The holidays sometimes bring their own brand of stress. We have Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Local Saturday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations, one after the other. A frenzy of activity—eating, shopping and social obligations—puts pressure on us and pulls us out of balance. Increased activity and expectations move us away from the natural call, which is to withdraw. In the northern hemisphere, we are experiencing low light, cold temperatures, and short days during this time of the year, making us naturally want to move inward.
A healthy daily routine forges and encourages balance. For example, I do not start my day with a cup of coffee, a bagel, and TV news. I start each day with rituals of self-care that support my circadian rhythms, polishing the mind, body, and spirit and making me feel good all day. I plug into Yoga and Ayurvedic practices to find a balanced path through the holiday season.
A big challenge for many during the holiday season is eating too much and sleeping too little, especially when we are already out of touch with our bodies. It is not uncommon to hear stories of weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. To manage the stress, we overindulge in holiday food and drinks. Later we notice the extra pounds are back, the digestion is not right, and possibly we’re feeling more stressed! Ayurveda teaches us easy ways to honor the body and still enjoy the food of the season. A strong dinacharya practice (daily rituals of self-care) can soothe and satisfy the body’s needs. With the celebrations and travel that accompany the holidays, a routine of self-care is of utmost importance to keep the digestive fire high and the body balanced and immune to illness. Gentle Hatha Yoga practice, abhyanga (self-oil massage), and Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) are some ways to attend to the body.
With all kinds of extra events, including shopping, travel, and dinner parties, we encounter another common holiday side-effect: fatigue. The increased activities can sap our energy. We naturally want to stay warm, relaxing in our cocoons due to the cold air and low light. However, we face late nights and extra running around. We may realize our breath is shallow and we feel depleted and disconnected from the source of life force. Deerga swasam (deep breathing) is a must during the season of celebrations as it reduces anxiety, lowers levels of cortisol production, lowers blood pressure, and reduces heart rate. Practicing conscious deep breathing three times each day can reconnect and reinvigorate the body and mind.
Speaking of the mind, many of us may be dealing with a lot of mental and emotional pressure—the pressure to be good enough, to follow family traditions, to give the best gifts, and to feel and act the way that society expects us to during the holidays. For some, the holidays can even be a reminder of loved ones who are no longer present or old emotional traumas. Traditional yogic practices help us to take such difficult moments as a training ground for freedom—freedom to be with family without getting bent out of shape, to notice our own emotional triggers, to experience compassion, and to let go of resentment. A few of these traditional practices are: japa mantra (repetition of mantra) to still mind chatter, dinacharya to reinforce going to bed early, and meditation to connect with our intuition and spiritual wisdom.
If you find yourself letting the stress of the holidays get to you season after season, come to Yogaville and get a Yoga tune-up for the holidays! I will be teaching an upcoming workshop in November where we will use the ancient practices of Yoga and Ayurveda to rejuvenate, renew, and refine our connection to the body, mind, and higher Self. This will help make this year’s holidays healthy and balanced, full of joy, and very special to you and those you love. Oh, and by the way… these practices are also helpful anytime of the year!
OM Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.