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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Don't Let It Bring You Down......5 Ways To Stay In The Spirit

Deck those halls, trim those trees...... a line from my favorite holiday song by the group The Waitresses- Christmas By Myself This Year. Great song, seriously love it, and it has a happy ending-girl and guy finally align and that old time holiday magic happens! Sigh. Pretty picture, but most likely not a  reality.
 Are you ready for the holidays?  Heard on a loop. This is asked by just about every person you meet in passing. Mindlessly, just like people ask each other how you are without really wanting to know. Sensitivity to the fact that not all of us are in the same space might just need to be the practice we all need to observe.  The truth is, not everyone has the family or financial support to be in a festive frame of mind. Many people struggle during what can literally be the darkest part of the year. Imagine being a child in a homeless shelter, or their parent.  There are those that are alone,  have lost loved ones, or in order to find that picture perfect holiday that the media portrays shop themselves into oblivion trying to fill the dark space within. The onslaught of treats and late nights can take their toll.
I relate. I never really liked all the excess, the rushing around, nor the expectations. I struggle with it. My father, mother, and stepmother all passed away during this time. Many years I have found myself in a dark funk, unable to shake the malaise that would creep in. Really feeling alone. I did some soul searching, and decided that like the rebel I can be known to be, I was going to create tradition that was relevant and meaningful to me.  WHAT??  Cue the screeching sound of brakes, the music stopping abruptly, and the curious stares. You should see the looks of strangers when I tell them I don't celebrate the holidays in the traditional way.  Instead I have found alternative  ways to stay in the spirit of light during this, what can be  the darkest part of the year through reflection of my yoga practice. Five of the Yamas and Niyama , or restraints and observations of yogic thought really can really bring a shift in your perspective, of this potentially stressful, if not magical time of year.
1. Christmas lies not underneath the tree, but in the hearts of you and me.... Practice- Contentment, or Santosha.   The holiday season is not about the biggest tree, the brightest Menorah, or whether or not you got the Lexus with the big red bow! The spirit of the season is to give with an open heart, from the heart, without attachment to the reception. The biggest gift you can give is time and yourself. Spend time with loved ones, visit a nursing home, help out at a homeless shelter,  or make donations to an organization that is in need. It doesn't have to be monetary folks. When I shifted my perspective, and decided that exchanging gift cards  with extended family was far from the spirit,  the clear choice was to stop.  My daughter and I decided to  do a collection for the local county animal shelter. They could use your old sheets, blankets, and helping hands. So can many organizations in the area.  Look at your closet-what can you perhaps share with someone that is needier than you? When you are asked what you got, you can answer truthfully-a lot of joy!
2. In the darkest days, stay in the light... Practice-Tapas, or austerity. The time before the Winter Solstice is the darkest part of the year. Days are short, and sunlight is fleeting. It is cold here in the Northeast. It makes you want to be inside with the blankets over your head. Get out and about instead, try to  be in the company of those people that are like minded. Visit places that make you feel good. Stay active. Take a yoga class. Go for a walk, get out in the sunlight. Stay in your current practice to remain grounded and don't retreat under the covers. You will raise your endorphins and brighten your mood.
3. More is not better..... Practice- Mithara, or moderation. I once heard someone say it looks like Christmas threw up at our house! Really, I don't know about you but  that does not sound to appealing to me. At all!  Excess.  And then it is over. Whether it is the extra cookie, the jillion invites to parties, or that last minute errand, ask yourself- do I really want  or need to do  this? Your wallet will thank you, and so will your health.
4. Bolster your immune system.... Practice- Saucha, or  purity.  The changing weather, closer contact with more people, burning the candle at both ends, and dietary changes that the season brings can challenge our immune systems. People get sick because they become run down. This is the time to pay attention to staying in balance. Try stimulating and moving lymph with dry brushing and then apply warm oil massage to the skin, paying attention to your joints.  Dress warm, in layers. The indoor dry air can wreak havoc. Stay hydrated. The amount of water we need is 1/2 our body weight in ounces. Get up and go to bed as close to your regular time as you can. Eat foods that are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Ever notice citrus is very prevalent this time of year?  And as hard as it is, try to avoid the excess. That doesn't mean be a monk, hiding in a cave,  or beat yourself up for that extra cup of eggnog, but focus on being in balance. One thing I have discovered to help is Fire Cider. Gypsy anti flu brew! Full of immune supporting ingredients, a tablespoon a day keeps the doctor away. (For more on this visit my Facebook page The Ayurvedic Apothecary!)
5. Start your own tradition....Practice- Ishvaraha Pranidam, or the realization thee is something else out there besides you! When I decided to break tradition, I needed to create a meaningful  one for myself.  And I have to tell you,  it was liberating.  Many cultures around the globe traditionally have celebrations  that are meant to bring in the light. The one that resonates with me is the Winter Solstice. The darkest, shortest day followed by the reemergence of light.   I choose to  decorate a small natural tree with dried citrus, cranberries, apples, cinnamon, and raffia. Whatever natural items I have access to. The house smells awesome while the fruit dries,  and afterward the tree is taken  outside for the outdoor creatures as a gift.  Watching them enjoy their treat  is a  reason for the season, and I enjoy it as much as they do. If you do exchange gifts, try making some; and create your own wrapping paper with potato and celery stamped  with ink on newsprint.
By following any one of  these suggestions, perhaps, you can unwrap a new tradition for you and yours. That doesn't mean you have to totally do a 360 and change everything.  I still cook holiday meals, celebrate and participate with friends and family, but I am able to  step back, and stay in my center, and find true meaning  beneath the trappings of the season. To bring in the light, not only into our hearts, but to share it with those around you. This is my practice, on and off the mat...... Breathe in the light, breathe out the light, be the light!

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