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8 Yoga Moves That'll Help Keep You Calm and Collected Over the Holidays

Sara Novak
Sara Novak

The holidays can be a pretty rough time for some of us. If you don't happen to see your family that often, it can be a bit too much family time at once. Why do you think so many people drink way too much? But yoga and meditation can truly serve to help you through some difficult times. My yoga studio, Amsa stays open throughout the holidays for the sheer fact that the owner feels that she needs to be there for her community during this sometimes tough part of the year. Instead of excessive booze, drugs, and other unnatural highs consider yoga as a means to relieve any tension. But if your studio isn't open throughout the holiday or finances preclude you from attending, try these easy yoga and meditation methods.

Get Through the Holidays With Yoga and Meditation

1. Alternative Nostril Breathing--Nadi Sodhana (in Sanskrit)

Photo featured above-right

Close the right nostril, leaving the left one open and inhale, then close the left nostril and open the right, and exhale. Continue this same pattern on each side for eight more breaths.

Why it works:

Alternative nostril breathing almost immediately calms down the nervous system. It is also said to balance the thoughts and provide clarity so it's great to do before you're about to see family that you haven't seen in a while, especially those relationships that may cause tension.

2. Breath Retention

Start off by inhaling and exhaling and holding at the bottom of the exhale for a count of one. After each inhale and exhale add one second to the count until you get up to five. After you reach five, count backwards back down to one.

Why it works: Breath retention is one of the easiest yoga breathing exercises to calm yourself down fast. The breath retention at the bottom of the exhale is one of the few moments where thoughts exit. 3. Meditating on Understanding Start by sitting for at least 15 minutes, without moving in a silent place. It's usually best to meditate in the early morning. Close your eyes and begin to follow the breath. The practice tells you first to forgive yourself for your shortcomings, because it's impossible to forgive others if you cannot forgive yourself. Then meditate on the idea that we are all connected all the way down to the cellular level. Contemplate that we all need the same things: food, shelter, and the breath. Why it works: It's much easier to try and understand where family and friends are coming from during the holidays, rather than becoming hurt and angry when you feel you have been wronged. By realizing that at the core we are really all connected, it's easier to forgive those that upset you and listen to them instead of constantly reacting. 4. Double Pigeon--Agni Stambhasana Simple bend the right leg parallel to the top of your mat and then stack the left on top, heel to knee. Alternate sides. Why it works: Double pigeon is great for stress relief for a number of reasons. First of all, it is an extremely deep hip opener and we hold a lot of emotions in the hips. While it may seem counterintuitive to shake things up and get emotions flowing, eventually suppressed emotions will bubble over. I've taught many classes where this pose has caused an emotional release and in a controlled environment, that's a good thing. But at the same time folding forward calms down the nervous system and provides a sense of inner calm. So while emotions may bubble up, you are calm and ready to face what will come. 5. Child's Pose--Balasana Sit on the back of the heels. Place the head on the mat. Bring the hands to the sides of the body. Why it works: Child's pose is great for slowing down the thoughts. In fact, it's almost frightening how fast the pose works to blanket the body with a sense of inner calm. The reason it works so well is because the pressure point between the eyes, called the third eye chakra in yoga, touches the mat and sends a message to the parasympathetic nervous system calming down the entire body. Coupled with deep breathing, the nervous system slows down in no time. 6. Walking Meditation If you don't have the opportunity to sit in silence meditating, it's possible to get some relief just walking around. Take a walk outside and as you walk count to four on the inhale and eight on the exhale. Why it works: Not only does this make you mindful of what you're doing, it calms you down from the inside out. Additionally, when the exhale is longer than the inhale it automatically slows down the nervous system. As you walk if you loose your mindfulness simply return to the breath and start where you left off. 7. Corpse Pose--Savasana Corpse pose is usually done at the end of your practice and it symbolizes the death of your practice. But it can be done at anytime. Simply lie on your back allowing the legs to fall out. Bring the shoulder blades together slightly in the back of the body. Place the hands beside the body and close the eyes. Why it works: Corpse pose serves to ground the body because when the body isn't grounded that's when it's the most stressed. For example, if you're moving full speed and you're running around all day upset or stressed, at the end of the day you'll likely overeat or drink too much in an effort to bring yourself back down to the ground, but if you stay grounded all day long in a constant state of serenity, you don't need to reach for stress relief because you're already there. 8. Shoulderstand--Salamba Sarvangasana Lay on your back. Place the feet on top of the head. Bring the hands to the hips and move into shoulderstand. Why it works: Inverted poses, like shoulderstand, refresh the glandular systems keeping you rational and avoiding any mood swings. Shoulderstand also serves to sedate the nervous system.