The holiday season is heralded as the most wonderful time of the year, and there certainly is a whimsical and romantic quality to it all. Along with the celebration, however, comes the inevitable stresses of family, travel, the closing of a year, and the anticipation of another one. If you wake up a little less merry and a little more Grinch, you are not alone. More than that, you have the capacity to support yourself through practice as a way to come back to balance.
Sara Phelan, a yoga teacher and spiritual seeker who lives, loves, and teaches in Hawaii, has a few pointers on how to come back to balance, ground, and connection during these winter months.
Learn from Sara directly at Wanderlust O’ahu this winter! Better yet, learn from her in O’ahu and then continue your journey with the Wanderlust Passport—your ticket to any and all Wanderlust events worldwide in 2019. To join us on the North Shore, click here. To join the global mindful movement, click here. See you on the road!
Sara, who began her yoga journey in India at the age of three, says the first step is to get still. “It is often the last thing I want to do, and that is when I know I need it the most,” she says. From the simple yet profound act of taking a pause, closing the eyes, getting out of the business of the everyday hustle, one can then choose mindfully which restorative practices feel most resonate. For Sara, yoga nidra, journaling, and meditation are go-to medicines in times of duress.
Yoga asana can be a powerful support in regaining a sense of equanimity and calm. Sara recommends choosing postures that slow us down and open up the body through slightly longer holds. Do not rush the practice, she advises, because “when we take the time to slow down, we come back to the quiet within our own hearts. The heart is always there waiting to guide us back home.”
Try Sara’s 30 minute yin yoga sequence designed to help rediscover the stillness within. This practice serves as a recharge, allowing us to reenter our busy lives fueled by a remembrance of our own inner power.
Slow Flow to Release and Let Go
Begin in wide kneed Child’s Pose.
- Rest here for 20–25 breaths.
- Breathe deep while softening and letting the body relax with each exhale.
Coming to hands and knees take 5 rounds of gentle Cat-Cow.
- Lengthen and follow each inhale and exhale.
- Go as slow as you can.
- Close the eyes.
Puppy Pose for 6–8 slow and deep breaths.
- Thread the needle.
- Take 15 breaths each side.
- Come back to hands and knees.
Deep Crescent Lunge on each side, with back knee down on the mat.
- Hold for 10 breaths minute on each leg.
Back to Child’s Pose.
- Breathe and relax slightly deeper for 5 deep breaths.
Half Pigeon Pose on each side.
- Hold for 25 breaths each leg, thereby deepening your experience with yin yoga.
- Make any necessary adjustments so that you feel fully supported.
- If you feel any pain or strain please make any adjustments to find stillness again.
- If pigeon does not work for you, take figure four on your back.
- Come to hands and knees and then sit on your seat.
- Find butterfly pose for 20–30 breaths.
- Janushirasana for 20 breaths each side.
- Roll down onto the back and take Happy Baby for 5 breaths.
- Supine Spinal Twist 10 breaths each side.
- 10-minutes Savasana.
After this practice, focus on the clarity and calm you’ve created. If you can wait to jump back in to work or your next task after this practice, take a few moments to journal about what you want to create this year and what you are going to say “no” to moving forward. Welcome in what you desire and choose to say no to unnecessary obligations and stress so that you can continue to move and grow from a place of more ease, or a place of more play.
Whether you are celebrating the season, avoiding it entirely, anywhere in between, take Sara’s advice and slow down. Spend some time with you, in nature if it is available, so that you can reconnect to what matters.
Erin Ward is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and instructor at Wanderlust Hollywood.