On Sunday afternoon, thirty Well+Good readers convened for a special workshop devoted to fighting the winter blues (aka holiday shopping disorder). With the winter solstice nearing, and temperature dipping below freezing, we all needed to some inner sugar and spice.
YogaWorks instructor Heather Seagraves created a special off-menu December class for the occasion. For the first forty-five minutes, she led us through creative body-warming vinyasas that used the wall to deepen our down dogs (check out the down dog on block stilettos!) The second half of class we got cozy with the Iyengar wall (one of the few in NYC), doing inversions with an assist from the belts and ropes.
After class, Sebastian Beckwith, founder of In Pursuit of Tea and one of the world’s ranking authorities on tea, led a tasting, along with a short talk on creating your own tea ritual. We’ve reprinted below one of the resources he shared. It’s called “An Exercise in Cultivating Mindfulness” and it’s advice on creating a tea ritual from Pamela Yee, MD of NYC’s The Continuum Center for Health and Healing.
Before heading back out into the Sunday evening chill, everyone mingled in the gorgeous Clodaugh-designed space (YogaWorks feels more spa than studio and we love that about it), sipping Beckwith’s teas. To continue the warming ritual at home, attendees received Naturopathica bath oils.
An Exercise in Cultivating Mindfulness
Pamela Yee, MD, The Continuum Center for Health and Healing, New York, NY
Loose tea leaves
Open tea strainer
Your presence and commitment
Approx 10-15 minutes
This simple exercise can be fit in anytime in your schedule no matter how busy or hectic it may be. Over time, it will have positive cumulative effects on your mood, health and even productivity in all areas of your life.
Find a time in your day where you can find 15 minutes of time in preferably a quiet area either at work or home. During this time, it is gently suggested that you do nothing else, e.g. no multitasking in any form, no reading, doing dishes, writing, talking on the phone etc., and that you simply engage in this one activity.
1. Start by placing a strainer with tea leaves in a cup. Begin heating some water and find a comfortable place to sit and wait for it to come almost to a boil.
During this time, you may notice that your mind is urging you to do this or that while you wait, or you may have scenarios running through it, or it may be just chattering away with ideas, emotions, or images. This is a common experience to all. Simply sit there and be aware of the thoughts. It is also common that when one becomes aware of the incessant thoughts, the mind will begin to label these thoughts as “bad,” or, more commonly, that your mind will cause you to think you are a “failure” because you can’t seem quiet your mind. In fact, it is just the opposite! Recognizing through awareness at how your mind runs and makes judgments is the crucial step in cultivating mindfulness.
2. Now pour the hot water into the cup, bring this cup with you and sit down quietly. Just wait there while the tea brews for a few minutes (you may want to set a timer, if you’d like) and observe just how the steam rises and how each tea leaf begins to unfold.
Again, during this time, if your mind wanders, which is natural for most people, just take note of it, and bring your attention back to the tea. It is likely you may have to bring your attention back 30-100 times in a few minutes. If this happens, you are cultivating mindfulness!
3. When you’re ready, remove the strainer and enjoy. If you’re just beginning these exercises, you may drink your tea while proceeding to do whatever work you were previously engaged in. But, over time as this becomes routine, you may find that you have an additional 5-10 minutes to actually sit, drink, and enjoy your tea while engaging in nothing else all while cultivating present moment awareness.