Holiday Helpers: Practices for Staying Grounded in the Season of Celebration

The holidays are upon us, a season that for many brings joy, celebration, and gratitude; warm hearths on chilly days; and the heartening pleasures of exchanging gifts while reconnecting with loved ones. But, as much as the holidays can elevate our spirit, they can also tax our system. There are travel arrangements to be made, shopping lists to tackle, and copious platters of tempting treats to be devoured. Staying grounded during this time can be harder than trying to defrost a Tofurkey or hang a menorah atop a Christmas tree. Our faculty offered four yoga poses and a meditation technique to help you maintain balance this holiday season.

Legs Up the Wall 
“I love Legs Up the Wall to counterbalance all the excess movement that comes with the bustle of the holidays,” says Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. “This pose, which consists of lying on the back with the legs up a wall, allows blood to flow to the hips and heart, restoring calmness in the nervous system. I like to put a bolster or a cushion under my sacrum and an eye pillow over my eyes for extra support. I enjoy practicing this pose after travel or a long workday, or before going out to a holiday soiree.”

Downward-Facing Dog
“When I need energy, Downward-Facing Dog is my go-to pose,” says Cristie Newhart, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. “It’s a mild inversion that calms the nervous system and alleviates stress. I love how strong I feel in my legs and shoulders after practicing this pose; I can move on with my day with more focus and a fresh perspective. This is helpful during the busy holiday season, which—as wonderful as it is—can also be overwhelming. Downward-Facing Dog keeps me grounded and poised.”

Reclined Bound Angle
“Reclined Bound Angle is a restorative pose that supports the back body beautifully,” notes Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, who teaches the Kripalu School of Yoga’s Restorative Yoga Teacher Training. “It’s especially important during the winter months to stay toasty, so I enjoy placing some warmed beanbags, anywhere from one to five pounds, in my hands, on my hip flexors, and on my sternum. I wrap a soft fleece blanket around my head and ears and—voilà—I’m transported to a place of sweet, calming bliss.”

Low Lunge 
“Low Lunge is one of my favorite poses to do in a pinch, because it activates my whole body,” says Jennifer Reis, who’s also a Kripalu teacher trainer. “With my feet and legs engaged and rooted on the earth, I feel a sense of grounding stability, which is so nourishing during the bustle of the holiday season. My hip flexors stretch and my navel and chest expand, allowing me to be more joyous and openhearted. Reaching upward, I feel connected and fully embodied.”

Holiday Meditation
Along with yoga poses, meditation can offer soothing benefits during the hectic holidays. “As in other seasons and times of life, a skillful meditation practice during the holidays can help us savor the sweet and keep stress to a minimum,” notes Steven Leonard, a Kripalu Yoga and meditation teacher. To customize a personal meditation for the holidays, Steven proposes contemplating the following inquiries: What do you love about the holidays? What are your favorite traditions, sights, smells, songs, and foods? Take some time to reflect on what’s wonderful about them. Attend to their details and subtleties. Notice what it’s like to remember the feeling of hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching these things. “You can do this meditation at home, at work, waiting on line at the mall, or anywhere else you find yourself,” Steven says.

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