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Tue December 23, 2003
Striking a Holiday Pose
Finding the magic of Christmas may be as simple as standing still.
By Catherine McCall
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Catherine's commentary.]
What do yoga and yuletide have in common?
Yuletide is simply a word to describe the Christmas season. A season so run amuck in recent years with commercialism--a complaint that has been made by the way for centuries-that the meaning of the season gets trampled beneath the feet of charging shoppers. I know, I might as well just say bah humbug.
Yoga, on the other hand, doesn't have anything to do with shopping, although you might be surprised by that, given the spread of mats and blocks and drums and videos popping into so many stores these days.
According to the dictionary, yoga is an ancient "Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a condition of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility." That is, by standing in tree pose or chair pose or by going through a sun salutation while keeping your breath in rhythm, you are, theoretically, becoming more in tuned with the energy that is flowing through your body. This exercise focuses your mind, takes you closer to your center, to that tranquil space of light and quiet inside you.
When I go to yoga class I don't necessarily feel at peace or at one with my spirit and the universe. I often feel clumsy and lost, even frustrated, especially in the beginning.
When the merry bells started ringing this season, and then kept ringing and ringing, I felt a similar sensation; I felt stressed and overwhelmed and woefully unprepared.
The bounty of yoga and the yuletide don't surface readily. Both require concentrated effort if you want to reach-and receive--their abundant treasures. At Christmastime, you have to wade through the over-stuffed stores and stereotypical Norman Rockwell myths-you have to find your own avenues into the yuletide stream of wonder. The season highlights giving, it's about sharing and being with those you care about and who care about you. The yuletide is about peace.
It's hard sometimes to dismantle the bah humbugs, to find the peace and wonder flowing beneath the scurry and madness of "only two shopping days left." But the effort is more than worth it.
The same is true with yoga. Bending and balancing your body in challenging ways, while focusing on your breathing, helps you untangle the knots of stress and worry that inhabit your body and steal your spiritual energy. Even in a yoga class where my balance has been more off than on, I invariably walk away feeling both energized and relaxed, as if my body-my whole being-has just let out one, long, enormous sigh and in its wake there is stillness.
Yoga helps you find that quiet space within so that you may walk in the world as a prince or princess of peace.
We are each a gift, wrapped with talents and vulnerabilities, dreams and desires. Some of us can stand on one leg in tranquil balance, others of us need two. Others need to sit. That is the beauty of creation, that we are all uniquely crafted, connected by the energy and the love that flows through our bodies and our souls. This loving energy is the eternal gift of the yuletide and the ancient secret of yoga.
Catherine McCall is a Psychiatrist who lives and works in Wilmington.