Ease into Spring with a Gentle Cleanse

Written by: Andy Vantrease

Seasonal transitions can be harder on your body than you may think. During the dark, cold days of winter, our immune systems are focused on preserving energy and warding off bacteria that lurks in enclosed spaces. We sleep more, eat more and generally move slower than other times of the year.

As the weather shifts to welcome in Spring, we’re bombarded with pollen, busier schedules and hours of extra sunlight. The pulse of life quickens and energy bursts forth around us as plants, flowers and animals emerge from hibernation. Nature makes it look graceful, but we humans have to take extra care during this transition—and we usually pay for it if we don’t (hello allergies and classic warm-weather colds!).

Ayurveda—the sister-science to Yoga—recommends participating in a gentle cleanse each Spring to shed the stagnant, heavy energy of winter and prepare for brighter, longer days ahead. In addition to asana, pranayama and meditation, it’s helpful to add foods to your diet that can be classified as light, dry and warming. Think: More steamed veggies and soupy broths and less fried foods and heavy dairy products. The goal is to mirror and move with the energy of nature as the seasons change.

For support during this transition, consider a 3-5 day kitchari cleanse to reset your immune system.

What the heck is kitchari?

Kitchari (pronounced kich-uh-ree) is the traditional cleansing food of Ayurveda. It’s a cooked combination of split mung beans or lentils and white basmati rice with plenty of spices. When cleansing, it’s recommended to eat a satisfying portion of kitchari three times per day with no snacks between meals.

Amidst all of the modern diet trends happening today, this might seem like an unusual cleansing food, but it’s actually delicious and efficient for several reasons:

·     It’s a complete protein
·     It’s easy to digest
·     It’s nourishing enough to get you through the day
·     It loosens toxins and helps you flush toxic buildup
·     It’s gentle, which (generally) means less detox symptoms

*Rest as much as possible and be gentle with yourself physically, mentally and emotionally during any cleanse.

Curious? Here’s a simple recipe from Ayurveda.com. Happy Spring!


1 cup basmati rice
1 cup mung dal or split yellow lentils
6 cups (approx.) water (may need to add more as kitchari cooks down)
1/2 to 1 inch ginger root, chopped or grated
1/4 tsp. mineral salt
2 tsp. ghee or coconut oil
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1 and 1/2 cups assorted vegetables (options such as zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato)


Carefully pick over rice and dal to remove any stones. Wash each separately in at least 2 changes of water. Add the 6 cups of water to the rice and dal and cook covered until it becomes soft, about 20 minutes.

While that is cooking, prepare any vegetables that suit your constitution. Cut them into smallish pieces. Add the vegetables to the cooked rice and dal mixture and cook 10 minutes longer.

In a separate saucepan, sauté the seeds in the ghee until they pop. Then add the other spices. Stir together to release the flavors. Stir the sautéed spices into the cooked dal, rice, and vegetable mixture. Add the mineral salt and chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

Winding Down…Yoga For Better Sleep

Written by: Sarah Wnenchak

Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

Calms the mind; releases and stretches the legs; relieves the back

–       Lie flat on the floor with your legs up the wall

–       Your glutes can be a couple inches from the base of the wall or farther from the wall if too intense.

–       You can use a rolled up blanket, block or bolster for extra support under the lower back.

–       Hold for 5-10 minutes


Child’s pose (Balasana)

Calm’s the nervous system; stretches hips, thighs, back, ankles; physically and emotionally grounding

–       Come to a kneeling position on the floor with knees either together or apart

–       Big toes touching

–       Sit back towards your ankles

–       Arms can either be extended in front of you with palms down or by your sides with palms up

–       Forehead comes down to the floor or you can place a block or a rolled up towel underneath of it

–       Hold for 5-10 breaths


Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Relieves stress; stretches inner thighs, groin; hips; stimulates abdominal organs

–       Lie on your back with the bottoms of your feet touching and your knees splayed open

–       If there is discomfort in the hips, you can place blocks or bolsters under your thighs

–       Arm are out wide with palms up (if another arm position is more comfortable, feel free to switch positioning)

–       Hold for 3-5 minutes


Do one or all three of these postures before bed and then move in to the best form of Savasana aka sleep! Happy Dreaming!

A Beautiful Dance

Written by Andy Vantrease

“Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge”. – Dalai Lama

I used to think that being healthy meant never getting sick, having a bottomless reserve of energy and wearing smiles all day. Especially in today’s landscape of social media perfection and pharmaceutical commercials, we’re made to think if we aren’t beaming with happiness or bouncing off the walls, there is something wrong with us. Oh, and here, a pill can fix it all.

Health is not the absence of illness, but the conscious decision to support your body, your mind, your soul – day in and day out. It’s understanding that there will be days when you will cry, eat ice cream and not leave your bed. There will be days when you are so angry that you could scream, drive far away and never look back. There will be days that you are exhausted beyond belief and can’t fathom another minute of work. You don’t know how you will make it through.

But then the sun comes out, and a new sense of self emerges. Perhaps it’s a new moon with endless possibilities, goals and ambitions, or a full moon when you feel the release of energy that is no longer serving your greater good. A day will come when you can’t stop smiling even if you tried, and you will go around shouting, “Can’t rain on my parade!” You’ll have days when you are radiating love and your body feels young and vibrant with no aches and pains.

And guess what? Those feelings will also fade, back into the cycle, around and around. Everything is temporary and we can’t avoid the darkness no matter how we try. It all belongs – beauty, pain, heartache, ecstasy, love, death, rebirth. It all belongs in our lives because we can’t have one without the other.

The trick, as I see it, is to learn to enjoy the dance.

Let go of expectations and know that each moment is a chance to learn something new. Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. You’ll surely trip over your feet many, many times as you’re being spun around and pulled in by different people, experiences and places, all while attempting to remain independent, to find your own rhythm. It’s such a fine line between worlds – staying in your body while simultaneously experiencing everyone and everything. The point is to keep practicing, keep dancing, keep working toward the best version of you.

We’re humans and we’re born with the ability to feel so much (SO MUCH), but we know that pain doesn’t last forever, sickness doesn’t last forever and life in this form doesn’t even last forever. It’s all part of a beautiful dance, and despite what happens, the best thing to do is always come back for one more song.


Yoga Off The Mat

Written by Andy Vantrease

A funny thing happens when you commit to a yoga practice. Yes, the physical benefits are phenomenal and you’ll be sore in places you didn’t know existed prior to your new exercise routine. But, here and now, I’m talking about the kind of yoga that sneaks into your mind ever so quietly and redecorates the whole damn place without ever setting off the alarm.

The shifts are subtle at first and may seem coincidental if each one were to happen in isolation. However, collectively, they’re powerful, and before you know it, you may not even recognize the former furnishings.

As you allow yourself to deepen your practice, you inevitably bring lessons and curiosities off the mat with you. Your decisions are more mindful, and you’re aware of how those decisions affect others. Perhaps you incorporate more whole foods into your diet because your body craves nutrients after a week of challenging classes. Then you’re wondering where those vegetables are grown and who is responsible for planting and sowing them. How do the farmers live and work? Let’s meet them on Sunday at the market. What are their business practices and standards? Do the companies you buy from take care of their employees and care about the environment?

You begin to practice your Pranayama breath work while sitting in traffic, while in a meeting, while studying for final exams. You realize that you hold the key to remaining calm in stressful situations and that a slow, consistent inhale and exhale keeps your fight-or-flight emotions in proper function.

And now that you’re thinking about it, when was the last time you even got road rage or said things you didn’t mean out of anger to someone you love? You no longer sweat the small stuff because compassion has built a sturdy bridge for you to safely cross into the world. Your social anxiety has subsided, and since you’re comfortable in your own skin, you’ve learned to accept others for who they are.

You walk outside and could cry at the beauty of a sunset that a few months ago, you may not have even noticed. Man, this full moon really elevates your energy, and it feels good to be in tune with the cycles of the natural world. Speaking of nature, can we talk about how we’re going to stop the icebergs from melting?

A funny thing happens when you commit to yoga: you begin to care. Like, a lot. About many different things. Your mind can’t help but to expand, with loving-kindness reaching from your heart to all living beings. And although this may seem like as challenging a time as any to have faith in changing the world… we need you. The world needs more yogis, on and off the mat.

Holiday Presence

Holiday Presents Presence

Written by Andy Vantrease

The holiday season usually means preparing for cultural traditions, cooking, gift giving, lighting candles, saying prayers, celebrating history, and spending time with family and friends. However, for many, it’s also a time of high stress due to end-of-year work deadlines, financial burdens, familial relations, and pressure to buy more and more material things that the ads swear will bring joy and happiness.

Consumerism has swept the Western world, and it’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest products this time of year.

I don’t know about you, but when it feels like much of the world is in disrepair, I can’t be convinced that a heated lotion dispenser is really what would make me happy. And at the end of the day, is it really important that you add a 25th scarf to your collection?

Make the holidays about appreciation, gratitude and presence.

*Teach your kids the importance of spending time with their relatives, listening to the wisdom of their grandparents and elders. There’s so much to learn from our ancestors; don’t wait until they’re gone to realize their power.

*Schedule meetings and work responsibilities in advance so you’re not cutting into plans with loved ones. Lead by example & act on your values, showing your friends and family how much they mean to you.

*Turn off the TV. Really! Stop watching commercials featuring families who look a certain way, act a certain way, and make you feel like what you have isn’t enough. It is enough, and it will always be enough. If you have love, you have the perfect family. If you have love, you have all the gifts you need.

*Take a trip together, have a potluck style dinner (and sit at the table without phones), bundle up and go for a trail walk, start a tradition that is based on quality time rather than making the holidays all about presents. Cling to memories, not materials.

*Most importantly, be present. Be present in mind and body during the holidays, with your intentions and your energy pouring into those that need it most. Open your heart to the here and now, because, baby, that’s a greater gift than any tangible toy out there.

Smooth Transitions

Written By: Andy Vantrease

As we transition to autumn, most of us will try to hang on to the summer heat, memories of vacation sunsets, the daily dose of berries and melons, and the freshly caught seafood cuisine. Others look forward to a break from the sticky, humid days and the insects that come as a package deal. Despite your seasonal preference, there’s one thing for certain: Mother Nature is on her own schedule.

In the natural world, autumn means readying for winter, when everything will become darker and quieter for a while. Animals prepare burrows for hibernation, birds round up their flocks and head south, and humans, well, most of us here in the Mid-Atlantic know that we’ll need to get out the scarf collection and remember where we packed our heavy coats. Modern life begs for long working hours and the same commitment to extracurricular events year round. But what if we took a hint from our surrounding earth?

After a season of pool parties, sporting events, summer camps, and saying “yes” to every invitation as an excuse to get out in the sun, our bodies are ready for some down time. This transition phase is an opportunity to review the way you’re living and adjust it to fit your needs as they fluctuate with the forecast.

Use the extended darkness to develop an evening routine for an earlier bedtime (and in turn, an earlier waking hour), don’t bite off more than you can chew – literally and metaphorically speaking – and make time for yourself outside of the necessary daily responsibilities. Buy and prepare local produce, focusing on root vegetables for soups and stews that will ground your airy energy, and drink more warm beverages, especially to start and end your day.

Keep your blinds open and rise earlier with the natural sunlight, nurturing your circadian rhythm and leaving time to relax and gather your thoughts before the To-Do list takes over. Instead of running out into frigid morning air with an ice-cold smoothie in hand, perhaps reach for a warm cup of lemon water to heat your insides, jumpstart your digestive system and begin the cells’ detox process.

Listen to your body as it asks for gentle movement to fire up cold muscles. Practice poses that will internalize your energy as we move from carefree summer to grounded winter: Balasana (Child’s pose) and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) guide your energy inward towards the body, while Savasana (Corpse pose) allows your masses to sink into the earth, finding stability and comfort.

Focus on gliding through this transition phase with awareness. Awareness of the physical changes taking place in the environment around you – the colors of leaves, drop in temperature, length of sunlight, as well as the changes taking place in your own body– dry skin and hair, cold extremities, and a hearty appetite. Notice these changes and nourish them. Be kind to yourself and those around you as you drift smoothly into nature’s next beautiful season.

The Choice Is Yours

Written by : Andy Vantrease

Do you ever stop to wonder how you got to where you are? Not in the sense of, “What am I doing standing here in front of the open refrigerator, again?” But to think about everything that you’ve learned, accomplished, experienced – survived, even – for you to be standing here today.

All the choices you’ve made that have altered your life’s path: choosing one school over another, one city over another, one mate over another. Heck, what you had for breakfast this morning affects how you feel at this moment, even if you don’t realize it. Life is a string of choices that are presented in many ways. Some choices are obvious – opening your closet and picking an outfit, for example, is clearly a choice. Others are subconscious, imbedded deep in our minds, perhaps since we were children: relating specific body shapes with beauty or personalities with acceptable and unacceptable or amount of income with superiority.

As a child, our subconscious mind is like a sponge, absorbing every experience and learning at a rate that only occurs within the first several years after birth. Our model of the world is formed by what we witness, how our role models respond to their lives. If I watched my mother stare in the mirror grunting about needing to lose 10 pounds every day, I remember. If I watch my parents slam doors and refuse honest communication each time there is a disagreement, I remember. If I watch my siblings share with others and be kind to strangers, I remember. In the early years of life, we are constantly observing and filing, until these behaviors become our foundation. We learn how to act when we’re happy, angry, and sad, we learn about work and play, and we set expectations for our capabilities and where we fit in society. Think that sounds like a heavy load for a seven year old?

As we move through life, our perceptions change. We are influenced by movies, TV shows, friends, classes, teachers, nature. The list goes on. We experience stress and heartache and love and community and discrimination and rejection. We are thrown into situations day after day and expected to deal with them, in whatever way we know how. And (spoiler alert) some situations, in fact, most tough situations, don’t come with a how-to Youtube video. At some point in your life, you’ll be faced with adversity. What will you do? How will you react? Will you do as those before you or will you forge new patterns for yourself?

Just because you’ve always done something a certain way does not mean you can’t change your behaviors. If your foundation is unstable, or if along the way you’ve become detached from a strong foundation, reprogramming your subconscious mind towards positive change is possible. Start by practicing new thoughts and actions, with feeling, and repeat this throughout the day as though you are learning a new skill or building a new muscle. Visualize the end result you want and do everything in your power to feel and experience reaching this goal. If you’re in chronic pain, imagine day after day what it would feel like to wake up without the ache in your bones. If you’re not happy with the reflection in the mirror, imagine yourself looking in the mirror and being proud of yourself (notice how I didn’t say, “Imagine losing weight, getting Botox, slathering yourself in product of any kind”).

To the subconscious mind, repetition of a feeling is strong enough to change the foundation. Strip your vocabulary of negative words and phrases such as “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” “not ______ enough,” “too ________.” Own your choices, and don’t succumb to external (or internal) pressures that make you feel inadequate in whatever you’re pursuing. Every choice is the opportunity to move in the direction of your dreams. Believe in yourself, commit to yourself, and love yourself, every damn day, and watch your choices manifest in all the ways you have imagined.