OK - So I know this one sounds a bit ridiculous! How on earth do you practice yoga for hot chocolate I hear you say…
Well, let me explain.
Yoga is one of those things that can (and should) fill you with a warm, cosy, loving feeling inside. Just like drinking a delicious mug of hot cocoa - or giving someone a great big hug. Maybe you don’t like hot chocolate or hugs, and that’s cool - we can still be friends (just)! But the idea is that we sometimes need something that just makes us feel really flippin’ good - especially in a world where there can be so much suffering, anxiety, depression and pain.
There is a lot of societal pressure on us to do more and be more. We have so much going on these days that it’s hard for any of us to not feel overwhelmed.
But what if you gave yourself permission to just sit and drink that hot chocolate? To be with friends and family who make you smile and love you for who you are? To give yourself that rest your body and mind are so desperately crying out for? All without feeling guilty.
In Scandinavia, there is a concept called “Hygge” (pronounced hue-gah), meaning “well being”. It was traditionally attributed to the Scandinavian feeling of finding warmth and shelter after a long day working in the freezing cold. However, it applies to any time and space — not just the winter.
You might well have heard of it, as it is very trendy these days - which is fabulous! (It actually reached a level of international fascination during the time of Brexit in the United Kingdom, and Trump’s presidential election in the United States - which screams volumes really!)
The word Hygge is used to describe a moment, atmosphere or feeling that is cozy, special, or charming. It can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb, and brings to mind pleasant, engaging, mellow, good-humored, safe, soothing and snug environments - either by oneself, or amongst friends. The word hygge itself is Danish, but has roots in ancient Norse, with connections to the word “Hugga” which means to give comfort or console. That word also happens to be the source of our English word “Hug.” - So hygge is kind of like you’re being embraced by all of the beautiful things in the universe! How lovely.
Hygge is comfort and pleasure combined. But more than this, it is a general state of mind towards how one approaches life. The idea is that it gets you to cherish the little things, therefore encouraging you to slow down and practice gratitude by savouring the simple pleasures that bring you joy (like a mug of hot chocolate!) A lot of people struggle with focusing so much on what they want that they forget to appreciate what they have. Hygge can help with overcoming that.
It's the little moments that count.
Of course, Hygge can mean something different to everyone, as simple comfort is a matter of subjectivity.When you are snuggled down with a soft blanket and the book you’ve been wanting to read, that can be considered hygge. Looking through a window on a crisp, clear day, and letting your face feel the warm sunlight can be considered hygge too.
More important than what hygge looks like is what hygge feels like.
The concept of hygge can also often be linked to specific food and drinks, such as cardamom twists (Swedish pastry buns) or gløgg, a Scandinavian mulled wine with cardamom pods and star anise. Household items that are commonly considered hyggelig (the adjective form), include candles, fireplaces, hand-knitted throw blankets, and wool felt slippers.
Basically, Hygge is about simplicity, community and a feeling of happiness and contentment.
I wanted to address the concept in Yoga, because not only does it encompass the central Yogic components of gratitude, contentment and appreciation of the here and now, but it also gives us a place where we can feel safe during times of upheaval (see last blog on Yoga for Testing Times).
It feels like completely the right time to start embracing hygge now on a regular basis. Not just because we are entering the winter months, but because we are still all going through a period of global uncertainty, fear and stress.
In "The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection", Louisa Thomsen Brits wirtes that at its core, hygge is just “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life” and is “a cure for SAD”.
The hygge lifestyle allows you to give your stressed-out, overly responsible, and exhausted adult personality a break. Instead, you get to spend some time in the belief that everything really is going to be okay, letting your worries go for a little while and focusing on the good things that are everywhere in your world for a day or two.
Hygge is particularly wonderful this time of year as we begin to indulge in the various pleasures of life without feeling guilty, and start to rest and relax a little more.
Putting a little more happiness into your life will improve how you feel, flow, and walk through life. The Danish continue to be some of the world’s happiest people, so wouldn't it be so wonderful if we could build hygge into our culture just as they do in scandinavia?!
So get sipping that hot chocolate and give yourself some TLC.