Combine a little family button-pushing with a feast of comfort foods, stuffing, and pies, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday indulgence. Don’t get me wrong – I savor Thanksgiving dinner as much as the next person, but I try to find a balanced way to celebrate the abundance of the season.
The following Yin Yoga sequence doesn’t burn a ton of calories to get that gravy out of your system (I suggest a hike or long walk), but it can help restore you mentally, energetically, and internally. This Thanksgiving-themed practice focuses primarily on the Spleen/Stomach Meridians, with a few Liver/Gallbladder poses thrown in for good measure.
The Spleen/Stomach Meridian pair assists with physical digestion, as well as our ability to “digest” whatever happens to us mentally and emotionally. This pair is also associated with the positive attributes of abundance and enough-ness that relate to Thanksgiving, especially because of their connection to the Harvest Season/Earth Element.
The Liver/Gallbladder Meridian pair can help us de-tox, since the Liver is the body’s chemical processing center. In Chinese Medicine this also works on the emotional level, as these meridians help us process feisty feelings like anger, frustration, and resentment. It’s a good idea to give your hard-working liver some love after Thanksgiving dinner.
So, here’s a sequence you can do at home to celebrate this holiday and support yourself on all levels:
Opening Meditation: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Take a few mindful breaths to settle in, then bring your hands to lightly rest on your belly. Feel the belly rise and fall with your breath, continuing to bring awareness to this space for several minutes.
Still on your back, take a few Windshield Wiper Twists, moving your knees gently side-to-side with your feet on the ground.
Bring one knee into the chest as you stretch the opposite leg out. Switch sides and repeat several times.
Come to sitting and practice flexing and extending the spine back and forth a few times (like a seated cat/cow), then side bend left and right a few times, moving with the rhythm of your breath.
1. Sphinx Pose – 3 minutes
Release by coming down onto your belly. Wiggle your hips side to side a few times.
2. Reclining Twist – 3 minutes, each side
Release by coming into a neutral position on your back and take a few knee circles in each direction.
3. Squat Pose – 2 minutes (Alternate Option: Happy Baby Pose)
Squat Pose illustration & instructions from Bernie Clark here.
4. Lateral Dragonfly – 3 minutes, each side
This is a side bend from the seated wide-legged Dragonfly position (not folding forward). The top arm can rest on your head, or can stay down by your side.
5. Cat Tail Pose – 2 minutes upright in “Phase A”, 2 minutes in twist “Phase B” on each side
To release, lie on your back, stretch your arms overhead, take a big inhale and sigh (3 times)
6. Bananasana – 3 minutes, each side
7. Saddle Pose – 5 minutes (Alternate Option: Dragon Lunge, 2 minutes on each side)
Release by using your arms and abs to help you sit up. Carefully unfold your legs – bend and straighten the knees a few times.
8. Twisted Roots – 2 minutes, each side
9. Happy Baby – 3 minutes
Here’s a video from Bernie Clark on Happy Baby.
10. Savasana – Rest for a minimum of 10 minutes.
Throughout the practice session, return to the sensation of the breath at the belly. Really allow yourself to feel the movement of the breath at your center, without forcing it. Relax and enjoy!
If you need more specific instructions for any of these poses, I recommend looking them up on Bernie Clark’s YouTube Channel. He has a quick and accessible break-down available for pretty much all of the Yin poses.