Christmas Presence

Christmas is a hard time of year to be a yogi.  There is so much to do: so much planning, shopping, baking, wrapping presents and writing cards; there are parties to go to and late nights to be had and things to get done in the office before you leave for the holiday. 

The thing that gets squeezed out of your day - well, the thing that gets squeezed out of my day - is my yoga practice.  Somehow at the end of every day I remember that I have forgotten to find time for practice.

If you're like me then you might try to build yoga into everything you do and to remember that yoga is not something that you do on your mat, but something that you do everywhere and all the time.  So five deep breaths while you wait for a kettle boil is yoga; being mindful as you roll out the marzipan or peel the potatoes (as opposed to flashing forward in your mind to the next ten tasks you have to do) is yoga; practicing gratitude for the food you will eat, for the warmth of your home and for the people you love is yoga; listening to a meditation on your ipod as you travel, or to some inspring music is yoga. 

There are a million little ways to practice all Christmas and what it all boils down to is mindfulness, breath, awareness and making space for yourself and your loved ones.

If Christmas sometimes feels like a challenge: a race to create the best food and the most fun atmosphere, if you have a long way to travel so that your feet don't seem to touch the ground, if it feels as though it is more about the presents than about the joy and particularly if this Christmas life is a bit tough (if someone is ill, if money is tight, if relationships are strained), then it might help to recall the pagan origins of the way we celebrate Christmas.  The Babylonians partied raucously in celebration of the Isis, Goddess of nature; likewise the Romans honoured Saturn, God of Agriculture, calling the whole season Dies Natalis Invicti Solis: Birthday of the Unconcquered Sun.  In Northern Europe there was Yule when candles were lit to mark the lengthening of the days and when evergreen trees and branches were brought into the house as a reminder that growth would come again and that the plenitude of Spring, Summer and Autumn would return.  Add to this the later Christian addition of celebrating the birth of Christ with his simple teaching, love one another, and you have a beautiful festival, not at all about consumer goods and producing the best roast dinner.

So enjoy the food, have a drink, be joyful and exchange gifts; and remember to pause, be still and be thankful.  It's hardwired in our dna, wherever we come from and whatever our faith, to celebrate the turning from dark to light, the coming return of the months of plenty, of surviving our darkest moments and moving forward towards the light; to commemorate the survival of the sun and all it symbolises: growth, warmth and our own inner light.

Happy Christmas. 

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