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: