We are right in the middle of the holiday season! That time of year when yoga studios close down and personal practice is SO hard to come by. But, yoga is the perfect antidote to family gatherings and office parties. How does a yogi keep practicing when the festive spirit takes hold?
Yoga can be done ANYWHERE. Yes, anywhere.
Here are a few of our favourite tricks for keeping your practice on track.
Tadasana on the tube
Bring yoga into everyday activities. Try a sneaky Tadasana next time you are standing in a queue or on the tube. Ground down through your feet as you grow tall through the crown of your head and subtly draw the shoulder blades towards the waist. Feel the chest open and breathe… Working on a posture like this activates muscles, takes us out of the habitual slouch and will even make you feel more confident.
Or maybe you have a long train journey home to your loved ones. How about a modified Dandāsana in your seat? Ground down through both sit bones and feet; lengthen the spine as you grow taller; and draw the shoulder blades to the waist again. You could even gently squeeze an imaginary beach ball between the knees to activate the inner thighs.
And if you really feeling adventurous then add bandhas. Engaging mula and uddiyana bandha really energises the pose – and those opposite you on the train won’t even know!
Tricks for traffic
Stuck in the car more than usual? How about loosening the spine with a little cat and cow as you wait for the lights to change – no need to even let go of the steering wheel for this one. Inhale as you lift the chest and exhale as you curl up and drop the chin to chest brings the benefits of the breath to this simple movement.
Or if you’ve run into traffic, try a seated twist using the sides of your seat and use the opposing hand to reach across. Inhale to gain length through the spine and exhale as you engage the abs to turn. Repeat a few times on each side.
Standing sun salutes
I love these for the times when you just can’t manage a full Sun Salute. They are perfect for breaks on journeys – I do them in the car park beside the car…sometimes I even do them in the airport! These days, people are used to others doing all sorts of freaky moves while waiting for a flight!
- Start in Tadāsana.
- Inhale and lift arms overhead into a backbend then exhale and fold forwards – just like a Sun salute A.
- Inhale and slide hands up shins towards the knees as you lift your chest with a straight back. Then exhale and slide hands down back of legs to fold again.
- Inhale to return to standing with arms overhead then exhale back to Tadāsana.
You can add twists by bringing your right elbow outside the left knee and vice versa on the way to the forward fold. Or try Chair Pose from Tadāsana – this adds more muscle work to the sequence.
Yoga for a duvet day
Visiting friends and nowhere to roll out your mat? No matter – use the bed! Smooth out the covers and put together a little sequence. Maybe Extended Child into Puppy then Cobra or Sphinx and repeat a few times moving with the breath.
You could also try any seated forward folds or twists and see how different they feel on the soft surface of the mattress. Supine twists work well on wider beds too and you may even manage a Dolphin or Down Dog if you are not in a bunk bed! You could also try Planks… the soft surface will certainly challenge your balance and core!
Yin poses like Butterfly and Knees to Chest are also ideal for bed-based practice and are really soothing before sleep if the stress is getting too much.
Slow, steady diaphragmatic breathing is such a good friend to the busy yogi. And perfect for when you are on the move. Try focussing on your breath as you go about your daily business – walking, standing in queues or sitting in meetings. It is so easy and brings much needed serenity and calmness.
There is also a lovely routine of breathing that stimulates the calming, parasympathetic side of the nervous system and will help you sleep. When you go to bed – lie on your back for 8 deep breaths; roll on to your right side for 16 breaths then on to your left for 32 breaths. Most people will be asleep well before the end of the sequence and sleep like a baby.
Mindfulness and meditation
Even a few minutes of mindfulness each day can make such a difference to how you feel. If you can’t slow down enough to stop and meditate then all is not lost. Being present for a few minutes and mindful of what you are doing works just as well. Try taking time to smell your coffee before sipping it and REALLY tasting it is a delight as the world whizzes around you. Or being really present on a dog walk so that you take the time notice the colours; the smells; and the noises around you instead of mentally ticking things off the ‘To do’ list.
Festive survival secrets
So, this is my Seasonal Survival Guide for the clever yogi who finds themselves with no mat and bereft of yoga pants. Some tools that I hope you will find useful to help get you through the most wonderful time of the year without losing your yoga mo-jo.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful New Year – enjoy!