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Take a Moment to Pause : Yoga practices to ease holiday stress and fatigue
Cindy Lawrence, CMT, CYT, The Tree House Yoga and Healing Arts Studio

During the holiday season do you find yourself feeling that there is too little time and too much to do? My solution is to simplify. These days I prefer to slow down by doing less; it helps me keep my sanity. But slowing down is easier said than done, yet there is a way. It’s the practice of yoga, a lifestyle discipline that goes back thousands of years in the Eastern traditions.

The word yoga means union or yoke, relating in particular to the idea of connecting the body, mind, and spirit. The physical postures strengthen and purify the body while meditation, breathing and chanting focus the mind and connect us with spirit. Yoga is not a religion, though it has the ability to feed the soul on a deep level that satisfies the longing we have to merge with the divine. The beauty of developing a personal yoga practice is that you can experiment with asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing), meditation, and chanting finding the practices that best suit your body type, emotional and spiritual development—with this in mind it is important to find a teacher who meets your needs.

Working with my beginning students at this time of the year, I recommend restorative, warming, and soothing postures, along with mediation, breathing and relaxation. During the holidays we become more outer directed at a time when nature is calling us within to replenish and rest. The natural inclination to slow down is in disharmony with the pressure to spend and socialize. The demands of the season cause us to feel stressed, tired and overwhelmed. Fortunately, yoga offers a remedy.

One of my favorite restorative asanas is Uttanasana or Standing Forward Bend. Try this now: Take off your shoes and stand with your feet hip width apart. Feel your feet spread and sink into the ground. Inhale and stand tall, lifting the chest slightly. Exhale. Inhale again and gradually raise your arms like wings up towards the sky. Exhale and lower your arms slowly as you bend from the hips, bringing your torso towards your legs. Bend your knees and breathe. Inhaling slowly, return to standing. Repeat three to four times, and I stress slowly because if practiced too quickly you may feel light-headed. Uttanasana stretches the hamstrings, lengthens the spine and releases deep tension in the back while calming the nervous system.

Pranayama, or breath awareness like asana is great for stress management, especially when you feel scattered or overwhelmed. Conscious breathing, even for a short time slows us down, increases mental focus, oxygenates the lungs and regulates the nervous system. Try some yogic breathing sitting in a chair or sitting on the floor cross legged, perhaps on a cushion. Simply inhale deeply into the abdomen and feel the abdomen expand with the breath. Pause. Exhale slowly and empty the abdomen. Sit up tall, lift the chest slightly and repeat. For best results lengthen the inhale and exhale gradually,

working up to six or eight breaths to feel calm, focused and refreshed.

Meditation is another wonderful tool for focusing the mind and slowing down. I like to quiet the mind by creating sacred space. All you need is a candle, a cushion, or a chair if you are not comfortable sitting on the floor. Light the candle, sit quietly and gaze gently into the flame. Appreciate the simplicity of a single flame. Breathe, soften the chest and forehead. When the mind starts to chatter, notice it, and refocus on the breath. Sit for five to ten minutes opening to the calming benefits of sitting still.

Mantra repetition or chanting is more invigorating and energizing, thus it is helpful for coping with holiday fatigue, melancholy and emotional distress. Singing is a universal way to celebrate life and lift the spirits. We frequently hum or sing unconsciously to elevate our mood. Using a mantra or sacred sound with intention is more effective. The most basic mantra sound is "OM" pronounced "a," "u," "m." Try it a few times, playing with the tone and volume of your voice shaping your mouth to accommodate the sounds. Feel "OM" vibrate through your body as it harmonizes the Chakras and internal organs. Initiate the sound from your diaphragm as you exhale. Repeat up to seven times for best results.

I encourage you to try any or all of these simple yoga practices; they are especially supportive during times like the holiday season. If you, like many people, struggle to practice yoga on your own, I invite you to attend a beginning yoga class at my yoga studio, The Tree House. You can reach me at 720-565-2821 if you have questions about yoga, or would like a class schedule.

Cindy Lawrence CMT, CYT, founder of The Tree House teaches with heart. Her eclectic approach to Hatha Yoga is centering, strengthening and nurturing. Cindy’s unique teaching style weaves together 15 years of experience and training in massage therapy, various spiritual practices, and Shambhava Hatha yoga.

About The Tree House Yoga and Healing Arts Studio

The Tree House Yoga and Healing Arts Studio is a nurturing, playful, and empowering center for personal and spiritual growth. Our boutique carries yoga inspired clothing and gifts, meditation cushions and music. The Tree House is located at 737 29th Street, Suite 201, off Baseline in Boulder.

Please view The Tree House Yoga and Healing Arts Studio at