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The holiday hustle and bustle can leave even the calmest among us feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. This sequence is designed to help you ease tension by putting your spine through its full range of motion. Not only will these poses stretch muscles that holiday travel and stress can leave stiff, they’ll also boost your energy levels by increasing blood flow to the large muscles that support the back, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and energized.
What’s more, by moving your body in all directions around its central axis—the spine—you’ll feel more supple and free: A flexible spine clears the lines of communication between mind and body, helping you stay calm and connect with positive feelings like gratitude and joy.
Sit with your legs crossed and rest your hands on your knees. Place your left hand on your right knee and twist to the right. Inhale and lengthen your spine; exhale and tone your belly. After 5 breaths, switch sides.
Come into Tabletop—on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips, and wrists under your shoulders. Inhale, drop your belly, and arch your back. Exhale, draw your belly in, and round your back. Repeat 5 times.
Kneel and extend your right leg to the side. Reach your left hand to the sky as you slide your right hand down your right leg. Stay for a breath.
From Gate Pose, place your left hand on the floor. Extend your right hand and lift your right leg until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Stay for a breath.
Come to Tabletop. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back to Down Dog. Slowly raise your right leg to the sky, bend your right knee, and open your right hip. Relax your gaze.
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
From Downward Dog, step your right foot between your hands. Bring both hands inside your right foot, and keep your right knee over your right ankle. To go deeper into the pose, lower onto your forearms (or use a block).
Come out of Lizard Pose by bringing your hands back to either side of your right foot. Inhale, lift your torso, and reach your arms toward the sky.
Place your right hand on the floor in front of your right foot. Straighten your right leg as you lift your left leg and then left arm into Half Moon. To come out, step your left leg back softly to High Lunge. Then, return to Downward Dog.
From Down Dog, step to the top of your mat and come into a forward fold, with your feet hip-width apart. Cradle your elbows in your hands and feel a release in your upper spine. Tuck your chin slightly to lengthen your neck.
Step your feet wider than hip-width, turn your toes out, and lower into a squat. Bring your palms together and press your upper arms into your thighs. If your heels lift, place a blanket under them for support.
Tarasana (Star Pose, with side stretch)
Sit with the soles of your feet together and knees open. Hold your ankles with your left hand and nestle your left elbow inside your left knee. Reach your right arm over your right ear, hold for a breath, then switch sides.
From Star Pose, lift your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your hips, fingers facing forward; keep your knees above your ankles, and your shoulders above your wrists. Inhale and raise your hips. Stay here for a breath, then rest.
Lower to the floor and bring your feet together, knees apart. Turn your palms up and slow your breath. If your knees don’t touch the floor, sup- port them by placing blocks or blankets underneath them. Stay here for 5 breaths.
Hug your knees to your chest and take your hands behind each knee (or use your hands
to grab the outer edges of your feet). Release your knees toward your armpits and relax your tailbone toward the floor. Stay here for 5 breaths.
Bring your right knee into your chest and lengthen your left leg out in front of you. To twist, bring your right knee across your body to the left side of your mat; place your left hand on your right thigh, and extend your right arm to the right at shoulder height. Gaze at the ceiling or, if it feels OK for your neck, toward your right shoulder. Stay here for 5 breaths, then switch sides.
Roll up a blanket and slide it under your knees. Lie back and relax deeply. Feel free to place
a pillow under your head for support, or cover yourself with a blanket for warmth. Stay here for 5 minutes—or longer, if possible.