Want to feel like a kid again this Christmas? Back when you actually wanted to wake up before dawn, and sneak to see what Santa brought you? One way to get into the spirit of the season is to give yourself the gift of yoga before the festivities begin. A merrier Christmas is so much more than gifts. The older we get, the harder it is to be in the present. That’s what makes childhood memories so magical. There were no worries and no interruptions. You can do this on Christmas morning or anytime this holiday season – whatever you’re celebrating. These poses are grounding and help you slow down, take your time, and enjoy the quiet alone time these poses give you. Do all the listed poses in the order as given here, hold each pose for at least 10 long inhales and exhales unless otherwise noted.
Downward Dog Pose
There is so much this pose can do for you. It builds bone density, it wakes you up, it reduces stiffness and back pain, it’s boost circulation, opens the shoulders and stretches the hamstrings to name a few.
Begin with your hands and feet on the mat so you’re in an upside-down “V.” Make sure your hands are shoulder-width-distance apart with your fingers spread wide. Place your feet hips-width-distance apart, turning the heels outward slightly so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of your mat. Relax the head between the shoulders, and stay here for five deep breaths. At any time, you can take a break by resting in child’s pose, and then come back into down dog again.
Like Pigeon, a pose we will get to later in this sequence, Lizard Pose is another wonderful pose for cranky, tight hips. This pose creates a beautifully balanced stretch for the inner and outer hip.
Lizard Pose is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps. Incorporating Lizard into your yoga practice can help to improve the flexibility of your hip ligaments and strengthen the muscles in your legs.
Begin in downward facing dog, on an inhale, step your right foot forward to the outside edge of your right hand. Both arms will be the to left of your right leg. Lower your left knee down onto the ground and release the top of your left foot. Sink your weight down into your hips, lower down onto both forearms and keep your chin lifted. To come out, plant your palms down on the mat and step your right foot back to Downward-Facing Dog, resting there for several breaths before repeating on the other side.
Don’t worry if the forearms can’t come down onto the mat just yet. Work on softening into the hips as much as possible, and try placing a block underneath the elbows as you begin to find more openness in your hips. If the back knee feels uncomfortable, fold the mat over lengthwise or tuck a folded blanket underneath the knee.
The Bridge is a beginning backbend that helps to open the chest and stretch the thighs. Bridge Pose opens the chest, heart, and shoulders. It stretches the spine, the back of the neck, the thighs, and the hip flexors (front hip joints). Because your heart is higher than your head in this pose, it is considered a mild inversion (less strenuous than other inversions, such as Headstand) and holds all the benefits of inversions: Relief from stress, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and mild depression.
Lie down on your back with your feet hips-width distance apart. Press your feet and arms firmly into the floor. Inhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Draw your tailbone toward your pubic bone, holding your buttocks off the floor. Do not squeeze your glutes or flex your buttocks. Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body. Clasp your hands and extend your arms along the floor beneath your pelvis. Straighten your arms as much as possible, pressing your forearms into the floor. Keep your thighs and feet parallel — do not roll to the outer edges of your feet or let your knees drop together. Press your weight evenly across all four corners of both feet. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Hold for 5-10 long slow breaths.
Happy Baby Pose
This pose can provide significant relief to lower back pain or discomfort. The best part about it: as you lie there, this supine stretch works out kinks in your hips, back, and buttocks.
Grab the inside or outside of your feet. Bend your knees as close as possible to 90 degrees. Pull your knees in towards your armpits. Press your sacrum into the earth. Take 5-10 breaths.
This pose is perfect for tight hips because it stretches the hip rotators (the buttocks area) and the hip flexors (the long muscles that run along the front of your thighs and pelvis).
Start on all fours, placing your hands directly below your shoulders, and your knees below your hips. Bring your right knee forward until it touches your right wrist, keeping your right thigh parallel to the sides of your mat. Slowly inch your right shin and foot toward the midline of your body until your foot is directly below your left hip. Now straighten your left leg toward the back of your mat.
You need to keep your hips as level as possible to get the full effects of the pose and to keep your lower back safely aligned. If you’re not able to lower the hips evenly, sit on a folded blanket or a block before starting the pose.
As your hips continue to settle, press your fingertips firmly into the floor and lengthen the sides of your waist to help keep your lower back long and free from strain. Using your arms this way allows you to modify the intensity of the stretch. You can remain upright or reach your arms forward.
Supine Spinal Twist Pose
This often overlooked pose has a number health benefits. It’s helps release the lower back, opens tight shoulders, elongates the supporting spinal muscles, improves digestion and quiets a busy mind.
Lie down flat on your back, bending the right knee in toward the chest, then twist it toward the left side of your mat. Extend your right arm to the right side. Look up, or if possible, look away toward the right side. This pose is not overly active, so you won’t get tired holding it. Stay in this pose as long as you like and feel the deep rewards that come from deep release. Repeat on the other side.
Get ready for a wonderful, relaxing, and grounding Christmas!