A Very Yoga Holiday
It’s no mystery that I, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, think that the best gift you can give during a time of unparalleled stress and unpleasant surprises is a gift certificate for massage or yoga classes. But even if I wasn’t in the business of helping people calm down and recenter, I would still encourage everyone I know to find ways to get away from lining their homes with more things (or toilet paper) they don’t need in the name of the holiday spirit. I intentionally saved this last yama, or yogic moral tenet for how to treat ourselves with respect, for last because I wanted to talk about it during peak consumption season- the holidays.
In light of the circumstances, with variants and supply chains being something we all have to try to make sense of, the very last thing we need is a house filled to the brim with plastic dross instead of a mind filled with resilience. The significance of this very concept- the avoidance of excess- is writ large in yogic philosophy, and enshrined as one of the crown jewels of yoga.
Brahmacharya, which translates roughly to non excess or nonindulgence, is the last yama I’d like to talk to you all about. Since no one has talked about the yamas and niyamas in quite so relatable a way, I’ll quote Deborah Adele’s interpretation of brahmacharya here: “Whether we find ourselves overdoing food, work, exercise, or sleep, excess is often a result of forgetting the sacredness of life.
Brahmacharya literally means ‘walking with God,’ and invites us into an awareness of the sacredness of all life. The guideline is a call to leave greed and excess behind and walk in this world with wonder and awe, practicing nonexcess and attending to each moment as holy.” A big theme of last year’s wellness conversations was the idea that the lockdown was necessary not just to prevent the spread of illness, but on a deeper level the stillness and insularity of staying at home with ourselves and no one else served to demonstrate to all of us that for many our priorities were out of order. All the conspicuous consumption and overfilled calendars served as fuel for our fire of living rather than the holy and miraculous event of being alive, and it took forced stillness through an economic shutdown to realize it. We needed the gear shift in order to integrate that we were in overdrive. While all of us would like to think we learned our lesson, we absolutely run the risk of repeating our mistakes without maintaining a sacred well of calm within. Choosing to purchase goods that are needed and the occasional frivolity are nothing anyone is going to lose their peace over; the trouble arises when consumption (of food, rest, or stuff) becomes a coping mechanism. You’ll find that you cannot access peace when your closets are bursting and your bank account is drained from one too many Amazon swipes. You also cannot find peace through overeating or endless meetings during and after work hours.
Finding peace and quiet in daily life, whether that is through making sure you make it to the spa for quiet time regularly (especially if you have a pack of kids under 12 in your care), working on your meditation practice, or making time to roll out your mat and move with your breath, looks pretty boring at first. But each of these moments of quiet fills the well of peace in your heart space, and establishes the balance we need to properly observe and honor brahmacharya. This holiday season, consider buying access to experiences that support holistic wellness and encourage your loved ones to balance their hectic lives with calm.
-Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist + Yoga Teacher + Staff Writer + Plant Whisperer