How to Keep Up with Your Yoga Practice During the Holiday Season
During the holiday season, the majority of us will be quite busy: we have gifts to choose and wrap, food to prepare and cook and pack, phone calls to give for organizational purposes, and it can get a bit much. If you have to travel, you have to get mentally ready to wait in line at the airport check-in desk or at the train station, or maybe get stuff in traffic with kids to keep busy and happy in the back seat of the car… All the while trying to maintain your patience and calm and remember to enjoy it all because, after all, the holidays are meant to be joyful.
You’ve decided that you won’t let yourself get carried away in all this stress.
If you’re an introvert, or simply someone who enjoys and highly cherishes their time alone with a book, cuddled up in the sofa with your pets and a warm cup of tea, then the holiday season might be extra overwhelming for you. And this year, no matter how hectic the season gets, you’ve decided that you won’t let yourself get carried away in all this stress.
These suggestions are meant to help maintain a sense of peace even if your routine gets distracted.
Below are a couple of things you can do make sure you don’t run around like a crazy beheaded chicken. These suggestions are meant to help maintain a sense of peace even if your routine gets distracted - if you feel well within, you’ll feel well, full stop, and it matters.
Wake up earlier
I know, I know, that might not be the first thing you want to do when you go to bed late after spending extra, precious time sipping tea with your entire family the night before. But do trust me on that one: set up your alarm just a couple of minutes earlier so you can have at least 10 minutes in the morning to yourself for whatever yoga practice you like to have. What matters is that you have a bit of time to yourself before the day starts.
Journaling? Meditating? Breathwork? Stretching or sun salutations? Even if you don’t have your usual 30 minutes or full hour to practice, do take time for some of it before you get on with your day. You will feel better both mentally and physically, more present, and therefore able to enjoy that special time of the year focusing on what’s happening around rather than feeling overwhelmed or like something’s missing.
This can mean various things, for example:
- Prepare your clothes, water bottle, and yoga mat if you’re heading to the studio early in the morning.
- Prepare yourself mentally to skip a practice or two around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
- If you have to travel, picture your trip from point A to B and imagine a smooth experience.
Planning ahead also means you should plan for the unexpected: if last-minute obligations come up, you might not make it to the studio on time, or you might realize you’ve misread the studio’s opening hours and now you can’t join the class you’d been looking forward to.
The idea behind planning is to relax your nervous system: if you know what’s coming, or can at least be prepared to schedule changes, you’ll be able to receive them with more peace and calmness. The result? Less stress on your mind and body, more light-heartedness, a more enjoyable holiday season.
Work on (and remember!) your intention
Every time you get to practice yoga, the teacher most likely invites you to think about an intention or provides one. An intention helps you practice presence and acts as the guiding thread to go back to when your shoulders get tired in warrior II or when you find child’s pose too long.
So, even if your routine gets distracted, and you might not be able to have your daily meditation or usual yoga class, think about these questions: what is it that makes you love these practices? What is it that makes you want to go back to your yoga mat? The answers you’ll get can become your intentions, what you want to get out of your practice. It might be peace, calm, a sense of freedom or connectedness to yourself, feeling at ease in your body, grateful for it, and so on.
Now think about this: are there ways you can invite these feelings into your day-to-day without having to stick to a practice that happens only on the mat? For instance, could you meditate on the plane to find that peace and quiet you’re after? Could you play soothing music as you shop for gifts to get that sense of ease in your shoulders and jaw? Can you take long, deep breaths when you cook?
Invite the feelings and sensations you look for during your yoga practice into your day-to-day activities - it’ll make them much more enjoyable and will add a sense of softness into your stressful errands.
Be extra patient
Patience is a quality we never have too much of, and even more during moments where life feels a bit unstable. If you want to be patient, you have to keep in mind that things won’t necessarily get done when you want them to and that people won’t understand you as fast as you wish they did.
Find little ways to practice patience: listen eagerly to that story your kid has to tell you, ask the person in front of you in line at the supermarket what she’s cooking for the holidays, listen to an audiobook while you’re stuck in traffic. Make these experiences as pleasant as possible by remembering that you can change your mindset around them, and that if you do, you’ll just be making your own life easier.
Get creative: look for simple ways to practice yoga
Yoga doesn’t just happen on the mat; in fact, asana, the physical part, is just one piece of the eight-limbed path of yoga as described by Patanjali. This means you have 7 others ways to practice yoga! Among them, you can find meditation and breathwork, of course, but also guiding principles - the yamas and niyamas - or concentration - dharana.
Let’s take the principle of aparigraha, the principle of non-attachment or non-possessiveness. This principle can be interpreted as letting go of expectations or results from a specific action. When you cook, try not to think about the end product; instead, focus on your hands cutting vegetables and fruits and mixing cake batter. When you’re shopping, try not to focus on the amount of money you’ll be spending; instead, think about the intention you’re putting into the present you’re making to someone you love.
This is what yoga is really about: taking everything you learn on there into your daily life and when situations get challenging.
Now concentration, dharana, can be practiced at any time during the day. This simply means to be focused on one object at a time and is supposed to quiet the mind. The most straightforward way to do this is to focus on one task at a time rather than wanting to multi-task. Focus on staying where you are: baking, driving, organizing your house, you name the activity. You’ll be practicing yoga as much as on your mat!
This holiday season, remember that your mat practice can very easily be replaced by many other kinds of practices! This is what yoga is really about: taking everything you learn on there into your daily life and when situations get challenging.