This is the season. Snow is falling. Holiday social commitments are filling up the calendar and somehow, in the tiny cracks of time between them and work, there is gift shopping to do and a life to run.
Whatever holidays you’re celebrating, there is likely to be an element of stress utterly contrary to the spirit of the season. A lot of that stress comes from struggling to keep everything perfect. It comes from the fear that if we, individually, don’t do it all, it might not get done. And tradition can weigh heavy this time of year. I remember the year my aunt tried to get away with cooking duck instead of turkey. Everybody freaked out.
I wish I could have been kinder to her at the time. She worked so hard to make everyone’s holidays bright and I know her stress level was high. She did pretty well for family and friends, but paid the price in not being able to enjoy the time herself.
I have since learned that perfection is not attainable while living in these fleshly bodies. I wish I’d had the wisdom to tell her that “The best you can do is good enough. Let go of perfection and surrender to the moment. Trust that others can pick up the slack.”
With so many celebrations with high expectations grouped so tightly together, I’d like to suggest two poses in particular that help us cultivate trust and surrender. They are forward bends (all about surrender) and back bends (emblematic of trust).
A handy variation of the forward bend you can do anywhere, anytime is the supported forward bend. Face the counter, the table, or your desk, place your hands on they edge close to you and walk backwards away from the support (leaving your hands in place) until you have to lean forward to keep your hands in place. Push push your hips away until your legs are vertical. With your body supported by your hips and hands, let it relax toward the floor. Hold this position for several deep breaths.
This pose opens the shoulders, stretches the back and counteracts the slump that some of us develop over the years. It also stretches the hips.
Whenever you do a forward bend, you need to balance it with a backbend. After all, trust and surrender need one another.
If standing is not an option for you, you can sit on the edge of your bed or the front edge of your chair. Plant your feet solidly on the floor and spread your feet and knees far enough apart that your chest can fit between your knees. Inhaling,
lift your arms up over your head. Exhaling, bend forward from the hips keeping your back straight as long as possible. Then, let everything relax and hang down. Breathe. When you’re ready to come back up, place your hands on your knees and push up as you inhale.
Stand with your hands on your hips with your thumbs pointing out. Extend your spine and lift your chest and allow your head to lead the way as you arch back from top to bottom. Hold this position for several deep breaths.
This pose opens the chest, strengthens the abdominal muscles and stretches the front of the hips. Since, metaphysically, backbends are about trust and trust is something a lot of us have trouble with, be gentle with yourself.
Keep in mind with every yoga pose that each of us is built a little different and we all have different habits of body.
For the backbend place your hands at your waist with the fingers pointing back. Inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling and tilt your head back. Breathe deeply for several breaths.
The spirit in me salutes the spirit in you. We’re all in bodies together!
May your holidays be full of laughter and joy.