Wool sweaters. Pumpkin spice lattes. Bouquets of dried corn. Whatever gets you excited about fall, it is a season of abundance. It’s a time when we harvest the fruits from the seeds we sowed in spring, and transition from the light playful days of summer into the dark slow days of winter. Fall is also a transition into the holiday season that offers us an abundance of gifts.
Sometimes, all this abundance becomes too much, and it’s easy to find ourselves racking up debt on our credit cards and overindulging in a few too many cocktails and servings of pie. While there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a break once in awhile, it’s easy to tip the scale too far in one direction and fall out of balance with our natural rhythms. Imbalance can cause us to become irritable, tired, and remorseful.
Fortunately, yoga offers us five powerful tools to combat these states of excess to bring us back to a place of balance and inner peace.
1. Instead of reaching for your credit card and believing that those fancy new yoga pants will make your life and your practice so much better, explore santosha, cultivating contentment or gratitude. Santosha reminds us that we have all we need to be happy in this life, and that material possessions only fool us into believing we are better off because of them. So thank those grungy old leggings for all the times they’ve served you well on the mat. Over time, you may find that cultivating contentment for what you have leads to fewer wants and desires.
2. Practice tapas, yogic willpower, rather than indulging in another helping of dessert. This is a tough one for many of us, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging on occasion. But too often we beat ourselves up over our lack of willpower, which creates a pattern of negative thoughts and behaviors. Ask yourself what will serve you better—another slice of cake or practicing self-discipline. One feels more immediately satisfying while the other offers long-term rewards through a heightened sense of awareness and self-control.
3. The next time you lay out your yoga mat, instead of wishing for flatter abs or more flexible hamstrings, focus on aparinghara, non-grasping or non-coveting. Yoga provides many physical benefits, including a strong and healthy body. But when fitness becomes the goal, we not only subject ourselves to potential injury, we also lose the aspects of yoga that connect us to our deeper selves and sustain our practice over time. Aparinghara reminds us to let go of the objective and be open to receiving what we need rather than wanting what we don’t have. Once you’ve developed some skill with aparinghara on your mat, try taking this practice into the hustle and bustle of the shopping season.
4. Sit for a short meditation when you feel irritable and stressed. The holidays bring on all kinds of stressors—chaotic travel plans, family time, the frenzied rush to the end of the calendar year. Meditation gives us a still and quiet space to disengage from our anxious thoughts and emotions. Even just a few minutes a day spent meditating can have a positive effect on how we manage stress and irritability.
5. When you feel tired and exhausted, practice some restorative yoga. Restorative yoga calms the senses and soothes the mind and nervous system. It allows us to turn inward and slows the release of stress-induced hormones that tax the body and can lead to illness. Try five to ten minutes in Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound ankle pose) or Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) to relax the mind and body and rejuvenate the spirit.
What tools do you use to combat states of overindulgence and overconsumption? How do you use yoga to find a place of balance and inner peace during the holiday season?