Survive the silly season with yoga

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There is no doubt about it, December is a busy time of year, with extra activities and commitments squeezing the time you have available for regular training and exercise. This makes it even more important to find a way to keep up your healthy habits and look after yourself.

A simple yoga practice can be your saviour in the Christmas season. Even if you can make 15-30 minutes a day to dedicate some time to mindful breathing and movement, it will help keep your stress and energy levels in check.

If you like the idea of doing some daily yoga but aren’t sure what to do, below are a few pointers to help. This outline is based on the fact that different types of yoga poses benefit the mind and body in different ways. Depending on whether you need to re-energise, relax, focus or detox, you can tailor your yoga practice to help provide the support you need each day.

Start with the breath
Begin your yoga practice by taking a few minutes to become more centred. Take a comfortable seated position, and draw your awareness to your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose, and gradually lengthen and soften the breath. Silently count the beats of your breath in (1, 2, 3, 4…) and then the breath out (1, 2, 3, 4….). Aim to make your exhalation one or two counts longer than the inhalation. This helps the mind and body to relax. Spend a few minutes with your breath before you begin to move through some poses.
Choose some poses from the following groups to help with your individual needs.

yoga1To relax: Bend forwards (1)
Forward bending poses done with gentle breathing and long exhalations stimulate the relaxation response in the body (the parasympathetic nervous system). Lengthening the back of your spine also helps to relieve physical and emotional tension.
Suggested poses: Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana) or Caterpillar pose (the yin yoga version).

yoga2To energise: Bend backwards (2)
Back bending poses stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, waking the body up. Gentle supported back bends subtly re-energise you and open the chest for fuller and more efficient breathing. Active backbends, when you are working to engage the muscles down the back can give you a great energy boost or pick-me-up when your energy levels are flagging.
Suggested poses: Supported fish pose (gentle), and locust pose (active).

yoga3To focus: Find a balance (3)
Balancing poses require your complete concentration, so are great for slowing down a really busy mind and regaining your focus. Whether you are standing on one leg, or are on your hands, forearms or head, if you want to avoid toppling over you need to devote all of your mental attention to the pose, the balance and the breath. A short round of balancing poses can switch off the mental chatter very effectively and allow you to then clearly focus on just one priority at a time.
Suggested poses: Tree pose, eagle pose, warrior III pose.

yoga4To detox: Twist it (4)
Twisting poses compress your internal organs, giving them a gentle massage. When the twist is released it encourages a flush of fresh blood through your organs, helping to detox and support your digestive system. This can be helpful during the party season if you feel you may be over-indulging. Twists can also help relieve lower back pain, so may beneficial if you are spending extra time at a desk meeting those end-of-year deadlin es.
Suggested poses: Half Lord of the Fishes pose, Supine Spinal Twists.

Relax and enjoy. Merry Christmas.

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