The holiday season means different things to each of us. For many people, it offers the chance to spend some quality time with family and friends. This may mean travel, staying away from home or maybe welcoming others into your home. Parties, family meals and presents are all wonderful for those lucky enough to get to enjoy them but they do bring First World problems too. The reality is that the holiday season is often stressful, challenging and can be a struggle in so many ways. And just when we need our ‘me time’ to get on our mat and yoga it all away there never seems to be the space/time/energy (delete as appropriate).
So what is a good yogi to do at Christmas? Simple – get the family to join in with your yoga practice. It will reduce your stress and maybe theirs too. It will work off some of the excess calories that seem to be an inevitable part of the festivities. And it is fun! Ready to give it a go? Read on …
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
There are a few things worth considering before getting started … like who is going to do yoga with me? This helps in selecting what poses to suggest. Bear in mind that Great Aunt Mabel may not be up for extreme balances like utthita pādāṅguṣṭhāsana (extended hand toe pose) or natarajāsana (dancer) but would probably love a little seated yoga. Similarly, kiddies will probably get bored with tadasāna but love sun salutes or a virabhadrasāna sequence.
And, of course, it could be a great time to show off how strong you are or how long you can balance to impress everyone… Or maybe you could use this as an opportunity to show how inclusive yoga can be. How yoga has something to offer everyone no matter their shape, size, age, opinions, fitness or flexibility. And remember – it might not look like the normal yoga you practice – but it is still yoga!
Festive Favourites Mini-Sequence
Here are a few of my favourite poses with a festive twist that might suit your family and friends.
1. TADASANA (MOUNTAIN POSE)
Get everyone standing up or sitting on firm chairs – ideally with both feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Tell them to become really tall by grounding down through their feet or bottom as they stretch up through the crown of the head. Get them to squeeze the shoulder blades gently together and towards the waist to take the shoulders away from their ears. Closing eyes and taking a few deep breaths here can be really nice to centre yourselves before getting moving.
Festive twist – just like the toy soldiers in the wonderful Christmas ballet The Nutcracker….
2. STANDING SUN SALUTES
From tadasāna inhale arms out wide then overhead and stretch up. Exhale to fold forwards and touch fingertips to shins or floor. Inhale to lift chest as you slide fingertips up shins to knees. Exhale to fold forward and reach down again then inhale arms all way overhead again and stretch…. finish the sequence with an exhale as arms coms back to the sides. This can be done really nicely in sitting if anyone would prefer that.
Festive twist – imagine you are reaching down to pick up a present then lifting it overhead before unwrapping it…..
3. DOWN DOG (FRONT PAWS UP)
I love this version of down dog with hands on a chair and it is great for anyone less flexible or wobbly on their feet. Stand facing the chair with feet hips-width apart. Place hands on the seat of a chair – or back of chair if bending over is a struggle. Keeping legs straight, walk feet backwards so that the body bends at the hips, the chest moves towards the floor and the arms go overhead. It is possible to get a wonderful yummy stretch in the shoulders and chest as well as the backs of the legs and spine. Holding this pose for a few deep breaths is heaven!
No festive twist to this really but everyone loves to include the family canine in the fun don’t they?
4. REINDEER WARRIOR
Reindeer warrior, I hear you cry? Yes, I say – very festive! Warrior one with antlers – just like this…
Stand in a stride with the front foot pointing forwards and back foot about 45 degrees out to the side. Turn pelvis forwards then bend the front knee as far as comfortable but no further forwards than over the ankle. Inhale both arms overhead into traditional warrior one then bend elbows to take thumbs to ears with fingers pointing upwards to make Rudolph’s antlers. A delicious chest stretch can be found by drawing the elbows back as the shoulder blades are squeezed together. Taking a few deep breaths here adds just a little extra – it could be considered as the icing on the Christmas cake maybe…
Festive fun fact – male reindeers lose their antlers in winter so Rudolph and the rest of the team must have been females…
5. CHRISTMAS TREE
And as a finale ….. vrksasāna (tree pose) in any way you like – one-legged, two-legged, seated. Arms up, out, in prayer, waving in the winter wind the options are endless and fun! For the full festive experience add tinsel, bibles and even a start to lift up overhead……
And there it is – fun-filled festive yoga for the whole family. Here’s to a calmer, more chilled Christmas period and onwards to a New Year full of yoga adventures. Happy Holidays to you all!