Why I Love Bikram Yoga

In the beginning the hardest part is getting there.  Then after awhile the hardest part is not getting there.

yoga3The first month you will feel sore, weak, uncomfortable and miserably hot. This is all part of the practice — to test yourself, to push beyond what you think you can do and surrender to the elements (105 degree room). It’s hard and most people quit within the first week, if not sooner. Some even run out during their first class.

My advice:  Stay. Stay at all costs.  An instructor once said: “It’s normal to feel crazy and crazy to feel normal.”  This isn’t supposed to be easy.  But you can and will surprise yourself if you don’t give up.

Bikram isn’t to be confused with other yoga practices and their flowery music, chants and incense. This is intense, but the payoff is too. I started with something called “The 30 Day Challenge,” which is yoga every day for 30 days. If you miss a day, you’re out.  Think of it as yoga boot camp.  Not easy, but I have to admit if it wasn’t for the challenge aspect I may not have made it. I was determined to complete it.

But then something magical happened. After the challenge ended I realized I didn’t want to stop. I kept going every day. My body went from aching all the time to feeling stronger. My posture changed and when faced with stressful situations (crowded subway, work conflict, whatever) I was able to channel the energy in a different way.  Calmer, more clear, centered.

yoga2This is not to say there are moments, many, that I don’t want to go. It’s a huge time commitment, 90 minutes. But that feeling always changes after I’m done. The post-practice euphoria is wonderful. I sleep better as a result.

After going consistently for five months I altered my practice from seven days a week to five, and when I’m on vacation or away I don’t worry about missing it. You can’t be too rigid, but you do need to remember it’s a discipline and it’s up to you to decide how much or little you are going to devote.  It gives back what you give it, and the rewards of a regular practice are endless.  It’s also for you.  So the more you go, the better you’re being to yourself.

Bikram is pretty global so you can find studios all over the world. I found two while vacationing in Prague and it was fun practicing in a different language. This is not a cult, not a religion, just a way of life.  My body changed, my temperament changed, and now when I enter the studio instead of recoiling at the heat, I allow it to envelope me like a big hug.

yogaI used to be a runner, but the wear and tear on my knees forced me to cut back.  I still run occasionally, and bike, but this has helped heal past injuries and improve my overall core strength.  I’m not flexible and even after a year I can’t do many of the poses.  That’s okay though.  The beauty of the practice is you do what you can and still receive the benefits regardless.  Over time your flexibility will change, even if only a fraction of an inch, and you will find yourself doing stretches in your daily life.  I sit in front of a computer all day and it has helped my lower back considerably.  The older I get the more I appreciate (and am humbled by) the Bikram practice.

I would encourage anyone to try it, no matter how young or old, fat or thin, heat adverse or even having never exercised at all.  Fear of the unknown keeps many of us from trying new things, seemingly scary things, because everyone is afraid to fail or look silly.  Whatever initial reservations you may have about Bikram, just know that you are not alone. Everyone has them.  But believe me when I say this is a deeply personal practice that is entirely for and about you.  For everything you give to others in life, to your job, to your relationships, family, you name it, this is for you, and you deserve it.

Clean Your Nails!

I saw a story in the New York Times that caught my attention: Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers. The subtitle: “Some ingredients used in nail products have been tied to cancer, miscarriages, lung diseases and other ailments.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Every time I enter a nail salon the smell of chemicals permeates the air as powerful as a fish market. I guess I just always assumed that if we’re using these products they have to be safe, for the most part.  Right?

The article opened my eyes and gave me pause.  I started looking for brands that don’t use the toxic chemicals mentioned in the Time’s article.  There are actually quite a few, among them: Jin SoonLVX, and Priti NYC.

Each of these brands are 5-Free, which means their products don’t contain the harsh and potentially dangerous ingredients, names I can’t even pronounce like dibutyl phthalate, camphor and toluene.

I was encouraged to know these polish lines were out there, but how good were they? Would my nails chip or peel after day one? Could these so-called natural lines stand up to their less conscientious competition?  I was skeptical. Mainly because I felt the words “green” and “organic” had jumped the shark and I wasn’t sure I was buying better, but perhaps just being bought by clever marketing.

nails2So I decided to try it out myself.  I hit the local salon with four bottles of LVX. A 3-in-1 treatment coat, Haze for the hands and Graphite for the feet. Lastly, a top coat gel and I was good to go.

One week later I was amazed that my nails were still intact. Impressive.

Needless to say I came home and emptied my shoe box of old polishes into the trash and will be replacing them with non-toxic lines. Not just for myself, but for all the people who work in salons and are subjected to these toxins day in and out. Our choices matter and with companies now offering cleaner, safer alternatives, why not make a change to a join a larger change?

Beauty Secrets

For as long as I remember I always heard that bar soap is bad for your skin.  It’s drying, so go for the liquid.  And I did.  For years.

Then one night I met a lovely woman with the most beautiful skin named Mariko, who dispelled that myth.  Well, it’s not really a myth, since most bar soaps are indeed drying with their harsh detergents made from artificial ingredients.

Mariko introduced me to Chidoriya, an organic skincare line based on traditional Japanese beauty secrets.  Ooooh, I love secrets!

Azuki & Brown Sugar Soap

It was delight at first sight when I saw the Azuki and Brown Sugar Soap because of the packaging, which reminded me of a fortune cookie.  It even took me awhile to open it because I liked how it looked sitting on the shelf.

Mariko explained there is an art to using the soap, which you can watch in this video. Basically very little goes a long way, and the soap lasts nearly twice as long as other kinds.

It is mixed and aged in a special curing room for nearly a month, a process that removes excess alkali, which is a major irritant to sensitive skin.  Azuki (red bean) contains saponins, which are found in various plant species and high in B vitamins, and the brown sugar is rich in nutrients. A healthy diet for your face!

When I eventually took it out of it’s packaging and tried it for myself, I was struck by the lather.  It was deliciously creamy and felt so good on my skin. After washing my face and neck I used the Peach Moon Herbal Face Water as a toner, followed by the Secret de Maiko Face Cream, another product in which very little goes a long way, and the Rose Hip Eye Serum.  I never used anything other than creams on my eye area before, so this was a welcome change because it felt much more delicate.

My face washed and moisturized, teeth brushed and flossed, I ended my nightly cleansing ritual with a dab of the Yuzu Oil Lip Balm, which has a fresh citrus aroma and made me very kissable, I might add. Hubba Hubba.

Good night!

Clean Beauty is Skin Deep

Something to think about the next time you reach for your face cream: what you put on your skin goes into your skin.  Do you really want polyethylene glycol seeping into your pores?  Do you even know what that is?

The Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) was created to give organically-minded entrepreneurs a platform to showcase products that cater to what we call “clean beauty.”  No harsh chemicals, dyes or formulas.  No animal testing or wasteful packaging.  These innovative brands are changing the way we pamper and pretty ourselves, with mindfulness.

IBE2The idea was inspired by small business owner, Jillian Wright, after she tried to improve her own eco-friendly skincare line’s visibility by exhibiting at trade shows. Surrounded by mega brands backed by large companies, she always felt like the odd girl out. The big guns commanded center stage and she was overshadowed. Looking around the massive expo center she thought, “There have to be others like me, a little guy with a great idea that belongs somewhere else.”

But there was nowhere else.

So Jillian took a chance.  “If I build it, they will come… I hope.”

She shared her vision with others in the industry and felt confident that the moment had arrived to give these niche brands an expo of their own.  The all-things-indie and American-made trend was already underway in music, fashion and popular culture, and Jillian thought, “Why not give beauty brands their indie moment too?”

She teamed up with other small business owners and created the Indie Beauty Expo.  “The entrepreneurs behind these brands are pioneering ‘green beauty’ that is good for the environment, ‘clean beauty’ that is free of chemicals, ‘niche beauty’ that caters to highly specific skincare needs, and ‘design beauty’ that presents products in such breathtaking packaging that it looks like art,” says Jillian.

As an attendee of the expo, you’ll be exposed to dozens of these brands and have the opportunity to sample products, talk with brand owners, and receive significant discounts.  Guest speakers will be on hand throughout the day and night covering topics ranging from skin care issues to exciting new trends in the indie beauty industry.

IBE is also proud to support 5 Gyres, an organization that is working to pursue policies that will reduce plastic pollution in our oceans.  As the beauty industry embraces environmentally sustainable practices — with indies leading the way — the expo is a huge advocate of the 5 Gyres mission.

So, if you’re a consumer interested in changing the face of your beauty products to reflect a cleaner you, come check it out.  It’s fun, informative and inspiring.

For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit the website: Indie Beauty Expo