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How to survive Christmas by a yogi

I thought I’d conclude the year with some observations of how as a yogi I navigate the (sometimes) challenging path of the Christmas holidays.

Christmas is full of social engagements, rich food and drink and it can be both a wonderfully uplifting time, but it can also be a time when anxiety, insecurity, grief, loneliness and family tensions arise. And if you are an introverted yogi like me it can be a challenge.

It’s said if you think you are enlightened then spend time with your family! So, if long days with the family (however much you love them) become a challenge, trigger your insecurities and anxieties it’s a good opportunity to practice mindful awareness. Can you practice ‘non reactivity’ when confronted with these triggers especially when alcoholic is in the mix?

It’s also hard to maintain your normal routine when you are away from home, up late and your family may not be understanding that it’s important for you to do your 20 mins meditation practice on Christmas day. I’m lucky I have an understanding husband who may not be so into yoga and meditation himself, but he understands and supports my need to get on the mat. He knows now if he doesn’t, I am such a grump I’m a real pain to live with! That understanding has evolved with time so I do think (especially if you have a busy family life) having the conversation with your loved ones before the festive period about your desire to keep with your self-care routines can be very worthwhile. Late nights do make getting up early to do the practice more challenging, but this is where an element of ‘Tapas’* (which means discipline or burning desire) and an understanding the ‘why’ you are doing something can help keep the routines going. But if you can’t fit it all in – be kind to yourself too, it’s important to practice Ahimsa* (nonviolence) towards yourself especially at this time of year and that brings me to my next Christmas challenge. The food and drink … I have very little willpower with treats in the house and I find it hard to moderate my alcohol consumption in a social setting. So with a mind on my inner critic (which judges me for over indulging) I know myself well enough to know I will overindulge in the run up to and during Christmas so now I try not to feel guilty about it. I attempt to have no shame, allowing myself to enjoy the moment. By abstaining or being ‘good’ I just feel resentful and life is too short so why not enjoy it! It’s only for a week or two and then post-Christmas I try to return to a healthier relationship with food and drink (not just in January).

And finally how do we as yogis navigate around the extreme commercialism and consumerism gone mad? It can seem like you are buying pointless presents for people that already have too much. There are ways around this – in my other job we had to buy our secret Santa presents from a charity shop which I thought was a great idea. Me and my best friend often buy each other charity shop books for Christmas but I know I could do more. I wish I was able to make things to give but that’s not something that comes easy to me – sewing, baking and creative pursuits are possibly best left to others in my family who are good at that kind of thing! It’s an ongoing challenge especially with environmental and ethical considerations around packaging and supply chains.

So, as I approach this Christmas break I will try and fully enjoy the lovely food and drink but I will endeavour to do this with a huge sense of gratitude, there are many around the world not as lucky as me - not least the 35 million refugees in the world. I will enjoy time with my family and friends, but I will also stick to some self-care routines (be it exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling) I won’t allow the busyness of the season to prevent me doing the things I need to do to stay balanced (even if it appears to others I am being selfish). But I will also allow some flexibility too, it’s ok to take a few days off. I will try and carve out some time to myself during the period even if it’s just 5 mins of breathing so I can be present, open and available to enjoy this special time of year.

Have a wonderful Christmas break.

*Ahimsa is one of the Yama’s (one of the first limbs in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras eightfold path to lead a meaningful and purposeful life)

*Tapas is one of the Niyama’s (one of the second limbs in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras eightfold path to lead a meaningful and purposeful life)

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