4 Yoga Poses To Find Stillness Amidst Holiday Chaos
Let’s face it – the holiday season is a time of year loved for its excitement but dreaded for its chaos. Despite how early we get started, the to-do list seems never ending. From the wild goose chase hunting down just the right presents, the late nights in the office meeting deadlines, to organizing the perfect holiday get-together for the extended family, we keep going and going, having convinced ourselves we are the energizer bunny or its close cousin. Caught up in the frenzy of getting it all done, it’s easy to forget about a small important detail – for best results our batteries do need to be recharged. A yoga practice that encourages stillness can be just the right tonic to leave you feeling invigorated and grounded, and ready for another round of merry making.
1.Chandra Bheda Pranayama
Find a comfortable seat by sitting on the edge of a blanket or cushion so that your hips are higher than your knees. Rest your left hand on your lap. Use your right hand to create Vishnu Mudra – place your thumb on the right nostril, fold your 2nd & 3rd finger in towards your palm, and hover your 4th & pinky finger above the left nostril. To begin, inhale through your left nostril for a count of four, close both nostrils to hold for a count of 1, then exhale through the right nostril for a count of for four. Start the cycle again by inhaling through the left nostril. Repeat for 3-5 more rounds. Then rest your right hand in your lap, and sit for a moment soaking up the stillness.
This breathing technique helps to calm the nervous system and encourages a feeling of spaciousness in both the mind and body. In this technique, you inhale only through the left nostril and exhale only through the right. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the left side of the body is associated with yin qualities of stillness, quiet and introspection, and the right side of the body is associated with yang qualities of being vigorous, active, and dynamic. By breathing in through the left we induce the yin qualities and by exhaling through the right we release the yang qualities.
2. Supported Belly Down Twist
Sit on the ground and place your bolster in the middle of the mat. (If you don’t have a bolster, you could substitute two bed pillows). Bring your right hip close to the bolster. Bend your knees and find a comfortable position with your legs with either the legs stacked or separated (as pictured). Lower your arms to the floor alongside the bolster and place your belly onto the bolster. Turn your head to the right and rest your cheek on the bolster. Relax the whole weight of your body onto the bolster. Stay for 3-5 minutes, then repeat on the other side.
(For extra comfort you could also place a block under the bolster near the top of the mat or a blanket between your thighs)
The support of the bolster in this pose allows us to feel supported, as if there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. This pose can also be helpful if your stomach is “in a knot” with anxiety and anticipation before the holidays and/or if you’ve eaten big holiday meals. We often hold stress and emotions unconsciously in our belly, causing our digestive system to become stagnant. This restorative twist is great for improving blood flow to the abdominal area and signaling to the parasympathetic nervous system to divert more energy to our digestive system.
3. Supported Bound Angle Pose
Place a block near the top edge of the mat and your bolster on top of the block so that it is on an incline. Place a folded blanket on top of the bolster to serve as a pillow for your head. Sit on the floor so that there is a small amount of space between your hips and the edge of the bolster and and lay back onto the bolster. Adjust the placement of the blanket as necessary to support your head. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the side. Use as many props as possible so that there is little effort and the stretch is minimal – to do so you may like to also place blocks or cushions underneath your upper thighs. Allow yourself to completely relax, and try letting out some deep sighs. Stay for 5 – 10 minutes.
This gentle restorative pose is known to have a soothing and calming effect. It is a powerful antidote to stress and can help to promote a good night’s sleep. The simplicity of the pose allows us to be quiet and facilitates the process of going inward. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, this pose stimulates the Kidney meridian, which is associated with the Water element and restoring the body’s deep energy reserves. The sighs can help to release fear stored up in your body which is key to nourishing the water element.
4. Golden Light Visualization & Meditation
This meditation is done in 3 parts. It can be helpful to use a meditation timer app such as Enso where you can set an exact amount of minutes for each interval and hear a bell chime at the end of each interval. If you don’t have a timer, try to spend 2-4 minutes in each stage, as best as you can figure out without interrupting the meditation.
Set your timer, find a comfortable seat as you did for the breath exercise at the beginning and close your eyes.
Part 1: Notice the natural rhythm of your breath and try not to control or deepen the breath. On the inhale breath, say the number 2 to yourself, and on the exhale say the number 1 to yourself. Keep repeating this 2-1 count until the bell chimes or until you feel your mind has settled and you can find some space amongst the mental chatter.
Part 2: Visualize a bright white light at the center of your chest. This may be an actual image or more of a feeling of warmth in your chest. At first it may appear as a small flicker. Keep your attention on the light until you can see or feel it quite steadily, and then allow the light to grow and spread to the rest of your torso, arms, legs, and head. Eventually you may be able to wrap your entire body in a sphere of golden light, warm like the sun.
Part 3: Notice any positive feelings that arise from the golden light meditation such as peace, calmness, or tranquility. Notice where in your body you can connect to these feelings and try to keep your attention focused in that area. You can also repeat a mantra to yourself with one of the feelings. For example: I am peace. Allow yourself to bathe in these feelings for the remainder of the meditation.
This meditation serves as a powerful tool to change the way we respond to the havoc and stress when we are feeling under the pump. Focusing on the breath in the beginning gives you an anchor to ground into and create space in the mind. The golden light floods your body with warmth and creates an uplifting physical sensation to focus on. In part 3, by translating the physical sensation into an emotional and mental state you are able to shift your mood not only for the particular day when you are doing the meditation but also rewire how you react the next time you find yourself caught up in the chaos.