Tag Archives: holidays

The sadhana of lowering expectations of practice during the holidays

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Most of the times during the year, people who practice yoga have a distinct advantage over those who do not. The peace and tranquility of proper yoga practice gives the aspirant a “psychic shield” from the onslaughts of modern culture. However, during the holiday season the tables can quickly turn. A good yoga practitioner who thrives on a regular routine practice will find barriers in holiday class cancellations and family visitors.

I have been in both camps in my years of practice. There have been years where I have shunned family gatherings to make that Sunday class. I was in great shape! However, I think I really missed out on some special family times that I cannot ever get back. So for these next few weeks, I propose a solution: practice when you can, but don’t miss out on special times if there is a choice between loved ones and yoga practice.

Sounds easy enough. Before you hard core practitioners tune me out, I would recommend that you see the film Sadhu. It documents a man living in a cave in India leading an ascetic lifestyle. He complains incessantly about being lonely and cold. On his transistor radio, he hears an advertisement for the Maha Kumbha Mela, a confluence of holy men at the foot of the Himalyas. He quickly packs up his bags, leaves his cave, and treks to event.

He arrives at the Ganges river and tries to fit in with the other holy men. A group takes him in, but in no time they shun him for not bathing in the Ganges at the most auspicious time. He somehow “didn’t make the cut” and curses his own practice.

There is a lot of “not making the cut” in the yoga world nowadays. Just sit through 5 minutes of any yoga championship on You Tube and you’ll see what I mean. If you stray just a millimeter off that thin line of daily practice, you fall endlessly into the chasm of whatever your mind thinks you should be doing but are not doing it. Don’t “fall” into that trap. Instead, just accept the holidays for what they are: a celebration of friends and family and even embrace the spirit. Sometimes being subversive to the culture is not always the best way to stop your mind chatter.

In my work as a mental health counselor, I often tell my depressed clients to lower their expectations during the holidays so they are not disappointed if the season does not bring them the joy that the media says it is supposed to. That seems to work for them. In the same way for yoga practitioners, lowering your expectations to have a consistent practice during this time makes for a more realistic mental outlook. And being more realistic is one of the true aims of yoga. Not doing 15 hours of asana practice per week during Christmas time.

Mele Kalikimaka!



Eat whatever you want during the holiday

holiday feast

It’s that time of year again. The Thanksgiving/Yule tide festivities are breathing down our necks. Now is the time of year we see all the posts on how to survive the holidays if you are on a Paleo diet or some other evidence-of-virtue low caloric intake plan. Panic sets in for many this time of year as is has for me in many Christmas pasts. “I am going to gain a thousand pounds” you say to yourself. So here is my radical thought of the day: eat what ever you feel like eating during holiday time with family and friends.

No I am not going psychotic. It has just been one of those years where I realize how fragile our loved ones can be and how quickly they can be taken away without much notice. Do you want memories of fussing at the dinner table because someone but real butter in your casserole? Or do you want memories of enjoying and being present with your loved ones during what could the last time you would be gathering all at once?

I come from experience. I was on a raw food diet for a time. Many people had to make accommodations for me during that time and it was not a pleasant experience. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was invited over for holiday dinner the next year.

Since then, I have found some sort of enlightenment, and realized I actually enjoy eating good food with my family. So here is my proposal to you: If you have a steady and regular yoga practice, you have my permission to feast with everyone else during the appropriate time. I think that by giving yourself permission to do so, you will have a much better attitude toward the holiday. If you are doing yoga properly, your body will tell you how to offset the large intake of food.

In terms of eating, I often think about the Buddha. He was a serious yogi who starved himself doing extreme acetic practices. He only found enlightenment when he ate a grain of rice that was given to him. He didn’t go overboard with it. He just realized that the practices were holding him back from his true nature.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, stay that way! Just enjoy what is given to you and you can eat and don’t feel guilty if everything isn’t just so. Holidays are sloppy. Families are sloppy. Friends are sloppy. Just use the discipline that you have acquired through your dietary practices to fully enjoy the holidays with a present and clear mind.

And by all means, enjoy your holiday!