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8 Detoxifying Poses to Boost Digestion of Holiday Feasts—& All That Seasonal Stress

Overate or overstressed? This sequence focuses on letting go to counteract holiday excess, leave you feeling lighter, and make some space for joy.

Use this holiday-ready detox sequence to gently encourage the release of waste from the body and mind. By moving from energetic standing twists to restorative twists, where gravity helps decompress the spine, this sequence is a practice in surrender. Rather than creating blockages in your body, heart, and mind by clinging to those extra servings of pumpkin pie or emotions that family time may bring up (anger, resentment, or jealousy, anyone?), you can let go of pain, discomfort, and dis-ease of body, mind, and spirit. Go ahead and let this sequence move out anything holding you back and restore healthy flow in your body and mind.

See also Pillars of Power Yoga: A Heat-Building Holiday Detox Sequence

About Our Expert

Elise Joan is a Los Angeles-based vinyasa yoga teacher, celebrity trainer, and wellness expert. She has always found purpose and expression through movement, and prior to pursuing a vocation in yoga, Joan enjoyed an established career as an actor, singer, and dancer onstage in New York City. Her primary passion is to awaken people to realize their full potential, both on and off the mat. Learn more at elisejoanfitness.com.

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5 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress with NYC Yoga Teacher Kristin Calabria

Here’s the inside scoop on ways this yoga teacher keeps her students calm as the holiday chaos ramps up

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler, which means the holidays are on their way! Starting to feel the stress of planning, cooking, shopping, etc.? We asked NYC yoga teacher Kristin Calabria, who teaches vinyasa, power, and hot yoga classes at Pure Yoga, Y7, and is helping to launch a new studio in December called Class Heroes, for 5 ways she helps herself and her students calm down as holiday chaos ramps up.

1. Center yourself with a grounding, restorative yoga practice.

As we get closer to the holiday season, usually the energy in the yoga room is more frantic and forceful: students want to push and maximize the hour or 75 minutes we’re spending in the studio. Because New Yorkers are very good at pushing, these qualities often show up in the physical practice. I often structure classes as a way to gain a different perspective through creative and challenging sequencing aimed at centering and grounding. I’m also very particular about including a longer restorative sequence at the end of practice. The things that we are not naturally inclined toward are usually the things we need to practice the most. Surrender and non-effort can be challenging, especially during the holiday season, and so to practice “softness” can be incredibly powerful and transformative for students.

2. Flip your stress on its head.

There is nothing that makes me reconnect to the earth beneath me more than inversions. When I’m stressed, when I’m anxious, when I’m nervous, when my mind is everywhere except for where I am, I carve out time to go upside down. Inversions ask us to stay completely in the present moment, or risk falling. They ask us to find the ground in ways opposite to our habitual. This practiced focus feels like a sigh of relief to me, and allows me to go back into the rest of my day with more grace.

3. Use essential oils.

Essential oils stimulate a specific energy or way of being in the world. They evoke feelings and sensations. In the yoga practice, they’re a great way to awaken all of our senses to truly create a completely immersive experience. New York City functions at a higher frequency than almost any other city in the world. Because lavender essential oil is used to calm, I carry it around with me at all times and use it liberally: in Savasana assists, in a diffuser for my home and office, on the subway during rush hour when people get crazy, or if I’m having trouble falling asleep. Nature’s Origin makes a 100 percent pure and natural lavender essential oil that promotes serenity and tranquility.

4. “Meditate” in a way that brings you joy.

Meditation is part of my daily practice, but it takes many different forms. Sometimes meditation for me is writing in a gratitude journal, or a free write about a specific chakra or element of the practice. Sometimes it’s listening to a guided meditation, and sometimes it’s mantra-focused. I find the need for stillness or grounded focus is more prominent during the hectic holiday season. Especially if meditation is not something you practice often, it can feel overwhelming to sit and breathe for any amount of time. We each have our own way into the meditation practice. It doesn’t have to look like sitting and breathing, although it can. Do you find that sense of focused awareness in painting or playing music? Then that’s your way in! Find the version of meditation that resonates with you, and it will feel less like a “should” and more like a joy. Also try enhancing your meditation space by filling it with spiritual scents like frankincense, tea tree, and Nature’s Origin’s For Mindfulness blend.

5. Give yourself permission to say “no,” and take time for yourself.

My holiday plans are usually hectic. I’ll bounce between holiday parties in the city and in my hometown. For me, that means a ton of late nights and early mornings. I give myself permission to say “no” to events that will wind up making me feel incredibly stressed. There are a few things I do every day that allow me to feel at home in myself and energetically full, like spending a good chunk of time alone, unplugging (which means no social media, no emails, no calls, and no texts). I practice every day; that could look like a typical yoga class, or a 20-minute sequence filled with exploring all ranges of motion in the spine, a few restorative postures, and a supported Fish Pose. I read small pieces of wisdom (think Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Relax). I put on my favorite song and have a private dance party. This may seem like a long list, but imagine how magical your day would be if every few hours, you sprinkled in an action that filled you with joy and allowed you to come back to your authentic self? This joyful activity could be as simple as mixing a few drops of essential oils, like peppermint, cinnamon, and sweet orange, and putting them in a diffuser to set the mood for the holidays. You can get more great ideas for holiday scents at Nature’s Origins.

See also 4 Restorative Yoga Poses to Soothe Holiday Stress

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Restorative Yoga 101: 7 Must-Know Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Restorative Practice

Whether you’re new to restorative yoga or a seasoned pro, little tweaks can help you get more relaxation out of your practice.

In YJ’s newest course, Restorative Yoga 101, Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks and author of Deep Listening, will have you rethinking rest one deep breath at a time. This four-week program offers students an in-depth look at eight essential poses that will help you elicit the relaxation response, simple prop setups that will help encourage deep mind-body release and healing, guided meditative sequences and breathing exercises, mind-body alignment lectures, and personal inquiry. Eager to learn more? Sign up now.

Whether you’re new to restorative yoga or a seasoned pro, little tweaks can help you get more relaxation out of your practice. From longer holds to deeper breathing to props to prep, here are 7 ways to get the most out of your restorative yoga practice.

1. Timing is everything.

A typical vinyasa class may offer a 5–8 minute Savasana. Usually, just when you’ve stopped wiggling around, you slide into stillness. Restorative yoga offers you time to adjust, and readjust, and readjust again, which helps you settle and drop in. Time is essential in this practice. In order for the brain to get the message that you are safe enough to switch off your stress response and turn on your relaxation response, it is said that your body and mind need to be at ease and your breath full and deep for approximately 20 minutes. 

Generally, restorative poses can be held anywhere from 5–20 minutes or longer. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to stay longer in the pose. On the flip side, the more frequently you practice, the more quickly you may settle. Plus, repeated practice helps you re-establish relaxation more quickly and easily over time. 

2. Grow still but let your breath flow.

Restorative poses create good alignment to make space for the breath to flow freely. As you learn to let your body truly rest on the ground and be held up by your props, you make more room for the breath to flow through you. Full, deep, natural breathing sends messages to the brain that you are safe, which deepens relaxation and furthers the healing potential of the practice. Learn more about how to breathe in restorative yoga.

3. To feel more spacious, prepare your space.

Relaxation is enhanced when the area where you practice is as stress-free as possible. The room should be neat, warm, and softly lit. Before you begin, be aware of what props you need for your whole practice. Have all your props ready, e.g., blankets folded and towels rolled and arranged around your mat in an organized manner.

4. Keep it simple.

I like to plan each sequence so I can use the same props for each pose that I do. This helps promote relaxation, as I am not busy pulling in, taking away, or re-folding. And remember that less is more. Two well-constructed postures with time to sink in are more beneficial than half a dozen poses done quickly or poorly propped.

5. Warm up.

I offer my students (and myself) a gentle warm-up of gentle rhythmic movements before practicing restorative poses. This usually includes breath-based slow flows such as Cat-Cow and easy half Sun Salutations, as well as Low Lunges, twists, and reclined hip openers. Warming up creates an opportunity to shed some of the body and mind’s restlessness so that it will be easier to settle into a place of stillness. It also helps ready the muscles to release tension, allows for deeper and freer-flowing breathing, and draws attention to your body. Sometimes students enjoy repeating some of the warm-up movements as they transition between poses. Just make sure your movement is not too stimulating, as that may prevent you from settling in.

6. Stay warm.

Make sure there are no drafts in your space, and have an extra blanket nearby. Dress in layers. Consider leaving your socks on, as you may feel cooler as you progress deeper into stillness.

7. Use music (or don’t).

Personally, I love music—but not always. Sometimes it’s perfect, and sometimes it gets in the way. Also, while some students love music, others don’t. If you choose to use music, ensure that it is non-invasive. Don’t choose music that requires “listening.” Restorative yoga is a meditative experience that allows you to move inward, so you don’t want something that pulls you “outward.” I prefer instrumental music or chanting. When I need more grounding, I use warmer, lower sounds, like the incredible Garth Stevenson, and when I need more expanding, I go with softer, higher sounds like the angelic vocals of Wah!

Ready to learn more? Sign up for Restorative Yoga 101: Journey Into Stillness With the Tools and Practice to Heal, Restore, and Rejuvenate.

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Practice Deep Listening to Change Your Stress Response & Start Truly Receiving Yourself

Learn how to listen with compassion to your body, breath, feelings, and thoughts.

In YJ’s newest course, Restorative Yoga 101, Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks and author of Deep Listening, will have you rethinking rest one deep breath at a time. This four-week program offers students an in-depth look at eight essential poses that will help you elicit the relaxation response, simple prop setups that will help encourage deep mind-body release and healing, guided meditative sequences and breathing exercises, mind-body alignment lectures, and personal inquiry. Eager to learn more? Sign up now.

In my work teaching restorative yoga for over 20 years, I’ve been most passionately focused on helping students cultivate the skill of “deep listening,” which not coincidentally is also the title of my new book.

What Is Deep Listening? 

This compassionate listening isn’t so much a specific technique as it is an approach to how you receive and respond to yourself—it’s how you listen to your body, breath, feelings, and thoughts. It’s the process of showing up for yourself and meeting yourself in a more curious, kind, and compassionate way. When you pay attention to yourself in this way, you set the conditions for conscious relaxation, allowing you to stay more calm and open with yourself, others, and your circumstances.  

The Benefits of Deep Listening

Deep listening is an intentional activity. Humans aren’t designed to let our guards down easily, so we need to progressively and methodically create a foundation that enables us to stay calm when we have the impulse to do the opposite. Deep listening helps you cultivate the kind of conscious relaxation that allows you to stay open, present, and curious in situations where you normally wouldn’t.

Deep listening also grants you access to your wise inner guidance, allowing you to “respond” rather than “react” and make more mindful, nourishing, and compassionate choices. 

As part of a restorative yoga practice, Deep Listening helps you discover how and where you are holding tension in your body and mind and allows you to hear what is stored inside this physical, emotional, and mental discomfort. And the truth is, you may not be so “enthusiastic” about making contact with your tension and what it holds. This is the “stuff” that you’ve purposely been ignoring, avoiding, denying, etc. At first, listening inward may make you anxious. You may not trust that you can handle what you will hear, feel, or learn. However, for most of people, it’s more debilitating to live in a body that’s holding tension. It’s draining to live a life in which you’re not really “listening” but rather constantly reacting to emotional triggers in ways that sabotage your health and well-being. Deep Listening allows you to soften and care for yourself so that the stories, the information, and the feelings you are carrying won’t continue to limit your physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Initially, Deep Listening might feel scary, but with practice, you’ll eventually find yourself in front of an old trigger and it won’t have the same impact. You’ll find that what used to make you feel the urge to fight, flee, or freeze may no longer control you, and you may instead find yourself responding wisely, compassionately, and artfully. 

How to Practice Deep Listening

Here’s how to set the stage for this compassionate listening:

  1. Welcome yourself. Pause to welcome yourself, in whatever state you’re in. You can show up more when you feel welcomed.
  2. Get grounded. Consciously allow your body to land on the earth so that you feel the support underneath you holding you up. Restorative yoga poses and props help you do this.
  3. Breathe freely. When you feel grounded, you can turn your attention to your breath and grow more familiar with the ways you may habitually “hold” your breath. Practice allowing your breath to flow more freely and fully.
  4. Listen inward. As you grow present with your breath, begin to listen inward. Practice kindly and compassionately noting how you “feel” without adding on judgment. This is the heart of deep listening. As you practice responding to yourself with kindness and curiosity rather than judgment, your nervous system shifts from the stress response to the relaxation response, which calms muscular tension, sets the whole body up for deep healing, growth, and repair, and allows you to access your inner wisdom and sense of wholeness.

Deep Listening is an approach to take daily, not a practice you ever finish or accomplish. It is a way of meeting your feelings, circumstances, and challenges with the intention of staying relaxed, curious, and open in the face of all of it. This skill not only changes the way you respond to stress, it actually leaves you feeling less stressed, increases the amount of joy in your life, and sets the conditions for you to evolve.

Ready to learn more? Sign up for Restorative Yoga 101: Journey Into Stillness With the Tools and Practice to Heal, Restore, and Rejuvenate.

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