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Using Yoga & Meditation to Beat the Holiday Blues

Posted Dec 01 2009 10:00pm

"Depression is not a disease, the end point of a pathological process. It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we're stuck. It's a wake-up call and the start of a journey that can help us become whole and happy, a journey that can change and transform our lives." --James Gordon

As I write this I am sitting in a cozy (and delightfully toasty) loft space with a panoramic mountain view. My South Carolina hide-away-in-the-woods is a place of peace and joy for me. My time here is one in which I put away all of the mind chatter about to-dos and enjoy a haven from the holiday hustle and bustle. This year I'm book-ending the holiday season with some South Carolina time. I'll head back to NY in a few days and return to SC in a few weeks' time to celebrate Christmas.

This required a little planning on my part -- scheduling clients and deadline-oriented tasks in between my trips. Somehow, it's all getting done. And the time constraints have forced me to have  a more conscious holiday season. Rather than get sucked into the holiday trance of overwhelm, I'm taking more time to focus on what's important for me in the moment. That and frequent yoga and meditation breaks have kept holiday stress to a minimum for me. Ahhhhhhhh -- it feels good to focus on the fun of the holidays rather than on the to-dos and obligations of the holidays.

This isn't an easy feat. I work with a lot of clients who are struggling quite a bit this holiday season. Stress, depression, and anxiety seem to be quite prevalent right now, perhaps exacerbated by the holidays and all of the unrealistic expectations that come along the season. Regardless of whether you're feeling a little run down and overwhelmed or hopeless about life in general or blue this holiday season, yoga and meditation can help. Here are some resources to help ease suffering this holiday season and get your New Year off to a happier start:

  • James Gordon, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression, is taking his teachings to PBS with a 2-hour special based on the content of the book. Click here to learn more about James' work and the special. If you'd like a more extensive list of airings of Unstuck, click here for a schedule in PDF format. Gordon draws upon mind-body techniques such as free-form movement, yoga, meditation, pranayama, and Traditional Chinese Medicine to offer a variety of practical ways to move beyond depression. I like Gordon's approach, his belief that those who are depressed can help themselves rather than rely solely on pharmaceuticals for relief, and his easy-to-apply techniques and lifestyle changes.
  • Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way: Creating Happiness with Meditation, Yoga and Ayurveda is a book that delivers exactly what the title implies -- yogic tools to boost your mood and enhance well-being. The book offers a taste of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda -- just the right dose to inform without overwhelming. The book guides you through recognizing the imbalances in your life and offers nutritional advice as well as yoga and meditation practices and regimes. The book is easy to digest and the solutions offered are easy to incorporate into your life.
  • Amy Weintraub is somewhat of a pioneer in the world of yoga for depression. Amy offers a variety of yogic techniques, including asana, pranayama, bhavana, and chanting, to calm down, enhance well-being, and increase energy and lifeforce. One of my favorite resources from Amy is her CD, Breathe to Beat the Blues (which you can download on iTunes). Each track is only a few minutes, so you can easily incorporate the practices into a busy schedule. Her Lifeforce Yoga DVDs (click here to learn more about the first DVD and click here to learn more about the second) offer wonderful Kripalu-inspired asana sequences along with sound and visualization techniques, topped off with Yoga Nidra. They are perfect for any level of yoga practitioner and leave one with a lingering sense of well-being upon completing the practice.

The holidays aren't filled with comfort and joy for everyone. Luckily, yoga can offer some relief as well as a promise for a happier new year with regular practice. Here's to a happier holiday for all!


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