Beauty Haul: 3 Natural Products That Your Body Will Love

I confess that I’ve spent a good portion of my life as a goo-hoard. (If you’re not too sure what that means check out this video by Jenna Marbles.) My drawers were filled with too many lotions, creams, lip balms, face products etc. Until one day, I convinced myself that most of my products, if not all, contained ingredients that were toxic to my skin so I decided to toss them out on an impulse. My original goal was to take a natural, holistic approach to my beauty products however it was a lot harder than I thought. But through trial and error I eventually found a few products/treatments that I love.

1) The Dry Brush

The body brush is easily the most underused/unknown tool. This ancient technique has many amazing benefits such as improving skin texture by removing dead skin cells, increasing circulation to the skin (allowing your lymphathic system to detox), stimulating your nervous system, and reducing the appearance of cellulite.

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I bought my brush from the body shop for around $15. The technique is to softly brush your dry skin; it is recommend that you do it first thing in the morning before your shower. Experts suggest that you move slowly, working from your feet, up your legs and towards your heart. Be careful not to go over any cuts, bruises, or sensitive areas. Although dry brushing is not exactly as soft as a pillow, the exfoliating sensation somehow becomes addicting if you incorporate it into your morning routine. For super soft skin, you can follow up with a moisturizer. With persistant use on my sensitive skin, I noticed an increase in skin elasticity, decrease of cellulite and a disapearance of my eczema.

2) Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of my absolute favourite products to use for my hair. I use it as a rinse after shampoo, in place of conditioner. First, you’ll have to dilute the vinegar with water. I use equal parts water to vinegar, but if that is too strong you could try increasing the water. Pour the rinse over your hair and allow it to sink in but make sure you rinse it thoroughly! ACV smooths the hair cuticle and balances the pH level making your hair extremely soft and shiny! ACV is all natural, made from apples, as opposed to products that are filled with many complicated ingredients. I’ve personally used organic ACV and the non-organic king and noticed a few pleasing differences with the organic. For best results, use an ACV rinse no more than twice a week or whenever you want to increase the shine in your hair.

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3) Olive Oil VS Coconut Oil

When I threw out all my body lotions I was convinced that I could moisturize with extra virgin coconut oil all the time with no problem. At first I really enjoyed how well the coconut oil moisturized my skin but after a week I noticed my skin was more dry than anything! Not only that, but the smell of spoiled/rotten coconuts lingered on my clothing and sheets. This was just my personal outcome but I’ve met people who have had the opposite experience.

On the flip side, I absolutely enjoy coconut oil as a hair mask. It’s solid consistency is much easier to spread through my hair and it washes out with much less trouble than extra virgin olive oil. I apply the coconut oil to my ends and try to keep clear of my scalp, only to avoid those hard to wash places. For best results, leave the coconut oil in your hair for a minimum of 30 minutes.

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Previously, I used extra virgin olive oil as a hair mask but I would opt for coconut oil in my hair instead. For my skin however, I love to add EVOO to my body lotion. Or apply it directly to skin after dry brushing and a shower! It’s bonuses include a strong source of vitamin E and A.

Is Fitspiration the new Thinspiration?

Thinspiration provides images of women with “thin” figures. The purpose is to motivate women to become thin; the consequence of this however is often disordered eating, which is why social networks like Instagram have blocked tags such as #thinspo, etc. But could Thinspo’s new counterpart Fitspo be just as dangerous and damaging to women’s health?

There is no doubt fitspo is paved with good intentions. Women with fit bodies, flat stomachs, six-pack abs, well-shaped butts and arms are seen in images often with a catch phrase such as “strong is the new skinny” or “Complaining won’t burn calories”. And I will be the first to admit that I spent countless nights looking at this “fitspiration”, thinking that if I only worked a little harder in the gym I would have the perfect body, but was I really inspired?

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I am a huge advocate for clean eating and exercising. However when it comes to women’s body image, I believe every woman should feel great in her own skin as long as she is healthy. I pass no judgment to my friends, and those I don’t know, who are followers of fitspo and I admire the dedication and passion it takes to build a fit physique. That being said, a person should not feel unhappy about their appearance because they don’t lift weights, practise yoga, or go for runs every week.

A part of me recognized that I wasn’t being inspired, in fact I realized I was only fixated on what I believed to be my flaws and became extremely critical of my body. It was the shame I felt that got me into the gym everyday, and I am confident that others have the same reaction as they go through their long feed of “fitspiration”.

How have we let images that promote low self-esteem be confused with inspiration? Although fitspo is suppose to be conducive to good health, all it has become is a hub for women to compare their bodies. It creates a new standard of what they believe they should look like to be happy, as if magazines, movies and television weren’t enough. Images of anorexic women can undoubtedly be defined as unhealthy; but it’s my opinion that constantly comparing your body to any shape or size negatively affects your self-esteem. The only standard any person should hold for their body is healthy and happy. Women need to properly educate themselves on nutrition and exercise to make decisions based what is best for their personal health and not base their well-being by a series of images we call “fitspiration”.

So, where do I find my fitness inspiration now?

  1. My parents. Between my dad waking up before 5 A.M. to get in his workout (-word on the street is that he is back to the weight of his football playing years) and my mom’s holistic approach to controlling her chronic pain, they both show serious commitment to their health.
  2. Professional bodybuilders. Angelica Kathleen, Bella Falconi, Karina Baymiller, Terica Messmer to name a few. They all show extreme dedication and diligence towards their fitness goals. And I enjoy watching their journeys unfold.
  3. Most importantly, myself. Practising yoga has helped me to remember how strong, capable and beautiful my body is. I remind myself constantly that I go to the gym not only to benefit my health but because I thoroughly enjoy it. I set goals for myself, and I look back at my accomplishments with pride.

Post-workout: Beat the heat

Our bodies are continuously losing water everyday through sweating and other bodily functions. It is even more important during the summer months to probably hydrate ourselves in order to restore the water we are losing naturally; especially if you are engaging in physical activities. The amount fluid needed to keep your body hydrated varies  from person to person. Try an infused water as a great alternative to plain water, vitamin waters or juices. Below I combined lemon, cucumber, strawberries and plums. After letting it sit for a few minutes it is ready to drink.
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Check out this article from MindBodyGreen to learn about the benefits of lemon water.

Good Morning

Fueling up for yoga this morning on the deck. Chocolate & banana protein pancakes and spearmint tea. Pranayama in the fresh oxygen before the hot yoga studio.

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1/2 cup of Wheat Free oats
3 eggs whites
Small teaspoon of stevia powder to taste (Krisda is my favourite)
Small teaspoon of organic cacao powder to taste
Any liquid you like to desired pancake batter consistency (I use coconut milk or h2O)
Topped with unsweetened shredded coconut and bananas

Add any protein powder you like to your pancakes, I’m not taking any supplements right now but adding a scoop of protein to your pancakes would suffice 🙂 you would probably need to add less stevia if your protein powder already comes sweetened

Review: Polar Heart Rate Monitor

Investing in a heart rate monitor is one of the best things that happened to my fitness routine. Originally, it was the count of calories burned that appealed to me. Becoming aware of my heart rate helped me develop a new realization of my body and my cardiovascular health.

Mine is the Polar FT4. It’s functions are basic; it records my heart rate through a waist band (seen below). I can look at my wrist at any point during my workout to see what my heart rate is at and how many calories I’ve burned. Each time I workout with my Polar FT4 it records my workout and I can look back at previous workouts as well. I can also set a “heart rate zone” and at the end of my workout see how much time I spent in that specific zone. At first, the waist band was uncomfortable to wear but after the first few workouts it wasn’t a problem.

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Why has my Polar HRM improved my workouts?

Whether you are looking to burn fat or improve your cardio, knowing your heart rate while working out is extremely important. Personally, I like to do interval training at the gym so being able to look at my heart rate at any point is vital. Discovering the heart rate zones specific to your body can help you achieve any fitness goal you have in mind. Try this link to learn about the heart rate zones specific to your body and needs.

Cardio Equipment Vs. Polar HRM

Today’s cardio equipment will calculate how many calories you burn however, this number is frequently false. There are many factors such as height, weight, and heart rate that will affect the amount of calories you burn. My polar watch uses all those factors to give me an accurate number of calories I burn. For example, the elliptical told me I burned 78 calories in 9 minutes, whereas my polar watch gives me the correct number, which was 60 calories.

Polar HRM for Strength Training

Aside from cardio, my HRM also tells me my heart rate during any strength training exercises. Before my polar watch it was always a mystery to know how many calories I burned, or what my heart rate was during strength training exercises. By knowing your heart rate during strength training you can establish interval workouts and learn how your body responds to certain stress.

The Only Negative

Learning about your body’s heart rate and calorie expenditure is a great advantage to achieving any fitness goals you have in mind. However, it’s easy to become obsessed with the amount of calories you burn. Use the watch with healthy goals in mind. Remember that calories are energy and obsessing over the calories in and out of your body can not only lead to stress but unhealthy habits.

Check out the Polar website!

6 Ways Yoga Helps Improve Weight Training

Yoga can be a beautiful, challenging practise; both mentally and physically. Western practises of yoga include, but are not limited to, Hatha, Yin, Bikram, Vinyasa (Flow), Ashtanga (Power). The many benefits gained from consistent yoga practise can be the perfect compliment to the different activities that are a part of your lifestyle.

Weight training, a variety of strength training, uses weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells) to strengthen the muscles. The stress put on your muscles through weight training eventually allows your muscles to adapt, therefore making you stronger. The benefits of weight training include, but are not limited to, muscle strength, muscle endurance and improved muscle tone.

Weight training has been part of my workout routine for the past year. And although I have only been practising yoga for 2 short months I am already reaping the many benefits yoga has bestowed on my weight training routine.

1) Posture: position of the spine

The backbone is extremely vital to human well-being. Not only does the spine protect the central nervous system but also acts as a support to many muscles and organs. Yoga emphasizes the importance of the human backbone by not only strengthening the spine but lightly stretching it. It is easy to forget the significance of a strong spine during weight training. Bad posture while weight training can cause serious injury and decrease the benefits your body derives during weight training. The yoga studio should not be the only place where you practise good posture.

2) Body Awareness: letting go of unnecessary tension

In yoga it is easy to hold tension in places where it is unnecessary and avoidable. Holding an awkward tension in your jaw, shoulders, or anywhere it is not needed can actually afflict the posture or pose you are trying to hold. It is only necessary to keep stress in the areas being worked. This completely applies to weight training. An awkward tension being held in your neck, jaw or anywhere else can take away from the exercise you are performing. Become aware of any muscle tension that isn’t associated to the muscle you are trying to work. For example, if you are attempting bent-row dumbbell rows, keep the tension in your back and arm and not on the leg or knee that is supporting you. Let you face, jaw or tongue be soft.

3) Focus on your own capability – be self focused not self conscious

If others are weight training around you, focus on yourself. You hold your own capabilities. In yoga, just because the person in front of you extends their leg higher in dancer’s pose does not mean that your practise is any less valid. Everyone has their own beginning and their own practise. Time should be spent exploring what you can do instead of comparing yourself to the people around you. That being said, believe in your capability. Don’t push yourself to injury but stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you achieve what you didn’t think was possible.

4) A sense of community

One of my favourite aspects of yoga is the strong energy and community among the people that are practising. Initially I didn’t think that weight training could also have a sense of community. However, community is really there. Everyone around you is dedicating a portion of there day to gain some sort of benefit to achieve a common goal.

5) Moment of rest are just as important as moments of movement

Savasana is easily the most favoured pose in yoga. Savasana relaxes the body and relieves stress. Relaxing the body is just as important as moments of stress. Moments of rest between sets during weight training is essential inorder to not fatigue your muscles. It is just as important to allow time between training the same muscle group. Experts say 2-3 days would suffice to allow your muscles to repair. For example, it wouldn’t be wise to train your quadriceps two days in a row. Just as savasana relieves stress, giving your muscles time to rest allow them to repair and become stronger.

6) Not everyday is the same

Some days when I practise yoga my balance is flawless, other days it could use some work. Other factors could be the cause of this, such as a specific thing I ate, the amount of rest I’ve had, or internal stress, etc. This also applies to weight training. Not everyday is going to be the same. You may be able to lift more or less, longer or shorter depending on other factors. And this is okay. Work to your best ability and accept your body for what it can do in that moment.

First Written Blog Entry

It is the beginning of July and this summer has been completely different than my summer’s in the past. It’s distinct for a couple of reasons.

  1. I’m unemployed, and not taking any school courses
  2. I’m practising yoga
  3. Discovering that free time is not always spent wisely
  4. And wanting/attempting to start writing

It’s been two full months since my spring semester at school ended and I’ve learnt that as much I would like to use that free time wisely, that is not always the case. However, I’m depending on this blog to perhaps hold me accountable. I’m not sure what I will be writing about or who will be reading but I know that blogging will not only help me improve my own writing skills but give me some valuable experience in the social media/writing/journalism world.  I’m hoping that I will post everyday and eventually develop a focus. I’m a 20 year old english student, with a strong passion for fitness, learning about the body-mind connection, and trying to grow up as gracefully as I can.