Yoga for Post-Holiday Stress and Anxiety Relief

It may be the season to be jolly, but the holidays can create a whole lot of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, yoga can be a wonderful way to relieve any leftover holiday stress and ease the nervous system. 

According to researchers, “regular yoga practice promotes physiological changes such as reducing blood pressure and cortisol levels and improves general well-being.” Harvard Health says, “All exercise can boost your mood by lowering levels of stress hormones, increasing the production of feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, and bringing more oxygenated blood to your brain. However, yoga may have additional benefits. It can affect mood by elevating a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), associated with better mood and decreased anxiety.”

These benefits come from all variations of yoga, so choosing a practice that works for you is most important. The following two yoga sequences are designed to relieve stress and anxiety. Both sequences include poses to access the shoulders, neck, and hip flexor areas where we tend to store stress. Each sequence also includes a balance pose to help focus the mind.

One yoga sequence is more energetic. Some of us need to move to release nervous energy before any stillness or deep breathing practices. The other yoga sequence is for those who need a gentler and more peaceful practice to calm themselves. Of course, you can practice both if you have time and your body allows.

Energetic Yoga Practice to Relieve Stress

Happy woman practicing yoga's low lunge pose. Concept of yoga to relieve stress and anxiety.

If you are in a state of stress that prevents you from being able to sit quietly or still, this practice is for you. Add vinyasa flow between any poses or sides of the body that you feel you need. The breathing practice during Relaxation Pose (Savasana) is designed to bring the nervous system from the sympathetic (fight/flight) to the parasympathetic (rest/restore) and is just as important as the movement.

  1. Start standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) at the top of the mat and tune into your breath.
  2. To warm up your body, flow through a few Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara). Don’t linger in each pose. Simply move to the rhythm of your breath.
  3. High Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana): Interlace your fingers behind your back. Inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale to hinge your body forward at the hips. Inhale to raise your torso again and repeat 4 times.
  4. Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana): Inhale, raise your arms overhead, if available, press your palms together, and bend your elbows, drawing your thumbs toward the base of your neck. Hold for 5 breaths.
  5. Half Splits Pose (Ardha Hanumanasana): Hold for 5 breaths.
  6. Eagle Pose (Garudasana): Hold for 5 breaths on each side.
  7. Cat/Cow Poses (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana): Move with your breath through 5 cycles.
  8. Puppy Dog Pose (Uttana Shishosana): Hold for 5 breaths.
  9. Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana): Add in lateral neck stretches.
  10. Supine Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana): Hold each side for 5 breaths.
  11. Relaxation Pose (Savasana) with Breathing Exercise: Inhale for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 6. Keep the count constant and practice for at least 2 minutes

Calming, Peaceful Yoga Practice 

Young attractive woman practicing yoga's Butterfly Pose also known as Baddha Konasana pose. Concept of yoga practice to relieve stress and anxiety.

For those who need to press pause and find some calm in our day, this practice is for you. Gentle movements held for a minimum of 5 breaths will help regulate the nervous system.

  1. Start sitting on your mat and tune into your breathing, slowing and deepening it.
  2. Lateral Neck Stretch: Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder. If you like, gently rest your right hand on the left side of your head. Draw your left shoulder down and hold for 5 breaths or more. Repeat for the left side.
  3. Side Waist Stretch: Stay seated, inhale, raise your right arm up, exhale, and reach the right arm and ribs up and over toward the left. Ensure the right buttock stays grounded. Hold for 5 or more breaths and repeat for the left side.
  4. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana): Hold for 5 breaths.
  5. Seated Spinal Twist: Sweep both feet around to your left so you’re resting on the right hip. Bring your right hand to the earth, and keep your spine long. Inhale to lift the left arm up, exhale to bring your left hand onto your right knee as you rotate the spine. Look over your right shoulder and hold for 5 breaths. Repeat the second side, switching the legs to the opposite side.
  6. Cat/Cow Pose: Move with the breath and repeat 3 to 5 times.
  7. Child’s Pose (Balasana): Hold for a minimum of 5 breaths.
  8. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana) variation: Start on your hands and knees. Inhale, extend your right arm out in front of your body. Exhale, and extend your right leg behind you. If this is enough, hold here for 5 breaths. If your body allows, inhale and reach your right hand back to catch your right foot in your hand. Exhale to press the foot into the hand and lift toward the sky. Your left foot can be more out to the side than in direct line with the knee to help balance. Hold for 5 breaths.
  9. Thread-the-Needle Pose (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana): Hold each side for 5 breaths.
  10. Half Happy Baby Pose (Ardha Ananda Balasana): Hold each side for 5 breaths.
  11. Supine Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana): Hold each side for 5 breaths.
  12. Savasana with Breathing Exercise: Inhale for your count of 4 and exhale for 6. Keep the count constant and practice for at least 2 minutes

Erin Bourne (RYT500, YACEP) is a yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer based in Seventeen Seventy (yes, the real town name) in Australia. She also teaches Pilates and other movement modalities; having come to yoga from an Exercise Science and education background, she is obsessed with learning and sharing about the body and movement. Erin shares her experience and knowledge through regular classes, teacher trainings, online courses, and writing. Her course offerings include 3D Anatomy and Resistance Yoga. Her writing includes the book A Yogi’s Guide to Fascia and numerous print and online published articles. You can find Erin’s creations through her website

Recent articles


Upcoming courses

Free Download!

Yoga for
every body

How to Avoid the Top 3 Pitfalls of Forward Bends

With Julie Gudmedstad

Recent articles


Sorry, You have reached your
monthly limit of views

To access, join us for a free 7-day membership trial to support expanding the Pose Library resources to the yoga community.

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial