Last week I made it into yoga class for the first time in a few weeks. My body had been craving it, but my mind kept telling me I needed to do other things. My yoga instructor took the opportunity to talk to us all about the holiday season and how easy it is to become derailed from our fitness regimen during this time of year. She asked us instead to frame the holidays in the light of being the perfect time to “practice our practice.”
That really hit home.
We spend all year learning how to take care of ourselves and mentally sorting through our priorities, but then when it is the perfect time of year to put those practices to work, we abandon them. That would be like spending six months training and focusing for a marathon and then deciding at the last minute to not run the race and eat donuts instead. It might appear to be the easier thing to do, but it’s not in alignment with our true desires and it’s not healthy.
And beyond that – the holidays would actually be easier to navigate if we had somewhere to alleviate our physical and mental stress. The gym, dogo, studio, and track all do that for us, so why is it the first place we stop going when we actually have stress to flush out? Why do we abandon the very thing we know could solve our problem and bolster our health and happiness?
This year, instead of bailing on my practice as soon as it becomes challenging, I’m going to practice my practice.
Step #1 – Practice Mindfulness
When we get caught up in the modern world one of the ways we cope is by numbing ourselves. We notice things less in an effort to just survive the day. We try to block out that our body doesn’t feel good or that we aren’t feeding ourselves properly. Some of us do this by filling our day with work; some of us sleep, eat, or drink more during the holidays. Instead, notice your stress and do what you know works – go to the gym or wherever else it is you’ve been “practicing” your fitness all year.
Step #2 – Practice Movement
Our bodies weren’t built to sit still. Our bodies are built to move around, pick things up, play games, stretch, climb, run, etc. Our minds and bodies are intricately connected and when our body feels vitalized, our minds do, too. Go outside and walk around. Do a set of 50 squats in your office. Go to yoga. Go to CrossFit. Go for a run. Get your blood flowing and your mind flowing. When we feel stressed, we feel blocked and frustrated – movement can cure those blockages.
Step #3 – Practice Kindness
By this I mean, practice kindness to yourself. We are all frequently kinder to others than we are to ourselves. We might not voice it, but we feel it inside. During the holidays that voice inside can get harsher, more stressed, and less patient. Be kind to yourself. You can start by feeding yourself properly, sleeping enough hours, and keeping your body moving. And if you have a day where you find yourself making excuses and you don’t make it to the gym – be kind to yourself. Acknowledge the transgression, create a new possibility for going to the gym again, and leave the past in the past.
Step #4 – Practice Generosity
Reach out to those around you. If you’ve been making it into the gym, dojo, or studio, but you notice some of your classmates are absent, reach out to them. Sometimes just a text or a quick email can nudge somebody back into awareness and back into the gym. You trigger Step #1 for them. And, you never know when they might return the favor and make a difference for you.