Some people prefer being in groups to being alone—the social souls who become enlivened in the company of others, or the yoga student who comes to the studio early just to hang out in the lobby and socialize. These people are fueled by the presence of others. And I am not one of them. The end-of-year gatherings haven’t even begun and I already feel like my social tank is on empty.
I’m sure you’ve heard of introverts versus extroverts, which are fairly consistent personality traits. Extroverts prefer to be around other people while introverts seek alone time. Knowing your tendency can help you understand which settings give you energy and which drain you. There are also other personality labels, like empaths or Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), who tend to be extra sensitive and attuned with the people around them. This can make being in group settings—even festive ones—especially draining.
At the end of the day, we are all social creatures. We need one another. Numerous studies confirm that those with wider social networks and who spend more time with others live significantly longer than those who don’t. And as much as I would like to go hide in a cave and do yoga and watch Netflix by myself for a month, the reality is I would miss my family and be terribly lonely. (Well, after the first week…)
So I have learned ways to refuel my social tank before and after I exert myself. I have managed to find yoga poses and meditations that enable me to find the same peace I would find isolated in a cave, except with my dog barking, my son throwing a football inside the house, and my husband taking a work call.
See also: 7 Simple Ways to Find Some Calm
A sequence to help you recharge your social battery
Try this yoga sequence the next time your social tank feels dangerously close to empty, whether as a preventative measure before a gathering or when you need to come back to your peace and quiet afterward.
How it recharges you: Child’s Pose has a restorative nature, particularly if you rest the center of your forehead (sometimes referred to as your “third eye”) on the mat, a block, even your stacked hands. This is a common acupressure point used to increase energy and reduce tension and is believed in many different cultures to give access to the pineal gland, which regulates hormones and our circadian rhythm and is believed by some to function as a path to spiritual awakening.
How to: Kneel on your mat. Bring your big toes together and separate your knees a comfortable distance apart. Sink your hips toward your heels. If you like, place your forehead on the mat or a block, and reach your arms forward. Or you can make a pillow with your hands out of stacked hands or fists. Stay here for 20 breaths. Rock yourself up to hands and knees.
Not everyone finds Child’s Pose restful. If that is the case for you, try taking a supported restorative version of the pose or lie flat on your tummy with your legs extended straight behind you with your forehead on your fists. Or simply skip the pose.
See also: Why is Child’s Pose So Insanely Calming?
Uttana Shoshanna (Puppy Pose)
How it recharges you: You want to begin to reach out and open up…but slowly. The head-down aspect of this pose allows you to practice opening your heart while staying inwardly focused. This pose is sometimes known as “Anahatasana,” which means it opens your heart chakra, and is commonly called “Melting Heart.” Anahata literally translates to “unstruck” or “unhurt” and is said to refer to the part of our heart that is untouchable to outside influence or forces. This pose is also a nice alternative to Child’s Pose.
How to: Come to your hands and knees and separate your feet and shins hip-width distance. Align your knees beneath your hips and start to walk your hands forward until your upper body is fully lengthened. Have your palms flat on the floor and your upper arms firming in toward your ears. You may rest your forehead on a block, the floor, or some people opt to come down onto their chest, so that the chin is on the ground. Remember we’re here to release tension, not to create it! Choose your variation wisely. Remain for 10 breaths. To come out, walk your hands back under your shoulders and return to Tabletop.
See also: A Yin Yoga Practice for Creating Space
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute) Variation
How it recharges you: As we engage with the outside world, we open ourselves up to the energy around us. This pose helps us learn how to do that judiciously. We wouldn’t want to go directly into our most expansive shape right out the gate, as that invites burnout—just as we want to practice energy conservation within smaller social gatherings, before attending the big end-of-year holiday party. Learning how to stay in tune with our output levels is key when managing energy.
How to: Come to standing at the top of your mat. Have your feet together or hip-width apart, whatever feels most stable and comfortable for your lower back. On an inhale, sweep your arms up in line with your ears, shoulder-distance apart. When your arms lift up, your ribs will tend to pop forward. This is a sign of overworking. Ease up. Keep your spine long rather than worry about how far your arms can go. On an inhale, begin to lift your chest up toward the ceiling. As you exhale, arc your back into a tiny backbend. Pause for one full breath cycle. Remember, less is more. We are just teasing ourselves open. Come back upright on an inhale and exhale your arms by your side. Feel free to repeat one or two more rounds.
How it recharges you: Half Moon Pose and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), which commonly precedes and follows it, are excellent postures to encourage the idea of receiving as they both require a strong reaching out of your arms and legs. The balancing challenge of Half Moon Pose adds an opportunity to be able to observe your nervous system in a heightened state. That same feeling you get when falling out of a pose can be the same feeling you get when walking into a large group setting when you have social anxiety. Observing your response on the mat can help you become more familiar and less thrown when it happens off the mat.
How to: Turn to face the long side of your mat. Inhale your arms out to the sides, like a T, and step your feet beneath your wrists. Turn your right foot to face the front of the mat and angle your back foot and hip slightly forward. On an inhale, reach toward your front leg and, on an exhale, tip your pelvis over your front thigh, coming into Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). You can lightly place your bottom hand on your shin or a block. Remain here for 5 full breaths.
On an exhale, bend your standing knee and place your fingertips on the floor or a block just ahead and to the side of your right pinky toe. Push off your front leg and float your back leg to hip height, coming into Half Moon Pose. Reach your arms wide apart. Test your balance, not to see if you can hold the pose perfectly, but to see what happens when you wobble. Play with this for five breaths.
To come out, bend your front knee and bring your hand to your front shin or the block outside of your front foot. Land your back foot lightly to return to Triangle Pose. Press into both feet and inhale your torso upright. Turn to face the long side of the mat again, your feet parallel to one another, before setting up for your left side.
How it recharges you: Let’s be honest, there are many family and social gatherings that you would rather skip for a number of reasons, from exhaustion to being particularly activated in certain settings or by certain people. (Let’s not forget the Ram Dass quote, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week you’re your family.”) Still, sometimes you need to show up. Backbends done on your belly teach you how to find lightness amidst resistance. In Locust Pose, you literally lift your body against the normal downward pressure of gravity. This strengthens your back muscles as well as your tolerance for the uncomfortable. You can take a Surya Namaskar A before coming into this pose if you feel the need to move your body.
How to: Lie on your tummy. Reach your arms down your sides with your palms facing your outer thighs. Separate your feet hip-width. On an inhale, lift your upper body, arms, and legs. Spread your toes and widen your lower back, by rolling your inner thighs sharply upward. Reach through your arms, keeping all of your fingers together. Though we are working to lift the torso, ensure your neck is not overdoing it. Look down at your chest to lengthen the back of your neck. Remain here for 8 breaths. On an exhale, lower back onto your tummy. Repeat one or two more times.
How it recharges you: Alright, we have worked hard enough, now it’s time to turn inward and refuel. Remember, humans need rest cycles just as they need active cycles. This is called our basic rest-activity cycle and the theory is that humans should naturally ebb and flow through periods of productivity and resting for balanced energy. Legs-up-the-wall can be held for many minutes, allowing you to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest-and-digest function. This is the exact opposite of anxiety’s fight-or-flight response, which is ignited by the sympathetic nervous system. If you only do one pose today, do this one.
How to: Bring the short end of the mat to a wall and place it against the baseboard. Sit as close to the wall as you can. Swing your legs up and turn your body until you can lie flat on the floor with your upper body. If your hamstrings are tight or your low back lifts off the floor, slide your body back (so your legs will be leaning against the wall at an angle) until your sacrum is fully on the floor. You can also play with a rolled towel or blanket underneath your low back. Find the most restful position for your arms, depending on your energy levels. You can place your hands on your torso to represent sealing in your energy, or bend them to the sides into a cactus, in a position of receiving. Stay anywhere from 20 breaths to 7 full minutes. To come out, slide your feet down the wall. Pull your knees toward your chest and roll to your side. Slowly come up to sitting.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
How it recharges you: This pranayama (breathing) technique is said to balance both sides of the brain and is helpful for easing anxiety and stress. In addition to its calmative effects, the breathwork is also supposed to be energizing. That might sound like an oxymoron, but what this means is that it releases stress while also buoying our awareness and presence. It is also considered very centering, which can be especially helpful when we are feeling pulled in multiple directions.
How to: Find a comfortable seat. You can sit cross-legged in Sukhasana (Easy Seat) or on a block in Virasana (Hero’s Pose). Place your index and middle finger in between your eyebrows, or curl them toward your palm. right thumb on your right nostril. Keep your ring and pinky fingers pointing straight and your thumb stretched out to the side. This is called mrigi mudra or deer seal. Take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Close your right nostril with your thumb, and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril and pause a moment before releasing your right nostril and breathing out on your right side. Keeping the left nostril closed, breathe in through your right nostril. Close the right nostril and pause a moment before releasing your left side and exhaling through your nose. That is considered one full round. Repeat two more times.
About our contributor
Sarah Ezrin is an author, world-renowned yoga educator, popular Instagram influencer, and mama based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her willingness to be unabashedly honest and vulnerable along with her innate wisdom make her writing, yoga classes, and social media great sources of healing and inner peace for many people. Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love one person at a time. You can follow her on Instagram at @sarahezrinyoga and TikTok at @sarahezrin.