As the season merry-making, peace and joy gets underway, it’s fitting that most of us start thinking about the people we love; yet, most of the people I know, and of course I’m including myself in that category, also feel a certain amount of stress, anxiety and guilt. The list of errands grows. We must shop, bake, and party-go. We want to give gifts that connote how well we know someone and how much we care for him/her. We pick and chose which get-togethers to attend. Most of us lament about not having more time. We need help to put all the work involved with this season into perspective.
No, I do not think that yoga can save the lives of everyone. I do, however, think that Yoga and its 8-limbs can get us all off to a good start. Most of us are familiar only with the physical practice of yoga, which is the third limb and is called asana. It is the branch that most Westerners associate as yoga. The others include aspects like how to treat others and yourself, (analogous to the Ten Commandments), breath control, sense withdrawal, meditation, concentration and finally, for those rare few, enlightenment. For most of us, the physical practice is where we can start to get glimpses of the other, more elusive parts of Yoga. It’s also where we can most tangibly learn about ourselves.
Granted, an asana practice takes time, maybe even 2 hours a day if you’re traveling to and from a 90-minute class. But it gives so much more in return. When our brains are running on empty, and thoughts and organization get scattered, we cannot run efficiently. Often things that are not all that important begin to take center stage. What typically takes 30 minutes can take twice as long — and we could be quite angry as we do it. Personally, I get frantic and bitchy — not a good combination, ask Tom.
Now, reflect on how you feel after a solid yoga practice, one in which you were able to completely absorb yourself in the present moment and let go of whatever is happening in your life. For me, after a class like that I am more focused and quite calm. A bit of serenity lingers throughout the day. The fact that it can take my daughters 10 minutes to get buckled in their booster seats when it would take me two seconds if they’d let me buckle them, does not irritate me as much after such an asana practice. I realize with that extra ten minutes, I can check my texts or emails and be proud of their accomplishment, rather than huffing and puffing about losing a precious ten minutes I’ll never remember anyway.
It is similar to taking an exam for which you have prepared, rather than one for which you have not studied. You can breeze through a test without sweating or stressing and leave with confidence if you made an earnest effort at studying. If you don’t have time to attend a public yoga class, take 20 minutes to practice at home — shut off your cell phone, television and any other potential distraction so that you are truly able to find eka grata, one-pointed focus. If you’re into meditating, maybe ten minutes of meditation will give you the same effect. Just like the test analogy, you don’t get the same long term results if you cheat. You’ve got to be focused.
Aside from allowing me the ability to complete tasks more efficiently and effectively, keeping up my yoga practice in stressful times, especially the holidays, forces me to reflect on the aspects of my life for which I am thankful. It forces me to remember the reason for the hustle-bustle. I want to make the season special for my children and my loved-ones.