She’s here! Our second magical child, Sloane, was born on August 27th, and our family truly feels complete. (Never say never though!)
I haven’t been blogging a lot (or really at all) in the last year, because a ton has been going on in my personal life, both good and bad, but the best news is that we’ll be welcoming a new baby into our family in September! We’re so excited, and I’ve been feeling generally pretty great (or maybe just good) and I’m continuing to teach through August. I hope to see you on your mats, and in the meantime, check out some of our beautiful family photos taken by the lovely, Victoria Gloria, whom I highly recommend if you’re in the Tri-state/New England area!
Self-care is so important, and a lot of the time when we think of living a healthy lifestyle, we think about eating the right foods and exercising. Of course eating healthy foods and staying active are both super important, but so is what we put into the biggest organ in our bodies, our skin. Skincare is often seen as superficial, but it really is a matter of health. Taking care of your skin and being mindful about skincare ingredients is essential. That said, everything “natural” isn’t necessarily good for you, and everything chemical isn’t always harmful. Sometimes it’s hard to navigate through all of the tons of ingredients jammed into every single product, which is why I choose to use products with minimal ingredients that actually each do something positive for your skin, no added fragrances or fillers. It’s possible to find safe AND effective products, and here are some of my favorites.
Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser - Exfoliating is necessary in any skincare regimen. You can’t moisturize dead skin, so you have to remove it. This cleanser exfoliates with tiny grains of apricot seed shells, but is still gentle enough so as not to create micro-tears in the skin where bacteria can grow. I use this cleanser morning and night.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask - I use this mask once a week when I need some extra exfoliating. The natural fruit enzymes go to work breaking down all your dead skin cells. Plus, the mask goes on clear, so you don’t have to worry about looking like a monster if someone happens to ring your doorbell during your skincare routine!
Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence - I use this after cleansing as a toner to get anything my cleanser may have missed, but it’s also great for whenever you need an extra spritz of moisture or for setting makeup.
Indie Lee Swiss Apple Facial Serum - Your serum is your most important step in your skincare regimen. It’s the most concentrated product, penetrates the deepest, and does the most work. It’s your problem solver. I have a few dark spots and scarring from old acne that I used to pick at (don’t pick at your skin! Take it from me!), and this serum helps to even out that hyper pigmentation. It also has anti-aging properties, which anyone can really use after the age of 27 as a preventative measure!
Farmaesthetics Eyebright - This eye treatment is a 3-in-1. It removes makeup, softens fine lines and reduces inflammation, and the grapeseed oil helps relax the ocular nerve at the end of a long day when the eyes have been strained.
Alba Botanica Natural Even Advanced Moisturizer with SPF 15 - This lightweight moisturizer hydrates the skin while also providing sun protection. Amassing all of these products can definitely set you back a few bucks, but if you only invest in two skincare products, I would get a serum and a sunscreen!
Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar Soap - Charcoal draws impurities from deep within your pores for a clean like no other. This bar smells great, too, and works wonders on skin that is blemish prone. It can be used on both your face and body.
RICA Butter All Over - This body moisturizer is SO RICH but still somehow light and fluffy. It absorbs immediately into your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling sticky. I like to put some on the ends of my hair, throw it up in a bun, go to a hot yoga class, and then after I come home and shower, my hair is unbelievably soft. It’s safe to use on baby skin, too!
Obviously, everyone needs sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but as with everything else in a person’s life, the amount of sleep needed varies from person to person. We all have our own individual experiences and need to find out what works best for ourselves. For me, I need at least 8 hours. I always have. When I was little and would have sleepovers at friends’ houses, and we would stay up late, I would always get sick the next day. I would run a fever and be out of commission for a week. As an adult, I’m the same way. If I don’t get a full night’s sleep, I feel just terrible. I’m learning that I really need to make sure that I exercise during the day and that I don’t spend time on my phone or computer right before bed to get my best sleep.
The only exception to my needing this much sleep was when my son (now 14 months) was a newborn. Parents of newborns never sleep, but we had an especially difficult experience because Hank was born a month early, and as a result, he slept all the time because he wasn’t quite ready to be out of the womb, to the point where he wouldn’t wake up if he was hungry. His doctor said that he would literally sleep himself to death if we didn’t set an alarm during the night for every two hours to wake him up and feed him. I felt like I was torturing this poor baby every time we had to wake him. We would strip him down to his diaper and have to run a cold washcloth along his tiny body to jolt him awake because nothing else worked. I would try and nurse him for 15 minutes to a half hour, but he would be too sleepy and weak to latch, so then I would feed him a bottle of pumped milk since it was easier for him to drink from a bottle. Then I would have to burp him, pump again and then wash the bottles and pump pieces, and by the time all of that was done, it was almost time to repeat the whole process again!
For some reason, during this two-month period, I was still okay with barely any sleep. I think my brain and body just new that I couldn’t afford to get sick and shut down because my baby needed me, and I find that so amazing. I definitely want to have another baby eventually, and I’m really scared of many aspects of having two children, lack of sleep included, but I think it’s so cool that when we really need them to, our bodies find strength and step up. This is something I’ve learned through practicing yoga. I’ve learned to be honest with myself about what I need mentally and physically, and I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger than I think.
Although there are currently many treatments for depression and anxiety disorders available, including psychotherapy and medication, many people continue to suffer from harmful symptoms as well as relapse. Yoga can be an effective supplemental treatment in addition to antidepressants and therapy because of yoga’s different beneficial limbs. Specifically, asana (postures and movement), pranayama (breathing techniques), and dhyana (contemplation or meditation) tend to be the most helpful of the eight limbs. All three of these steps in a yoga practice can be used to cope with depression and anxiety symptoms in different ways.
Both depression and anxiety manifest themselves physically, and the practice of yoga’s asanas, or poses, can alleviate some of these physical symptoms. An anxious person would benefit from calming poses like balasana (child’s pose) or an inversion like sarvangasana (shoulder stand) where the brain is flooded by freshly oxygenated blood, refreshing and calming the brain. Someone who is depressed might curl in on him/herself and have hunched shoulders. Heart opening postures like backbends or shoulder openers like adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog) can counteract this curve in the neck and back. The physical contact from a teacher’s adjustments can also be very comforting to a depressed person. A good teacher can read their student’s body language to assess what he or she may need.
Everyone’s yoga practice is personal. Each pose called out by a teacher is just a suggestion. No one is made to do anything, and there are modifications for every posture to accommodate various physical abilities. There is a focus on reaching your own fullest expression of each pose, your own potential. There is nothing to cure or “fix” as there might be in other forms of treatment. This approach can be empowering to those who feel helpless or broken.
Imaging studies have shown that yoga can increase dopamine release in the reward system of the brain, as well as an increase in plasma serotonin, melatonin, and gamma-aminobutyric-acid levels. It is thought that these transmitters can promote positive emotions and a feeling of wellbeing, while also decreasing negative emotions. Yoga can also decrease levels of cortisol, which triggers the brain’s stress response.
From a fitness perspective, yoga can also decrease depression because it shifts a patient’s focus to physical sensation. Practitioners of certain types of yoga may lose weight and show an increase in overall physical health, and that, too, alleviates some depression. Yoga can relieve low back pain that is often associated with depression, and it also improves sleep. Practicing in a studio that has a focus on its community fosters a feeling of connectedness and helps to motivate students, as well. However, the practice of yoga is not purely exercise or gymnastics because there is a meditative focus on the breath.
Many of us in western society are never taught how to breathe. It’s simply something our body does to keep us alive, and we’re rarely conscious of it. However, pranayama, or breath exercises, can help us gain control over otherwise overwhelming emotions. There are different purposes behind each type of pranayama. For example, slowing the breath lowers the heart rate, which can calm the parasympathetic nervous system and lower blood pressure in those experiencing anxiety. Whereas as Kapalbhati breath, where one pumps the abdominal muscles, is energizing and invigorating for someone who is depressed. Focusing on the breath instead of ruminating on negative thoughts is another way to reduce depression symptoms.
Meditation is becoming an increasingly accepted practice in the U.S. While it may have previously been dismissed as “new-agey”, medical professionals are now turning to mindfulness-based stress reduction as an intervention for depression. Mindfulness is especially helpful in preventing relapse. An awareness of one’s own thought process is crucial when attempting to avoid self-harmful habits. Guided meditation practices that prompt participants to visualize themselves in peaceful, positive situations or that simply offer an alternate perspective on any given situation can be extremely helpful to those experiencing a feeling of hopelessness. Further, mindfulness eventually motivates patients to participate in other meaningful and enjoyable activities.
In yoga there is a focus on non-judging and non-grasping and being content with what you have. This notion of self-care is known as santosa. A large part of meditation in yoga is trying to see the truest version of oneself. Someone with anxiety may be experiencing unrealistic spiraling thoughts, and viewing him/herself as an objective observer can help reality to sink in once more.
Mindfulness skills have been proven to inhibit or ease symptoms of depression. A study conducted at Brown University in 2010 found that its participants reported significant decreases in symptoms of depression while also exhibiting significant increases in mindfulness after two months practicing vinyasa yoga. The majority of their participants wanted to continue to practice yoga after the study was completed.
There are several different aspects of yoga that can help to treat anxiety and depression. The physical activity, breathing exercises, and awareness practiced are especially beneficial. Whether it be through yoga or not, physical health and self study are necessary to combat mental diseases and disorders that affect so many people in the United States. Why not cultivate this mind-body connection through a fun yoga practice in a safe, nonjudgmental environment?
Amour Vert is my new go to for socially and environmentally conscious style. The site has everything I love from cute summer dresses, to the perfect-fitting jeans, to carryall totes. For every tee they sell, Amour Vert plants a tree in partnership with American Forests, and they’re at 130,000 trees and counting! The company also has a zero-waste philosophy and only uses sustainable fabrics and low-impact dyes. Who out there can’t get behind great style AND great ethics?
The days are getting longer, the markets are full of fresh produce, and your sundresses have finally started to come out of hibernation. Spring has finally sprung, and it’s the perfect time to take your yoga practice outside and into nature. Getting a different perspective and moving out of your comfort zone is important if you ever want to grow in your practice. Here are a few of my outdoor yoga essentials:
- A mat that is at least 6 mm thick incase the ground is a bit uneven.
- A towel for brushing dirt or sand off of your mat.
- Layers! You never know what Mother Nature has in store for you, so come prepared with several pieces that you can take off and put on as needed. I love this jacket, this hoodie, this top, this bra, and these leggings.
- Protect your body’s largest organ (your skin) by bringing along some sunscreen. My favorite is this one by Drunk Elephant. It’s nontoxic, effective, and has anti-aging properties.
- A water bottle. Hydration is everything!
If you’re in Connecticut, come take class with me every Saturday morning from 7am – 8am at the Clinton Town Beach July 15th – August 19th!
Golda Meir said, “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.” The second of the eight limbs of yoga is niyama, and niyamas are ways of caring for yourself. One of the niyamas is isvara pranidhana, which focuses on staying humble and surrendering to a higher power. For some people, that means trusting in God, and for others, like me, it means trusting in your own intuition. Surrendering to your gut, that little voice inside that tells you to do or not do a certain thing, is harder than it sounds. We make excuses and deals with ourselves and find reasons to do things that we know aren’t serving us. One of the everyday ways we do this is with our meals. Though I’ve never been diagnosed with a clinical eating disorder, like many women, I’ve exhibited disordered eating behaviors. I would fill up on seltzer so I wouldn’t be hungry at meals. I’d ignore my growling stomach. If I lost a little bit of weight overnight, I would make sure to eat exactly what I ate the day before again so I could lose another pound. I didn’t listen to my body and the signs it was giving me that it wanted more food sometimes, and most of the time, that it wanted better food. Listening to your body and listening to the intellectual part of your brain that knows that vegetables are good for you as opposed to anything with “skinny” or “natural” on the label is the way to be the healthiest version of you.
Pay attention to what you put in your body. Food is fuel and medicine, and yes, it tastes great! Now, I just like to eat in a way that makes me feel good afterwards, not just in the moment, because I know that what I’m taking in has positive effects on my body, energy, and overall wellbeing. No, I’m not eating a “perfect” healthy diet, and I’m definitely not afraid of fats and sugar, but I try to bring a mindful awareness to my eating and to trust myself.