Deck the halls with a down dog….

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Deck the halls with a down dog, prayer twist or bow pose and you will be on your way to holiday peace!

What comes to your mind when you think of the Holiday Season? Is it family, friends, turkey dinner, decorating the tree, sitting around the fireplace with all of you loved ones dressed in their very best singing all of those beloved Christmas Carols, peace on Earth? Yes, the holiday season is a lovely magical time of year.

For a lot us though, all of those magical moments can be wrapped up in a big shiny bow of STRESS!

Let’s face it, not everything we experience or do during the holiday season screams, “Joy to the World!”

Whether it be the fighting traffic on the roads while watching people flip each other the bird, or fighting traffic in the mall, waiting in the check out line for 20 minutes in each store, trying to make sure each of your children have 30 freshly baked and perfectly decorated cookies to take to their class parties, the thought of sharing a full week with the unpleasable mother in-law, or cooking Christmas dinner while 10 children run through your legs as you balance a hot pan in your hands….we all have things that can raise our temperature during this time of year.

Even if we experience none of the things in the list above, the financial stress can be enough to set us over the edge.

These feelings of stress can cause us to mentally check out and burn ourselves out not being able to fully enjoy the spirit of the season.

When stress overwhelms your nervous system your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight”. While the stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly, it wears your body down when constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life.

But hang in! There is a way to control the holiday stress and replace it with Holiday serenity – YOGA!

Yoga helps you to access an inner strength that allows you to face the sometimes-overwhelming fears, frustrations, and challenges of the Holiday Season. The relaxation response that comes from yoga puts the brakes on this heightened state of readiness and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.

Yoga can help reduce stress through:

1. Asanas (poses) by helping to release nervous energy and eliminate toxins from the body. According to American Yoga Association, A few Yoga exercises practiced daily help to regulate the breath and relax the body by gently releasing tension from the large muscle groups, flushing all parts of the body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients, and increasing feelings of well-being. “Whole body” exercises such as the Sun Poses are particularly helpful because they encourage you to breathe deeply and rhythmically.

2. Pranayma (Breath control)–Along with other benefits, breath control strengthens the mind to improve concentration and mind control. While mouth breathing tells the body it is in a state of stress, nostril breathing tells the body it is in a state of homeostasis.

3. Meditation- can help reduce your level of stress by calming the mind and controlling the fluctuations of your thoughts.

Speaking from my own experience, yoga helps me to become present and forget about my to-do lists and be aware of the moment. I can take the feeling of being present with me into the rest of my day and focus on one task at a time.

Anyone who has ever attended a hot power class knows the feeling of completely letting go. By the end of the class you feel light and lifted from the huge blast of dopamine you receive. It’s like a magic pill that can let you take on the shopping mall with ease!

The feeling of pure Zen and relaxation experienced from a Restorative yoga class provides you with the mental stability to face the holiday stress straight on and the warmth to be kind and friendly to those around you.

When I practice yoga I find myself wanting to do more for others without expectation.

I’m not recommending that you drop into child’s pose in the middle of stuffing the turkey or bust out a side crow at the office Christmas party but I can promise that if you take the time to get to your mat this holiday season your holiday events will be much less stressful and this just may be the best gift you can give your mind, body, friends and family!!

~ Michelle Marshall

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