The holiday season is officially here! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber-Monday, and Giving Tuesday! Phew, it sure can seem like a lot to keep track of during the holidays, particularly as we jump from one holiday event to another. Well, not to fret, yoga and ayurveda are here to help! As always, there is so much wisdom in these ancient traditions that can be applied today. Here are some tips from these age-old practices to help get you through the holiday season with greater joy and ease:
Perhaps the most important tip of all - remember to breathe! Our breath is the most powerful tool that we have. Yoga says that where our breath goes, so our mind goes and vice versa. When we are stressed and anxious, our breath becomes shallow. When we are relaxed, our breath becomes steady; we breathe deeply and more fully. Yoga teaches us that with simple awareness we can steady our breath, and thereby relax our body and mind. So, for two minutes every morning and evening, simply pause to take your awareness to your breath. Place your right hand on your abdomen, and inhale deeply such that your lungs fill, which naturally pushes down your diaphragm causing your abdomen to expand into your right hand. There you go, now that’s a nice full deep breath! And, then, exhale fully such that your abdomen contracts as your diaphragm relaxes. This single practice has the power to shift and transform, relax and soften us into our daily activities and relationships.
During the holiday season, perhaps even more than during other times of the year, we set high expectations for ourselves. Perhaps it is because reuniting with family and friends has the tendency to bring to surface many of our deepest insecurities and “shoulda, woulda, coulda” moments. On top of that, we frantically search for the most perfect gifts and spend hours trying to prepare meals that are flawless! So, at this time, it is more important than ever to practice self-compassion. Remember, you are exactly where you are meant to be and you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing. Eckhart Tolle says it beautifully, ““Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” So, when asked, yet again, why you are still single or don’t have kids or why your mashed potatoes turned out so runny, just know that your experience is perfect. Even the feelings that arise when asked these questions, be it frustration or sadness, are also perfect. And then, let it go and enjoy the moment. The greatest gift you can give yourself is presence; the greatest gift you can give others is presence. So, honor your experience and be present; this, in itself, is a great act of self-compassion.
Daily abhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic practice of self-massage with oil that has an incredibly grounding and balancing effect. According to Ayurveda, when dosha-specific oils are applied and allowed to penetrate into the tissues, deep healing and reversal of imbalances occur. The technique of the self-massage is less important than actually just getting the oils on your skin. So, don’t worry about the technique, just grab some sesame oil, rub it in and give it time to do its magic! Daily neti pot, followed by the application of oil to the inside of the nostrils is also an incredibly beneficial practice. Sesame oil or special formulations of Nasya oil can be used. This practice cleanses and lubricates the nares, the first site of absorption of that vital life-force energy called Prana, thereby keeping us healthy and alert.
Sip on Hot Water
With all of the amazing food that the holiday season brings, it can be difficult not to over-indulge ever so slightly! Luckily, our digestive fire, Agni, is a bit revved up during the winter to counter the cold season. Even then, we want to make sure that we are keeping our Agni ignited. The best way to do this is to sip on hot water during and between meals. Even more effective is to sip on hot water with a little bit of ginger, lemon, and honey. This stokes the digestive fire, allowing for more easeful digestion. According to Ayurveda, ice cold liquids should be avoided completely because these extinguish our digestive fire, making it even harder for our body to effectively digest and assimilate our food.
Rest and Restore
Truly, the holidays are about taking time to rest and restore. The holidays are not intended to be a cause of stress. Rather, it is a time to spend with family and friends in remembrance of the love and light that surrounds us and is within us. So, allow yourself the opportunity to rest and restore this holiday season. When we rest and restore, we are able to appreciate with greater awareness all of the beauty that our lives hold. It is from this space that we allow our innate light to shine brightly.
Wishing you the most beautiful holiday season filled with so much peace and joy, love and light.