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Peace & Om: A Christmas Survival Guide

Although much of our yoga practice happens on the mat, the real tests tend to come when we’re going about our usual business – especially around Christmas time. Being adept at handstands is all rather pleasing, but it takes even greater skill to remain genuinely calm and pleasant in the face of a tiresome aunt, an ungrateful child, or a burnt turkey. Take comfort, however, in the fact that you already know two of the most helpful coping strategies…

'Om' is a symbol and a sound.

‘Om’ is a symbol and a sound.

As yogis, we’re all familiar with the word ‘Om’, which is often chanted at the beginning and end of a class, usually with the hands in Anjali mudra (prayer position). These gestures book-end a lot of people’s time on the mat, in class and at home. They ready the mind for what is to come, and ‘seal in’ the peaceful energy coursing through us after a practice. But they both hold so much more meaning and wisdom – the kind that can rescue us from having an unhappy Christmas.

The essence of everything

In Hinduism, a religion wholeheartedly embraces the teachings of yoga, Om is one of the most important spiritual symbols and sounds. Hindus see Om as representing the entirety of existence – an idea which is expressed in the Vedas, the Upanishads and other Hindu texts, which often place the syllable at the beginning and end of chapters – a nod to the word’s all-encompassing nature.

We see the same in Buddhism; for instance, scholars see the first word of the well-known mantra ‘Om Mani Padmi Hum’ – often chanted in yoga classes – as consisting of three parts, A U and M, representing the totality of sound, existence and consciousness. When this ‘bija’ mantra is repeated over and over during meditation, its vibration – the vibration of creation itself – subsumes us; we become the vibration.

See the light in others…

'Om' reminds us that we are all connected.

‘Om’ reminds us that we are all connected.

Aum, according to these traditions, is the beginning the middle and the end of everything. It IS everything! It is the part of us all that is the same, it is the truth, the divine, the supreme spirit. It is the past, the present and the future.

In short, the word Om, or Aum, is a good way of reminding ourselves that we are all the same. When we chant the word together in class, it enhances our sense of community. And when we turn the word over in our minds, it can help us see past those characteristics that divide us. Even that tiresome aunt becomes bearable – she’s just like you, after all. Wayne Dwyer expresses this concept with a wonderful quote, which you should also put in your Christmas survival kit:

“See the light in others and treat them as though that’s all you see”

We are One

Putting our hands in prayer position and/or using the word namasté (in India, simply placing one’s hands in Anjali mudra is seen to be sufficient, since this is a physical representation of the word namasté) is similarly placatory and inspiring. It’s an acknowledgement of the fact that we are one, as the oft-quoted prayer, below, makes clear. And at this time of year, when tensions can run high and duty comes before pleasure, it can be a useful method of ensuring that your Christmas is a triumph of hope over experience!

My soul honours your soul.
I honour the place in you
where the entire universe resides
I honour the light, love, truth,
beauty & peace within you,
because it is also within me.
In sharing these things
we are united, we are the same,
we are one.

yoga etiquette

The light in Tulsi bows to the light in you!