Make It a Cool — and Healthy — Yule with Cold-Water Bathing!

As the temperature drops and we start to cocoon for winter, warmth tends to be the thing uppermost in our minds. Ahh, warmth…warm fingers, toes, ears…body…like coming in out of the cold to a delicious enveloping embrace…ahh, warm…who’d want to leave it?

But the truth is that bacteria and viruses also bask in that delicious warmth, especially when your house is closed up tight against the wintry winds. And when you’re cocooned up nice and snug indoors, your body isn’t getting the vital nutrients that it requires from sunlight and fresh air…so not only are you living in a pathogen-friendly environment, but you’re also handicapping your immune system!

What’s the answer? Actually one that has been known for millennia: “hydrotherapy,” in the form of a hot/cold shower. According to naturopathic physician Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, it’s a highly effective way to prepare your body for the temperature shock of stepping outside, while it also boosts your immune system and prevents colds and flu during the winter months.

The principle is simple: to flip back and forth seven times between the hottest water you can tolerate to the coldest water you can tolerate, making the water little hotter and a little colder each time, and making sure that every part of your body gets completely exposed to the temperature with each switch. As you do, you’re boosting your heart rate and circulation, opening up the pores of your skin, boosting elimination of toxins, relieving inflammation, and easing depression.

Sound extreme? Variations of this healing technique have been used in various forms, including around the world since prehistoric times (saunas and sweat lodges are just two of the ancient forms that we still know today). You get thoroughly cooked in the steam, with the help of aromatic medicinal herbs, then go out and roll in snow or jump in an icy lake, then run back shivering to the heat for another round. When it’s all over, you emerge tingling and feeling wonderful!
There are a number of forms of cold-water therapy…and they don’t just promote overall wellness. Tests demonstrate that when you skip the hot-cold switches and immerse in a tub or shower at 10-15 degrees C (50-59 degrees F) for about 24 minutes, you gain all sorts of other health benefits. For starters:

  • slowing down your heart rate and increasing production of the powerful antioxidant glutathione
  • reducing the uric acid that’s associated with gout, hypertension, heart disease, fatty liver, kidney disease and obesity
  • preventing the delayed-onset muscle soreness that shows up one to four days after a workout.
  • helping to increase your body’s metabolism and resistance to cold weather.

There’s another side benefit, too, that’s particularly nice after the holidays: cold water therapy activates your “brown fat” — a type of fat that actually generates heat and burns energy — and fat!
Now, there are a couple of important warnings to consider if you’re planning on trying this powerful wellness tool: first, it’s important to build up your tolerance. Don’t try heroically Polar Bear Plunging into a bathtub full of ice water first thing! If you’re used to steamy-hot showers, try just finishing off one with a cold-water chaser, then build up from that point on. Alternatively, say the doctors at, you could drink 2 cups (500 ml) of ice water first thing every morning, or sit with ice packs on your upper back and upper chest for 30 minutes per day for a few days, before you venture into an icy shower or bath.

Second, as this kind of hydrotherapy opens up your pores and stimulates circulation to expel toxins through your skin, it’s important that your shower or bath isn’t soaking you with chlorine, fluoride, lead, arsenic, or other toxins that are often found in public water! I recommend finding a home water filter that cleans your municipal water where it enters your house. If this isn’t possible, check out your local housewares store or plumber’s supply for a shower head filter that removes chemical, mineral, and bacterial contaminants.

(In fact, I’d recommend water filters even (and especially) if you plan to continue using hot showers and baths, as research has established that heat vaporizes the contaminants in water and sends them into your lungs and throughout your house.)

Oh — and there are a couple of other benefits I almost forgot to mention. If you’re hesitating to try cold-water therapy because cold showers are reputed to reduce sex drive, have no fear: so far from reducing libido, tests show that cold water actually increases testosterone production — thereby making your playtimes very frisky indeed!

Secondly, when I tried out the hot-cold shower for the first time, I felt very invigorated afterwards. The hot water was very relaxing and then when I turned on the cold, I was gasping for breath and squeaking “Oh, oh!” very loudly — then laughing hysterically because I sounded so funny! So now I enjoy getting all the benefits of a good belly laugh on top of the benefits of the hot/ cold water therapy. What a great way to enter the holidays!

Happy bathing!

Tweet: cold water therapy activates your “brown fat” — a type of fat that actually generates heat and burns energy — and fat! #ImmuneBooster Tweet: cold water therapy activates your “brown fat” — a type of fat that actually generates heat and burns energy — and fat! #ImmuneBooster


Introducing The Chakra’s – The Root Chakra

Introducing the Chakras: The Root Chakra
Very often I’m asked — what are the chakras, and why are they important to wellness? The answer goes deep into the ancient knowledge of many cultures…far too much to detail here…but I do want to give the basics in this and the next six posts.
Essentially, the chakras are centers of life force in your energy body that are intimately linked to specific aspects of your mind/body/spirit. Some yogic teachers say that each chakra interacts with one of the seven endocrine glands and with groups or “plexuses” of nerves, arteries and veins.

Each chakra controls the functions associated with one gland or plexus. For this reason, keeping your chakras in balance is an important aspect of maintaining your wellness!

There are seven chakras, affecting every aspect of your being:

  • Root — located in the genital area, governing issues of personal and tribal survival
  • Sacral — located just below the bellybutton, governing feelings and social interaction
  • Solar Plexus — located at stomach level, governing personal power and responsibility
  • Heart — located at the breastbone, governing relationships and emotional intimacy
  • Throat — located just above the thymus, governing communication, honesty, self-expression in relationship
  • Brow — located at the third eye, governing self-realization, intuition and insight
  • Crown — located at the top of the head, governing spirituality and connection with the Divine

Balancing the Root Chakra

First of all, the root chakra is all about survival and the most basic needs: eating, drinking, sleeping, making a living, being safe in the world, having a right to exist! Located in the genital area, it also fuels the sex drive at the most basic level. Appropriately, it’s associated with the color red.chakras19112819_s

When your root chakra is out of balance, you may feel you’re disconnected from the warmth and vitality of life. You may be fatigued or anemic; your immune system may be weak and you may catch contagious diseases easily. You may have low back pain, constipation or other low-GI issues, or issues with your reproductive system. Emotionally, you may feel depressed, angry, or anxious; you may overreact as if simple things threaten your survival. Scarcity is a haunting fear, whether scarcity of food, resources, or money – an unbalanced root chakra weakens your sense of security in the world!

So what can you do about this? In a word — Ground yourself.

Eat Grounding Foods

Nourishing yourself is one of the most grounding things you can do…and there are plenty of foods that specifically nourish the root chakra. They start — not surprisingly — with root vegetables:

  • Parsnip
  • Carrot
  • Turnip
  • Celery root, Celeriac
  • Rutabaga
  • Cassava
  • Parsley root
  • Potatoes
  • Burdock root
  • Sweet potato
  • Yams

Root spices such as ginger and turmeric, and root drinks such as roasted dandelion root tea, help to build your immune system while grounding you.

You’ll also benefit if you eat red roots and fruits, such as:

  • Beets
  • Red peppers
  • Strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Pomegranates
  • Cherries
  • Radishes
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Blood oranges

Surround Yourself with Earthy Fragrance

Smell is our most visceral sense — it connects directly with the most primitive parts of the brain. . So you can ground yourself deeply and instinctually by using organic candles or essential oils with the fragrances of patchouli, myrrh, cedarwood, and vetiver.

Do Grounding Activities

Most important, ground your body in the simplest way — by connecting physically with the Earth (ideally while you’re wearing red!):

  • Sitting on the ground
  • Spreading out a blanket on the ground and having a picnic
  • Dancing barefoot
  • Walking barefoot
  • Sitting or walking in meditation (especially barefoot on the earth)
  • Hugging a tree or putting your back up against a tree
  • Practicing Yoga, qi gong or tai chi( especially outside and barefoot)

Visualize and Tone

Last of all, I want to give you this chakra toning video, featuring visionary artist Lahrinda’s visualizations, coupled with Healing Sounds pioneer Jonathan Goldman’s sounding of the sacred vowel sounds associated with each chakra. Put this on when you are in a quiet place and have the time to focus and tone the vowels yourself for the greatest benefit in balancing and aligning your chakras.

Next up — the passionate sacral chakra!

Give Thanks

Celebrate The Truth of Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you planning for this American holiday? Are you expecting a traditional festival of family, food and fun — or perhaps a day of service at a soup kitchen — or maybe an early holiday shopping expedition? Or are you perhaps expecting a dinner alone, or a day spent at work?

Just like the history of Thanksgiving, the way Americans observe the holiday is a happy myth built around a complex reality.

Many Americans still believe the popular story about grateful Pilgrims celebrating a traditional harvest festival with the Native Americans who had saved their lives. Truth is, however, that historians today question the evidence that that festival actually took place. The first official Thanksgiving holiday was 16 years after the Pilgrims’ first winter, when Massachusetts Bay Governor William Bradford ordered “a day of thanksgiving kept in all the churches for our victories against the Pequots.” The only natives present were those taken captive during the bloody raid that preceded it.

So how can we honor the meaning of the holiday in the midst of all these complexities? Let’s start by looking at the basics:

  • Taking time for reflection and gratitude
  • Giving the gift of yourself
  • Connecting with friends and family
  • Developing rituals for you and or your family

Let’s face it — no matter what you are doing this Thanksgiving, the day and the season that it launches are usually a whirl of activity! So it’s crucial, before anything else, to make sure that you are grounded and centered, physically and spiritually…and gratitude is one of the best ways I know to do so. Whether you take the first moments after you wake up to write a gratitude list, or go for a morning walk to say “thank you” to Spirit, the sun and the earth for another day, or spend meditative time considering the blessings in your life, a quiet time of thankfulness gives a positive light to everything that follows.

Once your day is sparkling with the awareness of blessings, it’s natural to want to share the joy! If you’re not hosting — or attending — a dinner, local soup kitchens are always seeking volunteers on Thanksgiving. Give of your time, energy and service, and you’ll find your soul richly rewarded in return. Or, if you’re hosting a gathering, open your doors to friends and family who are spending the holiday alone, or who have to work.

But how would you serve such a crowd? How to manage the time and money involved in serving up a turkey with all the fixings? Well, that’s the menu of the traditional Normal Rockwell dinner, but there’s no law saying that you need to buy into the mass-marketed, conventional turkeys — or that turkey needs to be the centerpiece of your feast at all! This is a festival of Giving Thanks — and while we are all thankfulfamily-thanksgiving for the food on our tables, certainly, I suspect that we’re even more thankful for the friends and family who give love, support, challenge and fun to our days.

So let’s focus on our loved ones and be creative with the menu! Whether your guests are omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan, kosher or halal, open up the menu and invite everyone to bring their favorite dish. Do a Stone Soup Thanksgiving and invite your guests to contribute one or two ingredients each to a lavish one-pot meal. Who knows, you may wind up creating a new tradition!

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about — being thankful for the blessings we have, right here and now, not what we go into debt to buy? A friend once asked a Native American teacher about the Thanksgiving traditions of his heritage. Gently, the teacher replied, “We make every day an occasion of thanks giving.”

So I invite you to consider: how can you include your family and friends in a sharing of day-to-day gratitude, not just for this day or this season, but all year round? How can you make each day a “thank you” to all of the beings who sustain and bless your life?

As my Thanksgiving gift to you, I’d like to share the traditional Iroquois prayer of thanksgiving… which honors every blessing that every being in creation adds to our lives, and affirms that our hearts are one.