Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of the year – happiest? Yeah right, more like busiest, most expensive and most highly stressful. Here are 5 ways yoga will take some of the Scrooge out of the season.
Obvious right? Not in the way you might think, though. Sure, yoga will help make your body stretchier and that will indefinitely be of use when you’re reaching to place your star on the top of your Christmas tree. But for the Christmas season, flexibility of your mind is really the key.
How do you react when your daughter-in-law announces that she wants to host the traditional family dinner this year at her house instead of yours? Or when you find out your sister is now vegetarian and won’t be eating the ham you’ve slaved over for hours?
Christmas is a time when tensions run high, things get hectic and bad-drivers run amok, and a strong yoga practice can help you stay flexible and loving through it all. It may seem like a tall order: long flexible hamstrings and a more open mind – but try it and you’ll see they go hand in hand.
The traffic is going to be terrible. You won’t find a place to park, or a taxi, and don’t start me on the long bank lines. There’s a moment in a yoga class where the teacher says for what seems like the umpteenth time, “relax and breathe,” and it finally clicks and makes sense.
The sweaty guy in the back row struggling to stay put in tree pose with his foot at his ankle, the long limbed goddess in the front who intimidates you like no other, the teacher’s pet, you – we are all in this together. Those lines and traffic are populated by us (humans) and we are all just trying. So don’t stress, just accept, show up to yoga class and keep moving. It’s Christmas!
‘Tis the season of exhaustion. There is just so much to get done and the previously mentioned ridiculous traffic to stop you from getting anywhere. Energy doesn’t come cheap. More expensive than iPhones, GTA games, Coach handbags or whatever else the material world has come up with this year, energy has a value like gold. And this gold – yoga can provide!
It’s a weird paradigm, but if you start by investing some of your limited time and energy into a yoga practice it will reward you infinitely. That hour or so when you’re in yoga, slowing things down, consciously moving your body and breathing deeply, sends all kinds of rejuvenation signals to your brain.
A balanced practice will also provide rest, and it’s been said that yogic rest is actually equal to 10 times the amount of sleep. Talk about power nap. Ever heard of Yoga Nidra or psychic sleep? No? Google it. There’s a reason why those advanced yogis only need to sleep four hours a day.
The Christmas season is not for the light-hearted. I mean, between making pastelles, buying and wrapping gifts, figuring out what your loved ones really want, cleaning house and possibly even going to the ninth circle of hell (the bank), it’s a never ending barrage of responsibilities and things to get done. But so is staying in Warrior 2 when your teacher decides you’re doing 10 minute holds on both sides; or just showing up. Every time.
There’s something about a yoga practice that practically turns to magic by the end and reveals itself in that last resting pose, savasana. It keeps you coming back for more. Through that dedication you start to learn the brilliance of consistency. And then that turns to endurance. Last minute realisation that no one made the stew peas for Christmas lunch? No problem. You’re on it. You can endure.
The word ‘self-control’ emits shivers in me because it seems scary and black-and-white: you can’t eat that Dairy Milk they were passing around at the office because you ate yesterday’s left over cake; ponche de crème is not a breakfast drink – that sort of thing. But really, it’s not that you can’t, it’s that you won’t want to. When you do something that’s so good for your body, it becomes blatantly apparent when something goes against that.
A yoga practice helps get you in touch with what your body actually wants and needs in a way that doesn’t feel like punishment. Quite the opposite actually: as you go further down the rabbit hole you might pass through feelings of health, sometimes superiority when you start to recognise your body’s signals, eventually dropping ego and becoming more connected to self.
More connected to self? What’s more Christmassy than that?
Bonus! Respect for tradition
Yoga is thousands of years old. Practised by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, and just about anyone you can think of; yoga is accessible to anyone with the will to practise. The feeling of love and fellowship that is inherently the hallmark of this Christian tradition of Christmas can be felt everyday in the silence and space of a yoga class: people moving and breathing together as they have done for thousands of years. And in our fine, multi-ethnic twin island republic, yoga classes are populated by people from any number of backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. So go out there, attend a yoga class and share the (Christmas) love today.