Saturday, 28 February 2015

Health Wealth

I haven't written anything on here in a while - and I'm sorry! It's been a bit of a crazy month, and so writing's been pushed aside.

I'm afraid I don't have any original content to post (or inflict on you) here today, but instead, I'd just like to share a couple of really, really good links I came across that sum up my feelings of the health world quite well.

I love health and fitness, but, my god, does it drive you inside. Achieving a healthy body is never enough. There is some mythical standard of achievement of health that revolves around a certain type of physique and kale juices. So, this here provides a bit of anthropological perspective: it's all culture. Don't get sucked in. Be health, happy; observe and learn. Do your own damn thing.

Looking Like Money: How Wellness Became the New Luxury Status Symbol

"Green juice is a display of wealth, discipline and responsibility"

And also:

Fitspo Sucks

Yes. This article. Yes.

Fitspo sucks. It reminds you that you are not good enough. That's bullshit. I remember the first time I went round to my friend's (who wanted to lose weight) and saw fitspo pictures in her kitchen. And, you know, I work out a lot and I don't look like that. She'll probably never look like that either. And that's fine. That doesn't mean don't get fit, or healthy, or whatever - but, these are still pictures telling you that you are not good enough; these are pictures holding up a certain standard of beauty - and why? Why do we have to look like that before we're attractive or 'healthy'?

Well, we don't.

So shake off those chains. Be free. Be healthy.

But be your healthy. Be your attractive. Be them, and you're going to look incredible.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Rose Beauty Benefits

I am in love, completely, head over heels in love - with rose.

My love of all things plant-based does not stop at food, but extends to the botanical wonders of  -well, okay, just about everything, but, especially - natural beauty products.

Over the holidays, I was blessed with some natural rose beauty products, and, I have to say, it's a venture into luxury from which I simply refuse to return. It's just too good.

There's something about the scent of rose; expensive, dark, sultry, and enticingly floral; rose does not hold the girlish scent of daisies and frivolous summer flowers. Rose is serious; rose is sensual. 

The botanical power of natural beauty ingredients should not be doubted, either. There's more to the pleasure of seeing an ingredient list I recognise on the packaging for a moisturiser -in our distant and artificial city lives, we can easily forget and disregard the understanding that plants work in profound and wonderful ways.

Curious as to the beauty benefits of rose, I did some research on these beautiful, timeless flowers, only to fall in love with them even more...

To my delight, rose is:

Anti-bacterial: Rose oil or rosewater are wonderful ingredients in a cleanser, face wash, deodorant, hand cream, you name it, because rose is naturally anti-septic and anti-bacterial. In one study (see here), Damascus rose was shown to be anti-bacterial against 15 strains of bacteria. Rose has a long history of use in skincare, and perhaps, instinctively, this is why.

Nourishing and soothing: rose may be a wonderful inhibitor of bacteria, but it's also gentle, anti-inflammatory and soothing for skin (those with trouble skin, rejoice!). Even the Ancient Romans used rose to soothe skin irritations (as well as bathing in baths of rose petals... let's all take a page out of that book). Furthermore, rose has brilliant anti-oxidant properties, and has been used topically in traditional medicines to prevent sunburn. Awesome.

Moisturising: Not only does this flower reduce redness and soothe sensitive, irritated skin (while also cleansing... starting to sound like the perfect product, right?), rose locks in moisture, balancing skin for comfort and suppleness!

And, let's not forget:

You'll smell great. Rose will leave you smelling divine! Damascus Rose is the variety most often used in beauty products and perfumes for its high oil content, and its strong, luxurious and seductive scent. Hell yeah.

And there's more to the scent of rose than that: rose has incredible aromatherapy benefits. While Ayurvedic teachings suggest using rose to calm and soothe, this ancient form of medicine isn't simply folklore to be disregarded. Studies have demonstrated the mental benefits of rose aroma in the treatment of anxiety and depression; in a study that used both lavender and rose essential oils, rose was the most powerful alleviator of depression. Furthermore, applying rose beauty products (perhaps, subconsciously, why I love them so much) can combat stress: In a 2009 study, rose oil applied to the skin produced a relaxation response greater than that of a placebo oil., with the participants who received rose oil showing a greater decrease in breathing rate and blood pressure than the placebo group. (Plants truly are powerful - synthetic rose/placebos in the studies I've come across while researching have all been shown to be redundant. Hail rose!)

Rose is the ultimate luxury - it takes ten thousand petals to produce one ounce of rose oil! 

Fortunately, its potent - and you don't have to (though I recommend it!) splurge on Dr. Hauschka to fill your beauty regime with rose goodness. For your own natural rose beauty, add rose essential oil to your bath to soothe anxiety and uplift mood, and use rosewater on cotton wool to tone, calm and gently cleanse skin. You can also remove eye make-up by mixing rosewater and coconut oil -  with it's moisturising and anti-oxidant properties, you'll surely keep your eyes looking young with this mixture!

So, treat yourself to some rose beauty products. And treat yourself to some roses, too. (No need to wait for someone to buy them for you! Did you know that, according to studies, seeing flowers increases mental sharpness and positive mood while decreasing anxiety and depression? Fill your home with them!)

So choose rose, for beauty and health.

‘Rose is the only thing you can take with you when you die because it’s not of this world.’ - Old Iranian saying...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Domino Effect

Have you noticed how that a lot of people who exercise/eat healthy are also just decent people?

I don't believe this is a phenomenon unique to the yoga world, where there's a good deal of karma-consciousness. For instance, look at this post on celebrity personal trainer Jillian Michaels:

The weight lifting, protein shake drinking, tough-stuff Jillian always keeps spare socks and blankets in her car for homeless people she encounters around LA. Who do you know who does that?

I read something recently in an Elephant Journal Post, 5 Life Changing Lessons From Ayurveda:

"In a more general sense, negativity begets negativity—the downward spiral of addictions of all kinds is a powerful example of samanya vishesha in action. Fortunately, the converse is also true. The more I implement positive choices in my life, the more positive choices I am able implement. Reflecting on the principle of like increases like inspires me to continue to make positive choices in each moment of my existence."

This is so true.

Exercise creates a domino effect in your life of positive changes, transforming your life and being for the better. As Tara Stiles puts it, you become a space maker; you create space in your life by practising ease of movement.

For instance, say you start doing 20 minutes -  just 20 minutes of yoga - first thing in the morning, everyday.

From those 20 minutes, your physique and mind becomes stronger, your lungs work better, you become healthier, calmer, more productive. Perhaps you lose a bit of body fat, lower your blood pressure, fit into those jeans a little nicer. After this short burst of positive movement, you probably start to eat a little better; become concerned with nourishment rather than punishment. You feel great. You look great. You have space. In return, you are happier.

Happiness affects other people. We should all strive for self-care, for the positive effect it has on others. This is not selfish.

This is being a good person, and living life fully.

This is the domino effect of wellness and goodness from one small, 20 minute dedication to positive movement.

And then we have something else. It goes like this:

You need something grounding and comforting. You choose pizza; a big ol' greasy, cheesy, refined flour pizza, maybe with meat and extra cheese, maybe not; at this point, it doesn't really matter.

You start eating it, and it sort becomes hard to stop. You feel full, and satisfied and grounded; you get a rush of dopamine from all that stodgy, oily food. It's nice, but you feel a bit too heavy, you know, a bit too sluggish, and all you want to do is sit in front of the TV and not move.

Yeah, I'm sure all of us have been there at some point. Maybe you never left.

But, you see, it doesn't really fill you up. You could probably do with something sweet after all that salty, fatty cheese. Or maybe you just have a taste for more dense, junky foods; that dopamine hit isn't as good the next time round; you need it sooner, sweeter, greasier, bigger, more...

So, this becomes a regular occurrence. You become tired, and bloated. You don't want to move. Your trousers feel a little tighter, you're retaining a little water; your skin gets a sheen like it's assimilating oil, rather than youthful glow and your face looks puffy and tired. You're moody and irritable, and, you're finding it very, very hard to help yourself.

You feel like shit. You look like shit.
(This doesn't happen to people in sitcoms on TV does it, when they eat junk food?)

This, my friend, is the Domino's effect.

Tell me, which do you choose?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Purple is the New Green

Have you heard yet? Purple is the new green!

Okay, if you're going, 'Wait. What?', or, 'I don't like either of those colours - when were they ever in?', or perhaps, 'is that, like, a really bad spin off?' , then, hear me out.

I'm not talking about fashion. Or Netflix.

I'm talking about food.

Of course!
Green has taken the health food world by storm. Green is sexy. The whole world is in love with leafy greens and green juices and green salads, green anything, (especially if it has kale in it. Hell yeah, kale!)

But, it's easy to get swept up the green-fever and forget about the whole spectrum of plant foods out there. I adore greens; I simply can't eat enough of them!

But, something new, something brilliant has come to my attention:

Purple fruits and vegetables.

These beauties of the vegetable world owe their health benefits to anthocyanins, the powerful flavonoids that give these gems their dark, intense colour.

Anthocyanins are have a supreme ability to reduce oxidative damage to our cells (thus reducing ageing and disease). In one study, anthocyanins were demonstrated to have the strongest antioxidant power out of 150 flavonoids!

Need some proof? In Dr. Greger's Superfood Bargains, purple cabbage, the ruby of the cabbage world, was shown to have the hughest anti-oxidant power out of a range of superfoods tested - plus, they were the cheapest!

Also, take a look at how purple pigments transforms the nutritional profile of potatoes here: Nutrition Facts: The Healthiest Potato, and, get the low-down on the science of anthocyanins with Talia Fuhrman: Rock Your Anthocyanins in Your Diet (simply gorgeous).

So, why should we be concerned about eating an abundance of antioxidants in our diet?

Dr, Greger explains it in this concise article (Nutrition Facts: Add Beans, Berries and Greens to More Meals):
"After we eat, our bodies create free radicals in the process of breaking down our food. That’s why we need to eat antioxidant-rich foods with every meal to counteract this oxidation caused by metabolism (...)  If we don’t consume high-antioxidant plants with breakfast, by lunch we’ll already be in oxidative debt. Let’s say we ate a standard American breakfast at 6 a.m. If we didn’t eat that cup of strawberries with breakfast, by the time lunch rolls around we’d already be starting out in the hyper-oxidized state, and lunch could just make things worse. Since western eating patterns include eating multiple meals a day, including snacks, one can only speculate on the level of biological unrest (...)  Over time, however, these daily insults can lead to problems such as heart disease, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths a year."
Oxidation causes disease and premature ageing, and, if you live by a standard Western diet, you are pretty much in oxidative stress for most of the time. No wonder we're getting sick and look like crap.

So how can we counter act this?

By eating delicious, nutritious anti-oxidant rich plant food!

And, which plants contain antioxidants that are extremely potent at fighting this disease and ageing causing oxidative-stress....

Purple ones! Blueberries. Purple cabbage. Aubergine. Red kale. Purple broccoli... you can get these in your local supermarket, cheaply, easily, fresh, frozen... fabulous.
Whole plant foods are far more powerful than their individual chemical components. We shouldn't simply isolate and focus; BUT, in this age of abundance and choice of healthy foods, and with the power of scientific knowledge, we can make concious, well informed decisions about what we put into our bodies - to our power and immense benefit.

Ultimately, cut out the sugar laden, refined, processed foods and animal products, and eat whole plant foods, and you'll really put oxidative stress in it's place...

...keep it up and through the slow, long process of time,  your heavy smoking, soda drinking, dairy eating friends won't be able to keep up with your fresh, healthy, youthful glow (or healthful body).

It's not the Fountain of Youth, it's the Garden of Youth, you see.

(Need a bit more convincing about the magical anti-ageing properties of plants? Check out: Nutrition Facts: The Anti-Wrinkle Diet. Spoiler alert: plants are anti-ageing due to antioxidant properties, processed foods and animal products are not...)

There's an incredible array of plant foods out there. A whole rainbow. I like to picture it on a bed of green, with earthy, muted tones ranging to incredible violently violet hues. They're all good. They're all powerful. Fresh, picked straight from the earth, these fruits and nuts and leaves are  more valuable than the rarest, most precious stones. Diamonds and sapphires may be beautiful, but plants keep us well; they keep our bodies happy and healthy, our skin glowing, our minds alert.

But, just remember, a little purple now and then, and you can really step up your antioxidant game.

So, eat your greens.

And eat your purples, too.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Why you should date a yoga girl...

Today, in the supermarket, I overheard a conversation between two sales assistants, complaining and rolling their eyes over their mutual health food obsessed, yoga loving friend.

Sound familiar?

You know, we're actually pretty awesome.

Before you roll your eyes while they order a side of kale or rave about the benefits of down dog, check out this article on why you should date a yoga girl. (Even if it is just a friend date, there's a whole other world out there to discover and open yourself up to... we're pretty passionate about it for a reason!)

What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Are You Perfect Yet?

I've been making a vow to myself to practice yoga more; to reap the mental and physical benefits; to build a strong, aesthetically pleasing body from passion over movement, rather than jumping and lifting and forcing my body into a particular shape as defined by work out videos or fitness magazines. 

This is easier said than done. I, like you, I'm sure, want to look attractive and be at my physical best. There's nothing wrong with that; I'm all for enhancing attractiveness (if this is a goal you care about, as I do). But, when we're scrutinising our bodies, wondering why that stubborn area of fat won't shift, or why your waist isn't this size or your ass that shape, stop and think about where that insecurity is coming from.

If you take care of yourself through diet and exercise, the chances are that you are already a wonderful, healthy and attractive version of yourself.  

How did health and beauty become such a narrow, ego-tripping category? Why do we limit ourselves to such constrained definitions, when beauty is, in fact, so gloriously varied? 

And, crucially, why are we plagued by these insecurities, and what do they mean? 

Well, this:

Those body hang ups of yours are nothing. They should be meaningless, if you are healthy (as in, you eat well and move well) and your body allows you to experience the things you love in life. (Or, perhaps your body isn't healthy, but is doing its damned best to be; that power, and how you care for it in that time, should also leave you body-hang up free. It's trying to do something amazing and keep you experiencing this planet, and that's beautiful, right?)

It's this culture of sexual objectification that has us trying to jump through hoops to fit something that was never intended to benefit us. 

I love beauty, I love health. I love eating so that my skin glows and my hair is thick, and moving so that I can create strong legs and a strong core. I'm not denouncing that. I'm denouncing those narrow standards that are the reason your best friend, who is so gorgeous already, looks in the mirror and says, 'not enough!'.

I think we could all do with a little more awareness as we move around the world with the ways in which we are manipulated to think about our own bodies, our own self value, and those of others...
We create our own bodies through our diet and exercise choices, but, we should work with them (our bodies), not against them. 

... so here's to a little self-love and appreciation. 

What amazing, simple, complicated, beautiful things did you experience through your body today?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Crashing Through Chaos.

The internet blows my mind. It truly does. It opens up new worlds, connects people, spawns new subcultures and provides expansion in unprecedented ways.

The internet has transformed my health, providing me with daily yoga sessions and cutting edge nutritional research and trends. But it also breeds extreme, and standards of behaviour that are not, despite what they blazon, healthy.

And so, with great strength, we have to seek a gentler balance from within ourselves. We have to centre. We need this, our souls need this.

"You don't have a soul,

You are a soul, 

That has a body".

I've definitely been feeling imbalanced lately, but am slowly drawing myself back to a strong centre. There are some days at work, though, fighting against the grain of small town minds, when my yogic outlook is less accepting of others and more: 

But despite those days, I know that they are impermanent, and the choice to be mindful remains. As Patanjali, the ancient father of yoga said: developing inner happiness is a long term process, that needs persistence; with yoga and meditation (and, I hasten to say, in this day and age, choosing the media you surround yourself with wisely) you can create an inner peace that crashes through the chaos of the outside world. (Yes PLEASE!)

Yeah. It's takes practice. It takes work. And I love that, the focus that draws me in, seeking meaning in life through being. This is life. We can shift our perspective, rather than get washed away with the waves life sends our way. You can't be on a 'high' all the time, but can cultivate behaviours that promote inner bliss; a calm, strong, positive outlook can be your default. 

Having recently discovered Ali Kamenova's wealth of free online power yoga practices, I've got something new to focus on, and a new motivation to work at inner and outer strength and balance (I find the two complement each other beautifully).

(Try these if you want yoga that's STRONG... )

It's all about balance.. when you fall out of Warrior III, what do you do? Do you give up? Or get back into balance? If you sway uncertainly in Dancer, do you try to compensate in the other direction, stabilising your core further to draw yourself back and 'dance' on your foot with the movement of your body? Or just let yourself fall? 

When you get knocked off course, seek those influences that realign and inspire your inner calm and strength. They are the core foundations for balancing of your mind.  

The internet can give you crazy, but it can also give you zen like you never knew possible. Browse wisely, think critically.


(Just namaste.)