Creating a Home Yoga Practice with Janet Brown



Many people love going to a yoga class, but get overwhelmed when it comes to a home practice. They often rely on trying to recreate classes they have attended with varying levels of success. Today we hear from Janet Brown, one of the yoga teachers at The Wellness Center and a massage therapist with Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage to learn more about how to establish a home practice.

How do you recommend people start?

I always start by asking people what their goal is. From there you can build a sustainable home practice. You can also create one that will result in measurable outcomes based on their expected goals. If you were hoping to improve your core, it is less productive to work on multiple hip opening sequences, etc.

What should people expect of a home practice?

First and foremost, a home practice is not the same level of intensity and focus as a class would be. That is another thing I feel is important to bring up when working with private clients. Home practice is for you. It is maintenance. It keeps you present and able to decide to challenge yourself in the safer environment of class where you have a second set of eyes trained to check your alignment.

What style of yoga is best for a home practice?

Again, this goes back to their goals. I encourage people to practice a variation on what they do in class in order to maintain a certain level. But I find that it is difficult for some to integrate some of the more challenging (power or ashtanga) yoga styles into a home practice without years of experience. That is not to say it cannot be done. It is just a reality that you do not work solo the same way you would in a class setting.

Do you have any tips for sequencing for a home practice?

I would say, unless you are coming up with a series of  routines that you will work through, creating a full body sequence is more important that targeting one specific area. Also, like creating a home practice based on a goal, it is important to think about time of day you will be practicing. A gentle practice may be more appropriate for the end of the day. While a more intense practice may lend itself  to an early morning session. You know your body best. Listen to it.

Janet Brown and Alicia Cross teach group  and private yoga classes at The Wellness Center. Each are available to work with you to develop a home practice that will be safe and effective. For more information, check out the Yoga page of The Wellness Center.

Starting with All-Natural Skincare

Heidi of Heidi Ella Wellness and Massage recently co-led a workshop on using all-natural skincare products that you can make at home. In this workshop, the attendees learned about nutrition for optimal skin health and the hidden ingredients in your average skincare products that contain (among other things) hormone disruptors, carcinogens and immune suppressing ingredients. She taught the group how to make a gentle oil-based skin cleanser, a refreshing facial toner and a rejuvenating skin moisturizer. These products contained only all-natural plant-based oils and no preservatives or harsh chemicals.

Oil-based skin cleanser? Homemade products? I was intrigued. How would this work? Was it cost effective? How long do the products last? I sat down with Heidi and asked her about her experience with switching to all-natural skincare.

Buying all-natural skincare products often turns people off because of the price. How does the process of buying the ingredients stack up to conventional skincare products one could get from the drugstore or a large chain store?

Making your own skincare products at home is a very economical alternative to buying ready-made products from a natural food store or website. The initial cost of getting the ingredients can seem expensive, but when you cost out each use it is as expensive as conventional skincare items. I recommend sharing the cost with a friend who is also interested in making their own all-natural skincare products. I found great prices for the oils needed on and through Mountain Rose Herbs. I found the recipes on Jenni Raincloud’s wonderful blog. There are many recipes for all skin-types.

The first thing that jumps out at me is “oil-based cleanser”. Cleaning with oil? How does that work? Does it work for oily skin?

Many people worry about the effectiveness of oil-based cleansers at first. But it is a “like with like” philosophy. The oil works to gently remove the skin’s own oils and impurities without stripping the skin like soap-based cleansers. You also gently massage the face for longer than a traditional cleanser. This helps to encourage the collagen in the skin to make the skin more elastic and supple. I am always amazed at how soft and rosy the skin is afterwards. The oil-based cleanser works for all types of skin: oily, dry, sensitive or combination.

Is there any caveats you would offer to someone looking to switch from conventional skincare products to all-natural?

Yes. The only one I would offer is that it may take time for the body to adjust to the new skincare routine. As with anything, the body’s reaction to soap-based cleansers and harsh chemical toners will be different than an oil-based cleanser and natural moisturizers. Your skin will need time to acclimate to the new products and learn to produce less oils/protective measures. If you notice a change, be patient and continue using the product for at least a week. For others the transition may be much more smooth. It depends on several factors: age, skin sensitivity, etc. I have really enjoyed using the all-natural skincare products. My skin is smoother. I have noticed a remarkable disappearance of sunspots. And as someone who has experienced my fair share of sun, this is a pleasant change. I would highly recommend switching to anyone.

Will you be holding another workshop anytime soon?

Yes. Elizabeth and I will be holding another workshop in October. We will be discussing nutrition for skin health and all-natural skincare. We will also be making a selection of skincare products for you to bring home and try for yourself. (Oil-based Cleanser, Facial Toner and Moisturizer) The workshop with be held in October. Call The Wellness Center for more information.


Interview with Nutritionist Elizabeth Owens

This month we are learning about Detoxifying the Body. I sat down with Elizabeth Owens to learn more about her upcoming Gentle Cleanse Workshop at The Wellness Center in Burke, VA.

Hi, Elizabeth. I would like to start by asking you to share a little bit about yourself and your personal philosophy towards nutrition:

Hi, Janet. Thank you for this opportunity to share with your readers a little bit about myself and my nutrition philosophy. I have been working in the health and wellness field for almost a decade, with experience in public health, workplace wellness, private practice, and higher education. I am passionate about nutrition, not just because I love eating, but because food has healing properties. The right foods can help prevent or manage illness, and I want to help each individual feel their best and find the root causes of their problems. I don’t promote a specific diet or counting calories. There is so much misinformation out there related to nutrition, and the solution is quite simple; we need to eat real foods and look at the quality.

Your workshop is called Gentle Cleanse Workshop. How does a gentle cleanse differ from a traditional cleanse?

Many people are familiar with juice cleanses where you eat very little, if anything at all, and drink juice all day. People may find these cleanses make them irritable, hungry, have low energy, and perhaps confined to the bathroom! My Gentle Cleanse workshop discusses the science of detoxification and the specific foods (yes, food!) you need to support your body’s innate ability to detox. A traditional cleanse might also call for several supplements which can be expensive! I call it “gentle” because it does not include any supplements, just food, and you can go about your daily activities without wondering where the nearest bathroom is!

What are the signs of needing a cleanse in your life? How will the attendees feel after finishing the gentle cleanse routine?

Our bodies detoxify chemicals on a daily basis, but often can get overburdened so taking time to focus on cleansing is important. If you have digestive issues, fatigue, joint pain, allergies, weight gain, then it is time to take a look at your nutrition. Everyone is coming in at different starting points, with different symptoms and eating behaviors so I cannot guarantee specific results. This Gentle Cleanse Workshop is designed to improve digestion, increase energy, and put you on the right path towards resolving other nutrition-related issues.

Thank you so much for your time, Elizabeth. If you would like to sign up for the workshop, please visit this page for The Wellness Center. The Gentle Cleanse Workshop is on May 21, 2016 from 1:30pm-3:00pm. The cost of attending is $20.00 per person.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Seasonal Allergies

As we are exploring seasonal allergies this month, I sat down with Sarah Shupe of Acupuncture Alexandria LLC and asked her what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can do to help you with your seasonal allergies.

(For full disclosure, I have been seeing Sarah for the purpose of treating seasonal allergies for the past few months. I will say that the treatments are gentle and relaxing and I am seeing real and lasting benefits. Despite this being a “bad” allergy season, my symptoms have been the mildest they have been since moving to the DC Metro area. I have been extremely pleased with my decision to add TCM into my self-care plan. I highly recommend seeing Sarah.)

1. Sarah, how can Chinese Medicine help treat seasonal allergies?

              According to Chinese medical theory, the symptoms and signs that indicate a Western diagnosis of allergies relate to imbalances in the meridian and Organ Systems of the body. These imbalances may stem from a variety of causes, including stress, poor diet, foods that don’t agree with your body, constitutional weakness, pollutants and environmental toxins. Over time, if imbalances remain within the body, they will affect the functions of the Organ Systems. Some of these Organ Systems are involved in the production of Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it is important to have the correct quality and quantity of Wei Qi circulating around the body in order to stay healthy.

              Allergies, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), can be due to a variety of factors. Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.

  • Wei Qi deficiency
  • Spleen weakness
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Lung deficiency

              During the initial visit I will conduct a thorough exam, taking a complete health history. I will then develop a unique treatment plan that will address your specific concerns. The goals of the treatment plan will be to eliminate visible symptoms and signs, while addressing the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances affecting the quality and quantity of Wei Qi. Acupuncture treatments may be combined with herbs, dietary changes, massage (tuina), or exercise. These therapies accelerate the healing process in order to balance, build, and support the health and functioning of your body’s systems. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are a drug-free, safe, natural and effective way to eliminate hay fever, allergies or the common cold.

      2.  How often should one be treated for seasonal allergies with Chinese medicine?

                 I recommend people come for regular treatments during allergy season to maintain healthy Wei Qi. This may look like a once a week or twice a month treatment plan, depending on the needs and goals of the patient. Patients can schedule with me easily online. I have two offices: one in Burke, VA at The Wellness Center and one in Alexandria, VA at The Healing Tree.

      3. Is there any self-care you recommend to clients to help between treatments?

                  There are things the patient can do between sessions to prolong the benefit of the work that I do. I recommend that patients add moderate exercise and stretching into their daily work routine. This encourages them to maintain proper posture to keep qi flowing and optimal alignment to keep breathing passages open. I also recommend the following:

Seasonal allergy tips:

  1. Flush your nose with a Neti pot.
  2. Add spicy foods and omega-3’s to your diet.
  3. Keep your windows closed during allergy season to prevent dust and pollen from entering.
  4. Put on a dust mask when you are doing yard or house work.
  5. Do not hang your clothes out to dry in the sun, as they will gather dust, mold and pollen.
  6. Come in for an acupuncture tune-up.