The holidays can be a truly magical time of year, a time of love, family, friends, gratitude and giving. But for some, they can also be a time of stress – mental, physical and emotional. It can be a time when our bank account balances decrease and our credit card balances increase. It can also be a time of loneliness and a time when we are reminded of loss. To top it all off, there seems to be endless tasks on the to-do list and constant running from one place to the next, leaving little to no time to focus on ourselves.
However, as much time as we think we don’t have, it’s really important that we make time for self-care. As we continue to approach the winter solstice our days are still getting shorter and our nights longer, making it a perfect time for introspection, going within and seeing what our minds bodies, and souls need. It’s also a good time to reflect on the year past, knowing that soon it will be time to set goals for the year to come.
During this time of year, I find it helpful to focus on the idea of letting go and surrendering. Letting go of expectations of myself and others, expectations about gifts and cooking the perfect meal, and attending everything I get invited to. Think about this: each moment of each day we process the world around us and interact with thousands of stimuli, and probably more so this time of year (hello Christmas lights, songs, etc.!). Some of these stimuli can leave us feeling a bit off, if not downright terrible. But remember, you have a choice! You can either react, holding onto your judgments and expectations and getting even more upset with yourself, others, and the moment, or you can let go and surrender to it.
By surrendering to the moment, allowing it to unfold and not judging it, we can start to be more present and enjoy all of those little moments that come along with the holiday season – cheesy Christmas movies, good food and drink, and time with families and friends.
A great way to learn to start to change these thought patterns is with a self-care routine that includes a restorative yoga practice. The goal of this type of practice is to target the nervous system. It allows us to begin to change our reactive response, re-learn the relaxation habit, notice any physical or mental patterns that we might be holding onto, and to rewire our stress response and the effects it has on our body and mind. Restorative yoga encourages mindfulness, deepens our self-awareness and introspection, and can allow us to feel safer and more nurtured. With all of the benefits it offers, restorative yoga should almost be mandatory this time of year!
Even if you only have 15 minutes a day or time to do one or two poses, I encourage you to try a restorative practice out. Below is a sequence you can start with. Grab as many props as you can from around the house (blankets, bolsters, pillows, blocks, etc.), set a timer (there are lots of apps you can use if you have a smartphone), turn on some gentle and relaxing music, surround yourself with a soothing scent and get started!
Make sure to use lots of props, your goal is not to strengthen or stretch, but to relax and feel supported. Feel free to stack them up and adjust them to a place that feels good for you before you settle in.
Remember, surrendering is much more than what happens on the mat! But it’s a great place to start, knowing we can use what we learn on the mat and take it out into the world with us. Give yourself the time and space you need to reset, recharge and clear your mind so you can enjoy this time to its fullest. Happy Holidays!