Sunday, 25 September 2016

image: how to be attractive

                           Image result for vintage french attractive women paris drawing

The First Secret of being attractive

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.

What does The Secret mean?

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.

The attractive habit carries over in our life

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)

How can we do it?

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.

Some simple foot exercises

                                Image result for barefoot ballet calf raises

Strength:  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.

Pampering helps too

le foot scrub: 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.

le soft foot: 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.

other stuff: 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 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 not attractive.

practical advice:

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 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 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 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

                                Related image

Josephine Fairley knows what The First Requirement is
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.

                                 Image result for josephine fairley sarah stacy

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.

Sometimes we have to relearn The First Requirement

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.

The Middle Path

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".

Define your own requirements

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.

How to gradually change things

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.

It's about having a better life

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.

Warm weather food

Yes! The warmer weather has arrived. And with it, a few changes in le regime (my diet, aka what I eat). I really get miserable eating salads...