Renee and I have been planning a holiday retreat for the past 9 months called OM for the Holidays. When we started the planning process the question was:
Is December a good time to bust out a retreat?
People are busy planning holiday celebrations and shopping for gifts left and right. There’s just so much going on during this time of year that a retreat seems bound for failure. Or is it?
We thought about WHO would want this kind of retreat. Who would want to ditch the holiday craze and embark on a relaxing mindfulness adventure to Mexico? Truth is we couldn't think of who wouldn't want to do this!
Being parents we've both experienced holiday stress, not only the financial part of it (swiping that credit card a million times a day!) but the emotional too.
Although the holidays are usually a joyful time that bring people together, it can also be a very stressful time for many of us. It can bring up old emotions, memories of people we lost, as well as the financial stress that comes with all the social commitments and gifts.
And then comes the New Year and we are faced with a bunch of last year's goals we didn't accomplish and New Years resolutions we're wanting to create.
We wanted to bring some mindfulness to our students during this very busy time. We knew they desperately needed a break from department stores, office Christmas parties, ugly sweater contests and the overload of unhealthy holiday treats.
We also knew they needed a safe and compassionate space to rethink their goals and dreams as the year being around the corner. So that is exactly what we did, and it was nothing short of perfect!
But if you can’t escape on a holiday retreat with your students, we've got some tips for you on how to bring the feeling of retreat Om to your classes:
Slow down your classes
During this busy time allow your students to slow down, take deeper breaths and tap into to the parasympathetic nervous system to help with the stress and anxiety surrounding the holidays. A great asana for this is viparita karani (legs up the wall) with a bolster under the hips. You can also take time for longer savasanas and incorporate more pranayama.
Give them perspective
Remind them that while they may not be in control of what happens around them, they CAN control how they react. While this yogic teaching is great to apply all year round, it's definitely useful during more stressful periods. Tip: Teach your students about sthira (steadiness/effort) and sukha (ease) that they can cultivate in their yoga postures as well as their daily lives.
Infuse your classes with gratitude
You probably already know that it has been shown to reduce stress and help with putting things into perspective... and it's not just for the Thanksgiving holiday. Give your students the opportunity to practice gratitude at the beginning and the end of class. You can infuse gratitude into your class theme, meditations, chanting, and mantras.
Remind them to practice compassion
This is the deep work for your students. Sometimes the holidays can trigger uncomfortable and even painful emotions; i.e. old family dynamics, grief and loss, anger and frustration (even over silly things like waiting in long lines at the mall or getting stuck in traffic). When your buttons get pushed it’s easier to fall into old patterns of blame and judgement. Your classes are an opportunity for your students to pause, breathe, and soften their hearts. These are great times to practice compassion for others, to remember that they might be going through their own suffering.
Now to you my dear:
Do you give your students some extra love during the holidays? What does that look like? Please let us know in the comments below!