Today, with the concept of natural, organic beauty on the rise, more and more women are going within to meet and bring their natural beauty to the surface via prayer, meditation, healthy eating, yoga classes, massages, acupuncture, chakra balancing, nature walks and other areas of wellness.
Deeper levels of consciousness are teaching us that beauty is a soulful state of being as opposed to simply being about how one might look from the outside. Just as it’s best to treat an illness at its root and not simply cover up the issue with pharmaceutical drugs, it’s best to allow the beauty that lies within to rise to the surface by nurturing and nourishing the body, mind, and spirit.
As with health, beauty begins on a cellular level. Or, we could say that beauty begins with healing! Therefore, beauty is possible for all women — not just some — including breast cancer survivors!
“Our Pink Yoga classes are designed to give breast cancer survivors what they need to move forward in their healing process,” explains Barbe Kelly, 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher at Life’s Journey Yoga & Wellness Center in Orange Park, FL. “A combination of breathing techniques, guided imagery, stretches, postures, meditation, and Yoga Nidra are utilized in this goal.”
About this class that Kelly teaches once per month on Friday evenings from 5:30-6:30pm., she explains that “breath work, stretches, and postures assist with range of motion and strength. Guided relaxation, meditation, and Yoga Nidra (also known as ‘Yogic Sleep’) help calm the mind, encouraging healing of mind, body, and spirit, activating the parasympathetic nervous system.”
“Our mission is to assist breast cancer survivors on their journey of recovery by giving them the tools and encouragement that they need to reconnect with self, find acceptance, and heal from the inside out,” Kelly explains.
Beauty from the inside out! Isn’t that the real meaning of beauty since that’s where real beauty lies?
Women who attend Kelly’s Tuesday Pink Yoga class have said how relaxed and refreshed they feel when getting off their mat after their practice. “They feel a sense of renewed energy,” says Kelly.
“A yoga practice has a way of making you feel like you just had a yoga facial,” adds Penny Powell, community liaison at Life’s Journey who also teaches yoga there. “Any yoga posture that allows the head to be positioned under the heart helps calm the body and refreshes the blood in the face and brain,” she says.
Here’s how you can give it a try, explains Powell
“Come into a neutral Table-Top position on your hands and knees and then let the crown of your head float down and rest on your yoga mat or a blanket, if necessary. Reach your hands back toward your feet, relaxing your shoulders and taking at least five deep inhalations and exhalations.”
Powell says that if getting down on the floor is not your preferred way to experience your “yoga facial,” try a Forward Facing Bend.
“Initiate the movement from the hips first, torso second, and head releases last,” explains Gerry Lishin, one of Powell’s yoga-teacher mentors who is owner of Southwest Orlando Yoga and author of “Yoga Teachers Notebook.”
“Don’t lead with the head and neck,” says Lishin, “instead, lead with the sternum, reset and lengthen the heels and toes, release the shoulders away from the ears, and visualize your upper torso cascading like a waterfall over the rim created by your active thighs.”
“As I tell students in my yoga classes,” says Powell, “it’s more about getting out of the head and into the heart in Forward Facing Bend as opposed to how straight they can get their legs. All of that will come with consistency. Initially, allow the focus to be on refreshing the face and relaxing the shoulders. Let the shoulders float away from the ears for a really refreshing forward fold and yoga facial.”
You can even hang out in a forward fold sitting on a chair like Powell’s senior citizen students do in her Chair Yoga class with them. “Or, a standing Half Forward Bend can work, too,” Powell explains, “by resting your hands on your quads with your head under the heart. Or, sink into the fuller version of the posture by placing your hands on your legs, ankles, feet or even on a yoga block which “will help bring the earth up to you,” she says. “Don’t force your posture. Simply find a way to allow it to work for you and your body. And, when returning to a straight spine, keep your chin toward your chest as you rise slowly and mindfully.”
You are sure to feel the freshness in your face upon your return to your upright spine, and others might just see your ‘yoga facial’ glow, too.
Another student who attends the Pink Yoga class at Life’s Journey said that she has experienced much better range of motion in her shoulder, “the shoulder affected by surgery and treatment,” says Kelly. Considering how common it is for women to hold life’s stress and tension in the shoulders, the ability to rotate our shoulders expresses another form of beauty. Once you get those shoulders rolling, why not massage them — along with the face and neck — with coconut oil or such for a beautiful upper-body glow?
From your seat or on your feet, lift your shoulders up, back and down a few times in a circular motion. This exercise will also stimulate the energy in your heart, and an open, loving heart is the most ultimate form of beauty! It doesn’t get any more beautiful than that!
Like Pink Yoga, Restorative Yoga is another tool to enhance one’s natural beauty. “It encourages and allows the body to shift from the sympathetic nervous system of ‘fight or flight’ to the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and relaxing muscles,” Kelly explains. “I would like people to know that it is essential for our well-being as human beings to step out of the ‘rat race,’ periodically, and come to that stillness within. If we take the time to nurture self, it can have profound, positive effects on our mind, body, and spirit.”
As the name suggests, Restorative Yoga is so amazingly restorative that it could certainly be called Comfort Yoga. However, don’t think for a moment that this passive form of stretching doesn’t reap great benefits that enhance beauty. Thanks to the use of yoga props, such as bolsters (pillows), blocks, straps and blankets that beautifully support and complement the body’s ability to stretch, restorative yoga postures can easily be held for extended periods of time, allowing the body to open, release, and restore to great degrees.
Most restorative postures are done from a supine (on back) or seated position. Resting on one’s back while placing legs up the wall is a popular restorative pose that helps remove congestion from the legs and rebalances the overall body, physically and mentally. A lovely foot compression, such as a sandbag, could even be placed on the soles of your feet as you rest in Legs Up The Wall posture.
The posture variations in Kelly’s Restorative class are endless, but they all feel incredible, her raving students say. Given that, ultra gentle yoga classes such as Pink Yoga and Restorative Yoga are ideal complements to one’s beauty regime. “The restorative practice also allow yogis to go deeper into postures during their regular yoga practice,” Kelly states.
Dee Arp, 5th-grade teacher at Grove Park Elementary School in Orange Park, agrees. Arp, who takes a Mind/Body class with Powell at her school up to twice a week and a Restorative class with Kelly once a week at Life’s Journey credits restorative yoga for helping her to go even deeper – feeling more flexible and stronger — in her regular yoga practice.
And talking about the yoga facial glow, when Powell recently noticed Arp’s face glowing after a Mind/Body class and asked her if she had spent some time out in the sun, Arp replied, “No, this is all from the class I just took with you. This glow is all yoga.”