Originally written for Australia Yoga Teacher Training. You can read it, and more ponderings about life, motherhood and the lessons of yoga here.
I stand in the middle of the shopping centre, a carefully curated shopping list saved in my phone, that week’s audiobook playing in my ears. “OK, let’s do this” I say to myself.
It’s not a big deal, what I’m doing. I’m simply ticking off the Christmas shopping list. I’m on the hunt for carefully considered presents for friends and family and yet I can feel it rising up in me; the stress from watching everyone else buzzing around, whipping out credit cards, pushing yet another item into an overloaded trolley. I take a deep breath, roll my shoulders and begin to walk, resolving to be back at my car in as short a time as possible.
It has to be admitted, for the most wonderful time of the year Christmas sure does come with a whole lot of “extras”. Some are amazing but then there some that are definitely less so. Extras in the form of a parade of obligatory social events, work dos, presents and food to be bought – and money to be budgeted to pay for them – crowd out the month of December and can start to dull the shine surrounding the festive celebrations.
But of course, there are other ways. Yoga teaches us the power of presence, of non-attachment, of non-violence and standing in our truth, even the simple power a deep breath holds within it. Surely there are ways we can bring this precious practice off the mat and into our Christmas celebrations?
It can feel as though the answer is simple. Work your asana practice in when you can and aim for quality over quantity. Meditate when you first wake in the morning or before you close your eyes at night. Be mindful of what and how much you put in your mouth. If all else fails, just breathe. However, for me this year it actually began with a simple conversation.
It was an honest conversation with loved ones about presents, both given and received. A conversation that wasn’t necessarily initially well-received but that was my truth and encompassed the idea of ‘I have enough – that we have enough. Just spending time with you is enough’. Insert deep, releasing breath here. And I let the realisation that this season is about family and festivities, and joy sink in. And what does the practice of yoga, the teachings of the yamas and niyamas do other than to teach us to live in alignment with our truest selves? The alignment designed to help us find our inner bliss and joy?
And if that joy doesn’t include spending every second night out celebrating, so be it. If it’s not spending a small fortune on presents, so be it – or if that’s saying no thank you to receiving a gift, so be it. If that’s choosing to steal 10 minutes to be alone on Christmas day to move and contort on your mat or to meditate, so be it. If it’s saying no to another drink or another helping of food, so be it. If, and this is a big one, that joy is turning your phone off and choosing to be completely present and engaged with your family, so be it. Of course, if your joy is gifting a beautiful, well-thought out present to each of your loved ones while attending every party you’re invited to, then by all means follow your bliss and jump in with both feet. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly.
When it comes to our yoga practice, it’s important we’re mindful that it’s about so much more than the shapes we can throw on our mat, or how long we meditate. It’s about how we choose to apply our yoga practice to our daily lives. Choosing to be present, engaged, mindful, and true to ourselves can be some of the most difficult yet rewarding lessons to learn and embrace. But they are designed to help us find alignment and bring us joy!
So can we all release the expectations we place on ourselves, on others and on the festive season and just choose joy this year? And I’ll take another deep breath and put a strike through my present list.
Kylie Triggell is a Brisbane-based writer, journalist and yoga teacher. She believes in the good things in life: spontaneous travel, sunsets on the beach, food and movement that feels glorious in your body, and a good book. You can read more ponderings about life, health, food, family and travel at blackteawhitepages.com.