During the Holidays, our natural rhythms change. The inner soil is prepared by time-off, the sweet company of loved ones, rituals, and sacred tradition.
As yogis, we are called to cultivate inner awareness and learn how to harness the energies present to us during various times of the year-the change of seasons, the phases of the moon, the sacred times of the year.
And no, I am not referring here to crystal balls and unicorns. Just full moons and reindeer.
Naturally, the season of winter makes us more reflective and internally-directed. It is a time of hibernation, of looking within, of building a fire, and slowing down. There is less day light, more darkness, more quiet hours, and less prana (or vital energy).
Listening to the inner rhythm of winter gives us some clues on how to attain balance in our practice. It is important that we become very intentional about adding in more meditative, contemplative, and inwardly-directed practices to balance the physical asana practice.
It is beneficial to consciously slow down and engage in breathing techniques to increase pranic energy levels of the body that are naturally lower at this time. And so, this Christmas, in between parties, celebration, joy, wine, food, and friendship, perhaps we can begin to listen deeply to the seasonal pull of winter.
And here are three gentle reminders that may serve as tools for healing at this time of the year.
Novel idea, I know! We live in a culture that is deprived of rest and relaxation. Sound familiar? And yet during the Holidays -our time off- we create more busyness, more agendas. Have we gone a bit crazy? However, with more hours of darkness, the circadian rhythms of the body change.
This is a time that is very conducive to rest, to hibernation, and retiring to simple tasks that conserve rather than deplete energy.
Now, don’t go replacing your Christmas parties with slumber parties (unless you want to, of course. . .though your husband or wife may send me angry emails).
Just be aware of your energy levels this Holiday season, and try not to push past your “reserves”. Energy “reserves” is a term that I have come to use to refer to that point when the body is tired, and we continue to push ourselves past what feels like our limit.
Thus, we have to tap into our reserves, energetically, and this can be very depleting to the system, and detrimental to health and vitality. Especially at a time when the prana is naturally lower.
Yes, it still exists. It has just been buried underneath all the chatter. . .and emails! Silence is an invitation. When we spend time in silence (whether in meditation, contemplation, or reflection), we are able to hear, internally, what has for too long been hushed by the busy buzzing of our lives.
Silence is pregnant with potential.
It allows us to hear the more subtle call of the Self and reconnect to essential parts of ourselves who often lose their voice amongst the cacophony of the external world. Your inner life needs your attention. And silence is the beginning of that attentiveness. It is a sacred practice that we mustn’t forget as yogis.
Whatever you do to others, you do to yourself. This is the wise-old saying of many spiritual traditions. As we give to others, we are creating conditions to receive. Of course, this doesn’t become our sole motivation, but as you give to those in need, you are planting seeds for your own nourishment.
Additionally, when we do something for someone else, the heart center becomes activated. The heart center is connected to the physical heart and also the thymus gland. The thymus gland is an essential component of the immune system.
Thus, giving of yourself, not only creates internal feelings of love and peace, but can actually help to energetically improve your immune system, health and well-being.
At Christmas, we are naturally called, as yogis, to understand that we are part of a collective story. And our mission is to uplift the world in which we live. One cannot do this without loving-kindness, generosity, and giving to others.
However, don’t close your computer and walk away thinking these three tips suggest you stay on the couch in your pajamas, meditate for hours a day, and go out only to feed the homeless. Obviously, the Holidays are as much about celebration, joy, togetherness, and love.
But balancing the attentiveness you give to your external life with a similar attentiveness to your internal life will begin to breathe sacredness back into your experience of the Holidays.
And, perhaps, initiate conditions that will guide you into a peaceful, non-hectic, and centered start to the New Year.