Stretch out the stress

The Christmas season is the hands down winner for the season of stress! You may love this time of year or approach it with trepidation. One thing is certain, our bodies and our minds are pushed into overload. Spending hours on our feet shopping, then the endless hours of cooking and entertaining, combined with the continual enticement to overeat and drink, this all takes its toll. I think it’s safe to say that during the festive holidays, we’re barraged with more stress than any other time of year.

The festive holidays involve a great deal of physical and mental oomph to handle the demands of trying to make everything as perfect as can be, this can test the tolerance of even the cheeriest of dispositions. For some, particularly those suffering with seasonal affective disorder, this can be a difficult and emotional time of year. You might be so exhausted with all the demands of family, friends and work that you find it difficult to get into the holiday spirit even at the most festive events.

So how can you enjoy more of this holiday season and feel less stressed? Try these simple yoga-inspired practices to invigorate your body and mind while soothing your nerves — worry not, there’s not a yoga mat in sight!

  1. Just breathe…

Take a deep breath to the count of 4, let your belly expand. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat four times.

Congratulations! You’ve just calmed your nervous system in less than a minute!

Using the breath, you can go from frazzled to calm in just a few moments.  Deep, and slowly controlled breathing engages our parasympathetic nervous system and inhibits our bodies production of stress hormones and stimulates the feel-good hormones. Combine this with a gentle stretch, and you will induce a feeling of deep calm.yoga2


  1. Get off your feet…

Raise your feet above your heart. Just 2-5 minutes like this takes pressure off your tired legs. It improves circulation and decreases swelling. In yoga, this pose is known as “legs up the wall” it does exactly as it says on the tin! Lie on your back, and let your legs rest against the wall. Staying in this combined with the controlled breathing can quiet the mind and bring about a deep state of mental relaxation and physical restoration.


  1. Stand tall and stretch…

yoga1Try this gentle standing side stretch to open yourself up and encourage feelings of quiet and calm. Holding an open posture like this for only a couple of minutes lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Standing upright with your feet hip width apart, raise your arms above your head, palms facing. Breathe in, then gently bend your torso over to the right. Breathe in again, then return to the upright position. Breathe out, now gently curve the torso over to the left and repeat each side 3-5 times.


This article was written by Sarah at Sarah Mac Yoga. Sarah is an Advanced Hatha Yoga Teacher (inc Children’s, Pre-post pregnancy and yoga therapy).

She runs Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation Classes and workshops in Newcastle  and Yoga and Mindfulness for the Classroom teacher training workshops throughout the North East.
You can contact Sarah by emailing her at or by visiting her website

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