Self-care in the Time of Anger

IMG_3426I’ve been out from under the long winter of discontent I wrote about two weeks ago for a few months now and each day I feel more present. I’m standing, strong and solid. I feel familiar to myself again. What characterized my depression was the disconnect I experienced. I listened to what I was saying in conversations and was shocked by the harsh words coming from my mouth. I observed the choices I made and often asked “why?” I felt the connections with friends and family fraying no matter how hard I tried to hold on. But when that little white pill began to work it’s magic on my brain I was able to reintroduce myself to the woman I knew before I took a walk on the dark side. And I like her.

Chemistry, in the form of that pill, opened the door and let the light back in. But what now? How do I keep that light shining?


We live in curious times. There is anger in the air and in the constant stream of information hitting us via the news we stream, the Facebook posts we read and the Twitter streams we follow. It’s confusing. Frustrating. Exhausting. It’s hurting our health.

And that’s why self-care is a practice that is important for everyone to remember. Especially in this stressful time. Because the better we can take care of ourselves the better we will be able to take care of one another.

Here are ten changes, listed in no particular order, that I’ve put into my own self-care practice. Maybe my ideas will be a springboard for your own vision of what self-care means.
1. Exercise more. It was difficult. I didn’t want to do it. But the thing is, each day I rode my bike to the studio and every time I walked – it became easier. I’ve made it a part of my life (and don’t tell anyone but this morning I actually started jogging).
2. Sleep more. This was difficult, too. There’s always one more item to cross off the to-do list, one more email to write, one more check of social media. But good sleep hygiene – setting a regular bed time and wake-up time – keeps my mind clear and my energy levels high.
3. Play more. I am not the most spontaneous woman in the world. But I’m trying. I’m trying to be less rigid with my schedule and more open to last minute adventures like movies and walks with friends.
4. Eat more. What I mean, of course, is choosing healthy foods and eating more of them. I’ve begun spending more time in the kitchen again (the proof is here). This is a great time of year to be creative with the bright, fresh produce available at the local farmer’s market.
5. Back away from the news. This year has been nerve rattling and I spent the first few months watching the evening news every evening for hours. During the day I would check my phone for breaking headlines at every opportunity. And if I wasn’t looking at the news I was looking at Facebook. To be honest I still do spend a bit of time each day reading posts (self-care is a practice – I’m doing my best). But sometime around March I realized how much of my own life I was missing out on by watching every one else’s.
6. Choose your battles. After November 8th I tried to take it all on. I wanted to march in every march, write a dozen post cards every week, call my representatives every day. I didn’t know why I was fighting, only that I had to. It wasn’t long before battle fatigue defeated me. And now I have one or two pet issues that I focus on. Collectively, we’ll get there, but I have to choose one or two battles at a time.
7. Remember that home is where your heart is, not your office. The truth? Home is where my office is, too. Ben and I both have a little space carved out in our 600 square foot condo. Because where we live is so compact, our office spaces were an ever present reminder. What that meant is that when we at home we were in our brains working and not in our hearts living. A few months ago I pushed some furniture around, ordered some beautiful rattan screens and now when we’re at home we can keep work out of sight (and out of mind).
8. Indulge more. How do I indulge? Sometimes it’s a little piece of English Toffee from Molly Stone’s bulk bins. Sometimes it’s a mani/pedi. Sometimes, when I’m feeling extravagant, it’s a Thai massage. And sometimes it’s a simple as spending an extra hour in bed on a Sunday morning.
9. Touch more. I’m not much of a hugger, but I’m learning. When I was in high school I read an article about the power of touch and how, as our society was becoming more automated, we were losing contact with one another.
10. Love more – your work, your friends, your cat, your self.



Words, Walking and Making Art

One of the best things about my Spiritual Perspectives class are the projects we’re asked to complete. For example, on Tuesday I enjoyedAsh of a Lost Heart a three-hour walk as a meditation on the idea of ‘journey’. Today I began work on my spiritual autobiography. This project can take any form: song, essay, collage. We were asked simply to be authentic and inspired. I’m using the idea of reliquaries. I’m selecting one or two events from each decade of my life and creating an assemblage from found materials, text and photographs. The project is immensely challenging but creatively refreshing. Thinking in terms of symbols and images instead of words is a tonic for my brain.

It’s easy to look back on life and list by rote, “This happened and then that happened.” The challenge is to look back on life, remember the difficult moments and remember the astounding moments, too. And then contemplate how those moments transformed the spirit. Contemplate how those moments made you a better person. I’ve had so many stops and starts on the path – from a “Jesus-freak” in the 1970’s to a wannabe-atheist in the 1990’s. But in the past few years I’ve learned the lesson that so many of us have: that religion and spirituality are two very different things. I’ve learned that our journeys are intensely personal. I’ve learned that there is no one true path and that it’s all right to wander off the trail a bit from time to time.

I thought I’d share a bit of my essay about the walk I took on Tuesday.

Take ShelterThe wonderful thing about walking is that the rhythm of the foot falls become like a meditation. The chatter in the mind stops and the head suddenly has room to consider new ways of seeing. That happened to me around the two-hour mark. I remembered that, unlike all my other walks, this walk was different. This walk was not about non-stop movement. It was about a journey. A journey’s pace ebbs and flows, just like the tide. It slows down and it speeds up. Sometimes it even stops. And that’s what I did.

I stopped. Pedometer be damned I stopped right where I was. I looked across the water. I examined the banked earth for signs of burrowing owls. My eyes followed the small hawk who took off from the grass in front of me clutching her rodent lunch. And I took photographs of the bloated grey clouds blustering over the East Bay hills.

And nothing bad happened.

On our journey it’s fine to stop from time to time. To take it in. To witness from a fresh perspective. Today I was a witness.


Start Where You Are – Building a Home Practice, One Step at a Time

You might think you have no time for yoga outside of your once-a-week studio class.  Think again.  I’ve broken down your yoga practice into three sections – “Wake Up”, “Focus” and “Relax.” The sections correspond to morning, mid-day and evening.  Each should take no more than five to ten minutes.  You don’t have to do every pose listed in the section – choose what resonates and what you have time for.  Choose what feels good.  Stop if it feels bad.  Don’t rush.

These routines are very, very simple and exclude classic standing asanas (we’ll save that for later).  Still, it’s  not for someone brand new to yoga.  You should have enough beginning experience to be familiar with the movements.  Take your time and take care.  And remember to breathe.

Equipment:  Yoga mat, bolster or a firmly rolled blanket, a strap.  Anything else you may need for support.

“Wake Up – The Morning Routine”

 Begin Supine on Floor

Pelvic Rolls:  Inhale the tailbone toward floor; exhale the tailbone toward the ceiling.  You can add arm movements after the fourth or fifth cycle simple by taking the arms up and back on the inhale and bringing them down by your side on the exhale.

Knees to Chest: Alternate one knee at a time, extending the opposite leg.  Hold for several breaths and switch sides two or three times.

Windshield Wipers: Knees are bent and the feet about hip distance apart.  Drop the legs gently from one side to another.

Both Knees to Chest:  Hold the knees toward your chest for a few breaths and then allow the knees to move with the breath.  You’ll find they move away as you breath in.  You can tuck them tighter on the out breath.

Supported Bridge:

  • Place the bolster under the hips – keep the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor
  • Stay in supported bridge for a few breaths
  • Extend the legs along the floor and take the arms behind you if it’s comfortable – if this bothers your lower back return to supported bridge
  • Extend the legs toward the ceiling for a bit of an inversion
  • Bring one foot down at a time

Reclining Twist:

  • Cross the right knee over the left knee
  • Shift your hips to the right a few inches
  • Drop your knees to the left
  • Allow the right shoulder to drift toward the floor
  • Repeat on the other side

Table Top/Hands and Knees

Cat/Cow:  On the in breath lift the tail bone and face; on the out breath tuck the chin and the tailbone.

Downward Facing Dog:

  • Come to table top
  • Walk the hands a hand length forward and take them about shoulder width apart
  • Tuck your toes
  • Inhale the hips up
  • Exhale the heels down toward the mat
  • After five breaths step forward to a standing forward bend and then curl up slowly to a standing position

 Finish with any standing stretches that feel right – your body will know what to do. And then standing breath awareness.  I love “pancaking” both hands over my heart to feel the beat of my heart and the warm of my hands meeting one another.

“Focus for the Afternoon”

We begin seated in a chair

Neck Stretches: Move slowlyand hold each position for several breaths.  ‘Tease’ the stretch a bit to find what I like to call the ‘sweet spot’.

  • Right ear to right shoulder
  • Right ear toward right shoulder blade
  • Right ear toward right armpit
  • Repeat on left side

Chin to chest:  Allow the chin to drop to stretch the back of the neck.  Don’t force the position.

Shoulder Shrug:  Shrug shoulders to earlobes and hold (but don’t forget to breath); count three and then drop the shoulders.  Repeat three or four times.

For Your Ankles and Feet:

  • Cross the right knee over the left
  • Circle  the ankle ten times in each direction
  • Point and flex the foot three or four times
  • Repeat on the left side

Piriformis Stretch:

  • Cross right ankle over left knee
  • Sit close to the edge of the chair
  • Hinge gently from the hip
  • The sensation should be in right hip
  • Repeat on left side

Seated Back Bend:

  • With your hips toward the edge of the chair place your hands on the seat of the chair behind the hips
  • Lift through the sternum
  • Think less about bending the lower back and more about opening the front of the body

Seated Twist:

  • Place your right hand on the left leg, left hand behind left hip, twisting to your left on the exhalation.
  • Breath in – lengthen the torso.
  • Exhale and settle into the twist.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Forward Fold:

  • Sit toward the edge of the chair with your feet wide
  • Allow the spine to round forward until your upper torso is folded forward between your thighs
  • Hold for a few breaths and then inhale and curl up slowly


Standing Stretch with Flat Back:  Use the edge of your desk or the wall.  Stand about three feet away and hinge at the hips.  Let your hands rest on the desk, arms extended and legs perpendicular to the floor.

  • Bend right knee and drop right hip for stretch in left hip
  • Bend left knee and drop left hip for stretch in right hip

A standing stretch with a flat back is a great stretch for any time of day, anywhere. It’s particularly good if you’ve been standing all day – it brings a lightness to the feet and legs.

Wall Stretch:

  • Keep right foot about twelve inches from desk
  • Step left foot back about three feet
  • Hinge at hips, keeping hips level.
  • Allow your hands to rest on the desk or a wall for stability

With the right foot forward this will wake up the right hamstring and left calf.

Repeat on left side.


  • Standing with feet hip distance and the arms by your side, turn the palms out and inhale the arms up.  Extend the fingers toward the ceiling and, if it’s comfortable for your neck, look up between the hands.
  • Turn the palms out and exhale the arms by your side.
  • Repeat three to five times.

Ideally the Focus practice ends with 5-minutes of seated meditation,

quiet reflection or breath awareness.

“Relax Yourself to Sleep”

 Seated on Floor in Easy Cross Legs

Seated Spine Stretch*:

  • Sit in easy cross legs with your hands on your knees.
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale – hollow out the front of the body and round the spine to stretch between the shoulder blades
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling
  • Exhale – fold forward

You can do this for as many cycles as you wish. I suggest beginning with at least three.

Seated Twist*:

  • Bring the right hand to the left knee
  • Place the left hand behind the left hip
  • Inhale – lengthen the torso
  • Exhale – twist to the left

Take a few breaths to move into your full expression of the pose and then settle into the twist for a bit. Avoid “cranking” into the twist by using your arm strength to pull the torso.  Repeat on the other side.

Lateral Stretch*:

  • Place the right hand on the floor next to the hip and then walk the fingers out until you begin to lean to the right.
  • You’ll notice the left hip is lifting from the floor.
  • Inhale – Bring the left arm up and over until it’s arching over the head.
  • Exhale – Press through the heel of the right hand in order to encourage the left hip to move toward the floor
  • Repeat on other side.

Forward Fold:

  • We want this to be as gentle as possible as this practice is supposed to a “winding down from the day” practice.
  • Sit with your legs in front of you, feet and knees slightly apart
  • Place the bolster underneath the knees
  • Round the torso forward
  • If you need to, use your hands to help support the torso but know that this forward fold is heavy and relaxed as opposed to a forced struggle.  Make it as gentle as possible and just trust that the spine is going to become more and more giving with each practice.

Supine on Floor

 Alternate the Knees in the Chest – just like you do in the morning practice

Hamstring/Hip Stretch– TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS!

  • Place a strap at the ball of the right foot.
  • Extend the leg toward the ceiling, opening the back of the knee and stretching through the heel.
  • Extend the left leg along the floor.  Stretch through the heel and point the toes toward the ceiling.
  • Take the strap in the right hand and drop the leg out to the right, rotating from the hip so the toes of the right foot point toward the floor.
  • Continue to work the foot toward the head to stretch the inner thigh.
  • Bring the leg back up and take the strap into the left hand.
  • Drop the leg a few inches toward the left to stretch the outside of the thigh.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Knees to Chest and Windshield Wiper

Rest quietly in Savasana for ten minutes.

I need to thank teacher Kelly McGonigal for the Seated Spine Stretch, Seated Twist and Lateral Stretch in the “Relax Yourself to Sleep” section.  I first learned those movements from her at Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto, California.

Fessin’ Up and Clearing the Decks

My…ahem…tens of readers will know that over the past few months I’ve attempted to take a proactive approach to self-improvement.  Improving one’s ‘Self’ is unique to each individual.  Some folks want to abandon bad habits; others look to be more social.  If you read THIS post or THIS one, you’ll remember that I wanted to let go of my addiction to Hulu.  Having already given my television to Goodwill I had slipped into the bad habit of watching Hulu from bed with the laptop perched on my belly. I hoped the hours formerly spent glued to the boob tube would now be spent reading.  I went so far as to challenge myself to read one book per week.

I also wanted to create a meditation practice.

Now that winter has turned to spring, how am I doing?  Just fine.  Thanks for asking.

It took a bit of negotiation with my psyche and more than a little self-compassion, but I’m doing just fine.

My 21-hours per week television/Hulu addiction is down to about two or three hours per week (unless I’m house sitting – who can ignore a flat screen TV the size of a wall and surround sound???)

Did I read all the books I wanted to read?  No.  But I’m reading.  All the time.  But a little necessity called work prevented me from maintaining the breakneck pace I set for myself.

The meditation practice is blossoming.  Establishing a good habit is a process of repetition.  For several weeks I struggled to remember to practice.  But then the corner was turned and now I miss it when my practice slips.  And it does slip.

Last week was one of those weeks when I fell off the wagon.  Nothing prevented me from enjoying my regular daily mediation except the story I was spinning in my head about being overwhelmed and overworked.  A few days into my lapsed practice a friend turned to me and said, “You haven’t been meditating.”

How could he have noticed?  How could he not have noticed?

I slipped back into regular practice the next day.

We make choices about how we want to live our lives.  We set goals, we plot a course.  We hope.

And then life happens.  Extraordinary, brilliant, tragic, wonderful life.

Sometimes we fall.  Sometimes we need to change course.  But always we pick ourselves back up and head into the wind.  And then we soar.

And that’s how I’m doing.

ps…in my quest to crush my writer’s block I’ve given an old blog a new name:  Your Daily Prompt.  If you’re a writer – even if you’re not – take a look.

Home Sweet Home

House sitting is a little bit like grand parenting (not that I have any experience being a grandparent, but I can imagine).  What I mean is that I move into a home, look after the fine furnishings, the houseplants and the mail.  I lovingly care for the cat, dog, or Koi in question and then – after a few days or a few weeks – I hand it all back.

House sitting is also a bit discombobulating.

Returning home over the weekend after my last extended gig, I believe I felt as disoriented and jet-lagged as the homeowners.  I had grown accustomed to their lovely house, the big kitchen, and the shaded deck where I shared meals with my friend.

It became very comfortable.

And now I’m back in the apartment that I am of course very grateful for but I have to admit – it feels pretty small.  It’s taken me a few days to figure out how to live in the space again.  I can’t remember where my “things” are, and I can’t figure out why I have so much stuff crammed into 200-square-feet.

It’s time to clear the decks.

I want to peel back the layers of detritus – the physical and psychic debris that litters my path and slows the journey.





You Want Me to Breathe Into My WHAT???

Heart and lungs

Image via Wikipedia

“Breathe into your back ribs.”


“Breath into the space around your kidneys.”


“Breathe into your big toe.”

Ok.  Now you’re just trying to be funny.

How many times have you been instructed to take your breath someplace considered physiologically impossible?  Yoga teachers give this instruction all the time, but it sounds pretty dumb, doesn’t it?  Our breath moves into our lungs.  Period.


No one takes the instruction to breathe into the soles of the feet literally.

Do they?

Because, the thing is – I’m one of those yoga instructors.  I’m one of those instructors who will ask you to breathe into places where the breath doesn’t travel.  But I’ve got my reasons.

When I provide the verbal cue to breathe into the back of the ribs I’m instructing my students to bring their awareness to a specific part of the body in a more efficient way than the cue “relax.”

Furthermore, by breathing into the back during a pose like Balasana (child’s pose), the student becomes attuned to the physiology of breathing.  They gain an awareness of the muscles involved.  The lungs may be the workhorse of breath, and the diaphragm our ‘third lung’, but there’s a whole lot more to consider.  Our intercostal muscles, for instance, extend and contract with each breath to move the ribcage.  Our internal obliques work in opposition to the contracting diaphragm.  The gift of breath – the art of breathing – is more than filling the lungs like a balloon.  It is a complex event with an interrelated team of muscles, organs and bones.

So if my verbal cue “breathe into your spine” sounds weird and maybe a bit ‘airy fairy’ – don’t laugh.  Go with it.  Like I said, I have my reasons.

Those Autumn Winds: Supporting Your Immune System

My last cold had me flat on my back for three days, hacking for seven, and speechless with varying degrees of laryngitis for six.  Of course, my last cold was in December of 2009 – so I really shouldn’t complain.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I can go a good year or two before a cold virus will hit me with a wallop.  Most folks will muddle through a cold every three or four months (and if you don’t believe that I’m knocking real hard on some wood right now – guess again!).

Besides good luck and good genes, my good health boils down to my being vigilant.  Not hyper-vigilant, but reasonable.  Especially this time of year.  As the days grow shorter and the weather turns cool we’re apt to spend more time with others indoors. And as we all learned in school, the virus responsible for the common cold is spread through airborne respiratory droplets.  It can remain alive on hard surfaces like countertops and desks for hours.  In other words our comfortable, centrally heated homes are more like oversized Petri dishes.

Ok.  I’m exaggerating.  But only just.

But factor in environments outside of our control like schools, offices and shops it’s a wonder we’re not all walking contagion zones, all red-nosed and dripping.

So what keeps us healthy? Hazmat suits?  Nope. It’s our ever-faithful immune system.

We usually don’t think about our immune system until something goes wrong. But consider this:  We run for cardiovascular health, lift weights to support our skeletal system and eat right to keep things running smoothly in our gastrointestinal tract.  What do we do to support our immune system?

Show Your Immune System Some Love:

Times are tough.  We want to stay healthy without breaking the bank along the way. But how do I figure out what my immune system needs without spending too much money on herbs and supplements?

My approach is to keep things as simple as possible. There are plenty of reasons why the immune system becomes compromised.  My first job, therefore, before I load up on supplements and herbal remedies, is to determine if my lifestyle is putting my immunity in jeopardy. If I want my immune system to defend me against pathogens, then I have to defend my immune system.  To stay healthy I begin with the tried and true – the stuff we’re reminded of each year around this time:

  1. I remember to wash my hands.  Up to 80% of infectious diseases like colds and flu are transmitted by touch. Simple hand washing with warm, soapy water is enough to rid our skin of viruses and bacteria picked up from computer keyboards, the cell phone or doorknobs.  If soap and water are not available an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is effective provided it is at least 60% alcohol.
  2. I do my best to get a good night’s sleep.  Burning the candle at both ends has never worked for me.  My goal each night is seven hours of quality sleep.  To achieve that, I turn off the television, lower the lights, and trade the temptation of Facebook for a soothing story (from a real book with pages!).
  3. I try to reduce stress levels.  I know.  You don’t have to tell me:  easier said than done.  Our spirits cannot match the pace of the 21st century.  But increased stress reduces our body’s ability to produce white blood cells.  And white blood cells fight infection.  So close your eyes and take a few deep yogic breaths.
  4. I watch my diet.  I have a confession to make.  Until recently I didn’t cook.  Most of my meals came from the community refrigerator otherwise known as Whole Foods.  Even then, and more so now that I am meal planning, I read labels.  I look for foods low in sugar.  I purchase locally grown and organic food when possible. And I try to eat seasonally. As we move into autumn my diet is shifting from green salads to roasted root vegetables, soups and stews.  Oh, and I make a point of staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh water and green tea.
  5. I accentuate the positive.  We all know there’s a mind/body connection.  While it’s not always possible to eliminate the negative, research has shown that our immune system functions much better when we are happy and optimistic.

Is That a Tickle I Feel or is That Virus Just Happy to See Me?

Just because I don’t catch too many colds doesn’t mean I’m not prone to the occasional sore throat. As a full-time teacher, I talk.  Incessantly. So when a virus settles on me, it settles in my throat. My throat is the gateway to any pathogen looking for a place to roost.  But the very moment I even suspect a tickle I pull out all the stops to knock that pesky bug flat before it has a chance to do the same to me.  This is what I do:

  1. Salt Water Gargle:  Yes, Virginia, it does work.  A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine enlisted 400 healthy volunteers.  For two months a percentage of subjects gargled with salt water three times per day.  At the end of the study it was determined that those who gargled had a 40% decrease in upper respiratory tract infections.  Furthermore, if they did become ill the salt-water gargle appeared to reduce the intensity of symptoms.  So there.
  2. Echinacea and Zinc Lozenges: My favorite three-dollar roll of lozenges is my go-to product even if there’s a chance the tickle I feel is a figment of my imagination.  I think the jury on Echinacea will always be out – some of us swear by it, some of us swear at it. There is, however, a bit of backbone in the evidence reporting the efficacy of zinc.  Studies indicate that zinc may help reduce the duration and severity of a cold.  The key is to take the lozenges within twenty-four hours of the onset of symptoms.  Like I said at the start, vigilance is key.
  3. Neti Pot or Saline Nasal Irrigation:  Remember when you were little and got “a nose full” at the local pool?  That’s what using a neti pot feels like.  I find it useful at the first sign of a cold as well as toward the end, when my nasal passageway feels done in.  It’s an acquired practice, though. There are folks who swear by their “daily flush.”  I, however, limit its use. Is daily colonic irrigation a good idea?  Probably not.  I rest my case.

The Perfect Storm – When Optimistic Hand Washing isn’t Enough:

At some point, unfortunately, it’s bound to happen.  There’s a deadline at work and a virus making the rounds at your child’s pre-school.  The stress is overwhelming; you’re not paying attention.  You didn’t notice the tickle.  You missed your window of opportunity.  Too bad, because within a day or two it’s not a tickle, it’s a cold. And you’re flat on your back.  What do you do?  Let’s begin with what not to do:

  1. Don’t “push through it.”  It’s not fair to your co-workers and family and it’s not fair to you.  During my last cold I curled up on the couch for three days and watched “ER.” The Clooney years.
  2. Don’t ask for antibiotics unless a doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection.  Remember – a virus causes colds.  Not bacterial.  Why take antibiotics if they’re unnecessary?
  3. But don’t avoid the doctor because you think, “it’s just a cold”.  If your symptoms worsen, if there’s a fever, or even if you just don’t feel “right” – see your doctor.

And in the meantime take plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.

The Bottom Line:

Everyone has their own solution for supporting the immune system and fighting colds.  To prove my point, I asked three people what they could not do without when struggling with low immunity and illness.

Patty, a nurse in Texas said, “2000 milligrams of Vitamin C in powder form. I also mix ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar with 8 ounces of grape juice and take that daily.”  She told me this routine clears sinuses and relieves head colds.  “I also take Vitamin C regularly as part of my routine.”

Sudeepto, a solar physicist in California told me,  “Rest, steam and hot tea with Tulsi, ginger, lime and honey.”  Tulsi – also known as Holy Basil but not to be confused with Thai Basil – is a medicinal herb used in Ayervedic medicine.

Finally David, a medical herbalist in County Donegal, Ireland shared this:  “My three herbs for a strong immune system are Reishi, ginseng and Echinacea. Along with its general ability to strengthen the immune system, Reishi relieves chronic sinusitis. I believe it helps prevent the common cold and flu. I choose Reishi when ginseng is contraindicated – for instance in people who are hypertensive or anxious. In general, however, ginseng is excellent in cases of fatigue and low immune systems. Finally, Echinacea stimulates immunity but does not build immunity.  It’s like the gas pedal on your car.  It only has an effect if there is gas in the engine.  But it’s terrific at stopping infections at their initial stages and good at clearing infections.”

The real bottom line?  There is no cure for the common cold.  It’s a virus that we can do our best to avoid or wait for it’s to run its course if it finds us.  There are, as we’ve seen, lifestyle choices and commercial products that will boost our immune system and alleviate symptoms.  It will take a little exploration, but I’m certain you will find the ones that work for you.

Want More Ideas? 

All three sites offer balanced information on health, wellness, nutrition and fitness.

A version of this blog post originally appeared in Yoga Living Magazine

Breaking News: The World is Not Inside My Computer

Funny thing happened yesterday morning.  The alarm sounded at 6:00.  I hit the snooze button three times (per usual) and then leapt from bed at 6:15 with a song in my heart.  I sprang (yes, I’m a morning person) over to my desk with a skip in my step and opened my laptop with eager anticipation.

And waited…

waited some more…

Where are the bars?  Where are the little black bars?? 

This was the point where panic began to set in.


The Internet had abandoned me.  I was a woman alone on an island with no means of discovering what had happened in the world while I was asleep.  I began to blame myself.  What I had done wrong?  Did I stay up too late last night?  Did a crumb of tabouleh fall between the keys?  Did I forget to pay my bill?  My bill…that’s it…I forgot to pay…

I paced for a bit and considered going back to bed but the kettle was ready to boil and the Tazo Black teabag was in the mug.  I sent a text to a friend – the one with whom I have early morning Facebook chats with when I should be…wait a minute…when I should be writing.



I guess I could write.

Great Caesar’s Ghost what a novel idea!

With a cup of fresh brewed tea and a few notes I managed forty-five minutes of sustained and even somewhat lucid sentence construction.

But then I remembered Pete’s Coffee.  Why, didn’t I drive by a Pete’s (if I took the slightly more circuitous route) on my way to my first client?

I arrived at a curiously empty Pete’s with an hour to spare before the real workday began.  I traded tea for the Coffee of the Day (with room for milk) and sat outside in the gorgeous morning sun, opened my laptop and…

Please enter your access code.

What access code?  WHAT ACCESS CODE???

Yes, I know that all I had to do was step inside and ask.  But then I realized:  it was a beautiful morning, the sun was warm, the coffee was good and I felt alive.  Something about breaking the routine; something about feeling the earth beneath my feet and listening to the commuter traffic one hundred yards away. I felt connected to the world.  A part of something.  Something my morning dip into the Huffington Post and scrolling through two hundred Facebook updates has never managed to do.

I closed my laptop, and then my eyes, and sighed.  It was a good morning.

Dancing with My Heart

Woman at left is painter Suzanne Valadon

Image via Wikipedia

“Open your heart.”

What does he mean, open my heart.  My heart is already open.  Isn’t it?

I would describe it as a modified version of the classic closed-eyed-swaying-amoeba dance from 1967.  I was definitely moving.  I was even managing a steady rhythm although I can’t be certain whether it was to the music flying through the air or the music in my head. All I know is that my body swayed. It might not qualify as ‘dancing’ but I was having fun in my own ‘I’m just fine where I am’ way.

My friend, on the other hand, arced across the room. I watched him shift from the cerebral to the intuitive as he left behind convention and expectations. He moved like a planet abandoning its orbit, half satyr, half nymph.  A shooting star.

He was not alone.  The large studio was filled with men and women giving their bodies like offerings to the music.  There was nothing pre-ordained in how they moved.  It was a pure call and response.

I had yet to pick my feet off the floor or move my arms or walk more than two feet away from the safety of the sturdy wall at the back of the studio. I was happy near the protection of the wall. I was safe and content to continue my swaying amoeba dance.  I figured it was a miracle I was moving at all.

So I don’t know how it happened that I was suddenly in the middle of the room with my friend.  We were spinning and I was trying not to fall over and praying I wouldn’t stomp on his toes.  We whirled around one another, ducked under arms, turned forward and then back again.  A few minutes passed and then he leaned toward me and said,

“Open your heart.”

And when the track ended, my friend moved on and I moved back to the consolation of the wall.

What did he mean – ‘open your heart’?  Wasn’t my heart already open?  Just because he can leap around a room and not care who’s watching and I can’t doesn’t mean my heart isn’t open.

A chance encounter a few days later helped me understand what my friend meant.

I was at the Cal Train Station in San Francisco on Sunday with an hour to kill.  A family with a young boy of about four walked into the station and sat on the bench beside me.  The boy and I made eye contact and I asked him about his souvenir cable car filled with chocolate.  His brown eyes were lit with adventure.  He could not sit still.  He wanted to chase pigeons.  I watched him race back and forth with his dad, arms outstretched, laughing louder and happier on each pass.  His contagious joy echoed through the station. We all smiled as he ran with his shoulders rolled back and his spine arched.

And then I had the “aha moment.”  The little boy chasing pigeons at the train station was doing what my friend had hoped I might do. The boy was running with his heart leading the way.

It wasn’t the mythic heart my friend was imploring me to open.  He knows me well enough to know I have a seeker’s heart. What he wanted was for my body to help my seeking heart on its journey.  My friend simply wanted me to create space in my heart center so the mythic heart would have room to breathe.  Room to grow.  Room to laugh.

So this week I’m making a promise – to give myself space and to move through life just like that little boy at the train station who danced with an open heart.

Margaret’s Brain on Ice

One year ago today it was standing room only in Emancipation Hall on the lower floor of our nation’s capital. I was there, with most of Margaret’s family, to see her receive her Congressional Gold Medal for service as a civilian WASP pilot during World War II. Twelve months later, Margaret and I still meet every other Thursday at 10:00 in the morning for a yoga lesson.   Her body doesn’t move as easily as it did last spring. Her joints ache, especially her shoulders.  Her mind, however, is as sharp and sassy as ever.

Today I suggested icing her shoulder after our workouts.

“But I can’t be fiddling with that stuff – it leaves no time for poetry.”

Her voice was a layered mix of smoke from the ten cigarettes she treats herself to each day and 87-year-old ornery mischief.


“If I’m messing around with those damn ice bags, Mimm, I can’t think of the lines of poetry.”

“You mean having a bag of ice on your shoulder…”

“It muddles my brain, Mimm.”  She laughed and cleared her throat.  “If I’m doing all that ice and heat stuff to keep things moving, well, it’ll move those lines right out of my brain.”

I shook my head in disbelief and began to pack up my equipment.  That’s when she began:

She is as in a field a silken tent

At midday when the sunny summer breeze

Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,

So that in guise it gently sways at ease,

And its supporting central cedar pole,

That is its pinnacle to heavenward

And signifies the sureness of the soul,

Seems to owe naught to any single cord,

But strictly held by none, is loosely bound

By countless silken ties of love and thought

To every thing on earth the compass round,

And only by one’s going slightly taut

In the capriciousness of summer air

Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

“That’s Robert Frost.”

“That’s beautiful, Margaret.”

“How am I supposed to remember that with a bag of ice on my shoulder?”

“I don’t know, Margaret.”

I was all packed but I didn’t want to leave.  I love Margaret.  Sometimes when I arrive and she opens the door she’ll stand for a moment.  Her nearly sightless eyes will look me up and down and she’ll ask,

“What fresh hell is this?”

How could I not love her?

We laugh together.  We solve the world’s problems.  We work on solving mine, too. She does not give me a single inch of leeway.

Today we talked about death.

Margaret taking a look at her Congressional Gold Medal with her magnifier.

“I’m not ready to go yet,” she said.  “I like what’s here, and I don’t know what’s there.”  And then she began to recite Emily Dickinson.

In 1944 this tiny, pixie haired woman flew military aircraft so large she needed two pillows and a packed parachute to reach the rudder.

If Margaret doesn’t want to ice her shoulder because it muddles her brain, she doesn’t have to.