Bodily pleasures to warm the spirit in winter
When the temperature grows colder, these simple DIY treatments can warm you, body and soul.
BY ALEX ANZALONE – The retreat to a warmer, safer place in winter is more than a physical phenomenon. When it’s cold out, not only our bodies but our energy and attention start to head inward.
Part of staying balanced involves being aware of this shift and adjusting our habits to reflect it. Because we are all inseparable from the rhythms of nature, life is easier when we go with the flow rather than work against it. Self-care, stress reduction, nutrition and touch are all essential to staying balanced, healthy, and happy.
I call the following my Five Hot Winter Health Tips because they warm both the body and the soul. Try whichever ones you like to coax your energy out of hibernation:
Hot Towel Scrub
Fill your sink with hot water (I like to add a drop or two of essential oil, such as lavender or eucalyptus). Soak a medium washcloth in the hot water, wring it out, and while the towel is still hot and steamy, begin to scrub the skin gently until it becomes slightly pink or until each part becomes warm. Do one section of the body at a time. Reheat the towel often by dipping it in the hot water.
How often: Daily, morning and evening, for two to 20 minutes, depending on how much time you have.
The hot towel scrub calms the mind, relieves stress and muscle tension. It has the dual effect of re-energizing in the morning and deeply relaxing at night. Health-wise it allows excess fat, cellulite, mucus and toxins to discharge. It also it activates the lymphatic system, especially when scrubbing underarms and groin. On a spiritual level, this type of ritual helps us connect with our bodies and spreads energy through the chakras. By adding candlelight you can make this a sacred moment in your day.
Touch is a form of nourishment. It is a very healing and natural part of connecting with ourselves and with others. Offer to massage someone close to you and ask that they massage you too. It can be platonic, sensual, or sexual… whatever feels comfortable. Just go with the flow, no experience required.
Light candles and play soothing music to get you into the rhythm. Heat up some massage oil by filling a sink with hot water and letting the massage oil bottle sit in it for five minutes. Before you begin, ask your partner or friend if they have any special requests or areas of tightness that need attention. Check in with them during the massage to ask how you’re doing and whether the pressure is good.
This mini massage rocks. For the five minutes that it takes, the benefits are huge. Take turns. When I do this with friends, it leaves us feeling totally relaxed, loved and pampered! Have your partner or friend sit upright in a chair, and for two to five minutes (whatever you have time for), massage their shoulders and neck, give their arms a gentle squeeze, karate chop their back, and conclude by gently rubbing their back to even out the energy.
Massage relieves stress and tension, enhances immunity by increasing lymph flow, and releases chemicals in your body that promote healing and happiness. Besides simply feeling great, giving or receiving a massage is emotionally healing. It also deepens the connection between you and your friend or partner.
Hot Tea or Soup
Since fall brings cold and dry elements, we want to keep our core warm by having warmer drinks and foods to balance and nourish these effects. Hot fluids help stave off flu and colds and keep our digestion working properly. Or your next trip to the grocery store, stock up on soothing tea (such as ginger, mint, chamomile, green, chai) and soup (my faves are butternut squash, lentil and chicken).
Hearty Root Vegetables
Eating with the seasons maintains our connection with earth’s cycles and keeps us in balance. Plus, foods that are in season and locally grown have the most flavor and nutritional value, and are most affordable. Root vegetables are delicious and often overlooked. They have a grounding, relaxing effect on the body, and are nutritionally very rich.
Examples: carrots, burdock, sweet potato, yam, parsnip, rutabaga, daikon, and beet.
Take time to slow down by doing a five-minute meditation when you wake up and before you go to sleep, or by taking a walk in nature. It doesn’t take much time to receive the benefits of these simple practices.
Meditation: Find a quiet and relaxing place. Light a candle. Put on some relaxing music. Sit upright with your legs crossed or in a chair with your feet on the ground (whatever is most comfortable). Breathe in and out deeply and slowly, focusing on your breath. When you see your mind drifting (which you will), bring it back to the breath. Notice how the air that enters is cool and the air you breathe out is warm, and notice the path of the air as it moves in and out of your lungs.
Walking: Try to be as present as possible. Make a point of noticing the trees, the snow (if you have it), cute little squirrels scurrying by, or whatever is going on in nature around you. Make sure to breathe, feel the air in your lungs, and enjoy this time you have to yourself.
Alex Anzalone is a holistic health coach and natural foods chef who has explored healthy eating and lifestyle habits for the past 18 years. After working as an attorney in New York for four years, she transitioned into a wellness career to share her enthusiasm and commitment to helping others achieve health, happiness and balance in their lives.