Healthy, happy and whole this holiday season


Healthy, happy and whole this holiday season

If we look forward to the festive season as a summer celebration where we choose to have fun with family and friends, enjoy creative meals and try out new activities, rather than a stressful period where we feel forced to entertain and meet everyone else’s expectations, the holiday season can leave us with a  glow of vitamin D, a cup full of love from family and friends and a rested spirit - even if we do end up going from one social engagement to the next.
To set yourself up for a soulful summer, develop a daily practice that includes at least one, more or all of these mind and body enhancing activities. They will encourage you to slow down and make choices that gear you towards days filled with health promoting intentions, actions and behaviours.

Breathwork

This is the new buzz word in the health and wellness arena and while it is a yogic practice that’s been around for thousands of years, the latest trend encourages us to practice breathwork anywhere, anytime, not just in a yoga studio. Breathwork promotes overall emotional wellbeing by helping us to process emotional states with calm awareness rather than helpless breathlessness. It also decreases stress levels and takes us out of fight or flight mode.

A simple breathing exercise you can do anytime is four square breathing. Sit in a relaxed posture, preferably with eyes closed. Inhale deeply for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, then exhale for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, inhale for four again and continue in this way for at least 5 rounds before you bring your breath back to its natural rhythm for a few seconds, and then open your eyes. It will take less than a minute to do this so no matter how busy you are, there will be time. Even if you practice this technique with your eyes open while driving you’ll feel the shift in your mental and emotional state.

Yoga pose

Make a fun activity out of yoga poses that are beneficial for your entire body and mind because of the focus they require, the sense of both grounding and letting go they inspire and the smiles their names encourage. These poses are suitable for adults and children so include the whole family for extra Christmas cheer. (These postures should only be practiced once the body has been warmed up).

The Nutcracker

Imagine dancing into the new year.
Standing at the top of your yoga mat or on any stable surface looking out to the horizon, bend your right knee so that your right heel reaches for your buttocks then use your right hand to grab hold of your right ankle from the outside and start to kick that leg up behind you while rocking your body forward slightly and extending your left arm straight out in front of you, aiming for the point between your brows, palm flat and facing the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.

Christmas Tree (with abs)

Imagine you’re a Christmas tree adorned with beautiful glass ornaments and fairy lights.
Stand tall and slowly bring the sole of your right foot onto the inner thigh of your left leg so your right knee is pointing out to the right. Bring your hands into prayer posture at your heart’s centre, thumbs pressing to sternum and hold for five deep breaths, then switch legs and repeat.

Once both feet are on the ground again, fold forward to touch the floor. Place the palms of your hands flat onto the floor in front of you, bending your knees if you need to and step each foot back into a plank pose. Hold for one minute to work on your physical strength and stamina. Come out of the posture by dropping onto all fours, knees bent beneath hips, straight arms, wrists in line with shoulders, forming a table top. Take a few breaths here then step your feet back into a plank and immediately raise your buttocks into the air and push yourself back into Santa’s dog pose!

Santa’s dog

Traditionally called downward dog. Have fun with this posture and smile at yourself.
Bring your body into an upside down V shape; palms placed firmly on the ground in front of you, push your body in the opposite direction to your hands, send your buttocks up into the air behind you, straighten the legs as best you can and try to press your heels down as close to the ground as possible.  Once you’ve taken five deep breaths here, create a slight bend in your knees, buttocks still up in the air, and sway your hips from side to side like you’re wagging your tail. This will help loosen your hips and bring you into a more playful state of mind.

All of the above poses are also forms of meditation, which is the one practice that leaders like Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Gwenyth Paltrow all note as having brought about the biggest change in their lives. Meditation creates more space in the mind; space for clarity, self-motivation, courage and discipline. Once you have access to these states of being, the world is your oyster and you’ll find yourself enjoying it, guilt-free glass of champagne in hand, because you know you’ve achieved balance, not perfection, but rather a sustainable way of being that allows you access to the best parts of you. A better you not only for yourself but for family, friends and the greater community of people you influence in some small way each day. When you work on this part of yourself, exercise, healthy eating and being nice to people becomes second nature.

Cheers to Summer holidays that shine with happier humans!


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