After enjoying a seasonally rainy October, we now find ourselves looking towards the holiday season. As we think about the holidays, it can be helpful to consider what we are hoping to get out of the time we will have away from our usual schedule. Are we seeking connection with others, good food, some down-time or simply more time at home with family? While it is a wonderful time of year in many ways, we can sometimes feel challenged by how much there is to do, so it can be valuable to set an intention to help you make the time for what is important to you. And to make space to ‘digest’ not just the food, but also the experience.
Yoga has a calming effect on the body and helps to encourage digestion – both physically and mentally, so making time for your own practice can be beneficial. Whether food is a focus for you or not, it is a central part of Thanksgiving and with so many good things to eat, it’s hard not to overeat! It’s best not to practice right after a large meal, but if you find yourself feeling overly full a couple hours later – or an even better time to practice – the next morning, it can be helpful to practice some simple yoga stretches to turn inward and give our bodies a chance to assimilate. A simple twist can encourage and stimulate digestion – and by taking this personal time to practice, we can also reflect with gratitude on the gift of good food:
1. Come to hands and knees and begin by moving through some cat / cow stretches – opening up the front of the body on the inhale, stretching out the spine on the exhale. This helps to bring fluidity to the spine in preparation for the twist.
2. Swing your legs around in front of you and sit up tall with the spine long, legs extended on the floor in front of you. Hug your right knee into your chest and then step your right foot over your left leg just next to the knee. Bring your right hand behind you for support and as you inhale, sweep your left arm up towards the ceiling. Keep facing forward as you hook your left elbow gently over your right knee. Take another full breath in, then as you exhale slowly begin to twist moving from your waist, through the ribs and shoulders – eventually bringing your gaze over your right shoulder.
3. Keep your hips steady as you lift and lengthen on each in-breath and move a little deeper into the twist on each out-breath. When you are ready to come out, take a breath in and on the exhale unwind and stretch everything out before practicing the same thing on the other side.
4. Pause at the end of your practice and lie on your back to rest and allow your body to absorb the benefits of your practice.