The essential guide to prepping for yoga

My recent quest for a healthier existence took me to a yoga school yesterday morning. Where I realised (much to my horror) that it’s quite different from simply strolling into a gym, water bottle and towel in hand. Yoga requires a certain amount of prep-work even before you step into the class and starting a new program can be intimidating. So, I spent the days frantically phoning yoga experts to put together a checklist that will ensure one gets the best out of every session.

1. Don’t eat right before class: Refrain from eating at least two hours prior and 30 minutes after your practice.

2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during and after class. Better yet, drink plenty of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice, which is a terrific detoxifier!

3. Dress correctly: Wear whatever feels comfortable, preferably in soft cotton and Lycra spandex blends, with soothing colours and dry-fast weaves. That said, big baggy clothing does a disservice because you can’t see what’s going on with the body. Tighter fitting clothes, with the ankles showing, let the teachers see your true alignment and make it easier for them to help you with adjustments. Also avoid pockets, zippers, buckles or buttons on the back or abdomen.

4. Do not wear shoes: You could try yoga socks that help prevent slipping, but practicing barefoot is highly encouraged.

5. Bring water, a hand towel and a mat: While you can rent or borrow them at most studios, it’s more hygienic to have your own. Your mat = your germs. Simple!

6. Bring a large towel: Sweat + yoga mats = slip and slide. Draping a large towel over your mat will help you gain traction in poses like downward dog.

7. Avoid “noise”: Go easy on perfumes and don’t be loud or chatty. The yoga space is intended to be a sanctuary where one may go to decompress from the day and as such it’s best to keep it in a neutral, relaxed state.

8. Be on time: You don’t want to miss the warm-up. This is not just a matter of respect but also of safety.

9. Practice common sense: Know your limits and listen to your body. Ask questions if you’re unsure about a pose or movement. Beginners should start slowly and learn the basics (like proper breathing) rather than how far you can stretch. If you have any medical conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor – poses can be modified once the instructor knows your problem areas. And always remember – pain is not good. Don’t push into it, don’t hold your breath. Just get out of the pose.

10. Accept your feelings: It’s normal (and healthy) to sometimes feel emotionally upset during or after a yoga session… releasing tension in the body releases emotions as well.

Finally, don’t give up too quickly. There are many styles of yoga, not to mention different studios and instructors you might prefer if one doesn’t work out.

Namaste.

The (surprising!) beauty benefits of green tea

In my recent quest to nullify months years of junk food, ultra-late nights, fizzy drinks and buckets-full of coffee, I recently came across some surprising information on green tea. Seems that you don’t always have to actually drink the stuff to reap its benefits. Green tea also works superbly as a topical beauty ingredient, with skincare benefits that range from busting hormonal acne to warding off wrinkles and saggy skin.

No wonder then that every major beauty brand, right from Estee Lauder to L’Occitane, is rushing to include this potent plant in their formulations. But what if we can just get the benefits straight from the source? After all, green tea is one of the most easily accessible products almost anywhere in the world. I have been trying these ancient beauty recipes (most come from 2,000-years-old Chinese and Japanese books of medicine, where green tea is known as “green jade”) for a fortnight now and can personally vouch for their effectiveness. My skin has never recovered so fast before and is thriving in an anti-ageing, zero-acne, pollution-free sanctuary. 

green tea beauty benefits 2Green tea: Anti-acne face mask

What it does: Flushes out toxins from the skin, helps heal blemishes and soothes the complexion.

The science: Green tea contains catechins, which are anti-bacterial agents that suppress acne-causing bacteria and help regulate hormonal imbalances. It also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the redness and inflammation brought about by zits, thereby helping them heal sans the scars.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of powdered green tea with an egg white and 1 teaspoon of pure honey; whip everything together with a fork. Apply the mixture to your face and leave for about 30 minutes. Then rinse it off and apply a moisturizer.

Green tea: Anti-aging face mask

What it does: Stops the signs of premature aging – like loose skin, wrinkles, age spots and fine lines – while making the complexion more moist and supple.

The science: The EGCG compounds in green tea can actually reactivate skin cells that are dying due to poor lifestyle habits, exposure to sunlight and pollution. Plus, it contains high level of oligomeric proanthocyanidins – OPCs – some of the most powerful antioxidants known to scientists. These antioxidants help ward off premature aging by fighting free radicals and healing damaged cells. And that’s not all: OPCs also inhibit the enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which are essential for skin’s strength and suppleness.

How to: Combine 3 tablespoons of full fat yogurt with 1 tablespoon of ground green tea leaves. Apply on the face for 20 minutes, then rinse well.

Green tea: Facial scrub

What it does: Removes dirt and impurities from your pores.

The science: The slightly abrasive texture of dry green tea leaves acts as a great exfoliator to banish dead skin cells and purge pollutants.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of dry ground green tea leaves with enough honey to make a thick paste. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Then rub it off in circular motions with your fingertips, rinsing away the excess with warm water.

green-tea-beauty-2

Green tea: Facial steam

What it does: Moisturizes, relaxes muscles, plumps wrinkles, eliminates toxins, dislodges dirt from pores and boosts circulation.

The science: Green tea is rich in antioxidants and catechins, which are propelled into your pores by the action of steam, thereby detoxifying, cleansing, refreshing and hydrating the skin.

How to: Put 1/8 cup green tea, 1/4 cup dried organic lemon balm and 2 tablespoons dried organic peppermint (double the quantities if using fresh herbs) in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, immediately placing a towel or lid over the bowl so that the oils don’t escape. Place the bowl on a table and hold your face over it, covering your head and the bowl with a large towel to make sure that no steam can escape. Keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply to inhale the therapeutic properties of the herbs. Steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on your comfort factor.

Green tea: Toner

What it does: Soothes and calms the skin, reduces itching and inflammation, while simultaneously tackling cuts, scrapes and other blemishes.

The science: Green tea has substantial anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an ideal beauty ingredient for sensitive skins. Herbalists have used cooled it for years to reduce itching and inflammation, and as an emergency first aid treatment to ease bleeding from small cuts and grazes. People with skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, and dandruff, which are caused by inflammation, may benefit the most.

How to: Steep 5 teaspoons of green tea and 1 teaspoon of mint leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let the infusion stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain and allow to cool completely before pouring the water into a glass container. Now you can either soak cotton pads in this concoction or pour it into a spray bottle, from which you spritz your face 2-3 times a day.

Green tea: Relaxing bath soak

What it does: Soothes the body and clears the mind, making it perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual.

The science: There is a reason green tea appears as a key note in so many perfumes. Its fragrance has therapeutic values which create a feeling of balance, inner peace and serenity.

How to: Put some green tea leaves in a coffee filter (or a muslin handkerchief), gather the top, and tie it with a string. Drop it into your warm bathwater and chill out!

Green tea: Eye compress

What it does: Eases tired, puffy eyes and busts dark circles.

The science: Green tea contains vitamin K, which is a proven ingredient in the battle against dark circles and puffy eyes.

How to: Chill a cup of green tea in the refrigerator. Dip 2 cotton balls in the cool tea and place them on your closed eyelids. Sit back and relax for 10-15 minutes. As an alternative, you can swap the cotton balls for chilled, used tea bags.

green tea 3Green tea: Sunburn soother

What it does: Green tea can help soothe and heal sunburnt skin if applied directly to affected areas.

The science: Several scientific studies have proven green tea’s ability to neutralize the damage done by exposure to UV rays. This is a result of its high concentration of tannic acid, theobromine, and polyphenols – all of which ease inflammation and repair sun-damaged skin.

How to: Prepare a pot of green tea and chill it in the refrigerator. Use a cloth to apply the liquid to sunburnt areas – avoid rubbing; use the cloth as you would a cold compress.

Green tea: Mighty mouth

What it does: Green tea is also known for its ability to prevent bad breath – and it has the added advantage of tasting good if swallowed inadvertently.

The science: The natural fluorides in green tea curb mouth odor and help prevent plaque-forming microbes from attaching to the teeth.

How to: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 4 tablespoons of green tea and allow them to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then strain out the leaves and make a paste using this liquid and one teaspoon of baking soda. Use this paste to brush your teeth as usual.

Green tea: Strengthening hair rinse

What it does: Protects hair from pollution and harsh products, while making it strong and shiny.

The science: Not only does green tea help ailments such as dandruff and psoriasis by reducing inflammation, it also stimulates hair growth and softens the strands. This happens due to high levels of panthenol, vitamin E and vitamin C, which are all well established hair conditioners.

How to: Steep 3-4 green tea bags in 1 liter of boiling water for about an hour. Let it cool and use the liquid as a final rinse after you’ve shampooed and conditioned.

12 seriously strange skincare secrets the experts swear by (I kid you not!)

Having beautiful, glowing, flawless skin is not always about rigorous dermatological treatments or expensive products. Sometimes, simple goes a longer way and every skincare pro I’ve ever spoken to has sworn by at least a couple of kitchen shelf DIYs they call upon in their own life. Some of these secret rituals are merely curious, while others are downright bizarre. But they are all underlined by serious doses of skincare science and the experts promise they perform miracles. So, here you go!

skincare tips1. Do shots… with chlorophyll: Don’t really relish those green juices and salads seem too much of a bother? Just stock up on liquid chlorophyll. This most essential of plant nutrients detoxifies the body, oxygenates the skin, boosts tissue repair, steps up digestion and restores our acid-alkaline ratio to keep the complexion clean, healthy and glowing from the inside out. Added bonus: It works fast and tastes like mint.

2. Order the guac: Or just go straight for the avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients that nourish skin from the inside out and bring back your glow.

3. Bring on the beer: Beer isn’t just good for your hair, it’s also a powerful skin ally. All those B vitamins, hops, saccharides and yeast help dissolve dead cells, balance pH levels and bust acne-causing bacteria. Simply mix together half a cup of beer with one egg white and slather on your face. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Now say hello to radiant, fresh skin.

4. Freeze up: Late night? Crying bout? Sun scorched? Beauty pros always keep a few sheet of aluminium foil in the freezer. Simply take one of the chilled sheets and put them on your face for a few minutes to de-puff, tighten pores and bring back the glow.

5. Eye it: If it’s your eyes that need the de-puffing and redness relief, pop some eye cream in the  icebox and apply to lids for turbo-charged results.

6. Tea time: Skin more irritated than puffy? Chill some green tea bags and gently press them onto the inflamed areas – the antioxidants will soothe a sore complexion.

7. Tropical treat: Another refrigerated treat for your skin? Pineapple juice. Freeze some fresh pineapple juice and then rub this “ice cube” over clean skin. Let the liquid dry on your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse away with plain water. Pineapple’s natural enzymes exfoliate, improve hydration and boost elasticity. Hello, luminous skin!

8. Dairy goodness: Swap the hot water with freshly boiled milk while steaming your face for the ultimate skin detox. Simply boil the milk, pour into a bowl and let the vapours float over your face as you lean in under a towel. Milk is full of lactic acid, which will decongest the pores, leaving your skin beautifully clear.

beauty hacks9.  Hydrate NOW: Dewy, glowing skin equals hydrated skin and when you’re sorely lacking in the latter department, whip together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Apply a generous layer of this mixture all over your face and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.

10. Acne Rx: Need to bring down the redness and inflammation of a pimple right NOW? Dab a  bit of Visine on the blemish. This won’t make your pimple smaller, but it will definitely look less obvious for a few hours.

11. Scrub-a-dub: To banish dry, cracked heels, mix a handful of sea salt with enough almond oil to make a thick paste. Use this to exfoliate your feet and toes; say hello to smooth, sandal-ready summer feet!

12. Thigh high: For legs that tend to rub or chafe in summer, apply deodorant to the insides of your thighs… this sounds weird but it works!

What’s the strangest beauty tip you’ve ever heard? And how did it work out for you?

Stressed? Exhausted? At the end of the road? Your Skin NEEDS this DIY face mask

What is life without a bit of stress? And we all know what stress does to skin. Acne, lack of radiance, dryness, dullness, wrinkles, rashes… it’s not a pretty sight. And nobody likes to battle with horrid skin.

While I can’t actually take away your stress (sorry!), here’s a solution to the skin woes at least.

Carrots are a terrific source of antioxidants, which neutralise the effect of stress and environment-induced free radicals. Their beta-carotene (which is often referred to as the “beauty vitamin” because of its importance in maintaining the skin’s health) boosts the renewal process of skin cells, besides helping to nourish, tighten, revitalize and rejuvenate the complexion. Add in their potent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities, and you have the perfect base for a face mask that will reset your skin to its original sparkling, dewy self by negating the effects of pollution, sun damage, junk food, late nights and (at least in my case!) occasional bouts of pure skincare laziness.

The honey in this anti-stress face pack is super hydrating, to keep skin supple and glowy. Plus, its enzymes soften the skin, while antiseptic and anti-fungal elements penetrate clogged pores to draw out impurities, thus tackling breakouts, reducing redness and calming inflammation.

Baking soda (yes, simple baking soda!) is alkaline in nature and hence disrupts the growth of bacteria (without disrupting the pH balance of the skin) to help fight acne.

stress face maskYou will need

2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh carrot juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

How to make the anti-stress face mask

  1. Pour all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well.
  2. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on for 20 minutes.
  3. After that, remove the mask with lukewarm water.
  4. Finally, dip a cotton ball in rose water (or plain mineral water) and gently dab it all the face and neck.

How do you keep yourself sane when the world is spinning out of control?