"He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system." (Bhagavad Gita 6.17)
Ok, well thanks Bhagavad Gita for the good advice, but what do we do when we fall off our “temperate” wagons, and into the sea of holiday season overindulgences? Here’s a little Go-To Guide To Survive the Holidays Mind, Body and Spirit:
1. Don’t Panic: A one-off of over doing it isn’t going to bring serious damage, but if we allow it to downward spiral into an ongoing habit it might. Strategically plan your Go-For-It meals, and shift towards veggies, fruits, fiber rich foods and plenty of water for the rest. Next time you reach for that extra piece of pie, helping of mashed potatoes or glass of wine, remind yourself how it feels to go too far, and ask yourself if it’s worth it.
2. Already Overboard? Stir a spoonful of baking soda into a glass of water, have a cup of peppermint tea, or sip some sparkling water to help settle your over-filled stomach. Give it about twenty minutes to take effect. Probiotics are great all the time, but they could be your favorite holiday gift when you’re feeling like you’re the stocking stuffer. Kefir and many yogurts on the market are good sources, and there are supplements and liquid forms, which are easy to find as well. Probiotics help boost the good gut-dwelling bacteria that aid our digestion and immune functions, and they may help lower cholesterol and risks of certain kinds of cancers too.
3. Stay Active: Colder weather, shorter days and more handy excuses can make us more likely to become sedentary. Take a walk around your neighborhood to kick-start your metabolic rate and try a few of these digestion-encouraging poses:
Cat Cow Pose: On your hands and knees, inhale deeply, arch your back and look to the sky, tilting your sit bones high. Exhale and round your back like a cat, tucking your tailbone towards your navel. Rhythmically, gently repeat this stretch of the front and back body. This massages our digestive system as well as our liver, gall bladder and pancreas, all of which could use a little extra love this time of year. If it’s been at least two hours since you’ve last eaten, feel free to add a cobra pose, or even a kneeling backbend ... (ustrasana) or a full urdhva dhanurasana to increase the front body extension. Always remember to practice at your own level.
Janu Sirsasana: Seated with your legs out in front of you, bend your right leg and place the bottom of your right foot into your inner left thigh (almost like a tree pose). If your right knee is tender place a block or a pillow beneath it for support. Turn to face your straight left leg, inhale your arms overhead, and then lengthen as you exhale and fold over it. If you’re able to take hold of your left foot, great. If not, use a towel or a strap to assist you. Encourage your right ribs toward that left leg for a wonderfully beneficial twist and stretch all at once. Be sure to switch sides and hold each for equal amounts of time.
Seated or Supine Twist: A great way to flush out the toxins in our system is in a carefully constructed deep twist. Sit in a way that is comfortable to you. I’m going to suggest stepping your right-foot to the outside of your left extended leg a bit like our janu sirsasana, but with our right knee to the sky. Find leverage, using your left arm or hand to the outside of your right thigh, and your right hand on the floor behind you just next to your right sit bone to help you balance. I love doing this pose in front of a wall with my right hand pressing against it for even more control. You can also use a block under your right hand to elevate it to a more comfortable height. For even more spinal support, lie on your back to execute your twist. You can cross your right knee over your left, or hug both knees into your chest without the cross for a softer version -- adjust your hips to the right as your knees gently fall to the left. Be sure to do both sides of your twist, and refrain from forcing – be kind.
4. Meditation Realization: We’re four times more likely to get into a car accident if we’ve had less than six hours of sleep (and who knows how much more likely to get into an accident with an obnoxious co-worker at the Christmas party) so we need to be sure to get our season’s Z’s in. Traveling, dealing with relatives and the pressure to have a good time, can add up to serious hypertension. This kicks up production of stress hormones like cortisol. Our central nervous system is fascinating. In order to manage our stress, we need to encourage our parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation) and ask our sympathetic nervous system (stress response) to subside. Taking time to meditate or even taking a power nap for twenty minutes during the day will help calm our adrenals and return us to a more peaceful state. This isn’t only good news for our emotional well being, it encourages better sleep patterns, helps keep heartburn and inflammation at bay, and contributes to a more effective metabolism and a stronger immune system as well.
Temptation during the holiday season makes it hard for all of us to avoid skidding off course from time to time. But if we use these four points as our Gita Guide, we can find our way back when we lose ourselves in the eggnog, hors d’oeuvre spread or dessert tray. After all, it’s only a matter of weeks before the pendulum swings and we’ll be wrestling with the other extreme… the promise of New Year’s Resolutions.
Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Andrea Marcum proudly opened U Studio Yoga in Los Angeles in 2006. She’s been featured in the Huffington Post, Shape, C Magazine, Self, LA Times, Origin Magazine, Gaiam, Qantas Inflight, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen and more. Andrea’s an Ambassador for Lululemon and Manduka. She’s currently working on a book. Though her early childhood aspirations were to be a fairy princess, she’s pretty happy with the way things have turned out.
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