Yoga under the Christmas tree
Whether you're an early riser or last out of bed on Christmas morning, the fact is, you'll probably spend a good couple of exciting hours sitting under the tree opening presents. Or making wreaths, like this one here, with a touch of the Australia bush.
While you're there, why not get in a good stretch before potentially sitting for another several hours to enjoy a Christmas feast, while indulging in long overdue catch ups with family and friends.
Here is this week's 10-minute yoga flow to aid digestion and counteract sitting for an extended time.
YOGA UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Start in a comfortable cross seated position on a soft cushion or blanket. Inhale to extend your arms up to the ceiling alongside your ears, reaching for the sky. Exhale to open your arms out wide to the left. Tuck your chin in slightly and look back at your left thumb. Inhale as you reach your hands further apart, engaging the core to encourage the twist and a gentle release in the lower back. Exhale to lower your right hand onto your left knee, and left fingertips connecting with the ground behind you. Inhale to lift and lengthen, exhale to to twist a little further, using the leverage of your hands to deepen the twist. Take 5-10 deep breaths and on your next inhalation, bring just your head back to centre.
Exhale and lower your right ear down to your right shoulder, to feel a magnificent stretch along the left side of your neck. The more you relax your shoulders and peel that left shoulder away behind you, the deeper the stretch will be. Tuck your chin in and take the gaze downwards slightly to move the release around towards the back of your neck and delving into your shoulder blades where tight knots form from sitting hunched for long periods. Stay here for 5-10 breaths and then inhale to bring your head back to centre. Repeat the twist and neck stretch on the other side.
Note: complete the next 4 yoga poses in a row on one side before moving onto the other side. Stretch both legs out in front and give them a little shake. Hug your left knee in towards your chest, and then take hold of the outside edges of the left foot. Keeping your chest connected to your thigh, and head stacked above the heart above the hips, kick your heel to the sky as you guide your toes up and overhead for a lovely hamstring release. Stay here for 5-10 breaths. Bring your left hand to hold underneath the ankle for support as you switch your right hand, taking it up and over the toes, to grip onto the left side of the foot. Bring your left fingertips to the floor behind you like you did in your previous twist. Inhale, looking forward, and exhale to twist, tucking your chin in to look down at your left shoulder to protect your neck. Avoid putting weight in your left hand; simply use the fingertips on the floor to guide your torso around. At the same time, drift your left leg over to the right a fraction to feel an even deeper release down the outside of your left leg. Remember to kick through your heel to heat up the pose. Stay here for 5-10 breaths, and then return your head and leg back to centre, hugging your left knee into the chest. Finishing where we began!
Now take this left knee out to the side as you bring the left sole of your foot onto the inside of the right thigh for our One-Legged Forward Bend (Janu Shirasasana). Centre your torso directly over your stretched out right leg. Inhale to lift and lengthen through the spine, exhale to fold forward without rounding through your spine. Imagine your hips are like a door hinge. Find extension from the hips, reaching through the crown of the head, before hinging forward, maintaining a straight spine to avoid putting pressure in your lower back. Add a slight bend to the right knee to assist connecting your navel to the right thigh to ensure a protected and supported back. Keeping this form will encourage you to feel a juicy stretch from the top of your hamstring down the back of your leg to just above the knee. Avoid any sensation behind your knee joint. Encourage the left side of your torso down towards the ground, maintain parallel alignment with the floor. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
Staying low, take your right hand to the outside of your right foot if you can reach it, or onto your right ankle. Inhale to sweep your left arm up and over the ear towards something on the wall in front of you for a lateral flexion stretch down the left side of the body. Open your chest to the sky as you tuck your chin in to look up, otherwise looking down if the neck feels fatigued. Reach and extend through your fingertips. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
Now inhale, using the breath to lift you up and out of the pose. Place your left palm down on the floor behind you, fingers pointing away, as you extend through your right toes and lift up onto your left knee, reaching your right arm up and overhead this time. Open your chest once more to the sky to stretch out the entire front of the body. Activate your glute muscles to lift the hips to the ceiling in this sensational backbend. Stay for 1-2 breaths and as you exhale, roll out of the pose the way you came into the pose, returning to your seated position on the cushion. Let's repeat 3, 4, 5 + 6 on the other side!
All done! You'll be finished this sequence and feeling awesome before the next round of Christmas presents are ready to open.
Stay tuned for next week's New Year's Eve yoga sequence. Exciting!
Merry Christmas everyone.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Short holiday yoga flow and 8 morning yoga poses to start your day.