Ivy Markaity Health Guide
  • The holiday season is upon us again! This is the time of year where we are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry. But along with the holiday festivities and celebrations comes a lot of stress. It can be a very challenging time of year for many people. We feel pressure to buy gifts we may not be able to afford, travel long distances to visit family during the busiest travel season. We tend to socialize more than normal which leads to overeating and drinking. We are off our regular schedules and miss going to the gym or to our favorite exercise or yoga class. For many people this time of year is also a painful reminder of loss, which increases feelings of loneliness and depression.

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    For some the holidays are tougher than others. I recently had a chat with a shop assistant who had been quite short with me. I off-handedly commented that many people seem stressed out at this time of year. She quickly confided in me that she was under a lot of financial pressure. Money was very tight and she had to make the choice between either buying gifts for her children or putting food on the table. Instead of being annoyed with her for her less than friendly service I instantly felt a wave of compassion (who wouldn't) and an overwhelming sense of sadness that the commercial pressures of the holiday season have so usurped the true meaning behind it!


    It is an important time of year to ask ourselves as well as our families what the true meaning of the holiday season is and although it is challenging, to try to separate that from outside commercial pressures. It can be a wonderful time of year for reflection and introspection as well as socializing. What will make this holiday season fulfilling and significant to us? How can we serve others? Karma yoga is yoga based on being of service to others. The beauty of service is that it always nourishes us as well.


    It is also important to take time for yourself between events to quiet the mind, to ground yourself and reenergize even if it is just a five or ten minute breathing, yoga or meditation break. You can practice yoga by stretching at the airport and even on the plane. I always walk to the back of the plane to do some simple yoga poses, especially on long flights. It is great for circulation and relieving stiffness and tension.


    For those of us with a regular exercise routine or yoga practice it is best not to feel guilty about not keeping up with it during the holiday season. That guilt will only add to our stress. Notice what happens when you relax into the idea of letting go and begin to focus on remaining centered. We can always handle even the most harried days or challenging breath at a time!


    Whether you have an ongoing yoga practice or not you can benefit from simple yogic breathing practices. Mindful breathing and breathing techniques are the greatest tools we have for staying calm. Most of us take our breathing for granted until we have a cold. The beauty of integrating breath awareness into your life is that it is always available 24/7! By simply bringing your attention to your breath and taking long deep inhales and exhales you instantly begin to quiet the mind. We can practice these techniques anywhere, even if we are on the move. I often practice breathing meditations while waiting on lines at the post office, supermarket, pharmacy etc. It helps me slow down, stay centered and also feel less annoyed with slow service or delays. Practicing breathing meditations while walking has helped me appreciate the time I spend in transit. I even begin to take in delightful scents, sounds and sites around me that I wouldn't normally notice. Whether you are walking down 34th street swarming with people, madly rushing to buy last minute gifts at Macy's or gridlocked in holiday traffic on the way to the mall you can still practice conscious breathing.

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    Breathing Practices:


    1. Simply bring your attention to your breath. By watching your breath you bring yourself into the present moment and begin to quiet the mind. Most of the time we are not truly present. We spend a lot of time worrying about the future or lamenting about the past. By living in the present moment we begin to slow down and appreciate the preciousness of each moment of our lives. Life is happening right now! You can bring your attention to the coolness of the breath brushing in and out of your nostrils or you can simply follow the journey of your breath as it fills your body with Prana (the sand script word for breath which means life force energy.) Imagine each breath calming you down and at the same time energizing every cell of your body.


    2. This one is super easy. Simply repeat "Inhale" to yourself on the inhale and "Exhale" on the exhale. Or simply "In" and "Out". A very simple yet effective breathing meditation.


    3. Another breathing meditation that you can practice anywhere is counting your breaths to yourself. You inhale to the count of 3,4 or 5 and exhale twice as long. You count to yourself at a comfortable pace. For example if you are inhaling to a count of 3 you exhale 6, 4/8, 5/10 etc.... Practice whatever number is comfortable for you. Extending your exhale is instantly calming.


    4. Last but not least is a walking meditation. You inhale four steps and then exhale four steps. You can modify the amount of steps and breaths to your comfort level.


    Happy Holidays, Peace and Namaste!




Published On: December 16, 2010