How To Use Coconut Oil For Healthy, Glowing Skin

It’s been really cold and dry in Atlanta this week, and my skin has paid the price! Chapped lips and dry hands are no fun, so I’ve kept a bowl of coconut oil on the bathroom and kitchen counters, as a reminder to moisturize throughout the day. I also wash my face with coconut oil every night and morning, using only warm water to rinse. A little oil remains on the skin, along with a lovely glow.

I first tried coconut oil as a replacement for soap and lotion two years ago, when my friend Lisa (AKA The Charmed Yogi) told me that it’s a great practice for removing dirt, moisturizing, and leaving the skin refreshed. It seemed too good to be true, so I asked her to write about it for this blog. I was so inspired by the simplicity and wholesomeness of the practice, that I played around with it in the months that followed.

At the time, I was also experimenting with Retin-A, and a few other products that my dermatologist had suggested. Although the synthetic products did seem to brighten my skin, I didn’t like the idea of using all those chemicals.

When I first started cleansing my face (and eventually my entire body) with coconut oil, it felt strange, rinsing with water, instead of washing the oil off with soap. I was afraid my skin would break out, and I would feel dirty afterward. But, after a few weeks, I got used to the changes, and learned to love the light layer of oil that is left on my skin for protection.

I also love that my coconut oil regimen is simpler than washing with soap, and toning and moisturizing afterwards. It removes waterproof eye makeup in a snap, which is much easier and cheaper than using an eye makeup remover.

When I travel, coconut oil saves space in my suitcase. I used to pack a cleanser, toner, and mosturizer, but all I need now is a little block of coconut oil in a small container, to get me through a few days away from home (I freeze it before I travel and double bag the container to prevent leaks).

I know cleansing with oil might sound strange, but it not only works, it works better than anything else I have ever tried, and feels so much easier than my old routine. It has taught me that we don’t need all of those chemicals to stay clean, and it saves me hundreds of dollars each year.

Could you toss your commercial cleansers and switch to coconut oil skin care? You never know until you try, so give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

coconut_oilphoto:thechalkboardmag.com

#TBT: What Can We Learn From Our Past?

When I started this blog, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I just knew I needed to start sharing this incredible journey I have been on for the past twenty years. I learned so many lessons about overcoming common health issues all by myself, and it was hard. I hoped that by sharing here, I might spare others some of the pain and frustration I endured.

Since I started writing, God has been encouraging me, inspiring me, and leading me to keep digging deeper into the reasons behind my struggles, and what I learned from them. It’s been a process of refinement for sure, but it’s led me to exactly what I hoped to find: clarity about why we struggle now more than ever, to get healthy and stay healthy, and how I can help change the culture.

It’s interesting to me, to remember that more than one doctor along the way has suggested that my aches and pains were all in my head. It was laughable, to sit face to face with someone who claimed to be a healer, feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and be told that my pain was not legitimate.

My pain was very, very real. In a way, though, those doctors were partially right. Part of my problem was in my head. It was what I believed about healing, that stood between me and pain-free living. I believed that we healed ourselves by visiting doctors and taking medicine. A very linear and closed-minded perspective that is common in our culture, even today. It was only when I started looking at my challenges from new angles, that I found what I had hoped for all along. Yoga opened my mind, body and spirit to a multi-dimensional approach to healing and prevention that transformed my life.

Little by little, I started to see that most of my ailments were self-induced. I was allergic to much of the food I was eating, and I was not exercising. Living reactively, rather than proactively, and slowing digging a ditch that I would only escape through years of introspection, exercise, and healing foods.

I talked about the five undeniable truths that I discovered along the way, and how my family history affected my beliefs, on my Facebook page today. These messages are important themes in my book, and the stories of the women in my family help put it all in perspective.

And BTW, in case you are wondering where I’ve been…ever since I started writing my book, I have found it easier to chat on Facebook than write blog posts. Faster, less formal. Please join us there at My Crazy Healthy Life, if you haven’t already. I’ll be back here writing from time to time, but you will find me popping in on Facebook (and on Instagram at mycrazyhealthylife) much more frequently–as always, I’d love to hear from you!

Namaste,

Amber

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#tbt 1972:  Four generations of my family, each with a unique story about how societal “norms” affected their health. The crazy baby on the right is me. : )

My great grandmother Cora (middle) worked on a farm every day of her life, and was fit as a fiddle. My mom always said she was a saint (look closely, you will see the kindness in her eyes). They were poor, and struggled to make ends meet, but real food and constant movement enabled Cora to live a happy, faithful life into her mid-90s.

In contrast, my Grandma Lou sat behind a desk most of her adult life, and watched TV when she was home. I remember her as being very cranky and having a lot of health issues. She died much younger, in her 70s. Lou had a hard life as a single mom, in an era where it was uncommon to be a divorced mother. She graduated college and began work in the 1940s, just as convenience foods began to emerge in the marketplace. Her sedentary lifestyle and lack of proper nutrition led to diabetes, and later heart complications that ultimately took her life.

My sweet mama, Joy (right), was up and down her entire life. She tried to be happy, but she felt bad a lot. She also suffered more than her fair share of traumas. Like her mom, she relied on convenience foods, and rarely exercised. She was known for her red hair and determination (stories you wouldn’t believe, even if I told you). The one challenge she never seemed to master, though, was her health. Her weight fluctuated, and she had frequent headaches, insomnia, and depression. She battled cancer twice, before losing her life to ovarian cancer at the age of 56. I was 26 at the time.

And then there is me, pictured in Mom’s lap. I battled my weight, chronic pain, insomnia, and depression for two decades. Things got markedly better when I found yoga and became a vegetarian, but I still struggled. Six years ago, after having my third daughter in three years, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, and have struggled with it ever since. I am certain that the junk food I grew up on, and my lack of exercise as a kid (I watched a lot of TV) played a major role in all of my health challenges.Thankfully, committing to real food and yoga has taught me how to control my health naturally. I am profoundly grateful for what I have learned on my journey, and that it keeps getting better, day after day, year after year.

As I look at this photo, I can’t help but feel sad for what society did not know then, and hopeful for what we do know now. My parents and grandparents were duped by marketing, and took for granted what processed food and a sedentary lifestyle would do to their health. Today, we are blessed by the emerging awareness of how our food is produced, and how it effects our bodies.

If what we want most is to be happy, we must accept these undeniable truths:

1) We already know what to do, to get healthy–eat real food, and exercise every day.
2) The best things in life are always hard earned–trust the struggle.
3) Worrying gets in the way of our goals–we need to stop worrying about our weight, what we look like, and what others think about us.
4) We are leaders and we need to act the part–every choice we make informs the choices of the people around us.
5) Excuses get in the way of what we want most–do whatever it takes to be the best we can be, every single day.

This is what it means to be crazy healthy. It’s not easy to exercise daily and change how we eat–especially if you have autoimmune disease and chronic pain as I do–but it’s always worth it. My hope is that my kids will grow up knowing this, and pass it on to their children as one of the most important lessons in life. ॐ

Merry Christmas, Y’all


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Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the wonders of the season. Over here at My Crazy Healthy Life, we have been busy preparing for Jesus’s birthday party and Santa’s arrival. It’s a season that challenges my commitment to keeping life in balance, so I am using my normal blogging time to be still and reflect on what it all means.

I am not blogging right now, but I am chatting on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life. Check in with us there, and join the crazy healthy discussion. We’re talking about strategies that help us stay healthy during the holidays, healthy gifts ideas, quick and easy food ideas, and short yoga sequences (“power poses”) that can keep us on track as we wrap up 2013.

I’ll be back here writing soon, with some big plans for 2014. Until then, please know that I sincerely appreciate your interest in my blog, and I wish you and yours a very merry and healthy Christmas!

Namaste~

Amber

The Saltwater Flush

ImageI’m on Day 5, of a seven day cleanse with Meredith Klein of Pranaful. Which means that, since Sunday, I have been eating the same things every day, with just a few minor modifications that add variety to my mono-diet (as Mer calls it).

Every morning, I make a juice from leafy greens, a green apple, and a daikon radish, with a splash of cayenne. For lunch, snack and dinner, I eat kitchari (kich-a-ree), which is a mixture of basmati rice, mung beans, coconut oil, seaweed, veggies, and spices. I can add chutney and spices to change the flavor, and make it soupy or more like a rice dish, to vary the experience each time. It is actually considered comfort food in India, and I am beginning to see why. I’ve fallen in love with kitchari this week, and know that it will be a staple in our house from here on out. It’s delicious and satisfying.

On days 3 and 5 of the cleanse, Meredith suggested a saltwater flush, first thing in the morning, to eliminate toxins from the body. I want to participate as fully as possible in the cleanse, so even though I have already done one flush (and did not enjoy it), I went ahead and drank my saltwater again. Which means I will be running to the bathroom a lot this morning.

To be perfectly honest, I almost skipped the second flush. I told myself it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I am too busy. I am leaving on a trip early tomorrow morning, and have a million things to do in the meantime. I need to register my girls for school next year, do a bunch of laundry, pack for the trip, get the house in order, and drive soccer carpool this afternoon. Somewhere in between, I also absolutely have to practice yoga and meditate, because I know I won’t be able to tomorrow (I try to never miss more than one day a week). So it feels like I don’t have time to sit around and wait for the flush to take effect.

I am also a little worried that the flush might wash away the medication I have just recently started taking for my hypothyroidism. After the flush on Wednesday, a lot of my symptoms returned, and I felt pretty bad for part of the day. It could be that I was just detoxing, or it might be that the medication never had a chance to take effect before I washed it away.

As all of these excuses ran through my mind, however, I asked myself if any of it was true. Do I really not have time for this? Could I find a way to work around the inconvenience? Can I adjust my supplements to minimize the thyroid symptoms, or just deal with them for one more day? (I’ve been battling hypothyroidism for six months…what’s one more day?)

I realized that I could find a way to work around the flush, and I was probably avoiding it because it’s not pleasant. But in my heart, I know that the flush will ultimately increase my energy, heal my body, and help me be a better yogini and teacher.

So, I decided to go for it. I took my yoga off my mat, surrendered to the experience, drank my four cups of warm saltwater, and told myself it would all be ok in the end.

It reminded me that, so often I create my own pain, by resisting experiences that, logically, I should embrace. All the times that I don’t get on my yoga mat, because “I am too busy”, the days that I don’t meditate because “it’s not that important”, the food I eat that I shouldn’t because “it’s not that big of a deal”.

In yogic circles, we call this phenomenon resistance. It’s a powerful thing, resistance, and once I became aware of it, I realized how much it guides my life. Yoga, however, has empowered me to overcome resistance. Most of all, it’s taught me that more often than not, we can, and should, do the things we resist the most…even if it means a saltwater flush…and trust that we are better for it in the end.

Photo: http://www.ilove-diet.com

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5 Tips For Boosting Immunity Naturally

These days, many people are spending more money than ever, on supplements for better health. The thing the drug companies don’t want us to know, though, is that we don’t have to spend a lot of money to get healthy and stay healthy. We already have everything we need within us. Here’s six tips for boosting immunity and recovering from illness naturally:

1. Scrape tongue upon waking. This is an ancient ayurvedic practice for removing ama, a toxic by-product of digestion, that is harmful if swallowed. A tongue scraper or spoon can be used to clean the tongue, front to back.

2. Rinse sinuses with saline. This simple practice is also derived from Ayurveda. Saline rinse removes bacteria from the sinus cavity, and helps clear colds and viruses from the sinuses and back of the throat, where they tend to linger and create infections. You can buy neti pots, or sinus rinse kits at most drug stores.

3. Drink warm lemon or lime  water. Lemon and lime juices stimulate the digestive system, boost energy, and  increase immunity with the power of vitamin C.

4. Practice yoga. The flowing movements of asana (yoga poses) encourage movement of lymphatic fluid within the body. Lymphatic fluid is responsible for clearing toxins from our blood, but it needs encouragement to do its job, so we must move frequently and purposefully to stay healthy. This is why full body movement and lymphatic massage, in the form of asana, help expedite the healing process. Yoga also boosts immunity by encouraging deeper breathing that oxygenates the blood.

5. Practice self-massage with natural oils. This practice, known as abyhyanga, has been around for thousands of years, as a natural immunity booster. Self-massage and cleansing with oils is excellent for our health, helps restore our skin’s natural glow, and is a lot cheaper than commercial soaps and lotions. Before showering, cover the body with unrefined sesame or coconut oil, and apply pressure as you massage the entire body, paying special attention to the lymph nodes. Rinse with warm water afterward, and blot dry.

All of these little tricks are natural, simple and inexpensive to add to your daily routine. Give them a try, and remember that the most important strategy for long-term, sustainable wellness is a diet rich in whole foods, and daily resistance-based exercise.

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Photo: quickandsimple.com