This time of year is so exciting!! As the holiday season approaches and we begin to plan and prepare, bake, shop and travel, our stress levels increase. It is easy to get swept away amidst the wrapping paper, festive lights, delightful smells, cheer, giving and abundance in the air this time of year.
The holidays can be joyous, but we all know first hand that they can also be very draining. Have you ever wondered WHY? Well it is simple, our senses are being stimulated more than normal. We move through the world by way of our senses. Each day we hear, taste, touch, smell and see our way through the day. All the while this sensory information is being filed away in our brain as memories and impressions and we have so many memories about the holidays.
We love the holidays. It is so fulfilling to have extra time off and spend it with beloved family and friends, slowing down and sharing in traditions and rituals that are sacred to this time of year, yet we hate the burnout that it can bring. So what then can our yoga practice teach us about remaining at peace during this special time of year?
Thousands of years ago, a wise Indian Sage named Patanjali laid out what are known as the 8 Limbs of Yoga. This beautiful precise system was used as a guide on the classical path of yoga and displayed what a well balanced yogic lifestyle looked like. One of these limbs often gets ignored as it is misunderstood. This year I believe it will be the key in allowing us all to maintain our Inner Peace during the holidays.
I am shining a light on the Limb of Pratyahara. This sacred gem from Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga translates from sanskrit to mean "to withdrawal the senses." If we lean in to understand this core tenant of wisdom from yoga philosophy, I know it will be a life saver and help us avoid holiday burnout.
I think you can agree that anything that gets used a bunch benefits from a break from being used. That break is essential for renewal. Our bodies, our devices, our minds, appliances, toys eventually break or stop working well if we over use them non stop without taking a break from that use.
Our senses are no different, yet we never stop to think about them, or what they need. Enter Pratyahara to guide us lovingly towards sensorial rest so we can move through the world refreshed. This time of year, our tongues are delighted by all the rich decadent, homemade flavors of the season and our nose is seduced by holiday smells, our ears take in more joyous sounds as we gather with our families and friends to celebrate and be merry. Our eyes are assaulted with all the pressure to consume all the holiday gifts and gadgets. There are holiday decorations, festive lights, metallics and colors galore.
What we aren't tuned into is how all this extra holiday sensorial stimulation is leading to the increase of stress we fell this time of year. The senses come in, the mind files them as memories and thoughts. With all that extra input, we are bound to have an extra busy mind. This busy mind, pulls us away from rest, stillness and presence that can keep us connected to our innate Inner Peace.
So if you follow the above breakdown back to the root cause - it is the extra sensory data coming in that sets off the chain of events in the brain that lead us to feeling stressed in the bodymind this time of year.
So the solution then seems clear - lets find ways to take sensorial rest this year and I know it will make a huge impact for us.
The idea of withdrawing the senses means that we are giving our wonderful sense organs some time to not be active. To withdrawal them from their role in the outside world. The eyes for example, busy allllll day long, would benefit if you took some time each day to rest a warm eye pillow on them so they could recharge. Or the ears which are bombarded with all the holiday music, loud crowds, crowded stores would love to be given some time to be allowed to rest and not listen for a while.
Our nose, tongue and skin are overwhelmed by all they encounter this time of year and they too would be sooooo renewed if you took conscious time to let the senses pull within and take refuge for a little bit. Giving them time to not be active in the world is wildly nourishing. Yoga Nidra is a powerful tool for withdrawing the senses. This is also why sensory deprivation tanks are highly effective. So if you can I highly recommend going to a float tank spa in your area in the next few weeks to withdrawal your senses and recharge your soul.
When we think of caring for ourselves, we never think about self care for the senses . We are so focused on our body and our mind, but all the information the body and the mind receive comes from our senses, so it makes sense that we should put some of our energy into nourishing the senses as well.
Here are my favorite suggestions for self care idea for your senses
For the Eyes - spray fresh rose water in them each morning as soon as you wake up and all throughout the day. Keep the eyes open and spray the rose water right in the eyes from a few inches away. Here is the brand I use
For the Tounge - 10 pulls with a tongue scraper each morning and a few mintuers of switching with a mouth oil enriched with Ayurvedic herbs to cleanse the tongue and nourish the mouth. Here is the brand that I use
For the Nose - a gentle rinse each day with a Neti Pot is so soothing to thank the nose for all the aromas it senses each day.
For the Skin - before you shower each morning enjoy dry brushing and a warm oil massage to nourish and thank the skin for all it feels all day long. Here is the brand I use
For the Ears - enjoy a 10 minute guided yoga nidra practice. I have several on my podcast for you to enjoy
For the Eyes - warm an eye pillow in the microwave and rest it on your eyes for 10 minutes. Here is the local small business I get eye pillows from
Just remember if you start feeling stressed, it is a good indication that you need some Pratyahara. Tuck away for a few minutes and rest the senses, pulling them inward to take refuge, recharge and renew. Love and Holiday Blessing to All!! Be well everyone