Happy December 1st! I attended a very fun wreath making party last night that ushered in the first official event of the holidays. It is just the beginning of many celebrations that occur during this time of year. For some, including me, it can be a stressful time and feel a bit overwhelming when your calendar starts getting packed. December brings an intensive few weeks of reconnecting with friends at festive events followed by the wonderful chill of time off from work and school to spend with family.
But, when there is too much going on I tend to feel scattered and my focus is not “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” When this starts happening, I go to my yoga mat to remind me to stay centered. But if you can’t practice yoga regularly, or if yoga just isn’t your thing, there are many other ways of staying centered this holiday season. Recently, I met with Greg Barringer, founder of ShaktiAnanda for some tips:
Ten Tips for Staying Centered This Season
- Writing is very therapeutic. The process of putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper helps clarify your aspirations and what’s bothering you.
- Embrace your Emotions. Acknowledge your feelings instead of pushing them away and build your capacity to hold the entire spectrum, from joy to sadness.
- Accentuate the Positive. Positivity can be miraculous. Hold onto positive thoughts by envisioning happier situations.
- Don’t Be Grinchy. Remember and cultivate your attitude of gratitude, love and forgiveness to connect in a fulfilling way to family and friends.
- Detox the Halls. Interject incense, exercise and healthy food choices into the mix. One of the very first things I do during the holiday season is plug in a Balsam & Cedar Scent Plug. The fragrance reminds me of Christmas and instantly makes me happy. Plus my entire home smells ah-mazing!
- Just Do You. Treat yourself to some alone time to rejuvenate your spirit. Perhaps read a great book, get a mani/pedi, meet some friends for lunch or get a massage. Do what’s best for you to make this season joyful.
- Reach out and Touch Someone. We long for a sense of true connection. Reach out to a friend or family member who lives too far away to travel to. You’ll both get a positive benefit from the connection!
- Don’t Burn the Yule Log on Both Ends. Carve out at least five minutes a day to sit quietly, meditate, relieve stress and use your breath to calm your body and mind. For me, this time is in the morning before my kiddos wake up. I pour myself some pumpkin spice coffee and sit on the window seat in our kitchen and think about nothing.
- Crank up the tunes. Music heals the soul. Get some sound therapy by making it a point to turn on that radio or grab your smart phone and listen to some tunes.
- Move. Practice yoga, tai chi, dance or take a walk. Any form of exercise will make you feel better and helps mitigate negative emotions.
Meet Greg Barringer
| Greg Barringer |
Interested in learning more? I’ve also included my Q&A with Greg Barringer about Trends in Yoga & Meditation. If you are wondering what may be a fad or what is substance, read on to learn about Greg’s insights.
“Mindfulness and peace are cultivated by assuming the stance of the impartial witness to your own experience.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
More people than ever are practicing yoga today, but what they are practicing is not necessarily yoga, and many current practices will not stand the test of time. This doesn’t mean these activities aren’t worthwhile, but they may not be leading to yoga’s true purpose: quieting the body and mind so one may connect with the true self. We’d like to help you cut through the hype. Here we share our perspective on fads versus what can be truly transformative in yoga and meditation practice.
Our intention is to share with you what we have discovered that will truly guide us in our quest to remain calm, centered, healthy, and balanced during this holiday season and beyond. We’ve put together this Q & A and additional tips to help you stay present, jolly and bright.
- What are some of the recent fads in yoga and meditation?
Aerial/Acro Yoga, Hot Barre Yoga, Underwater Yoga, Paddleboard Yoga and I’ve even heard of Pole Dancing Yoga.
I have practiced many of these, and taught some of them. I have enjoyed them, they are fun. What I’ve realized, however, is that many yoga practices are really entertainment, exercise and stretching. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s a nice way to introduce people to the fundamentals of yoga (if they don’t get hurt doing it).
My preference is to focus on methods and techniques that I believe align more closely with the true purpose of yoga which according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is the calming of the mind so people can experience their true nature of peace and interconnectedness.
Our personal practice is meant to connect us; to ourselves, to each other, and to source or a sense of the Divine (which means different things to different people). Yoga and meditation should build our capacity for more feelings and sensation, cultivate clarity, develop courage, nurture compassion, and leave us feeling both more alive and at peace.
2. Which do you feel has the most longevity and why? Which of these do you endorse?
The question to ask is, does this practice calm me? Does it leave me feeling more peaceful, more connected, more alive, and more able to be present with whatever arises?
My practice and teaching leans towards methods that facilitate calming the nervous system and your entire body. These practices help strengthen and relax muscles, soften tense shoulders and jaws, and help us slow down to achieve a quieter state of mind. We are looking to retrain the nervous system to change our response to stimuli, making us less reactive and more centered.
In my view, some of the better forms of practice are restorative yoga, hot yoga, yin yoga, kundalini yoga, vinyasa and other classes which focus on clearing the energy blocks in the body and calming the mind. There are also some nice meditative practices; Tai Chi, Qigong, Vipassana, Sound Healing – there are some good meditation apps out there!
3. What styles of yoga and meditation do you practice and what are the benefits of each?
I practice and share several lineages of yoga. My first real practice was Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga and a strong posture (asana) practice. Over a decade ago I went to Kripalu for my first teacher training. Kripalu guided me into the compassionate, psychological, and philosophical aspects of yoga. While there I met Yoganand Michael Carrol. Yoganand had been at Kripalu for twenty years, strictly following the teachings of Swami Kripalu. I moved to South Carolina and started practicing under his guidance. A few years later I went to Florida to study with Amrit Desai, the founder of Kripalu. Each of these experiences and teachers took me further into a visceral awareness of truth, our ability to be centered and at peace in the midst of everything.
In the meantime, I started practicing Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini is a holistic practice which works with raising energy and awareness, strengthening the body and nervous system, and creating balance.
And finally, I also practice Thai yoga massage. Thai yoga is a form of bodywork that uses therapeutic touch along the energy lines of the body to release tension and blocks in the body, nervous and glandular system. The practice leaves the client feeling both rejuvenated and relaxed.
I practice and share several types of meditation. The simplest form is noticing the breath. The intention of all meditation practice is similar to yoga; the calming of the mind, leading to the experience our true nature. The techniques are different and usually, but not always subtler. I practice Vipassana, a Buddhist method of observation; OSHO a dynamic form of meditation; mantra, the repetition of sound; sound healing; and yoga nidra, guided meditation.
4. What advice would you give women who are self-conscious in class? (e.g. feel self-conscious about their weight, ability, body, or feelings of competitiveness)
Swami Kripalu said, “The biggest obstacle westerners have to their enlightenment and freedom is their own self-loathing.”
Self-acceptance is the key to happiness and peace. If we can get to a place where we truly feel okay with who we are, peace will prevail in our lives. I continually reinforce with my students the practice of Ahimsa, being kind and loving with oneself, and that everyone is beautiful and divine in their own way.
Women are in a very difficult situation in our society. They are expected to be perfect moms, daughters, wives, friends, employees, and community builders, as well as being beautiful and polite. This is an impossible, unsustainable situation. Women must be kinder, more encouraging, and lenient with themselves and each other.
My intention is to create a safe space for all of us to experience our own beauty and grace; to feel sadness and joy, to allow our idiosyncrasies and our greatness. Our yoga and meditation practice is a sanctuary, a place where we can explore and be ourselves, with encouragement and non-judgement.
5. If you could leave everyone with some ideas to think about, what would they be?
Breathe. The single easiest and most profound practice is to breathe more deeply and consciously. Make peace with uncertainty, turn the unknown into a field of creative possibility.
And finally, embrace this, “Not loving myself or others is not going to work!” We are not going to solve our problems or the world’s problems by vilifying ourselves or anyone else. We must practice compassion with everyone to bring ourselves to justice, equality, and peace.
My very best wishes to you all for a very bright holiday season!
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be at ease.
May you feel love for yourself and those around you this season and always.
Greg’s Background: Greg Barringer, Founder of ShaktiAnanda, is a highly trained practitioner of Yoga and Meditation, certified and registered with the Yoga Alliance (RYT). He has seen many yoga trends come and go in the over twenty years he’s explored; finding himself now on the cutting edge of the more transformative practices.
He received his initial teaching certification from the Kripalu School of Yoga, and has advanced certifications in Thai, Hatha and Kundalini. He has a BA and MBA from Boston University, spent time coaching high performance athletes and was himself a nationally ranked rower. Among many things, he worked in Human Resources at MIT. He looks to grow and explore best practices, including those learned on a recent retreat to India, and bring these experiences to his clients and students.
Greg’s intention is to elevate our consciousness, our sense of connection, and build our capacity for feeling, healing, and sensation. The benefits of practice with him include releasing blocks that keep us stuck, raising energy and awareness, strengthening the body, and enhancing the immune, circulatory, glandular, and nervous systems.
Visit www.shaktiananda.yoga for information on the benefits of therapeutic yoga and meditation. Greg can also be reached via phone at 203-722-2025. For my CT readers, Greg’s current class schedule is here.