‘Tis the Season… Advent and the Yoga Yamas
Before the Halloween candy was eaten, we were plunged into “the season.” You know the one I’m talking about—the blur of festivities that is Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years, all rolled into one. The pressure started November 1—or sooner if you let those premature retail Christmas trees that popped up at the end of the summer get to you. Kudos to rebel retailer Nordstrom, who closed Thanksgiving day and eschewed Christmas decorations until today. Odd that this common sense, one-holiday-at-a-time approach is a complete anomaly in today’s consumption-crazed society.
Even if you’ve managed to stay away from the stores today, I bet you’re feeling the pressure to buy even from your inbox. I know I am. It seems as if the whole world is on sale, and we are missing out if we don’t start snapping up the bargains.
There is no better time to use your yoga to maintain a sense of peace that really should define this season of gratitude, hope and rebirth. This task will require using your yoga on and off your mat. It is not enough to cultivate calm for that hour of asana practice. To embody the real spirit of the season, you’ll need to grab a yama or niyama or two from yoga’s philosophic underpinnings.
Here are some you might consider trying out this holiday season. See how they work for you. Do they help you distance yourself from the materialism that threatens to rob us of the sacred nature of this seasonal turning point marked by the Winter Solstice? Do they keep you more balanced? Just by looking within for these answers, you are practicing the niyama of svadhyaya or self-study.
Niyama of Santosha (contentment)… This time of year, especially, our culture shouts, “More, more, more!” while our hearts are yearning for a slower pace, whispering, “Enough…enough…enough.” We can use our asana, pranayama and our meditation to consciously cultivate an inner sense of contentment—a deep knowing that we already have enough and we already are enough. This can help us resist the desire to overdo and to overbuy.
Niyama of Tapas (austerity)… Austerity gets a bad rap in our modern, pampered world. We are, it turns out, a bit spoiled. Austerity, though, is not asking us to take a vow of poverty. This yama, which is particularly balancing to our Western consumer-oriented culture, simply asks us to look honestly at our needs and our wants. To learn the difference and proceed mindfully as we meet the needs and consider the wants of our heart and of those around us. There is often a better way to spread holiday joy than by buying a material gift. Those crayoned hand-made coupons for unlimited hugs and kisses that our kids make us are a perfect example of this!
Yama of Asteya (non-covetousness)… Too often we are motivated by our desire to have what others possess. We do this because we are operating under two common false assumptions. First, we believe that what people have makes them who they are. And second, we buy into the myth that what you see on the outside—the store-bought trappings of life—is actually reflective of who people are inside. Bringing our awareness to these fallacies can help us joyfully accept our own reality, with its many blessings, this season.
Keeping your yogic mindset in tact during the coming weeks is a sure way to enhance your holiday celebrations and to spread the love to those around you. It’s not easy, and we won’t do it perfectly, but that’s why we call it a yoga practice, right?
Monette Chilson is a yoga practitioner and writer who contributes to Yoga Journal, writes regularly for Om Times and pens a monthly column for the Texas Yoga Association newsletter. Her search for the sacred reveals itself in her writings on her blog and her first book, Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga. She blogs at http://www.SophiaRisingyoga.com