By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.
As I sit down to write this article, the holiday season is firmly underway. Many local Jewish families have just completed their celebration of Hanukkah, which marks the power of the light to penetrate the darkness. Additionally, many Christian families are now preparing for the annual celebration of Christmas with festive lights, gift giving and memorable gatherings with family and friends. Of course, during this time of year, there always seems to be an endless assortment of tasks to accomplish before the holidays are actually upon us; including buying gifts, preparing beautiful meals and making travel arrangements if you are going out of town to spend time with family and friends.
With all of the additional demands on our time and energy during the holiday season, this festive time of year can increase stress levels. Many Yoga students and teachers often feel that there is an almost endless stream of tasks to be completed during the holiday season. Additionally, as we all move through our lives, there may be time periods when the holidays elicit great sadness or longing for loved ones, who are either no longer in our lives or who have passed on. If this is the case for you personally, or for any of your Yoga students, gentleness, patience and self compassion will help to assuage the sadness that may accompany your celebration of the holidays.
Of course, if you are teaching a regular series of Holiday Yoga Classes, you may also notice that many of your students may be quite rushed and at times almost frantic to complete their "to do" list in preparation for the celebrations ahead. During your professional Yoga teacher training course of study, you will have learned many ways to tailor your classes in order to address the fluctuating needs of your students, including supporting your students during specific times during the year. One way to creatively sequence your Holiday Yoga Classes in order to relieve stress, is to incorporate soothing and calming pranayama exercises into your classes.
* Relaxation Breath
One of the most basic and easily learned calming breathing exercises is the Relaxation Breath. The beauty of the Relaxation Breath lies in both its simplicity and profound effectiveness. Essentially, the practice of the Relaxation Breath entails elongating the exhalation portion of the breath to double the count of the inhalation. For example, if you are inhaling for a count of 4, you simply exhale at the same pace for a count of 8.
By doubling the exhalation, a Yoga practitioner's parasympathetic nervous system is automatically triggered, which means that cortisol levels will drop, the heart rate slows down and feelings of jitteriness and anxiety are quelled. If you dedicate 3 to 5 minutes during a Yoga class for your students to practice the Relaxation Breath, they will feel much calmer and more grounded at the end of their practice. This calming breathing exercise can be practiced either at the beginning of a Yoga class or at the end of a class, just prior to Shavasana.
When you teach your students the Relaxation Breath pranayam at the beginning of a Yoga class, they will feel more centered and grounded for the practice ahead. If you lead your students through the practice of Relaxation Breath during the final portion of a Yoga class, your students will feel calm, quiet and peaceful when they complete their practice. By incorporating the practice of a calming and cooling pranayama exercises into your Holiday Yoga Classes, you will offer your students the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. You will also offer your students the opportunity to release any anxious, frenetic "holiday" energy, as they rest in the calm spaciousness of their own being.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2015 –Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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