Here we are, full on in the holiday season. If you are like me, you start out saying, I will not get over focused on gifts and decorating and cooking (or whatever your holiday issues are) and I will focus on the joy and meaning of the season. The best laid plans. I suggest we focus our energies on the holiday preparations that give us pleasure and let some of them go. Will anyone really notice if the wrapping paper doesn’t match, or you buy the whipped cream instead of making it?
I happen to be Catholic by religion, half Jewish culturally and am married to a Jewish guy. People ask us; how do you navigate the whole religion thing? My answer has always been, “we agree on most aspects of religion, except the Jesus thing”. When you think about it, most religions and faiths are based in following the example and teaching of (fill in here), God, Jesus, Allah, Muhammed, Buddha. Worshiping these gods require or ask us to be faithful, selfless, charitable, humble. You get my drift. I realize this is simplistic and incomplete but living your life trying to be kind and working for peace and equity are a good start for a person of any (or no organized) faith. I think about this and the meaning of Christmas as I observe, and participate myself, in the “non meaning” of the holiday. I try to laugh (or it would be depressing) as I observe people cutting each other off in the parking lots as they holiday shop, lunge for the last bag of bows in the dollar store, sigh, and eye roll at the workers in the coffee shop as they wait for their $10 peppermint lattes…. all in the quest of a “perfect holiday”. So, over the next week or so, in the spirit of “the real meaning” of the season, let’s meditate on channeling some our motivation all year, not just in December, towards “peace on earth, goodwill to men”.
“Peace on earth will come to stay. When we live Christmas every day.” Helen Steiner Rice
Helen Steiner Rice was a writer of inspirational and Christian poetry. A successful businesswoman, she found more pleasure in her writing and became a writer of greeting cards for Gibson Card Company in the 1960s. She died in 1981.
(Christmas) Tree Pose (Vrksansana)
This pose is one of the first balancing poses we try in yoga. Many of you have heard me saying that the most important things to do in tree pose (or balancing in general) is to maintain a sense of humor and breath. Maybe hold your head high and think about balancing a star or angel on top! When I do the pose, I often wobble, hold my breath. Often when I practice this, I think about my dad who used to tease me when I did tree pose on his Florida lanai. When I do that, I start to smile, breathe – usually with much better results!
Tree pose is a hip opening pose as well as a balance. We usually warm up with some other hip openers to prepare (figure four, lizard, knee to sky in down dog) and come to tree pose as a “peak” pose.
Tree pose helps strengthen our core and legs and stretches our groin and opens our hips. Building balance is important especially as we age; balance, along with a strong core, will help keep us active and healthy for a long time!
1. Start in mountain pose (tadasana), hands at heart center. Check in with your alignment head to feet, and that your feet are rooted into the floor evenly through all four corners.
2. Begin to shift your weight into your right foot, lifting your left foot off the floor. Keep your right leg straight but don't lock the knee.
3. Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot high onto your ankle, calf or inner right thigh. If on the ankle, you can keep your toes on the floor, hip is open to the side.
4. Press your foot into your leg and your leg into the thigh, engage your core, focus on your drishti (focus point that is not moving). Take 5-10 breaths, adding your arms (branches). Remember, most important to maintain humor, smile and breathe.
5. Don’t forget the other side.
Remember foot can go anywhere on leg just not on the knee as that could cause injury.
Nurturing with Food – Peanut Brittle
This time of year my husband bakes hundreds of Christmas cookies. I make several kinds of candy and two kinds of cookies. I will admit, very few are vegan or dairy free and I have been known to have one or two anyway.
One of the candies I make is peanut brittle. The key to the recipe is to use a candy thermometer, getting it to the right temperature is key for it to crack properly and not be sticky. It is easy to make and really addictive.
See you on the mat