Next week I’m driving home for the holidays with my husband, daughter and dog in tow. Part of me is so excited to be home in Utah – the snow-covered mountains, beautiful foothills and the people I love most in the world, who love me.

Then “reality” starts to settle in. How can I possibly fit in all the visits? Whose house should we stay at? Next, I catch myself trying to anticipate everyone’s wishes and expectations. I wither. I start to replay previous disastrous family moments. Yikes, I want to call the whole thing off.

Yet, at its core, no matter what traditions you believe in or celebrate, this season is about love and light. Hmm. How do I get out of the cycles of the past – what yoga terminology calls the Wheel of Samskara – and enjoy connection, light and joy with my family this year?

Like many of you, I know a lot of things I can do to keep myself grounded, happy and in the kind of love and freedom I want to embody. The question is, will I use the tools I have?

This year, I’m making four commitments to myself and my family. My goal is to to put my practice to work during the busy holiday season when it matter most. And, I’m inviting you to do the same. Here’s how:

1. Breathe

Yep. That’s my first commitment. When I felt myself constricting with worry about my visit home, I stopped and took a few deep belly breaths. Instantly, I could see what I was doing – experiencing the real physical stress of a future that has not yet happened. Pretty silly.

My commitment is to take those five deep breaths whenever I feel anxiety coming on. With that simple step I know I’ll be able stop myself from jumping into old patterns. By pausing and breathing, I am free to have a new and creative response that builds connection.

I invite you to breathe too. Practice right now. Notice how you feel. Then close your eyes and take the five deep breaths all the way down into your belly and up to your collarbones. Then imagine how great that will feel in the heat of your holiday plans. You have the power to literally shift your energy. Call it pranayama when it matters.

2. Practice

This year I’ve told my family and friends that my biggest priority is the quality of time I spend with them, and that in order to show up as the best me I’m committed to meditating and getting exercise. I’ve blocked out an hour each day for a yoga class or a long walk with my dog, and meditating. I’m committed to doing one or two of these things each day.

Make a commitment to yourself to practice asana, meditate, or get outside for a mindful walk each day. Let your family and friends know ahead of time that you’ll be doing this, and make it a top priority. By making yourself a priority in this way, you can tell your family they’ll get the best you and that you’ll be ready to be with them 100 percent when you’re with them.

3. Moderate

Through my years of practice, I’ve learned I’m most likely to lose my balance and sense of joy when I overdo anything – food, wine, work, play, etc… The eight limbs are full of tools to moderate ourselves, including non-hoarding (aparigrapha) and withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara).

These tools can seem elusive and inapplicable to the modern yogi, especially in the heat of family dynamics. Realistically, I practice versions of these things in my regular daily life, why take a break from them over the holidays? This year, instead of throwing my healthy habits, I commit to take these following healthy habits of moderation with me on my “vacation:”

  1. I commit to eat a healthy breakfast each morning, and keep the carbs that weigh me down to a minimum.
  2. I commit to drinking mindfully, or abstaining altogether.
  3. I commit to being fully present where I am with the people I’m enjoying now, and not worrying about the people I’m not with.

How can you carry your healthy habits of moderation into your holiday plans? What commitments can you make that will leave you feeling lighter and more energized, rather than weighed down by overdoing this season?

4. Love

The holidays are really a time for giving and receiving love, no matter what tradition we come from. It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in all the events and meals to make, and the old triggers of being part of a family, that I lose sight of why I went home in the first place – the people I love.

At the end of the day, we are all just human beings who want to give and receive love. I can make the choice to practice love. I can love each person – family or friend – just as they are without making them good or bad, or wrong or right. I could choose to love us all for our human condition, myself included. All the steps above are meant to help me remember this when it matters most.

And so, I invite you to think about what this season really means to you, and let that be who you are. When you lose your balance, when you don’t feel your best, take a pause, whether its five breaths or a 30-minute meditation. In that pause, you can put in your tools and reconnect to what you really want to create this season.

To stay healthy and stress free during the holidays you need to create a tradition of joy. Personally, I’m committed to creating a new tradition of love and connection.

What are you committed to?

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[Photo by Christina Valencia – CC BY]