The holidays are careening toward us again, whether we’re ready or not. It’s time to take a look at how we plan to take care of ourselves during the chaos. Let’s start with a few of the demands placed upon us. Although the list can be endless—shopping, parties, where will the money come from, baking, cleaning, entertaining, will Uncle Joe get drunk and ruin dinner—you have to carve out extra time for these chores.
The other day, when I was entering the rec center for a class, I passed a woman who was just heading out. She had a long blond ponytail, and over her shoulder was a purple yoga bag with her mat strapped underneath. Following close behind her was her adorable “mini me”—a little girl, about 5 or 6, with a long blond ponytail, toting a rolled-up pink yoga mat almost as big as she was.
Have you ever thought of introducing your children to yoga? Just as yoga has many benefits for adults, it provides a wonderful foundation of mindfulness and body awareness for children. Kids need the tools to handle the ups and downs of life, connect to their body, and tune into their emotional and mental state on a regular basis, and yoga provides a safe space to explore and nurture that.
When I take a few moments in the beginning of the day for myself, it makes all the difference. Instead of spiraling into stress, I float forward with ease and a bit of enthusiasm. Contrary to popular belief, dedication to a yoga and self-care practice doesn’t need to take hours of your time. When you need it, a simple ten minutes can point you in the right direction. Approach your day with a smile and one or more of these practices:
Last time I went to the airport, I saw a small boy with his hands and cheeks up against a large glass window. He watched the planes take off over and over again with a look of awe smudged across his face. His reflection held a sense of luminous possibility, as if he realized he could fly too. I stood there, tired and anxious to get to on my flight, witnessing something magical.
We are a proud people of the mentality “gotta’ do more, gotta’ be more,” where it’s common practice to boast about the busyness of it all and go, go, go until life is gone, gone, gone. I get tired just thinking of the running around that is inherent to the life culture of the masses. What we forget is that our ability to exert ourselves is proportionate to our ability to rest and rejuvenate. To that end, we must create as much time and space in our daily life to rest and restore. These days, all doctors’ orders should be something in this realm. Here are some ways to encourage restoration in your daily life.
Recovering from family drama. Post-holiday crowds at the stores. The financial pinch from buying all those holiday gifts. The cleanup after hosting your in-laws for two weeks. The temptation to eat all that leftover food in one sitting. The new year can start out stressful!
Summer is a time for relaxation and fun with more open schedules, warmer weather, outdoor activities and vacations. However, there can also be a sense of pressure and stress in trying to meet our expectations of a laid-back season.
Just the other day, I looked at my calendar and felt overwhelmed by all of the activities on it. Delving deeper, I realized that I needed to create some space to simply be: read a book, go deeper into my meditation practice, savor the smell of a peach as I cut into it or the smell of flowers while sitting in my yard.
Taking the time to be present in the moment is a beautiful practice in its own right, and yoga and meditation are two ways achieve that goal by creating a space within, bringing your attention inward and turning your thoughts away from distractions.
When I first began practicing yoga in 1983, my teachers didn’t just tell me to breathe; they gave me explicit instructions on how to breathe, how to feel the sensations of breath, and how to become familiar with the muscles of respiration. When I began studying the Ashtanga style of yoga at age 22, I was introduced to ujayii pranayama, or the triumphant breath. It was a complete revelation to me.
There are an infinite number of exercises we can do with the breath, but the fundamental one that we yogis all come back to time and time again is to lie down in savasana (relaxation or corpse pose) and observe the breath with as little manipulation as possible. In this video from our online yoga club, Colleen and I walk you through three versions of savasana, with do’s and don’ts plus tips on using a simple prop and adjustments to help completely relax your body and mind.