The Kripalu Schools’ Top 10 Tips for Making the Most of the Holidays

Stay balanced this holiday season with these tips from the Kripalu Schools faculty and staff!

  1. Do yoga. (You knew we were going to say that, right?) It can be easy to let your practice go at this time of year. We find that’s it even more important to stick to a routine. If you have family and friends visiting, get up before everyone else to practice. As little as 15 minutes of connecting with breath and body can fill the well and help you stay centered. Try a grounding practice of warming up the joints with dasha chalana (the 10 churnings of the joints), six movements of the spine (lateral (both sides), twist (both sides), forward bend, and backbend), and a few Sun Salutations to generate some warmth. Practice while maintaining an even, steady breath and finish with a minute or two of meditation. You might want to check out Kripalu Schools faculty Larissa Hall Carlson’s 15-minute Kripalu Yoga class.
  2. Nourish your heart. As the days grow shorter, sometimes doing less is actually doing more. To brighten your inner light and carry you through this season, a simple sutra study might be the perfect fit. We recommend Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33, in which he gives a recipe to soothe your heart and meet others where they are: maitri-karuna-muditopeksanam-sukha-duhkha-punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta-prasadanam: “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” There are a variety of ways of practicing this sutra; you can modify the chant in any way that feels right. For example, you can sing out loud or silently, chanting in Sanskrit or English. Sound is powerful. Or you might choose to simply reflect on the sutra while in a restorative pose like Legs Up the Wall. Or you can simply use these four words as a mantra practice: maitre (friendliness); karuna (compassion); mudita (joy); upeksanam (neutrality).
  3. Breathe, relax, feel, watch, and allow. Wherever you happen to be during the rush of holiday preparations, take a moment to take it all in. If you’re in a retail environment, let your body relax as you take a deep breath and watch the whirlwind around you. Allow whatever feelings are present to arise without attachment—or let sensory experiences take center stage: Smell the ingredients for meal you’re about to make or let your eyes linger on glowing lights or a holiday display.
  4. Pop some fennel. Upset stomach from too much rich food? Fear not, fennel seeds to the rescue. Before your next holiday shindig, pack some fennel seeds and, at the first sign of stomach upset, chew half a teaspoon. Fennel seeds not only help quell gas or indigestion pain, they also promote fresh breath.
  5. Simplify your diet in between festivities. Give your digestive system a break whenever you can this holiday season, favoring simply cooked, lighter foods. Perhaps dine on some steamed vegetables and rice, clear broths, or the darling of Ayurveda—kitchari. All these foods are easy to digest and will help mitigate any imbalances that could occur after holiday indulgence.
  6. Practice self-care with a foot bath. Decompress and refill your emotional well with an Epsom salt foot bath. This can help settle frazzled nerves, soothe tired muscles, and set you up for a good night’s sleep. Place 1/3 cup of Epsom salts in a basin of warm water, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils, and soak away your cares. To boost your holiday spirit, add a few drops of peppermint oil and a handful of chopped fresh rosemary.
  7. Be your own best friend. Swami Kripalu invites us to observe ourselves without judgment. Before you head out to a family gathering, take a moment to journal about your thoughts and feelings related to being with that group of people—or simply reflect on what is present for you in that moment. Give yourself the gift of validating your own experience so you don’t feel deflated later if others can’t or won’t.
  8. Get outside. Don’t let the cold weather deter you from immersing yourself in the beauty and restorative power of the natural world. Sometimes, a walk in the woods (or just around the block) can infuse a tired spirit with a renewed sense of well-being, and help to reestablish a grounded center. Make it playful and invite your family to join you. Even 15 minutes outside under a blanket of snow (or twinkling stars!) can make memories that last for decades.
  9. Get to bed early. Both Ayurveda and current science reveal that the most restorative sleep happens before 2:00 am; it takes two hours after 2:00 am to get the same benefits of one hour before 2:00 am! And we need lots of rejuvenating sleep when we’re juggling work and social events, and eating and drinking more than usual. On the nights when you don’t have social engagements, try to get to sleep before 10:00 pm so you can soak up those deep Zs. If you have trouble going to bed early, consider turning off electronics and electrical lights an hour or two before bedtime. Light candles (or turn on battery-operated candles), do a little restorative yoga or stretching on the floor, massage the soles of the feet with your favorite balm or oil, read a book (a real book), or write in a gratitude journal.
  10. Smile. A lot! Everyone else will, too. 

Happy holidays from the Kripalu Schools! 

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