Tell your students to visualize one stressful situation and how they would normally deal with it. Then remind them to engage their breath or any appropriate yogic technique that helps them to stabilize and calm themselves. While doing this, they should imagine what could change in their situation if they were able to be more relaxed and creativeand, most importantly, what that would feel like.
Maintaining Yoga Practice
One thing that students really need to contemplate is how easy or difficult it will be for them to maintain some kind of yoga practice or discipline during the holidays. This could be something that is opened up for general class discussion, since peer support is extremely valuable.
Schedules often break down during the holidays, and we tend to eat and drink more. We need to become much more creative in how we apply yoga in our lives. We can be prepared to take opportunities that present themselves to apply a technique in appropriate ways. For example, we could stretch at the airport while waiting for a plane; we can practice breath awareness while we contemplate an object we wish to purchase; we can use some standing postures to relieve tensions while we are in the check-out line at the supermarket, bank, or post office.
At the same time, we need to remember how important it is to create time to calm and ground ourselves between events. During class discussion, ask your students to consider what an appropriate routine would be for them during this period. When can they best practice, when can they schedule a five- to ten-minute yoga or meditation break?
It is also important to remind students that asana, Pranayama, and meditation practice are not ends in themselves, but means to an end. That end is to develop a greater inner resilience and a more stable mind that can handle the difficulties of life with greater calm and poise.
In fact, it can often be a good thing to let go of our routines without guilt, and to notice what happens when we do so. We can practice a different type of yoga, perhaps the Yoga of Remaining Calm and Aware. Then when we do come back to our yoga practice, we bring a greater depth of experience and wisdom with us. We can get back into formal practice with renewed enthusiasm and a clearer direction of what we need to work toward in the New Year.
If students wish to practice some form of higher yoga to nourish their spirit during the holiday season, they should focus on how they can support others less fortunate than themselves. It is an excellent time to practice selfless service and giving. It is a time when we can learn from and support others, especially those going through difficult times.
Here are a few tips for practicing higher yoga so that you can fill your life with peace and joy:
1. Honor yourself, your relations, and the planet by choosing a noble and virtuous intention for the New Year. Practice ahimsa, a yama of Patanjali‘s Raja Yoga, which means nonviolence toward yourself and others.
2. Follow your own heart. Learn to listen to yourself, your own higher intuitive inner voice, through meditation practice.
3. Practice contentment (samtosha), which is one of the niyamas of Patanjali. Contemplate just how much you already have and what you really need. Is there something that you think you need in your life to make you happy, and/or do you already have plenty? Cultivate gratitude for all the things you have.
4. Before you indulge, bring consciousness into the moment. For example, before eating, be aware of what you are going to eat and perhaps say a simple prayer or thanks. Prepare to really enjoy what you are about to eat, to take it deep into your tissues so as to fully nourish yourself.
5. Be flexible in body, mind, and spirit. Learn not be constrained by plans but to go more with the flow. There is an old Indian saying: “Man proposes; God disposes.”
Dr. Swami Shankardev is a yogacharya, medical doctor, psychotherapist, author, and lecturer. He lived and studied with his guru, Swami Satyananda, for ten years in India (1974-1985). He lectures all over the world. Contact him at www.bigshakti.com.