5 Ways to Stick to Your Yoga Practice During the Holidays

Medically reviewed in September 2020

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day—unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” – Old Zen adage

I can already hear my rationalizations.

“I don’t have enough time to get things done for the holidays.”

“I could really use that extra hour I use for stress management each day to get things done.”

“With all the company and visitors staying at the house, there will be no room to practice meditation.”

“I’ll just start fresh in the new year.”

Or my personal favorite: “My mind is so filled with to-do’s I couldn’t possibly sit still right now.”

They all sound like good excuses, but during the holidays, the time to practice is more important than ever, even if it does present some real challenges.

During the holiday season, many of us double our workload, maintaining all our normal responsibilities while trying to prepare for gift shopping, cooking, decorating, party planning, a packed social schedule and trying to be there for others who may be struggling this time of year.

Try to appreciate the moment
When we’re busy, all our actions start to be about what’s next. We begin to think of time as something we need to fill with more tasks just to stay afloat. However, when we start living by the clock, we lose sight of the moment. And if we keep filling the space around us with more tasks, it becomes easier to be overwhelmed. Our stress levels go up and our health can suffer.

Rather than adding to the chaos by scheduling more to-dos, remember to make room for your relaxation and meditation practices. If you practice these techniques, you will have more energy and be more efficient with your time— and actually enjoy the season!

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda Integral Medicine found that meditation and yoga practice reduce stress more than supine rest. If we continue to make our practice of stress management a priority, we will adjust our to-do lists in a way that will allow us to complete what is necessary while maintaining our sense of sanity and peace.

Here are five tips to keep up your stress management practices during the holidays.

1. Get up early before the rush and hustle
Often there is a time when the house is quiet and you can get up before the commotion starts. If people are already up and moving around the house or your designated stress management room, use your own bed to sit up and start your day with a meditation practice. Adding in some breathing and imagery won’t hurt either. I like to end my meditations by imagining a positive outcome to my day.

2. Practice relaxation before bedtime
You can also use the comfort of your bed to end the day with a deep relaxation exercise. Simply close your eyes and, using your breath, imagine the stress and tension of the day leaving each part of your body. Take comfort that as you drift off to sleep, these practices will help you sleep better and deeper.

3. Bring stress management to your daily tasks (4 little tricks)

  1. Take three deep breaths at every stoplight. This can be a great way to unwind while in holiday traffic. You may find yourself practicing random acts of kindness like letting others into the flow of traffic without a fight.
  2. Do 5-10 minutes of neck and shoulder exercise every two hours to reduce tension and quiet the mind. Taking time to “shrug off” the tension that build up in the neck and shoulders can be just the thing to lower stress.
  3. Put a heart sticker on your phone and every time you look at it take a deep breath and imagine your heart relaxing.
  4. As you go through mundane tasks, use a practice of mindfulness to stay connected to the moment. This can turn everyday tasks like cutting vegetables, cooking or washing dishes into meditation. Simple tasks can help the mind rest and prevent thoughts from endlessly wandering into the past or future. It can be grounding and relaxing to stay in the moment.

4. Practice compassion even when you’re in a rush
Our nervous system responds to our actions. When we rush and push, our fight or flight response kicks in and we start to meet the world from a place of urgency. If we act stressed, it makes us feel stressed and if we act as if we are relaxed, it relaxes us. So, fake it till you make it.

Let someone in front of you at the grocery store or in traffic. Slow down and notice something or someone around you. These acts of kindness will inform your nervous system that you have all the time in the world and ultimately your nervous system will respond with a feeling of relaxation and joy.

Have you ever noticed how often things go wrong when you are in a hurry? When you are having a good day, everything seems to turn out for the best. In many ways, this has to do with our attitude and us. We can actually shape our circumstances with how we react to what is happening. Try it. It may surprise you.

5. Invite your family and friends to join you on the yoga mat
An invitation may be all it takes to have others join you in your daily practices. When your friends or family are staying with you during the holidays, think about inviting them to join you on the mat. Play a CD or video and practice together. They may thank you and you will have support for what you need the most…a peaceful mind and heart.

This holiday season, start by organizing your life around your stress management practices and let your first reaction be peace and harmony.

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