Holiday Rituals from Our Faculty

We asked a few of our Kripalu Schools and R&R faculty to share their favorite rituals for the season of celebration.

Janna Delgado, Kripalu School of Yoga faculty:

Every year, I make a special ritual of wrapping up my Christmas presents. Instead of letting it be a chore, or just another thing on the to-do list, I mindfully gather the gifts, along with beautiful wrapping paper, ribbons, and notecards, and set them all out. I light a candle, play some sweet music, and have a cup of hot tea by my side. Then, one by one, I send thoughts of love and appreciation to each friend or family member as I wrap their gift. It is a heartfelt way to reconnect with my intention for giving holiday gifts.

Izzy Lenihan, R&R faculty; certified life, career, and wellness coach:

My favorite yearly ritual is filling out my dream journal. I begin in the first week of January by creating an intention for how I want to feel at the end of the year. Then I break down my life into 12 different areas and create three dreams/goals for each of those areas of my life that will help support the feeling I desire. These are the 12 areas: physical, spiritual, professional, Intellectual,  emotional, psychological, material, creative, financial, legacy, character, and adventure.

I don’t have to figure out how I will achieve these goals, I simply state the intention. Naturally, throughout the year, I consciously lean towards actions, decisions, and habits that will support these goals. I visit my dream journal regularly and, as I find success, I check the items off. The best part is, somewhere around the last week of December, getting to see all the check marks showing all that I accomplished and achieved throughout the year. In coaching, we say, “You can’t hit a target unless you can see it!" My dream journal helps remind me regularly  of my targets and keeps my life from feeling stagnant. Many of my clients have also adopted this ritual, and share this experience with family and friends who support each other's life dreams. 

Rudy Peirce, Kripalu School of Yoga and R&R faculty:

As a boy, I remember the sweet glow of the electric candles my dad crafted and erected in all of our street-facing windows. The golden light softened the coal-black darkness that descended in the late afternoons of mid-December. I felt transported into a coziness, the mysterious glimmer of shadows, and the hint of 18th-century colonial days.

Now, my “holiday” rituals begin in mid-November as the days get shorter and darkness falls earlier each day. We heat with oil and a woodstove. Our 1906 mill-town abode is still a bit drafty even with the renovations we've done, so we begin firing up the woodstove whenever evening temps start dropping into the 30s. Our trusty soapstone stove is always flickering with some burning logs by the time the deepening dark of December is upon us. I have placed electric candles in our street-facing windows, which we switch on as dusk descends.

From 4:30 on each evening, it is a time for going inside as the flames flicker, soup heats on the stove, and candles send out their light in the darkness—symbolic of the spirit that continues to flicker within even while darkness threatens.

Jess Frey, Kripalu School of Yoga and R&R faculty:

Something I heard a long time ago: "Once you know the way, it keeps calling you back again and again." For the past 10 years at New Year's, I have attended a silent meditation retreat. For me, it is a sacred pause to listen more closely to the inner truth and wisdom of my heart. It is an opportunity to cultivate a deeper sense of intimacy and connection with myself. I remember to embrace life with tenderness, patience, and acceptance. It's an experiment to dive in and explore what is revealed when I stop “doing.” And it’s a time to reflect, a sort of goodbye to one year and a way to welcome, with intention, the mystery and possibility of the year that lies ahead.

Cat Pacini, R&R faculty, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant:

I like to take some time on the winter solstice to sit in the dark, offering gratitude for the past year and stating my intentions for the next year, and then light a candle. I love sitting in the dark on this darkest day of the year, and then lighting the candle, welcoming in the return of the light, knowing that the sunlight will grow slowly, day by day.

Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, Kripalu Schools faculty:

At this time of year, I heat up microwaveable heating pads to place over my heart, belly, and ankles when I do my restorative yoga practice. They offer warmth, weight, and a bit of moisture to soothe my vata (air and either) energy, It’s soothing and heavenly, something I always encourage my restorative teachers-in-training to use.

Jashoda Edmunds, Kripalu School of Yoga faculty:

On either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I do a gratitude practice, reflecting on my highlights of the year gone by, and I ask my husband to tell me one thing he’s been grateful for. We do this every night reflecting on that day, but looking back and giving thanks for the entire year is particularly powerful.

Toshiro Miura, Kripalu Yoga teacher trainer at Yoga of Life in Tokyo, Japan:

On the first day of the new year, we practice 108 Sun Salutations at the studio.

Susannah Gale, R&R faculty:

The last few years, I have created a ritual where, after I put up my Christmas tree and a few other decorations, I go for a hike with my dogs. I walk in the woods with the intention to get clear on what I would like to see the upcoming year look like for me. I ask the forest to clear away any worry or doubt, and then my intentions flow through pretty distinctly for various aspects of my life.

Lee Albert, Kripalu School of Yoga and R&R faculty:

I have specific practices that I do every day, not just at the holidays. I realize that I will manifest in my life whatever I think about. whether I want it or not. So it is very important to be clear on what I really want. Every day, I take time to breathe, come to my center, and reflect on what I want in my life and what I don’t want. I then feel the energy of gratitude for what is in my life and what is about to come to me through my clear intentions. Those intentions, coupled with the feeling of gratitude, bring quick results. I also take time to reflect on what I no longer want in my life. What thoughts do I not wish to think and what behaviors do I wish to change? Why wait for a holiday to make a resolution or change a behavior when you can do it every day and get fantastic results!

Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Kripalu Schools and R&R faculty:

Gathering with family and friends during this time of year is the ritual most meaningful to me. Laughter, joy, and celebrations feed my soul and remind me of how much I have to be grateful for. Preparing meals, wrapping gifts, and early-morning breakfast in our pajamas are simple delights my entire family enjoys together at this time of year.

Erin Casperson, Dean, Kripalu School of Ayurveda:

I relish the long nights, short days, and minimal light at the turn of the year. I find this to be a special time to dive inward. When I lived near the coast of Massachusetts, I spent many New Year’s mornings jumping into the freezing-cold New England waters to remind myself of how alive I am! Since living in the Berkshires, I have been taking a 10-day silent meditation retreat at the turn of the year. There is something magical about spending the end of one year and the beginning of the next in silence. More than anything, for me, it is important to be in reverence for the darkness and the light.

Sarajean Rudman, Kripalu School of Yoga and R&R faculty:

Each year, right around the holidays, I go through everything in my life, both physical and non-physical, and ask myself one simple question: Is this supporting my life or my death? I know that sounds harsh, but it is helpful. If it is something that is weighing me down instead of lifting me up, making me sad instead of making me happy, I eliminate it. This question helps me escape some of the reasons I may hold onto things, such as: “I spent so much money on that” or “But what will others think…” It boils down to such simplicity, and allows me to roll into the new year with only the things that are supporting my mission.

Just for fun, I make sure to have a new outfit for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve. As a yoga teacher, I do not wear “real clothes” all that often. Finding time, space, and the creative prowess to put together some feel-good pieces feels indulgent, fun, and out of the ordinary. Something with sparkles? Sure! That beautiful sweater I would never normally purchase? Why not!? There is a celebratory energy to treating myself to these little things around the holidays that brings me joy and makes the holidays a tiny bit more special.

Doing a winter hike at my favorite little "mountain” (really a hill) in my hometown makes me feel like the holidays are here. I collect my three dogs and we head out into the woods. No matter how many times I hike up and down that same trail, it fills my heart with joy. Doing it each year when the air is crispy and the leaves are gone brings on a kind of holiday spirit that stretches my smile from ear to ear, and the nostalgia fills my heart with all of the joy of holiday seasons past.

©Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail