Posted: Sep 25 2013
Aging Gracefully by Taking Impeccable Care of Your Self
I consider myself to be a late bloomer and in many ways my life began at age 48 when I left my corporate career to launch my aromatherapy company, Essence of Vali. That was 12 years ago. It was a time of self discovery and the continuation of healthy lifestyle that began when I was 30 years old. I am still caring for myself in a way that keeps me connected to vibrancy, youthfulness and a state of overall well being. There have been challenges along the way with maintaining this kind of lifestyle. For example, there were the days that I would go out for a run, come back and drink freshly made carrot juice from my juicer and then light a cigarette. Giving up smoking was my biggest challenge and I have not had a cigarette for 20 years. I used to be called “light ‘em up” Valerie. When our bodies and minds are in a balanced state, we are in touch with our senses and can truly appreciate the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and touch around us. It is a very wonderful way to experience each day. One of the ways we can maintain this balance is through the foods we ingest. The purer our diet is, the more likely we will retain our youthful sparkle and be present in all the levels of our being – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.
The more colorful your food is the healthier and more nourishing it is to your body. One of my favorite breakfast meals is blueberries or raspberries with hemp seeds sprinkled on them. Both berries are high in antioxidants which help protect us from illness such as cancer, are a source of fiber and also benefit the skin. By adding hemp seeds we introduce another texture and subtle nutty taste. Hemp seeds are high in protein and minerals. Start looking at each meal as an opportunity to feed your body, mind and spirit.
Stay away from beige food and go for the colors and textures of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Make sure you stay hydrated with water which is one of the best beauty treatments for the skin. With each bite and each sip, imagine the health and beauty of your body being transformed. “Let medicine be your food and food be your medicine” as Hippocrates said. I have a habit of trying to read the paper when I eat or working on my computer, but when I just focus on eating, it is more enjoyable and I can truly appreciate the sight, smell and taste of my food.
I’ve included in your handouts a list of super foods that you can start incorporating right away. Select three to start, such as Goji Berries which you can add to your cereal, oatmeal or eat as a snack. Goji berries are orangey red and I purchase them as dried fruit. They can also be eaten raw, cooked and there are drinks with them, powders etc. They are rich in Vit A and antioxidants. Each day on my salad I include sprouts which is another superfood, high in fiber, enzymes and vitamins such as calcium. Chia seeds have gained lots of attention and can also be sprinkled on salads and incorporated into smoothies. They can help you feel full too and are rich in Omega 3s, are hydrating and known to reduce blood pressure. In your handouts, I have included foods that cause inflammation in the body and the foods that do not. A body that is alkaline is one with a healthy terrain. When the terrain of the body is healthy, there is less likelihood for illness to develop. Green drinks are an excellent way to restore the alkalinity of the body. You can purchase them at a juice bar, buy them pre-made or purchase a juicer and do your own juicing. Two juicers I can recommend are Vitamix and also Nutri Bullet. There are also green powders that can be mixed into water. When I was in my twenties I had my first shot of wheat grass juice and sipped it rather tentatively. Now when I buy it, I drink it right down like a shot of liquor – they call it a wheatgrass shot. Without thinking too much, select one of the superfoods I have listed and buy it this week and start incorporated it into your diet. One step at a time.
Before I move on to the self care practices, I want to mention the 5 no-nos – Sugar, Nicotine, Soda, Caffeine and Alcohol. This does not mean you should never enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee, but in moderation. These substances age the skin and cause spikes and declines in energy which do not provide the environment for balance. We want to achieve a state of balance as we move through the day and evening. What we eat and drink helps maintain this balance.
I love sweets so to satisfy the urge when I get it, I buy vegan ice cream made with coconut milk and sweetened with agave. The health food store is packed with sweets that use stevia, agave and barley malt and they taste really good. For sweetener in herbal tea, I use stevia, which comes from the leaves of a plant. There are tons of interesting herbal teas on the market that have medicinal properties to substitute for coffee. One of my favorites is Nettles and it is chock full of vitamins and minerals. I have also been enjoying Rooibos tea which can also help us get a restful sleep. At my office, we sometimes drink R. W. Knudsen Spritzer with juice concentrates and sparkling water as a soda substitute. I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine and other times, Martinellis Sparking Cider. From this list of no-nos, select one that you would like to start eliminating and select a substitute.
Self care practices are definitely a way of honoring yourself and you can set aside a special day for your own rituals. Or incorporate one each day or throughout the week. One of the most pleasurable is bathing. At night, before bed, put Epsom salts, aromatherapy oils in the bath, light candles and put on some music. The sense of touch, smell and sight are all engaged. It is a blissful way to end the day. Hippocrates said “the way to health is to have a scented massaged and aromatic bath every day.” That would be amazing if everyone heeded his advice.
One of the more unusual self care rituals that I have incorporated is “oil pulling”. It is a wonderful way to remove toxins from the mouth and is also a natural teeth whitener. I take a tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it around my mouth and in and out of my teeth for up to 20 minutes, spit out and rinse my mouth with water and then brush my teeth. Coconut oil is an amazing oil – Google it and a list with 100 uses will be displayed. It is wonderful for moisturizing the skin and an effective hair conditioner. It is known to improve metabolism, help with the absorption of calcium and magnesium, be anti viral and a whole host of other things.
Dry skin brushing removes dead skin, improves circulation, stimulates lymph drainage, stimulates hormones and firms the skin. It can help reduce the appearance of cellulite along with exercise and maintaining an alkaline diet which I referred to earlier. If you have access to a sauna or steam room, that is also excellent for ridding the body of toxins and is beautifying to the skin. When I dry skin brush, I usually do it in the morning. Then I massage my body with coconut oil or use one of my aromatherapy oils before getting into the shower. This is a sensual way to start the day. Sometimes I light a candle as I go through my ritual.
Once per week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday, I like to condition my hair and give myself a facial by exfoliating my skin and then applying a mask. You can check out www.nomoredirtylooks.com to learn about non toxic products. Just putting egg yolk on your face is nourishing and can give you a more awake look if you feel you look tired. Find the time to go once a month or every other month for a spa treatment such as massage, body scrub, wrap or facial.
Aromatherapy is the use of essences that have been extracted from different parts of a plant. They are known as essential oils and possess a powerful chemistry which gives them their various properties. Lavender essential oil is not only relaxing but is also pain relieving and can be used for headaches, skin issues, aches and burns. Products with essential oils can be used in the bath, on the body, for facial care, diffused into the air and they are beneficial to men, women and children of all ages. They are different from synthetic fragrance.
Sleep is an essential component of a healthy body, mind and spirit so be sure to get seven to eight hours a night. Estee Lauder just came out with a study that proves a good night’s sleep slows down the aging of the skin. Other benefits include better mood, brain function, athletic performance, libido, concentration, metabolism and longevity. SO, look at your sleep patterns and habits and create your own bedtime ritual to easy you each night into a peaceful sleep.
Dancing I am convinced is one of the most effective youth maintaining elixirs. One of my favorite forms is known as Five Rhythms and was created by Gabrielle Roth. The Five Rhythms are flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. You move to these five rhythms to music in whatever way moves you. It is very athletic, a great workout and a definite way to connect to your sensuality. It is usually done in bare feet and many women choose to wear flowy skirts. Men also attend and it is a wonderful way to connect with your significant other. Partner dancing, especially tango is another way to stay in touch with your physicality and desire for connection and intimacy.
Some form of exercise is essential to staying present in our bodies. For women with osteopenia or osteoporosis, weight lifting helps build bone. It is never too late. My 82 year old mother does weight lifting exercises and so do I for the health of our bones. Since I do not take medication this is a very important part of my gym routine. I also enjoy restorative yoga which is a very relaxing, soothing and stress relieving. Jumping on a rebounder also known as a mini trampoline is lots of fun and stimulates metabolism and circulation, is good for the health of the heart and enhances digestion, just to name a few benefits. You can create a synergy of different forms of physical activity that appeal to you so you look forward to doing them! Consistency is key.
My three favorite holistic learning centers for spiritual evolving are Kripalu in Stockbridge MA, Omega in Rhinebeck, NY and The Open Center in NYC. I recommend that you look at their program offerings and review their web sites.
The Washington Spa Alliance came out with a Wellness Wheel and identified the following as essential components of wellbeing. They are: Quiet, Food, Community, Sleep, Fitness, Nature and Water. You can use this “wheel” as a way to review these areas in your own life. See how you are doing in each area and define the areas that you may want to shift. For me, it is community and nature. These are the two areas that I would like to transform. It may mean taking more walks in the park across the street from my building or planning more weekends out of the city and creating more of a community socially and professionally. How about you? A question that I leave you with as our time together has drawn to a close.
It is never too late to take impeccable care of yourself and to take the steps to transform your health on all levels. The body, mind and spirit respond quickly when we take care. My twin brother told me to tell you that I am 90 years old but the truth is – I am 60 and I feel excited about my life and future.