This time of year, the stress doesn't leave you alone for a minute: If you're not stuck in traffic in the rain or snow, you're in line at the mall, rolling your eyes while the person in front of you takes forever to make her purchases. The next time you find your nerves frazzled, take a break for this quick rejuvenation flow sequence from Larry Payne, Ph.D., director of the Yoga Therapy Rx certification program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "This sequence engages and releases the major muscles," Payne says. "Bringing your head below the heart in the inversions calms the nervous system."
First, take deep breaths through your nose, pausing briefly at the beginning of each inhalation and exhalation. Do this 8 to 10 times while in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), then inhale into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Exhale and swan-dive down into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) with slightly bent knees. Then, while bending your knees deeply, inhale and sweep your arms out to the sides, coming halfway up and moving into Ardha Uttanasana (Half Standing Forward Bend). Exhale and release to Uttanasana. Sweep your arms up from the sides, inhaling all the way back up into Urdhva Hastasana. Exhale into Ardha Utkatasana (Half Chair Pose) before inhaling while returning to Urdhva Hastasana and Tadasana. You'll feel calmer—and the people around you just might, too.