The holidays are "meant" to be the most joyful time of the year. But often, of course, they're the very opposite. All the stresses and feels can put a lot of pressure on our bodies (and minds!). In this second part of the yoga series on Galbraith, expert Gabrielle Stratton takes you through six simple, warming poses to help ease the tension in your body and mind. Setting aside a few minutes to take care of you is essential, whatever the season. So, let's get started!
"These poses are super nourishing because of their mostly inverted nature," Gab says. "Each one is meant to make you feel both supported and strong, which is incredibly important for soothing the nervous system and regenerating a calm nature."
You'll need: A yoga mat, comfy clothing you can move in, and a block (try a thick book if you don't have a block).
How much time will it take? Hold each pose for a minimum of five long breaths—that's about a minute for each one, so about eight minutes in all.
Note: Please do these poses carefully, slowly, and at your own risk. Be mindful of any injuries you have, and don't worry too much about each one looking perfect. Focus on how you feel (i.e. don't force any poses if you feel pain or discomfort)!
"Come back to these postures whenever you are feeling anxious or need to reset your system," Gab says. "Eventually they'll be easier and you'll find the benefit in holding each posture for longer."
1. Downward Facing Dog
- Make sure hands and feet are hip-distance apart
- Wrap the outer edges of the arms down toward the mat and send the tailbone up to the ceiling, pulling the navel gently in toward the spine
- Hug the outer hips in and spin the inner thighs toward the outer hips
- Work toward rooting the heels down
"Inverted postures help us to delve into our introspective nature," Gab says. "Inversions are anything where your head is below your heart, like Downward Dog."
2. Triangle Pose
- Separate feet about three to four feet apart, with right foot facing the front of the room and the left foot parallel to the back of the mat
- Try to line up your right heel perpendicular to the middle of the left foot's arch
- Stretch the left hip up toward the ceiling and back toward the back of the room
- Stretch right arm forward, keeping a long line of energy through the side body
- Release right arm toward right ankle or calf, or place it on a block
- Spin belly and chest up to align shoulders and side body
- The left arm then reaches above you, with shoulders stacked one over the other
- Switch foot positions and do the same stretch on the left side
"This pose has many great physical benefits. It tones your legs, abdomen, and arms, and stretches and expands the hips," says Gab.
3. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Spread feet apart length-wise on the mat, keeping them parallel: If you extend your arms out toward the side, your ankles and wrists should line up
- Place your hands on your natural waist, inhale, puffing the chest up toward ceiling
- Exhale as you fold forward
- Release hands down toward the mat, hugging inner thighs toward one another and trying not to round through lower back
"Placing a block under the head in this inverted postures has the added benefit of allowing the neck, throat, and tongue to relax completely, encouraging lymph to flow more freely and boosting immunity," she says.
4. Bridge Pose
- Lay on your back and bring heels as close to your butt as possible, keeping feet hip-distance apart
- Soften lower back, engage the core, quads, and lower glutes, and pick the pelvis up. If if feels good, shimmy shoulders underneath you and clasp fingers
- Reach chest toward the chin and push your knees forward, mindfully pressing shins and knees forward and hugging inner thighs toward each another
"Bridge Pose is energetic and warming, and it nourishes the lymph nodes," says Gab.
5. Supine Pigeon
- Hook right ankle on top of your left thigh, then bring your left knee toward your chest
- Thread the right hand through the triangle you've created and interlace hands behind left hamstring. Try to lengthen tailbone and relax neck
- Repeat with opposite leg
"In yoga we talk a lot about how the emotions are held in the seat of the hips," she says. "Supine Pigeon helps to release any tension that manifests in the body, whether it's emotional or physical. Hip openers tend to be really nourishing in general and this specific pose is easy to approach."
6. Legs Up the Wall Modification
- Place block on its second highest height so it lays horizontally under the sacrum area (lower back) and lengthen legs up toward the ceiling
- Tilt the legs slightly forward and breathe into the lower back
"This is a great pose to help circulate blood flow back to your heart," Gab says. "Blood flow typically circulates through the body, utilizing the muscles, or, in this case, gravity, giving the organs and heart an inner-body massage."
Thank you so much to Gabrielle for providing these warming, nourishing postures. Want more? We've got a post on restorative poses coming your way after the New Year. Until, then, namaste, my friends. Wishing you the merriest of holiday weekends!
More about Gabrielle Stratton:
Gabrielle began her yoga practice over 10 years ago. It was five years into her practice that she fully realized the benefits of yoga beyond the physical practice, which she says she owes fully to the discipline of meditation. Since becoming a certified 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT), she has been studying yoga medicine to earn her 500-hour teacher training, with an emphasis on anatomy and the integration of therapeutics in a regular vinyasa practice.
Photographs by Tom Schelling.