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As the seasons shift, our bodies cycle through an organic ebb and flow of change that serves to harmonize and create balance within us. These changes are usually influenced by the seasons themselves: hours of daylight, foods that are abundant at particular times of the year, weather patterns and seasonally inspired activities.
Although your body will adjust to these changes naturally, it never hurts to integrate some simple tweaks into your routine to aid in the transition and link yourself more intimately with the season that is upon you.
There is a growing wave of alternative thinking in the world, and most of us are blessed to have a choice between conventional and alternative ways of living. This can include lifestyle choices, food choices, medical decisions, consumerism, spirituality and education, to name a few. What used to be considered radical is now finding its way into the mainstream.
In Boulder, Colo., where I live, there is an abundance of options for natural grocers, alternative health care practitioners and holistic education centers. Even our pets have access to natural foods and medicines. And for a city of only 100,000, there are more than 60 yoga studios in the community. Needless to say, I am at home in this place.
Here, my tendencies toward natural living are fed by the abundant and accessible information about how to integrate even more natural practices into my daily life. For instance, I was thrilled to slowly cut out every toxic product from my routine and replace it with something that wasn’t (in my mind) ruined by processing, chemicals or the like. I felt so proud of myself and my ability to live a sustainable, plant-based, organic existence!
That said, you can only imagine how I must have felt when I was faced with a very unwanted health condition that every doctor — holistic and conventional — seemed unable to diagnose.
Winter is an interesting time for me — well, more specifically, an interesting time for my feet. I love summer because of the ease of slipping my toes into a pair of flip-flops and floppin’ around unencumbered by shoes. In fact, during cold months I wear winter’s flip-flop equivalent, moccasins; a shoe that is as close to a non-shoe as it gets.
In fact, one of the main reasons that I love teaching yoga as a profession is because I get to be barefoot for a living! There is something so freeing when my toes are unbound from the claustrophobic nature of high heels, tennis shoes, boots, mary janes … you name it! When my toes feel the freedom to roam, I find that my spirit has that same permission. The sense of adventure that I feel when I am liberated from the shackles of my shoes is only matched by the abundant bliss that I feel when I am out in nature, spontaneously and effortlessly awakened by the wild untamed natural world.
There is one exception to this no-shoe strategy I tend to live by: my hiking boots. When my feet inhabit these shoes, my sprit soars straight to its inherent wildness. Of course, it isn’t the shoes, per se, that illicit this magnificent response, it is what the shoes represent: trees, trails, birds, bees, sunrises, sunsets, mountains, moose, rivers, rocks … you get the idea. This wildness is as much as state of being as it is a location, in the wild, animate world. When I’m not on my yoga mat, this is certainly where you will find me — winding my way through the wide-open woods.
The season of new beginnings is upon us. With the arrival of spring, we shift from the hibernation of the winter months to an awakening of rebirth. Spring invites us to open back up, delight in warmer days and cultivate a spirit of aliveness.
As sunlight paves longer days, warm, damp spells have the potential to leave congestion and upper respiratory conditions in their wake. Spring is the time for releasing deep-seated emotions of sorrow and sadness. Support your body through this transition with the following recipe for balance as we embrace this upcoming season.
I can remember the days when my multivitamins tasted like candy. It was an absolute pleasure to take those little Flintstone chewables every day in the hope of “growing strong bones,” as my dad used to put it. As I’ve gotten older, taking my daily vitamins is a sweet ritual that I have carried with me. I line them up and remember their purpose as I ingest each one. But this month, my focus has shifted. I’m not as concerned with my calcium supplementation or the millions of strands in my probiotic. I’m now interested in is a much more important vitamin, Vitamin L—Love.
Hope is one of those phenomenal insights of the emotional body that can appear in any shape and any context. Hope is cherishing the expectation of fulfillment in any part of your life. Hope is found in loved ones — your sister, brother, mother, father. Hope is the water that fills the well, the lighthouse that calls ships home. Hope is the food on your table and the gas in your car. Hope is as specific or as ambiguous as you need it to be. Where there is nothing, let there be Hope. Where there is something, let there be Hope. You can never have enough and there will never be a lack.
With the recent passing of the equinox and the shifting from one season to the next, Hope has taken up residence around each corner of Spring’s beautiful awakening.
There’s nothing more heartbreaking to me than when people are unkind to one another.
When we are young, we learn the most fundamental teachings about being human: be nice to one another, share, clean up after yourself, don’t take things that aren’t yours, etc. But it seems that when we become adults, we often forget everything that was a part of these original lessons of life. Even the yoga community is littered with heartbreaking exchanges. If unkindness is evident in a community dedicated to conscious living, I imagine it is even more insidious in other spheres.
Life presents itself in a vast array of cycles: the cycle of the moon, the cycle of the seasons, and the cycles of the sun and tides. Celebrating these cycles with some type of ceremony is such a profound practice and one worth considering.
This past New Year’s Eve, rather than hit the town with friends, I was snuggled up by the fire holding a ceremony to close the cycle of 2013 and welcome the coming year.
For our ceremony, we found a little shop that sold a variety of stones. We picked out stones based on their traditional meanings. Each one represented something we wanted to cultivate or bring into the new year. We included stones like carnelian for passion and obsidian for letting go.
One by one we placed each stone in a little wooden box. We spoke about each stone’s meaning and specifically how we wanted it to infuse our lives in the coming cycle around the sun. We closed the box and put it outside for the night.
The next morning, we brought the box inside and imagined bringing all the things we had spoken about the night before into our lives. The box now sits open on our mantel to help us remember our intentions.
It is important that we change with the seasons just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices. During the winter season, the energy of the Earth and its creatures is drawn inward. We can use this time for restoration and introspection, just as many plants and animals use it for hibernation. In preparation for the spring, it is important to slow down and rejuvenate.
There is a rule in Ayurveda that “like attracts like.” That is why the kapha and vata doshas can become provoked and aggravated during the dry, dark, cold months of winter. This is because the climate is alike the qualities of these two doshas. If kapha or vata are triggered, digestive fire plummets, leaving you more susceptible to colds, poor circulation, joint pains and negative emotions. Here are some yoga and lifestyle tips that can help you to balance your doshas this season.