Angie Miller's picture

Hygge -Warm Your World From the Inside Out

I try, I really try, but I don’t love winter. Never have. The short days and grey skies make me feel so blah.  The frigid cold makes my body tight and achy.  I stay indoors more and see my friends and family less. Yes, I load up on vitamin D and sit in front of a sun lamp, but it’s just not enough to cut through the S.A.D. i endure every year.

Then last winter, a dear friend who has listened to me whine and lament year after year- and happens to be one of those crazy people who actually gets excited about the coming of winter- was convinced I could learn to embrace it too if I prepared properly and got into the right mindset.  She gave me this wonderful little book called How to Hygge, The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life.  I think there may be hope..

The Nordic countries have long been recognized as some of the the happiest people in the world.  It’s hard to understand how this could be, considering they have to bear longer, darker, colder winters than we do.  Sounds like a nightmare to me.  But necessity is the mother of invention, and in order to survive and thrive in such an extreme climate, they cultivated the custom of Hygge (hoo-guh) which means, basically, the art of getting cozy. 

Rather than allowing winter to be something dreadful, that is out of our control and simply happens to us, Hygge would suggest that we fully embrace the season- whatever season- with special preparations and traditions.  Following are a few of the ones I found most helpful for winter:

-Create a warm and cozy ambiance in your home for the season.  Bring out the furry throw blankets, and the candles and twinkly lights to brighten up the long nights!  We’re burning gingerbread and pumpkin spice candles throughout the house, so not only does it look warm and inviting, it smells amazing when I walk in the door.  If you don’t have a wood burning fireplace, piñon incense will give your home that campfire smell.

-Indulge a little.  Focus first on simple, natural foods to nourish your body. Cook up a delicious pot of soup or chili.  Then spend some time baking something a little decadent.  It’ll warm up the house and make it smell so inviting...  and then share!

-Get together! It’s so easy to isolate once the weather gets rough, but we need to stay connected to the ones we love.  Have a dinner party, potluck style or invite people over for a board game night.  Rotate houses throughout the season.. Conviviality makes the heart happy.

-Cozy up your wardrobe.  Bring out the wooly socks and sweaters, the puffy coats, hats and scarves.... Make sure your wardrobe has everything you need to stay warm even on the most frigid days.  I know that this seems like common sense, but I took a good look at how I dress myself last winter and realized that i was often a layer or item short and I would end up cold and miserable if I were out for longer than 30 mins.  Pile on the layers and fend off the chill.

-Now that you're dressed warm, get outside!  Take a walk in a park or go ice skating.  Being out in nature has a slew of positive benefits on our bodies and our psyches.  It’s so important to move and stay active, to take in some fresh air and unfiltered sunlight, even during the coldest months.  It may not be lush and green, but the winter landscape has its own special, quiet beauty. My son and I like to identify the animal tracks we find in the snow and name the winter birds we see along our walks in Frick Park.

So go get your Hygge on this year.  Open your heart to the season and warm your world from the inside out.


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Self-Massage with Therapy Balls

Clients often ask me what they can do to maximize and maintain the benefits of their massages in between sessions.  And what to do when they have to travel and miss regularly timed appointments. Self massage with Therapy balls! With your own knowing hands and a couple little rubber balls you can work your way into nearly all of your knots and trigger points.  They're a cheap, handy and portable massage tool.  I use mine all the time and never take a trip without them.

Therapy balls are used to pinpoint a tight or painful spot by positioning them between the achy muscle and a hard surface and then applying pressure.  It's a lot like foam rolling, only the balls enable you to be far more specific and accurate in your aim.  Using the floor as a hard surface allows you to make use of your body weight to go deep and hold for minutes at a time if you wish.  Using a wall requires you to press into the balls and gives you more control of the intensity of the pressure, but it can be a little tricky working against gravity to keep the balls in place.

Once you've chosen a spot on the wall or floor and situated the ball near that knot or tender area, apply some pressure. Explore the area by rolling up, down and across the muscle. When you find that sweet spot, sink in and hold or gently rock back and forth. You want to apply enough pressure so that you feel it, but not enough to make you cringe.  It should "hurt good", so to speak.  If it "hurts bad", lighten up.  You need to be able to relax as much as possible in order to experience release.   It may take a few seconds or up to a few minutes, but once the intensity begins to melt or fade you can move on.

Ball Therapy is best suited for targeting the muscles of the hips, butt and back.  They fit perfectly in the narrow and often knotted paths between the shoulder blades.  If you keep them in their little mesh sack they align perfectly with the long muscles on either side of the spine. They do a great job of finding the trigger points deep in the thick layers of gluteus muscle.  I also like to roll them into the tired soles of my achy runners feet or pin them behind bent knees to work the calf muscles.

If you would like a little live hands on tutorial on how to use home massage tools like the Therapy Balls and foam roller, I'll be teaching an hour long class on Saturday, January 14 at 5pm.  If you can't make it to the class, you can also schedule an extra 15 minutes onto your next massage for a quick and condensed lesson related to your session.

Happy Holidays and be well!

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Tumeric Tonic

I've talked to a number of my clients about the side effect free, natural anti-inflammatory benefits of tumeric, and I'm usually met with the question of "well, how do I take it?" The following is a delicious and refreshing tonic that can be made at home and sipped in the morning or with a meal.

Tumeric is that intensely brilliant yellow-orange herb of the ginger family from tropical South Asia. Its often found as a culinary spice in Indian cuisine and has been widely used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. An active ingredient in Tumeric called curcumin has been the focus of numerous academic studies which have found it to have significant therapeutic anti-inflammatory action and can be beneficial and effective in the treatment of many inflammatory diseases including IBS, stomach ulcers, psoriasis & other skin rashes and Arthritis, among many others.

You can find it in either capsule or loose powder form at Whole Foods or the East End Co-op. If you choose to use the loose powder I would recommend getting it from the bulk herb section of either of those stores rather than as a spice from the baking section for the sake of freshness and potency. There are innumerable recipes that engage Tumeric, especially curries, and you can purchase a variety of teas containing the spice, but as for a tonic to have on hand for daily consumption, the following is one of my favorites:

You will need:
4 cups coconut water
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 lime juiced
1/2 cup ginger thinly sliced
1/4 cup real maple syrup OR honey
4 teaspoons Tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
dash of cayenne and a few mint leaves (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a sealed beverage container and shake vigorously.
Chill and serve in 6oz portions.
I enjoy this most first thing in the morning!

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A Change of Pace

Sometime over this winter I began to have a harder time getting out of bed and starting my day early in the morning.  I felt sluggish and groggy.  My body felt stiff and even a little achy for the first hour or so. It happens every year, when the temperature drops and the daylight fades early, but with some outside stress, this year it was worse than usual.

I decided that I needed to create a morning routine to get me moving.  Something that would get my blood flowing, stimulate digestion, and set an uplifted tone for the day.  It would need to be quick and easy, or its likely I would not embrace it as a habit.  After a little thought and research I came up with these three components:

Hydration: After 8 hours of sleep the body becomes mildly dehydrated.  When I wake up sleepy I'm inclined to make coffee or tea my first consumed fluid, but what the body really needs is water.  Drinking it warm makes it more easily absorbable.  Add half a lemon and a couple slices of ginger and you get the benefit of digestive stimulation and a good dose of vitamin C to boot!

Meditation:  After enjoying my first cup of ginger lemon water, I sit in quiet meditation for just five minutes.  It's more of a contemplation.  This is where I set my intentions for the day and prioritize the chaotic to-do list cluttering my mind.  It always feels like I have a hundred things to accomplish every day, but once I've meditated, or contemplated, on what is most important, I no longer feel overwhelmed and I'm able to tackle more of that list!

Yoga:  Just 10-15 minutes each morning.  I created a little series that targets my tight and achy parts.  Sun salutations are also a great way to wake the body up.  If yoga is unfamiliar to you and you prefer the idea of stretching, we have a great little book called Trail Guide to the Body's Stretch and Strengthen at the center.
Pick out a few that address your tight and achy areas and repeat daily!


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What are Electrolytes?

What are electrolytes and why are they so important?  Basically they are salts- more specifically the ions present in salt.  They are a conducting medium- what our cells use to maintain voltages across their membranes and transmit electrical impulses such as nerve impulses and muscle contractions to other cells.  When your electrolyte levels are deficient you become weak, and might experience muscle spasms and in severe cases even convulsions

Sweating in the summer heat and all the outdoor play can really dehydrate you and deplete your body of valuable electrolytes. Most of the electrolyte replenishing sport drinks on the market are also loaded with undesirable chemicals, refined sugars, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.  For this reason I decided to make one myself that's delicious, easy to assemble, and truly all natural.

4 cups raw coconut water (or filtered water)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 tsp fine Sea salt- Himalayan Pink is loaded with trace minerals

Put all the ingredients in an empty gallon jug, screw the lid on tight and shake it up.
Chill and enjoy!

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