Just Breathe

breath We hear and see phrases like these all the time these days: "Just Breathe." "Breath is Life." "Take a deep breathe." "Catch your breath" But, what do they really mean by breathe? Surely, I AM breathing?! Of course I’m breathing, or I would not be alive.

Breathing: we simply can’t live without it!

The truth is, most of us are not breathing effectively. Notice your breathing right now. Is anything moving? If not, then chances are your breathing is shallow. Deep breathing should be an essential part of everyday life. It can help you to feel happier, give you more energy and even make you more productive. Deep breathing is probably best known for stress relief, but this #DailyMeasure has many other amazing health benefits, and I’ve highlighted some of my favorites for you.

Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins

The body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. I know – I was surprised too! You know I’m a huge fan of detoxing the body to keep it healthy and happy, so this is reason enough for me breathe deeply! If you don’t release these toxins through your breath, other systems in the body have to work overtime to help out, which can eventually lead to illness.

Improved Oxygen Delivery

Deep breathing removes the carbon dioxide from your blood and floods it with oxygen – ah! Your cells will thank you! This increases the functionality of every system in your body.

Deep Breathing Makes You Calmer

Deep breathing naturally relaxes the body and the mind. We all have times in our day when stress creeps up on us and we know that stress is at the core of most diseases, so finding a simple way to manage stress is key. When we feel stressed our breathing tends to become short and shallow. When we breathe shallowly our body doesn’t receive as much oxygen as it needs and this constricts our muscles. We’ve probably all had that feeling of tightness in our body when we’re stressed or angry. This response triggers the sympathetic nervous system to release cortisol and adrenaline into the body, fueling the response again. The parasympathetic nervous system is the antidote to this and breath is the fastest way for these two systems to communicate. Deep breathing will quickly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, to help you relax. So the next time you feel stressed, anxious or angry…take a few deep breaths and think about breathing in “the good” and breathing out “the bad”.

Breathing Relieves Pain

When we anticipate or feel pain our natural reaction tends to be to hold our breath. This is the absolute opposite of what we should be doing. Studies show that breathing into your pain actually helps to ease it. Deep breathing releases endorphins, which improves feelings of well-being and provides pain relief. Yay!

Deep Breathing Helps to Regulate Weight

Deep breathing can help whether you are overweight or underweight. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the cells and tissues. If you are overweight, the extra oxygen in the body will help to burn up excess fat more efficiently. When we are stressed (and most of us are at some point in the day) your body burns glycogen instead of fat. However, when you practice deep breathing and engage the relaxation response, this encourages the body to burn fat instead. Other Benefits of Deep Breathing
  • Elevates your mood
  • Helps you sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves posture
  • Increases energy
  • Improves digestion
  • Strengthens lungs
  • Clear thinking & improved concentration
We all have to breathe, so why not make the most of it and reap these benefits.

Keep it simple

It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It can be as simple as spending some time each day consciously breathing slowly and rhythmically. Draw your breath deep into your lungs and imagine and feel them expanding. When you’re breathing is shallow you’re only using a small portion of your lungs. Breathing deep into the lungs drives more oxygen into the body, which cleanses the blood and in turn benefits your entire body. You can practice this anytime, anywhere. Driving, sitting at your desk or computer or lying in bed at night.

Deep Breathing

Find 5-10 minutes once or twice a day to practice Deep Breathing. I can hear you all now, saying this is just one more thing you don’t have time for :) I totally get it. This is the one thing I had the hardest time with, and yet I find it incredibly beneficial, and I know you will too! There are several different breathing techniques, but I’m going to share just one simple version.

Overview

In order to breathe properly, you need to breathe deeply into your abdomen not just your chest. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic, and through the nose, not the mouth. Are you sitting comfortably?
  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down
  • Take a moment to relax your muscles. Find where there’s tension in your body and release it.
  • Inhale through your nose, expanding your diaphragm (belly) then fill your lungs, counting to 5
  • Hold and count to 3. Feel your cells filled with golden, healing light.
  • Exhale fully through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Again counting to 5. As you exhale release tension from your muscles.
  • Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes. You may need to build up this time. If you can only start with 2 or 3 minutes, that’s OK. It is better to do it for a shorter time than not at all. Doing this twice a day is ideal.
  • Concentrate on your breathing and counting, which will give your mind a much-needed break.
I can honestly say that since I have been practicing breathing more regularly, I find myself calmer and much more able to roll with life. The past couple of days are a perfect example. (If you’re short on time, you’ve read the important information already and now I’m just sharing a story of how I’ve applied breathing in my own life.) The quick-ish version is that upon returning home travel weary at 9 p.m. Saturday night after our recent trip to Portugal, just as we were getting into bed for some much needed sleep our house alarm went off. The message said “Gas Detected”. Eek! I was freaked out!! Randall checked what he could and said he thought it was an error. Hmm, I was not happy with that answer, thinking we might die in our sleep. I was all set to sit up all night, when the cavalry appeared. Within 15 minutes, what seemed like the entire White Stone Volunteer Fire Department were banging on the door. WOW – I was so impressed! In our sleepiness, it didn’t even occur to us that the alarm company might send the Fire Department! Although, honestly, I was relieved and happy to see them, although embarrassed for them to see me in my fluffy robe and glasses. They actually had equipment to check for a gas leak (unlike Randall’s hunch) and they reported all was well, but they would turn off the gas till we could have it checked. After all this excitement, I finally got into bed, practiced my deep breathing and drifted off. Sunday night we’re fast asleep and at 2:30 a.m. the alarm goes off again. Lights on, phone call to the alarm company to save the Fire Dept. another visit…none of this is helping with my lack of sleep or jetlag?! However, I get back into bed and practice my deep breathing and back to sleep I go. Today, we had the gas company, the alarm company and the internet service company all at the house…oh, did I forget to mention the internet was down? Grrr! There was so much going on and all I wanted to do was write my blog post. I sat in my office and breathed. I blocked out the comings and goings and before I knew it, I was feeling calm and rolling with all the visitors of the day. There would have been a time in my life when the events of the past couple of days would have me on edge and stressed, but not anymore! Please give it a try! I know you will feel better for it! Do you have a regular breath practice? What benefits have you experienced? If you’re new to a breath practice, please let me know what you think and how you feel! email_signoff1

Detox Your Skin by Dry Brushing: Get Your Glow On!

Dry_Brushing Get your glow on with this simple, quick, feel-good Daily Measure! Dry skin brushing will help you achieve softer, smoother skin, while also helping to cleanse the body – inside and out.

Give your body a helping hand.

Your skin is the largest organ in the body and is an organ of elimination. One third of your body’s toxins are excreted through the skin, and dry brushing helps to unclog pores so your body can remove these toxins more efficiently.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

Softer, Smoother Skin with Improved Texture Dry skin brushing exfoliates your skin, removing dead dry skin (and encourages new cell renewal), clears clogged pores and allows your skin to breathe! Practicing dry brushing regularly will leave your skin looking clear and feeling soft, smooth and supple. It also prepares your skin to receive more nutrients. Stimulates Lymphatic Drainage Your lymphatic system is responsible for eliminating cellular waste from your body. Did you know there are hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules in your body, which is responsible for collecting waste from your tissues and transporting it to your blood for elimination? This process is what’s referred to as Lymphatic Drainage. When your lymph system isn’t working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick, and worse yet, can lead to inflammation and disease. Dry brushing helps stimulate the lymphatic system and help the body with this vital detoxification. Improves Circulation Dry brushing increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste. Reduces the Appearance of Cellulite Cellulite is simply toxic material that has accumulated in your fat cells. Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. Dry brushing breaks down those toxins, allowing them to be removed from your body and therefore improving the appearance of cellulite.

The Basics

DSC_0330The brush. You’ll need a brush with all natural bristles (no toxic synthetic versions allowed). Choose one with firm (but not hard) bristles. A brush with a long handle will help you reach all areas of your body. It can be tricky to brush your back if your brush doesn’t have a handle, unless of course you’re the super flexible person in your yoga class! When? Ideally you should dry brush in the morning right before you shower. You’ll find this practice quite invigorating and energizing, so it’s a perfect way to jump-start your day! How Often? In an ideal world (which we know it’s not :) ) you’d dry brush everyday. Some people even recommend twice a day! I’m all about doing it as often as you can. If you can only squeeze it in a few times a week, it is still well worth doing and you’re still benefiting your body. Caution When starting out don’t brush too hard or too much in one area. Get used to the feeling, and how your skin reacts before you get carried away :) Skin should be stimulated but not irritated. A little pink is fine! If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis be cautious. Avoid any areas of broken skin and varicose veins. Do not Dry Brush your face unless you have a special separate brush for this purpose only. Brush Care Wash your brush with warm soapy water once a week and allow it to dry thoroughly before your next session.

Let’s DO this!!

  • Get naked
  • Stand in the shower or tub so as to contain the dead skin cells
  • With brush in hand, start on the soles of your feet and brush in gentle, circular strokes. Continue with long sweeping strokes up towards your knees. Circular strokes on the knees, and again long sweeping strokes up the thighs.
  • Brush multiple times, overlapping as you go.
  • If you’re working on cellulite, you might want to give a little extra time and love to the thighs and buttocks and throw in some good circular motion there too.
  • Brush the stomach in a gentle circular motion.
  • Move up the chest towards the neck (be super gentle with the delicate breast tissue)
  • Use long upward strokes on the back and short downward strokes on your shoulders
  • Move to the fingers and work up the arms in the same sweeping fashion.
  • Shower
  • Apply a moisturizer. These days, I am loving body oils. Argan oil and coconut oil are great. If your skin is extra dry, apply a lotion after the oil.

Tips

DSC_0314 Don’t get too caught up in whether you’re dry brushing perfectly! A good general guideline is to brush towards your heart, which is best for circulation and the lymphatic system. Do what feels right to you! Have some fun with it and make it your own. You can’t mess it up! You can spend 2 minutes or 20 minutes depending on the time you have available. If you only have time for a quick once over, that’s fine. Maybe on a Sunday morning you’ll indulge and take 15 minutes! It’s all good! Don’t dry brush at night, as it can be stimulating and give you energy (not what you want when you’re trying to fall asleep) but ideal when you want to wake up in the morning! This is a simple daily measure that you can add to your morning routine just like brushing your teeth and brushing your hair…now you can add in brushing your skin! It just feels SO good and your body will thank you!! Do you already Dry Brush? What benefits have you noticed? Are you going to give it a try? Please share your results in the comments, we’d love to hear! IMG_3082

Oil Pulling: What the heck is it, and why should I try it?

Oil_Pulling

What is Oil Pulling?

Well, it’s as “old as the hills” as they say. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine remedy dating back over 3000 years and is used to promote oral health and detoxification. Simply put, oil pulling is swishing a high quality oil in your mouth as you would mouthwash. Sounds weird, I know, but trust me, it’s worth doing! Oh, and it’s really not as gross as it sounds! This daily measure has experienced quite the resurgence in recent years and for good reason.

Why do it?

Our mouth is home to millions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other toxins (yuk!) and is essentially the gateway to the rest of our body. The oil pulls and collects these toxins before they spread throughout the body.

Benefits of Oil Pulling

Ayurvedic medicine boasts over 30 health benefits to oil pulling but here’s my TOP 6! Starting with a fun one, of course :)

Whiter Teeth

Keep your smile bright without the use of harsh chemicals and teeth whiteners. The oil possesses natural antibiotic and antiviral properties that clean and brighten teeth. Everyone is different, but you should see a great difference in about two weeks!

Better Oral Hygiene & Fresh Breath

Oil pulling helps fight gingivitis, plaque and microorganisms that cause bad breath While coconut, sesame and sunflower oil all have the same bacteria fighting benefits, coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid, which is known for its anti-microbial agents and therefore is more effective. There have also been promising studies done on the effect of oil pulling in preventing tooth decay. Oral health is essential for overall health as well because certain diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are linked with gum disease.

Clear Skin

Removing all these toxins from the body before they have a chance to do harm allows the skin to shine through. Oil pulling not only leads to clearer skin but help those with acne, rashes and other skin issues.

Less Headaches

Headaches can be nature’s way of saying, “give me a break”. Oil pulling can eliminate the bacteria that can contribute to the toxic stress that causes headaches. I have to mention here that I got a friend of mine hooked on this habit about a year ago. She has suffered from frequent headaches for years and now only gets the very occasional one – yay!!

Clears Sinuses

Oil pulling pulls congestion and mucus from your throat and loosens up your sinuses – aaah! So whether you’re dealing with allergies, a cold or a sinus infection, oil pulling will bring you some much needed relief!

Boosts the Immune System

Ayurvedic practitioners believe that this therapy detoxifies the whole body system by removing harmful bacteria and toxins so that the immune system is free to heal the body. It is important to rid the body of toxins and other invaders because the body responds to these with inflammation, allergic reactions and other symptoms, consequently over burdening the immune system. Ready to give it a try?

How to Oil Pull

It might be easier to think of oil pulling more as oil swishing. Types of Oil to use. Traditionally coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil are used. It is important to use high quality oil, ideally organic, unrefined and cold-pressed. I personally like to use coconut oil because I like the taste, plus it has some added benefits (which I’ll get to soon!). coconut_oil Swisheroo! Put 1 tablespoon of oil in your mouth and swish! Swish the oil gently around your mouth and through your teeth (although avoid letting the oil go back to your throat). The recommended time for swishing is 20 minutes. If you’re using coconut oil, the oil will soften very quickly once in the warmth of your mouth, so no need to melt it in advance. If your jaw gets a wee bit tired, take a break and just hold the oil in your mouth till you’re ready to start again. DSC_0094 My tip. The first time I did this, I didn’t last long! I suggest you start slow with just 5 minutes a day and with just a teaspoon of oil until you get used to the feeling. I was quickly able to build up my time and the amount of oil with practice. Another thing I did when I was building up time was to take a second spoonful and start again, so I could add minutes that way. At first I stayed close to the trash can in case I had to spit it out, but now I can swish while doing chores. You can make the bed, unload the dishwasher or take a shower and before you know it, your time is up. If you can only fit in 5 or 10 minutes, you will still reap some benefit. Disposal. Spit the oil into a trash can. DO NOT swallow the oil, as it’s full of the toxins you’re trying to remove. DO NOT spit it into the sink or you’ll end up with a blocked drain (been there, done that!). Finishing Touches. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water and then brush your teeth and floss as normal. Squeaky Clean! Your mouth will feel fresh and fabulous! When? Traditionally oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If this works for you – great! If not, please just try to fit it in whenever you can. It is much better to oil pull at a different of day time than not to oil pull at all. Frequency? 3 – 4 days a week is a good goal but if you’re working on a health issue or trying to get your teeth bright quickly, then doing it every day will get you there faster. If you can only fit it in on weekends when you have a little extra time, you are still benefiting the health of your mouth and your body, so it’s totally worth it! Are you already oil pulling? What benefits have you noticed? If you’ve never given it a try, let us know how you do and how you feel afterwards. Please share in the comments. email_signoff1

Morning Sunshine: Why you should start your day with “Lemon Water”

DSC_0222 If you start your day right, chances are you will keep that theme going! This simple Daily Measure is a small change anyone can make to their routine, and one that comes with long-term health benefits. The first thing I do in the morning is to drink a cup of warm water with lemon. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and it has become an essential part of my routine. I know this habit plays an important role in my continuing good health and therefore I make it a priority! There are SO many benefits to drinking warm lemon water but I am going to focus on what I consider the most valuable. Here are my top 6!

Hydration

You’ve just woken up from 7-8 hours of sleep (I hope!) and your body is dehydrated. Warm lemon water is the perfect way to rehydrate, and get your body and mind going for the day. Warm water is kind to the system, and doesn’t shock your body awake like cold water does.

Liver Lover

While you’re sleeping, restoring and repairing, your liver is busy, busy!! Your liver is the main detoxing organ in the body and is responsible for so many vital functions that support good health, so it’s crucial that we give it all the help we can to do it’s job right! The liver can make more enzymes out of lemon juice than any other food. Lemon water cleanses the liver and stimulates it to release toxins and flush them out of your body. Bye, bye!

Digestion

The citric acid in lemons interacts with other enzymes and acids to stimulate the release of gastric juice, which aids digestion. Good digestion allows your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to operate at it’s best. It can also help relieve symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and bloating.

Immune Support

The vitamin C in lemons gives your immune system the boost it needs to keep you healthy and fight off infections. With cold and flu season upon us, this is a great reason to start this healthy habit now!

Skin

By supporting the body in detoxing and improving the digestion, lemon water can lead to clearer skin. The vitamin C in lemon also boosts collagen production to create smoother, healthier skin. The antioxidant properties in lemon help fight free radical damage, which is responsible for the symptoms of aging. (My personal fav!) 

Weight

Lemon water is an ally in maintaining a healthy weight and can aid in weight loss, when included along with other healthy habits. The pectin fiber in lemons also helps suppress hunger cravings.

Here’s how I make mine

Daily_Measures_Alison_Drake_lemon_water
  1. I turn on the electric kettle (which I cannot live without) but if you don’t have one, you can just boil water on the cooktop.
  2. I start with half a cup of room temperature filtered water.
  3. Squeeze half a lemon into the cup. I have several different lemon squeezer options in the kitchen because we use lemons all the time, but if you don’t have one, just give it a good squeeze with your hands and use a fork to help get all the juice out. This is how I do it when I’m travelling :) If you’re doing it this way, be sure to strain the seeds!
  4. Next, I top up the cup with the hot water from the kettle. This creates the perfect temperature for drinking and also allows your body to gain the most benefits.
My latest accessory (and I DO love an accessory) is the addition of a glass straw. I’ve read conflicting reports about how the citric acid from lemons can affect the enamel on your teeth. Some say it does, some say you would have to drink huge amounts for this to happen. So, I’ve decided to add the straw, just in case. Another simple solution to this potential issue is just to rinse your mouth with water afterwards.

Confessions

As I typed my “how to” a little spark of guilt arose in me, and I feel I must share how I really drink my warm lemon water MOST mornings! My amazing husband Randall makes me warm lemon water (to my simple recipe above) and brings it to me in bed. I know!! I must have done something pretty fabulous in a previous life to deserve this sort of treatment. I almost feel bad sharing this, and yet I‘d feel equally bad saying I make it for myself every morning! I DO make it on the occasional morning when Randall has a ridiculously early meeting and I need a wee lie in. Do you already drink warm lemon water in the morning? How do you feel it’s affected your health? If you don’t already drink it, would you be up for a 14 day challenge to add it to your routine? I’d love to hear how it goes and what benefits you see and feel! Please do share! email_signoff1