let yourself fade into the setting. Sounds become quieter and lights blur together a bit. You are one piece of it all.
At the Dinner Table
Body Exercises: Bring your attention to your posture and then to the two sit bones pressing into the seat beneath you. Grow taller through your spine to stack your strong spinal column. Bonus Points: Give your spine some extra love by gently twisting to your right and left.
Breath Exercise: Let your next inhalation be slower, longer, and more even. Let your next exhalation also be slower, longer, and more even. At the end of your exhalation, pause for a moment before resuming with your next inhale. Let that brief pause be a refuge just for you.
Mindfulness: Disconnect from your surroundings for a moment by choosing to not engage in the activities around you. Instead, imagine you are
a stranger watching from the outside, observing but not participating, for just long enough that others do not notice. Then, join the group again with more subtle presence.
Lying in Bed
Body Exercises: Lie down in bed with or without a pillow under your head. Let your knees be comfortably bent. Optionally, let your knees come together. Your arms are out at your sides palms faced up, and you are relaxing into the comfort and support of the surface beneath you. Bonus Points: Bring your hands to your face and, with eyes closed, massage across your forehead, at the temples, in the crevices of the cheekbones, and at the jaw below your ears.
Breath Exercise: Your breath is the key to tension release here. As you inhale, bring your attention to an area of physical tension in your body. As you exhale, give that tension permission to release its grasp and be on its way out. Continue in this way, focused on that same area or move to another in your own time.
Mindfulness: Let your eyes be closed. Likely, your thoughts from the day are flickering in your mind. Imagine snow falling from the sky and quickly melting as the flakes touch the ground. Let your thoughts be like these snowflakes, falling and melting away.
About the Author
Lauren Weaver is a Yogi, Yoga Instructor, and Assistant Instructor with the Yoga Teacher Training Program at Lexington Healing Arts Academy.
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