‘Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christ-i-an rhyme’, go the lyrics of possibly the most saccharine Christmas song ever, although there are quite a few contenders. Naff Christmas music is just one of the many irritants that you’ll probably have to survive over the next few weeks, but there are a few ways out!
Christmas has somehow mutated from a simple, religious day of worship into the “festive season”: a whole season’s worth of tinsel, tat and torment. Although there are things to look forward to over the Christmas holidays: time off work, cherished family traditions and plenty of good grub, there are also plenty of things to dread…
There’s the interminable car trips to visit extended family, the scribbling of last-minute Christmas cards, the over-eating, the bickering and the general stagnation. Of course, to top it all off, we’re constantly surrounded by the source of most of our pleasure, and all of our pain: our families. With all this going on, remembering to take a few minutes for yourself can be monumental in staying calm and cultivating an attitude of gratitude through the holidays.
Here are a few of our top tips to keeping zen during the festivities:
1. Just Do It
One of the main problems is that it’s hard to find the time and space to practice yoga at this time of year. It’s extremely difficult, nigh on impossible, to conjure up the willpower to get up earlier to practice yoga during the festive break. You’ve either overindulged the evening before, or you’re heading off to the home counties to visit relations. Ideally, you’d find a quiet, calm little space to practice in, but that’s unlikely too. Everyone is sitting in your house all the time, or you’re in the car (again) or you’re sitting in someone else’s house reluctantly eating another mince pie.
So, just crack out your yoga mat, in front of the TV, and wait for all the complaints to start flying your way. Ignore them, carry on with your downward dog, and start to feel just a little bit better.
2. Fun for the Whole Family
The whole joy of Christmas is that you’re meant to all be having quality time together. However, by the time you’ve crawled into bed on Christmas Eve at 1 am after wrapping presents you’d forgotten about in the back of the cupboard, been woken up by the kids at 5 am screaming with excitement, your joy at being a family has already worn thin.
Then, once the kids hit their sugar-high, post-chocolate-coin binge, instead of shouting at them to stop bouncing off the walls, it could be an idea that the whole family does yoga together (yes, even the kids!).
You could even try a Christmas themed sequence, for example, Christmas Tree (Vrksāsana), the three wise ‘Warrior’ poses (Vīrabhadrāsana I, II and III) and animals in the stable poses, Cow Pose, Camel Pose and Horse Face Pose (Bitilāsana, Ustrāsana and Gomukhāsana).
3. Pranayama Your Way Through Present Opening
You will have spent time, effort and thought choosing presents for your wonderful family. Time and effort that you could easily have spent on something else, like yoga or sleep. Then comes the big day and your present is looked at, exclaimed over, held up and then, you’re asked if you kept the receipt.
At this point, when you’re pretending that you don’t mind at all, take a deep inhalation, and hold, followed by a long exhalation, and breath in again, expanding the chest and filling you with life-giving, cleansing oxygen. It’s all okay. Maybe you just won’t bother buying presents next year…
4. Less Sherry, More Śavāsana
It’s all too easy to take the edge off family-induced stress by over-indulging in copious amounts of merry-making. This has the effect of setting in motion a vicious cycle of feeling exponentially worse the next day.
Instead of reaching for yet more fizz, mulled wine, or port, try chilling out in Śavāsana. It might have to be last thing at night, or first thing in the morning, but it really is guaranteed to release the build-up of tension. As the wise say:
“In Śavāsana there is a minimum waste of energy and maximum recuperation. It refreshes the whole being.” ~Light on Pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar
5. Sun Salute the Good Stuff
Even the scroogiest, grouchiest Grinch has to admit that there are fragments of glory in all the shopping, panic and mayhem we’ve come to associate with Christmas. It is light in the long, dark days, it is coming together and being together. It is song, laughter, giving and gratefulness.
Because for some people it’s the hardest time of the year, and so, for those of us lucky enough to have a home and people we love, and who love us and our health (relatively speaking), we need to lift up our hearts and give thanks.
So, lift up your physical heart, get it beating and salute the biggest light in our solar system, the sun. Stretch your hands up high, kick those legs back, arch up and sweat off a minute fraction of the calories you’ve consumed.
So Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, fellow yogis. Good luck fitting your yoga in — I know I’ll need it!