And... relax!

Senior Dru Yoga instructor Keith Squires offers some tips for tackling summer holiday stress

Although we look forward to our holidays all year, it’s surprising how stressful having fun and relaxing can be! Driving, travelling, hold-ups and airport security take a heavy toll. It’s easy to lose your cool and break the whole illusion. You can try biting your lip or counting to 10, but the following simple yoga techniques and breathing exercises will really help to dissolve any holiday stress.

If you can master the mountain posture and deep relaxation, you will be well prepared for anything holiday traffic, airport officials or hotel builders can throw at you.

Mountain posture

There are times when you will be waiting around in airports or train stations. Instead of getting frustrated and irritable, why not use this time to practise the mountain posture? This posture makes you feel strong, centred and in control, even when you are in the middle of chaos. It’s a great ‘game’ for the kids too – see who can stay still and quiet for the longest! Standing postures are actually very powerful and the perfect antidote to our modern life where we are constantly moving from one place to another.

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and gently soften the knees. Pull your hips and chest forward and upwards slightly to straighten your spine. Then, tuck in your chin a little bit and allow your shoulders, arms and hands to be totally relaxed and loose.

Already in this posture you should start feeling an alignment through your back. Then imagine a cord pulling you up from the crown of your head. You should feel a lightness as if you’re being pulled up from the ground.

Focused breathing

The following technique is called spinal breathing. On the outside you are still, but on the inside everything is moving and energising you. Be warned though – it’s so effective that you might not even mind if you lose your place in the queue!

How to do it: Close your eyes and totally concentrate. As you breathe in, feel that your spine is also stretching and expanding. Then, as you breathe out, feel it relaxing and repeat a few times. If you have time, try the advanced version below.

Advanced breathing technique

The following technique may sound a little strange, as I will be asking you to imagine breathing in through your feet! But with the breath comes prana (energy) or chi as it is called in oriental medicine. It is part of the sensation of breathing, but it can also be drawn in through different parts of the body.

How to do it: As you stand in the mountain posture, imagine breathing in from your feet, moving up the legs and back into the chest. Then, as you exhale, imagine the breath moving up the back and neck and out through your crown. As you inhale, reverse the process – in through the crown and following the spine into the chest – then breathing out down the back and legs into the earth again. Repeat this cycle for a few minutes and quite quickly you will feel very still and powerful like a real mountain.

Our still axis

These breathing techniques not only energise your spine but they help to pass the time. They also help to make you aware of your axis or still point. As you energise your spine you become aware that this is your centre of gravity. You can feel still and centred even when you’re travelling or people are moving around you.

Once you have arrived at your holiday destination, all you need to do is relax. All too often though it can take several days to really feel settled and let go. But with these yogic relaxation techniques you will have a head start and can enjoy your holiday from day one!

Keith Squires is a senior Dru Yoga tutor and instructor as well as head chef at the Dru Yoga Centre in Snowdonia. To find out more, visit keithonfood.com

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