Christmas Health Tips
by Justine Glenton
An Ashtanga & Zen Yoga Teacher
Christmas often brings with it an abundance of stress and expense. As a society, we can be very much out of touch with the inherent beauty and simple magnificence of this time of year. A conscious step back will help alleviate some, if not all, of this stress.
Essentially, in Yoga and Buddhism, one seeks the truth without being removed from the world. It is similar to Jesus' teaching to 'be in the world, but not of it'. When practicing yoga asana (postures), one stays connected to the peace and ease of being with the breath, while still experiencing all physical, mental and emotional sensations that arise in each pose. The key element is that the practicing individual feels these things fully, without being consumed by them. Likewise, in Buddhism it is taught that in order to minimise and eliminate suffering, we should practice detachment. It is recommended to continue living in the world with all the experiences it offers, but recognising these things as transient and unpredictable, thus letting go of any desires or expectations around them.
Having the understanding that the season is simply about opening our hearts to those around us is the Truth, while all the other actions surrounding it are merely extra. They are the sensations of the yoga pose; aspects to be noted and explored for what they are, while staying rooted in the unwavering truth that they are not the essence of it. Similarly, from a Buddhist perspective, recognise the transient and unpredictable nature of the actions surrounding the holiday: the dinner may not turn out perfect, the tree might not be as big as last year’s, the gifts may not be what we wished for...yet none of these things are the cause of the joy of the season anyway, and are therefore ultimately irrelevant.
You don't need to abandon whatever customs you normally take part in, but instead of getting caught up in them, seek to stay connected to the pure meaning of the holiday, and allow your actions to stem effortlessly from here.
Breathe, notice, and allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
Here are some active physical yoga tips to incorporate into your ‘loving’ Christmas:
- Aloe Vera is a great cleanser and aids the liver. (The liver is our first line of defense against toxins so look after it!)
- St Mary’s Thistle is a good liver support – good if you plan to be drinking, eating meats and sweets with refined sugar ;)
- Keep hydrated – drink plenty of water – Dandelion tea helps detox the liver.
- Yoga increases the alpha waves in the brain which are responsible for relaxation, it also reduces the amount of cortisol in the body – a hormone responsible for stress and can keep us holding onto weight.
- In this time of giving it’s important to give to yourself too, so take time out for yourself: A peaceful walk, meditation, or deep relaxation. Replenish and rejuvenate.
- Helpful Yoga poses: Hero pose is fabulous for the digestive meridian in the body. Legs up against the wall or on a chair or shoulder stand for fifteen minutes – for tired legs from shopping or cooking! Helps to eliminate the fluid retention from your legs. A Headstand will change your perspective on things and give your heart a rest. Plough pose is good for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders. Cobra pose tone and strengthen the superficial and deep muscles of the back and abdominal regions, it helps to increase back bending flexibility, relieves tension in the lower back – excellent if you have been shovelling snow! Spinal twist helps vertebrae mobility, the roots of the nervous system and spinal nerves get toned and provided with increased blood supply – something helpful after all that drinking! Locust pose – Shalambasana, massages the internal organs and makes them frisky – good for combating the big meal doldrums!
- Yogic Detox Tea: 1/4tsp coriander seeds, 1/4tsp cumin seeds, 1/4stp fennel seeds mix with 1.5 litres of hot water. Sip throughout the day.
- Cleansing negativity from your aura: 1cup of salt, 1lb baking soda into warm bath – soak for 20 minutes repeat for 7 days. Removes chemicals from your physical body.
- Laughter – buy in a great comedy movie or your favourite stand-up comedians DVD and raise the endorphins.