Oh winter, what a time of the year this is! Are you feeling it yet? The days are getting darker, the mornings are wet and misty. Christmas lights are going up all over town and drag along the masses of grumpy and hectic shoppers.
Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or simply make the most of the days off, everyone I know has their traditions and to do list for this time of year. For many people, this comes with extra responsibility and pressure. Trying to keep up the magic of Santa while not overcommitting the budget, overdoing the Christmas parties and drinks…and simultaneously finding time to meet our bodies‘ need for sleep so that the immune system doesn’t keel over.
I think it is possible to enjoy the flashy ways of modern Christmas while also honouring my body’s desire to stay in harmony with this time of year. Winter blues, long periods of flu symptoms, and a general sense of dread don’t have to be the norm.
This winter time, I am inviting you to join (or re-visit!) a conscious connection to the darkness and light outside and within. In yin yoga and reiki we work in a mindful and compassionate way, witnessing our body as natural guide to bliss and enjoyment, even when the world around us appears empty and cold.
I could easily write a book about winter traditions and ways to fully embrace this time of year, but for now, I will leave you with my 3 key steps to a happier pre-Christmas time!
1. I kid(ney) you not – keep your chi flowing
Traditional Chinese medicine advises us to stimulate the kidney meridian, said to bring a sense of vitality and health. In the yin yoga I teach, we practice yoga poses like butterfly, square pose, squats or dragon cycles, and self-massage the feet and inner ankle. Light tapping on your chest and collarbone can work wonders too, being gently refreshing as well as relaxing.
2. Adorn your house of Home and your house of Heart
Declutter and give to charity or sell what you no longer want in your home. Create a clarity in your space that can motivate clarity in your mind. And then don’t be afraid to decorate and to adorn your beautiful home. This does not have to be an expensive or elaborate process. Red and metallic colours create a sense of security, abundance and playfulness. You could add glass jars as candle light holders, make a simple bunting, or test your patience by folding origami stars.
Creating a sense of celebration and adornment in our house allows our body, mind and heart to open and feel safe to explore. This is the time to process what we have glossed over all year round. Be unafraid to shine a light of compassion into the darkest corners of your inner world.
At this time of year trees are showing us how to do it. Unafraid to let go of their leaves, they easily stand bare and remain unshakeable. It might appear as though they had no choice. That their leaves just fell. And yet science shows us this is because the new leaves are being prepared inside. At times it can be tricky to know whether we are going through the end of something or whether the new beginning has already started. If that seems right to you, do give yourself permission so that you can unapologetically release what no longer needs to be dragged along into the new year.
3. Get ready for joy!
When you’re done releasing, claim your light. Even if you don’t feel the best, your radiant acts of compassion, displays of generosity, and gratitude for ordinary moments will likely help your world light up from the inside out.
There are a lot of things that could seem wrong with my life. This last year has been quite terrible in some ways. And yet I cry tears of joy because the little one has looked into my eyes with so much love. I am delighted when my friend surprisingly invited me out for a coffee. And I smile because I look at my cat and can’t believe how big she has grown.
Children teach us the shift from deep despair over a denied piece of chocolate into radical laughter because they see their favourite teddy…we can also refresh our view on the world with each breath.
Get lit up by the ones more fortunate than you. And reconnect those who are lost in the dark with their own special light. In yoga we say namaste, often translated as „the light in me honours light in you“. Light and love multiply when we share it, there is no competition in shining brighter. The flame of one candle does not diminish the one of another.
Whether you already have winter traditions or not, I wish you the courage to take great care of yourself, celebrate in ancient or in modern ways. Remember that even though this may seem like the end of a year, we have already started walking towards the brighter days ahead.
With love and light, wishing you happy holidays.
This post was created as a feature for Maitri Studio Belfast. With gratitude to Claire, Kate, and Goeff (and all involved!).