8 Stress Relieving Exercises for the Holiday Season
By: Kelly Brown
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been feeling lots of extra stress lately. We’re talking more than the typical holiday stress. For many, that means holding stress not only mentally but physically as well. If you’re reading this, take a deep breath, lower your shoulders, exhale…do you feel a little better?
Mental stress may cause your body to tighten to protect itself against potential injury or harm. Relaxing those muscles through a series of gentle stretches and exercises can send calming signals to the brain that could help lower stress levels.
Grab a cup of tea, or your favorite evening beverage, queue up a soothing Spotify playlist and take a moment to flow through these relaxing eight exercises to help lower your stress level during the holiday season.
1.) Childs Pose
Find a kneeling position on a mat or carpeted floor with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
Extend your arms long overhead, reaching for the edge of your mat, and set your glutes heavy towards your heels. You should feel a deep stretch from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
Think about lengthening the neck and spine by pulling your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of the head away from your shoulders.
With each exhale, allow yourself to melt down into your mat a little deeper, feeling the shoulders open and the tailbone heavy towards your heels.
2.) Plank to Downward Dog
Start in a high plank with your hands and feet planted on your mat. Lift your knees to extend your arms and legs, holding your body in a long straight line with your gaze down to the floor.
Actively pushing into the ground with your hands, lift your hips to the ceiling as you drop your heels towards the floor and push your shoulders open. Think about reaching your chest towards the top of your thighs.
On an inhale, ground into the floor as you slowly transition back to a high plank. Hold for a moment and then exhale to lift the hips back to downward dog.
Continue to transition through both movements, finding a pace that flows steadily with your breath.
3.) Ragdoll Pose
Begin with the feet right underneath the hips. Inhale the arms overhead and exhale softly into a forward fold. Keep the knees slightly bent and all 10 toes rooted into your mat.
Let your head hang heavy, giving it a gentle shake yes and no. Take your hand to the opposite elbow and find a slow sway side to side.
Hold for a few deep breaths.
On a mat or soft surface, find a kneeling position on all fours. The knees should be under the hips with the wrists under the shoulders. The spine is neutral with the tailbone reaching long behind you and the crown of the head reaching in front. Keep your gaze neutral and down to the floor.
Take a slow inhale and on the exhale round your spine and drop your head toward the floor. Think about pushing your hands and feet into the floor as hard as you can to work deeper into the posture.
Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling as you arch your back.
Flow with your breath between the two postures. You should feel a stretch through the spine and possibly the glutes.
5.) Supine Spinal Twist
Laying on your back with your legs long and arms by your side, lift your right knee to your chest and give it a gentle pull towards your right armpit with your right hand holding your shin.
Inhale. Exhale and drop the right knee over the left leg, letting it fall heave towards the floor.
If able, take your gaze over to the right, being aware of any tension this might bring into your neck. If you feel discomfort, ease off the twist for a few breaths and then try to relax deeper into the posture.
Work to keep the shoulders flat to the floor. Think about taking deep belly breaths while wringing out your spine like a washcloth.
Exhale and bring the right knee back to the center.
Repeat on the other side.
6.) Pigeon Pose
From downward dog, lift your right leg towards the ceiling. Then, bring your right leg underneath your body and place it on the floor with your shin parallel to the front of your mat. Feel free to tuck your foot as close to your body as needed to make the pose more comfortable.
Extend your left leg long behind you, finding length from the left toes to the crown of the head
If able, drop your forearms down to the mat. Feel free to use a yoga block for assistance.
Work on keeping the right foot flexed and the left hip turned down to the mat as much as possible.
7.) Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on your right knee. Place the left foot out in front of you, with the ankle underneath the knee, as if you were going to press up into a lunge.
Work on shifting your left foot farther away from your body as you gently press the hips forward to open up through the right side of the body.
Play around with the hands on your front (left) knee or overhead, with a gentle lean side to side.
Squeeze your glutes to activate the hip flexor stretch even deeper.
If the grounded knee hurts, try placing a towel or small throw pillow underneath. Ease your way into the stretch and back off when needed.
8.) Plow Pose
Lie down with your head and back on the mat, legs extended long in front of you.
Swing both legs back and up over the head to rest your toes on the floor.
Stay in the posture for a few slow deep breaths.
Keep your hands flat on the floor or rest them on your mid-back to provide some support.
Slowly roll out of the pose and lay still on your mat for a few deep inhales and exhales. You should feel the stress melting off your shoulders already.
Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and fitness instructor located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has over 10 years of experience coaching competitive gymnastics and cheerleading and has taught group fitness classes such as barre, pilates, mobility, and bootcamp. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she’s usually at a CrossFit class or hiking on a local trail.