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Yoga: Have a stress free holiday

In Columns on December 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm

By: Morgan Deal

Pigeon pose is another popular hip opener, but is more intense. Photo courtesy of Google images

            With everything to worry about from buying and wrapping gifts to baking holiday cookies, the “most wonderful time of the year” can easily become the most stressful time of the year. There are many ways that yoga can help reduce stress and help make the holidays run smoothly.

            Most holiday stress is all in our minds. “By turning down the volume on what I call tape loops – mental samskaras – you can get in touch with a more blissful place inside,” Timothy McCall, M.D., says in his book Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing. Yoga is a great way to learn how to calm your mind in tense situations and focus, as well as live a more peaceful and accepting lifestyle. Even something as simple as practicing deep, even breathing can calm a person down quickly, as irregular breathing is both a cause and result of stress.

            Our world today is filled with sound, and it can seem that there is never a quiet moment. Even when we are unaware of sound, studies suggest that a noisy environment can alert the body’s stress response system. Taking the time to go through simple yoga poses, such as the ones described below, in a quiet place can do much to calm someone down.

            Tension is created in the hips from stress, making the hips one of the tightest muscle system in the body. Sitting down in desks all day prevents our hips from getting the rotation and extension needed to keep them flexible, and sports like running and cycling de-emphasize hip flexibility. While hip openers can be extremely challenging, if practiced regularly, one will soon see the benefits physically and emotionally. One of the most simple hip openers is to simply sit cross-legged and walk your hands out in front of you. Hold the pose for about ten seconds, then cross the other leg on top and repeat.

            Probably the quickest way to use yoga to relax is to go into savasana, or deep relaxation. Also referred to as “corpse pose,” savasana appears to be just lying on the ground. However, it is much more than that. To truly be in deep relaxation, one must tune out all outside distractions – noise, discomfort, and even negative thoughts. Allowing oneself to let go is very therapeutic and instantly makes a difference in stress levels.

            When practicing yoga, the most important thing to remember is to pay attention to and respect your body. A pose, such as a hip opener, should never feel painful. If a pose feels painful, that’s a sign that you have taken it too far, and need to back off. When done correctly, yoga can be a fantastic way for people of all ages to release stress year round.

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