Lessons in Yoga 12: Using Yoga to de-stress this Christmas

My front garden is quite presentable.

But my back garden is a disaster.

The area that most people see has grass under control and plants in the right places. So It is quite nice to look at and gives the impression that 'all is well here'.

It wasn't always like this. But then one day after seeing the weeds again and feeling that I would never get 'on top of it', I thought 'feck it'. Who cares?

Then my In-laws had a little chat with me...They took me aside and, bless them, asked if I needed some help.

I felt ashamed and caught out. I felt totally overwhelmed.

But soon after, a friend said, "Oh Jess, I'm so happy to see your place like this! What a relief that you are obviously not breaking your back trying to do everything, so well done!"

How often do we offer someone support and help with what we perceive to be their 'problem' and unwittingly make them feel ashamed, caught out and under pressure to get better? How different it feels to be applauded for who you are and to have someone accept and appreciate your messiness as a sign of your human-ness.

The untamed human with weeds growing out of her ears is I guess an essential part of me and is as valid as my clean and shiny presentable self.

And so the rotting compost beneath the trim herbaceous boarder is essential too.

Maybe this is why Christmas is so stressful. We gaze through the frosty pane of our neighbours' window like Little Tim on Christmas Eve. We are lured by the television fantasy of a perfect sparkly happy day for one and all. We believe that with the right gifts the perfect meal and seamless orchestration that this year will be 'the one to remember'.

Like the ones of our childhood, when we jumped out of bed at 5am and thought nothing of waking the house up yelling 'Santa's come!' when we were 6 and all that mattered was how many presents we got and how fast we could open them.

When, as a little girl, I wore my favorite party dress and didn't care about the egg yolk down the front. Because I wanted to wear it and I didn't care what anyone else thought.

So my yoga practice this Christmas is to try my best to be my real self. To bring along with all the presents the food and the fun a little bit of that little girl with a dirty dress. My yoga practice will be about finding a still and quite place inside all the noisy jingle bells of the season. My yoga practice will be about staying true to myself and accepting of my life, even if it is not absolutely perfect and presentable. My yoga practice is a practice that takes lots of practice. Soul-searching, compost-turning, bulb-planting practice.

So this Christmas, especially during the busy time and extra especially if you are with your family…do yourself a big favour and give yourself some quiet, reflective time to practise a few simple restorative exercises. Yoga wont seam as appealing as that bottle of wine at breakfast, but the relaxed sense of calmness will be much more long lasting and real.

All you need is a room with a door you can shut, a floor (fairly standard in rooms these days) and a bit of clear wall. You don’t need your mat or your yoga clothes, you can do this anywhere, anytime, the trick is taking yourself away and spending time with yourself.

Sit on the floor with your hip against the wall.

Lessons in Yoga 12: Using Yoga to de-stress this Christmas

Lie your back down as you lift your legs up the wall, then wiggle your bum until your bum is against the wall …TaaaDaaa! That’s it.

Lessons in Yoga 12: Using Yoga to de-stress this Christmas

Lessons in Yoga 12: Using Yoga to de-stress this Christmas

This position is called Viparita Karani which means ‘the great restorative’. Spend 10 minutes here if you can. Cover yourself with a blanket, put something over your eyes to keep them closed, maybe a small cushion or towel rolled under your neck for support. Make it as comfortable as you can, but don’t get caught up in the details, because this is often what makes us avoid practising. “Oh damn I forgot my yoga mat, I cant practise” or “I don’t have a blanket, so I wont bother”. Make it simple, make it short and you are much more likely to get there.

When you are there, just rest you hands on your tummy and notice the movement of your breath. Let you thoughts come and go, you will likely get drawn off into them ...

“I should have got her the blue one, she liked it, but I’m still not sure about the colour on her…I bet she wont ever wear it…Oh God I didn’t get more candles… Blue candles?...The sea in Corsica…Sunburnt feet … Burnt porridge…And on and on the thoughts can take you. But the practice here is for 10 minutes as your legs rest up the wall. Keep noticing that you’re thinking, and bring your thoughts back to this moment and back to your breath.

But if this is very hard you might realise that you have been off in your thoughts for ten minutes, not noticing your breath. Then you need to spend a bit longer with your practice.

So, if you need longer to settle your mind, then bring your legs down and lie on the ground in Savasana. Again, rest something under your head and cover yourself with a blanket if you want to. Stay here noticing your thoughts until you feel you are able to stay aware of your breath and your body for more than just a few seconds. This mindfulness will deeply settle your nervous system. So even just this short time to yourself of grounding and centering will help you to step back and enjoy the colorful, delicious, sparkly, loving time that Christmas is.

Jessica Hatchett teaches Yoga in West Cork.

For information on her classes and events go to www.yogawestcork.com

She will be running extra 2-hour long ‘SOS’ Christmas classes on 29th & 30th December 2013

Photographs: www.luluash.co.uk


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