The practice of yoga gives us valuable tools in managing the stress and anxiety through the holidays. Practicing meditation, pranayama, pratyahara, yoga poses and sakshi allows us to be calm, centered and in control of our normal unconscious reactions to holiday stressors. Meditation allows the mind to be calm, centered and relaxed and is a quick and effective way to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety before, during and after stressful situations. Pranayama is yogic breathing techniques that can be used anytime to calm, energize, harmonize and tranquilize the body. Pratyahara cuts off external distractions and draws the focus of the mind inwards to our bodies’ core. Sakshi is a detached state of consciousness, where we witness life events and have the perspective to choose how to respond to them.
These five techniques can be combined for an effective approach to dealing with any stressful and emotionally or psychologically reactive situation. The key to dealing with holiday stress is to become aware of the events and situations and their corresponding physical, mental and emotional reactions. Once you have identified potential holiday stressors, follow the five steps below to emerge un-stressed, calm and happy.
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If possible take a few moments to meditate and center yourself before leaving home or engaging in a stressful situation. Create a calm, compassionate and patient mind space and attitude. Visualize yourself in the situation reacting in a positive yogic way.
Become a Witness
Consciously step back from the situation and become a witness to your external and internal environment. See your life as a car driving down the highway and become the driver of the car, watching everything that is happening outside of the car and being in conscious control of what is happening to the car itself.
Breathe and Feel
Stop or pause any unconscious immediate mental or emotional reactions to the events around you and simply see and feel what is going on. Draw your awareness deeply inside your body and experience and feel what is happening in the present moment. Focus on your breath, breathing slowly, smoothly and deeply into your belly. Feel your body’s physical response to the situation without reacting.
Once you have short-circuited your initial unconscious response to holiday stressors, then make a choice on how to respond to the situation. You may choose to simply not respond and continue being present to everything that is happening in the moment. You may choose to deepen your practicing of meditation, pranayama, pratyahara and sakshi. You may want to choose the opposite of your usual response, instead of becoming irritated and angry, practice patience, compassion, and kindness.
Take Time to Recover
After any hectic holiday experiences take some time to recover and rejuvenate your body and spirit. Just a few minutes of pranayama or meditation will eliminate any accumulated tension or stress and help calm the body, mind, and spirit.
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