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  • Writer's pictureEssentialZen

Relax it's the HOLIDAYS

Oh, the holidays……………. The gifts, the food, family, snow (or lack there of any), beautiful festive lights, the over abundance of cookies, eggnog in moose cups,ugly sweaters, traveling, parties, the list can go on and on; but for many this can bring about stronger feelings of depression, stress and anxiety. There a many different schools of thought on how to help with these crippling disorders.

Now stick with me this will get deep and slightly dark but I want people to understand how helpful yoga can be to many for many different situtations.

The misnomer of this season is that we label depression as “holiday depression” or “seasonal depression” and that this that it is only happening now, it only happens around the holidays, which if you are a sufferer of depression or anxiety it is an every day all day issue. It may be noticed more now around the holidays because there’s more people around, there’s more interaction with family now, or maybe because the sufferer has allowed others to see them as they are without their mask of happiness on. If you are a “stand-byer” who has someone you love suffering, this can be an extremely hard time for you as well. You may not understand, you may not know how to handle your loved one or you may feel that this is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be an issue; but understand that it is a serious issue.

Approximately 9% of the US adult population is suffering from depression of some sort while up to 20% of teens are suffering. These are just ballpark numbers, there are many people who suffer from depression that haven't been diagnosed. Depression is scary and takes a toll on the person suffering and the loved ones around them.

I myself suffer from depression. It’s been a lifelong struggle for me, people haven’t always understood, people haven’t waited to realize that I have an issue. Most people wouldn’t think I suffer because I have a smile on my face or because I’m active and busy or because I am a pretty happy go lucky kinda gal, but it’s always there. It’s always lurking in the shadows of my mind and sometimes you just can’t control it. Sometimes it comes out by lashing at someone involuntarily, or a memory will spark it and I get upset or sad, sometimes getting out of bed is one of the hardest struggles. I told my best friend I started crying while cutting up mangoes, and he said well mangoes can be cruel!

I personally have found yoga to help me. I notice the days I don’t practice I feel less than ok. Half the battle some days is just getting on the mat. Those days the practice isn’t great but I made it there, I practiced, I was present for that class, I wasn’t allowing my mind to keep hummimg and dwelling; I let yoga ease my pain. I’m going to try and help you help yourself or a loved one by giving some pointers to help this holiday season to go smoothly and not have the same issues.

First thing to remember though is to keep breathing. Remember when you were young and you did something wrong, maybe your mom would take big breath in and stare at you for a moment before possibly calmly saying something? That breath in and out did alot actually. It slowed the heart rate, it helped keep her balanced, and it helped her maybe take a second longer to react. Breathing is involuntary, but we can control how much we breath in, and for how long. If things get to be a bit much do this simple exercise-- breath in for 6 counts, hold, breath out for 6 counts out, hold, repeat about 5 times. You can do this through the nose and out the nose or in the nose and out through an open mouth. This should help you reenergize and be able to take that extra few minutes to think before reacting. (Please feel free to use this technique whenever you need a minute.)

  • Plan ahead- Plan your day or your holiday in advance. This way the stress of getting things done can be preplanned and ready. This will also give you time to plan on including “me” times in the schedule. Things can get super busy and time continues on, but if you block out time for reading, napping, meditating or yoga, you have alotted “me” time to help with stress. Litterlly 5 mins in legs up the wall pose can help reset your body.

  • Avoid family conflicts- So much easier than said than done. If this happens, kindly say, “I’d rather not talk about this at this time, let’s talk about this at another time”, or simply stay away from those conversations. Have a person who you trust and love be with you, so they can bring you out of that situation or help the other see why now is not the time for that. If you have the option to avoid the conflict without hurting one else’s feelings, then I say do that. Do what makes you happy to advoid unnesscary conflict.

  • Stop trying to be perfect- The real reason for the holidays is not to have a perfect house, or perfect lights, or perfect food- it’s about family. If you have the holidays every year and someone complains offer them to host the holiday have them fight again the hands of perfection.

  • Grief- The holidays bring on sadness to many because they’ve lost loved ones. If you are feeling sadness or pain talk to someone. Let it be your favorite Grandma, or your older sister who always knows what to say or your neighbor because they are a third party and might have a different look on things. But talk. Let it out. Hoarding those emotions is harmful to your body and your mind. I deal with with sadness around the hoildays myself, I lost my mother 14 years ago. No two people grieve the same. Don’t judge another person for their feelings. Some losses are definatly harder then others.

  • Sleep- It’s an important activity. Research says you should get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. That doesn’t always happen. Children wake up crying, sick or having a bad dream. Sometimes you can’t turn off your mind and sleep eludes you. Try turning off all electronics 1 hour before the time you plan on going to sleep. Read a book or meditate to get you to quiet your mind. Try Bridge Pose - Sethu Banhasana at nighttime.

  • Ask for help- Ask your family for help. Ask spouse. Ask your parents. Ask a friend. Don’t think you have to do everything alone.

  • Don’t BINGE EAT- Holiday food is warm, nostalgic, a filling and filling and unbutton your pants filling. Why do we eat so much? Remember this is any other meal. Just because this day is labeled doesn’t mean you should single-handedly eat half the mashed potatoes and a gallon of gravy, or have 4 plates because everyone else it. Keep it to a minimum. Eat like it was last nights dinner.

  • Commitments- Learn to say NO!! Cut back on commitments- baking cookies for church and bake sale and the school, going here and there, doing this with these people and that with those people, volunteering, vacationing. This is a time for family reflection. Do things as a family, step back and enjoy.

Now that I’ve shown a few ideas of what yoga can do, truly what does this all have to do with YOGA?? Yoga has been known to help reduce with the stress response in the body and help with anxiety and depression. Yoga is a self-soothing practice, which incorporates meditation, relaxation, exercise, and socialization. Yoga can help reduce your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and help ease breathing. Which if you’ve ever been upset or had the feeling of anger well in the pit of your stomach you know oh to well how much concentrating on your breathing helps you handle that issue at that moment, just like the example I gave about the mom eariler. There is even evidence that practicing yoga helps with the increase of heart rate variability to help the body respond to stress with more flexibility.

Pain in the body from a multitude of things can cause depression or anxiety in some. Yoga has been known to help elevate chronic pain in sufferers. Being able to manage pain in the body helps manage stress in the mind. Many sufferers of depression, anxiety, and stress find yoga to be a very appealing and significantly better way to manage their symptoms. Yoga is a low risk, high yield approach to improving ones health.

There are many different types of yoga. Not all types are ideal for everyone. Some are slow and meditation based, some are slow and expect you to stay in certain poses for longer periods of time, some are hot and active, some are just active, find what works best for you.

The holidays are full of surprises; marriage proposals, meeting new people, bringing a new partner to the family, selecting that perfect gift for someone, some will get new pets. But please try and remember to love yourself. If you are a sufferer, try and follow the bullet points and see how that works, but know I understand. If you love someone who is a sufferer, be patient, be present with them, be there to be their shoulder when it becomes too much. Doing some simple yoga poses at home can help you to calm those nerves before they get inflamed.

Below are some basic yoga poses known to help with depression, anxiety and stress. Give each pose as long as your body, and your practice needs. Do these poses with your partner, do these poses with your children, or do these poses when you need a minute of rest.

These are few poses to help you get through before our next yoga session. Any of these can have modifications to them if you have different health reasons.

Not everyone will want to do yoga to help with their personal issues. Don’t push them, don’t try and guilt them into it. Everyone needs to find their balance in the universe. If you feel this will help you then try a few of these poses at home. Google the pose name and watch a YouTube video on that pose. If you are a stand-byer and you feel this may help your loved one, then be active with them. Try the pose yourself and either make it funny and inviting, or make it an example and see if they want to try too. There are yoga studios all over, sign up for a first class, and take it from there. Getting on the mat is half the battle.

Men and women a like suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. It is not gender specific. We all suffer from time to time, some, like myslef, suffer daily. Take time to understand this isn’t something that we’ve chosen it was chosen for us.

Happy Holidays!!

"Once you choose hope, anything is possible." — Christopher Reeve

"A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl." — Stephan Hoeller

"A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you." — Joyce Meyer

Welcome to Eight Limbs, EssentialZen Yogas’ blog. Here we will grow together and experience a warm inviting yoga community. Here everyone can be free to be yourself and let Eight Limbs guide you. And remember: Go without expectations. Set an intention. Breath.

If you have any questions or comments, ideas or thoughts, things you’d like to see on the blog, things you don’t want to see please send me an email at


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