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How to Keep Up With Yoga During the Holiday Season

Holidays are the most wonderful—and stressful—time of the year. The holiday season brings with it a mountain of responsibilities and added costs that often put a strain on the budget and the nerves.According to a 2006 research study conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, women often feel the most stress during the season as they tend to take on the most responsibility related to the meals and shopping.

Lower income families also feel the hit of the holiday season, but, for this demographic, the worries of finances remain the heaviest burden. The study noted that “lower middle income individuals feel the pressure of commercialism and hype during the holidays, as well as the financial worries of being able to afford the holidays without running up credit card debt. “  

Emotions run high during the holidays for almost everyone. For individuals who are grieving a loved one, who are without close family and friends, or who are just incredibly overwhelmed, the holidays and all the fantastic festivities weigh heavily on the heart and may be anything but merry. While the study pointed out that most individuals felt positive during the time of year, negative emotions also soared. Of the 786 adults surveyed for the study, 61 percent said that they felt stress during the holidays “sometimes/often,” 36 percent reported that the holidays sometimes made them feel sad and 35 percent cited anger as an emotion ignited “sometimes/often” during the merriest time of the year.

Balls of emotion tend to trigger unhealthy responses. As women take on the most stress during the holidays, the research revealed that “they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.”

Stress takes its toll in many ways, and a lack of motivation isn’t uncommon during the holiday season. Many use the holidays as an excuse to sit in front of the television, overindulge in sweets and fatty foods and become lackadaisical in fitness routines.

Physical fitness, however, has been shown to help lower stress and also helps contribute to a more positive well being. Ditching the fitness routine is a common response to the stress of the holidays, but with the mix of added responsibilities—like shopping, cooking and financial woes—the body needs exercise and physical relaxation more than any other time of the year.

Those who practice yoga know the benefits of the postures. Meditation and mindful practices help reel in stress and negative emotions. Yoga provides relaxation, soothing the soul, the body and the mind. During the holidays, be ever aware of the body and its needs and demands to help detox the stress, blast the bah-humbugs and elevate the joy.

Keep the body in check during the holidays. Be mindful of times of holiday chaos and plan an attack plan before toxic stress becomes overwhelming.  Use this checklist as guidance to keep stress at bay, the body in harmony and to incorporate yoga into the everyday moments.

Take stress detox breaks during shopping trips.

The mall is overwhelming. Avoid it whenever possible, and opt for online shopping instead. However, some trips must be made to bricks and mortar stores. When the crowds overwhelm and the list becomes unbearable, find an area of the store that is quiet and calm. Sit quietly—yes, even if it’s in a hallway—and close your eyes. Breathe in through the nose and out the mouth focusing only on the breath. Do this for five minutes until the body loosens from the ball of stress. Once refreshed, enter the store with a calmer mind.

Schedule yoga time every day…or night.

The schedules during the holidays are chaos—especially for women who bear the brunt of the work. If the day becomes too packed to exercise or to fit in a yoga practice, wait for the kids to go to sleep and for the sun to fall. Night is a time of relaxation, use the darker hours as an opportunity for you…and relaxation. Schedule an evening yoga session at home. Yoga does not have to be done in studio, and many online resources exist to guide new yogis.

Don’t cheat on you.

Pies, cookies, mashed potatoes and gravy…the culinary temptations are often too much to resist. Have a cookie or two, a small piece of pie or an extra helping of potatoes. Don’t deprive the body of treats, but be mindful of how much you give into temptations. Women, as the studies show, tend to eat for comfort during stressful times. Eat to nourish, but don’t eat out of boredom or for comfort. Be mindful of the body and the cravings.

Embrace the festive.

Yoga doesn’t have to be serious and stifled. Feeling unmerry? Turn on some upbeat holiday tunes when practicing postures to help the mind associate holidays with happiness and relaxation instead of stress.

Turn exercise time into a family affair.

Everyone needs fitness. Shun solo yoga and practice with the family. Kids can learn the easiest yoga postures and have a blast while getting in shape with mom and dad. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that children get at least one hour each day of physical activity Fitness is ageless, and yoga is beneficial at every age.

Physically detox with yoga.

Feeling really overwhelmed with holiday stress? Experienced yogis might benefit from a more rigorous yoga routine. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a heated studio nicknamed the “torture chamber.” The studio is heated to around 104 degrees and the postures are designed to purify the body of toxins. Sweat is essential to Bikram. However, those with health problems should consult a doctor before practicing Bikram.

Skip the alcohol.

Yes, a martini will help embrace the merriment. However, alcohol also can do quite the opposite. Alcohol is a depressant, and those who are overwhelmed, stressed or saddened during the holidays should stick to more soothing beverages. Try a comforting cup of hot tea or even coffee for a perky pick-me-up.

Holidays are a time of festive fun, but, for many, the holidays also bring a great deal of stress. Women often find themselves overwhelmed with shopping, cooking, cleaning and all the responsibilities of the bustling season. Stress also comes in the form of financial worries for many lower middle-class families, and the burden of trying to meet the expectations can oftentimes feel like too much weight to bear. During times of holiday stress and sadness, take time to stop and slow down. Incorporate moments in each day to simply relax, unwind and provide the body with the healthy fitness breaks it needs to festively function, thrive and blast out the bah-humbugs.