A 10-Minute Yoga Sequence To Make Your Holidays A Little More Zen

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
You might spend autumn looking forward to the holidays, but once they actually arrive, it's another story. You find yourself cramming five sweaters and 10 presents into a carry-on suitcase, traveling in cramped seats, dealing with hordes of family members, and drowning your stress and seasonal blues in sugar, fatty foods, and booze. The truth is, this time of year can be tough on your body and mind.

If you’re looking for a quick, no-equipment-required (other than maybe a yoga mat, if you have one handy) way of easing the burden on both, a simple yoga sequence may be the answer. This brief and beginner-friendly series will make you feel length through your spine and hamstrings (helpful if you’ve been hunching over in close quarters). It can also help open up your chest, hips, and shoulders, which feels great, and helps you release stress. Plus, these moves can strengthen your entire body.

Start with a few simple Sun Salutations or, if it’s easier, a quick jog or walk before getting into the sequence. The warmer your body is going into the poses, the more you’ll get out of the stretches. Afterward, try to rest in Savasana for three to five minutes to let everything sink in. Repeat as often as you need to get through the next two weeks in one piece.

Leslie Lewis is a yoga instructor in New York City.

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Downward Dog
Opens the hamstrings, chest, shoulders, and back; strengthens the arms and core
Start in a brief plank to get the right distance between your hands and feet, then send your hips up and back as you move your torso toward your legs. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
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Forward Fold With Clasp
Opens the chest, shoulders, and hamstrings
Walk your feet to the top of the mat and fold forward, clasping your hands behind you and letting them lower toward the floor. Hold for 3 breaths.
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3 of 8
Forward Fold With Clasp (cont.)
Inhale, lengthening your spine forward and pulling your fists back (so your torso and legs are at a 90-degree angle), then exhale, folding forward and pulling your fists away from your sacrum. Repeat 2 more times.
4 of 8
Ankle-To-Knee Chair
Opens the hips, strengthens the legs, and helps improve balance
Roll up to stand. Then bring one ankle onto the opposite knee and send your hips backward, raising your arms overhead. Hold for 5 breaths, then return to standing. Repeat on the opposite side.
5 of 8
Down Dog Split
Opens and strengthens hamstrings, strengthens core
Return to standing, then fold forward, place your hands on the mat, and step back into your downward dog. (Move through a Vinyasa if you like — plank, then chaturanga, then upward-facing dog, before returning to down dog.) Then, inhale as you lift your left leg up for a down dog split, pressing your right heel toward the mat, and taking 3 deep breaths into your hamstrings. Return to down dog, then repeat on the other side.
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Lunge Twist
Opens chest and lower back, strengthens legs
Step your left foot in between your hands and bring your right knee down to the mat (place a towel under your knee if you need extra padding). Bring your hands to prayer at your heart and twist your torso to the left, hooking your right elbow outside your left thigh. Hold for 5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
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Ankle-To-Knee Twist
Opens hips, chest, and lower back; stimulates the abdominal organs
Come to sit up straight at the top of the mat, bending your left knee to bring your shin parallel to the front edge of the mat, and stacking your right shin on top. Bring hands to prayer at your heart and twist to the left, bringing your right elbow into the arch of your right foot. Take deep breaths, trying to maintain the ankle-to-knee pose for at least 30 seconds. (If it’s too intense for your hips to continue the twist, you can come out of it and simply fold forward over your legs.) Release, shake your legs out, step back to down dog to give your hips a break, then repeat on the other side.
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Bridge Pose
Lengthens the spine; opens the shoulders, chest, and front of the hips; strengthens the legs
Lie down on your mat. Bend your knees, bringing your heels toward your hips so you can just barely brush them with your fingertips, and lift your hips up into bridge pose. Bring your hands underneath for a clasp and wiggle your shoulders together underneath you to open the chest. Make sure to keep your knees no wider than hip-distance apart to protect your lower spine. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat 1 to 2 more times with a quick break between each bridge.

Then lower down to the mat and bring your knees toward your chest, gently rocking from side to side to massage your back. Let go of your knees, lengthen out, and relax in your savasana for 3-5 minutes.
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