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By Sarah Scharf
As a Restorative Yoga teacher I often get asked how to reduce stress, and the holiday season seems to bring with it a lot of stress. Most of us are faced with extra parties and family gatherings, which can trigger even the most zen and grounded people. Taking extra time to practice may seem like another item on your to-do list, so start small.
Just one restorative pose (see tip #3) can make a huge difference in your day. As yogis we can bring what we learn and practice on the mat to help us find our balance during the festivities. I know that bringing our practice off the mat is often the most challenging part of life, finding a way to integrate it with family and parties can be even harder. Having trained as a yoga teacher doesn’t make it any easier, but here are the tools that I find most effective. Good luck and good cheer!
1. Let go of expectations
The pressure we put on ourselves to make things perfect, get the gifts right, the special food, etc is what causes the majority of our stress. Internally we are often whipping ourselves with “I have to. . .” so when you notice that thought of “have to” try stay open to possibility, maybe your least favourite relative will surprise you this year, the office party could be fun, we never know how it will be as each moment is different. Remember that you always have a choice which this brings us to the next tip. . .
When you are overwhelmed, or feeling like a cranky child from the shopping and the socialising- take a pause. Have a breath for yourself to check in before reacting. This gives you the chance to be the person you want to be, to perhaps not eat the food that is pushed at you, or to say no thank you to the drink that’s one too many. This is helpful when family dynamics take you over, or if you are feeling ungrounded. Take a breath, feel your feet, remind yourself what the holidays are about - spending time with people you love. This might even prompt you to create more meaningful rituals, to ask for help and delegate tasks so that the holidays build a sense of community and connection rather than obligation.
3. Listen to your body
It will let you know if you need to give yourself an early night, or what type of food to choose on the buffet. Trust it. Take the time with pausing, to notice what you actually need and then act on that. We often confuse being busy with importance, and we are never too busy to take care of ourselves. Have a time out, lie down with your feet up and your eyes covered (Viparita Karani/Legs Up the Wall, or even Savasana). Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and rest quietly. This makes all the difference. Studies show that rest really revives us and we perform better on tests after resting. If you come back to your work, family or party rested and rejuvenated chances are everyone will be happy you took the time for yourself. Best of all, you will enjoy it more because you will be present. This is truly the greatest gift you can give- to the world not just yourself!
To learn more about Restorative Yoga check out my website www.flowandrestoreyoga.co.uk. Upcoming workshops to help you this season: Winter Solstice Holiday Survival: Flow & Restore for Immunity and Sanity December 20th 3-6pm Yoga on the Lane
Start Where You Are: A New Year’s Day Workshop January 1, 2015 The Life Centre Islington. See details here: http://omexchange.com/event/start-sarah-scharf/