Going home or hosting family for the holidays tends to bring on stress and craziness. Diffuse some of this unnecessary tension by gathering everyone together for a family yoga class taught by none other than YOU! “But I’m not a yoga teacher.” That’s okay. Just stick with this simple sequence and keep it short. Twenty minutes is plenty to help release a little stress and do something fun and different together. Push some furniture aside, roll out a few mats (or beach towels) and get everybody on the ground for this DIY holiday family yoga session. The bullet points are essentially a script so read along, take it slow and give them space to breathe.
Teach everyone how to breathe deeply. Deep, calm breathing through the nose is the main reason yoga is so relaxing. Show them this simple breathing exercise and your job is practically done:
- Everyone lie down on your backs with your knees bent hips width apart and your hands on your low belly. Close the eyes and breathe naturally through the nose.
- Feel your belly gently rise as you breathe in. Feel your belly gently fall as you breathe out.
- Observe the breath gradually deepen. You don’t have to force it, just let it naturally happen. Take about 10 breaths here, just letting the natural rhythm of your breath take over. (Let it be silent for a minute or two.)
- Inhale for a slow count of three, exhale for a slow count of three. Adding a slow internal count to your breath helps it become more even and steady. Take 10 more breaths with this internal count. Inhale three, exhale two. Let them practice this for a minute or two.
- Open your eyes, keep you hands on your belly, and just take a few more easy deep breaths through the nose.
Now get them moving with some easy spine stretches and strengtheners. Teach these postures to create space in the spine and pelvis. They are simple and very effective. If anyone complains about their knees hurting, get them another mat or towel for extra padding. Start with cat/cow and then end with spinal balance. Everyone can laugh at grandpa as he falls over when he tries to balance on one hand and one knee.
- Come up onto all fours. Line the hands up underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.
- Press the palms into the ground as you round the spine, tucking the tailbone and dropping the head. The more you press with the palms, the rounder your spine will be.
- Now lift the tailbone up, drop the belly and lift the gaze to the sky, arching the spine.
- Round again slowly as you exhale, arch again slowly as you inhale. Keep going, synchronizing your breath and movement. Round as you exhale, arch as you inhale. Take your time, move at your own pace. Keep going for five or six more breaths.
- Sit back in child’s pose, resting your hips toward your heels, stretching your arms out in front of you and relaxing toward the earth.
- Rise back to all fours and stretch your right leg back and your left arm forward. Try to reach beyond the toes and beyond the fingertips. Take five deep breaths with your gaze steady on the earth in front of you. Repeat on the other side.
Teach them a simple sun salutation to get the blood moving. Half sun salutes create heat and get the energy flowing. They are also a great way for people to learn how to move with their breath, which is another way yoga helps to create that peaceful feeling.
- Stand up with your feet hips width apart. Let your hands rest at your sides and stand tall. Balance the weight evenly in your feet and take a few deep breaths.
- Reach both arms out and up to the sky as you inhale.
- Fold forward with the knees softly bent and the spine long as you exhale.
- Place the hands on the shins and lengthen the spine straight forward with the inhale.
- Fold back toward the earth with soft knees as you exhale.
- Reach all the way back up on the inhale.
- Exhale the hands together at the heart.
- Repeat this three to five times, moving at your own pace.
- Try to make each breath last the length of each movement.
Close the practice with some mellow reclined postures. Bring everyone back down to earth and end the class with some easy poses and a five to ten minute Savasana.
- Lie down on your backs and gently squeeze the knees in toward your chest.
- Place the feet down hips width apart directly underneath the knees.
- Lift the hips as high as you comfortably can into bridge pose.
- Interlace the hands beneath you as you draw the shoulders toward one another.
- Press evenly through both feet and draw the thighs in so they are as wide as the hips.
- Take five deep breaths.
- Lower the spine slowly to the earth and draw the knees into the chest.
- Reach the arms wide and let the knees fall over to the right for five breaths. Turn the head left. Lift the knees and let them fall over to the left for five breaths. Turn the head right.
- Come back to center and extend the legs out onto the earth. Let the arms open alongside you and close the eyes for Savasana (final resting pose). Breathe normally and allow everything to relax for these last few minutes.
A few tips for a great Savasana:
- Tell them to bend their knees if their backs are uncomfortable in Savasana. If anyone bends their knees, grab a pillow from the couch and slip it under their knees and then have them relax the legs. A little bend in the knees will relax the back.
- If anyone’s head is tilted way back, slide a pillow or blanket underneath their head to lengthen the back of their neck.
- Place your hands on everyone’s shoulders and gently press them down toward their feet. You can also trace your thumbs from the center of the forehead out toward the temples. If you really want to knock their socks off, buy some lavender essential oil and rub a few drops onto your hands before doing this. They will love you for it.
This sequence will only take 15-20 minutes and it will be a really fun experience that everyone will remember and ask you to repeat every year. If you are stumped on what to get everyone, a family yoga class might just be the best gift that money can’t buy!