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Holiday Stress-Busters: Yoga and Breathing for Festive Calm

December 3, 2023

The holiday season brings joy, warmth, and cherished moments with loved ones. However, it can also bring a whirlwind of stress and busyness that can leave you feeling anything but centered. From gift shopping to party planning, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But fear not! At Coquihalla, we believe that yoga and breathing exercises are the perfect tools to help you navigate the holiday hustle with serenity and ease. In this guide, we’ll provide you with practical yoga and meditation techniques to help you maintain your zen during the holiday season and we’ll introduce how Coquihalla’s retreats can support your wellness journey during this festive season.

1. Morning Mindfulness

How we start our day can have a very deep impact on how things go by. Start your day with a moment of mindfulness. Before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, take a few minutes to sit in silence. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus on the present moment. This sets a peaceful tone for the rest of your day.

2. Yoga for Stress Relief

Incorporate short yoga sequences into your daily routine to combat stress. Some simple poses that help with melting the stress away are:

Child’s Pose (Balasana बालासन): This calming pose soothes the nervous system and relieves tension in the back and shoulders.

Cat-Cow Stretch (Marjariasana – Bitilasana मार्जरी आसन – बितिलासन): This flowing sequence releases tension in the spine and enhances flexibility.

Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani विपरीत करनी): This gentle inversion relaxes the body and soothes the mind.

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana अधो मुख श्वानासन): Holding this pose for a few breaths opens up the shoulders, back, and hamstrings, thus helping you let go of any stress stored in the body. 

These poses can help release tension and ease anxiety and are perfect for squeezing into your busy holiday schedule.

3. Breathing Breaks

When you feel overwhelmed, consider it a sign to take a “breathing break”. Find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, and try any of the below exercises for a few minutes to quickly restore your sense of calm.

Deep Belly Breathing: Find a comfortable seated position. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process for several breaths, concentrating on the rise and fall of your abdomen.

4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight. This technique slows the heart rate and induces relaxation.

Equal Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. This practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a feeling of relaxation and calm. 

4. Gratitude Journaling

A gratitude journal can be an excellent tool for reducing holiday stress and promoting a positive mindset. Maintain a gratitude journal throughout the holiday season, and each day, jot down three things you’re grateful for. It’s a simple practice that has the potential to shift your focus from stress to appreciation, reminding you of the joy in the holiday season. Here are some prompts specifically designed to help you focus on gratitude during the holiday season:

Daily Blessings: Start each entry with a simple “I am grateful for…” and list three things you are thankful for today.

Holiday Traditions: Reflect on your favorite holiday traditions or customs. Why are these traditions meaningful to you, and how do they bring joy to your life?

Quality Time: Write about cherished moments spent with loved ones during the holidays. Describe a recent interaction or gathering that made you feel loved and appreciated.

Acts of Kindness: Share an act of kindness that you witnessed or experienced recently. How did this gesture of goodwill make you feel, and how did it impact your day?

Gift of Giving: While you ponder upon the acts of kindness you have seen someone else perform today, also practice the joy of giving to others. Consider performing a random act of kindness today, whether it’s for a stranger, a friend, or a family member.  Write about a recent experience where you made someone else’s day brighter through a thoughtful gesture or gift, and how it has impacted your day.

Nature’s Beauty: Take a moment to appreciate the natural world. Write about the beauty of the changing seasons, winter landscapes, or any specific natural elements that bring you joy during the holidays… such as for me it is the the process of snow, and how perfect the snowflakes are. It makes me wonder that if the universe put such immense beauty in the details of a snowflake, who is to say that our lives are any less miraculously beautiful than that? 

Gratitude for Challenges: Reflect on your personal resilience and strength. Write about a challenging situation this year that you’ve overcome and the lessons or growth you’ve gained from it. You may even consider the challenges you’ve faced during the holiday season, perhaps while you were hosting people, decorating, or preparing something for your kid’s school. Know that every challenge you come across helps you grow, and it is these challenges that have made you the person you are today! Reflect on the lessons and personal growth that have come from these experiences.

You have not come this far, only to come this far.

Holiday Gratitude: List three aspects of the holiday season that you are genuinely grateful for, whether it’s the festive decorations, holiday music, or the spirit of giving.

Favorite Holiday Foods: Share your appreciation for your favorite holiday dishes or treats. What flavors and aromas bring you comfort and joy during this time of year?

Family and Friends: Write about the people in your life who provide love and support during the holidays. What qualities or actions of your friends and family members are you grateful for?

Self-Care Moments: Reflect on the self-care activities that help you unwind and manage holiday stress. Describe a recent self-care moment and its positive impact on your well-being.

Future Intentions: Write about your intentions to carry gratitude and a positive mindset beyond the holiday season. How can you continue to cultivate gratitude in the coming year?

Favorite Holiday Memory: Recall a specific holiday memory from your past that brings a smile to your face. What makes this memory so special, and how can you recreate similar moments?

By incorporating these gratitude journal prompts into your daily routine, you can shift your focus toward positivity and appreciation, helping to alleviate holiday stress and create a more joyful and meaningful holiday season.

5. Guided Meditations

Explore guided meditations that are specifically designed for the holidays. These meditations often center around themes of gratitude, love, and relaxation. Here is our favorite Holiday Candlelight Meditation that you may want to try to calm your stress levels during the Holidays.

Duration: Approximately 10-15 minutes

Materials Needed:

  • A holiday-scented candle
  • A quiet, comfortable space
  • A cushion or chair for sitting
  • Matches (if the candle requires it) 


  1. Prepare:

Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed.

Place the cushion or chair in the center of the room.

Ensure proper ventilation and safety in the room when using a candle.

  1. Set the Ambiance:

Light the holiday-scented incense using matches.

Place the lit candle within your line of sight, preferably at eye level, on a sturdy surface.

Turn off any harsh overhead lights and let the gentle glow of the candle be your primary source of illumination.

  1. Align your Posture:

Sit comfortably on the cushion or chair with your back straight but not rigid. Your hands can rest on your lap or knees. Make sure your fingers do not fall down from your knees if your palms face down.

Focus on the candle flame in front of you, and after a few breaths close your eyes gently with the exhale.

  1. Breathe Deeply:

Begin by taking a few deep breaths in and out. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth.

As you breathe, let go of any tension in your body and clear your mind of distractions.

  1. Focus on the Candle:

With your eyes closed, visualize the candle’s soft, flickering flame in your mind’s eye. Imagine its warm, gentle light filling your entire being.

  1. Set a Mantra or Intention:

Set an intention or mantra for your meditation. For example, “I am finding peace and relaxation within myself” or “I release all stress and worry.”

  1. Breathe Mindfully:

Shift your focus to your breath. As you inhale, silently repeat your chosen mantra, and as you exhale, release any tension or stress.

Continue this mindful breathing, allowing each breath to deepen your sense of relaxation.

  1. Visualize the Candle:

As you continue to breathe mindfully, imagine yourself getting closer to the candle’s flame in your visualization. Feel its warmth and serenity.

  1. Let Go:

With each breath, let go of any stress, worries, or negative thoughts. Imagine them dissipating like smoke into the air.

Feel a sense of lightness and peace as you release these burdens.

  1. Express Gratitude and Reflect:

Take a few moments to reflect on the things you are grateful for during this holiday season. Allow these positive feelings to fill your heart. 

Spend a few minutes here with these feelings.

  1. Close the Meditation:

When you feel ready, slowly open your eyes and gaze at the real candle for a few moments.

Express gratitude for this moment of inner peace and relaxation.

Blow out the candle, if safe to do so, while mentally sealing the intention to carry this sense of calm with you throughout the day.

  1. Integrate:

Carry the sense of peace and relaxation you’ve cultivated with you into your day, and return to this meditation whenever you need a moment of holiday tranquility.

This 10-15 minute Holiday Candlelight Meditation can help you find a peaceful refuge within yourself, even amidst the busyness of the holiday season.

6. Mindful Eating

Holiday feasts can sometimes lead to overindulgence and discomfort. Practice mindful eating by savoring each bite and paying attention to your body’s hunger cues. It allows you to enjoy the flavors of the season while avoiding overeating.

Enjoy holiday treats mindfully, savoring each bite. This helps prevent overindulgence and supports your overall well-being.

7. Silent Walks

Take silent walks in nature, if possible. The beauty of winter landscapes can be a source of serenity. Focus on the sights and sounds around you, allowing the outdoors to be your meditation space. 

8. Restorative Yoga

Incorporate restorative yoga into your evening routine. These gentle poses and deep relaxation techniques can help you unwind and prepare for a restful night’s sleep, especially important during busy holiday nights.

Restorative yoga is a gentle and soothing form of yoga that focuses on relaxation and stress reduction. It typically involves holding poses for an extended period of time, using props like bolsters, blankets, and pillows for support. Here are a few restorative yoga poses along with details on how to perform them:

Corpse Pose (Shavasana शवासन):

Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms relaxed by your sides, palms facing up.

Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Allow your body to completely relax on the floor.

You can place a folded blanket or bolster under your knees for added comfort.

Stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes or as long as desired for deep relaxation.

Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana सेतुबंधासन):

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

Place a yoga block or a bolster under your sacrum (the flat bone at the base of your spine).

Allow your arms to rest by your sides with palms facing up.

Close your eyes, relax, and hold for 3-5 minutes to gently open the chest and hips.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana सुप्त बद्ध कोणासन):

Lay down with your legs extended in front of you.

Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, letting your knees fall open to the sides.

Place a bolster or folded blanket under your back for support, allowing your arms to rest by your sides.

Relax and breathe deeply in this gentle hip opener for 5-10 minutes.

9. Digital Detox

Set aside specific times to disconnect from your devices. It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy on social media. A digital detox will help you unplug and reconnect with the real world.

10. Mindful Gifting

Approach gift-giving mindfully. Rather than rushing through your shopping list, take the time to choose meaningful gifts that reflect your love and appreciation for your friends and family. The act of giving can be a mindful and heartwarming experience.

Coquihalla Retreats: A Retreat from Holiday Stress

Consider helping someone take a break from the holiday frenzy by gifting them (or yourself) one of our rejuvenating retreats. Escape to a tranquil environment where you can deepen your yoga and meditation practice, surrounded by nature’s serenity. Our experienced instructors will guide you through mindful practices that help you stay centered and stress-free.

11. Schedule Self-Care Rituals

Create self-care rituals that are uniquely yours. Whether it’s a warm bath with soothing essential oils or a quiet moment with a cup of herbal tea, these rituals can be your sanctuary during the holiday rush. In the midst of holiday preparations, make sure to set aside dedicated self-care moments, and your yoga and breathing exercises.

12. Set Boundaries

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Politely decline invitations or commitments that may add unnecessary stress to your schedule. It’s perfectly acceptable to prioritize your well-being during the holidays.

13. Stay Flexible

Remember that perfection is not the goal. The holiday season may not go exactly as planned, and that’s okay. Stay flexible and adapt to the circumstances with grace and a smile. Keep your body moving with regular yoga sessions, even if they’re shorter than your usual practice. A little goes a long way in relieving stress.

14. Connect with Loved Ones

Share your stress-busting techniques with family and friends. Encourage them to join you in moments of relaxation and mindfulness, the more the merrier.

As you navigate the holiday festivities, remember that the true essence of the season lies in moments of peace, love, and connection. By incorporating yoga and breathing exercises into your daily routine, you can navigate the holidays with greater calm and resilience. Know that finding your zen during the holiday season is possible with the right tools and practices, and these yoga and meditation techniques can help you stay centered amidst the holiday whirlwind. 

And if you’re looking for a deeper retreat experience or a seasonal dose of wellness delivered to your door, Coquihalla has you covered. Check out our wellness events that can enhance your yoga and meditation experiences. Let us help you make this holiday season your most serene and stress-free yet. 

Here’s to a joyful and zen-filled holiday celebration!

Happy Holidays!

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