The holidays can leave feeling time poor and overwhelmed. During these tumultuous times we often forget one of our most powerful calming tools – our breath. As you move through this gentle sequence, see if you can breathe deeply right down into the pit of your belly. This will switch on your rest and digest and ease stress, and after just a few minutes you will feel your whole being begin to settle and release.
Sama Vritti Pranayama – Equal Breathing
This simple breathing exercise will leave you feeling almost immediately calm. Sit comfortably using props to support you if needed (a blanket or a bolster underneath the sit bones, or even sitting on a chair). Close your eyes and begin to notice the natural breath. As you feel your heart rate begin to settle and your stress begin to subside, slowly count to four as you inhale. Pause at the top of your inhalation, then count four as you exhale – again taking a moment to pause in stillness. If this counting feels too short, you can increase the count and work your way up to a steady count of 10. Continue for 10 rounds, starting again if you lose count. As you finish, allow the breath to return back to its natural rhythm and notice any changes in your body and mind.
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
The benefits of this pose are endless. As well as giving your whole body a deep stretch, it also calms the brain, helps to relieve stress and headaches and creates energy. To come into Downward Facing Dog, start on your hands and knees. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale begin to lift your knees up off the floor as you send your hips towards the sky, straightening your legs. You might like to bend one knee at a time to warm up your hamstrings at first, and as you come into stillness, press your hands down into the earth, feel your spine elongating and soften your heels toward the earth. Allow yourself to ground as you experiment with the shape of the pose. Try straightening your arms and bending your elbows, straightening your legs and bending your knees, and moving your shoulders towards and away from your ears – finding the perfect expression for your unique body. Stay for five to 10 breaths.
Prasarita Padottanasana – Wide Legged Forward Fold
Forward folds are known for their ability to cool the body, and this pose also helps to calm the mind, as well as beating fatigue. From Downward Facing Dog, walk your feet towards your hands, then slowly unwind to standing. Turn to face the long edge of your mat and step your feet wide apart (about 1.5 leg lengths). Bring your hands to your hips and check that the outer edges of your feet are parallel with the sides of your mat. With a flat spine, take an inhale to lift your chest, then exhale and bend forward at the hip creases. When your back is parallel to the floor, release your hands below your shoulders (using a block or prop to support your hands if needed). To deepen into the pose, walk your hands in line with your feet, or for something a little more restorative, take hold of opposite elbows and allow your upper body to relax. Feel your spine lengthening and your chest reaching behind you for five to 10 breaths. To release, bring your hands back to your hips, and with a flat back slowly come back to standing.
Once complete, take 10 breaths standing in mountain pose with your hands together at your heart centre.