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Gifts from the heart

Sherry Roberts

The season of giving can be as simple or complicated, as stressful or joyous, as easy or hard as you want to make it. It is yours to create. So why not make it fun and meaningful and full of bliss? Look at this season as the time when you have abundant opportunities to live your yoga. This time of year practically begs for you to take your yoga off the mat and wear it like a soft wool shawl. How can you do this? The chances are around every corner. 

Patience is taught by tight bodies that refuse to twist, fold, and bend as we want them to in asana. We learn to wait, and waiting is a holiday pastime. Look for ways to practice your yoga when you're standing in lines at the post office or the store, when you're searching for a parking place at the mall. Be in the moment, breathe in the excitement all around you, settle into a smile, and enjoy the wait. Use this time to find your quiet center. Let your peace flow out to others.

Yoga is the relentless pursuit of calm. Forgive rude drivers and pushy shoppers. Remember that getting angry at them does nothing to make them change their thoughtless ways; it only hurts you and your peaceful center. 

Resolve not to let your mind rush or freak, even when everyone around you seems frantic. Embrace quietude. Be flexible and adaptable. When the last blue snowflake sweater that your daughter absolutely had to have is gone, then it's gone. Choose something else with confidence that she will love it because it comes from you.

This is a special time to practice karma yoga, the yoga of spiritual action and selfless service to others. There is a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a nursing home, a toy drive that needs you. Volunteer, no matter how busy you are or how out of your way it takes you. The true follower of the karma path acts without thought of gain or reward. It is just the right thing to do. Of course, we should practice karma yoga every day of the year, but many of us just don't get around to fitting it into our busy lives. Well, this is the season to start something that may become a habit and a valuable part of your life. 

Random acts of kindness are karma yoga. Take the time to notice these small opportunities. Think about others. Let the person with a crying baby on her hip standing in line behind you go before you in the check-out lane. Smile at harried store clerks and thank them. After that lovely holiday concert, take your time leaving the crowded parking lot. Why be in such a rush to get home? Let cars in line in front of you.

But I have to have something under the tree . . . 

In his Yoga Sutra, Patanjali counsels us to practice "greedlessness." Amid Christmas lists as long as your arm and the constant caroling of "I want" and "I need," how do we still the longing for the material and nonmaterial? What do you want for Christmas, little girl or little boy? Diamonds, a bigger house, fame, a monster gas-guzzling SUV, a better headstand. Why do we want these things? These cravings are expressions of feelings of fear and emptiness. We think we need these things to complete ourselves. Contentment comes when we remember that 1) we live in a world of abundance (there are enough headstands to go around), and 2) we are already whole. 

Still, it is fun to give. Here are some tips for holiday giving (both material and nonmaterial). We hope these make your life simpler and less frantic so that you can breathe in the spirit of the holidays both on the mat and in your life.

Stuff. For all those George Carlins out there who need more stuff or simply enjoy giving stuff, you can never go wrong with:

  • Comfy yoga clothes. Admit it: how many of you wear your yoga clothes outside the studio?
  • Yoga mats. Mats are so inexpensive. Don't take the chance of using communal mats at the studio. See a complete line of yoga mats at MatsMatsMats.com.
  • Eye bags. Sink into savasana and slap a soothing, lavender-scented silk eye bag over your eyes. This is holiday de-stressing at its finest. 
  • Relaxation CDs. While you're in your post-shopping savasana, turn on a favorite music or relaxation CD. Check out yoga teacher Jillian Pransky's new CD called Relaxmore.
  • Yoga books and videos. There is always something to learn in yoga, no matter how long you have been practicing. Yoga reminds us that we are all students and we are all teachers.
  • Yoga accessories. Blocks, straps, meditation pillows, physio balls are just a few of the accoutrements of yoga. They make the experience more pleasurable sometimes just even possible.
  • Green living. Gaiam offers products for the home that embrace healthy living: environmentally friendly cleaning products, compost buckets, Soy Toy (which makes fresh, healthy soymilk), lamps made of sustainably harvested bamboo, serenity-inducing water fountains, aromatherapy candles, natural and organic beds and linens (great for those prone to allergies), air fresheners, water purifiers, and much more.
Karma credits. These gifts keep on giving. Be careful. They just might change your life.
  • Yoga classes and retreats. Buy a gift certificate at your local yoga center for yourself or a friend. Explore the possibilities of a yoga vacation, an intense experience that will deepen your practice and be the most relaxing vacation you've ever taken.
  • Massage therapy. Purchase a gift certificate from a massage therapist you trust and like. It's one way to turn om into ah.
  • Join up. Give yourself or a friend a membership in an organization dedicated to preserving the earth and its creatures. Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, and the Appalachian Trail Conference are just a few of the many worthwhile organizations. Many of these have local chapters which sponsor events that will get you involved in the environment. At their Web sites, you will find gift shops full of products that support these worthy causes.
  • Volunteer. Look for ways to give in your community. Man the soup kitchen; collect toys for indigent families; give to food drives. Every year some friends and I have a holiday tea. We each bring a bag of goodies that can be donated to the local homeless shelter. We provide shopping lists beforehand: toothpaste and toothbrushes, towels and washcloths, lip balm, books, candy bars, soap. The things we take for granted become precious gifts to those less fortunate.
  • Llamas, bees, and goats, oh my. One of my favorite organizations is Heifer International, which provides needy families with the resources to become self-sufficient. In addition to intensive training in animal management, environmentally sound farming, and community development, Heifer provides 29 types of food- and income-producing animals. I always get a kick out of "giving" someone I love a llama or a pig or a rabbit. You can even give part of a camel, llama, or water buffalo. There's something for every budget. Of course, the creature doesn't arrive on your friend's doorstep via FedEx. You make a contribution to Heifer in honor of someone you love. Heifer then buys the animals and distributes them to families in 125 countries. You get a holiday gift card that explains Heifer's mission and notes that a gift has been made in honor of the person.     

We at Yoga Movement wish all of you a holiday overflowing with peace and love. Namaste and don't let the crowds get to you.


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