We all want a stress-free holiday season, but let’s face it: it's often a tricky time. We long to enjoy vacation days, spend quality time with family and friends, and celebrate whichever rituals we honour during the festive season. But these desires are often at odds with the pressures that accompany the holidays: the stress of making the time special (whether that involves baking, cooking, traveling, shopping for presents, scheduling parties, or hosting brunches); the challenge of maintaining our own family’s schedule while trying to fit in with our extended family’s plans; the difficulties that arise from being in close quarters with relatives for longer than usual; and the expectations we have of ourselves to feel happy throughout it all.
So, how can we make the most of the holiday season, and keep the stresses at bay? Here are five yoga tips to do just that:
At its core, yoga is about awareness - of the mind, body, and spirit. How does this affect our interactions during the holidays? If we are aware of our thoughts, words, and actions, and our expression of these three things as we move through the holiday season, we are less likely to put ourselves in situations that create stress. For example, if we are in tune with the body's signals, we become aware if we are overextending ourselves physically. By taking care of ourselves (think: sleep; being aware of what we’re eating and drinking and how that affects us; making fresh air and exercise a priority) we can set ourselves up in a positive way to tackle the holiday schedule.
One of the tenets of yoga is the practice of non-attachment, which means taking action(s) without being attached to or having expectations of the outcome. This can be extremely helpful during the holidays in mitigating dashed expectations. For example, when we do something for others and expect a certain response, we are often disappointed when we don’t receive the reaction we had hoped for. But if we enter into the holidays without being attached to the reactions of others or the outcome of certain events, we avoid unnecessary stress, disappointment and negativity.
Ahimsa is one of the first philosophical practices we learn when exploring the foundations of yoga. It means to practice non-violence, or to do no harm. Just as we can—with awareness—be conscious of the way we think, speak and act, ahimsa involves a further step: making a commitment to not harm ourselves or others by our thoughts, words or actions. At a time when emotions tend to run high, and frictions in certain relationships can surface, the practice of ahimsa can help guide us through the holidays in a non-stressful, constructive and positive way.
Practicing gratitude during the holidays is a helpful tool in relieving stress and bringing positivity to our daily activities. Some of us will experience challenging times throughout the holiday season, but by reminding ourselves of what we have to be thankful for we can ease the effect of difficult circumstances. Whether it involves being thankful for moments, people, or larger concepts, we can always find things to appreciate. And the more gratitude we practice, the more we find to be thankful for.
Arguably the most important part of a yoga class is the final resting pose, savasana. Whether you’ve experienced an active, vinyasa-filled class or a slow, gentle class with only a few postures, the final relaxation portion of the class allows the body to recalibrate or come into balance. It is a chance for the body to fully relax, and let go of any remaining tension. During the holidays, it is vital to carve out time for true relaxation, especially if there are parts of the season when your schedule is crammed with activities and obligations. When we’re fully relaxed, it is impossible to be stressed. By prioritizing time to relax, we can allow our bodies to rest and rejuvenate. As a result, we’ll be ready to face the coming new year and return to our “regularly scheduled programming,” feeling refreshed and energized.
If you found this helpful, you might be interested in: how to prevent a Christmas cry-fest; seven words that reflect the true meaning of the holidays for me; or why I think setting an intention for the holidays is a great idea.