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The first time, I was in my teens and it was at an Introduction to Buddhism course my Dad and I signed up for together. We’d spotted this beautiful, huge Buddhist temple on a family outing once and wondered what it was all about – so we decided to go and find out.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course and still carry some of its teachings with me today (I enjoyed it so much I actually went back a few years later and completed it again by myself). But the ‘meditation’ bit was lost on me.
One particular session I remember, we were sitting in a room full of around 100 completely-silent people on cushions (my Dad was on the cushion next to mine), and all I could hear was his stomach rumbling. It was so loud, and the only noise in the room. A few minutes into the 30-minute meditation, I started laughing under my breath - and, well, that was it. I couldn’t stop. I ended up having to walk out of the room in case my distracted laughing interrupted anyone else’s state of zen.
Suffice as to say, if anyone sucks at meditating, it's me. I find it really hard. Since that experience I’ve tried to learn again numerous times and tested countless breathing techniques to find the one that’s right for me. Some of them kind of work – but it certainly doesn’t come easily. When I try to meditate, my mind either drifts off and starts reciting to-do lists or recounting the day’s experiences (that is, I’m too awake), or, I end up feeling so relaxed that I fall asleep (I’m not awake enough). I can never seem to find that sweet spot in the middle where I’m conscious, but calm - that is, meditating.
All of that said, I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of meditation; and I want the improved mental and physical wellbeing that comes with a regular meditation practice. So what’s a girl who sucks at meditating to do?
Well, luckily for me (and for many others who share the same struggle!), there are a number of ways to focus and calm the mind in a similar way to meditation that don’t involve sitting and doing nothing. That is, there are ways to meditate that don't involve meditation. Here are a few of them:
You knew it would be on the list! The thing yoga does that makes it so effective (and it is extremely effective at reducing stress) is simple: the rhythmic, systematic movement of the body and breath during a yoga flow gives the mind something to focus on that quite literally makes all other thoughts disappear. If you're a regular yogi, you’ll know what I mean. Because there’s so much emphasis on the breath and how this coincides with each movement, yoga requires a huge amount of focus. It’s relaxed focus; but it’s focus. Sounding familiar?
Yoga and meditation have a lot in common – and for most people who lead busy lives, the hour or so that you spend in yoga might be the only hour in the week that you’ve not been thinking, planning or worrying about something. And, like any meditation practitioner will tell you; an hour of not thinking about anything has incredible health benefits.
Reading (an actual book; not a screen!) also has meditative qualities. When you’re reading, your mind is forced to focus on the words on the page, and comprehend them – leaving very little room for mental monkey chatter. Again, it’s a relaxed form of focus - it takes your mind somewhere else. Just like the muscles in our body, our mind needs exercising and stretching – and reading is a wonderful way to do this.
If yoga and reading aren't for you, then you're not out of luck - it is possible to train your mind to be more present and focussed while you’re doing every-day things. Essentially, ‘mindfulness’ just means concentrating only on what you’re doing in each moment, and nothing else (I’ve talked a little about this on the blog before). It’s such a powerful thing to do, and an easy way to encourage happier living in general. When you’re sitting on the porch having a cup of coffee, really concentrate on that experience. Focus on the sights around you, the sound of the birds, the taste of the coffee, the cool of the breeze on your skin compared to the warmth as it touches your lips. It might sound a little hippyish, but it really works. Train your mind to appreciate the here and now, and eventually you’ll find yourself doing it automatically (and in turn, worrying about the past or the future much less).
Current reading: 'The Little Book of Hygge' by Meik Wiking
I’ve been practicing yoga in some way, shape or form since I was a teenager. Incredibly though, I’d never tried hot yoga until I accidentally booked myself in for a hot vinyasa class while travelling recently (I was told it was in a heated room when I turned up – I proceeded to remove several layers and wished I’d remembered my water bottle!).
Ever since, I’ve gone to nothing but hot yoga classes. My explanation to my friends is that I feel far more relaxed and flexible during the practice and my muscles feel more worked afterwards compared to a non-heated class - but after my session this week, I decided I would do some legitimate research and find out what the real-deal benefits are. So, here they are – the benefits of turning up the heat on your yoga practice!
Contrary to popular belief, sweating doesn’t release a huge amount of toxins from the body – the liver and kidneys are the body’s major means of flushing out toxins. What sweating does do is release water and electrolytes – so it’s important to replace these during and after a hot yoga session.
However, hot yoga does offer detoxification benefits that have nothing to do with sweat. Yoga postures are designed to ‘compress’ and ‘release’ the internal organs, increasing circulation and cleansing the bloodstream and lymphatic systems. One of the major benefits of hot yoga is that it allows the body to do this more effectively, resulting in increased detoxification. More on this in my next point:
Anyone who’s ever tried to exercise on a cold morning will know that the body is less tense, more relaxed and therefore much more flexible & conducive to stretching when the surrounding environment is warm.
Practicing yoga in the heat allows you to move more deeply into stretches, increasing flexibility and also enhancing the compression and release of the internal organs, in turn helping the body to flush out toxins.
When the body is cold, the muscles contract in an effort to retain heat. Practicing yoga in a hot room allows the body to relax more completely from the get-go, and makes it much easier to release tension in the muscles. And, with a relaxed body, it’s much easier to cultivate a relaxed mind.
I’ve only been practicing hot yoga for around a month – so I’m sure I’m yet to derive some of its long-term benefits. At the moment, I feel a combination of extremely relaxed and extremely challenged during the class, then totally exhausted after class – but in a good way, like I've just done something truly rewarding for my body. I enjoy each session so much that I’m always excited about the next one – and the day after, my muscles really feel worked; the same way they do when I go to the gym. I'm loving it so far and I plan to continue with regular heated classes. If you've never tried hot yoga or you aren't sure it's for you, I recommend you give it a go! It might become your new thing.
Have you tried hot yoga? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
You never know - once you add some heat to your practice, you might even be able to pull off some of these moves.
I’m not a fan of cloudy weather – but one thing I LOVE about winter is the opportunity to take baths again. A nice long bath is an easy way to unwind, de-stress and soothe tired muscles – and, as a bit of a bath aficionado, I’ve come up with a few tips as to how you can make bath-time even better. Read on!
1. Get everything ready beforehand
There’s nothing worse than performing the sometimes-awkward art of sliding into a bathtub (it’s never as elegant and seamless as they make it look in the movies, is it?!), then realising you have to slide yourself out again to get something. Make sure you have everything you need by the tub before you get in. So – what do you need for a blissful bath?
2. Get the lighting right
Trying to relax and close your eyes with a bright bathroom light right above you is near-impossible – but you need some light so you can see what you’re doing. When I take a bath, I love to use candles. I usually light one or two large scented candles and put them on a shelf near the tub. This way, I can relax and close my eyes if I want to without having to worry about any bright light; and I’m also getting some aromatherapeutic benefit from the burning essential oils.
3. Find yourself a bath shelf/caddy
One of my favourite-ever inventions, the bath caddy allows you to nibble, read a book, or have a glass of wine in the bath – without ever having to reach too far! I like this one from LifeSpace - it even has a fold-down book holder! Perfect.
4. Make the absolute most of it beauty-wise
How often do you get to lie there and do nothing? Not very often, I bet! So make the most of this quiet time and get some self-care in. Every time I take a bath I always use a face mask and a hair treatment, and just leave them to sit while I relax. My current favourites are Leahlani's Kokoleka Ritual Dessert Mask and Innersense's Hydrating Hair Masque.
5. Minimise interruptions
Tell your kids/partner/housemates that you’re taking a bath, so you don’t get any rude door-knocks while you’re lying there in a deep state of relaxation! There’s nothing more jarring. If you have a safe, dry place to plug in a music source so you can listen to some zen tunes, then do that too.
I tend to struggle with my energy levels. I'm one of those people who just naturally seems to need a lot of sleep - If I get less than 8.5 hours or so, I'm exhausted (literally!). I do believe that everyone has a 'magic sleep number' - for some people it's 6 hours, for others it's 9 - and some of us are more able to function on little sleep than others.
But as important (and lovely) as sleep is, sometimes it's just not possible to get our magic number every night - so I've intentionally left 'get more sleep!' out of this list. If that's just not possible for you right now, here are some other, alternative ways to boost your energy - quickly and naturally. I've tried them all, and they work beautifully for me - give them a try and let me know how you go with them!
Refined carbohydrates include white bread, white pasta, and anything that’s made with lots of white sugar (including most processed foods or store-bought baked goods). Because they don’t contain much fibre to regulate blood sugar, refined carbohydrates (as opposed to wholemeal) tend to cause ‘spikes’ in blood sugar levels, rather than a long-term boost – so you feel great for 30 minutes or so, then you feel even worse than before.
Instead, eat plenty of high fibre foods, including vegetables, wholegrains & protein – and if you have to have sweet treats, make them yourself using wholemeal flour (or almond/coconut flour) and a low-GI sweetener like honey or agave.
The simple act of purposefully deepening your breathing can instantly increase your energy levels. It also relaxes the mind and the muscles in the body, reducing tension (and in turn, cutting down on the energy expenditure involved in keeping muscles tensed). To make it even more effective, incorporate aromatherapy into the exercise with an energy-boosting blend - try Tata Harper's Aromatic Energy Treatment.
Adaptogens help to regulate the adrenal system, which is crucial for maintaining optimum energy levels and easing stress. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing cortisol, the body’s stress hormone – and adaptogenic herbs help to buffer this effect, exerting a calming influence and increasing energy and wellbeing. For easy adaptogen blends you can add to your smoothie/morning latte, try the Balanced Pantry range.
Dry body brushing is an incredibly quick and effective way to boost the circulatory and lymphatic systems, increasing the amount of oxygen circulating around the body. (More oxygen = more energy!). Take 2 minutes to brush all over in firm strokes, always brushing towards the heart. Don't own a dry body brush yet? Here's the one I use and love.
A great deal of fatigue is caused by dehydration – and it’s so easy to fix! If you find it hard to get your 2 litres (8 glasses) a day, try adding something to make it more palatable – like fresh fruit or vegetables (strawberries, lemons & cucumber all add a fresh summer taste to plain water. Simply wash, chop & add – then keep refrigerated). Or, if you’re more into hot drinks, switch your coffee for decaffeinated tea, & get your fluid intake that way.
A real picture of me after 7.9 hours sleep.
I discovered dry body brushing a few years ago when I was on a spa-date with my Mum. We had booked a 'body pamper package' that included dry body brushing - we lay on our stomachs in a dark room while our bodies were brushed from top to toe in short strokes with a stiff-bristled brush. While I was having the treatment (and I was supposed to be relaxing and thinking about nothing..) I was actually thinking, ‘This feels SO good. I should do this at home. I’m going to read up about it!’
I was talking to Mum about it afterwards and it turns out that she’s been dry body brushing for years (and I have now too). For such a simple, 5-minute thing, dry body brushing offers a multitude of health benefits. In fact, naturopaths have named it "the one small change you can make now to drastically improve your health". Sounds like something we should all be doing, right?!
On the surface, dry body brushing helps to shed dead skin and assist in cell renewal, giving you an instant ‘glow’ and helping to reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs. But its effects go far deeper than that. It’s also an extremely effective way to increase circulation and stimulate the lymphatic and nervous systems, helping to release toxins, eliminate clogged pores and reduce the appearance of cellulite. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a ‘pump’ mechanism like the circulatory system – so it benefits from some help getting things moving (regular exercise and massage are also helpful in this respect).
So how can you get started? Well – first of all you’ll need the right brush. You need a brush with natural bristles (not plastic), and a long handle to help with those hard-to-reach areas - like this one.
I do my brushing right before I get in the shower. Stand up, and start brushing from the bottom of your legs upwards, using long, firm strokes towards the heart. (You can also get your partner to do it with you/for you – which is double the fun and beneficial for both of you!). Keep going until you’ve brushed your whole body – back and front, using light, circular strokes in smaller/sensitive areas such as the stomach; and long, firm strokes on larger areas such as your back and thighs, always brushing towards the heart.
And that’s it! It takes around 5 minutes a day (or you could just do it once a week – every bit helps!), with the benefits far outweighing the extra effort it takes in the morning. I can promise you won't regret adding dry body brushing to your morning routine!
Do you dry body brush? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Until next time,
We grow up being told how to eat right, drink right, and exercise right to take care of our bodies. Somewhere along the way, skin seems to get left behind as an ‘everyday’ essential step to taking care of yourself. It’s a part of your body too, and deserves to be taken care of with a little TLC each day. These are 5 habits you should start TODAY, and are easy to implement regardless of budget, time, age - or inclination.
Always remove your makeup
This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m always surprised by how many people don’t always remove their make-up before bed, or cleanse their skin every night regardless of whether they wear makeup or not. Next to sun damage, environmental pollution is the biggest cause of the visible signs of aging. A good antioxidant protection moisturiser will help with a lot of that, but another step is to cleanse the skin every day.
You don’t need to do it twice a day, as once the skin has been cleansed at night, it just sleeps with nothing but your skincare on, so doesn’t need another cleanse in the morning (I just do a water rinse with a cloth).
My favourite cleanser is the Blissoma Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser (thanks to Eve for introducing me to it). It’s very gentle, and is perfect for congested or acne-prone skin (it really helps keep my skin clear of all congestion/blackheads!), or any skin type really for cleansing the skin of dirt, environmental build up and anything else you’ve been wearing for the day!
If you are wearing makeup, however, I always recommend doing a double cleanse - usually starting with an oil to remove everything first, then following with a cream, milk or lotion type cleanser (like the Blissoma one mentioned above). The Happy Skin Face Oil from Romeo & Madden is a good choice!
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise!
I think even the laziest person amongst us would agree that when it comes to skincare, moisturising is essential. Face and body. Dry, dehydrated skin isn’t comfortable or good. And if you’re skin is oily, all the more reason to keep it moisturised, as your skin is overproducing sebum to try and do the job itself!
Moisturising doesn’t just keep your skin soft and supple. Dehydrated skin can prematurely age, show fine lines & wrinkles far more quickly, and skin can begin to lose that healthy, radiant glow.
For very dry or more mature skin, Earthwise Beauty’s Ferns & Moss Serum is a beautiful product. The Bless Balm from Leahlani Skincare is a good all-rounder for most skin types, including sensitive skin. And if your skin tends to be oily, you might prefer something lighter like the Blissoma Awake Morning Facial Moisture, as it’s fast absorbing and won’t leave a shine.
Get your mask on
I really can’t recommend a weekly mask to everyone enough. Regardless of your skin ‘type’, there’s a mask option for you and it’s a brilliant way to give the skin a thorough cleanse, exfoliation, and boost it with antioxidants and nutrients. I love masks so much I wrote an entire post on why you should be using one.
This one from The Little Alchemist is a great option for most skin types wanting to detox - so if you’re acne-prone, your skin is congested, dull or lacklustre. For dry or sensitive skin (or those who just can’t stand the feeling of a clay mask as it dries), the Mermaid Mask from Leahlani Skincare will be just the thing. With a raw honey base, it’s extremely gentle, hydrating, anti-microbial, and it’s filled with spirulina & chlorella which give it the amazing emerald green hue and feed the skin with antioxidants. It also has very fine granules throughout, which you can massage in to gently exfoliate the skin as you remove it. I personally use both of these weekly.
This is a bit like #2, except for your eyes. Dehydrated skin begins to show signs of aging much more quickly than if you keep your skin supple and moisturised. You should apply an eye cream or serum twice daily - beginning as early as possible. The reason you need to purchase a separate eye cream or serum, and can’t just use your regular moisturiser is because the eye area is delicate and sensitive. You need to use something specifically formulated for that area, so it won’t cause irritation or sensitivity, either immediately or with long term use.
One of my favourite products for the eyes is this serum from Earthwise Beauty. I wasn’t convinced it was doing much at first, because I was so used to “instant” firming creams etc, but after using this for several months now (although I saw a difference in a few weeks), I can say it really does help reduce fine lines & wrinkles, keeps the skin supple and helps reduce dark circles and puffiness. I also dab a little on my lips each night to keep them smooth and plump!
I know everyone and their grandma goes on about sun protection or SPF and how much damage the sun does to your skin. You don’t need to be afraid of getting some sunshine without wearing any SPF - it’s actually essential for our bodies to get Vitamin D. You do need to be sensible though. Always avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (I live in North QLD so that’s from about 9am - 4pm in Summer, a little shorter during the Winter months for me), and cover up if you must be out either with clothing, SPF or a combination of both. Big floppy hats are my favourite style regardless of the sun, but an SPF that I like if I'm going to be in the sun all day is the Hynt Beauty Sun Prep SPF30 Primer. It goes great under makeup (or mixed with their concealer) and doesn’t feel tacky or heavy like so many SPF products can. You can also wear it alone, of course.
I also like the Earthwise Beauty Farizad’s Veil SPF30 Powder. I mix it with an oil to make an SPF lotion and apply as needed. You can also mix it with your body lotion/oil/moisturiser to make an SPF for the body!
Passionate about health and beauty, I began the Liberty-Green blog to prove that green CAN be glam. My aim is to educate women on the safer, healthier alternatives to the mainstream – that work. You needn’t sacrifice your health for beauty, and you don’t have to sacrifice performance for health.
Organic beauty has come a long way in the last few years, and I know from personal experience how overwhelming making “the switch” can be. Along with product reviews and brand spotlights, I share useful tools and handy resources that help make the switch to organic that much easier. Your skin will thank you.
I also have a handcrafted Flower Crown & Accessories label by the same name, so when I’m not writing on organic beauty and skincare, you’ll most likely find me in the studio up to my elbows in flowery goodness.
If you keep up with the latest in health & wellness, you've probably heard the term 'adaptogens' or 'adaptogenic' being used a lot lately. But what exactly are these healing herbs, and what can they do for you?
Adaptogens are a particular class of herbs that have a ‘normalising’ effect on the body’s processes, by supporting the immune and adrenal systems. The adrenal system is heavily involved in the production of hormones – and healthy adrenals are essential for mood, energy and stress management. Among other things, adaptogens prevent the over-production of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’ produced by the adrenal glands).
While producing cortisol is necessary (it’s responsible for our age-old ‘fight or flight’ response to danger and helps to keep us motivated, awake and responsive to our environment), prolonged elevated cortisol is not healthy, and can cause anxiousness, irritability and mood fluctuations. Adaptogenic herbs can help to alleviate these symptoms by helping the body to regulate its natural stress response.
But, their benefits don’t stop there. They can also combat inflammation, have antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial effects; and can even help to stabilise blood sugar levels via their effect on cortisol production (cortisol is involved in the body's conversion of proteins to sugars).
So, which herbs are ‘adaptogenic’? According to researcher Jan Whiticomb, there are 16 proven adaptogens - but some of the most commonly-available ones include:
Ashwaghanda or ‘Indian ginseng’ has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It has immuno-moderating effects (it helps to boost the immune system) and can help to lower anxiety by regulating cortisol levels.
‘Asian’ or red ginseng is a potent antioxidant, and has been found helpful in lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels
Also used in Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi grows in tropical climates across the globe & has been found to have thyroid, adrenal and immune-moderating effects.
Reishi mushroom is detoxifying and strongly anti-inflammatory. Research has found that reishi mushrooms act to normalise and regulate various functions and systems, including the endocrine (hormonal), immune, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
Maca, a malty-flavoured relative of radish, is rich in iron & often used as a natural energy booster.
Most of these herbs have quite a mild taste, and can easily be incorporated into hot drinks or smoothies (I have a teaspoonful of ashwaghanda most evenings with almond milk & some honey). You can also cook with them - maca, for example, has a smooth, malty taste & smell. I like to use a spoonful of it whenever I bake, to add a rich flavour and help to boost my iron levels.