April Giveaway!

 

Flax Relax Body Wrap on The Organic Beauty

To help soothe your aching muscles, headaches, and menstrual cramps, we’re giving away one of our favorite products: a Body Wrap from Flax Relax!  The beautiful Flax Relax products come in super fun colors and prints, are are filled with hearty flaxseeds, weighty wheat berries, and soothing lavender, and can be endlessly heated and chilled to suit your needs!  Perfect for relaxation, heat or cold therapy, or even for use as a relaxing pillow.  Read our full review of Flax Relax here.

To enter the giveaway:

1: Like our Facebook Page

2: Leave a comment on our Facebook Page (not here on the blog) with your favorite natural way to relieve pain!

We’ll announce the winner only on Facebook on Friday, April 11th, so make sure to enter before then!

The Power of Noble Silence

The Power of Noble Silence

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Happy Fall!!  Here in New York, we had our first truly chilly day today, and it really made me want to curl up with a book and a huge pot of tea, and put off all the work I had to.  I obviously couldn’t quite make that happen today, but the feeling reminded me that I need to slow down, chillax, and take some time for myself.

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Daily Acts of Self-Love = What’s Missing in Your Life

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Daily acts of self-love aren’t just fuzzy, feel-good luxuries.  They are what is standing in between you and the body, life, and love that you are so desperately seeking.  They are a necessity, and their lack leaves a huge gaping hole in your life that you then fill with ice cream, TV, wine, unfulfilling sex, and potato chips.

I know all your excuses, I’ve heard them all before.  “But Natasha, I can’t afford massages!” or “I don’t have time for picnics in the park!”  That may or may not be true, but each and every one of us has some time and some money to dedicate to the fundamental cause of our own happiness.  So I’m doing the work for you!  I’ve compiled a list of daily acts of self-love that fit any budget, any schedule.  Make it a priority to pick one every day.. start small, and before you know it, daily acts of self-love, mindfulness, and joy will be a habit as natural to you as brushing your teeth.

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How To Control Your Vices

By Callie McBride

For all the dedicated health foodies out there who devote large amounts of time and energy to maintaining a healthful and active lifestyle, it usually feels like its simple 90% of the time, and nearly impossible 10% of the time. For a number of days in a row you wake up early, eat a good breakfast, get a great workout in, and make a homemade dinner at the end of the day. Then, out of nowhere, you wake up one morning and find that it can be incredibly challenging to keep up consistency with exercising, or to find variety in the kitchen, or even the motivation to drink lots of water! You feel distraught that you’re craving trashy TV and a big bowl of cereal; you feel anxious that your momentary break from veggies and 6am yoga may throw you off track. You feel surrounded by those pesky little things called vices.

Do not fret; there is a solution!

Give In To Your Vices

In my own personal experience, trying to fight through cravings and vices never works. I attempt to go without coffee for a month, and suddenly my 5am wakeup calls become positively dreadful. I ban any sugar or chocolate from my diet, and magically I crave sweets as though they’re oxygen. I mentally order myself not to miss a day in the gym, and in effect my bed becomes that much more comfortable. It seems that all of the restrictions or rules we place upon ourselves only backfire and cause us to fall into bad habits or take less care of ourselves. This happens when we strive for perfection in our health and fitness. We aim too high and forget that we are only human! While it’s wonderful that we delight in eating right, staying active, and maintaining a lifestyle meant for optimal wellness, we can get too caught up in the midst of it all. This, in turn, leads to a temporary lapse that leaves us feeling lazy or uninspired. I’ve been there, and I know how upsetting it is to feel like your goals were thrown off by a long holiday weekend or an unnecessary TV binge.

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Instead of warding off all potential vices in our lives, I say we embrace them. Um, what!? Don’t write the idea off just yet. Accept your vices as they come, and learn to control them instead of let them overpower you. I, for one, have a strong vice for coffee. Though I am aware that it’s highly acid forming and addictive (not to mention costly), I cannot seem to give it up. Instead of steering clear of all Starbucks (an impossible feat in NYC) and vowing never to sip the drink again, I can allow the vice into my life in a healthy way. I hopped online, did some research, and found an amazing way to make your own cold coffee concentrate. Since no heating is involved in the process, it is much less acidic which leaves me feeling guilt-free and satisfied! Mixed with ice and some homemade almond milk, and my coffee vice has just transformed into a delicious pleasure.

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Another vice of mine, that I am venturing to guess could be yours too, is ice cream. Is it the devil? The angel? We’ll never know. Since becoming vegan a number of years ago, I was immediately excited to hop on the health train and learn all that I could about feeding my body perfectly and becoming as healthy as possible. There’s that word again-perfect. After I while, I grew exhausted from always “being good” and refraining from this nighttime snack or cool summer treat. I became nostalgic for the delicious taste of creamy, cold ice cream that always hit the spot. However, I still am not interested in a dairy-filled, sugary pint that is chock full of artificial flavors, fillers, or thickeners that don’t do anything for my body. Again, I turned my vice into a pleasure by taking the time to control the situation, instead of avoid the treat and eventually break. I discovered the Raw Ice Cream Company, which offers multiple flavors of cashew and coconut milk-based ice cream. Sold in half pints to control portions, this ice cream is entirely good for the body and the planet.

Whatever your particular vices are, I encourage you to accept them as a form of self-challenges. If you don’t have any, then I am convinced you are a robot. Imperfection is part of being human, so take these pesky habits and turn them into ways to further your quest for healthy living. Just as I can now enjoy my iced coffee guilt-free, you can also change your perspective on your own vices that get under your skin. Be creative, be resourceful, and be active in maintaining health and wellness as a large part of your lifestyle.

Willing to share your vices, and possible ways to turn them around? Comment below!

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How to Become a Morning Person

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

In my holistic health counseling practice, the excuse I hear most often for why someone just can’t make time for a healthy breakfast, a morning workout, or meditation is “I’m not a morning person.”  I’ve got news for you:  That’s a load of hooey!  Any staunch night owl can become a super productive person before 9am if they want to.  I’ll tell you how I know this.. I did it!  I come from a family of night owls.  We stayed up LATE in my house, and mornings were a time to sleep until the very last minute, rush around getting ready, and frantically arriving late wherever we needed to be.  I kept up this M.O. well into my late 20’s.  And then I decided to change.  I craved calm, nourishing mornings.  I craved time.  I hate the feeling of rushing.  So if I can do it, so can you, if you choose to.  Here’s how:

1.  Get to bed at a reasonable hour (DUH!)

This is so obvious, but always overlooked.  If you want to wake up, totally rested, before your alarm, with time to get some stuff done in the morning, you need to get to bed earlier.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking you do ok on less than 7 hours of sleep. You don’t, and pretending is what’s making you a tired, grumpy zombie in the mornings.  Figure out when you ideally would like to wake up, leaving time for whatever you would like to accomplish in the morning (see below), and get thee into bed at least 8.5 hours before that time (leaving yourself a 30 minute buffer to actually get to sleep). If you have trouble getting to sleep, check out my article, How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

2.  Decide how you want to use your morning.

Morning is a perfect time for exercise, meditation, a healthy breakfast, and some chill time before work.  Figure out what your priorities are and set your intentions for the morning.  Figure out how much time you want to dedicate to these activities, and go to sleep accordingly the night before (see above).  Create a little morning ritual for yourself that incorporates everything you would love your morning to include.  A ritual is an amazing way to create and stick to a new habit, injecting it with calm and meaning (check out my article, The Power of Ritual!).  Here’s my morning ritual:  I wake up, walk the dog, feed him, take my morning vitamins, meditate for 15 minutes, make breakfast and watch the news for about 20 minutes… all before even starting to get ready for the day!  I set my alarm to leave myself time for my ritual, and make sure I get to bed at the right time to allow myself at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably 9 ; )

3.  Leave yourself plenty of time, and stay calm.

Regardless of what you want to accomplish in the morning, leave yourself enough time to do it all calmly.T he number one way to ruin your morning is to rush, or even just to feel rushed.  So always give yourself a buffer to account for any unpredictable events, as well as all the basics of getting ready.  The more time you feel  like you have, the calmer you will be.

4.  Save room for pleasure.

Make sure your morning includes something you find pleasurable (like meditation, checking your favorite blogs, or watching the news).  You’re not going to be motivated to get up early for your awesome mornings if they’re not pleasurable, or if they’re filled with more stuff you have to do.  Morning is an amazing time to start the day with some you time, which sets the tone for a more  enjoyable and less stressful day. So dig deep and connect to what you’re really craving in the mornings.  Maybe it’s tons of time to do your hair or pick out the perfect outfit.  Or sitting down at the table for a real proper breakfast.  It’s YOUR morning, so make it count!  The more enjoyable your mornings, the more you will look forward to them.  And, wait, what?  Suddenly you’re a morning person.

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Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Yoga Practice?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

The amazing health, body, and spiritual benefits of yoga are no secret.  People with a regular yoga practice are on the whole slimmer, happier, less stressed out, eat healthier, have lower blood pressure, and experience less headaches, pain, swelling, anxiety, and hormonal imbalance.  I mean, if that’s not reason enough to get on that vinyasa train, I don’t know what is.  But, just showing up to class doesn’t guarantee those results.  There’s doing yoga, and then there’s doing yoga.  I see tons of people in my classes that bring their phones into the studio, half-ass their poses, don’t breathe, break up the flow of their practice with tons of fidgeting, water drinking, and other distractions, and then leave before shavasana. If you’re one of these people, you are robbing yourself of a truly impactful, effective, and meaningful practice!  Make sure you’re getting the most out of your practice by following the tips below.

1.  Try not to get wired before class.  

If you routinely grab a Starbucks or soda on your way to your yoga class, you’re going to make the mindfulness, deep breathing, and ultimately relaxation (if only just at the end) of a successful routine much harder for yourself.  Caffeine speeds up your breathing and heart rate, causes racing thoughts and can increase anxiety, which is pretty counterproductive for yoga.  If you need to have your coffee in the morning, have it 2-3 hours before class, or wait until after to get your fix.  Better yet, use yoga to help you break your coffee addiction!

2.  Put away your phone.

From the moment you set foot in the studio, try to put yourself in a focused, relaxed mindset.  Checking your email on your mat creates a stressful environment that makes settling into a mindful practice much more difficult.  Plus, it’s distracting and even stressful for everyone around you!  Your fellow practitioners are coming to yoga for a reprieve from their busyness and stress, and you being on your phone is a distracting reminder of everything they’re trying to put on pause.  So for the sake of your own practice, and that of everyone around, leave your phone in your bag and fully arrive in the space, mental and physical, from the moment you walk in.

3. Set an intention for your practice.

As with most things in life, if you go into your practice with a specific intention, you’re going to get a whole lot more out of it than if you’re just going through the motions.  Some great intentions can be “I’m going to do my best and push myself further in my practice today,” or “I’m going to focus on my breath and relaxation today… No stress, no pressure.”  You can dedicate your practice to someone in your life that’s in need of a little love and support, or to someone you are struggling with or in the midst of a conflict with.  Yoga isn’t just a workout.  It doesn’t need to be this whole huge spiritual, om-filled, flowery experience if you don’t want it to be, but completely eliminating the mindfulness component is totally selling yourself short and robbing your practice of the meaning that supercharges it’s effectiveness.

4.  Don’t be afraid to personalize your practice.

We can often get so wrapped up in the competitive, comparative aspect of a yoga class (“I can totally get my leg higher than her!”), that we short change ourselves on having a practice that fits exactly what we need on that given day.  Don’t be afraid to use props, rest for a moment in child’s pose, not take a bind, or otherwise make adjustments to poses to fit your needs, your body, and what feels best.  We often see props as a crutch or a sign of being a beginner practitioner, but B.K.S Iyengar said that “confidence and willpower are built up by props.”  Props allow you to progress in your practice and gain correct alignment in your poses, which is so much more important than how you look compared to the girl next to you.  Listen to your body.. If you need to take a break in child’s pose, that is always available to you, and knowing when you need to take that pose is truly the sign of a mindful practitioner.  But make sure to maintain your focus in your practice.  Stopping to fidget, fix your hair or drink water when something feels hard is not staying focused. These are the crutches.  Instead, breathe and listen to what your body needs.

5.  Never skip shavasana!

So many of my favorite teachers have repeated over and over again that shavasana, or corpse pose, is the most important part of a yoga practice.  And yet, every class, at least one person leaves before this crucial final pose.  Shavasana is what your whole routine is building up to.  The mindfulness, the exertion, the pushing yourself, and the breath are all leading you to the vital moment of peace and quiet meditation at the end of class.  To skip that valuable moment is literally half-assing your practice.  If you’re one of those people that has trouble sitting still or quieting your thoughts, use your yoga practice as a tool to focus and calm your body and mind, and use shavasana as a way to integrate all that amazing work into your body.  Focus on your breath and just relax.  If you’re still having trouble with racing thoughts, repeat a long ommmm in your head on every exhale to help you stay mindful.

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Tips to Care for Your Yoga Mat from Aurorae

Aurorae Tips for a Clean and Long-lasting Yoga Mat

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before class to reduce any natural oils in your hands. The natural oils in our skin, while sweating, can cause slipping so it is important to keep as dry as possible.
  2. Do not use creams or oils on your hands or feet before your practice.
  3. Wash your mat in the bath tub/shower with a soft brush/coarse sponge, warm water and small amount of non-oil based detergent/soap. No Bleach. (Some customers also mix sea salt in the water) Rinse thoroughly. This will help break in your mat and reduce any resin that may be sitting on the top surface of your mat. (Repeat as necessary) Resin is an oil base that is put in all synthetic materials to help preserve your mat. When it lies on the top surface of the mat it could cause slipping when wet. This is normal for all new mats and is part of the production process to keep your mat safe during handling/shipping as well as maintain a long life.
  4. Wrap your mat is a bath towel after washing and squeeze out any excess water. This will expedite the drying process.
  5. Hang dry outside in the sun if possible for best results. DO NOT PUT IN DRYER. (If you can’t hang outside, trying hanging over your shower rod)
  6. Always keep a micro fiber towel near you to wipe away any perspiration. Keeping your mat and body dry are keys to prevent slipping on your mat.
  7. If necessary use an Aurorae Yoga Slip Free Rosin Bag to absorb any perspiration and increase gripping power. Just tap a little on your mat where your hands and feet go and no more slipping.
  8. To preserve your mat as well as keep it free from bacteria, use the Aurorae all-natural organic mat wash.

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Yoga Mat Essentials from Aurorae

Sexy Yoga Essentials for Wanderlust and Beyond!

By: Nkechi Njaka, Msc.

I am leaving for Wanderlust today! I am so excited to travel up north to Tahoe with a car full of my yogi friends for a weekend of yoga, music, amazing food and people.

One of my favorite things that I did to prepare for my trip was create a mini look book for the Lululemon Cow Hollow store. It was so fun to piece together festival looks and styles that would work for a weekend at Wanderlust or any summer vacation.

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Lululemon.com: Hot Hitter Dress | Festival Bag | Essential Polo | Daily Short | Every Day Gym Bag

Lululemon.com:  Mod Moves Tank | Wunder Unders | Energy Bra | Iconic Wrap

Lululemon.com: Mod Moves Tank | Wunder Unders | Energy Bra | Iconic Wrap

Lululemon.com:  Free to Be Bra | Ago Go Crop | One Hit Henley | Surge Short | Sand to Savasana Bag

Lululemon.com: Free to Be Bra | Ago Go Crop | One Hit Henley | Surge Short | Sand to Savasana Bag

And while I was dancing around my apartment listening to Beyonce while packing, I realized something about my excitement.  It’s not about the clothes. I mean, it is, and it is also about how I will practice yoga on the top of a mountain outside in the middle of summer.  I really can’t think of a better vacation! In order to enjoy EVERYTHING while I am there, I must stay hydrated, fueled and skin-protected.

Here are my 6 must-haves:

 PROBAR | Intelligent Nutrients Hand Sanitizer|Harmless Harvest Coconut Water| Elemental Herbs | The Mat

PROBAR | Intelligent Nutrients Hand Sanitizer|Harmless Harvest Coconut Water| Elemental Herbs | The Mat

 

Why these guys?

PROBAR is rich in raw ingredients and nutrient-dense calories for lasting energy and nourishment. Great for a post work out snack or something to grab in between means. I love that it is non-GMO product, gluten free and vegan. Happy for all dietary restrictions. They also happen to be DELICIOUS.

Intelligent Nutrients Hand Sanitizer 99.9% of bacteria eradicated while being Chemical-free. It is a safe, effective alternative to preventing the spread of germs and impurities. #notoxicshit

Harmless Harvest Coconut Water Nothing is added, nothing is ever heated. They source unique coconuts from small organic agroforestry farms. Super hydrating, outstanding flavor and the nutrition of raw and organic without the need for unnatural and harmful additives. Shweeeet!

Elemental Herbs includes a host of rich, skin-saving certified organic oils–including jojoba, coconut and avocado. Amazingly tested and approved by people like us, the sunscreen is chemical-free and coral reef safe. Beautiful!

The Mat is hands down the best mat to practice yoga on. It doesn’t slip or stick, it provides a ton of padding for those difficult poses and it is easy to clean.

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Nkechi Deanna Njaka, MSc. is a health and wellness lifestylist combining her backgrounds in neuroscience, dance and nutrition to create a holistic practice.  Nkechi is a private practitioner, seminar and workshop leader and a writer. Professionally having studied and worked as a neuroscientist and as a choreographer/dancer, Nkechi has spent the majority of her life investigating the relationship between the brain and the body. In her practice she approaches stress management and lifestyle goals with equal parts mindfulness, movement & diet.

How To NOT Lose Friends Over Your Lifestyle Choices

By Callie McBride

“Look who’s off to the gym again.”

“I’d eat as many greens as you, too, if I were a giraffe…”

“At the end of the day, I’d much rather have the cupcake than not.”

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These and plenty of other comments can be routinely heard from family, friends, co-workers, and people who lead a different lifestyle than you do, and seem eager to judge. In the nearly 3 years that I have been vegan, and in the 5+ years that I have expressed my passion for health and fitness, I have laughed off ‘vegan’ jokes, stomached outwardly opinionated friends, and even held my tongue around certain people who are quite vocal about their disapproval or disinterest in a holistic way of living. Certainly not everyone is as gung-ho about hot yoga and green smoothies as you are, but it can become frustrating when your life choices become criticized on a regular basis and you feel the need to refrain from practicing those choices in order to fit in. Just last week I spent a number of days with a loud, fun-loving family whose only agenda was to lounge, eat, and drink. (I know, I know, where can you sign up!?) Like many families, this one especially loves to come together over a meal, so inviting a girl with a plant-based diet into the home was a challenge for them. Each time they had questions or comments about my lifestyle, I graciously answered and listened to what they had to say. After a while, though, the vegan jokes were popping up 4 or 5 times in an afternoon. “The ribs are on the grill, we know you can’t wait!” “We made this cheesecake special for you-oh waaaaait.” My personal favorite: “So, you’re vegan…like, where do you find joy in life?”

If you’ve ever done grade school theatre or participated in a kindergarten beauty pageant, you know how exhausting it is to hold a fake smile. Unfortunately, that’s what I felt like I was doing. While I recognize that the digs and comments are all in good fun, I quickly felt that I stood out like a sore thumb every time the dinner bell rang. It got me thinking that no matter what life choices a person makes, if they stand out from what’s considered the ‘norm’, it can be tough to live out those choices in a social setting.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

In an effort to remedy my feelings of frustration and inconvenience toward people who don’t understand why I eat the way that I do, I have compiled a list of ways to inform without lecturing, extend invitations without pressuring, and constructing rebuttals without starting World War III.

1. Share your snacks. A fool-proof way of convincing people that vegans (or simply healthy eaters) aren’t aliens and that healthy eating can be delicious, is to show them with food! Choose your favorite healthy treat or green appetizer to make and bring to a summer barbecue or birthday party so that you can eat your cake and have it, too. All those jokes will disappear once vegan chocolatey goodness is in the picture.

2. Keep it short and sweet. People who are unfamiliar with the plant-based diet and holistic lifestyle will ask questions. Be sure not to transform into your old high school biology teacher and go into a 30 minute spiel about the benefits of kale and the history of coconut oil. Instead, stick with a brief answer to the ever-popular question of why you live the way you do. I usually say with a smile, “It makes me feel great and brings me happiness. I just like to feel my best!”

3. Have a few tricks up your sleeve. If the joking continues, pull out some of your own. Making sure not to judge or offend, think of cheeky ways to throw a question back onto someone who may be grilling you about your particularly green dinner plate. “I’m actually trying to see if my body starts sprouting leaves, thanks for noticing!” “I’m in a competition with my pet rabbit to see who can consume more raw carrots within a day. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.” “When the rest of the world zigs, I zag. You should really try it.”

4. Extend open invitations. Especially when vacationing with friends or living with roommates, sneaking away to the gym can frustrate people who either aren’t on top of their fitness game or who want to spend time as a group. Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to fit in your workout before everyone else’s day starts, make a suggestion for the group to rent bikes or play beach volleyball. Your dedication to fitness shouldn’t be overruled by your peers, but asking them to join in is a win-win situation. A dance party is a wonderful disguise for a cardio without…

5. Go all out with a plant-based feast. If your siblings, boyfriend, or business partner are still on the fence about your obsession with raw veggie collard wraps, pull the final trigger an invite them over for 3-course vegan or plant-based meal to wow them. For brothers or boyfriends who frequent Buffalo Wild Wings and Taco Bell on a weekly basis, try Alicia Silverstone’s 7-layer dip; they won’t know what hit them. For your mother or sister and their sweet teeth, try any of Chocolate Covered Katie‘s cookie, cake, or pie recipes-most are sugar and fat free. For the culinary connoisseur, prove just how dimensional veganism can be by slaving over any of these gourmet raw recipes, and be sure to kill the presentation.

These tricks won’t have anyone running away from you, and may even open some doors to more willing eaters.

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