While we don’t use the term ‘holiday season’ so much where I’m from in Australia (we’re more likely to use the festive ‘season’ or just plain old ‘Christmas’), but in North America, it’s the ‘politically correct,’ universal term.
Never discuss politics and religion happens to be a sensible creed I should follow—especially on a yoga website, but I don’t think calling it the holiday season takes the Christianity out of Christmas—especially given its true meaning.
On Yoga and Religious Traditions
Thanks to the very secular practice of overindulgence and mass consumerism, some of the Christ might have disappeared out of Christmas, but to me, the philosophy and practice of yoga merely strengthens the real messages central to Christmas, Hanukkah, and other religious traditions.
Despite its origins in Hinduism and synergy with Buddhist beliefs, yoga is not in any kind of competition with religion. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men, giving and receiving, the spirit of Santa Claus—who could really argue against these ideals? They are universal—just like yoga.
The holiday season can humanize us like no other time of the year if we listen to the true messages, if we count our blessings rather than our religious differences, and if we use our yoga practice to deepen our understanding of the values embodied in the spirit of Christmas. Here’s how you can feel and embody the holiday spirit through yoga.
1. Peace on Earth
Of course peace on earth is the ideal of an end to war, but it also means cultivating peace in our yoga practice—through stillness of our body, peace in our mind, meditation, and ahimsa (non-violence). Peace on earth has to start with and within each of us.
The more we are peaceful within ourselves and in our interpersonal relationships, the more that peace will pervade the world.
2. Goodwill Towards Men
Ahimsais at play here again, but it is also now embodied in the more active practice of karma yoga. Karma yoga is actively being of service, not simply wishing someone well but bringing cheer, hope, love, and kindness into their lives.
3. Giving and Receiving
We give a lot at this time of year, and parents in particular don’t receive ‘much’ in return—but the surprise, delight, wonder, and awe of our kids is worth all our effort (and expense). The gift of seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes is truly priceless.
Through yoga we can manifest an attitude of giving and receiving as we breathe in the love and joy we deserve and breathe out our own love and kindness with a generous spirit,and in our open palms in Savasana.
Giving and receiving also figures in our finding a kind of balance that is not about squaring any ledger, but simply being open to the universal flow. When we are lucky to receive the priceless gift of yoga, we take it upon ourselves to give more than we receive, and so we receive more.
4. The Spirit of Santa Claus
Yes he may be a commercial gimmick, but the character we have created out of old Saint Nick is a harmless, kindly father figure or endearing, if slightly eccentric uncle. He represents universal love, complete with the magic of knowing what each child wants for Christmas, and a team of fast, magical reindeer to ensure timely delivery.
Santa embodies our underlying child-like belief that anything and everything is possible, and in practicing yoga we can take this sense of wonder, possibility, and limitless love to dream, challenge, and care for both ourselves and others, on and off the mat.
All I want for Christmas is presence, not presents. Oh and maybe also the ability to fly like an eagle in Garurasana, one day, too.