The Yogi Approach to Thriving Through the Holidays

“The Holiday Season” is officially upon us. Thanksgiving is in the rearview and Black Friday has bled over into Cyber Monday. If you’re anything like most people I know, December’s calendar is probably full of events and visits, concerts and recitals, and, of course, shopping. Self care gets put on the backburner. We rationalize that if we can just get through the next few weeks, then things will settle down and we’ll have more time to rest. We allow ourselves to eat and drink things we might not normally consume, and we probably eat and drink them later than we would otherwise. We force ourselves to run around more and stay up later in the interest of getting things done.

With all this extra activity and little time to rest, is it any wonder that flu season peaks between December and February? We’re exhausted, we’re not eating well, and our immune systems take a hit.

The ancient yogis understood that less really is more. And sure, you can argue that they had much less to do and to worry about, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them and tweak our habits to better support our bodies and minds. For the ancient yogis, the prescription for thrive came down to two things: decreasing ama and increasing ojas.

Say what?

Okay, a few definitions are probably in order here.

Ama is a Sanskrit word that literally means “undigested” or “uncooked.” It usually refers to a gunky residue left over from poorly digested food. Ideally, everything we eat is either absorbed into our bodies or expelled as waste. But sometimes, when we’re not taking good care of ourselves, or when we are affected by stress, strain, or adverse weather, our digestion is compromised and some of this gunky residue remains in our bodies. Left unchecked, the accumulation of ama can be extremely detrimental to our health and wellbeing. At best, ama leads to energy inefficiency. At worst, it leads to disease.

How do you know if you have ama? Some common signs and symptoms are:

·         a sense of heaviness

·         a lack of energy

·         body aches and/or joint pain

·         dull skin and/or blemishes or acne

·         bloated belly/gas/constipation

·         white coating on the tongue

·         lack of mental clarity

·         apathy (that “blah” feeling)

Ojas is the opposite of ama. It means “that which invigorates.” Ojas is our energy reserve. It supports our immune system and psycho-emotional resiliency. It keeps us youthful, vibrant, and radiant. It gives us an overall sense of satifsfaction with life. Ojas is the result of healthy digestion and a lifestyle that reduces and reverses the depleting effects of stress. So as you might suspect, our busy Western society is running chronically low on ojas.

So how can we start restoring ojas? One of the easiest ways to build ojas is get enough quality rest (7 to 8 hours a night). Other ways include:

·         yoga and meditation

·         spending time in nature

·         spending quality time with friends and family

·         living boldly and doing what is meaningful to you

·         maintaining a sense of humor and perspective

·         maintaining healthy eating, sleeping and self care habits

During the holidays, when our schedules go awry and are working against us, these ojas-building practices are even more important. The December schedule at MSY will be packed with opportunities for you to slow down and tune in. And if you’re interested in learning more about how to reduce ama and increase ojas, join me for my free Body Wisdom talk on Sunday, December 3rd and/or fill out the form below.

See you at the studio

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