Christmas can be stressful for anyone, with increased pressure to spend money and time – when we really just want to hunker down.
So how can we calm down and relax during this busy time?
Yoga instructors at Andover Leisure Centre, Michelle and Zoe, tell us why Christmas is a perfect time to try something new:
What are your specific areas of yoga, and what are their benefits?
Michelle: I teach traditional Hatha yoga, and I’ve also studied Ashtanga and Sivananda yoga, which are both forms of Hatha yoga.
Yoga can really help to balance you, and give you the stillness that we all crave. It’s also really good for stress and depression.
When you practice yoga, it’s a gift to yourself. Time on the yoga mat can be transformational.
Zoe: I teach Ashtanga yoga Vinyasa, which is a dynamic, fast-paced and challenging yoga style.
As well as improving strength and flexibility, Ashtanga yoga can reduce stress and bring peace of mind.
Christmas is always a hectic time. How can yoga help people to remain calm and relaxed?
Michelle: The season is telling us that it’s time to slow down. Everything goes to sleep in winter, and there’s stillness.
We can bring that into our yoga practice with some really nice slow postures. We can’t hibernate, but we’ve got yoga!
Zoe: Coming to a yoga class, or just rolling out your mat at home, creates a sacred time and spaces which is all about you and your practice.
Everything else disappears – even that Christmas shopping list! All that matters is the good you are doing your mind and body.
Would you advise a yoga newbie try it to ease festive stress?
Zoe: Yes! I’d say to simply make the time to come along to a class, and let the yoga do the rest.
Michelle: Absolutely! Yoga is suitable for everyone. You don’t have to be flexible to have yoga in your life.
I have yoga in my life because I was craving a little bit of tranquility, stillness, and peace in my mind and body.
What can you recommend to try at home to feel more relaxed?
Zoe: It’s easier than you might think to try yoga and Pranayama (breathing) exercises at home.
All you need is a space the size of a yoga mat and a few spare minutes!
If you are trying to relax, beat stress or help yourself get to sleep, try making your exhales twice as long as your inhales.
Michelle: Breathing is very important in yoga. If you’re not breathing in your practice, then you’re just doing gymnastics!
You can try deep abdominal breathing, which is very calming. In this, you inhale and feel your belly inflate.
You feel the breath rising up to the ribs, and then as far up as the chest.
On the exhale, you breath out from the belly, the ribs and the chest.
How do the benefits last after you’ve practiced yoga?
Zoe: Personally, I always feel better knowing I have found the time to look after my body.
I notice a significant difference in my stress levels and how I react to stressful situations when I have done a yoga practice at the start of the day!
My morning practice helps me to make better choices throughout the day, from what I eat to how I react.
Michelle: I think the benefits of yoga last physically and mentally – both mind and body.
It’s almost as if you’ve put yourself in a lovely yoga bubble!
Physically, you feel so strong. When you’re strong in your body, you’re strong in your mind.
Listen to your body. Some days you just want to lie on your mat and breathe, and other days you feel like a challenge.
Who should be practicing yoga? Do some people benefit more than others?
Zoe: Yoga can benefit all people! The late guru of Ashtanga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said: “Ashtanga yoga is for all people. Old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, sick people, healthy people – only not lazy people.”
Michelle: Everyone should practice yoga! My yogi nan is 96. I do yoga with her every fortnight, and she teaches me!
Your teacher within yoga will be able to guide you, and get used to your body and know what it can and can’t do.
Which type of yoga is best to help people relax?
Zoe: It really depends on the individual. Some people may prefer a slow Yin style yoga class, where a pose is held for a few minutes at a time.
Ashtanga yoga is fast-paced and challenging. This type of class is actually a more effective way of helping people who have busy, stressful lives to relax – particularly if they have a hard time slowing down or sitting still.
Michelle: My advice is to experiment. Some classes are very strong and physical, but you’ll find your way.
There’s an amazing range of classes here in Soul Central. Go along to different classes and you’ll find something you love!
Soul Central at Andover Leisure Centre offers the following classes and yoga practices:
Hatha yoga flow, Yang yoga flow, early morning Ashtanga yoga, Les Mills BODYBALANCE™, Chakra/Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga with elements of Ayurveda, Pilates, Yogalaties, Stretch and Relax, and Yin & Yang flow workshop.
Classes available at The Rapids:
Yoga, Pilates, Les Mills BODYBALANCE™
Book yourself some time to relax this Christmas with a studio class, and beat the stress.