As if life isn’t hectic enough – here comes the holiday hoopla. Extended family, holiday shopping, holiday parties, drinking, brunches and lunches, baking, cooking and decorating. You are going to need your practice more than ever over the next month – but how do you maintain your practice when the holidays are getting the best of you? Here are my tips for keeping your practice alive during the season of merrymaking.
Give yourself a break! Practice compassion with yourself this holiday season. If you’ve been indulging in too much food and spirits, let your binds go. If you are feeling jacked up from the holiday stress, don’t push your backbends. Now is the time of year to focus on showing up – you can fine tune all the details in the new year. So send yourself heaps of love. Don’t judge your practice – remember if you practiced, it was good – it’s really that simple.
Do your best to stick with the morning routine. Let’s face it – Ashtanga happens dark and early and this is a particularly difficult time of year to wake up early. December is a tough month – I notice attendance drops every year at this time in my Mysore room. Evenings are hectic with holiday commitments, but mornings can still be your time. Are you struggling to get going in the morning? Sleep in your practice clothes so you can roll out of bed and onto your mat, program your coffee maker so you have some hot brew waiting for you when your alarm goes off, take a cold shower – do whatever it takes to make your morning easier so you can spend less time fumbling around in the dark and more time on your mat.
Consider a shorter practice. I love to indulge in a 2 hour practice. Savasana, seated meditation, asana, pranayama, savasana (yup – I do savasana twice). But, when I am traveling for the holidays this just isn’t going to happen. My minimum daily practice is 5 As and 5 Bs and the last 3 seated poses. They are easy to squeeze in just about any time during the morning. I don’t need two hours, I actually only need about 15 minutes. If I can do more, I do more. If I can’t then whatever, at least I did something. I consider this a maintenance month. I’m trying to keep my practice alive so I can turn it up in January.
Don’t leave home without a travel mat and practice clothes – its hard enough to get on your mat when you are with family, it’ll be even tougher if you don’t have the basics with you. Squeeze them in your bag, you’ll be happy you did.
Find a dedicated space to practice if you are traveling. When I visit my parents, I wake up early to practice in front of the fireplace. Everyone else is still asleep so the house is quiet and the fire keeps me warm. When I visit my aunt, I like to practice in the bathroom. The heater makes it toasty for me and no one ever bothers me in there! These places aren’t ideal under my normal circumstances, but they do the trick for the holidays.
Don’t go it alone! Do you have a difficult time self motivating? Practicing alone can be challenging – I struggle with this every day. One of my favorite ways to get through a self practice when I’m dragging is to listen to a recording. It keeps me on the vinyasa and that keeps me more focused on my practice. This year Ashtanga Dispatch organized a led primary taught by your favorite Ashtanga teachers from all over the world. Donate and download to get access to this exclusive led primary class. All donations benefit Together Rising. Bonus – you get to be a part of a global community while helping to reunite families at the border. Feeling a bit more motivated??? Need more help still? Try this: Prop your phone up and FaceTime practice sesh with your practice buddy – its always helpful to have someone else hold you accountable.
Set really strong intentions this holiday season. Think about what the holidays are really about for you. Joy, love, peace, gratitude, giving, and kindness to others come to mind. Now think about how much your yoga practice has taught you about these virtues. Your practice gives you the opportunity to embody these qualities – and your practice is preparing me for the rest of your life.
Remember that your yoga practice is ALWAYS available to you. You don’t have to be on your yoga mat to practice. You can find ways to practice at a mall or a family party. Pause and take a deep breath, find a moment of solitude, go outside for a breath of fresh air. You have all the skills you need to deal with the holiday stress – even if you aren’t getting on your mat as much as you like to. You have a practice. You know what to do – you’ve been practicing for this all year long.
Practicing yoga will not cure holiday stress – but it will help you deal with it!
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