Thanksgiving is a holiday that may involve flying home to visit family, spending hours on end in the kitchen, Black Friday shopping, and spending time with loved ones. It's also a time that we are intentional about what we are grateful and thankful for - this always brings me back to the practice of yoga and its ability to connect us back to our ability to improve our own health and wellbeing.
This yoga sequence will help aid digestion by utilizing gentle twists that increase circulation to the digestive and abdominal organs. Additionally, these yoga postures relieve stress, which improves the gut-brain connection. Learn how a few simple postures can help relieve any issues with digestion such as bloating and constipation. Most importantly, eat what you want, relax, and enjoy your holiday!
1. Warm-up with Knees to Chest pose (Sanskrit: Apanasana)
This pose will be one we return to in-between twisting postures. It is a great pose for digestion because the compression of drawing your knees into your chest aids elimination and also relieves your lower back from any tension built up sitting on a cramped airplane. Hugging your knees in towards your chest, massage your back by rolling left to right and back and forth to warm up the spine for our upcoming twists.
2. Asymmetrical Reclining Spinal Twist (Sanskrit: Supta Matsyendrasana)
From Apanasana, stretch your left leg out long and keep the right knee drawn in towards your chest. Take a deep breath in, and allow your right knee to twist over to the left on an exhale by gently guiding your knee with your left hand. Stretch your right arm out to the side, aiming to keep the right shoulder anchored to the ground. If your neck is comfortable doing so, gaze over to the right side. If you are experiencing tension in your low back, place a bolster or pillow at your left side to support your right knee. Hold this posture for 5 breaths before slowly switching to the other side.
3. Apanasana into Thread the Needle Pose (Sanskrit: Sucirandhrasana)
Return to hugging your knees back into your chest to bring your spine back to neutral, then stretch your legs out and plant your feet on the floor with your knees bent. To come into Thread the Needle (also referred to as Eye of the Needle), cross your right ankle over your left thigh. If this feels like a good stretch in your right hip, you can stay here. If you want to deepen the stretch, you will "thread" your hands through the opening between your thighs and pick up your left thigh by interlacing your fingers and drawing your legs closer to you. Hip openers in yoga are notoriously intense, so breath deeply while holding this stretch and notice where you might be holding any tension (are you clenching your jaw or squinting your eyes?). Hold this posture for 5 to 8 breaths before switching sides.
4. Thread the Needle Twist (Sanskrit: Parivrtta Sucirandhrasana)
We will return to Thread the Needle on the right side, and on an exhale, slowly let your legs fall over to the left with your arms out to your sides like a T. A block or bolster can provide support to prevent your lower back from feeling any tension or pressure. After holding this twist for about 5 breaths, come back to center on an inhale, and switch over to the right side on an exhale.
5. Knees to Chest pose into Single Knee to Chest pose (Sanskrit: Apanasana into Eka Pada Apanasana)
Bring both knees into your chest again, and stretch out your left leg, hugging your right knee into your chest. Interlace your fingers either behind your thigh or on top of your shin. After a couple breaths, switch sides and bring your left knee into your chest. Do this for 5 cycles, and move with your breath - draw your knee into your chest with a deep breath in, and release to switch sides with an exhale.
6. Closing - Yogi's Choice
Depending on how you feel after these twists, you can do a short Savasana, lie in constructive rest (knees bent, feet planted on the floor, knees knock in towards each other like a pyramid), take another hip opener like Happy Baby. Take a moment to sit cross-legged, bring your palms together at your heart's center, and show yourself gratitude for taking care of yourself and slowing down in the midst of holiday festivities.