Founder of Big Sky Yoga Retreats and the blog series Cowgirl Yoga, Margaret Burns Vap is a former city-girl fashionista transformed by yoga and motherhood into an outdoorsy, eco-conscious Montana cowgirl (who still loves a latte). Her relationship with yoga began over a decade ago, in a bid to combat a hectic New York City lifestyle and a corporate career with cosmetics giant L’Oréal. Years later, she knew that the corporate world no longer held a future for her. She switched her designer duds for comfy pants—and NYC for Washington D.C.—to combine her business know-how with her passion for yoga, creating Georgetown Yoga, one of DC’s most popular yoga studios in the early 2000s. She brought that same recipe for yoga success to Montana, where she currently leads retreats for women under the Big Sky that include yoga and horses, yoga and hiking, and Yellowstone yoga. Her accomplishments don’t stop there—Margaret has also founded a program called Cowgirls vs. Cancer that offers scholarships to breast cancer survivors each year!
Below you’ll find one of her blog posts on the importance of detoxing during the holiday season:
Om for the Holidays: How to Detox Now
How can you have fun, get everything done, and stay healthy during the holidays? Most of us recognize that our usual diet and fitness routine may have to slide a little (or a lot) and that’s fine—‘tis the season to indulge. One too many glasses of bubbly at a holiday fête? Don’t wait until the New Year to detox. If you take small steps to balance overindulging now, it will be much easier to get back on track in January.
Yoga Practice: One-Pose Wonders for Holiday Detox
In between all the holiday food, festivities, and travel, it might be tough to find the time, place, and headspace to do a longer yoga practice or get to a class. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for one-pose wonders, which you can do pretty much anytime, anywhere, and without equipment. Even if you’re squeezed into that small extra bedroom at Grandma’s and she doesn’t happen to have a yoga mat on hand. These poses each address the different systems in the body that aid the detox process. You can do them all together, or one at a time.
This is also known as the “wind-relieving pose,” so be careful where you decide to do this one! I do this pose every day; it not only massages the abdominal organs, but it’s also a low back release. It’s great to do before you get out of bed.
Lie on your back and simply draw your knees towards your chest; if your muscles aren’t warm or you just ate a big meal, don’t pull them in too far. You’ll know when to stop. Roll around on your lower back as you hold your knees, massaging your sacrum. Stay there as long as it feels good—sometimes I stay for 5-10 minutes!
Backbends encourage heart opening, which releases negative emotions. Holiday cheer will be more genuine if you get rid of that negative energy resulting from (fill in the blank: relatives, party pressure, etc.), and open yourself to the joys of the season. Backbends also increase blood flow to the spine, to energize if you’re feeling sluggish from overindulging.
Locust pose has become my favorite low back therapy. It’s an amazing low back strengthener; you can practically feel those muscles getting stronger as you hold the pose. If your back is cranky from seasonal stress, try this backbend to wake those muscles from their stupor. The pressure on your abdomen also encourages digestion, which stimulates the release of those things that no longer serve you. Like too many holiday cookies.
Lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor, and your feet as close together as possible. Start to press your hips into the floor as you interlace your fingers behind you. On an inhale, lift everything up and tuck your chin in slightly; squeeze your hands together as you lift them away from your back. Use your inhales to keep lifting up, and your exhales to hold the lift. Float back down on your fifth exhale. Repeat and hold for another five deep breaths.
Inversions change up the blood flow for the obvious reason that you are upside down. But did you know that your veins, unlike arteries, can’t push blood along? They rely on movement to get blood from the periphery back to your heart. Inversions get venous blood from the feet, legs, and pelvis back to the center. This pose is a restorative inversion, to soothe the nervous system and allow both the body and mind to let go. A great holiday gift to yourself!
Viparita Karani is a wonderful wind-down after a busy day of holiday madness, Viparita Karani will help harness ungrounded energy and transition you toward bedtime.
Stand with your side against a wall so that your shoulder is touching it. Sit down, maintaining that close connection to the wall. In one movement, swing your legs gently up the wall and lay your torso down on the floor. You’ll then need to shift your hips away from the wall a few inches; experiment with a position that feels right for you. If you have tight hamstrings or lower back issues, you can put a folded blanket underneath your hips for support. Once you get settled, make sure you have some distance between your feet and take your arms away from your body, palms up. Let your head rock gently from side to side; bring it back to center and close your eyes. Stay here anywhere from 5-15 minutes, focusing all attention on your breath.
More holiday detox help: turn to tea! Try the 7-Day Tea Cleanse Kit from The Tea Spot. A great gift idea, too.
Happy and healthy holidays!
Add a little Yeehaw to your Namaste: WWW.COWGIRLYOGA.COM
Photo credit: LARRY STANLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Clothing: Capris by YOGASMOGA, tee by IMOGENE & WILLIE