Friday
Sep092016

Meditation, it's not what you think...

 

My Husband and I recently started meditating together.  It's not what you think.  We are not sitting together in lotus in front of an altar of candles with Buddha statues and crystals.  We are truly just setting aside time in our morning and night to not to think!  If you are like us, the world is not slowing down, but we have found that meditating has helped to quiet our "monkey brains" and sleep better at night.   

According to Wikipedia, Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.  

For some, meditation (or prayer) takes on a more spiritual connection with God or “source” as an “effort to realize and express that pure consciousness which is the reflection, or image, of God within you.” ~Parmahansa Yogananda

While for others, meditation is just plain impossible.  It is for the “others” that I write this piece.  If visualizing a light flowing around your body, using the power of positive thought, repeating a mantra or even prayer all seem a bit out of reach for you, then read on.  I'm here to suggest meditation is not what you think, it's how you breathe!


 

Mindfulness, Yoga Meditation (any type), Vipassana, Mantra, Taoist, Qigong, if you’ve ever tried these or any form of meditation you know, it ain’t easy.  Like anything worth doing, meditation takes practice and consistency and unless you know how to do it, meditation also takes guidance.  Guidance can come in many forms.  There are audio recordings with people like Deepak Chopra and Jack Canfield and Apps like Headspace to talk you through it.  There are places you can go like Unplug, Self Realization Fellowship and Goorus for classes and workshops.  For some people sitting still to meditate is really hard. For these folks cardio exercise such as running, biking, swimming and/or practicing yoga asanas serve as their “moving meditation”.  The physical practice of yoga evolved over the years to exercise every muscle, nerve and gland in the body.  But the real importance lies in the way the asanas train and discipline the mind.  If it weren't for the physical practice of yoga most of us Westerners would never even begin to realize the possibilites of meditation.

 

There is no one right or wrong way to meditate, but one thing I have noticed is, no matter what form you practice, breathwork is key.  From a scientific stand point it makes sense.  When we breathe deeply and consciously our bodies receive more oxygen (inhale) and release more carbon dioxide (exhale).  Oxygen is loaded onto the red blood cells while carbon dioxide is unloaded from them into the air. The oxygenated blood then flows through our veins to the heart where it pumps all the oxygen goodness in the blood throughout the body.  The more oxygenated our body and brain are, the less they have to work, and as a result our restless bodies and minds get to sloooow down.

 

I began doing breathwork at a young age when my drama teacher, also a Yogi, started and ended the class with breath exercises.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized the immense benefits of these exercises.  Now I practice breathwork or pranayama (prana=breath, life, energy) both in my practice of yoga as well in my every day.  While sitting in traffic, soothing my daughter, calming myself (while sitting in traffic with my daughter) and while drifting off to sleep, breathing consciously helps me feel peaceful and relaxed.  As with meditation, there are several different breath techniques to choose from.  With so many available, I thought I’d highlight three of my favorites.

To watch a video on the three techniques discussed, click here!

20/20/20

(Or as I like to say, 5/5/5)

The idea is that the inhalation and exhalation are equal parts including holding the breath at the top for the same count.  With the goal being 20 seconds for each equal part, a more realistic count is 5 seconds.  Depending on when you use this breath, the exhale can be with an open mouth to release carbon dioxide or with a closed mouth (as in Ujjayi Breathing) for control and a front lobe cleansing.  With each round of breathing watch the breath flow in, hold and out.  With every inhale fill the belly with air, expand the rib cage to the top of the lungs, hold and with every exhale release the breath from the chest down to the belly pressing all the air out.  Repeat several times until you begin to feel a calm wash over the body.

 

Double Inhalation/ Exhalation

The idea behind this practice is tension and release.  When our bodies are tense it is nearly impossible to sit quietly.  Take two deep breathes through the nose filling the belly with air, expand the chest and tense every muscle in your body.  Hold the breathe at the top and feel the vibration the body makes as it holds the breath and muscles tight.  Then, on a double exhalation, release the breath through the mouth with an audible, “hah, haaah” and relax all the muscles in the body.  Notice as you inhale any areas of tension you may be holding unecessarily in your body, and pay close attention when you exhale to release them.  Repeat several rounds and on your final round hold the breath at the bottom of the exhale for as long as you can and notice the stillness come over you.

 

Ujjayi breathing is a breath technique employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. In relation to Yoga, it is sometimes called "the ocean breath" because of the sound it makes as the breath rushes across the back of the throat. Unlike some other forms of pranayama the inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose.  The ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana practice which helps to guide smooth transitions and steady the poses.  Similar to the other pranayama, the inhale fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, which as a result each breath strengthens the core making it a mini ab exercise!

If you are still not convinced that there is a place for meditation consider this. When my husband and I started meditating before bedtime we both experienced some of the best nights sleep in a long time!  Once we got over the soothing voices that made us want to laugh like immature kids in church we were both able to see and feel the benefits.  If you are at all stressed, lacking sleep, feeling overworked, living with aches and pains or seeking peace in your life, what do you have to lose?  Meditation, it's not what you think...  

 

Alison Burmeister

For

Balanced Beauty 

Saturday
Sep032016

Smile You're Glamping

Happy Labor Day Weekend!!  Time to kick your feet up and celebrate all the hard work you do throughout the year!  For some of us this means backyard BBQ's, for others a trip to the beach. For some of us this means, CAMPING!!  A time to get into nature, breath the fresh air, check out from technology and come back filthy-dirty, smelling like a forest fire...wait...scratch that last part.

Camping or "Glamping" as I like to call it, does not have to be a stinky dirty, affair...if you follow a few of these tips, you'll not only come back feeling refreshed, but looking and smelling refreshed too!

1.  When you are initially packing for your camping trip, always set aside and seal in a plastic bag a separate outfit complete with socks, undergarments, tops and bottoms for you and everyone in your family.  Leave this bag somewhere in your car or trailer where it won't get dirty or smoked out!

2.  Bring plenty of washcloths, baby wipes and towels along with your favorite eyecloth wipes and all purpose soap.  Using your campstove boil water for tea or coffee in the morning.  Once you have poured all the hot water you need, soak a hand towel and set it aside.  With the remaining water dip your washcloth into and soap up your face and smelly bits.  Then "rinse off" the soap with your hand towel and baby wipes if need be.  Lather up in your favorite lotions afterwards to prevent your skin from drying out.

3.  Typically the first night of camping requires a little adjusting to the sleep thing which can result in puffy and/or irritated eyes.  If you drink green tea (rich in antioxidants), be sure to save your tea bags.  Once they have cooled off, find a quiet place under a shady tree, place the tea bags on your eyes and let the caffeine infused bags soothe and reduce any puffiness while you catch up on a few ZZZZ's.  Follow up with your favorite peptide eye cloths for an added boost!

4.  Braid you and your kids hair and/or wear a bandana around your hair, especially when hanging out by the fire.  Not only will you look "Super Camp Wear Cute", it keeps your hair from getting dusty and smokey allowing you to go a day or two without feeling like you need to wash it.  

5.  Let nature be your airfreshener!  Everytime we go camping we always grab a bunch of sage to take with us in the car, place in our tent and rub on our clothes.  Not only does it smell nice, but I like to think we are warding off evil spirits too!

6.  Take time to stretch.  The great thing about yoga is you can do it anywhere...you don't even need a mat.  Find a picnic table, boat dock or bench and loosen up your bones.  Be sure to breathe consciously with every stretch to increase oxygen in the blood and circulation throughout the body.

7.  When camping is all said and done, the tent is packed and the car is stacked be sure to grab your bag of fresh sealed clothes and wash up one last time.  If you are lucky enough the campgrounds you are in will have a warm shower, but if not a quick dip in the lake or river or even a spongebath will refresh and get you clean enough for the drive home.  Slip into some clean clothes, set the podcast and enjoy the drive home!

 

Alison Burmeister

For

Balanced Beauty

 

A special thanks to Rachel and Sophie for your cute faces and sharing our love to look and feel great inside and out...while camping...I mean Glamping!

 

Wednesday
Jun012016

International Day of Yoga Hike!

International Day of Yoga Hike!  June 21st @ 9:30 am

Take time for your self to honor your mind, body and spirit!

December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga.  International Day of Yoga (IDY) is part of a greater collective world movement to increase consciousness for our earth, health and well-being.  Appropriate that this day is also the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year when the seasonal movement of the Sun's path comes to a stop before reversing directions, this community event is intended to encourage individuals to take a moment from their busy days to reflect, introspect and join other like-minded individuals in positive activities for the mind, body and spirit.

This year we will celebrate International Day of Yoga with a Yoga Hike!

Registration will open June 5th, 2016.

Space for the hike will be limited.  All are welcome to join for the collective conscious gathering at 11 am in the park.


 

Tuesday
May172016

Balanced Beauty Interview with Celebrity Chef, Devin Alexander, "Delightfully Devin"

 When I think of "Balanced Beauty", one of the words that comes to mind is moderation.  At a young age, my father shared with me one of his (many) philosphies on life, regarding moderation.  He told me, "When it comes to life, take everything in moderation, even moderation."  I'm pretty sure his idea of moderation and my idea of moderation, especially while I was in College, varied just slightly, but we will let that go for now...for the sake of relevance.  What I am sure he was getting at was, in a "normal life setting" so long as you live mindful of your health and wellness it's ok to have a a big piece of chocolate cake with a glass of red wine (or three) every once in a while.  Just don't do it every day!

 

Well for some people self control and moderation does not come easy.  Some people legitimately struggle with control, diet and exercise and need a little extra help.  That is where this Balanced Beauty interview with Devin Alexander comes in!  Not only is she smart, pretty, funny and real...but she is a great chef who has found a way to make healthy food taste GREAT!  I knew she was a girl after my own heart when one of her specialties was brownies!  Devin is author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook, "The Biggest Loser Cookbook", host and guest media personality on shows such as "The Today Show", Good Morning America", "Dr Oz" and has been published in over 500 magazine features including Prevention, Women's Health and Shape.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of doing Devin's hair and makeup for various photo and video shoots, commericals and interviews.  Recently, while in makeup on a shoot I took advantage of my captive audience and she openly shared her ideas around "Balanced Beauty".  I am excited to share them here with you now!  Enjoy, she is one smart cookie!...

Devin Alexander, Balanced Beauty Interview

 

What does "Balanced Beauty" mean to you?

D:  "I think confidence is the number one component in beauty.  Balanced beauty means becoming your prettiest self by highlighting your best features and easing up on self-judgment…and making sensible, not restrictive choices!  For me, doing “too much” actually yields negative results – if I try for the “perfect” diet, it ends up backfiring and causing obsession…so I just make sure I’m enjoying every bite…and I’ve made a conscious choice to allow myself not to be a size 2 – a size 4 or 6 is fine for me.  That decision has created a better quality of life (I can actually go on a date or hang with friends w/o ordering like a crazy person or never drinking; and I do activities I love instead of mundane, painful workouts in the gym).  When it comes to my “beauty regimen” that’s pretty light too.  I don’t overdo the makeup.  I highlight my eyes and smile….and try not to focus or obsess on the wrinkles or flaws..and it seems to be working for me.  I think spending time giving back to the world and feeding my soul makes me radiant more than spending endless hours at a salon or plastic surgeon’s office."  

 

If you were stranded on an island and could only have three beauty products, what would you wish for?

D:  "Aussie Shampoo, Murad Rapid Collagen Infusion Moisturizer, DermaE BB cream are the essentials.  I’d also love an eyeliner and lipgloss! :)"  (I feel ya girl!)

 

5 words of advice you would give to your 9 year old self.

D:  "You don’t have to give up all off the foods you love! Choose wisely and you’ll be great! Food is to be celebrated, not a battle!!"

 

Favorite way to work out?

D:  "Beach tennis (or tennis when beach tennis isn’t an option).  Beach tennis is weirdly easy on the joints and the fact that it’s so much about strategy, I never find myself looking at a clock the way I do when I’m at the gym!"

 

Favorite treat to indulge in?

D:  "Devinly Delites - my line of better-for-you brownies that are soon going to be sold on QVC and beyond!" (YUM!! Can't wait!)

 

My favorite pasttime when I fly on a plane is...

D:  I always work on airplanes – I figure I stuck in a tube on a plane with little option for fun.  So I force myself to return email and catch up so when I’m home I can enjoy my friends and hit the beach – not be locked in my office!

 

One thing I have not done that I would like to try is...

D:  "I’m lucky that I’ve experienced a TON so this question is tough.  I guess it would be to adopt a baby.  I’ve always wanted to be a mom and that’s one of the few things I’ve wanted that I haven’t made happen."  (You'll be an amazing Mom!) 

 

If you looked in my glove compartment/console right now you would find...

D:  "Bliss grapefruit body lotion, quarters for my beach walks…and my car registration, of course."

 

I feel balanced when...

D:  "I haven’t taken on too many work projects and can freely spend my weekends at the beach. (I should probably add here, too, that I weighed 200 pounds as a 15 years old and now maintaining my weight is relatively easy for me – I feel a genuine sense of balance there because I’ve learned how to cook amazing food that keeps me fit.  And it’s second nature at this point!  I hope any woman who struggles will follow me.  As I said, I spent so many years hating my body and “wrestling” and now I feel more beautiful in my 40s than I ever have! And I wish that upon everyone!!!)."  (Follow Devin!) 

I feel beautiful when...

D:  "This is tough too because I spent my teens and 20s hating my body, feeling less than.  I remember the very first time someone ever told me I was beautiful and I believed he  actually thought that (I was 26).  Now, I feel beautiful often – not like I’m delusional thinking I’m a supermodel or anything…but I feel great.  I’m strong, I’m happy and with a little eyeliner and lip gloss and the right dress (from sundress to formal gown), I feel great!" 

 

Thanks Devin for sharing your story and for inspiring and helping others look and feel their best!  

You are truly a "Balanced Beauty"!

 

 

Alison Burmeister

For 

Balanced Beauty

Tuesday
Apr122016

Balanced Beauty Interview with Rudy Mettia, "The Yoga Warrior"

 

It’s a sunny day on the corner of Santa Monica and 2nd street.  My hair is still a bit sweaty as I gather my post yoga brain and grab a seat outside Power Yoga.  Across from me, is perhaps one of the most A-typical “Yogis” I know.  With a Southern drawl, militant stare, devilish grin and biceps, that I’m pretty sure have their own Instagram account, Rudy Mettia, is not exactly the visual that comes to mind when someone mentions the word “Yogi”.  However, year after year he is voted one of the best instructors around, and rightfully so!  Rudy has a beautiful way of blending his extensive knowledge of biomechanics and asana with practical application and soulful insight into every class he teaches.  Rudy will challenge your physical limits, but he’ll have you laughing so much you won’t care.  I am honored to call Rudy my mentor and friend and excited to share with you Rudy Mettia’s (and my first!) Balanced Beauty Interview! 


  

What does “Balanced Beauty” mean to you? 

R:  “Balanced Beauty is when there is an internal and external acceptance of reality.  In other words when you look at yourself in the mirror you don’t go, “Who the fuck is that!?”  (Maybe I should mention now, that another reason I love Rudy is he calls it like it is!)

 

If you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island, what three “beauty” (grooming) products couldn’t you live without?

R:  “Soap, toothpaste and clippers…I like to keep my shit tidy.”

 

What are 5 words you would tell your 9 year old self?

R:  “It’s going to be okay.”  He pauses for a moment and then continues, “I was orphaned at 9 years old and looking back it was as if I was experiencing Samadhi, if you will, where my mind detached from my body, but in reality I was in shock.”

 

What is your favorite way to work out?

R:  “Intensely”  (I can vouch for that!)

 

What is your favorite treat to indulge in?

R:  “Ice Cream” 

 

Favorite pastime when you fly on a plane?

R:  “Read.”  Rudy is currently reading, “Extreme Ownership” by Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

 

One thing I have not done that I would like to try is…

I have to interject here…when asked this question Rudy had no immediate answer…which, is not surprising!  His life has been quite colorful and soon we can all read more about him in his book, “Yoga Warrior”, From Orphan & Marine, Bouncer & Biker, Bodybuilder & Spiritualist out in May!  Later, when I realized he had not answered this question I tried again, and this is what he said.

R:  “Dirt Biking, I’ve never taken a motorcycle off road.”  (Go figure.)

 

If you looked in my glove compartment you would find…

R:  “Nothing, I keep my car clean and my guns at home.”  (I’m quite sure he is serious)

 

When do you feel most “Balanced”?

R:  “When I am alone.” 

 

When do you feel most “Beautiful”?

R:  “When I am healthy.” 

 

Looking back on when I first met Rudy, I remember he talked a lot about finding the “Shri” or beauty in your yoga practice.  Shri is not only a physical beauty, but a full expression of the self.  Coming from a muscle bound dude, one might find the topic of “balanced beauty” a bit ironic, but after one of Rudy’s yoga classes, a big bear hug and kiss of southern charm, you can’t help but feel a bit more balanced and beautiful!   

 

Thanks Rudy for taking the time to discuss your thoughts on “Balanced Beauty” with me!

 

In Gratitude,

 

Alison Burmeister

For

Balanced Beauty