I lead an annual Pre-Holiday Yoga and Wellness Day Retreat at Crystal Creek Studio in Issaquah, Washington. The studio and house where the retreat takes place sits on a mountain. It is a green peaceful getaway, less than an hour drive from Seattle. The studio looks out over trees and it feels as if we are doing yoga in a tree house.
This year, there was a dusting of snow, which made for a beautiful walk in the woods. The majority of retreat participants chose to stay indoors (it was cold out!) and enjoyed reading or chatting by the fireplace in the main part of Cathy’s house. A few of us braved the cold temperatures and went on a brisk hike.
The retreat day started with a morning session of deep-stretching Yin Yoga and ended with an hour and a half of Restorative Yoga. In between the yoga sessions, we had a hearty delicious lunch, followed by hiking for some and relaxing by the fireplace for others, massages with Julie Bacon throughout the day, and a shared discussion on Wellness Strategies. What follows are bits of wisdom, Wellness Strategies, shared by the retreat participants on ways to stay healthy, relaxed, and stress-free during the holiday season:
- HUMOR My wellness strategy involves having humor in my life. Around this time of year, I like to watch Love Actually. Humor makes me feel good and helps me stay healthy.
- VACCINES, YOGA How to stay healthy? Get your vaccines! Get your flu shot. Get your shingles shot…Also, I don’t do any work after 5pm! And I practice yoga daily.
- NATURE, GET ACTIVE, D3 Take Vitamin D3! Do your yoga daily, get moving, bring humor into your life. I love nature. I live on Vashon and nature is all around me so I try to be outside as often as I can I spend a lot of my time gardening, walking, and being outside.
- AN ORANGE A DAY When I was a child, every single day my Grandmother Lucke used to ask me, “Have you had your Bowel Movement today?” And after my reply, she’d say, “Sit here. Eat an orange.” And I would sit with her and eat an orange! And to this day, I eat an orange every single day. That is how you stay healthy!
- MBSR MEDITATION Well, I don’t like oranges, so I can’t try Grandmother Lucke’s wellness strategy. However, meditation works for me. I took a MBSR (Minfulness-Based Stress Reduction) class at Bastyr and it is a powerful tool for wellness. MBSR was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. It is a meditation that encourages body awareness and mindfulness. Dr. Kabat-Zin describes it as “moment-to-moment, non judgmental awareness.” Other wellness strategies: I practice yoga, do aerobic activity which helps me with anxiety, I eat a piece of dark chocolate every day, and I recommend having pets! I have three cats and a St. Bernard who is a therapy dog.
- FEEL THE RHYTHM OF LIFE I ask myself, “What’s my Zen?” My Zen is the rhythm of my life and the rhythmic things I do in my life such as swimming, breathing, and simple actions like grounding my feet onto the yoga mat as I stand in Mountain Pose, which give me a sense of wellness. When I discover my Zen, I feel healthy and balanced. I recently started fly fishing with my husband and I have discovered the flow and rhythm of the river, the sense of movement and the sense of going forward. This is another example of finding my Zen! Cat and Cow Poses, coupled with breathing, are physical actions that give me a sense of this Zen Rhythm. The changing of the seasons also allow me to feel my Zen.
- MANTRA MEDITATION I have been taking a Kundalini Yoga Class offered through Seattle Unity. In class and now on my own, I have been chanting the very powerful meditation mantra: Sa Ta Na Ma. The mantra represents the cycle of life: Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth. The mantra consists of vibrational sounds. I have a recording that I listen to for 11 minutes while sitting in a chair. The sounds are calming and rhythmic. The mantra has been shown to change your brain, how it functions, how it reacts, and its thinking patterns. It works! And one more strategy that works is feeling and expressing your gratitude every single day of your life!
- ENJOY BEING WITH YOUR FAMILY I am a Type A perfectionist, so the holidays can be a stressful time for me. As my wellness strategy, I focus on making the most of the holidays by being with my family and having a good time. What I wish for is to make happy memories!
- PERSPECTIVE My intention is to be less stressed-out. I am a very emotional person. I experience life deeply so I can feel deeply sad or deeply happy. I am working on putting things into perspective. I want to feel less crazy when in a political conversation or when I am driving. I don’t want to let the little things upset me anymore. My intention or key to change starts with awareness and being present.
- RESCUE A DOG I have had some terrible things happen in my life this past year and I am still here! I have learned that I am more resilient than ever. Know your strength because it will get you through life! And Go Rescue A Dog! I did and I am in love with her and my body is full of the love hormone, oxytocin!
- A DAILY YOGA SEQUENCE One of the best Wellness Strategies is to have a Yoga Routine you can do on a daily basis. The following is one I do to keep myself stress-free and happy: Twist (lying on your back and bring one leg over, holding the foot with your opposite hand or use a strap)–Bridge–Downward and Upward Facing Dog—Plank and Side Plank Poses–Extended Side Angle Pose—Full Backbend or an arch pose such as camel or bow–Headstand or Shoulderstand (or another inversion)..if doing Shoulderstand, follow by Tranquility Pose, Plow, and Fish Pose
The next Pre-Holiday Wellness Yoga Day Retreat will be Wednesday, December 9, 2015 in Issaquah, Washington. And it’s never too early to sign up!