Before 6:00 AM yesterday morning I was sitting in my recliner in front of the fireplace preparing a yoga class to teach on Black Friday. I decided the theme, moderation, was in order. Excesses came to mind as I envisioned myself with family and friends, a wine glass in hand, plate after platter of appetizers, a full Thanksgiving feast, shared blessing and a big pillow under my knees while lying on the couch holding my belly and groaning. The glutton in me fears holiday temptation.  My inner self knows I take “cheat” days too far, which is why, I don’t allow myself cheat days.  I also know I am seduced by feeling loved through food. It can be easier to talk about food and weather at gatherings where conscious connection may not be the norm. Get togethers increase my chances of eating my disappointment. It is a week before Thanksgiving and I am already feeling threatened by a plate of food and social expectations. I stop, take a breath back into the present, soak in those old feelings and then ask myself what I intend for myself this Thanksgiving, this holiday season. I let the feelings of gratitude take hold of my heart, lift my eyebrows in recognition of my discernment and get back to enjoying a holiday creation of my own making. I can do moderation. I can do happy holidays.

What do I want? What do you want? Surely, we have our differences but I bet moderation is in the mix. No one likes to feel depressed, or out of control? I want conscious company, a healthy meal, time delightfully spent, from the shopping list through the extra small slice of pumpkin pie with fresh coconut whipping cream. 

Have I become cynical, sensitive or simply aware of my personal preferences after 50 years of holidays?  Can I hold my own with these preferences in the company of traditions, personalities, including history of new and old grievances? Can I manage my issues, emotions, and past beliefs that seem to come up, or worse, get further buried to smolder under the surface of every holiday gathering? I can’t be the only one who asks these questions as the holidays near.

In yoga there is a concept, Brahmacharya. It means to practice moderation and the use of right energy. During the holidays when temptation and emotions run high it seems an especially good time to sharpen this practice. Holidays come with expectations, whether at home or grandma’s house. Will I sell out my own awareness and commitment of health and happiness to a smorgasbord of deviled eggs, stuffed olives, ruffled potato chips,  creamy dips, sausage stuffed mushrooms, fruit salad with lemon curd,  turkey breast, gluten free stuffing, steaming homemade rolls, butter, mashed potatoes, gravy, wine, pecan AND pumpkin pie because of expectation or overwhelm? (Hang on…, wiping my mouth with my sleeve, thinking twice about this question.)

Of course I can! As I think about this idea of moderation, I realize how much yoga has taught me about it on and off the mat. From the vantage point of my recliner and fireplace, and now slobbery sleeve, I can see how the practice of brachmacharya/moderation can influence my perception and behavior to my advantage throughout the holiday season. 

Moderation on the mat would look like taking a pose, a stretch, to one of two edges. One edge, barely trying, unconscious movement, unaware body mechanics, pathetic effort, disengagement or pure laziness. The other edge, taking a pose to the extreme effort, too far, so far as to lose the integrity of the shape by going further than the muscle or joint can go. Beyond those edges, there is separation of the body and mind. It results in a body that goes too far one way or the other, and a mind that is not in control or respecting the body and its limits or capabilities. Moderation is practiced between those extremes. 

Moderation is managed by intention and an awareness to respect the body’s limits. It also includes intentionally creating a feeling that honors one’s self. Feelings of success, purpose, limits, gratitude, love, patience are all examples of intended moderation. It translates to graciously engaging, being yourself, opening your arms, sharing your stuffed mushrooms, and giving gramma a hug. 

If the body follows the mind in yoga, then why not on Thanksgiving? Plan to be your best self and intend ahead. Decide early on how you want to engage with food, friends, family, conflict and gratitude. Decide to consciously interact. In my case, I must dismiss my inner glutton and replace her with the voice of reason and the kindness of self-care and knowing. Water instead of wine, self love instead of self criticism. If it doesn’t go as planned, I can take a breath, center myself, and come back to my intention and try again. 

In yoga, we all fall out of balance poses. We practice to find our edges and get better. We tell ourselves, “that’s okay, no big deal, I’m learning, this isn’t easy, you’ve got this, try again.” No beating ourselves up and no comparison with our mat neighbors. Practice holidays like a yoga balance pose. When you fall from center or grace, compassionately talk yourself back to the best expression of yourself. 

Getting sucked up in holiday expectations is not necessary if you decide otherwise. Keep up your yoga practice, your exercise plan, your food plan, your budget, your mood, your happiness, your self-control and your passions. Practice moderation and don’t let your edges be apathy or burnout. More importantly, don’t let them be injury, self-destruction or anything you will regret. Keep your focus on the benefits of what feels manageable, good and within your value system. Remember, you can do moderation! You can do happy holidays! 

From my fireplace and dirty sleeve, may you find and enjoy the sweet spot of moderation this holiday season.

If you want to practice with me, I will be teaching a yoga class at The Wave on Black Friday. A beginner level class entitled Twists & Moderation. My regular Level 1 yoga class is at 11:30 AM Thursdays at The Wave, and I teach an All Levels, 6:00 PM, Thursday yoga class at The Bend Studio. 

Watch The Bend Facebook Page or Instagram for special Workshops including Yoga for Health Recovery and a Beginners Class for Happy Backs. 

Dr. Erika Putnam is a chiropractic physician who resides in Whitefish, Montana. She seeks adventure and sanctity in the mountains and rivers. Erika is an avid outdoors enthusiast who teaches yoga, road bikes, and hunts big game. She is happiest in a field of dahlias and holding babies. In her spare time she writes and wanders in the forest.