As we approach Christmas and the new year, our stress levels start to creep up. Our shoulders inch their way to our ears. Our eyes bug out of our head. We start snipping and getting mean. And instead of taking time to de-stress and relax, we push harder.
Don’t worry, it’s not just you. I’m the same way.
Or at least, I lean that way.
The thought of taking time out of my day to relax honestly stresses me out. I tend to think that if I have any time available, I ought to be doing something useful with that time.
That’s not to say I don’t like relaxing. It’s just that if there’s anything to do I struggle to relax. Not such a bad way to be in theory. The problem comes when you realize that there will always be something else to do.
Luckily for people like there’s a working solution.
You can choose to do things that incorporate relaxation and mindfulness. Giving those activities a dedicated slot of time in your day might alleviate stress and might alleviate the stress from knowing you should relax but not relaxing (yes, that’s a thing).
This is where our old pal yoga comes in.
How do you view yoga? Is it an exercise? Is it just another thing you have to do? A way to stretch? A way to move every day?
I view it a little bit differently. It’s not just an exercise. I use it as a way to improve myself mentally and emotionally. It’s a time for me to practice mindfulness, slow down, and actively let go of stress. Pairing deep breaths with physical movement where I can feel my body releasing tension happens to be the best way for me to relax.
I can take my time or push my body or both. I get to use my breath to guide my mind into a more stable, happier place than it was before. Since I feel like I’m doing something, it’s doubly good for me. It works well with my personality.
But it’s more than just breathing, though that is a big part of it.
On my yoga channel (Wild n Free yoga) I’ve done a few yoga flows that focus on lower our stress with yoga. There are some big key things that I touch on. So, give them a try! Give yoga a chance.
Phone off and out of sight.
This is one of the biggest things for me. I really want my phone nearby a lot of the time and not because I’m an obsessed millennial. I don’t honestly need my phone but I want it there. I want to track my progress. I want to see how I look. I want to verify with a third party (the camera) that I’m doing well. That’s a problem. While a mirror can help us practice good form, we need to find the right validation and confidence from ourselves.
Sometimes though it is about texting or whatever. I’m so used to being connected (even if I’m not on the phone) to the world, it’s habit. I’m used to people being able to immediately reach me and my attention. We need to have time, and lots of it, where people cannot reach us.
Incense, candles, and music.
When we have any at home practice, we have the opportunity to put on our favorite music, chill or otherwise, light a favorite candle or burn some incense. The best thing in the world is plopping down on a yoga mat that engages all of our senses.
We can’t always slip into a candlelit bath, but we can light a candle, put on some nice music for a few minutes and roll around on our mats! Calm music and nice smells soothe our senses. We might have been in an office all day, or out and about, and our brains want some time to not process yucky smells and sounds. Soft smells and sounds go a long way to helping us relax. We can all get overstimulated sometimes.
It’s time to play!
We don’t play very much, but we can in yoga! If you’re doing a practice, you can always choose to do your own thing. Or maybe today you’re trying to do yoga without a script (super fun). You can play around, color outside the lines.
When we spend all day doing what we should, following the rules, and saying, “yessir” we need to balance that out. We need the freedom yoga gives us . We need to play and have fun.
So as we approach Christmas and the stress of beginning a new year, hop onto your mat. Take a moment to focus on your breath, on your inner peace. Stretch your arms up to the sky and relax.
Learn to use yoga to destress.