seasonal care

a personal steam

As we covered last week in the Sad News for Smoothies post, winter is the season of the kapha dosha in Ayurveda. This season is characterized by heaviness, dryness (and wetness as we get more into spring), slowness and potential stagnation in digestion, mental processing and emotional state.

A great way to brighten things up and cleanse and clear the respiratory system -- as well as the mind -- is a good, old-fashioned steam.

(Side note: Somehow I did not get the sauna that I asked Santa for. Weird.)

Most of us do not have a steam room or sauna, and even if you have one at your gym, it's not always practical to do. If only there was a way to spare your hairdo from the sweatfest. 

Oh wait, there is!

It's the mini personal steam.

This doesn't mean you have to hunch over a pot of water on the stove. Just pour some steaming water in a mug, drape a kitchen towel over your head and breathe slowly in and out through your nose for a few minutes.

Essential oil (one drop) will amp up the medicinal value — eucalyptus, myrrh, cedarwood, ravensara, rosemary, fir and spruce are some of the great expectorant oils. (Keep in mind, this is medicine, not fun fragrance, so don’t over-dose.)

We did a personal mini steam in this weekend's Seasonal Care workshop to rave reviews!

ayurveda steam

A steam can balance whatever state is in excess -- it will help focus and clarify the mind so you can work on a task, and it will soothe and clear the mind so you can rest. Of course, it's fabulous for cold prevention and cold care -- keeping the respiratory system moist and moving.  

Give it a try and test the effects for yourself. As always, I'd love to hear how it goes.


bad news for smoothies

Smoothies in the news

A few years ago there were different versions of a popular post going around called Why Your Smoothie is Making You Fat.

The articles all talked about how smoothies are generally larger than we plan, more calories than we know, full of sugar and digest quickly, leaving us hungry.

Those are all good considerations about your smoothie. But I'm talking about ditching the smoothie for another reason.

Put down that smoothie

At least for now.

Wintertime in Ayurveda is known as Kapha season. There are three doshas, or functional energies in nature, each a combination of the elements. Kapha is predominated by the earth and water elements.

As such, characteristics of kapha season are cold, increased moisture (rain for us here in California), cloud-covered days, and a slow, heavy feeling.

The guiding principle in Ayurveda is Like Increases Like and Opposites Balance.

So just like in the heat of summer it wouldn't make sense to eat a spicy meal and take a run at 3 pm, we want to balance the qualities of winter rather than exacerbate them.

If the qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable and cloudy (think of the qualities or characteristics of wet earth or soft mud), in general, we don't need to add more of those things with our food.

This is why your smoothie is not the best choice in winter: it is cold, heavy, dense and wet. While it may contain great nutrients, the body has a harder time digesting all those kaphaqualities in kapha season.

Frustratingly, you can end up bloated, feeling heavy and lethargic or even experience weight gain from smoothies in winter.

kapha conditions + kapha food = kapha symptoms + creates more kapha

It's not that kapha is bad -- in Ayurveda, it embodies the energies of love and compassion. Kapha foods can be grounding and nourishing. This is a season that supports beautiful quiet and reflection. It's all about balance.

Seasonal Care

I find Ayurveda practical and helpful, which is why I love sharing it with others.

If you are interested in:

  • learning more about Ayurveda
  • managing the symptoms of winter (like colds and congestion, mucus, lethargy, weight gain, depression or mental heaviness)
  • having a mini spa day

...join me this Sunday for Seasonal Care :: Winter to Spring.

In the meantime, skip the smoothie and have some hot tea... or make some soup spiced with black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom or cumin. Everything warm for winter!

Let me know how it goes!

winter care

If you think about winter in elemental or weather terms, our climate here has been cold and dry. Hopefully we're are headed into some wetter months ahead, which will change how we ideally care for the physical body and our overall health.

There's a system of health and healing out of the Indian/Tibetan lineage and related to Yoga called Ayurveda. Ayurveda in Sanskrit translates to “Science of Longevity” or “Knowledge of Life.”
Ayurveda philosophy is based on the recognition that the elements – ether, air, fire, water and earth – exist within the human body as they do in the environment around us.
From this awareness, it’s all about relationship, harmony and cause and effect. 

A basic principle of Ayurveda is:

Like increases like, and opposites balance.

So what does that mean in this winter season? How can we best support our bodies?

Well, we can help balance the qualities of cold and dry with warm, moisturizingnourishing and grounding. Having cold and dry foods (like bread) only increases the cold and dry of winter in our bodies. So we seek to counterbalance.

Here are a few Ayurveda-inspired ideas for basic winter care (these will change slightly  when our winter become more cold and wet):

  • Eat whole, healthy food and fresh vegetables (as basic as it is essential)
  • Enjoy warm and warming foods and drinks -- ginger, chai, warm lemon water, and foods cooked in warming spices such as...
    • Chili, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin
  • Decrease both dry and cold foods and drinks such as salads, popcorn, breads and baked goods, frozen desserts
  • Increase meals that have to be eaten in a bowl -- hot cereals, soups, stews, healthy risottos 
  • Stay warm -- better to take your hot or gloves off than be cold without them
  • Stay connected to your sense of purpose -- consider writing in a journal, reading books that inspire you, volunteering
  • Balance rest with aerobic movement -- get your body warm and heart-rate up every day AND try a restorative pose or long savasana (stay warm and snuggly and try weight, like a sandbag, on the body on the feet, thighs, pelvis or chest)
  • Try Nasya -- a little bit of oil in the nostrils morning and night. It might sound weird, but a dab of oil (almond, sunflower or even olive) on the ring fingers, swiped inside each nostril, can help alleviate the irritation of heaters, allergens and colds. Try it!

I also have a general rule, especially in cold/flu season, of Never Touching My Face. Even if I wash my hands frequently, there's still all kinds of goo that gets on me throughout the day. 

Along with the basics of hydration (always warm or room-temperature water), whole food and vegetables, and getting enough rest and downtime, these tips have kept me healthy and cruising through these chilly days.

If you have ways you winterize, I'd love to hear!

In health,


ps If you're interested in more specifics on staying healthy and vibrant this winter season, check out the upcoming Seasonal Care workshop. It will feel basically like a spa day :) 

two new workshops

Workshops in the works! Two upcoming offerings...



Seasonal Care : Winter to Spring

Address the unique symptoms that can arise from the upcoming seasonal transition -- colds, mucous, sluggish energy and digestion -- using the accessible tools of Ayurveda and Yoga.

Sunday, January 28, 1-3:30 pm

Email to register.

The shift from winter to spring can be tricky for the body, digestion and sleep. In our climate, winter is cold and spring is generally wet — qualities that together can create mucous, heaviness and sluggishness in energy and digestion.

Using the tools and Yoga and Ayurveda (which has to do with what we put in and on our bodies), we can warm the chill, absorb excess dampness and keep things moving.

This workshop will include suggestions for foods and beverages appropriate for the season, tips for balancing body practices and aromatherapy.

Plus -- cold care. You'll get a take-home of my #1 oil for fending off a cold.

These seasonal workshops are a ton of fun, very popular and Include take home goodies!

Sunday, January 28, 1-3:30 pm $75
Hosted at Figure 8 Studio at 28th and S Streets
Class size is limited; register early.


sleeping angel

Tired of Insomnia?

Sleepy solutions based on science and real-life experience. Take home tools and samples included.

Sunday, March 11, 1-3:30 pm

Email to register.

Do you have trouble falling asleep? Or do you wake in the early a.m. hours and stare at the ceiling? Insomnia not only puts you in a bad mood, it’s bad for your health. Studies show that insomnia affects everything from our immunity to our lifespan.

No doubt you have tried many remedies, maybe some with success. But if you are relying mostly on pharmaceutical drugs and luck to get a good night’s rest, there’s more you can do.

Sleeplessness becomes its own cycle of anxiety over going to bed and fear of the effects of not sleeping ("Tomorrow is going to be terrible if I don't get any sleep!"), which make the possibility of actually sleeping even less likely.

Join Michelle for a workshop full of sleepy solutions based on science and personal experience. We’ll review the basics of sleep preparation, yoga poses to help set the nervous system and tricks to get and stay asleep. 

Includes take home tools and samples.

Sunday, March 11, 1-3:30 pm $65
Hosted at Figure 8 Studio at 28th and S Streets
Class size is limited; register early.


Questions about either of these workshops? Just ask. To register, email me. You will receive all workshop details after registration.