As a teenager, Deepak Chopra’s Total Health was a permanent staple of my bedside table, next to my retainer (yes, I was a total nerd).
Since childhood, I’ve been curious about anatomy, wellness and alternative forms of healing. I was fascinated by the illustrations in my textbooks, and my sketchbooks were filled with drawings of eyes and faces. Before pursuing creative arts (which was directly inspired by the realization that someone got paid to draw anatomical posters, and can I get some of thattttt), I considered Toronto’s School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It just made sense to me.
When I’d get a cold, I liked taking oregano oil instead of Benadryl. Mental fog? Matcha’s great for that. I thought it was neat that we could maintain and even improve our health, naturally and individualistically! It was also around this age that I started to practice yoga alongside Baron Baptiste’s VHS tapes in my parent’s basement.
As years passed and I became an adult, the focus on wellness was replaced with work stress. Over the course of my twenties, I worked in tech, advertising, publishing, and entertainment. I even landed a role as an HGTV Designer and television host! My job eventually dictated my lifestyle, and it looked something like commuting in traffic for four hours a day, eating erratically, and not getting quality down-time. Everything was chugging forward—until it wasn’t.
At this time, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and despite enjoying many aspects of work, I felt unfulfilled. At the time, I made a few changes to my diet in an effort to reduce inflammation in my thyroid (giving up gluten and dairy, eating lots of vegetables, etc) and I felt a bit better, but toward the end of filming, sometimes I’d be so cold and spent that I’d get frustrated and shut down. My two-hour commute home was always silent, and became necessary for me to unwind.
Flash forward to now, and it’s easy to see why I wasn’t feeling any better. Salads and silence alone cannot combat work stress, environmental toxins and adrenal fatigue. And neither alone can medication.
As I’ve come to fully realize, wellness is not an all or nothing thing—but it is an all-body thing.
Rarely can we balance a regime that’s totally in unison from head to toe, but we can aim to make our head-to-toe self healthier.
After I hit what I understand now must have been burnout, I made a big life change: I moved across the country with my soulmate and my dog, and I quit my job.
Since then, I’ve gone through a bit of a detox from those years of working myself out of alignment. The process of calming my nervous system worked hand-in-hand with the process of ridding some unhealthy habits and discovering my true wants. And through it, I’ve learned that attainable health is a full-body practice. It’s those rituals you keep in your back pocket that are easy, enjoyable and intuitive, so you can slip them into your day whenever you get the chance.
It doesn’t matter where you live, or what you do for work, or what your status in life, there are plenty of ways to take care of yourself. You don’t need money, or access to specialty products. But you do need the initiative to pay more attention to your body and how it feels. So without further ado, today I’m sharing some of the rituals I practice to hopefully spark am interest in you to discover your own version of wellness.
You Are What You Use
Rather than adding more things to my body, my goal is always to peel back. It’s about eliminating the chemicals, additives, perfumes, fillers we’re surrounded by through the makeup we apply, the food we eat, the pollutants that seep into our skin, the stress that causes mental anguish and physical symptoms, etc.
The easiest way to improve whole-body health is to start with the products you use regularly. Swap your deodorant, your shampoo, your moisturizer, your dishwasher detergent, etc. with products that substitute natural ingredients. Our skin is the largest organ, and absorbs the world around us. By swapping products we touch and use with more nourishing ones, we’re eliminating a laundry list of chemicals that we don’t have to work to detox from later on.
Understanding Your Body Type (or Dosha)
After you’ve swapped products with more natural ones, it’s important to understand your Ayurvedic body type, also known as your Dosha (you can take the Dosha quiz here). This is not just a test of your shape or physical appearance, it’s about your natural physiology and system as a whole. Your Dosha outlines information about your physical and emotional characteristics so you can make informed choices about what you should and shouldn’t eat, how you should and shouldn’t exercise, and the rituals that are helpful and harmful to you.
I’m Vata-predominant, which is described as cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. Vatas love excitement and new experiences. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. To balance Vata, I make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to my life. I avoid becoming chilled, I eat warm foods and spices and fats, and I practice yoga, working on flexibility and balance rather than high-impact sports. Instead of the salads I used to eat daily, I favour cooked vegetables and warm stews and soups. Learning about my Dosha has been eye-opening because so many of the “heathy” practices I was partaking in before were likely negatively impacting my body as a whole. Understanding your unique system better will help you heal and find total wellness.
Our skin is our largest organ, and more and more studies prove that what we put on it and what is absorbed by our skin has a massive impact on our health. If you experience dry mouth, you might think you need more water, but actually, the cure for dryness (of the scalp, lips, joints etc.) is to treat the skin as a whole, and one of the best ways to do this is through a practice called Abhyanga (AKA Ayurvedic self-massage) with warm oil.
There are a variety of natural oils with beneficial properties, but I use almond oil as that’s what recommended for Vata body types. Before a shower or after a bath, I’ll warm up some almond oil and rub it in circles on all of my joints, along the lengths of my arms and legs, and all the way from my toes to my neck and ears. You can even massage your scalp—which I do once in a blue moon before washing my hair. This is a practice I use in the winter months especially.
Something else I’ve been incorporating is dry brushing which is exactly what it sounds like. Before a shower, I’ll brush my body with a natural bristle brush to exfoliate and rid the surface of any dryness. It also improves your circulation and has been proven to reduce stretch-marks, cellulite etc.
On my face, I cleanse with Micellar Water on a reusable cotton pad, tone with witch hazel and apply a fragrance-free organic moisturizer (like Consonant’s Organic Moisturizing Face Cream).
I also use a Gua Sha tool to massage my face and neck a few times a week. It not only promotes lymphatic drainage, reduces inflammation and puffiness, and alleviates the tight muscles in my jaw from clenching, but can lead to less wrinkles, a leaner jawline, and encourage more supple, lifted skin of the entire face and neck.
Here are a few of my fave products:
Tatami Meditation Cushions
Shop Now — $45-135
Natural Bristle Dry Brush
Shop Now — $21
Early to bed, early to rise
It’s generally healthy for every body type and person to live and sleep by this old adage. We are not nocturnal creatures and we are not intended to stay up much past 10pm. When we do, our bodies have to produce extra adrenals, which contributes to that feeling of getting your ‘second wind’. But all this is doing is draining your system and causing undue stress on your organs. The hours between 10pm and 12 midnight are the most restorative, and so many of us miss out on this! Specifically for vata types (which I am), going to bed early and waking up early will leave you feeling more truly rested. It’s a hard shift to make, but worth it!
Returning to nature
When I read about my Dosha as it pertains to thyroid health, getting outside into nature was a big topic. Specifically, the barefoot, tree-touching style of getting outside. It’s also one of the only ways to combat and eliminate Electromagnetic Frequencies from the body. Our phones are usually never more than a few feet away from us, and we interact with computers phones and electronics daily. If you can’t limit your use, leaning up against a tree or lying in the sand will actually draw these frequencies out of you.
Practicing Yoga to lower stress
Every cell in our bodies has receptor sites for specific hormones, but only two types are found in every cell: thyroid hormone and vitamin D receptor sites. That means that the thyroid is gravely influential on every other cell in our bodies and that our thyroid glands respond to every type of stress in the body. Our endocrine system is complex and sensitive, and an imbalance of thyroid hormones can cause a wealth of problems (and it’s becoming an epidemic in North America). By simply addressing our stress levels and incorporating practices that de-stress us, we can impact our whole body.
The best way I know to do this is through the practice of yoga. It’s still one of the only activities I can do that has an immediate and lasting affect on my well-being for the rest of that day or week. Whether or not you enjoy it, or can get into the poses you wish you could, the very practice of breathing and moving and focusing your mind is enough to calm your mind and begin resetting your system to calm down.
If you’re local and curious about yoga and starting a practice, please come to one of my classes at Breathe in downtown Squamish, or email me to book a private session.
Health looks different for everyone, and these are the practices I incorporate in my own life. Finding out what works for you takes some effort and attention, but we only get one body. We can either tune into it and use it to control how we feel, or knowingly ignore it. With the new year here in full swing, I hope you consider some of these practices, and browse my shop where you can find oodles of wellness products and activewear.