The holidays can be a joyous time of year as we reunite with friends, family, and colleagues. Spirited settings filled with decadent food, drink, and entertainment are delightful, but the endless party parade and shopping brigade can trigger bedlam in even the most die-hard holiday lovers. At the heart of it all, the real meaning behind the season is being aware of and appreciating all that you have, while giving back to society in a way that makes the most sense for you. In order to keep your gratitude in check and accomplish said mission while also navigating Black Friday, Secret Santas, and pop-up parties, it’s imperative to stay focused on caring for yourself and your health, while staying rooted. What’s a Yogi to do? It is possible to have your fruitcake and eat it too.
1. Stay grounded
The holidays fall directly during Vata season, a time where wind, air, mobility, cold, dry, and light qualities dominate. Attending every holiday event you’re invited to could throw Vata into orbit. Apply opposing forces in your diet and lifestyle, and consider choosing a few – not all – parties to attend. Consume nourishing, cooked root vegetables (think squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets) and cooked whole grains (basmati rice, lentils), and drink warm liquids. Use oils, especially olive, sesame, almond, and avocado, liberally when cooking. Resist FOMO when it comes to making an appearance at every party and know that energy, health, and bright eyes transcend sleep deprivation, illness, and skin breakouts. You are only as good as you feel.
2. Set a mantra to turn to when you are feeling overwhelmed
“Man” means “mind” and “tra” means “tool”. A mantra is an instrument to control your thoughts and to bring stillness to the mind. A few examples:
a. “Om Mani Padme Hum”: a mantra to cultivate strength, wisdom, protection, and most of all compassion for yourself and others. Buddhists believe that saying or even thinking of this mantra silently to yourself invokes powerful blessings and the embodiment of compassion and patience.
b. “Om Shanti Om”: Peace for all humankind; peace for all living and nonliving things; peace for the universe; peace for each and everything.
c. “Om”: Om is the sound of Oneness. It is the vibration set forth by The Creator, which made way for the beginning of the Universe.
d. If Sanskrit doesn’t resonate with you, try something as simple as “Peace, peace, peace”, or “I am enough”. Anything that instills calmness in you.
3. Dinacharya: focus on maintaining a daily schedule
a. Go to bed no later than 10 pm and rise with or before the sun (by 6 am) to stay energized.
b. Eat and enjoy your meals at the same times every day without feeling rushed or hurried.
c. Practice pranayama for 5 minutes upon waking and before bed.
d. Abhyanga: Regular application of warm, herbal infused oil to your body is grounding, nourishing, and deeply hydrating. Oils, such as sesame, are able to penetrate all seven layers of the skin, carrying with it the healing properties of the herbs. Abhyanga is also a much-loved therapy to receive from your local Ayurveda specialist.
4. Regular exercise: depending on your Dosha, know what type of exercise–and how much–is right for you
a. If you are a Vata, scale back on the intensity of your workouts (read: give cardio a break and work on increasing strength and flexibility), dress appropriately and don’t become cold or exercise outdoors, and stay hydrated with room temperature or warmer liquids. Stay committed to your routine even when it’s far easier to stay in during the dreaded cold and dark days.
b. Pitta folks should also be wary of overdoing exercise. Although it is their nature to overachieve, pushing the limits all day every day can lead to excess Pitta and feelings of irritability, anger, and jealousy. Try working at 80% of your maximum instead. Your friends and family will thank you.
c. Kaphas get to be the gym superstars. Get to the gym and do it often. This may not be music to your ears when what you really want to do is curl up with a book and mug of hot chocolate. However, your mind and body will feel glorious and rejuvenated after you’ve gotten a workout in.
5. If gift-giving is getting you down, consider gifts with a purpose
Make donations to charities in honor of your loved one, purchase gifts from companies that give back to causes you support, such as the environment, women’s health, human trafficking, or homelessness, or buy fair trade items. A total win-win!
6. With the New Year approaching, think about setting an intention, or Sankalpa
Unlike a goal in the traditional sense of the word, which is a personal need to accomplish something, a Sankalpa is a vow or intention formed between the mind and heart. A Sankalpa is not something you need to go on a deep soul-searching mission to find; it is already waiting to be realized by you. A Sankalpa reveals itself during states of deep relaxation, blank mind, and meditation.
At the end of the day, just remember this: the sun will still rise tomorrow. If you need a few morning espressos to wake you after a late night of peppermint cocktails and candy cane cheesecake, it’s not the end of the world. Allow yourself the freedom to imbibe in the season’s elegant food, foofy drinks, and glittery festivities, but also give yourself permission to opt out when the thought of hearing one more pop version of “Silver Bells” makes your hair hurt.
Eating, drinking, and being merry are a jolly good part of the season, but the true beauty of the holidays lies in what we do, how we make others feel, and how we make a difference. Keeping your own mind and body balanced provides you the best platform for enjoying the season, in both receiving and bestowing gifts. Giving does not have to mean spending money. Giving also means offering your time, donating your talents, and providing compassion. Lending the gifts of friendship, love, and encouragement will bring comfort and joy to anyone, especially those needing it most. And while tangible items are nice, they are fleeting, whereas memories of a deed done with spiritual intention make a permanent impression.
In a world where you can give anything,