December 21, 2017

Ditch the gym this holiday season | Exercises you can take anywhere | pogamat

Let's face it, the holidays can be a stressful time of year. With a never ending to-do list, last minute gifts to buy, hectic traffic to battle any time you leave the house, cookies to bake for that Christmas party, travel to see family and friends and a health regimen to keep up with (on top of all your other every-day obligations), it's no wonder we get a little crazy over the holiday season. Our holiday to-do lists are giving Santa's a run for it's money. This means making time for physical activity and/or meditation during this stressful season is that much more important. However, going to the gym may just add to that stress, and we don't want that for you. Not to mention, trying to work around your gym's holiday hours coupled with your out of town travel plans, we are actually encouraging you to avoid the gym altogether (at least over the course of the next couple of weeks). That's right, we are giving you permission to ditch the gym over the holidays and we are going to give you a plan of action that you can implement right from home or wherever you may be this holiday season. 

Think of this not as a free pass to ditch your workout completely, but a less physically strenuous workout than you might typically do and the ability to do it from anywhere. If you have room for your Pogamat, then you have all the space you need for either of these workouts! 

We want you to take this time during the holidays to relax, recharge and still get fit with these stress-reducing moves and methods. We encourage this time of year to be all about recharging both the body and the mind and focusing on the most important things in life like spending time surrounded by the ones you love. Real talk here... if you are frazzled and stressed out because you couldn't make it to the gym, you won't be very fun to be around anyway. Moral: if you are skipping the gym, make sure you create the time to replace the gym time with something other method of physical activity. Choose from the below options and do them at the office, at home or on vacation. Invite your kids, parents, spouse or visitors to join you for some group fun and another way to connect over the holidays. 


First things first… as a yoga teacher, I always begin my classes with breath work. Pranayama, the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises, is one of the basic practices of yoga. Why do I do this? Controlled breathing not only keeps your mind and body functioning at their best but also increases awareness, mindfulness, reduces anxiety and can create a blissful or "zen" state of mind. I want my students to really "drop in" and focus on exactly where they are in the moment. They beauty of pranayama breathing techniques is that you can (and should) do it from anywhere several times throughout the day. Additional benefits are plentiful but some of those include reduced blood pressure, relaxed frame of mind and body and de-stressing tools. Below are a few of the basic exercises of breathing from to try out: 

Basic Breathing Exercises- For all levels




Natural breathing

Observe the breath without controlling it.

Increase breath awareness, body awareness, mindfulness.


Engage glottis to control breath flow. Can be gentle or vigorous.

Focus, stamina, breath awareness, calming

Sama-vritti: Even Breath

Make your inhales the same length, quality, and texture as your exhales. Can be done with or without counting.

Balancing, calming

Diirga: 3 Part breath

Expand the belly first, then the ribcage, then the upper chest as you inhale & contract in reverse as you exhale.

Increase breath awareness, lung capacity, and oxygen intake.

Top Down Breath

Expand the chest as you inhale & compress the belly as you exhale.

Increase breath awareness, lung capacity, and oxygen intake.

Cardio Challenge:

If you are in a place where the weather is warm enough, try this cardio challenge. Use caution if conditions are not appropriate and work inside or avoid altogether if it is icy, wet or snowy outside.

Time (in minutes)

What to Do



RPE is used to gauge your intensity in cardio workouts


Warm up at an easy to moderate pace



RPE 1-2

Very easy; you can converse with no effort






Easy; you can converse with almost no effort


Recover at a moderate pace




Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort


Repeat min 3-5




Moderate; conversation requires some effort






Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort


Recover at a moderate pace




Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort






Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort


Cool down at a moderate pace



RPE 9-10

Peak effort; no talking zone


Tai Chi

Like yoga, tai chi is a series of self-paced, flowing body movements and breathing techniques, however, the movements have their roots in martial arts. Similarly, the moves are meant to calm the mind and condition the body thus making tai chi an excellent choice for stress relief. According to recent studies, this mind-body practice has many health benefits including helping to build bone density, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and even ease symptoms of conditions like heart failure, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Another advantage is that once you learn the moves, you can practice them anywhere and at any time — making it an easy activity for people of all ages to incorporate into everyday life.

To get started, try this beginner routine at There are also several Youtube videos with sample routines.


Yoga, an excellent stress-relief exercise, involves a series of moving and stationary poses, or postures, combined with deep breathing. A mind-body exercise, yoga can strengthen your body’s natural relaxation response and bring you into a healthy balance. For stress relief, do gentle yoga or yoga for beginners or for a more strenuous workout, try to incorporate some “power yoga” moves. Refer to our At-Home Yoga Blog Post to guide you through a home practice. 

yoga stress relief exercises 

High-Energy Activities

Try some aerobic exercises — like running, dancing, playing WiiFit or Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii with the family to increase your heart rate and get moving. Throw on some Christmas tunes like ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ and it’ll be sure to get you moving. When your heart rate is accelerated, your body releases endorphins, natural opiates that make you feel good with no side effects. High-energy activities help you feel better physically and mentally.

 Skiing for a high energy workout over the holidays

Body weight exercises

You can work out pretty much anywhere using bodyweight exercise moves. Short periods of intense exercise can be just as effective — sometimes even more so — than longer workouts that you do with moderate effort. In one of our previous blog posts on Bodyweight Workouts, we gave you a detailed description and some great examples to try.

Here’s an example to try:

  • 10 x squat | 10 x push-ups | 30 seconds jumping lunges | Rest for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x
  • 10 x power bridge | 10 x side lunge left + right | 30 seconds plank | Rest for 15 seconds | Repeat 3x
  • 10 x superman left + right | 10 x single deadlift | 30 seconds burpees | Rest for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x

The Scientific 7 Minute Workout

Piggybacking off of the Bodyweight Workout, an article in the May-June issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal details 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall. This workout fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort, all of it based on science. The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each with a 10-second rest between exercises while intensity hovers at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10 (see above for RPE scale). Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant. The upside is, after seven minutes, you’re done. Pretty incredible right?! But who’s complaining… after all, it’s only 7 minutes! You got this!

Workouts you Can do Anywhere- 7 minute workout 

Workouts you Can do Anywhere- 7 minute workout advanced

The 7-Minute Workouts, the original and the advanced versions, are not meant to be your sole exercise. Furthermore, any routine, if that’s all you do, will become monotonous and demotivating. That is why we have given you free reign to mix up your workouts and to try out different things! Perhaps alternate between a few of these options! Go for a run at lunch. Do some yoga after work. Have a dance party at night. Go skiing in the mountains on your holiday. Mix it up and have fun with it! But again, don’t be so hard on yourself! After all, tis’ the season to be filled with holiday cheer!

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