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Yoga to Tone the Core

As summer nears, most of us look forward to donning swimsuits and lighter, more form fitted clothing. For many people, however, that excitement is coupled with a bit of hesitation. After all, winter clothing tends to hide “a multitude of sins” and some may not feel toned and ready to bare all just yet.

Fortunately, toning the core isn’t difficult. And no, you needn’t do hundreds of sit-ups!? In fact, there are many ways to work the muscles of the core and back (they work together to tighten up the mid-section, so it’s most effective to strengthen both the abdominals and the back muscles). Walking/hiking is a great way to strengthen the core. Swimming is a great core workout, as is Pilates. And then there’s my personal favorite, yoga!

Because a key component of yoga is balance, most asanas/postures require that one utilize some degree of core strength. There are, however, a few key postures that will work deeply into the core to tone and tighten. They’re super effective and, in just a short time, you’ll see noticeable results – an increase in strength as well as a firmer mid-section.

Do these exercises a few times a week, along with whatever cardio you like best and you’re likely to be strutting your summer stuff in no time!

Here’s the sequence:

  1. Mountain Pose:

Begin in Mountain Post, feet hip width apart and weight evenly distributed. Pull the navel in and up, long straight spine, shoulder blades back and down. Sweep the arms overhead and inhale. If it’s comfortable, join your hands together, otherwise keep them separated, palms facing each other.

  1. Standing Side Stretch:

On the exhale, reach up and over to the right. If it’s comfortable for your neck, you may turn your head and look under your left arm. Hold here for one full breath. Inhale and bring arms back to center, then exhale and lean towards the left. Hold for one complete breath. Return to center.

  1. Forward Bend:

Swan dive out and over, coming into a forward bend. If your lower back is tight, keep your knees bent.

  1. Plank:

Plant the palms into the mat and step back into a plank pose. Feel as if you’re pushing the floor away from you. Keep the heels reaching back and maintain a straight spine. You should feel as if you are one long line of energy from the heels to the crown of head. Hold this posture for as long as you can (try to work up to a minute or two).

  1. Locust Pose:

Keeping the elbows close to the body, bend at the elbows and lower the body down to the ground. Rest for a moment. Then, reach the arms back, palms facing the sky and lift both the upper body and lower body off of the ground. Be sure to keep the chin slightly tucked so that the neck is in line with the spine. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as you can.

  1. Child’s Pose:

Bring the arms and legs down and push back to Child’s Pose. Rest for a moment.

  1. Staff Pose:

Come up to a seated position with legs extended out in front of you.

  1. Boat Pose:

Keeping the spine long, lean the torso back and lift your legs approximately 45 degrees from the floor and balance on your ‘sitting bones’ (if, like me, you have a sensitive tailbone, you may wish to do this on a blanket or towel). Hold for 30 seconds or so. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, lower the legs and torso a bit. You may repeat the motion of lifting and lowering the legs/torso several times, if you wish. Play around to see what feels best to you.

  1. Forward Fold:

Return to a seated position, arms extended overhead. Then, fold over into a Forward Bend. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

  1. Knees to Chest:

Lie back and pull your knees into your chest. Smile and take a well deserved rest!

Namaste!

Karen

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Weekly Wellegant Find: Himalayan Salt Lamp

I’d long admired the warm glow of Himalayan Salt Lamps when I saw them yoga studios, health spas and in various shops that I frequent. Due to the fact that the hunk of salt is natural and not factory made, each lamp is different in size, shape and color. However, they all create a soft, cozy light and lend a peaceful “vibe” to the room.

Before investing in one of these lamps for my home, I did a little research and came to understand where that peaceful vibe comes from. As it turns out, these lamps have some unique health benefits, which are the result of the negative ions that they emit.

Ok, so here’s the brief science lesson…

Have you ever noticed how peaceful and refreshed you feel after spending time at the beach, walking or hiking in the woods, lying on the grass at the park or sitting in a beautiful garden? Well the reason we feel so good is that those environments contain large amounts of negative ions, which nature produces in abundance. These negative ions counteract the positive ions that we are constantly surrounded by and absorb.

Positive ions are created by electronic devices and have been dubbed ‘electronic smog’ or ‘electronic air pollution’. As we all know, we are increasingly surrounded by all sorts of computers, large screen TVs, telephones, microwaves and other appliances we now deem necessary for our survival and entertainment (although only a decade ago we did perfectly well without most of these).

Studies have shown that your brain gets bombarded by frequencies 20 times higher than its optimal frequency, which results in all sorts of problems, including insomnia, nervousness and allergies.

The World Health Organization calls the electronic smog “one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences” and states that concerns about the health effects should be taken seriously.(Source)

Like certain plants, Himalayan sea salt produces negative ions and when the crystal is heated slightly, the ionizing effect of the salt is increased quite a bit…hence, the birth of the salt lamp.

Several health benefits are associated with the salt lamps, as they are reported to help with:

  • Respiratory problems (including the common cold and allergies)
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and stress related conditions
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Seasonal depression
  • suppressed immune response

I have this lamp in each bedroom, which is beautiful as a night light (you can adjust the brightness, which I love!). I also have one in the living room, where we tend to have a lot of electronics. Wherever you place it, I’m sure that you’ll find it to be a lovely natural element in the decor.

In good health,

Karen

Sources:

  1. Negative ions create positive vibes, WebMD.
  2. The New England Journal of Medicine, nejm.org.
  3. Science and Education Publishing, There’s Something in the Air: Empirical Evidence for the Effects of Negative Air Ions (NAI) on Psychophysiological State and Performance, pubs.sciepub.com.

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Recipe: String Beans with Shallots and Pine Nuts (GF)

String beans are one of my favorite vegetables. They’re so delicious and seem to pair well with just about everything. Not to mention the fact that they’re quick and easy to prepare. Most of the time, I do a quick sauté in a little olive oil until the skin is slightly blistered, add sea salt and freshly ground pepper and voila!

This time, I decided to play around with another favorite of mine, shallots. I diced the shallots, sautéed them, added the beans and finished with a sprinkling of toasted pine (or pignoli) nuts for a bit of crunch. It took minutes to prepare, tasted wonderful and, as you can see in the photo, looks quite fancy for a weeknight meal 😉

Buon Appetit!

Karen

String Beans with Shallots and Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. Shallots, diced

8-10 ounces of string beans (I prefer the thin French beans/haricot verts)

2 Tbsp. Pine (or Pignoli) nuts

Coarse salt and ground black pepper

 

Place the pine nuts in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Tossing frequently, allow the nuts to toast until they are lightly golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering, add the chopped shallots and sauté 1-2 minutes. Add the string beans and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, for approximately 6 minutes, or until the string beans are crisp-tender. Remove from heat, sprinkle with pine nuts and salt/pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

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Swimwear Essentials

One of the many gifts that summer offers us is the opportunity to relax and recharge at the water, whether it be on a boat or at the lake, beach or pool. In my opinion, there are few things as lovely as a warm day, a dip in cool water, toes in the sand and a good book to read. Add to that swimwear that’s chic and flattering and makes you feel a little bit like Sophia Loren…well that’s a little slice of heaven right there!

Unfortunately, many women experience quite a lot of anxiety over the prospect of shopping for swimwear. The options may seem overwhelming but, if fact, there are really just a few key pieces that are necessary and when we invest in quality pieces that are well-suited to our body, we can remain confident in the knowledge that we’re well prepared for whatever fun and exciting invitations pop up this summer.

The following is a list of 7 Swimwear Essentials. You may already have all or many of these items. If not, no worries. Begin with the item(s) you deem most necessary and invest in one quality piece at a time. It takes time to build a great wardrobe and the more attention and care you give to this process, the better your choices will be. Before very long, you’ll have a swimwear wardrobe that (1) reflects your style and taste, (2) is comprised of quality pieces that will last, (3) is comfortable and well suited to your body and (4) makes you feel sexy as Sophia!

7 Swimwear Essentials

  1. Swimsuit: Your lifestyle will dictate how many swimsuits to invest in. Although several swimsuits might catch our eye, for most of us, only one or two are necessary. I’ve come to embrace the recent trend toward purchasing swimsuit separates because one can buy a couple of swimsuit bottoms in neutral, solid colors and a couple of swimsuit tops (in either coordinating solids or patterns). Those pieces will mix and match to form several different combinations. The important thing the remember when shopping is that you want to look for suits that flatter your body type and your skin tone, as we’ll as ones that fit your lifestyle. For example, if you love to swim laps in the pool or participate in water sports, then a one piece with a more athletic cut might be a wise choice. On the other hand, if your time at the water is spent mostly on the sand with book in hand, you’ll likely make a different choice. Reflect on your needs and your preferences and always honor your body. There are many beautiful swimsuits to flatter bodies of every size and shape. When you find “your” suit, celebrate and strut your stuff!
  2. Cover Up/Tunic: There are many styles of tunics or beach cover ups and you’ll definitely want your swimwear wardrobe to include one of them. When shopping, bear in mind that your cover up should be light and comfortable. Although you will, most often, wear it on your way to and from the beach or pool, I recommend purchasing one that that’s presentable enough that you can wear it while running a quick errand, popping into a store, or sitting down at an outdoor restaurant/cafe. Some cover ups (particularly the maxi dress, cotton tunic and kaftan) are quite versatile and you may find yourself enjoying them both on and off the beach.
  3. Sun Hat: I LOVE hats, especially in the summer when my face needs protection from the sun. There are many cute styles, ranging from the super casual baseball hat to the glamourous, wide brimmed hats worn by movie starlets. Recently, the straw fedora has become quite popular, as well as the straw cowboy hat. Once again, you’ll want to select one that fits your head, flatters your face, works with your hairstyle and gives you the sun protection you need. Tip: while the fedora is a great hat for summer, some of them have a very small brim, which might not offer you enough sun protection. Be sure to try a number of hats on to determine which one suits you best. I recently purchased this one from Athleta *LINK* and I absolutely love it!)
  4. Sandals: Sandals for the beach/pool can present a bit of a dilemma because sand and water will stain and damage untreated canvas, suede and leather. For that reason, I prefer not to wear my “good” sandals to the beach or pool. Instead, I have on hand one pair of neutral colored flat sandals, made of a durable, water resistant material (If you’re like me, you won’t need more than one pair). Now, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be stylish…there are, in fact, some very attractive and versatile ones that are perfect for this purpose. Cute sandals (and a pedicure!) will really pull your outfit together.
  5. Sunglasses: As I discussed in last month’s post, Sunglasses for Every Face (LINK), sunglasses are an important element of protection. Our eyes are always vulnerable to sun damage, especially so at this time of year when the sun is brightest. They’re even more essential when we spend time on or near the water, as water intensifies the effects of the sun by reflecting and magnifying its rays. But apart from the obvious health benefits of wearing sunglasses, they are undoubtedly one of the most fun accessories to play with. In this post (LINK), I describe the different styles  – aviator, wayfarer, cat-eye, etc. – and share some of the experts’ tips on choosing frames that flatter your face. I’ve even included a gallery of gorgeous frames to inspire you (along with links to shop!). Invest wisely and you will get a LOT of mileage out of this essential items.
  6. Beach Tote: As is the case with shoes, leather, suede or untreated canvas handbags have no place at the beach. They are likely to be ruined by the sand and water. But that’s quite all right because there are some adorable totes that are just perfect for the beach/pool. Straw ones are lovely (this is one of my faves – LINK), as are the bright and fun beach totes, made of water resistant canvas. If it comes with a pouch or makeup bag inside to hold smaller items, all the better. You’ll want to make sure that your tote is roomy enough to carry a towel, change of clothes and all of your summer essentials (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, wallet, phone, keys, etc.).
  7. Swimshirt: This last item may not be necessary for everyone, but if you spend a lot of time on a boat or if you participate in water sports, a swimshirt will provide the very best sun protection for the upper body. They come in a variety of colors/patterns and are available in both long and short sleeved styles.

I hope that this list helps you and that you enjoy a summer full of both relaxation and adventure!

xo,

Karen

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Weekly Wellegant Find: The Curated Closet (book)

I have always been intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. While different people define a “capsule wardrobe” differently, the idea of a capsule wardrobe generally works off of the premise that less is more when it comes to clothing. The idea is that, once one has identified her signature style, she can create a small, efficient collection of staple wardrobe items that coordinate well and showcase that signature style.

As I shared in my recent interview with New York City Stylist, Tiffani Rogers (LINK), in the past, I tended to “collect” clothing, rather than “curate” a wardrobe. I think that’s because I’ve not been very clear about my signature style, something which I’m determined to change. And this book, The Curated Closet, is helping me to do just that.

Author, Anuschka Rees, has devised a “simple system for discovering your personal style and building your dream wardrobe.” Rees begins the process by identifying the five core principles of her pholosophy:

  1. Be selective. Reserve your closet space for items you love.
  2. Be authentic. Forget conventional style typologies like “classic” or “bohemian” and create your own unique look.
  3. Aim for quality. Build a wardrobe of high quality pieces that last for years.
  4. Style trumps fashion: Get excited about fashion trends that suit your own style, but ignore all others.
  5. Invest time and thought into developing your style and selecting the perfect garments.

From there, Rees takes readers through the process, step by step. She also has a popular blog with a number of resources that complement the book.

Although I haven’t finished the entire process, I’m thoroughly enjoying the book and finding it super helpful. I’ve already developed a lot more clarity around my signature style and I’m now much better able to determine which pieces are keepers and which pieces I can let go.

If, like me, you’re interested in exploring your signature style and creating a capsule wardrobe, I highly recommend this book as a starting point…and keep your eyes peeled because a lengthier blog post on this topic is coming soon. Let’s support each other in the war against closet clutter 😉

xo,

Karen

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Recipe: Lemon Roasted Asparagus (GF)

Have you noticed the big piles of asparagus at the markets these days? It’s a sure sign that spring has arrived!

I recently interviewed Holistic Health Coach, Jen Klainberg (you can listen to the full interview here) and we spoke about the importance of eating with the seasons and lightening up our diet in springtime. Asparagus is one of those foods that really supports the body at this time of year; it’s extremely alkalizing, anti-inflammatory, and full of nutrients that our bodies crave as we move from the warmer, heavier foods of winter into the fresher, lighter foods of spring.

Here’s a recipe that I probably make once a week during springtime. It’s so easy and delicious, and it pairs well with just about everything. Once the weather gets a little warmer, I’ll cook the asparagus on the grill (minus the lemon slices), but for now…into the oven it goes.

Buon Appetit!

Karen

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus (I prefer the pencil thin stalks, but either thick or thin will do)

1 lemon, zested and then sliced

2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and lay the lemon slices over top. Drizzle olive oil over it and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the stalks are fork tender and just beginning to brown at the tips (be careful not to overlook, as the asparagus can become very mushy).

Remove from the oven and discard the lemon slices. Salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle lemon zest over top.

Serves 4.

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Get Your Glow On: Transition Your Skincare from Winter to Spring

After months of harsh winter weather, spring has finally sprung here in the Northeast. Hallelujah! Spring represents the perfect time to clean out and lighten up; the home, the garden, the wardrobe, and even our beauty routines seem to call for a bit of a refresh, as we make the transition from winter to spring.

Just as we must modify our skincare products and treatments when the cold weather hits, we must also make adjustments to our products and routines in springtime, so that the change in temperatures, sun exposure and moisture levels don’t wreak havoc on our skin. This is the perfect time to get your glow on and here are eight ways you can do it:

  1. Get rid of last year’s products. Many people hold onto products from one year to the next, however, the shelf life of most beauty products and cosmetics is only 6 months. Beyond that time, they are (a) not as effective and (b) likely to be contaminated by bacteria, which can prove dangerous. That means that those lotions, potions and palettes from last spring should be discarded and replaced. Consider it part of your spring cleaning!
  2. Commit to good cleansing. Dry skin conditions in winter is likely to result in flaky skin and clogged pores. Continue to use a gentle cleanser, but spring is the perfect time to do more exfoliation to clear away those dead skin cells. Add in a gentle exfoliator 2-3 times per week, preferably something with glycolic acid, lactic acid or citrus extracts.
  3. Transition to a lighter moisturizer, preferably one with vitamin C, which brightens up the complexion.
  4. Add sun protection (at least spf 50) into your skincare routine, either in the form of a moisturizer with spf or a sunscreen layered on top of your moisturizer (Here’s a natural sunscreen product that I like very much).
  5. Don’t forget the décolletage. As you get ready to bare more of the neck and chest area, be sure to moisturize and protect these areas as well.
  6. Possibly reintroduce Retinol products in the springtime. Retinol products can be very drying, so many women opt not to use them in winter. If you want to reintroduce them into your skincare routine, spring is the perfect time to do so. But remember, retinol products are photosensitive and should ONLY be used at night.
  7. Indulge in a facial/skincare treatment, either a salon treatment or an at-home facial.
  8. A good exfoliation, followed by a soothing mask is not only a great way to treat and condition the skin, but it’s a treat for the senses!
  9. Take an omega fish oil supplement (if you’re not already taking one), which will help the body maintain hydration and improve skin tone and elasticity.

And since this time of year gives us so much to smile about, add your mega-watt grin and you’ll be absolutely radiant!

Happy Spring!

Karen

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It contains my best healthy living tips, recipes and other resources to help you live your most Wellegant life. Enjoy!