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Pick your poses. Two Fit Moms offers three ways to relieve holiday stress with yoga—active, passive, or a combo—in this sequence.
The holiday season, despite all of its festive parties and fun gatherings, can be a stressful time of year for many people. The days feel short, while the to-do lists feel excessively long. During this busy time, we at Two Fit Moms encourage you to stay committed to your yoga practice, even if that means hitting your mat for just a few minutes each day for a bit of stress relief. Because everyone is unique, stress relief (even on a yoga mat) can look different from person to person. Some prefer an active form of movement that raises the heart rate while others prefer to relieve stress with gentle movements that relax the body. To cater to both personality types, we have four active options for stress relief, as well as four passive options. Try the set of poses that appeals to you, or try both together for an ultimate stress-relieving sequence.
Active Stress Relief: Donkey Kicks
Relieve stress by keeping your body in constant motion with Donkey Kicks.
Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, and bend your knees. Gaze forward past your fingertips, and take a few small, controlled hops as you draw your heels in toward your bottom and land again in Downward-Facing Dog. As you feel more comfortable shifting your weight into your hands, hop a bit higher, engage your core, and maybe catch a little hang time. Focus on landing lightly after each jump, bending your knees deeply to absorb the impact like a spring. Repeat 5–10 times.
Active Stress Relief: Chair to Boat (Utkatasana to Paripurna Navasana)
Clear your mind while firing up your muscles in this Chair-to-Boat sequence.
Begin in Chair Pose by bending the knees, sweeping your arms into the air, and rocking your body weight back onto your heels. Hold this pose for 3 breaths. With your arms still extended overhead, lower yourself onto the mat and immediately lift your feet, bringing your shins parallel to the ground. Keep your chest lifted and your core engaged in Boat Pose. Hold Boat Pose for 3 breaths. Lower your feet to the ground, and use momentum to stand back up into Chair without ever placing your hands onto the mat. Transition back and forth between Chair and Boat a few times.
Active Stress Relief: Plow to Crow (Halasana to Bakasana)
This is an energizing sequence that raises the heart rate, strengthens the upper body, and stretches the back and lower body.
Transition from Plow Pose to Crow Pose by rocking back and forth between the poses on your mat. Begin in Plow with your hands on your lower back for support and legs extended straight. To practice a milder version of the pose, bend both knees, resting them lightly on your forehead. Hold Plow for 3–5 breaths, release your hands from your back, uncurl your spine, and gain the momentum to rock onto the balls of your feet for Crow. Remember to round the upper back, hug your thighs inward, and gaze forward to find your balance. Hold Crow for 3–5 breaths before lowering your feet to the mat and rocking back into Plow. Practice this transition a few times to develop a smooth rhythm.
Active Stress Relief: Tripod Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana II)
Clear your mind by directing all of your focus into a Headstand. Whether you practice in the middle of a room or with a wall behind you for safety, this pose will require your full attention as you find balance.
Begin in Tabletop position on your hands and knees. Step the knees a few inches closer to your hands and place the top of your head onto the mat in front of your hands. Your hands and head should comprise the three points of a triangle in Tripod Headstand. Your fingers should be visible at all times (not be alongside your head). Keep your shoulders rolled away from your ears, tuck your toes, and lift your hips into the air. Walk your feet closer to your hands in order to stack your hips over your shoulders. Experienced yogis, feel free to press up directly into the final expression of the pose from here. Keep your elbows squeezing inward, engage your core, and energize through the entire length of your legs. Start out by holding for 5–10 breaths, and feel free to add time based on your comfort level.
Beginner variation: Climb into a basic Tripod Egg Headstand, resting your right knee onto the back of your right arm. Once you find your balance, lift your left knee onto the back of your left arm. Keep both knees on the backs of both arms or extend your legs upward one at a time.
Passive Stress Relief: Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This gentle pose stretches the hamstrings and relieves swelling and fatigue in the lower body. Practice this pose after a long day on your feet, and watch the stress melt away.
For Legs Up the Wall, begin by sitting with your left hip against a wall. Lower yourself down to your back and swing your legs up to rest against the wall. Rest your arms alongside your body and close your eyes. Hold the pose for several minutes. Feel free to support your head and sacrum (lower back) with blankets. You can also try resting a heavy block or small bolster on the soles of your feet for a more grounded experience.
Passive Stress Relief: Chest Opener with Blocks
Rather than actively working to open up the chest and back, try this very relaxing backbend where your only job is to close your eyes and melt into the pose.
Lie on your back and place one block under your shoulder blades and a second block under your head for support. Hold the pose for 1 minute and then move the block up an inch or two to stretch a different part of the upper back. Breathe deeply, relax your arms, and find stillness.
Passive Stress Relief: Caterpillar Pose
A yin yoga practice is ideal for anyone who prefers quieting the mind with long, supported holds. The focus of Caterpillar Pose, a simple seated forward bend, is to find space between each vertebra as you round the spine.
Sit with your legs extended straight and fold forward, rounding your back as you bring your forehead onto a block or bolster on your lap. Breathe deeply and find the edge between comfort and discomfort, where you can hold the pose for 3–5 minutes without struggling. At the end of your long hold, slowly roll up to a seated position. Lie on your belly for a full minute as a counterpose before moving on to the next pose.
Passive Stress Relief: Sleeping Swan
Sleeping Swan (aka PIgeon Pose) is a deeply comforting hip opener that gently releases tension in the lower body.
To enter the pose, begin on your hands and knees in Tabletop position. Bring your right knee onto the mat behind your right wrist. Take a seat, with your left leg straightened behind you. Walk your hands forward and relax your head and neck. Feel free to use a blanket or block under your right hip if you find that you are rolling to one side. Find stillness, and hold the pose for 3–5 minutes before slowly rising up. Before practicing with the left leg forward, lie on your back for 1 minute as a counterpose. Bend your knees while resting the soles of your feet flat on the ground. Allow your knees to fall to the right and then fall to the left, sweeping them back and forth like windshield wipers for a full minute.
See alsoTwo Fit Moms’ Good Morning Flow