Yoga for the Holidays: Simple Stretches and ​Asanas ​you can do Anywhere


Let’s face it: The 24­-hour day shrinks like a wool sweater in hot water over the holiday season. Where does the time go? It’s often hard to squeeze in a full yoga session when life gets so busy. Whether you’re new to yoga or a long­-time practitioner, basic stretches, alignment techniques, asanas (yoga poses or postures) and breathing exercises can come in handy anywhere or anytime you need a quick break or pick-­me­-up.

Take a look at the list below. Chances are you will be doing “double time” in one or more of these areas between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, so keep up with your yoga! From kitchen apron to party dress, pajama pants to power suit – we’ve come up with some simple ideas to get you started with your yoga­on-­the-­go. Be creative by adding alternate poses or more advanced sequences as time permits.

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“I’m basically living in the kitchen.”

Remember the summer lifestyle? Grabbing a green smoothie as you bound out the door; toting fresh salad in your lunch sack; mixing leftover quinoa with tomatoes and cukes straight from the garden for a quick family dinner. Not so simple over the holidays. Spending extra time in the kitchen basting the turkey, making cookie dough, or baking pie? Mix in some yoga as your secret ingredient!

If you’re feeling stiff, try forward folding, side­-bending or shoulder rolls. Interlace your fingers and stretch your arms directly overhead to activate and stimulate those tired limbs. Squatting in garland pose helps open the hips and tone the belly – just sink down and hold the pose for as long as desired (or until the oven timer goes off). You’ll be surprised at the variety of poses you can do using the counter top as a “prop.” Slowly wiggle your body into a half-­dog (right there at the kitchen sink), deep breathing as you go – what a tension release! Maybe your quads need a gentle standing stretch – hold the counter for balance or you press your leg into the cabinets for extra resistance. Practice your spinal alignment against the fridge; adjust your posture by standing up straight and breathing – you can do it while stirring the soup! Once you get started, you’ll find plenty of stretches and asanas for turning a warm kitchen into your secret yoga refuge.

“I’m spending all my time entertaining guests and rushing around to holiday events.”

Prepare yourself for over-stimulation and too much of everything – food, emotions, socializing, sweets – you name it, it’s coming at you non-stop over the holidays. If you feel full or have indigestion from the mushroom stuffing, find a quiet place for a few cat-­cows, wide-leg child’s pose or wind-­removing pose to ease intestinal distress. Frazzled by a busy schedule or family visit? Mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises or mantra recitation can soothe disturbing emotions and calm those racing thoughts. Loosen stiff joints with a few wrist, ankle, neck circles or twisting poses – you can do them anywhere. Lion’s breath pranayama is beneficial for discharging stale energy and activating your tired spirit. Generate holiday warmth from the inside out by taking time for some self-care.

“My nephew’s sleeping in my spare room (or) I’m staying on my mom’s lumpy sofa­bed.”

House guests staying in your yoga space? It’s probably going to happen over the next few months. Don’t let a disruption cut out your yoga routine. Bring your practice to unexpected places. Welcome dawn with a few sun salutations in a sunny corner of your bedroom; get in a round of stomach strengtheners while conditioning your hair in the shower; sneak in a floor series when you undress from work; strike some powerful standing poses as you’re cleaning up the family room.

If you don’t have guests at your house, you’ll probably be an overnight guest at someone else’s. Sleeping on a couch, air mattress, or sofa­bed can be an uncomfortable experience. You might wake up with back stiffness, sore muscles or leg cramps. Warm up first, then go big with your poses if you feel ready – add bow, camel, locust, sphinx or wheel to your series to target different areas of the spine. Counter backbends with some forward folds. Power-­up for the day ahead by holding plank, side plank, or boat. Get in some knee-to-nose repetitions to activate the core. Don’t let a restless night’s sleep on a lumpy mattress cramp up the day’s festivities.

“The kids, my in­-laws, visiting pets, Aunt Ruth in her holiday sweater–I’m wilting.”

You’re exhausted. Why not have some fun and brighten the mood? Fun is serious business when it comes to yoga! House full of children? Put on some comfy clothes. Make some room to roll around on the floor and loosen up with the whole gang. Aunt Ruth wearing a sour face? Show her your more inventive yoga moves (maybe she’ll even crack a smile). Mother-in-law an avid yogi? Help her lead gentle stretching exercises with the family before the pancake breakfast. Don’t be shy; share the yoga you love and enjoy.

Here are a few fun poses that kids, seniors, or that curious cat nosing at your ankles might find appealing: supine two-knee twist; seated twist; legs-­up-­the-wall; child’s pose; butterfly; seated straddle; and of course…happy baby pose! Add poses of your own design; let the kids join in and be inventive. Instead of wilting from holiday obligations and pressure, bloom with holiday joy and laughter – let your yoga be your guide.

“The plane’s delayed (or) the road’s so icy the trip is taking twice as long.”

Traveling over the holidays? Oh boy. Tight airplane seats, sneezing passengers, and long lines at check-in are not avoided by extended car rides and all the hassles that can accompany the infamous Road Trip. Simple asanas and stretches help with most common travel ailments. Wall dog can release neck and back cramping. Seated or standing side stretch is a great way to get some mobility, even if you are at an airport or highway rest area. Gentle backbending can boost your mood and rouse your energy. Unwind your mind by taking a round of breath in a simple staff pose or half lotus. Don’t forget to take some time to nurture your wrists, ankles, knee and elbows, keeping your joints limber. A hip ­opener like pigeon or thread-the­-needle can ease discomfort from extensive sitting. Use whatever yoga you know to help make your body more comfortable when traveling this season.

The “yoga lifestyle” has nothing to do with the outfit you wear to class, the alignment of your triangle or how well you can repeat Sanskrit terms for poses. The yoga lifestyle is about using yoga in your life: on the plane, in the kitchen, with the kids – wherever and whenever you need it. A true “yogi” takes her yoga tools of the mat and uses these tools to feel better, live healthier, be kinder, and move more freely in the world. It’s not about the depth of your backbend or the stillness of your toe stand – the depth of your practice and the stillness your mind is what will help bring poise and grace to your holiday season.


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