blog

December 17th, 2013

The Gift You Give Yourself

By Patti Cocciolo

The holidays are officially here – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are just behind us, and Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner.

It’s easy for your yoga practice to lapse this time of year – it’s hard to find time to unroll your mat with so much going on. If you practice in the morning, a warm cozy bed can be hard to leave. If evening practice is your thing, holiday parties, shopping or increased workload often take priority. And if you travel at all over the holidays, all bets are off.

But here’s the thing – now is when you need your practice the most. It’s what will keep you peaceful when Aunt Bernice gives you yet another “hand crafted” macramé snowflake sweater or when your boss dumps a pile of work on you, Scrooge-style, on Christmas Eve. But if you can’t get to class, and a full home practice seems daunting, what’s a yogi to do?

Here’s a suggestion: choose something simple, whenever and wherever you need it. It might not be your whole practice, but it will connect you to your regular practice in a way that can be really powerful. Here are just a few examples to get you through the holidays, and tide you over until everything calms down a bit:

1. Sama Vritti Pranayama: This practice of even breathing (literally translated as “same breathing”) is a great starting point to find balance. The theory being, that if you can find evenness and balance in the breath, the mind will follow. And it’s super simple. In a seated position (at your desk or on a plane, train or automobile) or even standing (in line at the grocery store, or waiting for that plane, train or automobile…), find a long torso and spine. Now, breathe in for a count of five; breathe out for a count of five. Repeat. If counting is not your thing, chose a word or mantra to focus on, just make sure it’s the same on the inhale, as on the exhale. Taking just a few rounds of this breath can bring calm and clarity immediately, and you can literally do it anywhere, for any length of time.

2. Ardha Surya Namaskar: A few Half Sun Salutes can get your blood moving and get you focused again. Here’s the key: allow the breath to initiate each movement as you go through the linked poses. When we’re busy, our breath can get shallow and kind of lost – like it’s chasing after our body, trying to catch up. Give the breath a few minutes to be back in charge, and you’ll find your center again in no time. An added bonus? It takes only slightly more room than Tadasana. If your cubicle is big enough to stand in, it’s big enough for a half sun salute.

3. Prasarita Padottanasana C: In general, forward folds can relieve low back pain and calm the mind. In this version of the wide legged forward fold, the fingers are interlaced behind the back to aid in the opening of the shoulders, and the release of the head and neck. Try this after too many hours hunched over your computer, or standing behind a register at work. It’s also handy if you’ve just run past 10 gates at the airport, pushing a double stroller, with a giant toddler car seat slung over each arm. Just sayin’.

4. Apanasana and Simple Twist: When you finally hit the hay at night, even if it’s hours past your bedtime, give this one a go. Moving slowly, hug your knees into your chest, and let your knees fall to one side. Slowly bring them back up, and then let them fall to the other side. This simple action releases low back tension, aides in digestion, and it just plain ol’ feels good. It you practice Sama Vritti here too, it can ease an agitated mind and get you off to sleep a little faster.

5. Forward Fold: When it all gets to be too much, fold inward. You can pick your favorite: Paschimottanasana, seated, with your legs straight in front of you; Janu Sirsasana, seated, with one leg folded in to the midline; Uttanasana, a standing forward fold. And then there’s always sweet, delicious child’s pose. Whichever asana you choose, lead with your heart and bring your focus inside. This will keep the world at bay, even if just for a moment. Close your eyes to remove visual distractions and bring you even deeper into your center. Sama Vritti is dreamy here, too.

The most important thing to remember is that your yoga practice is exactly that: YOUR yoga practice. Find simple movements, asanas and pranayama to keep you connected to what you value most from your time on the mat. That should be enough to sustain you through the holidays and into the New Year.

Happy holidays, everyone! XO

The Gift You Give Yourself

1 Response(s) to The Gift You Give Yourself

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