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Holiday Stress? 5 Yoga Tips for Keeping Your Presence During the Season Of Presents
It’s the holiday season again. If you practice a specific religion, there is a holiday for you now. If you don’t practice a particular religion, you likely will still be bombarded with holiday advertisements, holiday parties, and the stress of stores that are more crowded than usual.
Some people find the hustle and bustle enjoyable—holiday lights, family rituals, or favorite music. Other times, well, it might feel like one of the least peaceful times of the year.
The yoga we’ve been practicing year-round can come in handy now to help keep us grounded and peaceful within. Here are five yoga teachings to help you keep your presence this year.
1. Kula - Community
Although your calendar may already be full, this time of year can put extra stress on your valuable time. Being selective in your RSVPs is essential now more than ever.
Some yogis have strong family ties that require extra time and travel this time of year. Others have found their community amongst their peers, friends, and other non-familial areas. Neither is better than the other.
What matters is that you permit yourself to choose whom you dedicate your time to.
Here are some tips for making your social time count:
It is perfectly acceptable to say no to any invite that doesn’t bring you joy. You also don’t need to give any explanations as to your decision.
Keep regular commitments with your chosen community, such as yoga classes, spiritual time, or lunches with friends.
Be realistic with your time. You probably still need to complete your tasks for your job and your family. Can you add one more commitment to your schedule without losing time for those?
Be honest with your community. If finances are a concern, let them know you are choosing not to participate in gift exchanges, but you’d still love to spend time with them in other ways.
Remember to practice gratitude for those within your community, not just this time of year, but all year long.
2. Seva – Selfless Service
Acts of service, without any expectation of reward, improve your community as well as enhance your spiritual growth. The act you choose, whether financial or giving of your time, isn’t as important as the dedication to the service behind it.
Seva can also be a powerful tool to combat the commercialism that permeates this time of year.
Service opportunities are all around us if we stay present and aware. Perhaps it’s something as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with a household task or helping at your child’s school. The need for volunteers usually increases at homeless shelters and animal shelters during the winter months, as well.
If you prefer to donate your money to improve your community, many yoga nonprofits are working for a better world:
Off The Mat, Into The World* cofounded by yogi Sean Corne: Their mission is to “use the tools of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism.” The organization has raised money for humanitarian relief, created ongoing service projects, and founded community action groups. The website also lists links to many other worthy yoga partners if you’d like to donate to a specific cause, such as yoga in prisons, schools, or domestic violence.
Give Back Yoga Foundation* This organization strives to “bring the transformational benefits of yoga to people with limited access to this practice.” Projects include veterans, prisoners, and those dealing with mental or physical illnesses.
3. Mitahara – The Habit of Moderate Food
Cookies, sugary treats, and extra meals abound during the holiday season. While a healthy food outlook doesn’t label any food as inherently bad, moderation is key.
Mitahara promotes awareness of the food and drinks we consume. Planning ahead via meal prepping can be an invaluable tool to resist temptation, as well as to help stay on your chosen diet of moderation.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to indulge when we want. As long as we are aware of our food choices, we can stay in control of our food choices.
A few tips for staying present during holiday meal gatherings:
Take a breath first. This will give you time to calm down your nervous system as well as to survey the food options before choosing what you want.
Maintain your water intake. Aside from helping you feel full and aid in digestion, adequate water intake will help you stay hydrated and healthy.
Eat your fruits and vegetables. The fiber from fruits and vegetables will keep your digestive processes running correctly.
It’s okay to say no to every treat you are offered. But it’s just as okay to say yes to what you want as well!
4. Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep
Science has repeatedly shown that sleep is our body’s chance to recover and heal. Yet sleep is what we lack most during busy times. I’ve heard many yoga teachers say that 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is as good as three hours of regular sleep.
Yoga Nidra is a state of mind between wakefulness and dreaming. Guided Yoga Nidra moves the practitioner between the brain wave states of beta, where we spend most of our waking time, to alpha, a more relaxed state where the calming hormone serotonin is released. As the Yoga Nidra progresses, you will be guided into a high theta brain wave state, the place we enter REM sleep during the night, eventually moving into the delta state, which is the most restorative for both your brain and your body.
Yoga Nidra will again guide you through the stages as you transition back into wakefulness.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra include:
Reduced stress, depression and anxiety
Reduced physical symptoms including headaches, stomach issues, muscle tension
Improved blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels
Reduced bouts of insomnia
5. Dhyana – Meditation
Although you may not have time for a regular nap or Yoga Nidra, taking time for quiet and stillness is vital for overall wellness at any time of the year, but especially during the holidays. Yet sometimes the hustle and bustle of the season can leave us feeling overwhelmed and underprepared.
I learned this mantra from my teacher Yo Clark, owner of Any Body Yoga in Memphis, Tennessee. It can be used alone during times of stress, or as part of meditation practice.
From a seated or standing position, bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (Prayer Position), in front of the heart center. Silently say to yourself, “I am enough.”
Inhaling as you extend your arms out wide, silently say to yourself, “There is enough.”
Extending your arms overhead, say silently to yourself, “For me.”
Exhaling into a forward fold, say silently to yourself, “To share.”
Inhaling, as you return to standing or seated upright position, say silently to yourself, “And to receive.”
I am enough. There is enough for me to share and to receive.
Jennifer Williams-Fields E-RYT 200 is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking, and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Her first book, "Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom," is now available on Amazon. She has had her essays featured on Yahoo! and Dr. Oz The Good Life. She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal Magazine, Your Tango, and YogaUOnline. See more from Jennifer at jenniferwilliamsfields.com.