Cooking, decorating, shopping and entertaining relatives. During the holidays, these activities can trigger stress in even the most dedicated of yogis, but maintaining your practice in upcoming weeks can go a long way toward maintaining your equilibrium. Try these on and off-the-mat tips to manage holiday stress now and into the New Year. Think of your commitment to yoga as a gift to yourself, and keep up your practice with perhaps a tweak or two to adjust to this busy season.
On the mat, you can:
Make time each day for meditation. Even five or ten minutes can set the tone for your day or help you wind down from an all-day shopathon.
Work in specific poses that target your particular stressors. Spend time in warrior three (Virabhadrasana III) or tree pose (Vrksasana) if you’re feeling out of balance. Incorporate twists to squeeze and stretch the torso to stimulate circulation and release tension in the spinal muscles. Hip openers are also useful de-stressors since we tend to store emotion and tension in the larger muscle groups. Heart openers and neck and shoulder stretches can counteract the effects of hours adding to online shopping carts. End the day in legs-up-the-wall (Viparita Karani) pose to quiet the mind and reduce swelling in your feet and legs.
Consider shifting from a traditional well-rounded or flow style practice to yin or restorative classes. Try a candlelight class or experience the intense relaxation of yoga nidra, which is said to be the equivalent of hours of deep sleep.
If you don’t have time to get to your regular class, practice in short bursts. Try tree pose as you’re working in the kitchen, mountain pose while standing in line or target tight shoulders with eagle arms almost anywhere. Remember that sun salutations are a microcosm of the entire yoga practice, encompassing moves for all-over strength and flexibility and serving as a moving meditation by linking movement with breath, so a few rounds of Surya Namaskara A can go a long way towards maintaining your practice when time is short. Finally, experiment with pranayama exercises to calm anxiety.
When you’re off the mat, you can:
Limit your screen time. Most of us have no idea how much time we fritter away on our phones and computers, but we might get things checked off the to-do list a little more efficiently if we limit our social media scrolling. An added benefit to less screen time means less temptation to keep up with the Joneses.
Use essential oils such as lavender to relax or cedarwood to feel grounded. They make great gifts or stocking stuffers as well.
Be intentional in the invitations you accept and the amount of people you feel you have to buy gifts for. Saying no to one more commitment may be the break you need for yourself or your family.
Limit negative self talk, which can spiral this time of year as we overeat, overspend and underexercise. Practice pratipaksha bhavana, the yogic discipline of cultivating the opposite thought as unpleasant thoughts take hold. Retraining the mind takes time and practice, but it’s a powerful tool to reduce suffering. This season’s emphasis on spiritualism makes it a great time to work on moving to a deeper level of grace.