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The winter holidays can be exciting, magical and fun-packed. They can also be stressful, depressing and pressure-packed.
As with everything, the only control we posses lies in our attitudes and reactions (or ideally non-reaction). We can use these challenges as opportunities to practice our yoga off the mat, and keep calm at center even in the storm of the holidays.
Take a moment to ground yourself. Sit or stand comfortably and place your palms together in front of your heart in anjali mudra as you breathe in and out slowly and consciously. Think about the things in your life that fill you with warm fuzzies and joy – your loved ones, your pets, your home. Turn the corners of your mouth up. We have 80 muscles in our face, and a single smile sends signals to the brain that trigger feel-good chemicals. Smiling is a mood-enhancer.
Yogis say, “Where thoughts go energy flows.” Let’s use our thoughts and creative energy to accentuate the positive. Let’s play a game called Rampage of Appreciation. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Simply allow your mind to find something pleasing and consciously practice appreciation by thinking of how wonderful, beautiful, or useful it is. “I love and appreciate...” Think it or write it for as long as it feels good.
Here’s another easy game to help us embody an attitude of gratitude. Stand at ease, alert, aware, and ready for the grand unfolding called life. Beginning on the left side, wake up your ankle as you flex, extend, and circle your left foot. Take your time and move in your body’s way today. When you’re ready, move your focus up to your left knee as you bend and extend your lower leg. Use your mind and breath to direct thankfulness, blessings and love to each piece of you. Thank your body for its many years of dedicated service, 24/7/365.
Allow the rest of your body to respond naturally. Hold nothing back from yourself. You can make this as dynamic or as easy as you want and need in the moment. Open your hip by circling your left thigh all around. (It’s perfectly natural to stumble around like a drunken sailor here.) Next flex, extend, and circle your hand and fingers. Bend, extend, and swivel your forearm. Swirl your upper arm all around. Bend your spine from side to side, front to back, then twist left and right. Gently turn and circle your head. Now activate down the right shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. Listen within and notice what areas are asking for more attention. Last, move all 13 major joints simultaneously in a spontaneously creative funky turkey dance.
Albert Einstein told us, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” This quote is a fantastic reminder that gratitude is a choice. When we choose to be grateful we focus on what’s working in our lives instead of what isn’t. When we appreciate what we already have we attract more good-feeling things into our lives to appreciate. Gratitude is empowering.
As you eat, drink, and merrily indulge this holiday season, release any self-imposed guilt. Marinate in juicy goodness as you cultivate thankfulness and peace. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” said Melody Beattie, “It turns what we have into enough, and more.”
Happy Holidays. Be good to yourself and be of good cheer this holiday season.