I recently visited one of my absolute favorite cities in the world: New Orleans.
It’s a fascinating city, teeming with history, magic, music, and most importantly — life. New Orleans sings to you at the top of its lungs, from the untamed notes of jazz floating through the air, to the intoxicating scent of fresh-baked beignets, to its melting pot of creed, race, and sexuality. It is a city perfumed with the will to live life to the fullest, and it is absolutely intoxicating.
I bring this up, because growing up, this is exactly how I viewed the holidays — a bustling time of celebration laden with gifts, homemade cookies, fancy roasts, and a delicious assortment of pies. It was like New Orleans without the beads.
Of course, as I grew older, my awareness grew as the magic dwindled. I started to notice all the people who grew somber as the holidays approached, missing people they’ve lost or fallen out of touch with; the people who use holiday indulgences as a metric for punishment when they absolutely must sweat it all off the next day. The pressures of finding the ‘perfect present’ demolishing the opportunity to show simple gratitude for the loved ones in your life.
Now, I’m no therapist — I’m just a writer who teaches yoga for a living (yes teachers, laugh with me — they’re often treated as the same thing), but I have learned a thing or two about living from the lessons on my mat. I keep these tucked in my proverbial pocket anytime I find myself challenged during the season.
#1. Your identity has nothing to do with your physical appearance or abilities.
As the famous mantra goes, “I am not my body, I am not even my mind.” We’re given this one body (our meatsuit, as I like to call it, which encases our soul). It is meant to change, stretch, taste, feel, and yes, eventually — to fall apart. Weight fluctuates, muscles and bones can rip and break, hiatus from our practices can be forced upon us, but the key is to remember we become what we worship. If you value your physical appearance beyond your words and interactions, you’ll constantly feel ugly. If you judge yourself by the amount of chaturangas you can do, you’ll always feel weak on the inside, like you’ll never fully measure up. I cannot stress it enough: you are not your body.
#2. It’s a cookie, not a demon.
Seriously, folks. I wish everyone could see calories the way my dog does — as the most glorious gift to ever be sprinkled upon this earth. The holidays are filled with treats — enjoy them! A few simple ways to combat the sluggish aftermath: drink loads of water every day, make sure you eat something green (or vegetable-forward) at least once a day, and if possible, do a short yoga practice, meditation, or find a way to move daily. If you feel unmotivated, remember finding time to sweat is just as impactful on your mental health as it is to your physical health. Don’t view movement as a punishment; it’s a way to keep your body happy and your spirits soaring.
#3. Life is delicate and fierce, mysterious and fleeting.
Don’t pick it apart — live it like the New Orleanians do. I’d say they’re less afraid of dying than they are of not living, so find the people and things that light you up over this holiday season, and savor every last bite.