8.24.2013

Do you know what pains me?

*Good morning, all.  So I slept on it, and I wish to apologize to anyone who, for whatever reason, is taking this post personally.  The message is meant to be a positive one, to bring us all out of the dark and into the light, so to speak, regarding safe and appropriate ways to use the body and, more pointedly, to represent the practice of asana.  Mermaid pose, done safely, is quite lovely.  But, clearly, there has been and continues to be a major failing to teach this posture correctly.  The prevalence of images like the few I've shared here, which I selected at random from a google search for "mermaid pose," is an expression of skewed priorities and the degradation of what should be a safe and sustainable practice.  Can we all agree to move forward with this awareness and treat our bodies with respect?

Love, light, and lifelong practice,
Megan


This:
Ouch!

And this:


 And this:
Are you hurting yet? 

 And this:

 And this:
Oh god, my knees!

 And this:
Getting a good stretch?

And this:
Chest forward!

And this:
Crunch!  Nice background, though...

And this:
Oh boy...

And this:
The humanity!

Ok, folks.  Listen.  I know we've all decided that "Mermaid pose" (a variation of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is sexy, but this isn't it.  This is a back crunching, side spasming, knee tweaking abomination.  Stop it. 

I am so tired of seeing people in this posture who have no business being there.  They're all over magazines and blogs, apparel catalogs and facebook, and nearly every newbie teacher's website.  Enough already.  Work on your backbends.  Open your shoulders and hips.  Let's reconvene after a few years of daily practice, shall we?

Ah... that's better.

If you are one of the women pictured and you wish to have your photo removed, email megan@damngoodyoga.com.  Then go do your practice.

8.23.2013

Natural Health Hack #7: Fluoride-Free Oral Health


We've all been told to brush our teeth at least twice a day, but there is more to a clean and healthy mouth than well-brushed teeth, especially if you wish to keep your mouth clean and healthy naturally.

The first step is to assess the ingredients in the toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss that you use.  Most toothpastes on the market contain sodium fluoride, a highly toxic synthetic variant of naturally occurring calcium fluoride.  Sodium fluoride is synthesized from industrial waste.  Frighteningly, sodium fluoride is then added to the water supply under the guise of improving dental health, though there is little evidence to show that it is doing our mouths any good, but lots of evidence that it is killing us slowly.  It ravages brain cells, weakens willpower, and calcifies in the pineal gland, the physical seat of the third eye.  Educate yourself on the hazards of sodium fluoride and take steps to reduce your fluoride consumption: eat organic foods, drink fluoride filtered water, and use natural, fluoride-free toothpaste.  Neem and/or xylitol based toothpastes are best.  They taste great, too.  Himalaya is my personal favorite.  Brusha brusha.

Inform yourself: http://www.antigmofoods.com/2013/05/calcium-fluoride-vs-sodium-fluoride.html
Next, find a simple, unwaxed, flavor-free floss and floss your teeth every night before you go to bed.  I like Glide Pro-health Original, but any kind will do.  Read the package and try to find one with more yardage per container to cut down on plastic waste.

As for mouthwash, never rinse with Listerine or any other alcohol-based mouthwash.  Not only are the artificial colors and flavors used in these rinses harmful to your health, but alcohol breaks down into sugar, which is the very thing that the bacteria in our mouths feed on.  So while your mouth might feel painfully clean for a few minutes after a rinse, that feeling doesn't last long for a reason.  Instead, for a clean feel and bright white smile, rinse your mouth after you floss and brush each night with a 1:1 dilution of 3% hydrogen peroxide.  Add a teaspoon of xylitol powder (preferably not the kind derived from corn), and swish for 1 minute.  The peroxide will continue to foam for a few minutes after you spit, but resist the urge to rinse with water.  Just spit a few more times and go to bed.   Xylitol has been shown to prevent and even repair tooth decay, and the peroxide will keep your gums healthy and whiten your teeth safely while you sleep.

Finally, no oral health regimen is complete without a good tongue cleaning.  The textured surface of the tongue is the perfect place for bacteria and food remnants to hunker down while the rest of your mouth is flossed, brushed, and rinsed.  Even brushing your tongue with your toothbrush doesn't adequately remove this layer of bacteria and food.  Buy a stainless steel tongue cleaner and scrape your tongue clean first thing in the morning, after meals, and after you brush and rinse each night.  When you see what is removed, you'll be so glad that you did.

Links to purchase


Readers:  What natural alternatives do you use to keep your mouth clean?  Let me know in the comments!

8.20.2013

Ashtanga Yoga for Beginners

An accessible 40-minute practice for your first step on the yoga path.  Try it at home, share with a friend, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

8.17.2013

Natural Health Hack #6: Natural Face Care for Radiant Skin


Face care products are some of the most heavily advertised health and beauty products on the market.  Chemical-laden and perfumed face wash, astringent, moisturizer, and masks are just a few of the things we are told to smear on our delicate faces each day.  But I'm here to tell you that you don't need all that crap.  Just treat your skin gently and with respect, and your radiant health will beam from your face.  

First thing's first: stop using soap on your face.  This may be hard to swallow, especially for the acne-sufferers among you, but soap dries the skin by stripping the natural oils from the surface, leaving it scaly and creased.  For those with more oily skin, washing with soap causes the skin to over-produce oil, leaving the face chronically greasy and slick.  Instead, clean your face by removing the dead skin and grime, but leave that natural moisture behind.  

Daily face care:
  • In the morning, wet a clean cotton washcloth with warm water.  Wring it out and exfoliate the face and neck in soft, circular strokes.  Get into all the nooks and crannies, and don't forget to scrub behind the ears.  You can do this in the shower or at your bathroom sink.  Skin will be left smooth, clean, and refreshed, with no need for further cleansing or moisturizer.
  • In the evening, to remove makeup and/or the daily grime, apply an organic, cold-pressed oil of your choice.  Massage into the face and neck, behind the ears, etc.  (I use sunflower oil mixed with tea tree and peppermint essential oils.  You can make your own blend.  Be creative.)  Next, wet a clean washcloth with warm water, wring it out, and wipe your face clean.  The oil will dissolve makeup and gather up anything else collected on the surface, leaving behind nothing but moisturized, radiant skin.
Weekly Masks:
  • For a deeper clean, apply a bentonite clay mask once per week.  This is sold as Aztec Secret Healing Clay in most health food stores (pictured right).  A large tub costs $10, and it will last you many months.  Pour a tablespoon or two into a ceramic or glass bowl and mix with water until a thick, spreadable consistency is achieved.  Apply to your face, avoiding the delicate eye area, and leave on for 10-15 minutes or until the mask is mostly but not completely dry.  You will feel your skin tighten as the clay pulls deep dirt and dead cells from the pores.  When you're ready, rinse with warm water and wipe clean with a cotton cloth.  Your skin may look flushed or blotchy when you first remove the mask, but this will subside in a matter of minutes.
  • For deep overnight moisture, apply a castor oil mask weekly or as needed.  Pour a dime-sized drop into your hand and rub between your palms to warm the oil.  Pat the castor oil onto dry areas and wrinkles, and lightly dab around your eyes.  Massage into the skin and allow the oil to absorb.  Apply the mask at least an hour before you lie down to give it a chance to soak in, or simply lay a towel over your pillow.  You will wake to a glowing, youthful, even-toned face in the morning.

As a final note, it is important to remember that your outer health is a reflection of your inner health.  Even the gentlest, most natural skin care routine won't do a lot of good if you are putting junk into your body.  Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption.  Eat whole, healthy foods including lots of healthy fats, and drink at least 2 liters of fresh, filtered water per day.  (Shoot for 3+ liters if you do Ashtanga yoga or other rigorous activity.)  Perhaps most importantly, get plenty of uninterrupted sleep.  When you feel great, you look great, and it will show up on your face.

Links to purchase


Readers:  Do you have questions, concerns, or additional tips?  Let me know in the comments!

8.12.2013

Natural Health Hack #5: Dry Brushing and Oil Massage

Cleanliness of the body and mind is an important part of ones physical and spiritual health in both the Ayurvedic and Ashtanga traditions.  The daily bath is a sacred time for cleansing oneself of the accumulations from the previous day. With our busy modern lifestyle, daily cleansing can feel like a chore through which we must hurry, mindlessly soaping up and rinsing off before heading out the door.  However, if we can take the time to slow down, tend to the body, and appreciate the cleansing ritual, bath time becomes a meditation and a source of relaxation that supports us in our daily life.

Cotton washcloths, dry body brush, organic oil

Dry Brushing

The daily cleansing ritual begins before you even jump in the shower, not with soap and suds but with your dry body brush.  Your skin is the largest organ of your body.  It is the barrier between your fragile inner self and the outside world.  You must care for it well.  Dry brushing sloughs away dead skin cells and toxins expelled through the pores, revealing the youthful, vibrant skin beneath.  It also promotes better circulation, improved lymph drainage, and cellular regeneration, making it a powerful boon to your overall health and wellbeing.

Start from ground up.  Brush your feet and legs in long, firm, circular strokes, moving up the body to your back, belly, breasts, chest, and arms.  Spend extra time on problem areas, such as cellulite or itchy, blotchy skin.  Do not dry brush your face.  (Learn to care for your face naturally here.)

Abhyanga

After you dry brush, massage your entire body with your favorite organic, cold-pressed oil.  I use coconut oil during the spring and summer months, and sunflower oil in the fall and winter.  You may benefit more from sesame or almond oil, depending on your Ayurvedic constitution.  Start from the top down.  Massage a bit of oil into your scalp, hair, face, and neck.  Then, move down the arms, chest, belly, back, and legs with long, firm strokes, finally ending with a brief foot massage to soften the feet.  Spend extra time massaging any areas that feel dry, sore, or tense.

Once the entire body has been lovingly brushed, oiled, and massaged, run a hot shower.  If you do not have a rubber bath mat in your tub, you will want to purchase one, as the oil will make the floor dangerously slick.  Continue to massage the oil into your skin, and let the hot water rinse away the remainder.  Do not wash the oil off.  Instead, use just a small amount of soap (I like Dr. Bronner's) on your underarms, between your legs, and feet.

Before you leave the shower, rinse yourself head to toe with cold water to soothe the skin, tighten the pores, and strengthen your natural, healthy hair.  Dry off with a clean, cotton towel, apply your Crystal, and enjoy your day.

Extra Tips

  • It may sound like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of it, the whole bathing process need not exceed 15-20 minutes.  
  • Wash your towels and bath mat in the hottest water your washer will allow to avoid oil buildup in the fabric.  
  • Once a week or so, clean your tub and unclog your pipes by boiling a large pot of water to pour into the tub and down the drain.  

Links to Purchase




Questions?  Comments?  Leave them below!

8.06.2013

Natural Health Hack #4: Natural, Healthy, Beautiful Hair

How many hair products do you have in your bathroom?  Shampoo, conditioner, and maybe a styling gel, spray, or mousse... All of these products (with the exception of expensive, specially made organic brands) contain synthetic colors, fragrances, and alcohols that compromise your health, dry your scalp, and rob your hair of its natural luster.  

Why not throw out that synthetic junk and simplify your haircare routine with an all-natural, minimalist approach?  You'll have more time in your day to do what you love, and your happy hair and scalp will thank you.  

First, let's talk about no-poo.  The "no-poo" method is a minimalist hair care approach that eliminates the need for shampoo without sacrificing the integrity or luster of your hair.  Daily shampooing may make you feel clean, but it strips your hair of the natural oil your scalp produces that keeps the hair healthy, shiny, and thick.  Going shampooless can also preclude any need for conditioner, as your hair is less likely to become tangled or dry.

But there is more to no-poo than simply abstaining from suds.  Here's what you do:
  1. If your hair is curly or prone to dryness, before your shower, rub a bit of organic coconut or sunflower oil into your scalp and through the hair.  Just a dab will do.  Let this be part of your daily Ayurvedic oil massage
  2. Take a hot shower.  Stand directly under the shower head and thoroughly massage the scalp with your fingers to loosen any dirt or dead skin.  The hot water will rinse excess oil from the hair, along with the dander and mess.
  3. Before you get out of the shower, blast yourself head to toe with cold water to seal the hair shaft and tighten your pores.
  4. After your shower, dry your hair gently with a soft cotton towel.  
  5. If your hair is long enough to tangle, comb the hair (again: gently) with a wide-toothed wooden comb.  Avoid using combs or brushes made from plastic, as they produce static electricity that zaps the hair shaft and follicles dry, causing split ends and eventual hair loss.
  6. Once your hair is completely dry, brush the hair in long strokes from scalp to tip with a natural bristle brush.  Boar bristles are best, but for those ethically opposed to boar bristles, vegetable fiber brushes are available.  I like Bass brushes and combs, as they are not only practical, but also lovely and well made.

    The Arsenal: Boar bristle brush and wood comb
The last two steps are crucial to a successful no-poo experience.  Natural fiber combs and brushes prevent oil buildup (a.k.a. the "greasy hippy" look) by absorbing the oils from the scalp and redistributing them along the length of the shaft, leaving hair soft, clean, and shiny.

Some may find, even with daily brushing, that the scalp becomes excessively oily after a few days or a week of no-poo.  If this is the case, resist the urge to 'poo.  Instead, dust a bit of baking soda into the hair before your shower, and then proceed with the steps outlined above.  If baking soda leaves the hair overly dry, you can try using a small amount of castile soap once a week, or whenever the scalp feels grimy.

I have thick, wildly curly hair and, being heavily pitta dosha, tend to have oily, temperamental skin.  I was skeptical that the no-poo method would work for me, but with patience, refinement, a hair cut, and an open mind, my haircare routine has grown simpler and my hair healthier than ever before.

Links to Purchase



Readers:  Have you tried to go no-poo?  Will you try again?  Let me know in the comments!

8.03.2013

Natural Health Hack #3: The Menstrual Cup


Who says menstruation can't be fun?
The Diva Cup, the Moon Cup, The Keeper:  reusable menstrual cups go by many different names, but I call mine simply tremendous.  Ladies (and gentlemen, because you need not be shielded from the details of a woman's cycle), when you're faced with boxes of disposable feminine hygiene products wrapped in plastic, doused in bleach, laced with dioxin and godknowswhat, the modest menstrual cup shouts from the shadows, "THERE IS A BETTER WAY!"

For those who are unfamiliar, the menstrual cup is exactly what it sounds like:  it's a cup, for your menstrual blood.  Typically made from flexible silicone but also available in latex or natural rubber, the cup is folded and then inserted into the vaginal canal, where it unfolds to create a seal with the inner wall of the vagina.  When used correctly, the cup remains securely in place and collects menstrual fluid until it is removed to be emptied via a stem or nub at the base.  Depending on the quantity of flow, the cup may be left in place for up to twelve hours at a time (that's what the pamphlet says, but I recommend 6-8 hours max), and may be worn safely during high activity and overnight.

Most menstrual cups run between 30 and 40 US dollars.  One cup may be used for 5 years before replacement is recommended.  They are typically available in two different sizes:  a smaller size for women who have not had children, and a larger size for those who have.

There are a myriad of reasons to switch to a menstrual cup for your cyclical needs.  It's cheaper, more convenient, and eliminates huge quantities of landfill waste.  The menstrual cup is safer than tampons.  It is not disruptive to the vaginal environment, nor does it scrape the wall of the vagina as tampons do.  It also facilitates a better understanding of one's own cycle, as the quantity, consistency, and color of the flow may be observed.

However, as a long-time user and advocate of the menstrual cup, I will tell you plainly that, if you are going to make the switch, you must dispense with your squeamishness about menstrual blood.  Every 6-8 hours when you empty your cup, you will dump the contents in the toilet, rinse the cup out in the sink, fold and reinsert.  This sometimes involves a bit of blood on your hands.  It also involves venturing inside of your vagina for both removal and insertion.  You can do this.  It's okay.

I have used my Diva Cup for 3+ years and never once considered going back.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the planet.

Links to Purchase


Readers:  Do you use a menstrual cup?  Have you considered it?  Leave your comments or questions below!