In order to carry a positive action, we must develop here a positive vision. – The Dalai Lama(1)
It may seem early to say this but the holidays are coming up sooner than we think! Whether this statement produces anticipation or dread is more a matter of our choices and attitude than many believe. Of course, there are seemingly endless obligations and duties, added expenses and that dreaded “commercialization” so many lament and yet allow to overtake lives. Indeed there is much extra “stuff“ that seems endemic to this time of year, both pleasant and unpleasant.
When obligations overwhelm us, noticing the impact on ourselves, our loved ones and others in our lives can be the first step to transforming stressful times. At no time is this more apparent than during the holiday season. From the view of Yoga, accessing the joy within is essential to the overall experience of joy and peace that we seek in our lives in this holiday season and all other times. The benefits of Yoga are numerous but there are some that are particularly helpful to use at this time.
1.) Sustaining physical tone, flexibility, and strength: With holiday parties and festive feasts at the center of holiday celebrations, staying toned and fit can be a challenge. Certainly, time spent with your Yoga practice can help you avoid the January hangover effect of having let your conditioning go unchecked. This can help to get back to a more dedicated fitness regimen less daunting when the New Year comes.
2.)Keeping a baseline of mental and physical calm and ease: Although we always have choices about how and what we do personal, family and professional commitments can seem fixed and unyielding. In short, we have to do what we have to do. Staying centered is hard this time of year and Yoga can be at the forefront in helping you discover how to be at ease in busier and more stressful times. This can be more enduring than remembering to breathe when feeling fragmented and overwhelmed or stretching out a tight and tender low back. Yoga, meditation and self-care practices are all about habits and these healthful habits can create a body and mind more capable of equanimity and calm when the parade of obligations and challenges seems to have no end.
3.) Emotional clarity and new perspectives: The holiday season more than any other times can ask us to face concerns and conflicts that we can avoid or manage more comfortable much of the year As this season can move us toward reconnecting with the people, relationships and reflections into the past that may be more challenging or even painful, the baseline of calm and deeper shifts in perspectives that Yoga and Meditation can help us cope, or even transform our responses to these challenges.
4.)Accessing and sustaining a more abiding sense of joy: Many of us are let down at this time of year. Despite all the hype, the promises of great peace and joy of the holiday season may fall short of our expectations. Rather than being a time of joy or peace, for many the outwardly festive nature of the season may highlight or generates a sense of loneliness, stress or lack in those aspects of life. If unchecked, this can lead us to be cynical and dismissive of the possibilities for authentic re-connection to family and friends and create meaningful experiences for our loved ones and ourselves.
Rather than succumb to this pitfall sustaining our Yoga and self-care practice in these and other stressful times can help us stay connected to what Yogis, sages teach and we know at heart; the abiding and profound truth that happiness is accessed from within.
5.) Discovering, developing or recommitting to relevant and self-supporting values and goals. This time of reflection can be an opportunity to reignite the longing we have for something more substantial and enduring upon which to base our happiness. However, simply reviewing or reliving the past without a framework of self-forgiveness, transformation and growth may not provide the baseline strength and peace to we need to successfully make this work. Our practices can provide that foundation for this type of inquiry,
Sustain ongoing Self-care practices aren’t always easy and may need to be adjusted to accommodate changes in outward circumstance. Still, in more difficult times they can keep stress at bay and hone the patience and compassion that comes from the acceptance of what is with ourselves and others. A life touched consistently by the practice of disciplines such as Yoga and Meditation can help us transform our stressful times into a life of balance and calm. With this, we can enjoy life more fully. The most important opportunity presented in challenging times in general, and the holiday season in particular, may lie in skillfully and joyously using the benefits to our health and well being and the heightened consciousness developed on and off the Yoga mat to allow all we encounter at this time of year to become a part of our unfolding.