Wellness in Winterpeg

Finding affordable winter self-care

Blue Monday, the alleged saddest day of the year (which falls on Jan 16, 2017), is looming. How can Winnipeggers give the cold shoulder to the chilly weather? 

Snowflake Winter Wellness Festival – founded by Rachelle Taylor, president of Prairie Yogi Inc. – might be the answer for some.

“Snowflake is a winter wellness festival with an intention. It’s rooted in self-care,” Taylor says.

Snowflake offers participants restorative and vinyasa yoga sessions in addition to workshops on meditation, feng shui and essential oils. It also has speakeasies, or learning opportunities, for manifesting personal potential and connecting with the divine feminine. 

“We have some really inspiring facilitators offering some really wonderful stuff,” Taylor says.

This is the second festival. Last year’s incarnation brought about 250 participants and 50 staff and volunteers to its Hotel Fort Garry venue.

“In my experience as a human and a yoga instructor, wellness typically is centred a lot in connection,” Taylor says. “The festival is really about connection. It’s about connecting to your body. It’s about connecting to your mind, your creative brain. It’s about connecting to your community.”

Louise Blanchard, Canadian-certified counsellor and founder of Birch Wellness Center, says there’s a particular difficulty in maintaining this sense of connectedness in the winter months. 

“Winter tends to isolate people because you’re just not out and about as much,” she says. “People tend to do that hibernating so there’s loneliness. I think there’s stress and depression that kind of peaks.”

After struggling with anxiety and depression, Jaz Papadopoulos says they have found a sense of wellness in a witchcraft community, largely populated by queer and trans individuals who share a focused spiritual practice and are committed to activism. 

“When I think about magic, I guess it’s probably the same feeling that I used to feel when I was a Christian and just that feeling of depth of connectedness and calmness and feeling the strength of being held by something bigger than yourself,” Papadopoulos says. “Magic is a feeling of that sense of connection.”

What can those on a budget, who cannot afford the festival ticket and do not have mental health care coverage, do to maintain or achieve a sense of wellness in the winter months?

Blanchard says there are publicly funded organizations that offer counselling, including Women’s Health Clinic, Klinic Community Health, Aurora Family Therapy and New Directions, as well as the Crisis Response Centre for those in crisis.

For general self-care, she advocates maintaining a daily routine, despite the shortened days, such as eating well, providing the body with opportunities for movement like going for a walk and prioritizing community. Apps like Headspace and Calm also promote mindfulness and stress reduction.

Papadopoulos suggests movement-based practices like dance or yoga, which can be practiced at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre or Dragon Arts Collective by small donation.

Basking in greenery can go a long way in beating those winter blues. 

“Go to the conservatory at the Assiniboine Park,” Taylor says. “It’s free to enter and it’s green, so when your eyes are starving for some green, the conservatory is a great place.” 

Published in Volume 71, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 12, 2017)

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