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Lift Your Spirits Yoga

Did you get to see your family for the holidays? We had a lovely Zoom Thanksgiving get together, but of course it wasn’t quite the same. We’re anticipating something similar for Christmas. Even with the strain of such different holiday celebrations – this is the first year my husband and I have ever made Thanksgiving dinner for 2 – I’ve been trying to find the joy everywhere I can. The fun of the first snow. The way our dog loves to run and play in the snow and catch snowballs. The beauty of the holidays songs that we have on all day. The smells of the holidays filling the house. The twinkle of the Christmas lights which I couldn’t resist putting up a little earlier than some years. Getting to see the smiling faces of people I love over video. Hearing the sounds of the kids playing. The warmth of my cozy sweater and fun themed socks. Yes, there’s some sadness, but also a lot of joy. If you’re in need of a little pick me up, too, bring some playfulness and adventure into your day with these 6 poses. As you’re going along this sequence, try to find ways to bring some fun to it. Smile. Maybe even laugh. Play is something we often forget to do as adults, but it is actually an important part of a balanced life. When we treat something as play, it comes about learning rather than accomplishment. See what changes when you bring a quality of lightness. As one of my teachers likes to say, “It’s just yoga”.

Chair Pose Variation

Stand with your back against a wall and step your feet forward so that your heels are under your knees. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and slide your bum down the wall. You can keep your hands pressed together at your heart or reach your arms toward the sky. Gaze straight ahead. Stay for 10 breaths. Place your hands on the wall for balance and straighten your legs to stand back up. Take a brief rest, like a post-turkey nap, before repeating one more time.

Sphinx Pose

Lie on the floor on your belly. Lift up onto your forearms, palms down, and align your elbows under your shoulders. Separate your legs and feet hip-width apart. Lengthen your lower back by gently pressing your pubic bone into the floor and drawing your lower belly inward. Root your forearms into the floor and lift your chest up to the sky. Find a focal point straight ahead. Hold for 10 breaths. Lower to the floor, turn onto one cheek, and rest your arms by your sides.

Seal Pose

Remain on your belly. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulder heads. Begin to straighten your arms, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Lift your entire belly of the floor while keeping your thighs on the ground. Lift your gaze up to the sun or look straight ahead. Actively reach back through your legs and feet. Remain for 8 breaths. On an exhalation, lengthen your body to lower back down and rest on one cheek with your arms by your sides.

Locust Pose variation

This one I like to call Superman or Superwoman. A habit I picked up while teaching kids yoga that I’ve held onto because it’s fun! Remain on your belly and inhale, look forward and “swim” your right arm in line with your right ear, with your palm facing your midline. Simultaneously lift your upper body and your left leg. As you exhale, return your arm by your side and lower your whole body to the ground. On the next inhalation, swim your left arm forward, while simultaneously lifting your upper body and right leg. On an exhalation, lower back down. That is one full round. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 rounds. Imagine yourself moving through water, so each movement is slow and controlled.

Boat Pose

Sit on your mat with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Hold the backs of your thighs and lean back while keeping your spine long. Find the center of your sitting bones so you are neither arched nor rounded in the lower back. Lift your shins, until they are parallel to the floor. Stay here or reach your arms straight ahead at shoulder height. Hold for 8 breaths. Lower your feet to the floor and repeat once more.

Legs-up-the-Wall Pose

Set your mat up at a wall. Sit close to the wall and swing your legs up it. Release your back body onto the ground. To ground your sacrum, either move closer to the wall or, if your hamstrings are tighter, slide further back. Relax your arms by your sides. Close your eyes. Rest here for 7 to 10 minutes. Imagine finding a waterfall after a long hike. When you are ready to come down, bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall. Roll to your right side and rest for a few breaths. Press yourself up and sit quietly for a moment before concluding your adventure.

What's your favorite way to lift your spirits when you've got a slight case of the blues? Did you try some of these poses? Which was your favorite? I also find I can boost my spirits with some music, some aromatherapy, or connecting with a friend. All three at once is the best!

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