5 Invigorating Things to Do to Prepare Your Spirit for the Season of Rebirth

Spring might still be about a month away, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about how you can prepare for spring a few weeks ahead of its arrival.

Spring is the season of rebirth, so you’ll want to focus on rituals that cleanse, detoxify, invigorate, and energize you. After a long and hopefully restful winter, your spirit has had time to rejuvenate itself so it may guide your growth into the next version of yourself.

Try some of the following rituals to help you step into the new season with ease.


1. Deep Clean Your Yoga Mat

Spritzing your yoga mat with an all natural, cleansing yoga mat cleaner after every use is always a good idea, but deep cleaning your mat at least once or twice every new season (or more depending on use) is just as necessary. A clean, bacteria-free mat is just as good for you physically as it is for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Take your mat into the bathtub so you can submerge both sides in water and give it a good scrub down with a gentle brush or washcloth before hanging it out to dry completely for at least a full 24 to 48 hours (making sure to keep it out of direct sunlight).


2. Detox from Sweet, Heavy Winter Foods

In winter, Ayurveda (yoga’s ancient sister science in holistic health) states that we should focus on fuelling our bodies with healthy comfort foods that are sweet, dense, and oily to help combat vata dosha. Come spring, we need to shift our diets to balance the accumulated kapha or else risk bringing that winter hibernation-induced sluggishness into the new season.

Now is the time to start stocking up on foods with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Just before spring's arrival, aim to completely cut out red meat, cooked oils, sugar, dairy, alcohol and caffeine for a temporary detox period (2 to 3 weeks) while favouring green veggies, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, avocados, and lots of water.


3. Spend a Few Minutes a Day Practicing Pranayama

Simple breathing techniques can help clear out mental clutter that you wish to leave behind while also helping to combat seasonal allergies that you might suffer from in the spring.

Sit comfortably in a seated position and inhale naturally or use your ujjayi breath to fill your lungs with air. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale until all the air has escaped from your longs. Do at least 3 to 6 rounds of this every day as meditation before or after your regular yoga practice.


4. Use Essential Oils That Are Energizing, Sweet, Floral, and Herbaceous

It might still a be a little chilly outside to open all the windows, so in the meantime, aromatherapy can help freshen up the air in your home or yoga space. Whether you choose to use a diffuser, make your own room spray, or massage an essential oil of choice into your skin along with a carrier oil is completely up to you.

Eucalyptus is a top choice for its invigorating aromas that can help balance congestion in the sinuses and lungs. Lemon, on the other hand, can help wake you up, brighten your spirits, and help you feel energized.


5. Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Starting your own garden gives you the opportunity to learn a new hobby and get closer to nature well before everything outside blossoms and turns green. Think of it like your own little ceremonial celebration of the new season!

The seeds for most herbs and veggies should be planted about 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date, and while that can vary by region, you can most likely plan to do so in March or April.

4 Ways to Heal Your Crown Chakra by Spending Time in Nature

4 Ways to Heal Your Crown Chakra by Spending Time in Nature

The crown chakra is your gateway to the spiritual realm and your state of oneness with the Universe.

Letting go of your ego is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a balanced and open crown chakra, and what better way to do that than by spending more time in nature?

Nature grounds us when we've become a little too lost in our egos—and this is exactly what we need to be able to move beyond low-consciousness thought and into a higher state of love and purpose.

Here are are five ways to put yourself deeper in touch with nature so that you can regain your footing on the path you need to take toward greater spiritual growth.


1. Trade sitting meditation for a meditative walk through a green or wooded area.

Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit still. Taking your meditation outdoors—even in the winter—is a wonderful way to combine the benefits of physical activity with the therapeutic effects of nature.

As you walk down your chosen path, trail, or sidewalk, focus on your senses like your feet hitting the ground with each step, the coolness of your breath as you breathe in the dry and cold air, the sounds you hear around you, and the sights that you see. Here’s a more detailed step-by-step process on how to do a walking meditation.


2. Find ways to immerse yourself in sunlight.

Thought and light are the two main elements associated with the crown chakra, so getting outside when the sun is shining at its brightest—such as around noon or on clear days—is definitely ideal. Bonus points if you do your walking meditation on a sunny day!

If getting outside isn’t an option because the weather is too cold, you could stay warm inside and try gazing out from a window while letting the sunlight reach your skin.


3. Appreciate the little things that Mother Nature does.

As you walk outside or gaze outside your window, ask yourself, what do I genuinely love about the work of Mother Nature? You might appreciate the way that the snow falls, the way the frost paints unique designs on your windows, or the incredible polar opposites of the seasons—such as the frozen stillness of winter versus the lively activity of summer.

Loving nature exactly how it is can help you connect to deeper parts of yourself, opening the doors to greater self-knowledge and understanding that you are so much more than what you think you might be on the surface.


4. Nurture the plant and animal life around you.

Let your appreciation for nature inspire great actions of love. Whether you choose to hang a bird feeder in your yard, tend to your indoor or outdoor plants, or start preparing a small herb garden for spring, the love you show the environment and wildlife around you will come back to you.

Above all, make sure to perform these actions out of unconditional love rather than by obligation or expectation that it will benefit you in some way. It’s those selfless acts of pure love that will lead you to balance and open your crown chakra—not the beliefs or rules you’ve been taught to follow just so you can get something out of it.

5 Fast & Natural Ways to Get a Winter Energy Boost

5 Fast & Natural Ways to Get a Winter Energy Boost

Whether you’re regularly finding yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning or slumped on the couch at 5 o’clock in the evening, it’s no secret that the winter season has its way of zapping our energy at the most inconvenient times.

Winter is the time of year when Mother Nature pulls all of her energy inward, so it’s not uncommon to feel fatigued or sluggish if you’re not balancing your energy expenditure with enough rest and rejuvenation. If you’re feeling mentally, emotionally, or physically exhausted this winter, it might be time to take a step back and rethink some of the habits and behaviors that are contributing to it.

Unfortunately, not all of us have the resources or time to always get 8 to 9 hours of sleep, eat healthy and home-cooked meals, or practice yoga and meditation for an hour or more every single day. We all lead busy lives, and during the holiday season especially, life can get pretty hectic.

Despite the benefits of taking the time to implement healthy lifestyle practices, a few minutes might be all you really need to get an energy boost. When time and resources are tight, look toward the following healthy tips to leave you feeling energized both mentally and physically.


1. Spend 10 to 20 Minutes Exposing Yourself to Daylight First Thing in the Morning

Research has shown that sunlight exposure in the morning helps regulate the circadian rhythm so that you feel more alert during the day and better prepared for sleep at night. So go ahead and take the dog for a short winter walk, bundle up and take your time getting the mail, or simply stand outside your front door and say a mantra silently to yourself.


2. Take 5 Minutes to Prepare Some Freshly Juiced Fruit or Vegetable Juice

When there’s not much time to cook or eat an elaborately healthy meal, turn to your trusty juicer (or consider investing in one if you don’t have one) to reinvigorate your body. Getting a direct dose of the sugars from fresh fruits and veggies without the fiber to slow digestion makes all their healthy nutrients readily available to your body, feeding and detoxifying your cells simultaneously.


3. Take a Minute to Eat a Healthy Snack High in B Vitamins

Fatigue can be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, so just by changing your diet, you could get a natural energy boost. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal-based foods like meat, fish, and dairy products, but vegetarians and vegans may benefit from a B12 supplement (talk to your doctor about it first) or nutritional yeast that contains B12.


4. Set Aside 10 Minutes to Practice Half Sun Salutations (Ardha Surya Namaskar)

When you’re feeling low on energy, the last thing you probably want to do is a sun salutation. The solution? Half sun salutations! Made of just two poses, mountain pose (Tadasana) is an empowering pose that represents how we present ourselves in the world while standing forward bend (Uttanasana) helps us release internal energy. Practice a few of these to stand tall and wring out what’s not serving you.


5. Take a 7 to 20-Minute Power Nap

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the power of a quick power nap. Just 5 to 10 minutes is enough to boost alertness. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can even have a cup immediately before you nap so that the effects of the caffeine start setting when it’s time to get up. Check out some of the other health benefits of napping in one of our previous Yogi’s Journal posts.

Peace and Seva

Peace and Seva

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi

The sunlight has diminished, the weather is cold, and the holiday season is upon us. December marks a special time of year for celebration and reflection—not just for those of us who practice yoga, but for everybody.

It’s a time to recognize what we have, harness our gratitude, and let it inspire us to give selflessly. The Sanskrit word “seva” encompasses this beautifully.


The Meaning of Seva

“Seva” roughly translates to “selfless service,” or voluntary action taken without any thought or expectation of a reward in return. Although serving others selflessly causes everyone to benefit, it is always performed without any hope or goal of a specific outcome to be experienced by the individual performing it.

In yoga, we move through asanas to transform our physical bodies. However, when we go beyond the mat by performing seva in as part of our way of life, we develop our sense of spirituality in a way that has the power to transform our personalities.

Seva can help us become more aware of bad habits and behaviors that only serve our egos. The more aware we are of our egos, the greater opportunity we have to choose to be able to act and behave in ways that benefit the community and environment as a whole—not just ourselves alone.


Finding Peace in the Season

December is often a busy month for most people, but with a little extra prioritization, we can all take some time out of our hectic schedules to slow down and reconnect with the true nature of reality so that we may feel inspired to perform seva. It’s as simple as waking up 10 minutes earlier or staying up 10 minutes later than usual to go spend some time in solitude.

Staring out the window as the snow falls, going for a winter walk in the quiet and stillness of the woods, sitting down to meditate, journaling about the past year, or taking a warm bath with some calming aromatherapy essential oils are all great ways to reestablish a sense of peace and acceptance of everything as it is in the moment.

It is our sense of peace that will lead us to seva. When we feel at peace with ourselves and the state of reality, we’re much more likely to act in ways that benefit everyone as opposed to getting caught up in our own agendas.


Consciously Choosing Seva

Choosing seva is challenging, but worth it. In a world where we are conditioned right from birth to develop our egos, choosing to put others before ourselves can feel like going against our very own instincts.

This is why it’s important to start small. Hold the door open for a stranger, buy your coworker a coffee, send a personalized video message to a Facebook friend to wish them a happy holiday season, or offer to shovel your elderly neighbour’s driveway for free.

Most importantly, do it because it will make others feel good. You’ll feel good too as a result of making them feel good.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Yogi Surprise!

5 Healthy Comfort Foods to Indulge in This Autumn & Winter

5 Healthy Comfort Foods to Indulge in This Autumn & Winter

The cold weather is here, and nothing feels better than settling in with a hot bowl or plate of your most favorite dish that’s heavy, fatty, and oh-so-satisfying. Well, it's certainly oh-so-satisfying until of course you realize you're so full you can barely move!

Believe it or not, comfort foods can be tweaked so that they’re much less heavy and contain far fewer caloriesthan their full-fat counterparts. Check out some of the healthy comfort food ideas below and suggested recipes to bring warmth and nourishment to your body all throughout the autumn and winter months.


Vegetable soup

Skip the canned soups instead for your stock pot or slow cooker and lots of fresh veggies. Making your own vegetable with vegetable/chicken broth and optional chicken and/or noodles will help you cut down on the sodium content often found in canned varieties.

Try adding veggies like onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, and anything else you think would go lovely in a soup. Here’s a loaded vegetable soup recipe to try if improvising isn’t your thing.


Vegan mac n’ cheese

Whether it’s from a box or homemade, regular mac n’ cheese certainly packs a lot of calories and fat from all that dairy. But making it vegan with a cheese substitute is a much healthier alternative—and it still tastes amazing!

Nutritional yeast is what you’re going to need, along with some almond milk, spelt flour, your pasta of choice and a few more ingredients to pump of the taste. Follow this easy, cheesy vegan mac n cheese recipe to get it just right.


Pita pizzas

You could order a pizza from your favorite pizza place… or you could just break out a few pitas and use them to make your own mini personal pizzas. This way, you have complete control of all the ingredients that you decide to top onto your pizzas.

Pita pizzas mean no dough making and no mess. This five-minute pita pizza recipe uses pocketless pita flatbreads. Best of all, you can make them in a toaster oven if you’d rather skip preheating the big oven.


Baked sweet potato chips

Settling in for a movie night calls for snacks, and chips are often a first choice. But instead of grabbing a bag from the grocery store, why not make your own healthier baked variety from sweet potatoes?

All you need is a mandolin slicer, a bit of olive oil, some kosher salt, and of course a sweet potato. This baked sweet potato chips recipe will show you how to turn that sweet potato into yummy chips in just 20 to 25 minutes.


Veggie lasagna

Lasagna sure is delicious when it’s loaded with ground beef, noodles, and lots of yummy cheese, but you can make a healthier version by at least swapping both the beef and noodles for veggies (and go easy on the cheese, please). Instead of noodles, use zucchini slices!

Veggies like spinach, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions turn this comfort food casserole into something much more nutritious yet still very filling. Take a look at this recipe to make it in your slow cooker!