The holidays can often take a toll on us physically and emotionally. During this time of year, it can be unsettling to experience such a shift in our daily lives. As we go different places, meet new people and leave our daily routines behind, we may easily lose focus and become uncentered both in body and mind. We at CNY Healing Arts suggest this short, seated yoga sequence to help you stay stress-free this holiday season. The sequence is adapted from renowned yoga instructor Tara Stiles’ book, Yoga Cures. Of course, practicing yoga with us at one of our studios, as often as possible throughout the holiday season, will be a great benefit as well – view the current calendar here.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
Sit cross-legged on your mat. Reach the crown of your head towards the sky, lengthening your spine. Breathe long and deep throughout the entire sequence. Press the index and middle finger of your right hand to the space in between your eyebrows. Take a few breaths.
Keeping your fingers pressed to your forehead, alternate breathing between nostrils. Breathe in through your right nostril while plugging the left one with your pinky finger and then breathe out through your left nostril keeping the right one plugged with your thumb. The right nostril remains plugged as you breathe in through the left, then you plug the left one and exhale.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama continues in this pattern – out, in and switch — isolating your breath to one nostril at a time. It helps cleanse and stimulate your nerve channels, revitalizing your mind.
Seated Side Bend
Staying seated, place your left elbow in the crease of your left knee and gently grasp your left ankle with your left hand. Extend your right arm upward, arching it over your head. Stay here for several deep breaths then repeat on the other side.
Breathe steadily and sit up straight, remaining cross-legged on your mat. Without twisting your torso, simultaneously grab your right knee with your left hand and extend your right arm behind you, pressing your right fingertips into the ground behind your hips.
Inhale and lengthen your spine, reaching up through the crown of your head. Exhale and twist your torso to the right, starting with your shoulders and moving to your waist. Breathe for several seconds, lengthening your spine as you inhale and relaxing further into the twist as you exhale.
Seated Arm Cross, Hold Knees
From your seated twist, lift your right arm up and over to grasp your left knee, keeping your left hand on your right knee. Holding opposite knees, relax your body over your legs – first your torso then your neck and head. Take several deep breaths then sit up slowly. Repeat the seated twist on the other side then repeat this pose.
Get into tabletop pose on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep your back flat for several breaths. Inhale into cow pose – relax your waist towards the ground, allowing your back to arch, and look up, drawing your collarbone out and up. Exhale into cat pose, rounding your back and looking inward. Focus on drawing the middle of your back upward. Repeat several times.
The key is to avoid forcing your body into shape. Rather, breathe deeply and relax your body into the pose as much as your breath allows.
Simultaneously sit back on your heels (tops of your feet against the mat) and lower your forehead to the ground. Extend your arms over your head, palms resting against the mat. Avoid contracting your spine. Stay here as your shavasana, relaxing deeper and deeper into the pose.