Yoga instructor Jessica James never set out to teach yoga. “Yoga kind of found me, and it has been a love affair ever since,” she says.
Jessica was an actress in television commercials before she transitioned to teaching yoga 10 years ago. “It [acting] was fun and if yoga hadn’t happened, you would probably still see me selling products on television,” she says.
Now, Jessica is dedicated to yoga, saying her practice evolves all the time: ”It started with general shapes of poses and, as I continue to grow, my alignment has gotten more sophisticated,” Jessica says. “My understanding of my own anatomy has deepened and yoga for me now is about the transformation that the subtle work can bring. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is an infinite evolution, so next week it may evolve into something different.”
Here, Honestly contributor Jessica James answers some of our questions about practicing yoga:
Q: Tell us about when and why you started practicing yoga?
JJ: I started out doing Kundalini yoga when I was 18. My dad was a priest growing up, so I was really drawn to the gathering of people for something sacred. Then I found a power yoga VHS tape and started practicing hatha yoga at home. When I found a yoga studio with a heated practice room, I was hooked! Yoga is one of those things that when you are ready to hear the yoga call, you answer.
Q: You recently wrote a blog post for us about online yoga classes and how they can be a great way to fit yoga into everyday life. What are the benefits of online yoga classes versus going to a class?
JJ: My favorite part of online yoga is that it gives you the power to practice even when your schedule can’t accommodate a studio class. Life can get so hectic sometimes that getting to a studio is not an option. Online yoga can empower you to practice every day and a daily practice is incredibly transformative.
Q: How many days per week should a person practice yoga to get the full benefits? Is there a perfect amount of time one should dedicate to yoga daily — 20, 60, 90 minutes?
JJ: Well, traditionally yoga is meant to be practiced every day for an hour and a half, but that is a tall order for many of us. To start, I recommend three times of intentional practice a week. The beauty of yoga is that your body starts to crave practice, so chances are once you get going you will find your own natural rhythm. Shoot for an hour and fifteen minutes a day, but do what you can. I believe consistency is more important than duration.
Q: What is your favorite style of yoga and why? Do certain styles of yoga fit different moods?
JJ: My favorite type of yoga is an “alignment flow” because I am personally working on structural support that my post-baby body calls for. I started in Kundalini, I then went to power yoga, then inversion flow, and now Smartflow. Flow classes and hybrid classes like Hot8 classes are great for fitness and weight loss. Kundalini is great for emotional and energetic uplift, while restorative is powerful for passive opening and relaxation. It is important to explore different styles and teachers when you feel you have hit a plateau or might be losing interest.
Q: If we want to combine cardio and yoga, like going for a jog and then taking a yoga class, which do you recommend doing first?
JJ: I recommend cardio first. Your body responds best to stretching when warm. Also Savasna, the resting pose at the end of the yoga practice resets your breath, heart rate, and body temperature to normal. This way you can approach the rest of your day feeling refreshed not depleted.
JJ: When a woman becomes pregnant, she should keep up with her same yoga routine with a few modifications. She needs to keep her body temperature low, so if she practices in a hot room she should take a lot of breaks. She should also stop twisting and jumping and be sure to consult her doctor. Often a woman’s yoga practice can deepen during pregnancy because it is one of the few activities still available to her. So you can practice every day if you want, just be sure to educate yourself on the dos and don’ts. My prenatal yoga DVD addresses a lot of these concerns and offers safe and fun ways to practice during pregnancy. But, ultimately, listen to your body and practice from a place of self-love and care.
Q: Are there certain yoga poses pregnant women can’t or shouldn’t do?
JJ: Limitation and precautions are really very personal. I recommend avoiding twists and anything that puts pressure on your belly. Some women will avoid deep backbends and inversions during the third trimester, but many women practice the whole way through. Pregnancy is not a time to tackle new poses, it is more about maintenance. So if you practiced inversions and deep back bends before you were pregnant, you might want to consider modifying them, and if necessary, putting them on the shelf until you begin to rebuild your body with your baby at the side of your yoga mat. I recommend a “soft practice,” where you practice at about 80% of your energy level and rely heavily on props. I have many resources on my Web site about yoga safety during pregnancy. And, of course, consult with your doctor.
Q: Should pregnant women take prenatal yoga classes, or can they just pop into any yoga class?
JJ: I recommend prenatal yoga classes for someone new to yoga, and for the seasoned yogi, a modified practice in a normal class is fine.
Q: How does yoga benefit women during pregnancy?
JJ: Yoga is great during pregnancy for many reasons. I loved it because it helped me manage weight gain and prepare for labor. My favorite gift of prenatal yoga was learning to work with my body during intense physical sensation. I learned how to approach the physical burn of a stretch or long hold with a calm mind. This translates as body memory during labor and delivery, and I relied on it during my natural home birth.
Q: For someone considering becoming a yoga instructor, what advice do you have?
JJ: Do it! Becoming a teacher has changed my personal practice so profoundly I can’t imagine my life without it. Take a teacher training course and then start teaching friends. Many new teachers have a hard time getting started because the vast amount of yoga information available can be intimidating. “Why am I qualified to teach” you might ask yourself? Keep in mind that the poses themselves are so effective and powerful that, when taught simply and well, you will become a superstar in no time. Let yourself be a guide and your classes will be inspired.
Want to find your om? Enter to win Jessica James’s Prenatal DVD, a $150 gift certificate to Carve Designs, and a mindful mama package of Honest goodies (body oil, organic belly balm, organic nipple balm, prenatal multi-vitamins, and DHA/Omega-3).
To enter to win this “Mindful Mama” Giveaway, simply enter a comment by using the Rafflecopter entry form below telling us why you’d like to make yoga part of your life. You also have the option (although not required) to earn two bonus entries by subscribing to our blog and liking our Facebook page. No purchase is necessary to enter to win. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm PST Sunday, April 13, 2014. One winner will be chosen at random. Read the complete giveaway rules here to participate.
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of exercise, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.
Jessica James has been practicing yoga seriously for 12 years, and for the last 6 years she has developed yoga sets that sculpt the body and clear the mind as a teacher. During her second pregnancy, Jessica shared her own experience with a unique fitness based prenatal yoga program. She has completed 3 yoga alliance certified teacher training courses and currently lives in Malibu, CA with her family.
“Keys? Check! Wallet? Check! Smartphone? Of course!”
For may of us, smartphones are our lifelines. We use them as MP3 players, game devices, social networking portals, and a rolodex. But sometimes the chime alerting us about another notification can feel a bit jarring. To pull back, and ensure our gadgets are working for our needs, try adding some apps that inspire healthy living and even reduce stress!
Here are a few we’re big fans of:
Stress Check by AIIR Consulting, LLC has you take a short assessment developed by clinical psychologists to gauge your current level of stress. You end the assessment by receiving a score, and based on your questions the app helps you identify where your stress is coming from (control, situational, interpersonal or physiological). Each time you take the assessment to measure your stress level, your “stress score” will be recorded within the app so you can see how you’re managing your stress levels over time. The free app is available for iOS devices.
Pocket Yoga by Rainfrog, LLC has consistently been rated one of the best yoga apps, and we can see why! Not only is the idea of a yoga app great for busy yogis who want to get in practice every day, but Pocket Yoga offers 27 practices to choose from at varying levels of intensity. Plus, the user experience really intuitive. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices and costs $2.99.
Deep Sleep With Andrew Johnson guides you through a relaxing meditation to help you fall asleep. Looking at the reviews online, this app has even helped long suffering insomniacs get some shut eye. Available for $2.99 for Android and iOS devices.
WellnessFX lets you track your personal health goals and mark them as completed when you’ve accomplished them. Think of it like a digital health to-do list that you can take everywhere with you! This app is free and available for iOS devices. (The app developers are working on an Android version to launch in the near future).
OM Meditation: Mantra Chanting by Panagola guides you through various meditations using different mantras. An in-app timer allows you to completely let-go and enjoy meditation without interruption until the session is complete. This free app is available for Android devices.
True Food by True Food Network is an app you’ll want to open every time you visit the grocery store. The app will help you identify and avoid GMO foods using current updates from the Center for Food Safety. Find non-GMO brands, and if there is a brand you frequently buy that’s not on the app, simply email the company and they’ll work on adding it in their next update. This free app is available for iOS.
We love when our technology works to make us healthier and happier!
Tell us, what are your favorite health and natural-living apps?
We all know that saying, “you are what you eat.” The food we put in our bodies can be reflected in our outer appearance. So when our skin acts up, it’s possible our diet could be to blame. And since our skin is our body’s largest organ, it’s important to take good care of it.
We spoke with Naturopathic Doctor and Honest contributor Thalia Farshchian to learn what foods make our skin beautiful from the inside out. Then, we reached out to Raw Chef and Honest contributor Meredith Baird to see what delicious recipe she could create using some of Thalia’s healthy skin ingredients. Below you’ll find a list of foods and one recipe that will set you on the path to super healthy and glowing skin!
1. Stinging Nettles: Typically cropping up around the spring time, this plant is great for supporting the liver. The liver is our body’s filter and primary detox organ, so skin issues like acne occur because the filter is backing up. Nettles is also great for seasonal allergies, too.
2. Lemon: Lemon is packed with vitamin C, which plays an important role in collagen production. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that combs the body for toxins called free radicals. When it comes to skin, I like to support it both internally and topically. Studies show that topical vitamin C is more effective for anti-aging. Combine lemons with water to treat the skin to nutrients and hydration.
3. Spinach: Spinach combines both high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin A is another antioxidant that prevents cell damage and premature aging.
4. Nuts: Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts are packed with healthy omega-3 fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and can protect your skin against UV damage (you’ll still want to wear sunscreen, though!).
“In terms of food’s impact on skin, my number one healthy skin tip is to minimize sugary foods,” she says. “Sugar breaks down collagen and can contribute to premature aging.”
Nettles are a springtime herb-slash-weed that are covered with little stinging hairs that can irritate the skin when touched. Because of this they are somewhat of a pain to harvest and handle. Do not be intimidated — the benefits are well worth the trouble, and the flavor is rich, earthy, and delicious.
Some benefits of nettles include:
- Immunity boost
- Reduce inflammation
- Lung support
- Kidney support
- Adrenal support
- Digestive aid
- Skin tonic
- Blood tonic
- They are one of the highest protein greens
The list of benefits goes on!
This is an easy recipe that can be doubled or tripled if you have more nettles than you know what to do with. The pesto will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
“The combination of ingredients in this recipe are especially good for skin health and for an immunity boost,” Meredith says. “This recipe can be used in a variety of ways. My favorite is with fresh zucchini pasta made with a spiral slicer. It’s also great with gluten free toast and avocado!”
Makes approximately 3 cups
1. Fill a large pot with 4 cups water. Add 3 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil.
2. Until the nettles are cooked, you need to be careful when handling them. Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Using tongs or gloves, submerge the nettles in the water and let them sit for 5-10 minutes Remove the nettles and discard the water. Wearing kitchen gloves, pull the leaves from the stems and discard the stems.
3. Put the nettles in the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and dry on kitchen towels, or paper towels, making sure to remove as much water as possible.
4. Coarsely chop the nettles, and place in the bowl of a food processor with the spinach, garlic, pistachios, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Process until the mixture has formed a paste/pesto consistency.
5. Add the olive oil to the food processor last. Process until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use wherever you’d like a boost of flavor!
What foods do you eat to benefit your skin? Tell us in the comments!
~ Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor, with a recipe by Meredith Baird. Meredith is a certified raw food chef and instructor. She is also the creative director at the Matthew Kenney Academy where chefs and health foodies can learn the art of making raw food.
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.
Our body’s largest organ deserves some special care. It does a lot of work after all! Every minute our skin sheds more than 30,000 dead cells, renews itself every 28 days, and in hot weather it can release as much as three gallons of sweat.
When our skin is healthy, it makes us feel vibrant and beautiful. But how do we achieve that glow? We know to wear sunscreen, use non-toxic skin care products, drink plenty of water…but how do we get real results? That’s where our skin care experts come in — busting skin care myths and sharing their insider know-how, so we don’t waste time, money, or products.
Mona Gohara, MD, is an associate clinical professor in the Department of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and previous Honest contributor.
“Remember, skin is our largest organ and it is subjected to external toxins and germs 24/7,” Gohara says. “Cleansing and moisturization are essential for keeping the skin’s equilibrium intact. Of course, protection against UV light is also essential in terms of optimal skin health.”
Esthetician Shani Darden tends to the skin of many beautiful celebs including our co-founder Jessica Alba and has her own line of skin care products called Resurface.
“The best thing you can do for your skin is to wear sunscreen everyday no matter what the weather is,” Darden says. “Sun exposure can cause sun damage, discoloration, wrinkles, and skin cancer.”
Check out our Q&A and learn more about how to make your skin healthy and radiant!
Q: What level of SPF should most people wear on a daily basis? How do you figure this out?
MG: In order to get optimal protection against harmful, cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays, The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends use of a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. Luckily, the SPF number is usually clearly marked on the outside of the bottle making it easy to find!
Q: What are non-toxic sunscreen ingredients and do they work as well as regular sunscreens?
MG: Look for naturally occurring minerals such as non-nano titanium dioxide and zinc oxide when choosing sunscreen. These ingredients are not only safe, but very effective at creating a physical block against UV light — this means they actually deflect the light before it penetrates the skin!
Q: What’s the one place people don’t think to put sunscreen but should?
MG: Their scalp! The scalp can burn very easily and skin cancers here are not easily noticed! Focus on applying it to the part but massage it onto the entire scalp.
Q: Do we need SPF if we work in an office all day?
MG: If you leave your house, or even if you sit in your house next to a window, a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher should be incorporated into your daily routine. UV light can penetrate windows of homes, offices, and cars (yes, this happens even on a cloudy, snowy, or rainy day). In the United States, left sided skin cancers and facial wrinkling are more common because of driving. Another reason to be diligent with SPF? The visible light that comes from commercial bulbs in our workspaces can worsen skin conditions such as melasma, and other forms of blotchy facial discoloration resulting from sun damage.
Q: If we combine an SPF 15 moisturizer with an SPF 15 foundation, are we getting an SPF of 30?
MG: This is a very common question. The answer is no. SPF is not additive.
SD: A great alternative to retinol is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid exfoliates, removing the top layer of dead skin cells which gives you a brighter complexion. It can also help to diminish age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Q: What specific foods and vitamins can people consume for healthy skin from within?
SD: Antioxidant rich foods are great for your skin. Antioxidants help to protect your skin from environmental damage which can cause wrinkles. Carrots, kale, broccoli, oranges, nuts and spinach are examples of antioxidant-rich foods that you should include in your diet. Omega-3s such as fish, walnuts, and flaxseed are also great for your skin and can help to protect it from sun damage.
Q: What are the basic steps and products needed for a skin care routine?
SD: What you need for an effective skin care routine is to make sure you are using the right products for your skin type. In the morning you should cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser, use a topical antioxidant and a moisturizer with sunscreen. At night you should use a gentle cleanser, an anti-aging product, such as a glycolic serum or cream, followed by eye cream and moisturizer. You do not need a lot of products or the most expensive products to have a good regime, the quality of the product is what matters.
Q: Why do estheticians use steam during facials? Does steam offer any benefits to the skin?
SD: Steaming during a facial helps to soften the surface layer of dead skin cells which helps to unclog pores. Steaming also helps stimulate blood circulation which gives your skin a nice glow.
Q: How often should we get a facial for beautiful and healthy skin?
SD: Getting facials once a month will help to remove surface dead skin cells and give your skin a glow. Getting facials will improve your skin by cleaning clogged pores and blackheads, smooth the texture and lessen discoloration marks.
Q: What is a safe and natural acne cure? How do we safely get rid of blackheads?
SD: The best way to remove blackheads is by getting a facial by a skin care professional who can extract them without causing damage to your skin.
Q: At what age should we start using wrinkle serums?
SD: You’re never too young to start using anti-aging products. The best one being sunscreen.
Q: Are under eye creams important for preventing wrinkles and dark spots? What ingredients should we look for?
MG: The most important factor in preventing dark spots and wrinkles is diligent protection from UV light (SPF, hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing). Ninety percent of the visible signs of aging come from the sun, and proper use of SPF, even later in life, can slow the aging process tremendously. That being said, the skin around the eyes is a common culprit for fine lines. To help battle the bags we recommend creams/serums with coffee berry, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Q: Are scrubs good for the skin? We’ve heard mixed things—some say they’re too harsh and scratch the skin, while we’ve also heard that they’re great for exfoliating.
MG: The process of exfoliating is very useful in maintaining skin health. It helps to remove dead skin cells, and allows for penetration of moisturizers and other beneficial skin care products. The key is to be gentle, and to listen to the skin. Based on skin type, each individual should seek optimal intervals for this (perhaps once every few weeks for those with dry skin or once a week for others with oily skin). The act of scrubbing is not ideal for anyone as it creates small micro-tears in the skin and excessive dryness. Be gentle and mindful even when exfoliating.
Q: How long does it take your skin to get used to a product? Should you switch products every so often?
SD: If you are using products that are working for your skin type, there is no reason to switch to new ones. The only time it is necessary to switch is if something isn’t working or when the weather changes. During the summer when your skin is oilier you may need a cleanser with salicylic acid in it, but in the winter when your skin tends to get dry, you may need something more gentle.
Q: How long should you expect to use a product until you see lasting results?
SD: When you are using products for anti-aging or acne, you need to give them time to work. Some products can take up to a month before you see results.
Q: How often should we have moles checked by a dermatologist?
MG: The AAD recommends yearly skin checks by a dermatologist starting at the age of 40. That being said, someone who has a personal or family history of skin cancers may need to go at an earlier age or more frequently.
Q: Does drinking lots of water really help skin look healthy?
MG: Staying well hydrated helps in overall health. An added benefit is that it makes fine lines and wrinkles less apparent, and makes the skin appear radiant.
Q: How does our diet impact our skin?
MG: Diets that have a high glycemic index increase the body’s cortisol/sugar levels and can wreak havoc on the skin in the form of acne or aging. Conversely, diets high in antioxidants contribute to skin health and very effectively combat the hands of time.
Q: What is one skin issue you wish people would visit a dermatologist about more often?
MG: Just to get an overall idea of what an optimal daily skin care regimen entails.
What are your tips for beautiful skin? Share them with us in the comments!
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary and/or health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.
Forty years ago, Ina May Gaskin set out to transform the then-standard birthing experience at hospitals where doctors often used forceps and husbands were not allowed in the room. She and her friends set up a self-sustaining community in Tennessee called “The Farm,” so Ina May could teach women to deliver each other’s babies using age-old midwifery practices. As word of their social experiment spread, the community created a model of care for women and babies that changed a generation’s approach to childbirth.
An award-winning documentary about Ina May’s work in maternal health — Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives — was released last April. (You can access the digital download of the film on birthstorymovie.com as well as on iTunes.) The directors describe the film beautifully:
“Today, as nearly one third of all US babies are born via C-section, [Ina May] fights to preserve her community’s hard-won knowledge. With incredible access to the midwives’ archival video collection, the film not only captures the unique sisterhood at The Farm Clinic — from its heyday into the present — but shows childbirth the way most people have never seen it — unadorned, unabashed, and awe-inspiring.”
We had a chance to interview Mary Wigmore who co-directed the film, along with Sara Lamm.
“We hope that the film helps lessen the cultural fear around the topic of childbirth, that it inspires women to connect with the awe-inspiring power of their bodies, and that it helps all of us think about what we can achieve when we work together in a community,” Mary says.
Here, Mary shares what she learned while making this inspiring documentary.
Honest: How did you hear about Ina May Gaskin?
Mary Wigmore: My friend and co-director Sara Lamm gave me a copy of Spiritual Midwifery when I was pregnant with my son. I loved the photographs of the pregnant hippies and their positive birth stories. I found the book made me feel excited and less afraid. I love that this book has been passed from woman to woman over and over again for nearly 40 years. Sara and I wanted to know more about Ina May and the Farm Midwives and we were surprised to find a film did not already exist so we decided to make it.
H: How long did it take to make this film?
MW: It took about 3 and half years. A true labor of love.
H: Do people live on “The Farm” or is it just a midwifery center?
MW: There are about 200 residents living on The Farm now. People come from all over the world to study with The Farm Midwives at The Midwifery Center and some travel there to have their babies with them of course.
H: What surprised you most while learning her story and making this film?
MW: I think what surprised me most was attending a birth. It was so sweet and so calm and I never imagined that a baby could be born like that. Truly beautiful and something I hope to witness again. Other surprises…Ina May is really funny, a great cook, speaks six languages, makes her own clothes and she’s also a technophile!
H: What is something every woman should know about childbirth?
MW: One of the most valuable things I learned is how important it is to surround yourself with a loving, supportive team of caregivers. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released while laboring. Try to enjoy it!
H: What did Ina May offer at The Farm Clinic that typical hospitals of the time did not offer?
MW: In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, husbands were not allowed in the hospital room with their laboring wives. At The Farm, the partners were and still are an essential part of the support team for the mother.
The midwives create a loving supportive environment for the mother. They encourage her to let her body to do what it was built for. Fear is not part of the equation.
We wanted to show the midwife model of care so people can actually see and be inspired by the work these women do… even in very complicated births, they are so calm and sweet.
We want the film to be useful to anyone caring for pregnant women — doctors, childbirth educators, doulas, and families in any setting – home, birth center, or hospital.
H: How has your view of childbirth changed after making this film?
MW: I think of childbirth as a normal bodily function rather than a medical event now. I am so impressed by women’s bodies and what they can do. (Birth Story offers an opportunity to see birth with minimal intervention and unmedicated.)
H: How does Ina May feel about modern child birthing methods used by hospitals? Do women in labor on The Farm rely on hospital care if they encounter medical emergencies?
MW: Ina May has an ongoing and very respectful collaboration with many doctors who have taught her through the years. And she has a healthy respect for technology. The Farm also has a great relationship with a hospital that’s just 15 minutes away. They transfer immediately if necessary.
As far as improving the child birthing experience in hospitals, I would say Ina May would like to see more midwives in US hospitals, and wants to lessen the culture of fear and unnecessary interventions.
H: What do you think is the message Ina May wants to pass on to future generations?
1. Our bodies were built for birthing babies! “Your body is not a lemon!”
2. We need more midwives assisting births in the US.
3. When women work together, we can change the world.
Ina May inspires us because of her care and compassion for women. Her natural approach to pregnancy and childbirth has made her a thought leader in maternal health and midwifery. You can read more about Ina May here, and The Farm here.
Tell us about your birth experience and what amazed you about the process.