Monday, February 18, 2013

Making Good Face

In yoga it's important to be pure, or at least to lean towards living a pure life. This includes what we put in and on our bodies.  It's amazing how great your body feels, too, when you start living this way and how you start to curb cravings - whether it's food related or product-related. 

After lots of trial and error, lots of listening to my body, and meeting two curly-haired Europeans who are very important to me, I've come up with a routine that works for me. Everyone is different but hopefully this will act as a guide for those seeking.

We've all seen those face wash commercials where the beautiful girl is suds-ing up her face and feels all silky smooth after she pats her skin dry, then applies brand-name moisturizer, all of which is supposed to help prevent acne - help dry out or clear up those dreaded little bumps and wipe away all the oil.  But I learned a long time ago not to trust everything that comes on TV.

Sure, acne surfaces due to skin glands producing too much oil but why do they do this? The more you wash your face and strip your skin of it's natural oils, the more these glands will produce even more oil, clogging your pores.  It's important to allow your natural oils to rule - not brand-name products. 

First of all - if it's not organic or natural - meaning the ingredients in the product are free from added dyes, fragrances and synthetic materials - why on earth would you want to put that on your body?!?!!? You know your skin is porous and that anything you put on it will seep into your body, and therefore your muscles and every cell in your body, right? (remember all that "the hip bone's connected to the - thigh-bone" stuff?) Now I say this, but unfortunately the beauty industry is not regulated so what you think might be "natural" might not be at all.  Ingredient-reading is the best solution.  You probably also don't want to buy products that have been tested on animals - if it's NATURAL you shouldn't need to test it on innocent creatures! This link can provide some good resources for toxin-less information.

My two very special, intelligent, curly-haired European friends - who have never met, by the way - both exclaimed when they saw me washing my face with soap or soapy-type facial cleanser many moons ago, "Why do you wash your face with soap?! That's so bad for your skin!" Noticing their milky soft skin and being frightened to death by their reactions, I vowed to take all of their beauty tips from then on.  They obviously were equipped with a wisdom much greater than I.

I'll start with the night-time routine first.  You should wash the daily grime off your face by choosing a cleansing milk or cleansing lotion of some sort.  Sudsy-type products or any kind of soap typically dry our your skin and you have to put on twice the amount of moisturizer to make up for it.  The more you use dehydrating products, the more your skin searches to find oil to moisturize it (see intro paragraph). I use Aubrey's Vegecol with Aloe Facial Cleansing Lotion for sensitive skin. More about this on make-up removal, below.

You could finish it off with a toner to restore your pH level. There are two types of toners - one with astringent and one without.  Astringents (of which witch hazel is a natural one) has drying properties so in the winter, I tend not to subject my face to such harshness but astringent-based toners are better for those with oily skin.  When I do use them, my go-to is Ragged Robin Herbal Farm - either the Lavender Facial Toner with witchhazel for oily skin or just their Rosewater Toner for normal skin.

In the morning you should only splash warm water on your face.  It's also not a bad idea to end with a splash of cold to close off the pores - which is also a great way to shock yourself awake in the morning.  No soap.  This took a while for me to get used to at first, because I was addicted to that tight crispy clean feeling.  But now that I've been soap-free for over 10 years, I would NEVER go back, as I realize I was completely dehydrating my skin. 

Mascara.  I'm not going to spend much time in this post about makeup - I'm really no expert and since I don't wear it that often, I haven't tested out the ones that might be the healthiest on my skin but I do want to talk about the removal of eye-makeup.  Out of anything that I put on, I tend to use Mascara the most.  If I'm performing in a show, I want my eyes to pop a little more, so on goes the gooey black stuff.  I use Dr. Hauschka Black Volume masacara.  This retails for about $30.  Why do I pay so much for Mascara, you ask? Have you ever gone to bed without removing the stuff and woke up in the morning to find it literally coming out of your sinuses?  Back up to my previous point about not putting toxic products on or in your body.  When you close your eyes at night with makeup on your eyes, you are just inviting those toxins to go directly into your bloodstream.  Have fun hawking up a black phlegm ball in the morning.  Hauschka products are unique in that you can't find 2 stores that sell Hauschka products within like 20 miles of each other.  The store I buy it from also gives a $10 reward if you buy something during the month of your birth.  Since I wear mascara so seldom, I literally go once a year on my birthday, buy the stuff and I'm good to go!

Make-up remover. The above-mentioned face-cleansing lotion is the only stuff I've found, that when applying with a cotton ball to closed eyes, does not irritate or sting my eyes.  Every other product I've used, even if it says, "make-up remover" burns not only my eyes and makes me tear up, but my skin as well, leaving it raw and red.  Find the product that works best for your skin, doesn't make you cry and leaves you feeling soft.

Facial moisturizer. Even when I "wash" with only water in the morning, I still apply a nice moisturizer.  My winter go-to is Indian Meadow Herbals - Love your Face Cream - Made in Maine. This has lots of thick oils including coconut oil and I find that I really need it to keep hydrated in the cold months. 
In the summer, I might use Aubrey's Vegecol with Aloe Moisturizer for sensitive skin.  However, when going outside at all, whether it be for a run or even doing errands, you'll always want some kind of sun-protectant.  For that I use a product by Badger: Damascus Rose with Lavender and Chamomile - Antioxidant Face Sunscreen - Broad spectrum spf 16.

Mask. Once a week or so if you feel like you need a deep moisturizer or if you simply want a deep clean, a mask might be necessary.  Now I'm not talking those typical green or thick white masks you may have seen on commercials either - some of my "masks" literally fade right into your skin and you can't even tell anything is on your face! In fact, one "mask" I have you can actually wear all day, and cover it up with makeup and it just acts as a super-duper moisturizer, but you have to remove it before bed, or else it could clog your pores.  Go to your local Health Food store and ask about masks and talk about your specific skin type.

Body. Again, for the entire body, if you use a product with too many drying chemicals, you'll be scratching your @$$ all day.  My go-to is Nature's Gate Scent-free Moisturizing Lotion, or any Kiss My Face moisturizer will do.  If you want to go Ayurvedic on us, try oil.  Ayurvedic science recommends lightly scrubbing your skin with a loofah, massaging your entire body with some kind of natural oil (coconut or jojoba oils work fine - I always have almond oil on hand since the scent is so mild) and then taking a warm shower.  Massaging with oil before allows the hot steamy water to beat into your skin more and prevents the oil from getting on any clothes or furniture afterwards.

Body Soap. Dr. Brommers Almond or Peppermint Soap.  Sometimes you really do need soap to get rid of dirty bodies.  However, unless you've been rolling around in the mud or as an athlete, sweat constantly every day, you really only need to clean the bits! If my arms and legs aren't dirty, and especially if I just scrubbed with my loofah, there's no need to strip your entire body of its natural oils every time either.  Be careful where you put that Peppermint soap about a wake-up call!

Shampoo & Conditioner. I change up my shampoo and conditioner often so can't recommend anything that I've used consistently.  Again, I tend to go towards natural products with few ingredients.  The less ingredients in my products and food, the better.

There are just a few other tips I'd like to share for great-looking skin.  Meditate. Light will pour out of you and others will wonder why you're glowing all the time.  Cut out smoking - and drinking (too much).  I have observed smokers and drinkers 10 - 20 - 30 years older than me and it's amazing how much their skin has deteriorated compared to non-smokers and drinkers of the same age. Eat plant-based foods, cutting out fat and excessive amounts of sugar.  Why have your body work so hard to get rid of all the toxins in your body when it can just relax if you're eating healthy food?  Finally, for more great tips, you might just want to check out all the advice that Kris Carr wrote in her recent post on Thriving with Cancer. Congrats, Kris!

Healthy washing!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Give Love

Love. Think about it. When you're young, you're jealous if your best friend scores a "first kiss" because you want someone to like you that much.
In high school or college you're upset when your friend "finds someone" because now you have to be alone while they've abandoned you for a partner.
When the first in your "group" gets a ring or gets married or becomes pregnant, you're wondering if you'll soon find "the one."
You know that feeling when you finally get the one - when you finally get the kiss? when you finally get the ring?

You can have this feeling all the time

The thing is - you're made from love.  You were this ball of energy before you were conceived and this energy of love attached itself to a terrestrial body.  We humans struggle inside these bodies our entire lives! You may not even realize you struggle.  Many of us obsess about our external presentation - buying the best makeup, looking in the mirror all day, follow fashion blogs to make sure we're wearing the correct thing - and this can give us the feeling of stress, jealousy and grief.

We always want more money.  We think we'll be happy only if we can buy that shirt we saw on sale because it will make us different and unique!  We'll finally be happy when we get to buy that house. We do all this at the expense of turning inward and looking into ourselves; into our light; into our love.

I happened to quickly see, as I walked by a television the other day, a man with a physical disability.  I stopped and caught just the general feel of his message.  "The only disability in this life is a bad attitude".  As someone who was born with a physical disability he, instead of feeling sorry for himself by comparing himself to all the "normal" beings on the planet, rejoiced in his individuality and found himself happy on his own path.

We all hang on something - our looks; our car; our expensive designer clothes, our partners - why not hang onto love?

The yogis say it's important to celebrate every single moment.  Every moment is precious!  Do you have a toothache at the moment? No? Then celebrate!  Are you out on the street without a warm home? No?  Dance party!

Don't let your ego get in the way and convince you that material things are of any importance.

Because if you don't receive roses this Valentine's Day, or that raise or if you aren't able to go on that vacation or if you miss that sale, you'll always be disappointed.

What if - when your friend got that first kiss - you were happy for them? What if - when your friend receives that diamond - you congratulate them on their relationship and wish them well (and then either educate them that diamonds really have no intrinsic value or silently smile, knowing you won't go into debt over a silly little stone)?

The truth is, the more you give love, the more you become in tuned to that love that is essentially - YOU - and the less you will care about what our culture and media portray as being important. The more you give love (thanks MC!), the more you BECOME love...and the more all beings in your path will feel the love.

So this Valentine's day - don't wish you had someone in your life if you don't.  Don't be sad if you don't receive roses or cards.  And if you are in a relationship, just love your partner unconditionally, just as you (should) love yourself.  Don't wish any changes on him or her, either.  Just see the best in them. Because once you just love it's amazing how people start to feel that energy and change on their own.

<3 Give love - give your love away. <3

Love. Now don't think about it. Feel it. Give it.

[Thank you to all of my spirit leaders, authors, artists, enlightened beings of the yogic tradition who contributed to the inspiration of this blog post. :)]


Friday, February 8, 2013

A Typical Day in the Life of a Yogi in Training (winter)

7:15am My eyes open. My eyes shut. Did I get enough sleep? Eyes open. Don't look at clock yet - it's so far away.  Eyes shut.  On my stomach, I turn my head and body onto my left side. I can reach my phone. 7:15. Eyes shut. I notice, from my slight movements, that my body is sore from yesterday's practice of backbends, handstands and attempt at King Arthur's pose.

Eyes open. I notice more pain in my back. I adjust to the pain.  My eyes adjust to the light. Now on my back, eyes shut.
7:33am Rise from slumber.  I get up, immediately make the bed so it doesn't entice me any more.  I stumble to the door to start the morning bathroom routine.  Warm water is splashed on my face - no soap - never any soap (unless you're washing your face at night with a type of milk-cleansing product or cleansing-lotion - otherwise it dries our your skin). A Rosewater spray (no astringent in the winter for me) is sprayed on to wake me up a little more, then a thick oil-based face cream is applied (thicker - for me - only in winter).  Ahhhh... teeth-brushing, etc. ensues...then I saunter downstairs to get a cup of warm water with lemon to rid my body of toxins and to clean the pathways for meditation.
8:00am Pranayama, Meditation and Yoga.  I go through my 12 minutes of pranayama which includes nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire, nauli or massaging of internal organs, and Surya Bhedan.  It actually took me 15 minutes today because I admit, I was daydreaming of teaching a yoga class outside in really warm weather.
I feel clean and ready to sit in silence!  I focus my attention on my third eye and begin my mantra of "Om mani padme hum" or "Om namah shivaya".  Today I have raised my butt up on a couple folded blankets because I've been having a problem with my feet falling asleep! Today seems to be going well, but then after about 8 minutes or so, the tingling begins.  I try to think about what I've learned through my readings and teachers, trying not to move my body and just keep focus but of course, the squirmish body does what it wants sometimes and I begin to move to get the blood circulating better.  I think I've nailed it and sit for about another 8 minutes. Looks like that's all I've got today folks.  On to the asanas. I'll blame it on the cold. :)
8:30am Start my asana practice.  I begin with some pilates moves, actually, that I have picked up along the way that really seem to release my low back.  I lie on my mat, rolling another mat under my sacrum and perform a bunch of stress-relieving exercises.  I also do a few therapeutic moves to open my chest and release my shoulders.
I then typically begin with cat/cow - more release for the back - and Child's pose while reaching over to the left and right.  
I reverted back to my Ashtanga background for this practice, but with more focused attention on the cues and subtleties of my most recent Alignment-based studies.  I was in the mood for a flow - but a more safe one than I've known in the past - which is what I hope to convey to my students one day.
9:10am Receive a call from my <3 and welcome the interruption.  Not because I wanted to be interrupted, but I had an instant awareness that if someone had called me in the middle of my practice a few years ago, I would have become irritable and angry that my flow was broken.  Today I'm in a better place, knowing that everything happens for a reason, and grateful that I was able to get in a solid hour + practice of mindfulness.
9:50am Today is a cold day. I sit in my armchair with feet up, covered by a mountain of blankets, bowl of hot oatmeal with blueberries, bananas and maple syrup in hands along with a glass of warm lemon water.
10:00am Begin reading Yoganada's version of the Bhagavad Gita.
11:30am Get distracted by a music business phone call - also a welcomed interruption - and then decide to "distract" myself further by going on to facebook to see if I can gather some inspiration from all of the blogs I follow.  I read my daily inspiration from my yoga, food, spirit and news blogs and then decide to write this very blog. :)
12:30pm I get up from my chair and have lunch and make tea.
1:20pm I sit back down and continue reading, sipping my tea and watch the snow fall.

To be honest, from here, the distractions for the rest of the day were pretty endless.  It just so happens that one business call led to another, which led to another, and another, etc., etc., which resulted in about 5 unique and well-paying gigs throughout the spring.  I told myself that this "Typical Day for a yogi" became instead a typical day for a yogi, a musician, an artist, a business-gal and an all-around-multi-passionate-entrepreneur...and I was okay with that. :) Maybe one day I'll write a blog that encompasses all of that.  I'm interested in what my "Typical Day in the Life of a Yogi in Training - spring" post might bring.

Be true to yourself. Welcome interruptions. Continue smiling on your path.
Namaste :)