Holidays! Uggghhh. How do we navigate this season of so many mixed emotions? What is the key to our sanity when all is so chaotic?
This year is particularly stressful. We are worried about our finances and the state of the world in general. Then comes another layer of stress. It is called good old-fashioned guilt. This is one that I am particularly seasoned in. Is it ethical to buy this cashmere sweater for my sister when so much of the world is starving and there may not be a college fund for the kids the way the economy is going?
And then there is the familial stress that includes memories, both sweet and not so sweet. Loved ones who have left their bodies are especially missed at the holiday dinner — which, if you are from Indiana, which I am, means a lot of bad food and drinking which makes the body complain. Don’t get me wrong … I am blessed with an amazing family, but still I need to keep checking in to my breath.
I am not saying there is not immense joy during these times as well. The air smells amazing. The decorations carry a sense of nostalgia and comfort. There can be a great sense of connection, but also one can feel very isolated.
How can yoga help keep us balanced when it all seems to be spinning out of control? Let me tell you a little story:
I returned from India several years ago just in time for the holidays. I had been working in Calcutta at Mother Theresa’s homes for several months. On the way to work every morning, I would pass this woman sitting on her stoop, picking lice out of her daughter’s hair. They were both so content, and the joy on their faces made me smile every day.
When I returned home from the holidays to my apartment in Soho, I was getting out of the cab and there was a woman laden with expensive shopping bags screaming at her limo driver because he had driven around the block.
Who was better off — the woman on her stoop, or the woman with the shopping bags? I ask myself that often.
I crawled into my apartment and started to listen to my breath and imagined that I was the woman happily picking lice out of her daughter’s hair. I didn’t have a formal pranayama practice at that time, but now I realize that is exactly what I was doing and where I was finding solace. I would imagine the breath and the rhythm of this woman with an air of peace and ease.
We have tools to bring about that contentment that is there under the surface of the stress and chaos. Please take the time to take it out of your toolbox. We all need to stop and be aware of our breath and realize that that can be all we need to find contentment and happiness in the moment. And we can take it with us wherever we find ourselves over the holidays.
One of our teachers says that if you keep as healthy a body as possible and a clear mind, right action will follow. This is especially important over the holidays. We would like to help you in this endeavor with this guided audio breath awareness practice you can download.
We can guide you on a regular basis through the Gaiam Yoga Club. On day 6 of every week, members receive a guided breath awareness and meditation podcast. You can download these on your iPod and take them with you on the subway, airplane, maybe even into Saks.
Have fun. Breathe. Be healthy and clear.
Wishing you joy, ease and connection,