Good morning, beautiful people. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when there are still all the great leftovers from the big holiday dinners. If you’re back at the office, people are bringing in cookies—maybe even more than before the holidays. And you’re probably feeling guilty about how much you ate, while you have another cookie.
If you’re waiting for me to tell you not to do any of this because I’m this Yoga person who you assume eats clean 365 days a year, uh, no. There are plenty of other Yoga people who can tell you to repent and eat clean. I’m the Yoga person who helped herself to fourths or fifths of Mom’s amazing holiday dinner, and had seconds of her own apple pie (gluten-free crust: divine). And who would do it all again, and probably will on New Year’s Eve.
A funny thing happens when we feel guilty about overindulging: We overindulge again. Guilt is not only useless, it’s damaging. It triggers a shame spiral that morphs into giving up. We feel guilty, we feel shame, we feel bad. And what will make us feel better? A little treat. Cue entire cycle all over again.
In Yoga, cycles like this are called Samskaras. They’re repeating patterns of behavior that get us nowhere except into increasingly bad states. They’re viewed with negativity, but they should actually be thanked: the entire reason they exist is to teach us something. Not punitive lessons, but lessons that inspire change and growth.
Here’s an experiment. It’s kind of radical, so be prepared. Ready?
Skip the guilt.
If you overindulged, then you overindulged. Big deal. (The time that this is really a problem is when we’re talking about drinking and you got into some kind of trouble, or could have. In that case, please do pay attention to your Samskaras, which are telling you to get the help you need. And don’t wait until January; there’s no reason for you to keep suffering.)
When all we’re talking about is eating, skip the guilt and see what happens. Okay, you overindulged; it was one day. Maybe two. Pause, breathe, and see how you feel without guilt.
I’m not suggesting that you give yourself permission to go wild. That’s going to the other extreme. What we’re aiming for here is Santosha, contentment, the sweet spot of the middle path, where we can learn and feel good about how we act.
You don’t need to pass on dessert. What you need to skip is the guilt that comes with it. Pay attention to your Samskaras; they want to be released. Learn the lesson they have for you, and be free to enjoy dessert, and life.
For more exercises on learning from and releasing Samskaras, reserve your copy of YOGA MIND here.