Lower the Dimmer Switch on Your Seasonal Stress

Some call it the most wonderful time of the year, others call it the most stressful. The holidays can bring us great cheer, but in our quest to be festive we often find ourselves depleted, between all the parties, family interactions, and indulgence in sugary treats. Add to this short days and longer nights, and pretty soon all you want to do is hibernate like so many creatures are preparing to do this time of year. In this season, or other times where we let stress overtake us, it can be easy to go, go, go at such a pace that we completely use up every last ounce of energy. While this tactic can feel productive in the moment, it can tax both the body and mind in damaging ways that take time to recover from. Think of it like this: if you drive your car until it runs completely out of gas because you're too busy bouncing from appointment to appointment to stop and fill it up, what happens? You end up spending a lot more time on the side of the road dealing with AAA or finding someone to bring some gas to you than you would have if you'd simply taken a couple minutes in the midst of the craziness to simply put some gas – even just a gallon or two – into the tank. 

The same goes for your body and mind: taking time – as little as a minute – to refuel can have lasting an profound effects for your whole day. Anytime we consciously stop the busyness and interrupt our stress, we automatically send the body a signal to take a momentary break from operating in its "fight, flight or flee" mode, where we tend to spend a lot of our waking time especially this time of year. When we are able to do this, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest, digestion and rejuvenation), which sends powerful signals throughout the body to perform simple maintenance-related tasks that support our health and well-being. 

When we push ourselves to our edge day after day, we often become like the car that's run out of gas - we are more prone to get sick, we become irritable and lacking in holiday cheer, or find ourselves completely depleted and unable to keep up at the pace life demands.


In an ideal world, we might take a couple days to retreat in a season such as this, but given all that our modern lives ask of us, instead of hitting the off switch completely, many of us are simply grateful to have a "dimmer switch" to lessen the intensity of our stress.

Here are four great ways to dim your stress this holiday season, all in 30-minutes or less. Choose the amount of time you have and take a moment to practice being instead of doing. All of these activities are great ways to dim your stress and let the radiant light of your true being shine a little brighter:

1 minute: Set a timer, then close your eyes. Take a full, deep inhalation followed by a long, slow exhalation. Continue until time is up, seeing if you can lengthen each progressive in/out-breath pair. When the timer sounds, take just a moment more to notice the effect this quick practice had on your state of being.

13 minutes: Grab a cushion and listen to my guided recording of one of my personal favorite meditations. I learned this one from Pablo Das, who received it from Dr. Rick Hanson, author of the amazing book Buddha's Brain. I've taught this meditation to many people, and so many of them have credited it for getting them through some pretty tough and dark times. This meditation specifically builds up parts of the brain that help us conquer our feelings of lack or deprivation. So if you're struggling because you feel like you don't have enough – or that you are not enough – this practice is for you! Click here to listen now (or right-click the link to download).

20 minutes: Try a mindful walking practice. Allow yourself to be attentive to each step, feeling as your foot connects with the earth. Bonus points if you sync your steps with your breaths! You could simply take a walk near your home or office or get out into nature for some time away from it all. You can even practice mindful walking when you're out in the hordes doing last-minute holiday errands. Allow yourself to go slow and see what happens.

30 minutes: Break out your yoga mat and enjoy this free Rest and Rejuvenate yoga practice with Jillian Pransky. I had the great good fortune to complete a restorative yoga teacher training with Jillian in October, and she is truly a masterful teacher. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

A Love Letter to YogaGlo

maxresdefault Dear YogaGlo,

I imagine you're getting a lot of hate mail today following the news yesterday of your decision to serve a cease and desist notice to one of your competitors. Rest assured this is not another angry letter, but rather a love letter.

I've loved YogaGlo since I first set foot in your Santa Monica studio five years ago. I've loved taking free classes at the studio since I moved to L.A. in 2010. I love the teachers you showcase, and the variety of classes you offer. I love the clean looks of your videos. I've deeply appreciated things you've shared on Facebook. I loved the classes you sponsored at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco in February. There is no doubt that you fill a critical gap in providing top-rate yoga content from some of the most skilled instructors in the world, shot in an immaculate setting, to yogis worldwide who may not otherwise have access to it. I'm grateful for what you do, and have referred friends, ex-colleagues, and family members to subscribe to your site.

My first response to the news yesterday, and your later response, was one of surprise and disgust. But upon seeing the continued discussion today, I am reminded that we all have moments where we lose clarity. We all get caught up in fear. That's why so many of us come to yoga in the first place, right?

What I love about yoga is the space it provides to re-center, re-prioritize and re-align our energy. It seems to me your decision not only to apply for a patent, but to then send cease and desist letters to other online yoga broadcasters, is one driven by fear. The yoga market is big, and it's also fierce. As online broadcasting technology gets cheaper and more accessible, it makes sense that the number of competitors you face will expand rapidly. You've enjoyed a very comfortable spot in this marketplace, and I can understand your desire to remain at the top.

Every decision we make in life presents an opportunity to act from a place of love, rather than fear. In this situation, it seems you've let fear get the better of you. What the yogic path gives us is clarity, the ability to see when we've strayed form the path of the heart, and let our interests get caught up in other things. You've made a poor decision in the eyes of many yogis, but we're also a very forgiving bunch. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that many will honor your courage if you're able to acknowledge that your actions were fear-driven, and take steps to re-align your business in a manner that promotes love, understanding and the basic yogic principles we all try to uphold.

What I'm encouraging you to do is exactly what yoga teachers remind us to do each time we practice - trust. Have the faith that your loyal students will stay with you because you offer something really and truly superb. Know that even if every group yoga class video ever made going forward used your signature camera angle and studio set-up, your business will still thrive. And, trust that if you issue an apology and rescind any legal actions against your competitors, those of us with a sour taste in our mouths following yesterday's news will remember once again why we love you so much.

With love, Meredith