With a bit of preparation, a short daily practice can help you manage the wide range of seasonal emotions, both positive and negative, you experience.
’Tis the season! Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. Whatever you’re celebrating, this time of year can be overwhelming and stressful for all.
Here are six quick practice tips to help sustain you during the holiday season:
1. Set an intention
Setting an intention before the start of your travel or time off helps prepare you for the coming disruptions to your routine. Consider where you will be and who will be there, along with your anticipated personal challenges. What do you need your practice to do for you during this time? Your intention may be as simple as to be patient, express gratitude, or be positive. Remind yourself of your intention at the start of your practice each day, and take it with you to each and every interaction and conversation throughout the day.
2. Make an appointment with yourself
It is so important to set aside a special time for your yoga practice and guard this time as you would any appointment. If you know that you have a particularly busy day ahead, get up one hour before the rest of your family to honor your commitment to yourself. If you practice first thing in the morning, it can be helpful to clear the space where you will practice and set out your yoga mat the night before so that, as soon as you wake up, you can begin. On the other hand, if it’s better for you to get your sleep, make an agreement with your family—especially your partner or kids—that this private time is inviolable. Have them help you guard your practice time.
3. Set realistic goals and plan ahead
It is helpful to keep a realistic perspective about how much time you have for your practice each day. If you have only 20 minutes, plan a routine that will fit into that time frame. Assess what is most important for you to do in order to make it feel like you are able to maximize this time you have to connect more deeply to yourself. When you have less time, it is important to plan ahead and know which postures you intend to practice. Be sure to move your spine in all of the cardinal directions: forward bending, backward bending, twisting to each side, lateral movement to each side, extension, and compression. Take a few minutes to include conscious breathing or pranayama, relaxation, or a short meditation. Above all, remember that even if it is highly modified, keeping the continuity in your practice will help you to feel mentally and emotionally balanced.
4. If possible, recruit an accountability partner.
Who will you be with this holiday season? Consider sharing with them your desire to practice, and why it is important to you—making it easier for them to encourage you. Or better yet, ask them to join you! This is especially important if you will be sharing a room with someone.
5. Reconnect to purpose
Our yoga practice is a wonderful space in which to cultivate our intentions. Through practice we gain clarity and insight. We may remember to be kind to ourselves and others, let go of perfectionism, and be open to our differences. No matter our background or beliefs about why we celebrate this time of year, we can all connect to the universal themes of peace, love and extending kindness to all. Our continued commitment to our practice is a way to honor these virtues, knowing that by stepping onto our mat, we’re fueling ourself with the ability to fully embody these qualities when we step out into the world.
6. Expand your definition of yoga.
Think beyond asana, pranayama, and meditation to broader yogic practices. Here are a few possibilities to add to your toolbox.
• Prayer: If you have a faith, offer a short prayer before you get out of bed in the morning.
• Seva: Selfless service reminds us of the universal nature of human emotion, such as loneliness, fear, and joy. Offering to help with cooking or cleaning up, with an open and compassionate heart, builds bridges and heals relationships.
• Svadhyaya: Self-study, or reflecting on our common thought patterns, can help us in getting through a difficult situation or savoring a positive one. Consider spending a few minutes journaling in the morning or evening about the day’s events.
Finally, while doing all that you can to maintain your practice in changed surroundings and circumstances, practice also not being too hard on yourself (or on others, for that matter). The holiday season is an intense time of year, and the pressures it brings can leave us feeling overwhelmed. Remind yourself that others are likely going through similar experiences. So give yourself permission to simply enjoy the special moments that occur. Everything else can wait for the new year!