Thursday, March 26, 2009

Graceful Feminine Movement, Womanly Posture

Moving in a feminine and graceful manner -- with good posture -- is great for a woman's overall sense of well-being. The French and Italian women aim for a feeling of being comfortable in one's own skin, and womanly poise plays a large part in achieving that level of confidence. Here are some tips for acquiring graceful posture and movement:

1) Accept your height, your age, your coloring, etc. Do not compare yourself to impossible images -- such as the airbrushed models in magazines. You are uniquely created to be you! If you do need to get into better shape or otherwise improve your health and appearance, do so. Don't set impossible goals; simply do your best to achieve the weight and level of fitness that are just right for you. Don't wait until you are in better shape, however, to start working on posture and graceful movement; these will help your sense of well-being along the way to greater health. Once you have improved your overall fitness, other than proper care of your health and a little daily maintenance of your appearance, turn your attention to more important things. Good health and a neatly pleasant appearance are great benefits in life, but they should not be the focus of your attention -- either from vanity or from insecurity. You will become more naturally graceful if you attend to your outer appearance appropriately and, then, turn your attention from yourself to things in life that interest you. Whenever you enter a room full of people, for example, think more of who you can encourage than you do of what people think of you. This will help you avoid the awkwardness that comes from too much self-focus. Chances are, focusing your attention outward will translate itself into warm and elegant movement.
2) Practice graceful, womanly movement until it becomes your habitual way of moving. At the same time, eliminate masculine mannerisms, such as high-fiving another person or walking with a masculine stride. Practice, practice, practice! Once you have practiced enough to acquire a graceful, feminine presence, stop focusing on it. Simply check from time to time to make sure that you are maintaining your good posture and feminine mannerisms.
3) Move smoothly, without dawdling or rushing. Aim for a light walk, rather than a heavy one.
4) Incorporate stretching into your routine. This is helpful in a variety of ways. If you participate in sports or have incorrectly trained in a gym, you may have inadvertently overdeveloped some muscles and contracted others. This can not only lead to awkward movement, but it can cause muscle and joint pain later on. For you, stretching properly will help you keep your muscles in balance and sufficiently fluid and flexible. Also, as we age, stretching becomes more and more important to a woman's body. It helps to defeat aches and stiffness. Ballet stretches and stretches from other types of dance generally encourage graceful movement. Devote a few moments to stretching six days a week, even on days when you don't do other forms of exercise. Don't forget to do exercises that strengthen and stretch your feet and ankles. Do ankle circles, for example. Besides encouraging smooth, graceful movement and good posture, stretching relieves tension and reduces the temptation to fidget.
5) Do not allow yourself to develop the habit of letting your head hang forward. Today, we spend much of our time looking down to work on a computer, to prepare food, to read, etc. If we are not careful, we can let the weight of our head hang forward. This not only looks and feels awkward, it is not good for the health of our upper spine and neck. From time to time throughout the day, let your shoulders drop smoothly into place. You may want to lift them a bit and then ease them back into proper position. Lengthen your neck upward. Stretch upward from behind the ears without necessarily raising your chin. Try to have your ears over your shoulders. Visualize your neck as long and gracefully elegant and your upper chest as smooth and uplifted -- like that of a beautiful dove.
6) Keep the muscles of your face relaxed, yet uplifted. As we attend to the tasks of our day, we can carry a lot of tension in our faces without even realizing it. Take time to relax your face and then to train your muscles to assume a cheerful expression. Smiling lifts the muscles of the face upward. There is a time to express sadness or concern by our facial muscles, but we shouldn't let that be our default expression. Maintaining a pleasant, tension free expression will cheer us, cheer others, and delay wrinkling and sagging of the skin.
7) When sitting, don't just plop into a chair. Lower yourself into the chair smoothly and gracefully. Also, attend to how you get into and out of a car.
8) Think about maintaining a soft curve of your arms. When you are sitting, let your hands rest softly in your lap while your spine stays straight. Shoulders should be loose and relaxed. Think of them as falling away from the straight spine. Let your elbows hang loosely away from your body, so that your arms form a graceful curve as your hands rest in your lap. Don't hug your elbows tightly to your body. Practice the following exercise while standing. Start with your arms at your sides. Lift your arms up in a circle in front of you, as a ballet dancer would. Pretend you are holding a beach ball, so that your hands are separated by about 12 inches. Let the movement be controlled by your back. Lift your elbows up, but keep your shoulders down. Open your arms gracefully to each side, keeping your shoulders down. Turn the wrists up and finish with a gentle and graceful motion of your hands. Let your arms glide down to your sides. Repeat 12 times.
9) Some inner attitudes that can translate into graceful movement are love, gentleness, tenderness, kindness, and appropriate affection for loved ones.
10) There's always the tried and true exercise of walking while balancing a book on your head. This creates the habit of smooth movement. Of course, you won't be able to walk at a normal pace while balancing a book on the head. But, practicing this for a few minutes every day for a month should make a difference in how you do walk in everyday life.
11) When researching articles and books about good posture and graceful movement, remember that what makes for appropriate posture and grace in a woman differs somewhat from what makes for appropriate posture and grace in a man. Military posture and some other techniques for posture were developed with a man's physique in mind. Educate yourself about what is best for a woman's body.
12) Practice exercises that develop the core muscles of the body. Strengthening your core muscles will aid in maintaining correct posture. Remember that strengthening the core and maintaining good posture is vital to the lifelong health of a woman's internal organs. This can also aid in childbirth, as well as help some women ease monthly discomfort. It's best to start practicing this when you are young to prevent problems in the future. It's never too late, however, to improve.

Enjoy!
Elizabeth

Monday, March 9, 2009

Organizing grooming tools/dollar store craft/book review


I wasn't sure whether to post this on my main project home economics blog or here where I am specifically writing about health and beauty. Anyhow, I had fun making a Sephora inspired makeup/grooming tool brush holder on a dollar store budget. Check it out.

On the subject of health, I just finished reading a book from the library called, "This is not your Mother's Menopause," by Trisha Posner. The subtitle is, "One Woman's Natural Journey through Change."

"This is not your Mother's Menopause" was written in the early 2,000's. Given that the information about aging, peri-menopause, menopause, and health is changing rapidly during this decade, I am sure some of the information is out of date by now. In fact, some of the remedies that were promoted when she wrote the book now have question marks attached to their risks/benefits. Vitamin E and black cohosh are two of the supplements she talks about that are not only being discredited as being of help during menopause, but might actually have serious side effects as well. Still, I found the author's approach to the change to have some merit.

Based on my subjective opinion, here are the pros to the book:

1) When the author realized that she was entering menopause on the early side, she set out to educate herself about the health ramifications of taking replacement hormones versus using other means: diet, rest, water, supplements, exercise, etc. This led her into a search for the best ways to navigate menopause, in general. She did a lot of intensive research and made the best, most informed decisions that she could. She kept tweaking her program as she discovered what measures helped her be at her best health and appearance and which ones did not. In today's world, we are lucky to have access to medical information so that we can participate in our own plan for achieving the best health possible. By telling us her story, the author gives us a blueprint for doing this.
2) The author chose to see this as a positive time, rather than as a negative time. She also chose to see menopause as a natural occurrence, rather than as an illness, and I agree. A positive attitude toward aging is essential to handling it well. Her example shows us that menopause does not have to signal the end of our health and happiness. It can, in fact, be the beginning of a new and productive stage of life.
3) From the author's research, we can glean a lot of places to start our own research. I learned a lot from her example about how to look for information we can use.
4) The author was basically healthy to begin with, and, as I mentioned, on the younger side for someone heading into full-blown menopause. Instead of losing ground during months before and the year after menopause, she actually came out with some improvements in her overall health. That is encouraging.
5) The author advises that you do not mimic her personal decisions, but suggests that you do your own research and draw your own conclusions. This is important, I think, on a number of levels. First, not every body and every mind responds to things in the same way. Also, as the medical profession discovers new things, your decisions about what to do and what not to do may change. Also, I believe that you do need to discuss things with your doctor, rather than go it totally on your own. The public often rushes to take the latest touted supplement, only to find out that it is not all it seemed to be at first. The answers are probably not in popping pills and supplements, but in the basics of a healthy diet, exercise, rest, stress relief, and perhaps a good multivitamin. In the end, the decisions are up to you, but a physician can offer you information that you cannot find anywhere else. Also, the physician can monitor your health progress. (While the author disagreed with some of her doctor's advice, she kept checking in with her doctor and letting the doctor measure her levels of health. I think that is wise.) The author chose not to take the replacement hormones suggested by her doctor, but you may decide that is exactly what you need. The point is not to copy the author's program, but to decide what is right for you. I like the fact that she emphasizes this, rather than prescribes a one-answer-fits-all program. There are too many undecided questions about hormones, supplements, and the like to assume that what works for one person will necessarily work for another.
6) The author does not expect to look as she did when she was twenty years of age, but wants to make the most of her current health and appearance. It is healthy to move on into mature standards of health and beauty, rather than trying to hold onto the first budding of youth. There is a wonderful dignity about an older woman whose beautiful soul fully blooms on her face.
7) Women in their youth and women who have already passed menopause can learn something from the author's approach to health, even though she focuses specifically on the period before and right after the cessation of menstruation. After all, the principles of good health -- such as nourishing food, water, exercise, etc. -- are timeless.

Cons:

1) The author states that she likes to process things by being in control -- something that I think every woman can relate to. However, the bottom line is that we simply cannot control everything in our lives. Aging and death are realities on this side of heaven, and we must come to terms with this if we are to maintain a healthy and faithful outlook. In peri-menopause and in menopause, as in everything, I would counsel a constant, prayerful dependence on the Lord. That does not negate the author's encouraging example of doing some research and making informed choices. After all, that is good stewardship of our health, provided that our ultimate hope is in the Lord. However, as we face the real challenges of aging, we must trust that the Lord will work our circumstances for good. If a woman cannot achieve the same robust level of health and physical beauty as the author possesses, she should not feel as if she has failed. Our goal is not to hang on to this present life forever and ever or to be perpetually young on this side of heaven. Perhaps, a better goal would be to do the best we can so that we can serve the Lord and love others with all our best.
2) The author's concepts of a spiritual approach to menopause are a bit vague. That's where I'd turn to the scriptures for real guidance.
3) Some women enter gull-blown menopause a good 10 or more years later than the author did. This may mean that they are further along in the general process of aging when they begin their journey into the change of life. Thus, they may not be able to achieve quite the same results as the author.
4) In trying to improve your health and trying to eliminate all menopause symptoms -- which the author acknowledges can be quite unsettling -- you could become too self-absorbed. Or, rather, I know that I could. I would suggest that if you embark on a process similar to hers that you set limits on your time. Though she did not realize it from the beginning, she was turning her journey into a money-making book. In a sense, her research and experiments in health became her job. However, for most of us, taking care of our health is something that we must fit into already very busy days. We can't become so obsessed with how our bodies are faring that we neglect the most important things in life -- loving God and loving others. Besides, too much focus on this process of aging and menopause could backfire by turning our minds to our aches and ailments, rather than to our blessings. That, in itself, can make us feel worse physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A cheerful heart is good medicine, and I know from my own experiences in selfishness that a truly cheerful heart never springs from self-absorption.
5) It is possible to take too many supplements, and, since I am not a medical professional, I have no way of knowing if the author has crossed that line. She said that she takes twenty vitamin/supplement pills a day, which seems to me to be a bit excessive on the budget and possibly hard on the body. Again, that's where you have to do your own research.

Cons and all, I would recommend that anyone journeying through perimenopause and menopause read this book at least once through just to get the gist of it. I do think it's an encouraging little volume. I'm don't think that I would purchase and keep it, though. I'm glad it's available in our local library in case I ever want to peruse it again.

Good health to you!
Elizabeth

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ways to Improve Your Health


Well, our mothers were right. I recently saw a talk by Dr. Nancy Snyderman in which she listed some ways to stay healthy now. Among them were...

1) Eat a healthy diet.
2) Move -- She emphasized the word move over exercise, as the important thing is to stay active.
3) Be happy!

Happiness turns out to be an important ingredient for good health. Of course, when you are feeling ill and sick a lot, it's hard to be cheerful and happy. But, anything we do to have joy in our life, to improve our state of mind, and to be content can have a beneficial effect on our physical well-being.

Of course, chasing happiness for happiness sake usually produces the reverse in the end -- discontent. That's one of the themes of the book of Ecclesiastes. True happiness is found in a relationship with the Lord. It's when you lose your life that you find it.

Similarly, you might do all of the right things and still suffer illness. If so, faith, love, and joy will sustain you during your sickness. Knowing that the Lord works all things (even illness) for the good of those who love him goes a long way toward given you peace even when your body's not at its best.

Wishing you joy!
Elizabeth

Product I like

Now that I'm endeavoring to wear sunscreen every day and not just when I'm going to be out in the sun for long periods of time, I pulled out my Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock. It promises to have an ultra light and clean feel, which, in my opinion, it does. It also doesn't smell quite so sun-blocky. I don't really relish smelling like sunblock all the time, so that's a plus.

Now, I purchased this in a 55 SPF strength, which is overkill for the purposes for which I'm going to start using more sunblock. I bought it for a trip to Florida in late September and needed something strong. I'm sure it comes in lesser strengths, though.

I also can't remember how much I paid for it, so I don't know if the price would be acceptable to me for an everyday sunscreen or not.

Moreover, I'm not a dermatologist or any type of scientist, so I can't speak to its medical efficacy. I would guess that Neutrogena is very invested in standing by the claims of their products, as they have made their name on skin care.

Having made all of those disclaimers, I must say that I really do like the way it feels.

In a way, I have a youthful complexion for someone who is 29+++ (I'm Southern, and Southern women do not discuss their exact ages in public.) But, that's in spite of visible sun damage. There is a definite difference in skin that has had a lot of sun exposure and skin that hasn't.

When you are very young, sun exposure looks attractive on the skin. But, it damages deep layers, and that damage suddenly starts showing up more and more and more as you move through life. So, do your future self a favor and protect your skin now!

Here's to happy and healty skin.
Elizabeth

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Taking Care of Your Skin



Since I was down with asthma triggered by a cold this weekend, I had little strength more than to just lie on the couch. I am feeling so much better now and am thankful that even this temporary bout of an ordinary cold has reminded me to be thankful for health, to take care of my health, and to remember that the things of real importance are the eternal things, not the temporal ones.

Anyhow, I found it hard to concentrate enough to read or blog or do crafts. So, I searched for something to watch on TV. The best I could come up with was PBS's fundraiser. (I was desperate!) Anyhow, sandwiched in the appeals for funds were some interesting health and beauty tips. I learned some things about skincare from Dr. Roizen, Paula Beguon, and a doctor whose name I can't remember.

This is what I gleaned:

Given time and care, you can do some things on your own to reverse past sun damage to your skin. This is good news for me. As I came of age in the get-a-tan 70's, grew up under the Florida and Georgia skies, and have ultra fair skin, I'm a poster child for what not to do sun-wise. So far, I have escaped the skin cancer that has afflicted both of my parents, but I do have some sun damage.

Of course, once I reached adulthood, I became much more careful about wearing sun skin when I know I'm going to be out in the sun for a while. Even so, I'm not very careful about putting it on just for dashing out to the garden or sitting on my garden swing for a bit.

The collective advice from the show was to wear sunscreen all day every day -- even if there's snow on the ground. Now, I do think there are some health benefits from a limited amount of sun exposure -- such as acquiring Vitamin D naturally rather than through supplementation. (At my doctor's advice, I do take Vitamin D supplements, though.) However, sun damage is cumulative, and most of us do receive more sun than we realize during a normal day. Even sitting near a sunny window or driving in a car exposes us to the most damaging kind of sun rays, which penetrate through glass. So, as a very fair-skinned person, I am determined to be more conscientious about wearing sunscreen more often. It's a simple, not-very-time-consuming way to protect both health and appearance.

According to Paula Begoun, inexpensive sunscreens work as well as more expensive ones. She says that you need a lot of sunscreen to do the trick. If you buy a sunscreen that is expensive, you will likely skimp on it. So, in her opinion, it's better to buy a less expensive sunscreen and slather it on than to buy the top of the line sunscreen and not use enough for it to be effective.

Of course, no matter what price you pay, you need to make sure that the sunscreen you are buying really does its job. Even if you are trying to save money, look for a quality product.

In an article by Paula Begoun, she states, "The basics to look for are a product rated SPF 15 or higher, and make sure it has one of these ingredients listed as active to ensure adequate protection from UVA rays: avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789 or butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane), titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. Outside the United States, Mexoryl SX and Tinosorb are effective UVA-protecting ingredients." She also adds later on, "A state-of-the-art sunscreen contains not only effective UVA-protecting ingredients but also includes antioxidants and other ingredients that help skin look and feel better."

According to her, research is showing that antioxidants boost a sunscreen's effectiveness and also reduces the free radicals and inflammation that sun exposure causes.

You can get this type of sun protection in a makeup foundation or a facial moisturizer, but don't forget to have a sunscreen for your body, as well.

A nighttime skin routine that was advocated on the show I watched is as follows:

1) Use a makeup remover if you wear makeup
2) Wash your face using a bar soap. (The reasoning for bar soap is that bar soap contains fewer perfumes and allergens. Some people are allergic to face cleansers. Bar soap is just as effective, less likely to cause a reaction, and less expensive. But, if you have a face cleanser that you like and are not allergic to it, that is fine.)
3) Exfoliate with a washcloth -- a gentle method for exfoliation.
4) Cover with a nighttime nourishing cream. A good ingredient is Vitamin C. Vitamin C does many wonderful things for your skin. However, it breaks down when exposed to light. So, even though you may use a moisturizer in the morning that has Vitamin C in it, it's great to use one at night, also. Since you sleep in a darkened room, the Vitamin C can really sink into your skin without being compromised by the light.

It was suggested that some great ingredients for the skin are Vitamins A and C and E. Niacin and panthoic acid are great, too.

Here's something surprising I had heard a long time ago when I was young, but was repeated by Dr. Roizen: Before age 60, you really don't need a moisturizer unless you have naturally dry skin. In fact, if you over apply moisturizers before that age, you can actually cause your skin to stop producing the right amount of its own protective oils. Your skin makes its own moisturizer, which would actually be quite costly if it could be bottled. Oops!

Of course, no talk about skincare would be complete without talk of nourishment from within: plenty of Vitamin C rich foods, healthy proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, salmon or salmon oil -- You know the recommendations.

Of course, as with any health and beauty information, you have to do your own research and decide your own opinions. There are some who think that exfoliation actually decreases your skin's natural ability to handle sun exposure, for example. And some of the suggested ingredients in the nourishing creams might not work for you if your skin is sensitive to them.

One thought about sun exposure: It seems to me that the majority of cultures throughout history -- though not all of them, of course -- characteristically wore lots of coverings against too much sun. I'm thinking of turbans, hats, shawls, veils, long-sleeved garments, scarves, long garments, parasols, etc. In many cultures, both men and women have traditionally worn protective coverings. I wonder if one factor in the fact that skin cancer and premature sun damage have become more common in the last few decades is the fact that during the last few decades much of the world has given up wearing hats and head coverings and also wear garments that expose much more skin to the sun than in former times.

Here's to happy and healthy skin!

Elizabeth