Did you know yoga and mindfulness can get you through the holidays?
So, what should feel relaxing and reflective time with family is often marred by the worry of getting everything done, right? Making sure everyone’s having a good time, yourself included, and this year, add a huge mix of fear, anxiety, and maybe not being with everybody on top of it. And it’s a recipe for a nervous breakdown. I know that it’s already started, like if you’re going into any stores. I’ve even felt it sitting in the parking lot because I try to avoid stores. Target drive up is my best friend. So if you’ve noticed any of this, you may be already feeling not even your own fear and anxiety, but other people’s fear and anxiety and of course, with the pandemic, it’s worldwide.
There are things you can do to help you keep calm. For example, I would say stop watching the news. The other morning I got on my phone and started reading some news headlines. And then I was irritated and suddenly anxious, remembering why I don’t ever do this. So, that’s my top thing, just as a side note.
But the holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful. You can feel festive without the pressure. And you can even find ways to connect to nature. One of the things I love to do is head out to the tree farm to cut down a tree. We let the babies run around and it’s an amazing and fun time.
Practicing mindfulness can be a buzzword, but is an important practice. What I always like to explain first is that yoga is an entire way of living. It has its own philosophical system; it is not just the movement practice, which in Sanskrit is called Asana. Yoga is more than movement. On the other hand, mindfulness is a form of meditation that you can do in your daily life or as a formal practice and it is a part of yoga philosophy as well because meditation and mindfulness concentration is part of the eight limbs of yoga.
So, practicing mindfulness during the season, it’s the simple act of being present., even if it’s the last thing you want to do or you don’t want to be somewhere. My uncle would always say, family is like fish, they stink after three days, and I’m sure some of you can relate to that. If you feel like you’re enlightened, go home and be with your family, and you might still have some layers and work to do.
Even though you can practice mindfulness as a formal practice, you can still do it in your every day life. You can simply observe each moment without judgment, without being overwhelmed or consumed by your thoughts or emotions. They’ll come up, you’ll observe them, and you’ll let them go just like you’re watching fish in an aquarium or the sea, or the clouds pass by. Pema Chodron talks about how you are the sky, and the weather is the thoughts and emotions, but the sky remains constant.
When you start with a mindfulness practice, you will notice your mind is wandering. It might be if this is a new practice for you, immediate, you could catch yourself with the word, thinking, I got to bring it back, whenever you’re focusing on. Or, you might go for five minutes and be like, Oh, my gosh, I’m supposed to be paying attention, and I just totally didn’t hear someone’s talk to me, or I don’t know what’s going on. So, it’s just bringing it back and not beating yourself up because it’s without judgment, remember that piece.
Practice mindfulness daily.
Here’s an example of how I practice mindfulness daily. And, you know, some days, I’m much better at it than others. But if any of these practices, they are just like athletic training, you know, like, if you’re trying to build a muscle, you’re just going to repeatedly do that, to build it up. So, if you’re doing your meditation or mindfulness muscle, for example, you’re just going to continue to practice. And then some days, you might get less sleep, and you may not be as mindful, but you’re going to try to practice anyway, and not beat yourself up about it. So daily, I feed my daughter, I give her a bottle, or I feed her solid meals, and I noticed in the morning, in the evening, when she’s in my arms in the chair, and I’m feeding her a bottle, like she can take it and feed herself, but I practice mindfulness with her, because my mind will go, I’ve got all these things to do today, or I’ve got these things tomorrow, or, you know those sort of things or once I put her to bed, I need to go do this. So, I must consciously go, No, I’m going to be with her right now. I’m going to look her in the eyes. I’m going to watch her, I’m going to smile with her, you know, while she’s drinking her bottle, while she’s eating her meal, because in essence, that she’ll notice that whether I’m present or not, and that will be important. The children watch us. It’s important that they see us do these practices, even if you didn’t do them before, you know, it does shift some things.
So that is my daily practice; of course, you can do whatever works for you, whether it’s when you’re eating, you can practice, you can apply mindfulness to eating. You can apply mindfulness to walking, to your daily routines, brushing your teeth, that sort of stuff, anything you choose to see what makes sense for you. And just one thing, it doesn’t have to be everything; it can be your breath too.
Let go of expectations.
The second thing I want to talk about for this season is letting go of expectations. So we often have ideas, how we want things to be your turnout, you’ve probably noticed this in relationships, a job and with family, or when you’re preparing a holiday meal or gathering. So you know, that really comes up during the holiday season. And this year, it is about letting go of control. Like we have to go with the flow, there are things that we simply can’t control. And it’s interesting how things are shifting because I know that live Christmas trees, they’re running in a shortage. And I didn’t look deep into this, but it’s sort of like we know that people are certain to reevaluate this whole being home and with family and the importance of it this year because they were locked down together. But, people are like, I want a live tree and when it’s smell good, you know, those sort of things. I’m not 100% sure why. But like, I know, that’s important to me, I want the smell, I want it to feel like a holiday. So it’s interesting to see how things shift this year.
The expectations may still be there, or there might be new expectations. And so letting go of expectations with holidays, letting go of expectations of how your family should act, or how partners should act, just try to let that go, right? And just simply let things happen, allow things to flow because when you take the expectation out, then you’re less likely to be disappointed or angry or reactive, that sort of stuff. Because life is life, and especially around the holidays, not everything’s going to turn out perfectly. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy things for the way it is. So just not setting high expectations, you can just roll with everything more easily. So that would be my suggestion. And again, you can apply this to anything in your life. We’re talking specifically about the holidays.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.
The third thing I want to talk about is being compassionate to yourself and others. So compassion is a general thing, but it’s also yoga philosophy. And so it’s practicing kindness to yourself, remember yourself and to your friends and family. You don’t have to push yourself too hard during the holiday season. And actually enjoy it more. I was just talking this morning with my chiropractor, and it’s sort of like, my daughter still doesn’t know what’s going on even though you know how she’s not in a swaddle for Christmas. We can be a little more interactive, but this is the year I don’t have to go all out on Well, I never have to go out if I don’t want to honestly, but she’s not going to notice. So if I don’t need to have everything decorated, you know. But that’s me, and I’m okay with that. But I don’t have that expectation of myself. So compassion is important all the time, but especially this year. There are so many old, deep fears and anxieties and unresolved emotions, unprocessed traumas, those sort of things have come up this year, the shadow side has been more illuminated this year because we have fewer ways to distract ourselves. That’s why I was saying with yourself first but also with others, with your family with people at the store when it’s chaotic, it’s so important. And if it’s like, too much, and you find yourself aggravated, find some quiet time with yourself.
This is when you go back to your mindfulness practice, you go back to your yoga practices, you go back to meditation practices because it’s reminding yourself that everyone’s doing the best they can, even if it doesn’t seem like it. When it comes to the family because these things come up, try to avoid rehashing past tensions. Instead, savor the good moments, I mean, even if that’s like a mindset shift of going, Okay, I know I get irritated by that. I’m just gonna bite my tongue now. And it’s not necessarily a shoving down, okay, it’s more of I’m, I’m going to pick my battles. Like my grandfather would always say that I pick my battles. This is kind of a funny story but I remember when I got a nose ring, and we were actually at a funeral. My dad yells, what the hell is that thinking your nose?, I was shocked, you know that my grandfather didn’t say anything. Of course, he wouldn’t yell across the room but I asked him later, and he said, I picked my battles. And I think that’s very wise.
Go back to being compassionate to yourself, biting your tongue to stop chaos during this holiday season, and shifting your mindset to reflect on the good things. Whether it’s the holiday season, or just some wonderful things that are happening, like here in Indianapolis, we have beautiful weather today. And here it is December, you know, just kind of shifting your mindset and finding a seed of compassion, even if it’s challenging because we know, sometimes family can be challenging. And just remember, things are coming up for everyone to deal with right now, so it may be even more challenging. So compassion is really an important key.
Also, do yoga. Breathe, breathe, is kind of lumped in with yoga, but it goes into mindfulness, you can simply practice breathing. What I would recommend during this time during the holidays is restorative yoga because that’s so important. And if you’re new to yoga, and you’re not sure what restorative Yoga is, that you’ll find out, you can hop into the Wild Wisdom Collective Facebook group. And I’ll be sharing some of that info. But it’s really just relaxing over bolsters or couch cushions, or sometimes you don’t even need props, and just letting your body settle in and relax. And it helps the nervous system, calm down. Of course, breathing with it. And concentrating on your breathing or without doing restorative yoga, you can simply concentrate on your breathing, it’s called pranayama. These are ways to calm your nervous system. And that’s the key during this season, especially when it’s crazy, and even this year, or anytime, This year is important for you to do these things because anxieties and fears are high. And things aren’t like they used to be.
Yoga and mindfulness can really help remove tension that builds during the season. So even if you’re enjoying this time of year, having fun all activities and things to do, like if you’re constantly going and doing you know this year, then there’s probably not as many holiday parties because we’re not gathering like we used to. So that’s in some ways nice, but in some ways that might be disappointing. But when you’re doing doing doing it can get a little overwhelming and put stress on your body. So don’t forget that you have these practices to come back to yoga, doing yoga, restorative yoga, especially breathing, practicing mindfulness, being compassionate, and letting go of expectations of how things should be. So if you can do that during this holiday season, you’ll set yourself up to calm your nervous system and then set yourself up for a better 2021 for next year.
Of course, you can always keep it written down somewhere else after you do the ritual, to remind you of what your goal is, or what you want for this year to keep you focused; if that’s helpful. I’ve actually used one word for the last few years, which has been very interesting how it manifests. But whatever you’re welcoming in this is the time the solstice is the time for them.
So I hope that you’ll take some time to practice this, hopefully, tonight. But if not, you know, it’s not the end of the world if it’s tomorrow. So just take some time in your day, make some space. You can always add a little meditation after you cleanse and protect the space in yourself before you release the old and welcome in the new with your rituals. Just take some time, some intention, these rituals, like I said, add meaning to your life. And I’m living proof and my friends out there who know me like I have called him things. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t gone through hell sometimes. But I have called it and things that I wanted. My daughter is an example of them. But I had to listen, I had to listen to my heart and know exactly what I wanted and also believe and trust.
Trust is that big thing that it could happen. And luckily, I’ve had great guidance to help me get there. It’s not like suddenly I was there and I’ve known all along, but that hopefully this is going to help you and know that there are ways to align with your heart. These rituals and traditions and practices are ways to bring in that heart-centered space and align your life and what you would like in your life. With your heart, enjoy and happy Winter Solstice.
I wanted to also share that if you want to learn more about getting grounded and feeling balanced, I just finished my new ebook. So it features five ways to balance the body, mind, and heart. And I’m calling it my Rooted Woman Starter kit. So rooted woman’s coming in January. So this has worksheets, journal questions, links to helpful resources, and links to guided meditations, and more. So you can go to Alyssapfennig.com/rootedwomanstarterkit, or click on the link below to get access.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!