If you’re flying, driving, or even walking to your location of holiday celebrations this week, chances are, you’ll need to stretch and wiggle your body before or after arriving. This is one of the biggest, grandest, and often most stressful times to travel any distance! As a result, our bodies physiologically respond by tensing, clenching, and stiffening up. That’s a negative outcome of a time that should be one of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Kick off your holidays with a series of poses to do just that: relax and rejuvenate mind, body, and soul. Whether you’re bunking on a futon at your in-laws, staying local, or jet setting around the globe. These are five essential poses to keep you above the chaos and remain in bliss. Try them in the listed order or pick and choose what you have time or an absolute need for—each pose offers a variety of benefits!
1. Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose is a sort of “cure all” remedy for what ails the body. Tight hamstrings, glutes, and/or low back? Down dog. Stiff shoulders and neck? Down dog. Tummy needs tightening and strengthening? Down dog.
You get the idea. It’s a pose that really soothes and strengthens the entire body, making it the perfect take-along for you holiday travels and festivity preparations.
To come into the pose begin in plank position: shoulders over wrists, fingers stretched wide and flat, and long legs. The distance you establish between hands and feet should typically remain the same once you lift your hips and send your weight back over the heels, which press down into the floor. Now, you’ve made an upside-down “V” shape with your body.
Stay there for as many breaths as you like—at least five! Close your eyes, let the head dangle, wiggle around, and bounce the chest towards your thighs. Then find some stillness in the pose and the transformation happen on it’s own.
You can come back into plank and rest your knees for a break and then come back into down dog. As many times as you like!
2. Low lunge (Kapiasana)
Ah, one of my all time favorite poses. In my opinion, it’s the greatest gift to the abs, hip flexors, quadriceps, and spine. There are many variations to the pose as well, which means it suits your everyday needs no matter how they fluctuate.
Lunge into one leg and allow the opposite knee to rest on the floor, keep the top of the foot flat. Begin with the hands on the floor or a block (any sort of bracing will do) and use that support to let your hips become heavy towards the floor so weight shifts down.
The hands may then come to the front knee. As you press your upper body away from the thigh, the arms will straighten and the chest will face the ceiling. This creates a nice arch in the length of the spine, as well as great opening to the front of the body from quadriceps to throat. Just writing this makes me want to get into the pose.
Stay here for many breaths, not forcing or aggressively bouncing into a deeper stretch, but rather allowing things to become longer and looser on their own!
3. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
This pose is intended to invigorate and strengthen the body, hence the name! It’s a pose that should be challenging and warming, while also stretching and lengthening throughout the legs and hips.
To come into the pose sink low into your hips, pressing down through your back pinky toe and the heel of your front foot; then pull those two points apart from each other. Ideally, the front thigh becomes parallel to the floor and your chest is upright, directly over the hips. Extend the arms parallel to the floor and reach to opposite ends of the room. Breathing deeply and maintaining your gaze over the front middle finger, start to embody the spirit of a warrior: strong, confident, and convicted.
4. Pigeon (Kapotasana)
Yet another pose in which the hips and glutes can sing, “freedom!” After sitting for a prolonged amount of time, whether on a plane, car seat, or dinner chair, this is a pose that will help to normalize your bottom half.
To come into the pose, find an appropriate angle for your front knee—it need not be at 90 degrees with the shin parallel to the top of a mat; that comes with time. Extend your back leg as far back as it can reach and rotate that kneecap down to the floor. Walk the hands out until you can rest the forehead to the floor. Breath and relax; try to stay in the pose for a full minute at minimum. The longer you hold the posture, the longer your legs and hips will feel!
5. Bridge/Wheel (Setubandhasana/Chakrasana; a.k.a. Urdva Dhanurasana)
This is another strengthening and invigorating pose. Many teachers say it’s like a cup of coffee for the body! Chakrasana activates all seven chakras in the body, hence the name, and makes it an immensely liberating pose. However, if you’re a beginner, I recommend becoming familiar with this pose in a class setting before attempting on your own.
To come into Bridge pose, lay on the back with the heels close enough to the glutes so that your fingertips may touch. Bring the feet hips width and press down firmly into the floor to lift the glutes, hips, and spine away from the floor. Shimmy your shoulders beneath the body so you feel more contact with the floor on top of your shoulders rather than your broad upper back. Hug the thighs inward and lift the hips high. Stay for 5-8 breaths and repeat, repeat!
If you’re familiar with Wheel, try new variations such as lifting one arm or leg away from the floor. Try doing the pose against a wall, pressing your sternum towards it so that you may find a greater stretch in the armpits and chest. Hold for 5-8 breaths and repeat, repeat!