The festive season can be great fun, full of socialising, Xmas parties, meals out, mulled wine and mince pies. However, this can end up being very tiring, especially for the more introverted amongst us who need to dial themselves up more to attend big gatherings. After the late nights and often excessive consumption we all too often start the New Year feeling frazzled and lacking the energy to implement our resolutions or make positive life changes. The below postures are perfect to help you reset and restore on those days when you feel like your body, mind and soul require a little extra love ready to leave you in fighting form for your best possible 2020!
Legs up the wall
Starting in a semi supine position, shimmy your hips as close to the wall as possible and walk your legs up the wall so that you form a sort of “L” shape. To get the added benefits of an inversion (heart above head) and to promote circulation around the hips you can place a bolster or cushion beneath your hips/bottom close to the wall.
This posture will give you all the benefits of an inversion, reversing the effect of gravity, lowering blood pressure and relieving tired or swollen legs and ankles, but in a far more supported manner than postures such as headstand. In the pose, the body is fully supported always you to truly release and surrender into the posture without any need for effort, whilst the body benefits from a gentle stretch across the hamstrings and lower back. Combined with slow, rhythmic breathing this posture is perfect to help you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, bringing calm to the entire body.
Helping to relieve tension in the back and neck, this supported version either with bent knees or a bolster will leave you fully supported so that you can surrender into the posture. As you fold forward, you create space between each vertebrae boosting blood flow to the spine, which has the double benefit of soothing your nervous system and allowing it to transmit signals clearly. Seated forward folds have the added benefit of allowing you opportunity for introspection and helping to ground you as you draw your body towards the earth, connecting you to your base (muladhara) chakra.
Vagus nerve massage
Starting in extended childs pose with knees wide and toes together (if the deep bend in the knees and hips feels uncomfortable for you, try placing a block or cushion between your bottom and heels) rest your head on a yoga brick, so that there is a slight pressure/connection just above eyebrows. As you exhale roll your head to the right, so that the weight is slightly above right eyebrow, inhale back to the centre, then exhale roll your head to the left so the pressure is above the left eyebrow. In doing this, you stimulate the vagus nerve, also known as the wandering nerve. It is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, so this gentle self-massage helps to provide a soothing effect for the body.
Reclined hero (option to use bolster)
Kneeling on the floor, separate your feet just enough that your bottom can rest on the floor between them. The tops of the feet should press into the ground and thighs stay perpendicular to the floor. If you’re unable to find ease at this stage of the posture, please don’t attempt to progress to reclining, instead stay in the seated version. If you’re feeling good here, place your hands behind you and walk them back to rest on your elbows and forearms. You may stay here, perhaps placing a bolster down the length of the spine for a supported version whilst your body develops the openness and strength to hold it unsupported, or, continue lowering yourself all the way to the floor with arms alongside the body.
As well as stretching through the midsection and abdominal organs, stimulating digestion, this posture is a great way to counteract the tight hip flexors and quads experienced by desk workers, aiding posture improvement so you can walk tall going into the New Year.
Supta baddha konasana with samma vritti breathing
From seated, bend your knees towards your body then allow them to fall open, keeping the feet together so that the legs form a diamond shape. Bringing the feet closer to the body will give more of a stretch to the groin, whereas keeping the feet a bit further away will focus the stretch in the hips. Once here, lie down so your torso rests on the ground will shoulders drawing down towards the earth. Arms are alongside the body with palms facing upwards to encourage openness across the chest and receptivity to the energy around you. Take it a step further by really tuning in with your breath, mentally counting each inhale and exhale to the count of 4 (or longer) to help bring focus to the mind, encourage a full expansive breath and calm the autonomic nervous system.
In this version (no use of props), your hips and groins benefit from a stretch. Given that we often hold our emotions in the hip region, this can be a gentle way to help release any negative attachments from the festive season.