One of the things I notice around the holidays is that I start to feel a bit heavy. There's the food and drink that makes me feel more physically burdened than usual, but mostly it's the emotional burden of expectations, anticipation, and incessant social planning.
This year we're hosting Thanksgiving. I'm excited and happy to do it, but it's a lot of cooking and cleaning and hosting. Then there's Christmas. There's always the managing of gift giving and receiving. I try to find the perfect balance (impossible!) during Christmas where I indulge my daughter enough so she gets the excitement and thrill of this fun holiday, but not so much that it's gross. I stress about if anyone will invite us to a New Years Eve party and if they don't what kind of ritual will I make up that will sufficiently bring us into 2016.
The other day when I was teaching, I noticed a student looking forlorn and frustrated. It was one of those days when his balance was off and he was low on stamina. It's not uncommon to see people's practice change around the holidays; everyone's managing the stress of the season. As the class progressed, his frustration seemed to deepen. I had this very clear image of baggage. It's like when you go on a trip and pack too much but insist on doing carry-on (me, every single time). It's too much. It takes a lot of energy to carry that baggage onto light rail, through security, to your gate and then squeeze it onto the plane all the while getting snarky looks from normal packers.
Each Yoga class is a journey and we can alter the path by making certain mental choices during our practice. Often when I teach Yoga, I invite students to clear their minds after each posture. I remind them that carrying each posture into the next will create a very heavy practice, ultimately a much harder one. "Don't make yourself carry extra baggage," I tell the class. "Let each posture go mentally when you physically release it. Try not to dwell on it, evaluate it, or judge it." There will be time tomorrow to try Eagle pose again. For today, let it go.
Like everything, this letting go and moving on takes practice. I'm trying to engage in a similar practice this holiday season of getting through one holiday before moving onto the next. Right now I will focus on Thanksgiving. When I find myself thinking about Christmas or New Years, I tell myself to let it go, to just focus on Thanksgiving. The media, my family, old habits all make this practice difficult, but I'm trying. Changing old habits is always hard. The Yoga room is a great place to try it out. This season, let your practice be light.