Whether it’s a running sesh, a yoga class or simply playing with your kids – here’s the latest news and views on how to move more this month
The practice of yoga has endless benefits. It has a positive effect on our bodies, minds, and even our sense of self (have you ever experienced a feeling of accomplishment better than mastering Tree Pose without wobbling?). It can also offer an escape from the stress of the festive season. “Yoga is the ideal activity to do any time of the year as it brings so many benefits,” says yogi Sue Fuller (yoga2hear.co.uk). “We can be extremely busy during the Christmas period, which means we often feel stressed. Rolling out your yoga mat and setting time aside for regular practice could help you feel calm, but also energised.” To find out what yoga can do for you this winter, read on…
1. Beat the winter blues
At this time of year, it can become harder for us to get out of bed in the morning. “The days are shorter, which means our energy levels often drop,” explains Sue. “A daily yoga flow sequence can help boost energy levels and prevent winter blues from setting in. If you are struggling for time, even just 10 minutes of yoga a day will make an enormous difference.” Even though the weather is colder at this time of year, it’s good to get outside when you can. If you’ve got a patio heater, then practise yoga first thing in the morning as the sun rises. Otherwise, why not don extra-warm clothing and head out to your nearest green space at lunchtime, weather permitting.
2. Quell your worries
Most of us know that practising yoga can help ease anxiety. And with Christmas (let’s be honest, particularly the 2020 version) bound to trigger nervous thoughts, there’s never been a better time to incorporate it into your daily routine. “Focusing on your breath helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system); keeps you anchored in the present moment; brings a sense of calm and balance to both the mind and body; reduces stress and anxiety, and helps to lower and stabilise blood pressure,” says yogi Hannah Barrett (hannahbarrettyoga.com/app). “Take a moment now to close your eyes and relax the belly. Take a huge breath in through the nose, feeling the belly rise and your chest expand. Then, exhale, slowly through your nose, releasing any tension you do not need and noticing the connection and grounding this brings. Repeat five to 10 times.”
3. Embrace the silence
Kids running riot? Can’t get the sound of Jingle Bells out of your head? Christmas can be rife with noise and we often become overstimulated with smells, sounds and tastes. Slowing down and bringing your awareness back to the present moment can help you focus and feel less overwhelmed. “Yoga teaches you the power of being present,” says Hannah. “It shows you how to step into every moment without an expectation and just allow the moment. When you do this, life becomes so much more simple – it’s like observing life with fresh eyes.”
4. Staying at home? not a problem
With parts of the country in, or imminently heading towards, further restrictions, exercising at home has become the norm for many. “Practicing yoga at home in your own space is social distancing at its best,” says Sue. “That way, you won’t need to worry about picking up any winter ailments in your class.” If you’re unsure about doing your yoga practice solo, then you can turn to one of the many online classes, such as Yoga With Adrianne, for guidance, or search our website, yourfitnesstoday.com, for beginner sequences.
5. Sleep soundly
Better sleep and regular yoga practise go hand in hand. According to a study by the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. The sweet spot? 45 minutes a day, according to the study. “Yoga improves sleep, so if you are one to think about everything you need to do this festive season, a few yoga postures before bed will relax and calm your mind for sleep,” says Sue.
6. Banish migraines
Whether it’s the thought of having to prepare Christmas dinner for more people than you bargained for or the talk of politics over the cheese board, the festive season can easily bring on a headache. Speak to your GP if you suffer from migraines regularly, but if they’re sporadic, then regular yoga practice could help you avoid them. A study published in The Journal of Neurology showed that yoga, when carried out alongside medical therapy, is an effective form of migraine treatment. In fact, the researchers found that yoga as a supporting therapy was more successful for migraine pain relief than just medical treatment alone. Migraine relief is most common with poses that relieve tension in the neck or the cervical spine, such as seated neck stretches, bridge pose (with or without support) and just about any forward fold.
7. Ease festive bloat
It’s inevitable that many of us will overindulge over Christmas, so if you’re feeling bloated, then yoga can help you ease any discomfort. Certain yoga poses can remove trapped air from your body and they can help you relax, which can aid digestion. Stick to poses such as twists, forward folds and Apanasana for bloating relief.