Saturday, 31 December 2016

Time for the dreaded New Year's Resolutions

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I cannot remember one single year when my New Year's resolutions manifested, were followed through, or even remembered. I have come across scraps of paper, & notes scribbled in my appointment diary (I have a new one each year, & yes, mysteriously, I do keep them), where I've made a wee list of Things That I Want (that I really, really want!) to achieve. Not have, but more do, & arrive at a goal. I am one of those people who truly think that it's more rewarding to do something/s to achieve something/s.

And, often, I look at those wee lists, & frequently find that I did indeed end up achieving what was on those lists. Not everything, but most things. And, usually when I read those lists, I have by that time, forgotten all about those goals. And, because I've been so slack, they have manifested in a later year. I have found forgotten lists 10 years old that I (mostly) achieved. I can't actually figure out how it works, but apparently, when we write out our goals, we are more likely to achieve them. But, I do think that it would have helped to remember them, & follow through. So, this year I am intending to do a goals list, put it up on my bedroom wall, & also put up post-its with goals etc written on them, at eye level. Maybe even splash out with a vision board for my goals.

What does happen instead of working on my resolutions, is that my life changes, every year, in the 1st week of January. I kid you not. Marriage break-up; leaving another bad situation very, very quickly; rent going up by a lot of money, so that I have to urgently find a new place; friend, work & family stuff....the list goes on. I am sure that an astrologer would look at my chart, nod sagely, & enigmatically say something that explains it all, like "ah...yes". And leave me wondering just what the heck those 2 words mean in context of my dramatic new year happenings.

But this year, in the midst of it all, I shall keep working on my new year resolutions for 2017. Which, incidentally, I intend to be a great year.

And I wish for yours to be great & fantastic & happy, too.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Hands & expression


Image result for vintage french woman beautiful hands drawings

Expressive Hands

I went through a brief o.c. (obsessive-compulsive) moment of googling Ines de la Fressange, who is of course the epitome of Parisian chic, a while ago. What totally fascinated me....actually everything about her fascinated me....but in particular, it was the expressive way she has of waving her hands around as she talks. It's quite mesmerising, & of course, everything about Ines is indeed mesmerising.

My Ladylike Hands

I was taught to speak The Queen's English, & to be ladylike with it. And of course, there is no hand waving involved. This does have it's advantages. It enables one to appear to be quite composed, even when one actually isn't. Very sneakily helpful when one is dealing with a difficult person, or situation. It can denote an air of quiet confidence, which, for a shy person like myself, is very helpful. One can even appear to know what is going on, even when one is feeling quite clueless. Ah, yes, definite advantages.

So I would never be expressive with my hands...because, well, I just wouldn't. I might like to...but I wouldn't. Because I don't know how. And also, because I have not been blessed with exquisitely long fingers. I have medium fingers, with very short nails. As I am a healer, it just would not do to dig my nails into a client, nor would it do to accidentally scrape them with my talons. So short nails it must be. And I don't wear nail polish, so that's another reason for not waving my hands around as I talk.

But my hands & fingers are very supple. I don't have joint pain, & my wee wrists are strong. These are great pluses. As a yoga teacher, I have regularly done hand exercises, over the years. Making a loose fist with your hands, & then rotating them around the wrists, one way, then the other, is an excellent exercise. We need to be able to move our wrists!

How To Have Supple Hands

Touch your palms & fingers together & push them against each other, then do the same with the backs of the hands touching each other.  Bend each thumb & finger forwards & backwards. And shake your hands & fingers often...it releases tension. Such easy little ways to keep good movement in your wrists & fingers. It is far more important to me to have flexible & useful hands, than stiff hands with nail polish. (I secretly would love to have beautiful hands with manicured & polished nails, though)

Special Care For Our Hands

And I do look at yoga clients' hands as I am teaching. If there is damage, or arthritis, there are so many poses that won't be good for them. If I had arthritis, I would gently stroke my hands & fingers, often. This releases oxytoxin, the love hormone, & damaged hands surely would appreciate this.

Some of the other ways to look after your hands are: wear rubber gloves when washing anything (except when washing people, of course), & when using cleaning products. If you can, put oil, lotion, cream or vaseline on first, & do this too before putting on any gloves for any reason. Use hand cream, or indeed, any cream, often, massaging it in well. I often do this just before sleeping. I feel most virtuous doing this. And I feel absolutely pompous when I use balms or vaseline under cotton gloves as I sleep. You wake up with soft beautiful hands when you do this.

When I rub in kawakawa balm, from my friend Carolyn here, my hands just drink it up! Kawakawa is so restorative for skin. (When I go to her place & there is a tester in sight...then, as her friend, I do feel that I must test it....)

If you use any creams rub them well into your cuticles too. That way, you won't need to buy cuticle oil/cream.  And any face scrubs are good for our hands too. I often feel than some body scrubs are a bit much for the delicate skin of our hands.

You can also rub in bits & pieces of food...eg the inside of an avocado skin, or the inside of a piece of fruit skin, a touch of your fresh juice, a dab of milk, or a few drops of oil. It's like feeding your skin, giving your hands a beauty mask.  Leave your rub, or dab, on, for a wee while, then rinse off

                                     Image result for hand exercises

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Thursday, 8 December 2016

image:attractiveness/8: arms & hands & sun damage

                                 Image result for french beautiful arms drawings                           

I have resisted this post, for weeks. Why? Because I don't like the shape of my arms, & sun damage has been rapidly showing on my arms & hands. I guess that's what one eventually gets for childhood & teenage years spent frying for hours in the sun. Yes, I too have emulated a roasting spit by oiling up with coconut oil before cooking in the sun. I spent a day on a boat in Bali a couple of years ago, well actually heaps of the time I was downstairs trying to handle seasickness. And when we got back that night - I had a massive sunspot on my face. When I spent a week in Samoa, despite being real careful regarding the sun, I came back black (according to one of my kids), as I tan very easily.

Culminatively, pay-back time is here for me, obviously, regarding sun damage. Despite many years of being so careful. Despite being naturally olive skinned.

Over the years, I have learnt to apply sunblock to my arms (& exposed area of my chest) before stepping outside. So, that's some prevention, & remember, it's never too late to slow down, or halt, & in many cases, reverse, signs of ageing &/or, neglect.

Wee tips for handling the sun in regards to your skin: look to your diet. Green tea & red, orange & yellow fruit & vegetables reduce sunburn intensity.  Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils & flaxseeds) guard against sunburn. Dark chocolate is also good. Some of these foods, eg carrots, are also believed to reverse sun damage. And I do recall how years ago, the B vitamins, in particular B3, niacin, are recommended during summer as preventing photoaging (sun damage). You can cause a real B vitamin imbalance by taking not taking all the Bs together, so look for foods that contain the Bs. Wheat germ, nutritional yeast, if you can handle them (I love them!) & dairy yoghurt, are all good sources.

What about the shapes of our arms? I do push-ups against a bench, quite often, keeping elbows in close to graze the sides of my ribs, for the triceps. You can also turn your hands in a bit, with thumb tips touching, & index fingertips touching, palms flat. This will create a triangle shape, & will make your elbows point out sideways. Do push-ups, against the wall or a bench, or on the floor, in this position for triceps toning. Our triceps are the bits of arm that store fat, get flabby...ugh!

There are many exercises for the triceps. A very good tip for arm tone is to do a few quick arm exercises, one after the other, without lowering the arms, not even in between the exercises, keep the arms up. This "exhausts" the muscles & is very effective as our muscle fibres then have to do repair work on the affected areas, & this repair work helps build up the muscles.

                            Image result for arm circles

Take arms out sideways, stiff, palms up, then twist them so that palms turn up, but the opposite way to when you started, keep repeating. This confuses the muscles & it's this confusion that creates the fibre repair. The keeping your arms up sideways & stiff, make fists with your hands, & do circles with your arms, go one way, then do the other. Keep the arms up high, take them behind you with palms up, & lift your arms up & down to tone triceps.

You can also do any of these arm exercises with light weights.

If you start with a couple of each, doing your desired number for one exercise, then going straight onto another...you will feel it!! You can increase the number of each that you do, as you are able. Do all this about 3x a week, on alternate days, so the muscles have a chance to do their repair work.

Alternately, you could just choose one of the above exercises or push-ups, & do 20 every day. Your arms will thank you by developing lovely tone.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Food Matters: portion distortion

I was reading a post about how much food portions had changed over the years. What a shocker!

A mocha coffee with whole milk is .... 350 calories. Or, 1464.4 kilojoules. That's enough for a whole lunch! Add to it a muffin.....500 calories/2092 kilojoules. That's another whole meal. But, this is a usual wee "snack". I had a very social day last week where I had 3 small flat whites, a brioche, & a toasted sandwich. I don't even want to count that all up.

Some researchers are now saying that when we eat more than 600 calories/2510.4 calories in one sitting, it messes with our blood sugar. And this can set us for becoming pre diabetic, later in life. It is now very easy to consume that many energy units in one sitting. Mostly because our serving sizes have become so big, & these big sizes have become the norm.

People say to me: how come people were thinner in the (for example) 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s? Portion distortion is one of the major reasons why. We now eat bigger meals. And monster snacks. A pasta meal eaten out can have 2 or more cups of pasta.....& that's before we add sauce, maybe garlic bread (seriously? when we're already having pasta?) An "older" serve of pasta was about 1 cup. I found an earlier book of the famous New Zealand cook, Alison Holst..... I cannot remember a time when Alison was not in my life. She was big on feeding people with nutritious, normal foods, & I have never forgotten reading one of her very old cookbooks (I search op shops just to read them!), how she would choose root vegetables over grains like rice, pasta. Because the vegetables had more nutrition. And it's hard to eat 2-3 cups of spuds!

Our plates are bigger. To me, they are ugly & vulgar. But that's just me..... Our bowls are so big, too! And coffee mugs! I went to our local op shop & got some old crockery, in smaller sizes: a floral dinner plate; 1970s coffee mug, which is so-o-o much smaller than the monster coffee cups we now use; a teacup, saucer & side plate; a cereal bowl. The teacup is so small compared to the now normal coffee mugs, but I love it. You can't actually fit much on the side plate, & the cereal bowl....is really tiny. I had been having porridge in a modern bowl. It's more of a mixing bowl, really. But now I just use the smaller, older dish, & of course, my portion is way smaller, because I can't fit too much in the bowl. And the dinner plate is plenty big enough. It's just not oversized.

I have downsized to Vogels very thin bread, & now get grumpy when I can't find it, because even the sandwich slices are too much now. And I got really excited at a recent party when I saw small strawberries! Instead of those giant (vulgar) ones. I was getting a bit miffed that my favourite bought biscuits, gingernuts, & shortbread, had gotten really small. But now I'm pleased.

I was in Bali for 5 weeks a couple of years ago. I don't do well on peanuts, but there I had peanuts in some form every day. They were tiny, compared to the peanuts that we buy in New Zealand. And I really felt that because they hadn't been messed about with, by the growers, that was why I didn't react to them. And that to me, is a valid point. When I see our food getting bigger & bigger, such as apples & carrots, I get a bit sad, knowing that more & more people will not handle them so well.

I haven't really ever mastered the polite art of refusal. I had a coffee with a friend on my above mentioned social day, & she had a piece of cake, cut it in half, ate one half, & wrapped up the other half to take home. I have to learn how to ignore politeness, & eating what's on the plate, & instead learn how to do this, too.

We get offered a piece of cake, or a slice, & they are so big! You could almost use a bakery biscuit as a plate, & eat off it, they are so big (& awful....). I want little food to come back! It was really nice. I nearly always have poached eggs for lunch out because big, heavy lunch meals make me instantly sleepy, & that's not a good way to be. But now I notice that eggs are often size 8. So even they are bigger. I would like to indulge in a cream doughnut occasionally, but they are the size of a small loaf. Half the day's calories/kilojoules, no doubt.

Sometimes I'll get a fresh vegetable juice when I'm out, because I love them, they are nutritious, & you can get a small size. And I feel so virtuous ticking all those boxes. And I once found an old-fashioned cafe, more of an old style caff, where they had wee sandwiches. What a treat. Nice carbs that don't make you sleepy.

I guess, really, that we need to re-educate ourselves as to portion sizes. Or, is it really un-educate ourselves. I love nice little food. It's delicious & you end up eating mostly good, untampered food. With the occasional small bit of rubbish. I think that when we are advised to snack on carrots, apples, celery, etc, we don't realise that it becomes a laborious task of endlessly munching, just because they are so big!

I am also now thinking to educate myself about units of energy: calories &/or kilojoules. I think that having a bit of knowledge about this, & combining this with portion sizes, & small crockery, is a much smarter way to eat.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

image: attractiveness/7: bone building

It can be a real problem with some people, losing bone mass as they grow older. And it's not so good, as it makes people shrink when their bone density lessens. So, what can we do to prevent this, stop it to the best of our ability, and is it even possible to reverse it? And if so, how?

Teaching yoga, I have become acutely aware of some less than positive signs of ageing that could be prevented. One was that I have often seen is how curvature of the spine seemed to accompany shrinkage, getting shorter.....& this leads to a ton of problems, including back pain.

So the 1st thing to do is to learn how to stand up straight. Rather than training our bodies to know what it feels like to always slump, train it so that we know what it is like to have an upright spine. We get into a habit of slouching....for whatever reason, & over the years this leads to a wee hump....known as dowagers hump, in the "days of yore". So, try to put some time, everyday, into standing up straight. Push your feet into the floor, lift up through your crown, shoulders back & down, just a bit. Softly drop the tailbone (stops us poking out bottom out at an unsightly angle), lift our ribs a bit.

Keep practising this. Everyday. Until it becomes 2nd nature. At 1st it will feel strange, but after a while it will become "normal". You would be surprised to find out how much our mood improves with good posture. We also feel more confident.

But we also need to build strong bones so that our bones don't get smaller. There are actually several things that we can do. One of the easiest is to do exercise with lots of repetitions with light weights. Usually exercise with weights is done 2-3 times a week, & not on consecutive days. Using, say, 500 grams to 1kg in each hand is not a lot of weight, & is doable. You can also use cans of food. You do more repetitions of an exercise with light weights, ideally until the muscle getting worked gets tired. Latest research has found that this is extremely effective for bone health.

Yoga has been found to increase bone mineral density...whether its the stretch type of yoga (Iyengar) or the faster moving styles. So that's another option.

Walking & activities that involve a lot of movement like golf, dancing, tennis, hiking - these are all under the umbrella of weight bearing exercise, & it is the weight bearing exercise that builds bone & keeps it strong & healthy.

We can also use our own body weight, with exercise: yoga; planks; push-ups; tricep dips; lunges; squats - all are effective. If you do power yoga, you do heaps of these exercises in a class or session. This is quite difficult for most people to maintain on a daily basis, due to time....& also due to the effort required.

What we can do to fit in these movements is: do chair squats, fast. Hold onto a bench for stability & do as many as you can in a minute. Squat as though you are aiming your buttocks towards an imaginary chair behind you, using weight on your heels. Push back up to upright, squeezing your buttocks. Firms & shapes legs & buttocks. Surprisingly, this move has a direct effect on brain cognition. This means that we keep using our existing knowledge & faculties (rather than deterioration of our mental processes), plus....we learn better. An absolute bonus.

For the upper body, use a bench for as many push-ups as possible in one minute. Have your body in a straight line, abdominals tight, hands on bench under shoulders. Push down towards the bench, bending your elbows, &, if you can, keep them in close to the body to firm your triceps/back of the arms. Then straighten back up. Just do the best you can, & work towards doing them in style. Even if you can only do a few of these moves, it's a start.

You can also do crunches, lying on your back with knees bent & flat on the floor. Fingers interlaced behind your head, elbows wide. Do as many as you can in one minute, breathing out & pulling in, squeezing, your abdominal muscles as you lift up your head. Actually, holding a still position that works the abdominals is the most effective way to tone this area, such as in a plank, or an elbow plank. But, it is much harder.

3 minutes a day, for bone health. Priceless.








Thursday, 10 November 2016

image/attractivesness/6: moisturising our skin

                                 Image result for La Vie parisienne
Give Your Skin A Drink

aka as putting on body lotion, oils, whatever. I'm currently ploughing my way through some oils & a body lotion, wanting to use them all up before I resume making & using my love oils. I think it's uncool & unchic to waste things, so I'm methodically doing the right thing here.

But, the mousse-type palmers cocoa butter spray that I have is just awful. I will probably bin it, albeit sneakily. Currently, I've added baby oil to thick, guggy, palmers cocoa butter lotion (which smells delicious) to make it spreadable. I've also added olive oil to a fancy natural oil with rosehip to extend it's life, & when that's finished I'll do the same with an exotic vial of coconut oil. Then it's back to using my love oils.

I used to make love oils, & loved making & using them. I charmed them, continued the charm overnight, did them on the "correct" day. It was so enjoyable. I stopped doing them only because I was too busy to sell them, but I'll now do them for gifts, & for moi. I'm at a wee village market about once a month, so I can also sell them there.

There are several ways to use oils. Using them to extend your lotions is a good way. You can use oils from the kitchen, baby oil. You can apply an oil at the end of your shower whilst the shower is still going. Then pat dry after. Or, when you step out of the shower, before you dry yourself, apply the oil then....pat yourself dry after. Both are messy methods, but very effective, as the oils are sealing in the water, or moisture. Often people don't realise that we need moisture under our oils, in this case, water, for the oils to work well on our skin. Another method I often use, is with a wet flannel. I tip some oil onto it, & just wipe it over my skin after I've dried myself. As lovely as it is to use expensive oils, kitchen oils like olive (great for sore muscles), or grapeseed (contains vitamin E), are very effective. I love almond oil, & apricot oil has vitamin A, so is excellent. But...I have also used baby oil when I have had to watch my money.

And Our Face

We can do similar on our decollete, neck, & face, by adding water. After your have cleansed your face, spray on a toner before you add moisturiser, night cream, whatever.  Another method, when you have more time, is to hold a very warm flannel to your face to add water, then use your moisturiser. What I have been doing lately, is clean, do "the flannel thing", then I add just a few drops of oil to my face. The idea is to add just a light covering. I'm currently using a rosehip oil, which does seem to be lightening my sunspots. Next, spray with your toner on top of the touch of oil, & I use rosewater, to which I add a few drops of essential oil.....& I have the correct crystals for my skin in my rosewater. At present my rosewater is from an Indian supermarket, so it's food grade. And I must say, it is excellent. The next step is to add moisturiser. You will be amazed at the difference that all this hydration & layering makes to your skin. Even if you just did it once or twice a week.

So, how else can we moisturise our skin? Steaming our face is a good way. And a very old fashioned way, but if my secret mentor Elizabeth Hurley does it....so can we. Clean your face first. Put some boiling hot water in a container. You can also add herbs: a chamomile tea bag, some lavender, whatever! And, or, essential oils. Like lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, tea tree. Put your head over the pot & allow the steam to settle onto your face. You can use an exfoliating mask or scrub after, or any mask, really.

Drinking water is, of course, the ultimate skin hydrator. And so is eating water filled foods, like most fruit & vegetables.  And, another great hydrator, which I don't do, because I dislike doing such things when it's cold, is to splash cold water onto your face after cleansing. Do it at least 15 times, more is better.


Friday, 4 November 2016

image/attractiveness/5: little & often; regularly

I cannot stop thinking about this: "little but often; regularly". In attractiveness context, basically it means that you do what you do that you can fit in & maintain fitting it in. You do it often: over & over. And regularly: like clockwork.

I know that I am always seduced by the latest & greatest. I just know that if I have the latest skin care, make-up, food regime, new age beliefs, the latest exercise, the newest wardrobe must-haves....I know, I really do know...that my life will be so much more wonderful. Which is strange because my values are actually none of these things. My values in this area are to have small doable routines. For everything, really.

I know that in reality I do not, will not, buy products whereby animals have suffered in the production, which is most hi-tech skincare & make-up. I rely on dear friends & one of my kids to sort me out with make-up & skincare, & it's usually organic. I also know that food fads, in the form of food beliefs, change regularly. Which is totally vexing, for me. I still prefer yoga exercise & also would rather do 10-20 yoga squats, a bit faster than you would do in a yoga class, than do the latest keep fit moves. And I cannot handle having too many clothes, as, for me, that's a stressor. My libra sun & moon find it just too hard deciding what clothes to wear if I have too many. (As all librans know....those sort of decisions are not our strong point......)

So, what I always actually end up doing, is.....the same things over & over. Things that fit in with my values. Things that, for me, have proven to work. And even more importantly......I can do them easily....regularly. Like clockwork. They fit easily into my life. Occasionally, I do change something, just to see how it works, but, if it's a stressor, doesn't fit easily into my life - out it goes.

I realised quite young, that it was better to do one thing well....in my case it was yoga, than chop & change whatever interested oneself. My criteria was that what ever I was looking at doing, it had to have a feel good factor. It had to be beneficial. So, it had to make me feel good, fit easily into my life. And also be affordable. And yoga ticked all of those boxes.

I find it helpful to still follow this attitude. So my skincare routine has to be easily doable (meaning simple), make me feel good, & affordable (as well as be cruelty free). And, occasionally I change my diet, to do with the seasons. Cold food in winter makes me feel "down", so I have porridge nearly every morning. (no decision needed) but I'm also sure that as the warmer weather sets in....I will want to change this. I also have changed my at-home evening meal: protein & a steamed green vegetable. It suits me fine, & I just use whatever protein I've got, whether it's eggs, legumes, fish or similar. I like it & because I can do it little & often, & regularly, I find I just automatically do it.

The thing being, when we are always making choices about things, we seem to get choice fatigue & run out of just easily making good choices, as the day wears on. Therefore, I like to "save" my choices for important things. Because I notice that it just is easier to make a good decision then.

And with diet, & skin care, exercise, what we drink, sleep habits: these are all maintenance things, rituals. It's these habits that keep us keeping on. They keep us feeling good, looking good.

So what can we do to tweak our routines so that they are easy, so that we can do little & often? It's easier than you would think.



Thursday, 27 October 2016

image/attractiveness/4: Sculpting

                                 Image result for french beautiful legs drawings

Legs 

We have been looking at leg exercises. As we go through life, we naturally start off with muscle tone as children, teens, & young adults. Some people never seem to lose their muscle tone, & these are women who are naturally active, who keep their weight stable, don't drink too much alcohol.

There are other things that we can do to have nice legs. Removing hair by shaving, or waxing, regularly. If you shave, a man's hi-tech razor is fantastic. It's easy to do this in the shower, or after. A cheap hair conditioner makes it really easy, as does a body wash. You can also use body lotion if you're shaving after having a shower.

The Tanned Look

We can also add a light tan, through some careful sunbathing, gardening, etc, or by using tanning lotions, all of which help hide a multitude of marks & blemishes. And one of the best visual ways to look & feel better, is to have definition. This is hard to explain, but basically if you think of how a healthy young person has a strong outline to their face & body, whereas a much older person who is not so vital, has far less outline. This outline has to do with our life force, which you could also call prana, mauri, or chi. We have so much life force when we are young, healthy, fit & vital. To still have it as one moves through life, is such a blessing. We can do this by building up our life-force with diet, exercise, rest & state of mind. It can be done.

Define Your Body

We can also add extra definition by body sculpting. Not in the body building sense, although that is good to do. no, this is a bit different. Whenever you apply anything to your body, whether it's dry brushing, scrubbing with a mitt or exfoliating, smoothing on tanning lotion, or body lotion or oil, we can do all of these knowing that we are sending extra circulation to the skin,& thereby helping give more of a glow to the skin. We can have a system of using all this. All movements go towards the heart.

Start by doing brisk strokes on the sole of your foot, then the top. Next work up from ankle to knee, then knee to hip. Firm strokes up, softer strokes down. Circular moves around the hips & the buttocks.Up the lower back. Do big circles on the abdomen, up the right side, above the navel to the left, down the left. Do this several times, making the circles smaller & smaller. You can also rub the abdomen from base of torso up, right to left. Then grab around the waist & do pinching or rolling moves there. Upward strokes from waist, up ribs, to under the breasts. Around the breasts in big circles,& stroke down from collarbones to chest. Arms & hands are done the same way as the legs: backs of hands, wrists to elbows, elbows to shoulders. Down the upper back. In the areas that you think need extra effort: knead, pinch, roll, slap, these areas as you see fit.

All of this need only take a couple of minutes. If we learn to do something like this systematically, then it becomes second nature.

So that's for circulation. For the sculpting aspect, visualise each body part exactly as you would like it to be, whilst you are brushing, washing, applying lotion, whatever. Make it a habit. An effortless one.










Friday, 14 October 2016

walk, squat and lunge to stay young

                                           Image result for vintage french women beautiful legs drawings                                                                  Legs and Strength 

Studies have been done to study effects of leg strength on brain function, in particular cognition: thinking, learning & memory. These studies were done over 10 years, using twins.

All physical activities help with our muscles releasing hormones that encourage our nerve cells to grow. We have nerve activity that sends messages via impulses all through the body - including muscles. Yes, muscle tone can & does improve with the help of our nerves. And this could be part of an explanation as to how muscles have memory, as nerve impulses which create "tracks", seem to create memory.

We Don't Have To Do Much

One of the important factors was that we only need small improvements for cognition. So it's ok if we start  small with exercise. As a yoga teacher, even with only a weekly class, I can see dramatic improvements for newcomers, in muscular strength, which of course includes the ability to balance. And it may only be simple moves that we are starting with!! And I also notice that concentration improves fast. And that people are just looking better.

Any physical movement that we use, even as simple as reaching for something, works our muscles. Because our muscles are doing the work, from brain impulses telling them what to do! Of course, this all goes on within the secret language of the body!! We are unaware of it happening.

So, if you have been unwell, or are very unfit, one of the very first things to do, is to simply start moving your body! If you can only sit: shake your arms, then shake 1 leg at a time. Move your extremities up & down. Turn your head from side to side. Every bit helps, & it's also called "fidgeting" doing this. It can burn up a couple of hundred calories a day, doing "fidgeting". Get up & put something away, do a brisk walk to the letterbox. If you are recovering from illness, do a wee spurt here & there, as you can. Your body will be grateful.

I'm very conscious of  people getting their body to move, so that they can easily improve their quality of life, & improve their physical strength. Early on as a yoga teacher, I noticed that there was a direct relationship between physical strength & emotional strength, which I guess can be translated as : "healthy body = healthy mind". And, of course,  I know it for myself. If I don't move....I don't feel good.

And as a yoga teacher, I actually don't think that yoga is the only way to keep fit. I truly believe that whatever suits you, your personality, the time that you have available, & your life, is the best way.

But for cognition, & general muscle tone, we need to move. Squats are great because you can just pause & do 10-20 without taking up much time. Holding a yoga warrior pose is good because your muscles have to work a bit differently to keep you in that pose. Walking briskly as you move around your day is good. Moving creates an energy, & uses muscles. Going for a walk improves cardio
vascular health, & helps clear the head.

Move To Stay Young

If you watch children at play, they are always moving. To stay young, we need to move too. Another important thing: exercise thickens our skin which means we get less wrinkles. (just saying......). When I had a long period of inactivity from a damaged foot, I started to get wrinkles. It was actually disheartening.


Sunday, 9 October 2016

image: attractiveness/ 3

                                         Image result for vintage french beautiful legs drawings
looking at legs:

Thighs are the last place where I put on weight, but I have a sister who puts weight on there, first. And I put weight on my calves fairly quickly, whereas my sister doesn't. I'm sure that everyone else has body quirks like this. Either way, our legs actually need only a bit of looking after.

The ankle exercise, 3 variations, here, also give great muscle shape to our calves. They can be used for our calves, knees, thighs, buttocks & abdominals, too. If you can do them on a step (hold onto something for balance if needed), it's actually better. As you go up onto the toes, pull up from your ankles to your waist. Pull up & tighten simultaneously. Relax the muscles as you lower the ankles. To really tighten everything, you could keep the tension on throughout, but.....you would need to do hamstring, quads, buttocks, calves & abdominal, stretches afterwards. If you are doing these on a step, finish them by dropping the ankles over the edge of the step, & holding to stretch out your calves. Even if you don't do this, do a standing forward "hang" with arms either dangling down, or arms folded, or holding onto legs, ankles or big toes, to stretch out the hamstrings. If you are not keen to do all 3 variations, just do the up on toes, then heels to floor.

Our ankles are intimately connected with balance & are a key area to keep strong as we get older, as balance can decline with age. However, as a yoga teacher, I can truthfully say that almost everyone when they first comes to yoga, has bad balance.  Standing on 1 leg at a time, for a short period at first, then for maybe 20-30 seconds each, is the way to learn to balance. There are tricks to doing it: do not do it when you are hassled in any way; push the standing foot firmly into the floor if you can; & gaze at one point as you go into the balance, & as you hold it. I know that there are people who balance on one leg whilst brushing their teeth, or similar, but that is too frenetic for me. Balance poses are supposed to induce calm......

The standing poses of yoga, including leg balances, are excellent for shaping, strengthening, & lengthening leg muscles, as is downward dog/mountain. Hold each pose 3 breaths each if you are doing them everyday, or 5-10 breaths if doing them a couple of times a week.

To be honest, the best legs that I ever saw in my life, were from 2 women who each did squats each day. One did 20 squats with feet hip width apart & facing forwards (for thighs & buttocks), & also did 20 squats with feet further apart & toes turned out - like little plies (for thigh, inner thighs, buttocks) & if you push into the feet to come back up, the buttocks are more firmed. They were done fairly fast, with either no weights, or baked bean cans. Easy peasy.

The other woman was a yoga teacher. She also walked, a lot. In her class we did so many different types of squats, to start the class. We did each one far less times than the previous lady, & of course in yoga, one moves a bit slower. The yoga teacher used other poses also. Of course. But mostly squats. When we do the up & down on the toes, and the squats already described, it greatly magnifies the effects if we also visualise our legs & buttocks being in perfect shape. This amplifies the body-mind connection, & is very effective.

There are excellent reasons to do squats, & I personally prefer them to the big wide legged standing yoga poses such as triangle, warriors. Next we shall look at why.




Friday, 7 October 2016

image: attractiveness/ 2

                                        Image result for vintage french beautiful legs drawings
I'm often quite mesmorised by the absolute loveliness of some people. And yet, it has nothing to do with being beautiful. A way of smiling, of laughing, of caring. The way some people's face just light up when you see them. Their inner attractiveness, it just beams right out of them. And it is so magical. This is true loveliness & is beyond a person's looks. Allowing our inner attractiveness to shine forth, is to me, the way to be the most attractive one can be.

What do you think? Who do you know like this? You will have inner attractive qualities too. And, it can be a bit of a quest to allow it to shine, & indeed, to even realise what our own inner qualities are, that people fall in love with. One of the best ways that I have found to allow one's inner attractiveness to shine, is to associate with people who make you feel good. Not with compliments & so forth, no, just those people whom you can be yourself with. Your nice self.

A couple of years ago, I just quietly, discreetly, bit by bit, moved my presence away from people who kept criticising myself & others. I did the 5% thing...you, know, make changes 5% at a time. That way I didn't feel "bad" separating myself. And it made heaps of space for people who did care about me & whom I also cared deeply for.

I'm not always sure why we do these things: keep on trying in uncomfortable situations. Sometimes I think that we are just really nice people, so we keep on trying to get situations to work. Other times we feel guilty about thinking of moving ourselves away from toxic situations. On the plus side, though, when we do discreetly slip away, it breaks the bonds between us & others which are not beneficial. And, importantly, because it's done nicely, quietly, those friendship bonds can be resumed when situations are better.

Then, when we do meet, that inner attractiveness can shine forth from our eyes, our smiles, our body language. Because we are glad to see the other person.

When I was a child, I was inspired by the story of Pollyanna. The little girl who had lost both parents & came to live with her aunt. Pollyanna always saw the magic in everything. She was glad for people who had good things happen for them, & she was loving. I sort of took it on as my "creed" & earnestly tried to be like Pollyanna. I bet I wasn't like that all the time! All children are beautiful, that magic & trust & love shines out off them. And it can too as an adult, people with that inner attractiveness, they have those similar attributes: they can see the good in situations & in others, & they appreciate this. They are loving. They are caring. With this creates a magic that we want to be around.

And this nothing to do with our "looks". It has to do with our own innate nature.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

image: how to be attractive

                                           Image result for vintage french beautiful legs drawings
A little while ago, I read an article about attractiveness, & the main quality that has been found to make us more attractive. It may come as a surprise, but it had nothing to do with being beautiful.

It was about being groomed.

Meaning: hair is clean; nails tidy (my very weak point, I must confess); clothes clean & mended & ironed if necessary; shoes clean; teeth cleaned; body clean & groomed: eg shaving your legs & underarms. Complexion looked after. Eyebrows tidy. And it does seem that if we wear a little bit of make-up, that too makes us more attractive. Not a lot of make-up, just a bit.

Nothing that is rocket science.

And I have noticed that people who are well-groomed, meaning they are clean & tidy & "scrubbed up well", have other really useful traits: they are clean & tidy in their home, their workplace, their car. I'm not talking about people who are obsessive about their looks, no, no, it's people (& usually women.....), who, as a matter of course, methodically do all the wee bits & pieces that make us be well-groomed, & therefore, attractive.

One of the most ageless women whom I have ever known, always looked very casual.....but, never, ever, scruffy. And she was always getting up & down doing wee things to tidy her home. (ps that's also a great way to keep our metabolism up, all that movement)

So, what are the little habits that we can do to be well-groomed?  Lets start going upwards from the feet:

feet: as a yoga teacher, I am always looking at people's feet! When I'm teaching, I need to be able to see if they are limping in any way, & how strong & supple their ankles are. Our ankles need to be strong, because this helps us balance, & physical balance is a key area that needs to be maintained as we move through life, especially as we get older. A very easy way to keep ankles strong, is to raise up onto your toes, & down. You can hold it, do it several times...whatever! You can even hold onto a bench to do it if you don't have good balance. Try to do this a few times a week. You can also do this on the edge of a step, toes & balls of the feet on the step, heels are not on the step, so that when you go down, the backs of the calves get stretched. Do it with toes straight ahead, toes turned in, toes turned out (like a plie). Do 10 each, a few times a week. And put your hand on a wall, or a railing, for balance, whilst you are doing them. These 3 moves will strengthen the whole ankle & foot. And give nicely shaped calves.

Flexible ankles: I had a damaged foot for 7 years! Couldn't wear nice shoes, couldn't walk very far, had bad balance, & it hurt a lot. After quite a few full-on sessions, a Tohunga got my foot working again. Now I can wear shoes instead of jandals (flip flops) & I even wear heels on occasion. I can walk!!! Without pain. During those years I could not move my ankle very much. Now I do ankle rotations, often, & I do think that the foot damage could have been much worse If I had not been doing ankle rotations for many years. Lift up 1 foot, & rotate the foot around the ankle, 3 times 1 way, 3 times the other. You can even do it seated.

If you are up to it, you can even shake each foot a few times.

How to look after your feet on the outside: a piece of pumice is amazing for getting the rough edges of your feet smooth. You can do it in the shower, or before your shower. Do it often, it only takes a few seconds. If you have a mitt for scrubbing yourself in the shower, remember to give your feet  quick rub too, & also if you body brush or use exfoliating scrubs. And after your shower or bath, rub your body lotion into your feet too.

A great way to have soft feet, is to wear some old socks to bed, with some body lotion, oil, & vaseline, all massaged into your feet first. When you wake up..oh, my! soft feet! Those calloused bits will thank you. Some people just use vaseline or similar, & kawakawa balm is great too.

Trim your toe nails after your shower, when they are a bit softer. Usually just a clipper is fine. If you do the quick scrubbing, especially on the awful bits around your heels, use lotion & trim  the nails, that quite likely is enough, especially if you don't wear nail polish. A bit of regular upkeep means that you won't feel as though you need to spend time or money having a pedicure, & if you do use nail polish....it will be easy & quick.

I am not going to write how to put on nail polish etc! Because I don't do it myself. And (I'm guilty of this, too), chipped or growing out nail polish...is not attractive.

Another tip for feet, is to change your shoes, or take them off, throughout the day. Give your feet a break. For example, encourage people to take their shoes off at the door. Going barefoot gives your toes room to move. And put your feet up now & then to give a bit of r & r (rest & restore) to your feet.









Sunday, 11 September 2016

Image: little habits to reduce stress

                                        Image result for vintage carefree french woman beautiful drawings

The Stress Hormone

Our main stress hormone is cortisol. However, we do need cortisol: it makes us "get up & go". It peaks about 8am. When we get up in the morning, cortisol levels can increase by as much as 50% in the 20-30 minutes of waking, & whilst it is also the stress hormone, it is highly beneficial to have it elevated at this time. And, it makes it the perfect time to use that energy to fit in a bit of exercise. So, strangely, if you're tired...getting up before 8am will effortlessly create the rhythm of movement. If this is too hard, we can aim to get to bed earlier, as too many late nights & not enough sleep, are incredibly stress-inducing.

Meditate to reduce stress

However, if you are so stressed in the morning, I can recommend a short meditation 1st thing, to balance your stress responses. Even 5 minutes makes a difference. Or just getting up a bit earlier to move a bit slower & allow yourself to start the day more peacefully. If meditation is too hard, try the following breathing technique for a few minutes.

Consciously doing a bit of deep breathing helps, by getting more oxygen to our cells, which in turn helps our body relax. You can do it anywhere: gently exhale as you gently pull your navel towards your spine...if it's too stressful, gently blow the air out of your mouth, rather than breathe out through the nose. Pause very briefly, then release your abdomen as you breathe in. Again, a tiny pause. Then breathe out as described. Do a couple more. For major stress, it helps to count the breath: in for 4 counts...I use a heartbeat type count. Pause for 2 counts. Exhale 4 counts. Hold out: 2 counts. So easy. Start with a few wee breath breaks during the day, it's very calming, & helps to stabilise blood sugar by reducing inflammation. It also helps reduce tiredness, & tiredness, is, of course, another stressor.

Breathe and Relax

We can also do the following throughout the day: tighten & clench all your muscles, then release. Inhale, clench, release as you do a relaxed breath out. Consciously do that relaxed breath. Do this up to 5 times. Breathe deeply.

Both the breathing technique & the tense/relax, trigger the relaxation response. When you think that you can't fit these in...& you wonder if they work....I have a story: many years ago, I was determined to lose weight. We had 2 10 minute breaks & 30 minutes for lunch, at work. In my breaks, & I had to use all breaks for toilet time, I would quickly do an exercise in the ladies room! There was nowhere to do anything at work! I went for a very brisk walk at lunch, came back & had a small something to eat. And I gave up driving an hour each way in peak, heavy traffic, to & from work, & caught the bus. Instant stress reducer!

Cortisol levels fall gradually during the day. Between 2-4pm...cortisol levels are low in our bodies. So this is why we feel a bit tired at that time of day. Because cortisol is tied in with our glucose (blood sugar) levels, it is this time that some of us need a snack....& it's best that it does not drop cortisol & glucose levels. So what can we eat? We can have a wee protein smoothie; cheese & vegetable sticks or a piece of fruit; cottage cheese or peanut butter on rice thins. Something that doesn't send us racing off for more coffee, fizzy drinks, or rubbish foods.

If your blood sugar has been adversely affected by stress, & mine were.....it has greatly helped me to eat little, often, to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. My lifestyle doesn't always support this, but I do work on it.

I have found that no matter what the latest thing is for stress....it truly is a lifestyle & relationship thing. I also had working conditions, years ago, that were so bad that I would have a panic episode whilst driving to work. I left that job. And we need to look at what we do, what we can do, what we are likely to be able to maintain, to reduce stress. Sometimes it's trial & error; sometimes we just know what we need to do.

Stand Tall

But there are other things we can do: did you know that posture helps? When we use our bodies in an expansive way: eg when sitting, we might lean back, put our hands behind our head, our testosterone levels go up, & our & cortisol levels go down. As opposed to when our posture is "closed", withdrawn, eg shoulders hunched, these body mannerisms did not give the same result. So, lets move our bodies, in a positive way. Testosterone is needed by women for our female hormone production, & for our muscle tone.

When we are happy, we are less stressed.  Conscious gratitude has been found to reduce stress. So, when we are stressed, it helps to quickly find something to be grateful for. Try it, & see.

And finally, looking up makes us feel happier. Watch that posture!

Friday, 9 September 2016

image: make space for routines

                                           Image result for vintage french toilette beautiful drawings
What were you doing in your life when you felt & looked good? These are key memories, as they give us clues as to what we are currently not doing, & what we could be doing, to feel healthier, look better, have our vibrancy levels at optimum.

Our bodies have memories, & so do our brains, emotions & minds. We can "poke around" & remember them, & re-introduce them. Sometimes it doesn't matter whether times are good & bad, we just have the impetus to go ahead & do these things, but other times there is no space in our lives to do this.

And yet, space is the very thing that we need to create. Space to do many things, to be sure, but also space for our routines. When we have space for our routines, we can then put our routines in place. We have space & routines for caring for others: friends & family, we make space for our work.....but we also need space for ourselves.

If you look back at your optimum times, you may be surprised to find that you might not have actually had more free time than you have now....but you somehow managed to squeeze in time for yourself instead. There would have been a reason that you were determined to do that. And perhaps you don't want to have that same reason in your life....but....you can still make space to quickly fit in your routines.

Make the routines quick & easy to do & the space to do them will be easier to find..or create. Just do it. And this applies not only to looking after ourselves, it also applies to making space for tasks in our work. Or our garden. Or with relationships.

So, what can we do to make space for looking after ourselves? I know that when I shower 1st thing rather than wait till I've been in the garden, or done some yoga......I get moving quicker. Start with your own morning. When does your time get fitted in? After everyone else?  Do you make space to eat a healthy breakfast, or would sipping a smoothie whilst you get ready, be better? Is everything organised the night before so that you can have a routine in the morning?

I find that it works for me to have the same breakfast everyday, except when I'm working very early, & I have a different routine for that. Routines save time, they keep our equilibrium on an even keel. If we have children, this in turn keeps their mood happy. Knowing what to do & when to do it, means that children can actually do things fast occasionally.

Then a lunch routine: the same lunch most days? And a brisk walk? Work out what suits you & your life.

Evening: do you have a group of dinners that you can produce quite quickly? Or, if you're a working mum, do you precook some meals in the weekend? I have vivid memories as a young working mum, having a casserole & another dish or two, cooking in the weekend. Sometimes my oven would just be quite full, preparing food for the week & cooking a meal for that night also. I always cooked extra rice at one of our evening meals so that we had cold rice to put in our weekly stir fry, the night before weekly shopping.

My eldest children grew up on soup for lunch at home, or we made salad sandwiches at the table, with some protein like cheese, eggs, or meat. Even today, I really want to be mega healthy & have a fish salad for lunch, but happy memories with my kids win out every time: I have soup, or a sandwich. My youngest loved sushi for lunch, & I've started having this, too. Breakfast for my kids was generally a protein smoothie: it helped them concentrate better at school. I guess that I was a boring mum, but I did notice that children having routines.....made them happier.

And bedtime: I have found that if you want a good night's sleep, then a wee routine does help. If you want to get your make-up off before bed, & you're always tired: do it earlier, or use wipes. And once or twice a week I mentally go over my wee assortment of clothes, & work out what I'm wearing each day. It takes 5 minutes, & makes it easier to get clothes ready the night before, because the decision has already been made.

To make it easier: choose 1 time of day or night, at a time. What can you do to have a do-able routine for this time? How can you make space for it? How can you implement it? The rewards are great from routine, our bodies, our minds, our emotions, thrive on it. Stress is reduced. We get more time for other things.



Saturday, 3 September 2016

Image: Josephine Fairley & the 1st requirement

I was reading about Josephine Fairley, British businesswoman, author, public speaker. A very dynamic woman who is very widely read for her beauty books. One of the things that jumped out at me, was where she said that a busy woman knows that she has to take care of herself, in order to do all that she does in her life. Not only was Jo talking about herself, but also other women she knows, particularly in the beauty industry. She said that it wasn't just the outside, you know, the "beauty" aspect, that she was talking about. She also was talking about doing things to be healthy: like exercise, diet.

If you have ever read her Beauty Bible books that she wrote with Sarah Stacey, plus her yoga, perfume, natural cosmetics books......she comes across as a rather lovely person who dishes out tons of advice in her books. And this piece of advice, about looking after your well-being, really hit home. Because we have times when it's so hard to even go to the bathroom when we have wee children, we don't have time to even think when we are a working mum, we take on more & more activities that fill our days...suddenly there is no time for oneself. I'm sure that so many can relate to this.

Then there is the other side of the coin: after years of no time, no space, being too tired to do extra for oneself...we get out of the habit. It becomes a learning curve to find out what suits oneself. For me, it has been an ongoing process, veering between doing too much & too little. Trying to find a middle way. A sustainable way. Sustainable on more than one level: I am against animal cruelty & slave labour, so I am very mindful of that. And I am against littering our lovely planet with plastic junk, so I work with that too, For me, eating expensive special foods & having expensive skin products that are not cruelty - free; these are against my values, & values are, for sure, one big way to take care of oneself.

But also, sustainable according to money, time, preference. Being able to be a bit flexible with our choices, as needed. Food is an area where having an eating system for my home life, is much easier for me. It makes me behave in the food area, & this is one area where we need to take care of ourselves. I love biscuits (cookies), but I don't buy them, as I always finish the packet in 2 days, at most. When I'm out, I don't like cafe biscuits, but home-made ones...I find them impossible to resist. So I am accepting that, as being "just me", I know that I will keep finding ways to walk past the biscuit plate!

And I am quite okay with exercise 5 days a week..but there are 2 days each week where I'm lucky to get much in. With exercise, it doesn't work for me to do lots of exercise at once. I am better off doing smaller blocks of walking, yoga, etc, on a more consistent level, it is more sustainable for me. Meaning: I'm more likely to do it & fit it all in. I have a really busy life, so at home, I sort of have to be a bit more regulated. And having too many beauty products, is overwhelming, so I find it more sustainable for my mental well-being, not to have too much beauty "stuff".

So, sustainable can be a bit different for each of us. I know people who prefer to go to a gym regularly & have a full-on work out, People who dish up beautiful food, & love to plan & cook it. I find that stressful, Some women get facials & expensive haircuts & colour. I am quite prudent with money, so that is not very sustainable for me. Each of us is so unique, really, so we each need to have our own individual systems for well-being.  And, for those of us who are blessed to have a nice life, we have the opportunity to trial things to see what works best for us. If big changes are difficult, do a 5% change in an area. Remember, a 5% change, gives a 20% effect, Do 5x 5% changes in an area, & you're looking at a 100% effect. I know that other people like to do bigger changes, but the important thing is to find out what works for you, in your life, with your time, values, & money.

The thing is, all this is not the biggest thing in one's life. It's not very fulfilling when our biggest concerns are how we look! No. all this is so that we can have a better life, be healthier so that we can do all the things that we want to do. It truly is one of the ways to have a better life, & also feel better about oneself.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Image: Spring is here!!

                                   Image result for spring french drawings

Spring Has Sprung

Spring arrived this week. After a very cold spell & preceded by lots of rain. I, for one, hope that it is here to stay. Until summer, at least, with no slips back into a cold & wet winter. I always think of spring as a time of hope, enthusiasm, & eagerness to get things done!

How To Plan With The Seasons

One of the best things that I ever learnt, is to plan in winter. Whatever. Get your plan of action ready. Plot your course. Then, come spring...step into doing whatever it is you would like to achieve. Get it going, rev it up, before it gets too hot & we want to play in the long, hazy days of summer. When summer does arrive, whatever you're doing has already built up speed. We can keep it going & coast along doing it in summer with a bit of a wind-down if it's needed in autumn when we are getting ready to "hibernate" on some level. Then back to rebuilding & replanning, whilst we keep on going, in winter. So that come spring, we are off again, with an almighty effort.

How To Plan With The Moon

The other excellent tip...is to use the full moon in the same way. Plot, plan, in the waning moon, traditionally known as a time when we have lower energy, especially use the last 7 days of the 28 day moon cycle. When the new moon arrives....we start our project! The energy around our project will build up all the way to the full moon, then, again it is coasting time as the moon energy slowly winds down again. This is a wonderful way of doing the increment thing. You know, make changes in small increments, & doing this each month can become a habit, & is not too stressful. Whereas we can use the seasonal approach for our bigger plans.

Spring Is For Shredding

And at some point in spring, it's also time to "shed" things. You know, the warm clothes, bedding, food & drink that has kept us fortified for winter. In winter, I get just plain miserable eating cold food, & I can't even handle cold water drinks, even though I don't actually get as cold as many others do, during the cold, wet season. But today, I am plotting & planning my next excursion to the plant shops for quick growing greens & herbs for spring salads. And getting ready to say "adieu" to my warm breakfast porridge.

Fresh And Light For Spring

Spring makes me think of the words "fresh & light", & as mentioned, we start to eat fresher, lighter food. Our makeup should go the same way, too: fresh & light. In other words, start peeling off the layers of make-up so that come summer, we are wearing very little. Start making our make-up not only lighter in application, but also looking a bit fresher, a touch more pinky, or apricot, depending on your skin undertones. Less eye stuff. Even our hair, if we colour it, can be a tad lighter, signalling something fresh.

Lighten Up Your Wardrobe For Spring

We can merge our wardrobe for spring. By adding some lighter summer clothes to replace some of the warm, winter gear. In spring, it can still rain, it's just not so freezing & windy at the same time. And other days are so crisp, so fresh. And so darned freezing! Then there are the warmer, sunnier days. So we still need some warm clothes, our brollies, & some lighter garments.

Wee cardis instead of bulky, warm ones. Layering tees instead of jumpers. Scarves which are less bulky than our winter woolly ones. Mix in some of the summer clothes with the winter ones, as needed. If you wear different types of jewellery, signal the freshness of spring here, too. We tend to wear more sombre clothes in winter, but in spring if we add some more colour, it just "lifts" everything. In summer, when it's hot, we need somewhat cooler colours, but in autumn & spring, we can use some of the warmer, brighter colours, such as reds, which are simply a bit much in the heat of summer.  Even though red is also excellent for winter, in the in-between seasons: spring & autumn, our reds & oranges, can be in lighter fabrics.

And, spring is the ideal time to go walking. It's quite disheartening when you want to sally forth for your daily constitutional, & it's so early it's still dark, &/or torrential rain. But now, it's light enough to go morning &/or evening. What a blessing.





Thursday, 11 August 2016

Image: what can we do right now?

Image is not just about the way we look. No, no, that's too superficial. It's also about our life. For me, it's also about having our life how we image-ine it to be, how we would like it to be. And this varies from time to time in our life. How I want my life to be right now is totally different from what I wanted for my life, 2 years ago., because circumstances have changed, financial & personal priorities have changed, & life itself is now different for me, & will be so for you, too.

So, what can we do right now, to have the sort of life that we would like to have? I used to feel horrendously guilty about even thinking like this when there are so many suffering people in the world. For years! But now I think about how fortunate I am to have the space & opportunity in this lifetime, to create a nice life, no matter what is happening in my own life. And creating a nice life is a brain-happy state, too. When we approach looking at our own life, we can get the positive attitudes going by first noticing what we do have in our life that is good....& this is not necessarily to do with material possessions...& also by being grateful for what we do have. Whether it's money, somewhere to live, friends, time, space, work...the list is endless.

When we start with a negative outlook, we create stress hormones in our brain. Stress in turn has been found to lead to fear & doubt responses. And when we are looking to have a better life, or even just to feel better about our life, a wee turn of perception goes a long way. It's hard to create anything nice when fear is the over riding factor, or when we a riddled with doubt. And, it seems to me, that when we are in this space, we start to expect & notice obstacles, real or imagined. So, to recap...1st step is to look at our life to find out what to be grateful for. Not to fool ourselves that things are good when they are not...but to give ourselves a heads-up so that we have the emotional tools for change. And sometimes in our life....the changes do have to be big & dramatic. I have had a few of those times too. And I survived.

So, to get past the fear factor, & self doubt...get into the positive habit. Then we have an easier time of making change. When we want the changes to be big...start with something that you can easily achieve, so that you can create the feeling of accomplishment. It honestly helps to have those feelings! It sets the stage for us to do more...because we feel that we can do more, we feel that we can do things, we have that success feeling, whether big or small.

"The ability to take risks is based on previous accomplishments": Gail Sheehy: Passages.

A few years ago, I was looking for employment, after a dramatic life change (!), & realised that I loved flowers. So I worked at a plant nursery, packing flowers for a wee while. All those beautiful flowers quite naturally created happiness in my brain. So now, I think...what little steps can I do in my life, to create those lovely feelings? Each of us has little things that we can do to get happiness hormones going. Some people just want to live in a tidy home, others want flowers & plants around them, still others like things to be cosy. Other ways for me are being at the ocean's edge, watching sunrise, having friends. What we do in our life counts too: work, recreation. It's helpful to make a list of what makes you happy, then look at little ways you can incorporate those things into your life.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

image: positivity & affirmations

I used affirmations, mostly unsuccessfully, for many years. It was not until a woman taught me a technique to change self beliefs that derived from very difficult situations over my lifetime, that I learnt how to unscramble my brain circuitry.

Prior to that, most of them did not work. Sometimes we just are doing the wrong affirmations for ourselves (which I obviously was doing!), & I do believe that they have to resonate with us. I have 2 that I have used for most of my life, they are simple yet effective, & based on attitudes, & the second is also about doing: I believe in life, I believe in love, & I believe in myself; & I do what I have to do willingly & cheerfully. These two take away sulking, resentment, & self pity, & instead produce a positive attitude, & expectation of good things, which is why I like them.

The other excellent type of easy affirmation is of course: thank you, Universe. An absolute winner. So useful, so life changing. And it really helps if we can be automatic with our affirmation responses. As if those affirmations are just the way that we naturally think. And it works! Because studies have shown that we become happier when we do the gratitude "thing". And, we become more positive towards others, so gratitude is great for our social skills too. The part of the brain that is affected also has some "doing" skills, so we get smarter in other ways, too.

We are always going to have a gazillion trillion thoughts inside of us. The ones that seem to affect us the most, whether positive or negative, they simply have made deeper, stronger, tracks in our brains. It always reminds me of that beautiful Smokey Robinson song: Tracks of My Tears. I always imagine tears creating pathways down our faces. Well, it's like that in the brain. We have pathways of thoughts, & to be a positive thinker, we can use how our brain works, to our advantage. Each time we have a conscious thought, or thought response, it creates a little sort of electrical charge through the brain, as neurons fire the message of that thought, through the brain. Keep repeating that same thought, & the neuron impulses along that pathway get stronger & stronger, until we end up with a strong automatic pattern in the brain, relating to that thought. So, if we decide to make positive statements, they can start to become our reality as they take over the older perhaps negative & defeatist thoughts....you know: the I can't....& the negative thoughts & feelings of whom I am & what I look like.......

If we have positive, rather than negative statements, according to studies from Thomas Jefferson University, the frontal lobes of our brain are also strengthened, & it is this area of the brain where we are able to discern between right & wrong, so here we can also be able to respond appropriately with others. Here we are also able to make good decisions....so important in our life.

It really helps to have our brains working well, not only for our current life, but for the future. It would be really nice to be healthy in our body, & brain, when we are of considerable years. Some of the very best ways to do this are: rewire your brain...& this is a gradual ongoing thing so that it is less stressed (brain stress is a real ager!). By being more positive. And by doing one thing at a time, as constant multitasking is stressful to our brains.  Have just a few affirmations that denote that "we just are that way", & use them, often. There are other things to do too, exercise being paramount.

But today it's positivity & affirmations. And how does it affect us, image wise...or image-ination wise? Well, we feel better, & that is such a blessing, so we behave in easier ways...& this rubs off on our families, friends, & work situations. This in turn just makes our life better. It all creates an energy, & that energy somehow seems to pick up speed, so that life keeps getting better. We feel better, therefore we look better. We are better. And when the hard times come...we are able to deal with them better, because our brains are now thinking in more proactive ways.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Image: the main secrets

In any area of image, we need to know exactly what it is that we want. If it is how we look...then, exactly how do we want to look, realistically. If it is our weight, it could be about wanting to look good in a swimsuit, or be a particular size. For our health, we might, for example, want to be able to walk, run, bike, swim, etc, a certain distance. Or, we might look messy, & want to look tidier. Or to be more organised. There are many possibilities.

The next step is: what are we willing to do on a daily or regular basis, to be, have, achieve, our goal? It helps to make a list. Obviously, if we want to get to our goal quite easily, we shall have to start somewhere. Sometimes I think that we forget that there is always a start point, & an achieved point. Then that is followed by maintaining the achieved point.

If the start point is A, & the end point is B....what are we prepared to do, what can we actually do in our life, to get to that point B? Whatever it is, & it can be a few, or many, things, these are what we can do, are prepared to do, & they are the very things that keep us on our course towards point B. And when we veer off the path, as one does (!), our "things" that we were doing, are what we can return to, to resume our journey to point B.

It doesn't matter what it is we are working towards, this will work for us all.

And we can work out little sign-posts along the way from A to B. For example, looking good in a swimsuit might entail some food changes & some exercise. The exercise could be walking & light weights. So for a food list, what about starting with: drink 2 litres of water each day; each slowly & enjoy your food; eat at regular times. Then more can be added as the first suggestions become established in your life. We could start walking for 10 -15 minutes a time, & adding 5 minutes each week, until we are walking for the length of time that we have available. 2 -3 x a week we could do what was in the previous post, starting with maybe 8 repetitions of each exercise, adding a few more repetitions each week until we can do 2 lots of 10 repetitions. The next step would be to add some baked bean cans as weights, or water bottles.

A sign post in this case would be, for example, walking 20 minutes, then 25, then 30. Another sign post could be going down a clothing size. Choose the sign posts that matter to you, that mean something, that tell you that you are getting towards your goal.

Make everything do-able, that is truly one of the secrets. One of the biggest, yet seemingly most trivial things that I've ever done to reduce stress & be more organised, is to get my clothes ready the night before. Yes, so trite, but what a difference it has made to my mornings. I swear that it takes less than a minute the night before....but it took way longer in the mornings. I am a double libran, & having to make choices like "what to wear?" in the mornings as I headed off to work, etc, it was overwhelming & stressful. At night I am too tired to be so libran, & I just get it done.

So, today we are looking at knowing exactly what we want to do, in any area. That we need a realistic start point A, a finish point B. What to do that is do-able in our life, to get there. What would be our sign posts to let us know that we are progressing? This simple system has worked for me with many things, from business to gardening to health. Many years ago I went to Weight Watchers, & they had a little booklet where you put star stickers each time you achieved a sign post. I didn't understand it at the time, which may have been one of the reasons that I was a serial failure at WW.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Image: exercise

I was talking to a friend last night who was undergoing an image overhaul. And I just thought that it would be colours, clothes styles, that sort of thing. But no. It was more. Listening to my friend tell me one or two things that she had to start with, I thought that it would be fun to do it too. Basically we are looking at our life, so it's not just one's appearance.

The first thing to do is, do some exercise everyday. So here, we can be looking at anything from going to the gym everyday, to going for a walk, doing some yoga or callisthenics. The list of possibilities is actually quite big!

I worked in gyms for years, teaching yoga, & I certainly learnt a lot from the people (nearly all ladies) who came to the classes. Now I do know that you need time & space to do a lot of exercise, & many of these women either didn't "work" (ie have an official job) or were retired. So going to the gym each day was easier for them. However, one of the most inspirational ladies, ever, whom I taught, was 80. I asked her about her fitness, & she replied that she didn't do much anymore. She was going to a ladies only gym everyday except sunday, for a fitness class, & of course the classes varied from yoga to pilates to bootcamp to keep fit. She had a 30 minute walk on the treadmill  beforehand. Not much!!! My goodness, it was heaps. She looked amazing, & could do more difficult poses than many of the others in the class. And her diet was just as "regulated" & automatic. Prior to all this, she had run everyday, for years, & done callisthenics. Whenever I feel lazy...which can be often...I think of this woman. She honestly had kept her figure after childbirth decades prior, & maintained it.

One of my friends had kids, a job, a home, her own garden, so had very little free time. She is a gardener by trade, so is very strong & fit. Each evening she was doing elbow planks & side elbow planks for her abdominals & some yoga salute to the sun.  Yes, I know. Massive guilt reading this.

I met an older woman who was trying a fitted jeans in the most trendy of jeans shops. She got 1 skin tight pair to wear around her husband (very cute idea!) & another, less tight one, for the weekend. She walked every single morning for about 40 minutes. And had for years.

I had always only ever done yoga, ever since my mid 20s, & it wasn't the full-on stretch & hold for a long time, type. Nor was it strenuous. It had always been adequate until my mid forties. I didn't need to do much walking or anything else. But the time had come where I knew that I needed something extra for body tone. Joanne came to stay. She had a totally killer body. Of course, I wanted to know how she got it: 10 minutes, 1st thing every morning, using cans of baked beans, or even no weights, body tone exercise. Each exercise was done 20 x, so to fit it all into 10 minutes, she would have been moving fast. Totally the opposite to yoga. I had to work this out in my head, I was so unused to anything like this. Plies with toes turned out & squats, for legs & buttocks. There was a side leg lift for outer thighs but this is not an area that I need to worry about so I skipped that. Crunches combining bust exercise: have your arms by the sides of your chest & as you crunch up you bring your arms up & cross them at the wrist. Triceps kickbacks & pushups. I mean, really, how hard is all that? I can tell you that it really works, & I only ever did each exercise 10 x, & probably slower than Joanne.

Then there is a woman whom I taught in a gym, for years. She came once a week for an hour yoga class. It was her easy workout each week. Every other day, 1st thing, she would walk, run, swim, lift weights, she varied it, & had a routine with her husband whereby one would be getting kids ready for school whilst the other exercised, then they would swop over so that the other could then do their fitness routine.

So, reading all this, I do know that it can seem quite daunting. But I really just wanted to give some inspiring examples. And it can take trial & error to find out what suits you & your life. So, today, let's all think about ways to add a bit of exercise each day. And do it. If it's not right for you, do something else tomorrow. But try to get some in everyday day, even if it's just a short walk. Or a couple of 10 minute walks, at a pinch. Try some pushups against a bench. Do some plies when you have 30 seconds. Some crunches before bed. If we make things easy...then we can do it. I shall add these suggestions: 2 x 10 minute walks, pushups, plies & crunches, all 20 x each, to my day. I already do 10 minutes of easy yoga sun salutes most mornings. Some sun salutes are hard. I've learnt that for myself..if it's hard, it becomes too much & I stop doing them. And I'd rather just do them than make it too daunting.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

continuing with chic: other aspects of chic

                                     Image result for la vie parisienne

Being Chic Is An Attitude

I do know that there is more to being chic than how we look! It also seems to be an expression of personality, &, a joie de vivre. An interest in others. How we live both in society, whether it's work, friends, or just generally mixing with people. Wherever. A generosity of spirit.

And generosity itself is also chic. Taking a cake to someone, giving a gardener some cuttings, giving a friend who is a bit down, some of your time. What little gestures of generosity are you?

As for being interested in others: I am a shy person, I had to learn how to chat with others. I usually ask a person what they do in their life, & that always leads to an interesting tete-a-tete. If there are children, I ask about them. There is always something about another person that is interesting! It is tres chic to be interested in other people. It denotes a warmth, an affection.

We all need people in our lives. Loneliness is not chic! So, if your life needs more people in it, this can be done through groups, hobbies, study, sports, getting out & about meeting people. Once you get into the habit of it, you won't be so lonely anymore. Actually, if I was lonely, I would volunteer my services here & there, to give to people: old folks homes, doing some things for neighbours in need, like shopping, childminding, lawnmowing: the list is endless! When we realise that there are those whose lives are worse than our own....our own life doesn't feel so bad anymore! If you are lonely....what could you do to meet people? Especially people with similar interests?  If money is tight: what can you do that is free, to meet people, or even just to be where others are? Like a village market, the library.

And it is chic to be cheerful. A great way to feel happier about oneself & one's life, is to practice gratitude. I silently say: "thank you Universe" when something nice happens, & I aim to find many things to say thank you for, each day. What can you find to be grateful for? I currently am very grateful to be living where I can have a vegie garden, see the stars at night, watch the dawn come up, listen to the birds, & also that I have family & friends.

Our Homes Can Be Chic, Too

And in our homes, too, is where we also express our chic-ness. That personal touch that is just us. When we have a family, or are flatting, of course that is harder to do, but....I do know someone who actually does do it, in a most unobtrusive way, whilst sharing a house with others.

We can look at our living situation to see how, even if only in a minute way, we can express our flair. Whether we live with others, or alone, we can make things more attractive. Attractive is the main way to look good, & that applies to our living spaces. The first way to do that is with cleanliness & tidiness. Not perfection, but looking nice. Put things away, clean the kitchen & bathroom. Not rocket science, & it is very chic to have a nice living space.

I personally adore the shabby chic look. And I love antiques. I don't have room for many nice bits & pieces, so I have a couple of original vintage pieces of furniture, & few wee pieces of antique crockery. I have yoga "stuff" in my home, too (I teach yoga): wee statuettes, "Om" signs, a meditation yantra (containing geometric forms which symbolise something esoteric). Not too much of anything, but enough to make me happy, with a bit of the type of things that I love.

So what is unique about you that can be echoed in your living space, whether it be your bedroom, flat, home, garden....what do you love that makes a statement about you? What would you love to have in your home? It can even be something as simple as having flowers on a coffee table. Remember, we are expressing our chic here.

So, today....here were some things to ponder, about our chicness.




Friday, 15 July 2016

30 chic days: day 30: are kiwis chic?

The final day in Fiona Ferris's 30 chic days, to celebrate the release of her bestseller: 30 Chic Days. If you would like to read, or listen to, the 1st 3 chapters, here is the link to Fiona's lovely blog: http://howtobechic.blogspot.co.nz/. Going through Fiona's site to get to see the book, is actually more supportive for her. Her facebook site is: https://www.facebook.com/FionaFerrisAuthor/

For my last day in this chic series, I have done some sleuthing to see if we kiwis ladies are chic. I kept a lookout wherever I went. But I felt that I needed something to compare it with, so I sneakily talked to french women. I figured that french restaurants, bakeries & delicatessens were easy places to do my research in, & I actually only talked about the food on sale (french food places are very busy!). I also have known french women, so I remembered aspects about them too.

They talk quite fast, are very expressive with their face, body, & hands & I think that it's because the french language is very expressive. They are friendly. They do have beautiful complexions, some wear make-up, some do not. Many have slightly messy hair, which I like. I really disliked the fad for straightening hair & trying to make it look perfect, that was prevalent in nz for so long. And even when french ladies are wearing jeans & very casual clothes...they do look different, & it's hard to say why.

I saw a french woman who had pitch black hair in a messy high bun, with a straight fringe, make-up, red lipstick, wearing very modern & very casual black, & grey, clothes, with jewellery made from real silver vintage cutlery. She looked amazing. Actually she was the real french chic inspiration, for me. I realised that chic was about simplicity, unique-ness, & imperfection.

I do think that there is nz chic, & more than one type of chic look, but I don't think that everyone has it. I know arty people who personify chic yet are not Parisian chic. There is also the casual chic, of jeans & a top or 2, sneakers, Converse, ballerinas, or ankle boots, with slightly messy but artfully cut, or coloured, hair. Le non make-up look provided by mineral powder, lip balm, mascara. Very nice. My youngest grand daughter (13 years old) was recently wearing fitted light blue denim jeans, a navy & white, sailor-striped tee, & tan mock suede flat ankle boots. Her long hair was in a pony: she looked chic! (I asked where all the gear was from. Grand daughters are a great source of current fashion & beauty info).

I was in a clothes shop recently, & one of the salesgirls was so chic! I had to sneakily peek at her, so as not to be a staring weirdo. Very current clothes; long hair; le non make-up look; her baggy silky type tee was slightly tucked into her elegant black harem-type pants, just at the middle of her waist, no where else; ankle boots; loose, long, cardi top, all very casual, a bit untidy, all so chic.

Then there was the very expensively upmarket chic look of black, red & white, with slightly messy hair, & very expensive accessories, that I saw on a woman in a very expensive Auckland suburb. And then the older women with their short hair, cut casual & modern; black top & pants which honestly can be from any decade, any price. With a large, plain, unusual necklace, or a long untied scarf. It looks fantastic. So age is no barrier to chic-ness.

Today I saw a young woman in a cafe. actually it was her black quilted, chanel-look, gold-chained Guess bag that I really saw first. I was mesmerised by it..... & she wore a plain black long sleeved tee, with black leggings that did not look expensive, & little ankle boots. She looked good. Looking at her, I really could see how you mix different priced gear, even mixing dressy with casual, to create a chic look.

Then there is The Big Night Out such as engagement parties: I went to one a few months ago. All very chic, there was a definite look, even though everyone was dressed differently. Le smoky eye & artfully slightly messy hair are definitely part of the general evening out look.

And in the CBD, tailored black chic is still de rigeur for the businesswoman. No matter what is said about "classic" clothes, they actually do undergo subtle fashion changes. And for those who love vintage, or le hippie look, mixing it with modern gear.....is sooo chic.

Chic seems to me to be an attitude, a personal style, & yes, I have seen many examples of kiwi chic. For those who have it, the way that they personify it, is their "look", with casual being toned down, as an ease of dressing, le non make-up look but secretly wearing some, whilst evening & dressy glam is full make-up, & nonstructured hairdos, but the clothes do seem to have a simplicity, whether casual or dressy.












The Weight Loss Chronicles: 3

                                     Getting In My Own Way The thing is, being a double Libran (Libra Sun  and  Moon), I really am a bit ...