We’re firm believers over here that, if you’re listening, these bodies of ours may actually communicate what they need. And because I’ve done the exact opposite for some time—ignoring all the signs that my body is totally fed up with me—she’s been a bit of a loud b*tch lately, pardon my French.
See, even though I’m a healthy eater, and I put really nice stuff on my skin, and I exercise regularly—and despite what I sometimes preach—my stress levels have probably been way off the charts for way too many years. I think about fifteen. (My stress is sneaky too because people who don’t know me well think that I’m totally chill, as I quietly churn. Sometimes I even trick myself!) But from aches and pains to hiding periods, my body isn’t really playing ball anymore.
Which is why not too long ago, when I came face to face with a mountain of fresh ginger at the small grocer on my corner, and almost involuntarily reached for one of the gnarled stubs—it gave me pause.
Sure, I knew ginger was healthy, and that ginger tea was good for digestion. But I was unprepared for the barrage of health benefits this strange and spicy root has to offer, some supported by science and others anecdotally.
Just a few that I came across: Ginger does contain powerful digestive enzymes; it also helps the body sweat and detoxify (I can attest!); it’s highly anti-inflammatory; it strengthens the immune system; it reduces nausea and is a common prescription for morning sickness; it’s been shown to help with arthritis; in a study done by Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center ginger powder caused cell death in ALL the ovarian cancer cells it was applied to; in another study it slowed growth of colorectal cancer cells; Chinese medicine uses it to assuage menstrual cramps; Ayurveda tells you to eat it fresh daily and also uses it as medicine; and word on some women’s sites is that it helps bring on hiding periods too. Wouldn’t you know. (I’ll have to report back on that one.)
Lately I’ve been grating some fresh ginger into hot water for tea, and adding it (also grated) into simple warm vegetable dishes with olive oil, lemon and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, and it seems to help me digest the veggies better. Though that could be a placebo-power-of-suggestion thing too.
Has your body talked to you lately? What has it said? Do you eat ginger?
This past Saturday I was reminded once more why I believe that an energetic reality that we can’t touch or see does in fact exist. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes like: “Duh, Alexandra, tell me something I don’t know.” While others are one click away from a less flaky site, thinking: “Are you flipping kidding me right now? I read this blog for beauty advice, not some The-Secret-style shi*%#.”
I know. But for some reason, this site has become a place where we share all kinds of weird stuff about ourselves, and for me (OK, and maybe her, too), this kind of alternative healing work has become an important part of managing our sometimes stressful lives, and also checking in with our higher selves.
What is energy work? So hard to say, really. I’ve seen and felt it during reiki—anyone tried reiki?—but also during regular old massages, with acupuncture needles, and through no touch at all.
I’ve felt it more times than I can remember, and it has provided me with great relief at times—a kind of high feeling of lightness—while at others plunging me into a deep grief I didn’t even know was there.
But back to this weekend. I was having a party for the multiple people I know born in March, including yours truly. There was loud music and a solid amount of debauchery underway when my friend Mini grabbed me by the arm and said: “My friend Siobhan”—no joke, and I’ve never met another until Saturday—”wants to sage you.” That means she wants to use the smoke from sage to clear my energy. Me—happy, a little drunk, and always up for some unpredictable semi-spiritual encounter—lept into the living room for my birthday cleansing.
I sat down with a woman who looked like a supermodel and had a beautiful energy to match. Wordlessly she began puff-puffing the sage smoke around my body with graceful and adept hand motions. “Your elbows are really happy,” she said finally, and then moving down she kind of paused uncomfortably, “but your hips…” She trailed off. Not so much. “Yeah,” I said. “I know.”
So here’s the thing: Before I lose you entirely, nearly every energy worker slash healer slash whatever you call these people who are more attuned to such things, has told me this. My hips, it seems, hold some kind of blocked energy. In the earlier part of my yoga practice, and before I had any kind of awareness of my body, pigeon pose (a pose so many seem to find totally relaxing) could instantly send me into tears. Even as a kid, as my sister would throw herself into the splits, my hips were locked. They’ve gotten a whole lot better—at least in terms of flexibility—but not enough to stop evoking this reaction.
Now, it’s not like this was the craziest energy experience I’ve had, it’s just on my brain. Recently, on vacation, I also got a massage and the second the woman touched me an intense burst of energy rushed through my body. Oh my, I thought, major energy worker in the house. When she turned me over, I asked her: “You do energy work right?” It was really funny, her eyes bulged and she looked at me like she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. In broken English-Spanish, she replied almost in her defense: “Un poquito, solemente, un poquito! I just start.”
Why are we talking about energy work? Because stress and health (and beauty, of course) are all deeply intertwined. Whether you believe that we hold tension in the body—is that even up for debate?—or in things far more out there, like trauma from birth or past lives, energy work may be something worth exploring.
Have you ever tried it? Felt it? Had an interesting energetic experience? Would you?
Forgive me if I’m veering slightly into self-help territory. It’s not what I’m going for, but I wanted to share a mini-epiphany I had in the hopes of perhaps holding onto it. (Aren’t epiphanies such slippery little suckers? The second you touch them is as quick as they get away!)
It was around day three of my vacation, and all was well. Better than well, actually: Sunny and 89 degrees, with daily yoga, beautiful organic food, cocktails, sunsets, and jokes and love with my husband. Really, exactly what you want a vacation to feel like. And yet. Below the surface that little anxious voice was still rearing her ugly head here and there, trying to sabotage my chill.
What the hell could I be anxious about, I wondered, as I did another chaturanga. So I’d run down the list. My work was done. Everyone knew I was gone. There were automatic messages set on all my email accounts. But I still caught myself drifting into nervous fantasies about who I was dissapointing, who was waiting on me, some expectation I had not fulfilled.
I doubt I’m unique here, but a lot of my discomfort as a human being stems from this kind of stuff. Call me a Pisces, or call me a woman, but I have spent the better part of my life fretting over how other people may or may not be feeling about something that I may or may not have done. As I’ve grown up I’ve come to realize that most of these worries aren’t really that helpful to the people I’m worried about, and any time we overestimate the role we’re playing in other people’s lives, we are living a bit of a (self-involved) delusion. Which takes me to the petit epiphany.
Lying on the mat one day, I had a thought that went something like this: “Damnit, Self, everyone wants you to be happy right now, so just relax already.” I’m not saying that folks don’t ever have bad intentions, or that I don’t make anyone mad (I do), but in that moment I knew with certainty that the people in my life—if they were thinking of me at all—were most likely happy for me!
I think in general we probably underestimate how often this is true. Sure, friends, family, coworkers, can drive us up a wall. But I’d wager that most times out of 10, the things that piss us off the most about those we love comes from a place of just wanting them to be happy. Am I right? From our besties to our parents, we hate seeing people in any patterns that cause them suffering, and we hate to see people suffer at all.
Anyways, this thought gave me tremendous comfort on my trip. Any time I caught myself falling prey to anxious thoughts, I’d repeat it in a whisper: everyonewantsyoutobehappy, everyonewantsyoutobehappy, everyonewantsyoutobehappy. And doggonnit, it worked.
Do you have any mantras that you go back to that help you relax? Do share!
[Ed's Note Don't worry, friends! Alexandra wrote this before she left. She is not blogging while honeymooning! Psssssh.]
As you read this post, I am hundreds of miles from home, sitting on a beach, doing a downward dog, or enjoying a fruity cocktail. In other words, I’m on vacation. Actually, I’m technically on my honeymoon; it just took us over a year to feel like we could leave. Which got me thinking…
I can’t remember the last time I took a real vacation. Not to visit my parents or go see friends for a weekend, but a proper checkout from the world. When I was little, it seems like folks took these trips all the time. But these days? Not so much.
Of course, like many people, one reason I’m not always flying the coop to some faraway islands is finances. Money’s been tight these past few years (I know I’m not alone there), and until recently I didn’t have the security of a steady income. And yet, still. I could have gone camping just up the coast, or found a cute little bed and breakfast for a long weekend and turned my phone off. In fact, my husband and I had a honeymoon fund instead of gifts, so the money for this trip has been there.
I think the real truth is, I always felt too guilty to take vacations. Either I didn’t have full time work and felt like I didn’t “deserve” one, or I worked around the clock and lived in fear of angry bosses. Anyone else feel like this?
We talk about stress a lot, but this is a bit of a weak spot for both of us. Siobhan even made “taking a real vacation” one of her New Year’s resolutions. (And I plan to hold her to it.) So what about you? When’s the last time you threw a bikini in a bag, took a road trip, or camped out somewhere with no cell reception? I’ll let you know if it’s as good as I remember.
Oh, and here are some handy natural-breauty tricks to take with you when you go.
I’m going to keep this quick and easy, given that I’m about to embark on my first activity of about 500 scheduled for this next week. I’m very excited for all the festivities, and yet I know that the thing that gets me every time, every holiday, since as long as I can remember, is this: If you don’t take a timeout, you will have a freakout. The nonstop people coupled with the nonstop consumption can leave one energetically exhausted, cursing that last piece of cake (cocktail, cookie, candy cane), and praying for a vacation… from your vacation. Here are six foolproof ways to stave off a holiday meltdown:
Take a bath. In a full house, the bathroom can be the only safe haven from that crazy uncle or those sugar-charged nieces and nephews. Turn down the lights, light a candle, and give yourself twenty minutes of alone time. It will go a long way.
Take a walk. Whether you need an escape, or want some QT with someone you don’t see all that often, walks are the one type of exercise anyone can do anywhere. Most of us forgo our fitness routine during the holidays, so daily walks are a great way to not totally lose that yoga tone.
Watch your alcohol intake. At this time of year, drinking can happen every single night. Everyone’s different, but alcohol can be a real buzz kill the next day. My plan is to pre-plan which nights are for partying and need to end with just a glass or two of wine.
Don’t overdo the sugar. Easier said than done, don’t I know it. Last Christmas, I went all out on the treats and I came home with a bonafide I’ve-got-the-shakes-for-sugar addiction. I’ve vowed to be a little more careful this year, while still indulging here and there when it’s worth it.
Smell something other than cookies. We’re coocoo for aromatherapy. If you’re one of the converted to Lotus Wei, Essence of Vali, Hope Gillerman, or other purveyors of powerful, healing smells—keep that bottle handy. It only takes a moment to take a deep inhalation and switch up the internal energy, even as chaos rules around us.
Feel gratitude. For your family. For your gifts. For the time you get off of work. Remembering to be grateful at this time of year, as always, offers a quick reality check when you’re screaming inner teenage self tries to rear her ugly head (which happens to the best of us around family, am I right?).
Have a wonderful holiday weekend, and we’ll be back with sporadic postings next week!