Ayurveda

Om for the Holidays: Finding Your Center Amidst the Chaos

Peaceful woman with eyes closed meditating outdoors
The universe speaks when you stop and listen

The good cheer, connection, and fun of the holiday season is often juxtaposed with stress, overwhelm, and pressures. Fortunately, Ayurveda offers practical strategies to mitigate energy depletion and maximize enjoyment during the most festive time of the year.

Ayurveda approaches wellbeing through the lens of five elements. By intrinsically and extrinsically balancing space, air, water, fire, and earth, one can maintain connection to their native state of joy and peace. The following practical tips will help you to maintain balance during life’s busiest periods.

Space

The typical expansion of holiday activities can squeeze out the element of space. To counteract the loss of spaciousness, it is important to schedule downtime. By blocking off portions of time each day and week for self-care, well-being becomes a tangible priority.

Scheduled downtime is not an opportunity to catch up on chores or tackle your “to-do” list. Time expert and author Laura Vanderkam says, “You want to make sure downtime is doing what it’s supposed to do, which is rejuvenate you so that you can return to your busy life more refreshed. If it’s not adding to your energy levels, you may want to stop doing it.” Downtime will look a bit different for each individual. One person may read a book, another might call a friend, and yet another may attend a yoga class. Regardless of which activity you choose, make sure that it leaves you feeling revitalized.

Air

The element of air governs movement. As your social calendar fills with activities, you may find that rushing from one event to the next exacerbates the air element. To keep the air element in balance, combine the use of grounding essential oils with regular periods of deep, rhythmic breathing. Slowing the breath will settle movement within the mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). The PSNS relaxes the body and helps it perform essential functions more efficiently.

Integrating essential oils into your deep breathing routine enhances the calming effects of breath. Essential oils stimulate the limbic system, the part of your brain responsible for behaviors and emotions. Since the limbic system is heavily involved in forming memories, breathing deeply while smelling an essential oil can train the brain and body to relax whenever the specific scent is inhaled. Lavender, vetiver, frankincense, rose, and jasmine are all excellent essential oils for reducing anxiety and calming the nervous system.

Fire

Elemental fire is responsible for transformation and assimilation. Increased food intake, conversations, and sensory input call for a strong fire element to digest physical and emotional intake. To strengthen your inner fire, seek out opportunities for warmth. You might try taking a hot yoga class, sitting in a sauna, drinking hot ginger tea, or (if weather permits) sitting in the sunshine. All will stoke your fire.

Additionally, make sure to consume your largest meal at lunchtime. Keeping your evening food consumption light will contribute to sounder sleep and greater nighttime detoxification. Save the bulk of your calories for noontime when the inner fire is strong.

Water

In Ayurveda, water serves as a nourishing, protective force that maintains flow within the body and mind. When life gets busy, our natural rhythms can be easily disrupted. To keep things flowing, look for ways to maintain consistent routines. While evening routines are bound to be impacted by social engagements, try to commit to a regular morning routine. In Ayurveda, it is suggested that you rise by 6:00 a.m., meditate, set an intention for the day ahead, and practice some form of movement. If adding meditation and movement to your morning feels daunting, remember that even ten minutes of mindfulness and stretching can make a huge impact on your day. Closing the day in a similar manner creates a sustainable structure that can shield you from the variety of chaotic energies encountered throughout the day.

In addition to cultivating and maintaining routines, remember to drink plenty of clear liquids to support the water element. The increased salt, alcohol, coffee, and sugar that come in tandem with holiday festivities can dehydrate your body. Replenish fluids by sipping on hot herbal teas throughout the day.

Earth

The earth element grounds unstable energies. From walking barefoot to sleeping on the ground, human beings have spent the greater part of history in direct contact with the earth. During the last hundred years, humans have increasingly moved indoors, resulting in ungrounded bodies and minds. While it is always a good idea to spend time outdoors, it is even more critical during the busy seasons of life. The earth’s energy releases stored positive ions that accumulate within the body from the use of cell phones, computers, wifi, and environmental factors. Neutralizing the body’s charge maximizes healing, rejuvenation, and health.

To increase the grounding force within your body, make contact with the earth.

Touching your feet to the earth, often referred to as grounding, creates order and harmony within the body. If cold or inclement weather prevents you from connecting to the earth, try adding earth’s energy to your diet. Beets, carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables absorb the earth’s solid, stable energies and pass them along to you.

It is inevitable that at some point during the holiday season you will overeat, overspend, overcommit, or over-schedule. However, by mindfully integrating the above tips you can plug back into peace, love, and joy. After all is said and done, isn’t that the true purpose of the season?


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