In Yoga

4 yoga practices for holiday stress relief

Posted by: on Dec 21, 2015 | 3 Comments

IMG_3053The holidays are stressful. There are presents to buy, cookies to bake, and parties to attend. And all that happens before the family even gathers. It’s the season of giving and we find ourselves giving too much and not taking care of ourselves. This heightened stress causes us to over eat and over indulge in sweets and alcohol. In fact, we are so focused on finding the perfect gift, decorating the house just right, or pulling off the best holiday meal, we forget to find the joy in the season. A few simple yoga practices can help us manage our stress, stay grounded, and be ready to give of our time and our hearts.

Make time for yourself

Indulge your inner introvert and spend a few minutes of each day alone. Find a quiet space to sit and breathe for five minutes before or after your yoga practice or take a short walk. When we are stressed our heart beats faster and our breath gets shorter. Focusing in on your breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and helps you relax. Additionally, time in nature reduces stress. For a double dose, turn your walk into moving meditation and focus on the breath with each step.

If you find it difficult to sit still or set boundaries, try using the Insight Timer app. It helped me start my meditation practice and is one of my favorite apps. You can choose to sit quietly with a selection of bells signaling the end of your session or you can choose from free guided meditations. Setting a timer helps set boundaries by both showing yourself and others that you intend the next few minutes to be for your quiet self-reflection. You can also use the timer for your yoga asana (the physical practice of  yoga poses).

Stay with your routine

For many of us it’s hard to keep our routine steady when traveling or even hosting guests. We stop exercising; we eat different foods; and we stay up later. Getting out of your routine causes its own type of stress on body and mind. Daily exercise reduces stress. So, when we stop exercising, we actually take away one of our best stress management tools. Eating richer and heavier foods strains the digestive system. And loss of sleep increases our chances of being irritable. To counter these, try to maintain a few crucial aspects of your daily ritual. Ask yourself, what habits set your day up and help you wind down in the evening. For me, it’s my morning yoga practice. And yoga is a stress reliever! So, if you have a daily practice stick with it. Shorten your practice for those slower, later mornings after a wild night of holiday fun and you’ll still reap the benefits.

Focus on gratitude

Gratitude makes us happier and less anxious. Start your yoga practice each day by thinking of at least one thing you are thankful for. It can be as simple as, “I am thankful for morning coffee.” Let the feeling of gratitude fill you up. Feel how wonderful it is to sit down each morning in your sunny window with your warm cup of coffee. When your family or your guests become challenging repeat it like a mantra, “I am grateful for …”

Incorporate grounding poses into your yoga practice


Include grounding poses in your practice like warrior II pictured here.

Focus your practice on grounding poses. Begin by noticing the parts of the body touching the mat. Notice the feeling of support you get from the solid floor beneath you. Include standing poses and root down through all four corners of the feet in poses like warrior I and II (virabhadrasana), triangle (trikonasana) and mountain (tadasana). Imagine roots anchoring you firmly to the earth.

I find that making time for myself and my yoga practice, focusing on gratitude, and including grounding poses (asana) helps me more fully enjoy the holiday season. What are your go-to practices that help you manage holiday stress?


  1. Beth
    December 21, 2015

    Yoga is something I recommend to all my clients. It is so excellent for the soul and body. Thank you for telling everyone about this. But I have a question: is it cold enough there to skate? The water’s not even frozen over here yet!

    • Hali
      December 22, 2015

      Beth, it’s actually about 60 and raining. We haven’t had any snow or very cold weather yet. This photo is from last winter when we got six inches!

  2. Harriet
    December 23, 2015

    Hi, Hali!
    It’s 45 here and stormy. We’re scheduled to get some snow Saturday & Sunday – too late for a white Christmas, oh well.
    This year I’ve dumped Christmas. At least in the gift-giving-&-mailing department, and it has greatly reduced stress.It began to seem really foolish to (expensively) mail out a lot of stuff my loved ones probably don’t want or need; sometime in the future there may be a pair of elegant sox for you, tho.
    As you know, my “yoga” is Qi Gong, which I do faithfully every morning. I credit it with keeping me well & relatively happy.
    We’re going to celebrate “Christmas Eve” tonight with John & Diane – will think fondly of you & Max.
    Lots of love, Grandma


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