Onto the Skin and Into the Body

Onto the Skin and into the Body
Have you ever considered the ingredients that are in your personal care products and how they affect your long term health? The average woman uses 12 different personal care products daily, exposing herself to 160 different chemicals. Men are exposed to about 80 chemicals.  This exposure takes place before we even leave our homes and become exposed to air pollution, UVA/UVB rays and other assailants. Educate yourself so that you can make informed choices as you make selections for your skin care products. Following is a list of the worst ingredient offenders lurking in our bathrooms.

Parabens are a synthetic preservative and antimicrobial agent used in most personal care products from shampoo to moisturizer.  Recent studies have proven that parabens mimic estrogen and can disrupt normal hormone function.  They have also turned up in biopsies performed on breast cancer patients.  A safer alternative to parabens is a product that uses certain essential oils to preserve the product.

Phthalates are plasticizers that stabilize scent.  They are found in most personal care products that contain the word “fragrance.”  Studies have linked the use of phthalates to the depression of normal thyroid function, birth defects effecting the development of genitals of young boys and the sperm counts of adult men.  Synthetic fragrance can contain any combination of chemicals sometimes exceeding 200 different ingredients!  Fragrance is also the most likely allergen in personal care products.  It is also important to note that fragrance is often used to mask the pungent smell of other chemicals being used in a product.  Fragrance may be avoided by using products scented with pure essential oils and floral waters.

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) is a synthetic detergent and foaming agent connected to skin and eye irritation.  SLS has also been linked to the byproduct 1-4 dioxane, a suspected carcinogenic contaminant produced during the ethoxylation process.  It is best to avoid this ingredient and look for “eth” at the end of other ingredient names to detect the ethoxylation process.  If you are looking for a natural cleanser with foaming action, look for coconut derived ingredients that have the prefix “coca.”

Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) are emulsifiers and foaming agents that can produce skin dryness and allergic reactions.  When mixed with other chemicals commonly found in personal care products, they can become carcinogenic and have been linked to stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.

Diazolidinyl, Imidazolidinyl Urea and Quaternium-15 are often used as preservatives and have been found to release formaldehyde. They have been linked to contact dermatitis.

When shopping for your personal care products, look for short ingredient lists and essential oils (EOs).  The EOs are often used not only as fragrance, but as preservatives thus bypassing most of these worst offenders.

Gentle Yoga: The Lesson About Surrender

Gentle Yoga: Where Doing Less is More

by Tara Lemerise


During the recent “snowmageddon”, with business and life as usual in the district at a complete halt, a friend remarked that there was actually something really pleasant about being forced to slow down.  She mused that we do such a bad job of being still and quiet in this society, and even more so in the capital, that just maybe the Universe was forcing us into it with the hope that we might learn a lesson or two.

My friend was right that it is not too often that we give ourselves permission to tune out the demands of our lives and to stop being so busy.  As a mom working a full-time job and teaching six yoga classes each week, I’m just as guilty as the next person of over-scheduling and over-committing.  But the great thing is that we don’t have to wait for a huge snowstorm to find some quiet. 

Gentle yoga is the perfect opportunity to learn a great lesson: yoga is just as much about the surrender as it is about the effort.  In a gentle yoga class, we start by making space in our bodies and easing muscle tension with slow nurturing movements.  Then we use lots of props to support restorative postures and we shift our focus to remembering how to soften.  The practice is joyfully calming and sweetly meditative. 

The beauty of gentle yoga is that there is no striving to achieve a “perfect” pose.  There is no pressure to do more than you feel is right for your body in any particular moment.  There is no urgency and no rush.  In fact, gentle yoga encourages us to take our time and to savor the process of creating space for our bodies and our minds.  A gentle yoga class encourages us to be more curious about the journey than about reaching the destination. Anyone who has ever been on a road trip knows that some of the best times are when you hop off the interstate to take a scenic route.

 So if you are feeling rushed, stressed, permanently tense, or if you have an injury that prevents you from joining a more vigorous yoga class, check out Tuesday evening’s Gentle Yoga at Blue Heron Wellness.  If you back off and give yourself the gift of a gentle, restorative yoga class, you will leave feeling refreshed and more focused.  This hour and fifteen minutes that you devote to doing less will actually allow you to accomplish more later.  And you’ll have a great night’s sleep! 

 Are you still skeptical?  Check it out for yourself!  Turn off your iPhone or your BlackBerry and tune out life’s demands, take a break from the striving and come to class on Tuesday at 7:45 pm.  I look forward to seeing you there!

 Tara Lemerise, Anusara-Inspired, took her first yoga class in 1999 and was immediately hooked by the way yoga made her more aware of her body and the way it helped her to organize her thoughts and calm her mind.  From there, yoga became an essential part of her busy life.  Tara went on to complete teaching training at Willow Street Yoga in 2005 and continues to study asana with senior Anusara teachers.  She also studies Kriya Yoga meditation with Swami Jyotir Vivekananda and Swami AbhipidanandaShe is a patient and encouraging instructor and you are sure to have an uplifting and rejuvenating experience in her class.

Study Demonstrates Acupuncture’s Effectiveness in Lowering Blood Pressure

A German study published in the journal, Circulation, found that acupuncture significantly lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The extent of the blood pressure reductions by acupuncture treatments was comparable to those seen with antihypertensive medication or aggressive lifestyle changes, including radical salt restrictions.

For the study, 160 outpatients with uncomplicated, mild to moderate hypertension were randomized to six weeks of acupuncture performed by Oriental medicine practitioners or to a sham procedure. Patients underwent 22 sessions, each 30 minutes in length. By the end of the six weeks, 24 hour ambulatory systolic and diastolic blood pressures were significantly reduced from baseline in the acupuncture treated patients (5.4 mm Hg and 3.0 mm Hg, respectively). No significant changes were seen in the sham acupuncture group.

After six months the blood pressure reductions disappeared, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the blood pressure reductions.

Source: Circulation, June 2007

Acupuncture Helps Maintain A Healthy Heart

Taking small steps to improve your health can reduce your risk for heart disease by as much as eighty percent. Steps to prevention include managing high blood pressure, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress and improved sleep – all of which can be helped with acupuncture.

1. Manage High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure makes the heart work harder, increasing its oxygen demands and contributing to angina. This excessive pressure can lead to an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), as well as damage to blood vessels in the kidneys and brain. It increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease.

Acupuncture has been found to be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By applying acupuncture needles at specific sites along the wrist, inside the forearm or in the leg, researchers at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, were able to stimulate the release of opioids, which decreases the heart’s activity and thus its need for oxygen. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure.

2. Quit Smoking
Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of coronary artery disease? In fact, about twenty percent of all deaths from heart disease are directly related to cigarette smoking.

Acupuncture has shown to be an effective treatment for smoking. Acupuncture treatments for smoking cessation focus on jitters, cravings, irritability, and restlessness; symptoms that people commonly complain about when they quit. It also aids in relaxation and detoxification.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, all of which increase the risk of developing heart disease, but studies have shown that excess body weight itself (and not just the associated medical conditions) can also lead to heart failure. Even if you are entirely healthy otherwise, being overweight still places you at a greater risk of developing heart failure.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are an excellent adjunctive tool when it comes to losing weight. They can help to energize the body, maximize the absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite, and reduce anxiety.

4. Reduce Stress
Stress is a normal part of life. But if left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heart beats. Medical researchers aren’t sure exactly how stress increases the risk of heart disease. Stress itself might be a risk factor, or it could be that high levels of stress make other risk factors worse. For example, if you are under stress, your blood pressure goes up, you may overeat, you may exercise less, and you may be more likely to smoke.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress, anxiety and mental health. In addition to acupuncture, Oriental medicine offers a whole gamut of tools and techniques that can be integrated into your life to keep stress in check. These tools include Tui Na, Qi Gong exercises, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, meditations and acupressure that you can administer at home.

5. Improve Sleep
Poor sleep has been linked with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Researchers have shown that getting at least eight hours of sleep is needed for good heart health and getting less than eight hours of sleep can put you at a greater risk for developing heart disease.

Acupuncture has shown great success treating a wide array of sleep problems without any of the side effects of prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. The acupuncture treatments for problems sleeping focus on the root disharmony within the body that is causing the insomnia. Therefore, those who use acupuncture for insomnia achieve not only better sleep, but also an overall improvement of physical and mental health.

Yes, we are independently owned!

A new client asked me last night if we were a franchise or part of a larger corporation. I was happy to say “No, we are and independently owned company founded by two women who are dedicated to holistic health care”. It made me happy to think that there are folks who find that it is important to support small businesses in this economy, and that we can treat our clients not only one-on-one, but with the support of all the health care knowledge under this one little roof. 


Leslie Knee, LMT