Monday, December 2, 2013

Winter Wellness Preview

California has a nice long fall, but soon enough winter will be upon us, with cooler temperatures, rainy and icy roads, less sunlight, but more parties. This is typically the season that even those of us with the strongest immune systems get overwhelmed by the variety and strength of the pathogens floating around, and end up sick. Here are some tips to help:

Keep it clean

Proper hand washing, gargling with warm salt water, pranayama (breath techniques) and applying oils to your skin helps defend the parts of us most vulnerable to catching a bug. Ujayyi (victorious) breath and Kapalabhati (skull-shining) breath are best practiced during the day, and alternate nostril breath in the afternoon or evening. You can use special Ayurvedic oils, or a simple sesame oil (not toasted) to massage into the inside of your nose, and along your skin - especially at your joints. When you are applying the oil to your skin, brush it on with a mild amount of pressure, wipe the excess and then sit in a steam-filled room, if possible. The steam will open your pores and allow the oil in.

Lighten up

Winter is our season for longer nights and less daylight. Studies are showing that sunlight not only helps us maintain emotional balance, but also supports our immune system. Which is why Dr. Servan-Schrieber, author of Anti Cancer: A New Way of Living, recommends 20 minutes of sunlight a day.

Move / don't move

Your immune system depends on your movements to circulate the blood and lymph through your body. Your nervous system depends on your stillness to calm the chaotic energy of fall and winter. So, which do you do? The answer is: both. Exercise, stretch and gently move your body throughout the day, but be sure to offer yourself some time in stillness - either with meditation, breathing, yin or restorative yoga. You need both to sustain health.

Ideally, you would set a routine that balances out your day. For example, if I know I'll be using the day to drive from store to store and shop for presents for my family and friends, I realize this will make me exhausted and potentially could flare my back pain. I'll begin my morning with some strong stretches for my back and some breathing and meditation. Once I'm done with my shopping, I'll spend a while in restorative poses that gently release my back and soothe my nerves. Letting go of tension from my body and stress from my mind also helps my immune system.

Sing, chant, hum

In the wise words of Big Bird, "Don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song." (Actually, Louis Prima wrote the song, but we only ever remember the Sesame Street version.) Singing helps keep away depression, circulates blood and lengthens your exhale, promoting the release of toxins from your body. So, however you can do it, find a way to sing or chant or hum!

On Sunday, December 8, I will be at Willow Glen Yoga to teach the full workshop called Winter Wellness. This workshop will be accompanied by live music and will include some lecture, breath work, chanting, gentle movements, standing postures, yin and restorative practice - all designed to circulate and restore you. I hope to see you there!

Pre-register HERE.