Thursday, February 26, 2015

9 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

I spent most of December on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  It is a truly magical place and my time there was definitely amazing.  I thought the transition back to northeast winter would be an adjustment, but it's been more like being hit in the head with a steel pole.  Since I've been back I keep asking myself what can I do to re-create those feelings of warmth, prana (life force),  and the aloha mentality right here in Baltimore.   Even though I still dread going outside when it's below 40, these practices are keeping the inner fire burning!  So here is my list of practices to keep you heated, filled with life force, feeling sensual,  and grounded...

1) Get Moving!

This is so obvious but I have many clients who are not moving at all and are wondering why they still feel unmotivated and depressed.  You can't go from a sedentary job to a commute in the car to sitting on the couch to unwind and expect to feel energetic and alive!  As a yoga instructor, I recommend yoga, as the practice specifically works to increase life force, however I'm also personally enjoying weight lifting and indoor cycling.  Whatever movement you feel passionate about and motivates you to get off your bottom- go do it!

2)  Sauna

There are very good reasons why saunas are as common as showers in Scandanavia.  The first obvious benefit is that they warm you to the core quickly and easily; they can also alleviate stress and muscle tension, and induce deeper sleep.  Read about many more benefits here. 
Totally worth joining a gym for the winter to use the sauna!

3) Deep Breathing

Did you know that most of us only use about 25% of our lung capacity most of the day?  Shallow breathing causes us to feel sluggish, lethargic, unmotivated, and uninspired.  Sama Vrtti is a simple yoga breath that anyone can practice.  First, notice the length of your inhales and exhales.  Typically when we are unconscious of the breath (most of the time), the inhale and exhale are different lengths.  Begin to even out the length of the in-breath and out-breath.  Then add a couple of counts on to your natural count so if your in/exhales are 4 counts, add 2 for an inhale of 6, exhale of 6.  Continue this 6:6 ratio for 5 breath cycles.  Notices the effects.

This is a wonderful breath for calming the nervous system and increasing oxygen in the blood stream as well as life-force energy!

4) Dance

Dance needs its own separate category because it's just so darn amazing!  Not only can it rapidly heat the body, it brings you fully into the moment, as well as allows you to tap into your sensuality.  It has become a new winter tradition to have a dance party before my 5-year-old goes to sleep.  Just put on any music you enjoy and start moving- it's also a great way to get out of to-do list left brain and tap into your right-brain creative energy.  

5) Touch

This can come in the form of hugging, snuggling, cuddling, or any other touch.  Massage is a wonderful way to get the lymph flowing, working out muscular tensions as well as experiencing all the benefits of touch.  Self-touch is always available as well.  Your minds might have gone south there, but I am referring to Abhyanga- an ayurvedic self-massage technique.  According to Ayurveda, we are still in the season of Vata dosha whose qualities are cold, dry, and rough.  Abhyanga helps to pacify the aggravated qualities of Vata that are raging in the winter and allows us to ground our energies- feeling calmer and more invigorated!

Watch a video on how to perform Abhyanga here
and more on the benefits here

6) Nature

Get outside even if it's cold!  It's so important to stay connected to nature.  Nature is the source of life force and it is essential to go to the source to replenish. Even I can admit there is a natural beauty to winter- the stillness, the sense that the world is hibernating & resting so it can fully awaken in spring.  Take a few minutes to look at the sky at night as it is often clearer in the winter months.  You might take a shorter hike or walk due to the lower temps, but get out there every day, if possible, even if it's for a few minutes!

7) Yoga

Okay- I tried to include yoga in the movement category, but it really stands alone in a big way.  Yoga is truly energy work and quickly and effectively can shift the energy and cultivate life force.  The best way to experience yoga is to attend an in-person class with a knowledgeable instructor, which luckily is easy to find in any town in this day and age.  If you are unable to make it out to class (yes it is cold out!) my two favorite sites for online classes are yogis-anonymous and yoga international

8) Mindfulness

Not only does mindfulness have the ability to break us our of autopilot, we can also develop the awareness to recognize when we have gone into negative mental terrain.  The sluggish energy of late winter has the potential to take us into a dull and mindless place.  Mindfulness, whether practiced in formal meditation or while doing routine life tasks, can help to sharpen our focus and increase our experience of aliveness.

9) The Aloha Spirit

This is so evident upon a visit to the islands of Hawaii.  There is this relaxed, friendly atmosphere that is almost hard to believe coming from the east coast.  I am definitely no expert on the meaning of Aloha as I have never resided in Hawaii, and of course the meaning would best be explained by a native Hawaiian.  From my limited perspective, I believe that living the Aloha spirit means experiencing a deep connection to all things- nature, one another, the cosmos.  This experience of unity cultivates a love and concern for all other living beings as well as the planet.  This love then cultivates an easing of tension and relaxation in one's body and mind.  


alo, 1. sharing 2. in the present
oha, joyous affection, joy
ha, life energy, life, breath
Using Hawaiian language grammatical rules, we will translate this literally as "The joyful sharing of life energy in the present" or simply "Joyfully sharing life".

This state of mind is a wonderful antidote to the cold (literally and figuratively) atmosphere of the northeast during the winter months.  Some ways to cultivate the aloha mind in the here and now: 

1) Create an image of yourself in this state- mentally, on paper, collage, etc.- and return to this aloha image through the day, especially when negative or sluggish states of mind are cropping up.

2) Connect to others- look deeply into their eyes, listen to them, sense the common thread that connects you, feel the warmth of their spirit.  

3) Return to a daily intention such as the meaning of Aloha- 'joyfully sharing life'. Let this guide you throughout the day instead of your limited beliefs.  

This is my top 9 list that is helping me to not only tolerate the northeast winter months, but to also feel alive and connected.  I would love to hear your practices: please share in the comments section below!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Myth of the One

It began for me when I was a child.  I grew up with Disney princess love stories and a set of parents that were so in love it was gross.  I believed that my life would be complete when I found my Prince Charming.

He appeared in my freshman year of college.  Roses every week, love letters, and more attention than I knew what to do with.  I loved him and he loved me.  Everything was perfect except for his wounds of childhood abuse and bipolar disorder.  His mood and his mindset would switch on a dime and I would go from a goddess to a whore.  This cycle was so painful and I eventually got out of it, however it left me broken and confused.  

I had found the love of my life, but he rejected me- where did I turn?  Should I just give up?  Being a lover of love, I kept loving but it was never the same.  I eventually met an amazing man who became my husband and I have a lot of happiness and connection in my relationship.

  But he doesn’t satisfy my need for love completely because the truth is no one can.  Sorry fairy tale propaganda. No one person can meet all of your needs.  No one can be the single love well you dip in to always quench your thirst because when you are honest with yourself, you are quite thirsty.  I’m not talking about cheating- I’m suggesting branching out of our limited notion of romantic love. 

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson in her recent book, Love 2.0 (, takes this notion a step further to talk about love in terms of positivity resonance.  She explains that micro-moments of resonance are available to us all the time whether with our friends, family, the UPS person, person in the elevator, whoever, whenever.  This resonance is even available with ourselves, nature, and the universe.  Love is always available to us if we open to it. 

I write this because I have so many clients suffering so greatly waiting for the ‘one’.  The bad news is the One (that is going to meet all your needs, provide you with all the love you need, make everything better) is never going to come.  The good news is the One is already here in the friend sitting with you over coffee, the stranger who has just walked past you, the rain that is falling outside your window.  And most importantly in you. 

Yes it is ok to love yourself. To fall deeply and passionately in love with your own beauty, wit, courage, humor, and spirit.  We deny ourselves so much love that is available in this moment because we stay obsessed with limited love.  We end up disappointed, unsatisfied, and an endless feeling of lack.

By losing the myth of the One, I for one, am gaining so much more.  My world has expanded from a mug of small ‘l’ love to an ocean of big ‘L’ love that know no limits.   Most of us are aware that we are thirsty, but we are not aware that we both live in and are the well.