Updated: Nov 14
While many of us look forward to the Christmas holidays, some of us also feel the stress. Suddenly, there are only a few days left to organise whatever needs organising. We may feel overwhelmed, emotional, and anxious whether the festive days will really live up to our expectations. Sometimes, Christmas can be a lonely time, a time of grieving, or a time of feeling low and depleted.
From a yoga perspective, here are my top five tips for staying happy and well at Christmas:
During the winter months, we need a bit more sleep than usual. Make sure you get 7-8 hours sleep each night. And when you feel worn out during the day, allow yourself a 10 minute cat nap, lying down, closing your eyes, and relaxing with a few rounds of deep abdominal breathing. For a longer rest, a guided yoga nidra relaxation can be wonderfully refreshing and help you sleep better at night.
2. Keep Warm
Our bodies don't like getting cold. Cold temperatures can have an impact on our health as our immunity is reduced and the risk of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, flu, and depression increases. Try keeping rooms at at least 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit), dress in layers and snuggle up in a blanket in the evening. Drink teas and eat nourishing soups. If you sit a lot, get up and move every hour or so to maintain good circulation.
3. Keep Moving
Try to go outside every day for a brisk walk. 30 minutes would be ideal, and if you can get into the countryside even better. At home, yoga can provide you with nourishing movements and stretches. Start your winter yoga practice with a dynamic warm-up, for example sun salutations, and carry on moving gently throughout your practice. A good way to keep moving is to come in and out of poses repeatedly: Warrior II is a good example as we can bend and straighten the front leg repeatedly and also include movement of the arms. Another benefit of repetitions is that they strengthen our muscles and heart.
4. Breathe deeply
Shallow breathing, which is often the result of feeling cold or tense, signals to the body that there is danger, triggering a state of alert and anxiety. Deep abdominal breathing on the other hand is associated with relaxation and comfort. Who hasn’t heard the advice ‘just take a deep breath and calm down’? It sounds so simple but is effective nonetheless. One of the easiest breathing techniques is to count to 5 while inhaling and count to 5 while exhaling. For more on breathing techniques, click here.
5. Practice Vairagya
Vairagya is a Sanskrit term meaning "detachment". It is a state of being free of attachment to materialistic things. It also includes a mental state of being able to let go of attachments. Especially at Christmas it is worth remembering that less can mean more. That you don't have to buy the most expensive presents, that you don't have to live up to all the expectations put upon you (often by yourself), that you are not responsible for everybody else's happiness and enjoyment, and that you don't have to do everything perfectly.
Once Christmas is over, it's easy to fall into a hole and feel deflated after all the festive excitement. Planning something enjoyable to look forward to in January can help you get over this sticky patch. My next retreat afternoon might be just what you are looking for (it's online and in-person). Or you could arrange to go to the theatre, plan a spring get-away, or treat yourself to a massage. Whatever makes you feel good, do it.
“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life.” (T.K.V. Desikachar, Heart of Yoga)
There is a lot yoga has to offer when it comes to managing stress, not only at Christmas. To delve into this interesting topic, join the Yoga for Stress Foundation Course. Based on a combination of daily yoga practices, reflections, and a comprehensive course guide, you will get a thorough grounding in stress management tools and techniques.