how to practice saucha yoga|yogi surprise

How to Practice Saucha and Why You Absolutely Have to Clean Your Yoga Mat

I've definitely been guilty of letting my yoga mat get a little funky.

You figure, "Hey, it's my stench. What's the big?"

Saucha (cleanliness or purity) is the first niyama (positive and ethical observances). It guides us down the path of being mindful about excess and stabilizing our relationship with what purity means to us. If you're curious about how to practice saucha, let's begin with your yoga mat.

How to practice saucha when it comes to our yoga mats

Why am I making such a big deal over this? It's just a mat. If it's dirty, I'm only rolling around in my own filth. That's totally fine. Except that it isn't. If our yoga mat is a metaphor for our lives, we can't continue to dive head first into negative thoughts, impure intentions, and unclear actions. We must have enough self-worth to provide ourselves a clean yoga mat to practice on so we can establish the importance of pure feelings that translate into how we behave and what we value.

It's important to be considerate of others

If we treat our yoga mat as if it doesn't matter, does that translate into how we treat our bodies? Maybe. Probably. Just as it feels so much better to live inside a clean home, practicing on a pure sweet-smelling surface will only enhance the experience of our practice. And other people really appreciate it when they practice next to someone who took the time to bathe and put on fresh clothing. Have you ever set up your mat next to someone who smells like they have zero relationships with soap or deodorant? I have and it sucked. You try not to let it ruin your practice. But let's be real. It does. It's an easy solution regarding how to practice saucha and it benefits everyone.

How to practice saucha via asanas

It's likely you're already doing these. But in case you're not, or you blow off one or two, use this easy guideline to incorporate how to practice saucha into every practice, even if it's a home practice and there's no one there to offend.

  • Take a bath or shower. It can be quick. Hit all the important parts and literally wash the impurities from your body.
  • Try daily dry brushing and massage sesame oil into your skin. More impurities will vacate your body and self-care will instill the fact into your brain that you are worth it.
  • Set up your space thoughtfully. Lay out your mat. Hopefully, you washed it after your last practice. But washing it again before using it sets the tone for pure thoughts and intentions. Use an incredible mat spray that has essential oils to imbue sweetness and instill specific intentions. Try the Citrus Eucalyptus Yoga Mat Spray from Mystic Ginger Apothecary (included in the this month's Yogi Surprise box). It will compel you to get on your mat and stay there to soak up the goodness.
  • Share. We learned this in kindergarten. It's the perfect way to make new friends and contribute to the happiness and well-being of another in such an easy and instinctual way. Offer the person practicing next to you some of your mat spray or essential oil so they can cleanse their own palate and pursue the important and inspired practice of saucha.


oil cleansing method skin|yogi surprise

Use An Oil Cleansing Method to Put Your Best Face Forward

I swear to you, washing your face with oil makes a whole lotta sense.

If you've never tried an oil cleansing method, I'm really excited for you right now

I was skeptical too. Very. But those who recommended using oil cleansing versus soap and water sure as hell had really nice skin. Trust the people who have the skin you want.

Like attracts like

It was only about ten years ago that this concept introduced itself to me. The law of attraction is that like attracts like. I had grown up with the opposites attract ideology. When we question what we know to be true, we can consider doing things differently and with gusto.

Reasons using an oil cleansing method will improve your skin

  • It's a fact that oil dissolves oil. If you have oily skin, that means there is an overproduction of oil. To mitigate this, using the right oils depending on your skin's needs can effectively clear up an abundance of oil, blackheads, acne, dry skin, you name it.
  • Balance. By using natural oils to clean your face combats the oils your body produces that have become stuck. Dissolving these oils will create a healthy balance in your skin.

I'm not an esthetician. I have no medical background. But as an avid oil cleansing method practitioner, I've seen the results. I stopped breaking out, even during my cycle. My skin feels moisturized, luminous, and healthy. I definitely have seen a decrease in fine lines. It's even helped with the appearance of dark circles. But it took me a while to figure out the best oil for my skin, truth be told.

But be forewarned, not all oils work the same. Essential oils can be harsh.

Rosehip oil across the board is safe and effective. Essential oils often need to be diluted and combined with other oils to be as helpful as possible. You might have a reaction if you use an oil that is simply not good for your needs. My routine is rosehip oil morning and night and a microfiber towel with warm water. That may work for you, and it may not.

Which oils should you use?

That's the 'rub', isn't it? Here's a list of common skin ailments and potent oils that help reduce the issues:

  • For aging skin, rosehip oil is a winner. This was the game-changer for me. I tried the other recommended oils for aging skin such as jojoba and lavender, but rosehip had a much more noticeable effect. My skin stopped looking oily and I found I only needed a few drops morning and night. You could try a combination of these oils as well. Trial and error may be how you find the best solution for you.
  • Acne is a bummer. Experiment with thyme essential oil. It's been shown to be effective in fighting the bacteria that causes acne. Dilute.
  • If you have dry skin, there are many oil cleansing methods you can try to rectify this issue. Consider carrot seed essential oil. It's incredibly moisturizing and it can also protect your skin because it contains so many antioxidants. But there are many oil cleansing methods that may help with dry skin. Sesame oil is highly recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners to soften and heal the skin. Try it in combination with dry skin brushing. You will be blown away.

Is organic oil an important factor?

Yes. Simply yes. If staying away from chemicals and other harsh components in your skin care matters to you, go organic. Look for products that are labeled 'USDA Certified Organic'. Be sure to read all of the ingredients before buying.

Don't be discouraged if the first thing you try isn't the best thing for you. Sensitive skin and allergies need to be taken into consideration. Counterindications are important to know. There are many skin specialists who can work with you and help you discover the exact best combination of essential oils to create the perfect oil cleansing method specifically for you. Essential oils are not FDA approved as a skin treatment. Educate yourself, know your own sensitivities and allergies, and study up on the ideal course of action for you. Your best skin is waiting for you, just right around the corner.

vipassana discoveries|yogi surprise

3 Important Life Epiphanies You'll Have During a Vipassana (Silent Retreat)

Even if you're a quiet person, (which I'm absolutely not) it's no small feat to spend a few days not speaking. The value of unplugging and getting quiet is vast and really difficult to explain until you've gone through it. Vipassana lessons abound and don't all unfold in front of you at once. It's an unraveling effect and it will undoubtedly change you.

Whether it sounds like heaven or an impossibility, there are deep healing reasons each of us should consider taking a silent retreat and possibly doing this on a semi-regular basis.

Meditation first

If meditation eludes you, begin there. Start by meditating daily. It allows you the time to get quiet and go inside. Silence is something many of us have to practice to embrace. Once it doesn't feel so foreign, we can be more open to the gifts and lessons offered.

Vipassana, or "to see things as they truly are" is the Sanskrit term for a 10-day silent retreat. If discovering and unearthing your truths is something you know you want and need to do in this life, it's one of the many silent retreat lessons you'll receive.

There is no talking and no external entertainment allowed (phones are turned over upon arriving, no reading materials or music is permitted). The days are spent practicing seated and walking meditations.

Let's look at some vipassana lessons laying in wait

It's normal to feel intimidated or even scared about embarking on such an experience. But for those who do it, there are gifts that keep giving long after the experience is over.

You'll know yourself better.

Now, this might sound like something we all want. Understanding ourselves can only help us navigate the world around us with a deft and simplicity that isn't available if we really aren't clear on what our dharma is. Unearthing truths we've been hiding from will surface in the quiet. You'll reaffirm your strengths and the areas that need work may become amplified. If you can apply the principle that all truth is good, you may be able to see your way into confronting your truths and the opportunities they offer.

You will have a greater sense of self-discipline and self-control. 

Who couldn't use a little help in these departments? One of the coolest things about taking a vipassana is that you eat only at mealtime. And, you eat what's being served. Not only will you experience and taste your food on a completely different level without the distractions of electronics, books, music, magazines, or conversation, but you'll develop a deeper appreciation for food as sustenance.

Learning to enjoy a portion that's just enough versus all you can manage to consume is powerful. And feeling both physically and mentally strong propel us into believing that we are so much more capable than we may have previously thought. The confidence that comes with hanging in there during a meditation when you've lost count over how many times you were desperate to give up will give you a greater sense of self and appreciation for the present form that is you.

There is no such thing as boredom. 

The concept of boredom is yet another invention of our vast and complex mind. There is no counting the stories in our heads. There are too many and they change constantly. We go from thought to thought and often there is no obvious connection between the thoughts other than that they are mostly fabrications.

During a vipassana, we begin to question of all of our thoughts. If I think the thought, "OMG, I can't meditate for one more nanosecond," then that's my truth right that moment and it will change because it was never true in the first place. And here I am, back to meditating. The only moment that's important is the one that's happening right this second. Does that mean nothing is true? No, of course not. But wading through our muck and distractions and landing on the inherent deep-seeded values that rise up like a lotus over and over is what deserves our attention and nurture.



5 Invigorating Things to Do to Prepare Your Spirit for the Season of Rebirth

Spring might still be about a month away, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about how you can prepare for spring a few weeks ahead of its arrival.

Spring is the season of rebirth, so you’ll want to focus on rituals that cleanse, detoxify, invigorate, and energize you. After a long and hopefully restful winter, your spirit has had time to rejuvenate itself so it may guide your growth into the next version of yourself.

Try some of the following rituals to help you step into the new season with ease.


1. Deep Clean Your Yoga Mat

Spritzing your yoga mat with an all natural, cleansing yoga mat cleaner after every use is always a good idea, but deep cleaning your mat at least once or twice every new season (or more depending on use) is just as necessary. A clean, bacteria-free mat is just as good for you physically as it is for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Take your mat into the bathtub so you can submerge both sides in water and give it a good scrub down with a gentle brush or washcloth before hanging it out to dry completely for at least a full 24 to 48 hours (making sure to keep it out of direct sunlight).


2. Detox from Sweet, Heavy Winter Foods

In winter, Ayurveda (yoga’s ancient sister science in holistic health) states that we should focus on fuelling our bodies with healthy comfort foods that are sweet, dense, and oily to help combat vata dosha. Come spring, we need to shift our diets to balance the accumulated kapha or else risk bringing that winter hibernation-induced sluggishness into the new season.

Now is the time to start stocking up on foods with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Just before spring's arrival, aim to completely cut out red meat, cooked oils, sugar, dairy, alcohol and caffeine for a temporary detox period (2 to 3 weeks) while favouring green veggies, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, avocados, and lots of water.


3. Spend a Few Minutes a Day Practicing Pranayama

Simple breathing techniques can help clear out mental clutter that you wish to leave behind while also helping to combat seasonal allergies that you might suffer from in the spring.

Sit comfortably in a seated position and inhale naturally or use your ujjayi breath to fill your lungs with air. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale until all the air has escaped from your longs. Do at least 3 to 6 rounds of this every day as meditation before or after your regular yoga practice.


4. Use Essential Oils That Are Energizing, Sweet, Floral, and Herbaceous

It might still a be a little chilly outside to open all the windows, so in the meantime, aromatherapy can help freshen up the air in your home or yoga space. Whether you choose to use a diffuser, make your own room spray, or massage an essential oil of choice into your skin along with a carrier oil is completely up to you.

Eucalyptus is a top choice for its invigorating aromas that can help balance congestion in the sinuses and lungs. Lemon, on the other hand, can help wake you up, brighten your spirits, and help you feel energized.


5. Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Starting your own garden gives you the opportunity to learn a new hobby and get closer to nature well before everything outside blossoms and turns green. Think of it like your own little ceremonial celebration of the new season!

The seeds for most herbs and veggies should be planted about 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date, and while that can vary by region, you can most likely plan to do so in March or April.

5 All Natural Ways to Detox Your Skin

5 All Natural Ways to Detox Your Skin

There are countless cosmetic skin care products and therapies out there that claim to have major detoxification and rejuvenation effects on the skin. But for those yogis who don’t have the time or money to indulge in expensive skin care treatments, some faster and simpler alternatives will suffice.

The truth is that you don’t need a fancy, expensive treatment to detox and improve the look of your skin. With just a few lifestyle changes you can do at home, at your yoga studio, or even when you’re on the road, you’ll be on your way to healthier skin sooner than you might think!


1. Refine Your Diet

When it comes to your skin, the phrase “you are what you eat” rings true. Start by cutting back on all processed foods, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and possibly even dairy and gluten if you think you might be particularly sensitive to them. Seasonal vegetables like red cabbage, watercress, and beets are known to have a antioxidant properties that your skin craves. so stock up on them while they’re in season and get creative with some recipes!


2. Drink More Liquids

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all amount of water to aim for, but it never hurts to be more conscious about hydration since it will help rid the body and skin of toxins. Try herbal teas with antioxidant properties (like ginger) and anti-inflammatory properties (like chamomile). A squeeze of fresh lemon juice in your tea or in some warm water will also give your skin a healthy boost thanks to the high vitamin C content.


3. Practice Bikram Yoga

As the temperature continues to drop throughout the colder months, that hot yoga class will probably seem a lot more enticing—and that’s great news for your skin! Similar to the way sitting in a sauna helps the body detoxify itself through sweat, hot yoga offers the same effect. In fact, hot yoga may even enhance detoxification if there are certain twists and other detox-related poses integrated into the class session.


4. Try Ayurvedic Dry Brushing

Dry brushing the skin is an Ayurvedic practice that helps facilitate lymphatic cleansing and rids the body of cellular waste. As you brush away the dead skin skills, your skin will start to look brighter and healthier. Look for a body brushes with firm bristles online or in stores and plan to do your brushing in the morning before you jump in the shower—starting from your feet and working your way up your body using a gentle, circular motion.


5. Take More Baths With Epsom Salts

You may already know that an epsom salt bath can help soothe sore muscles, but the benefits actually extend beyond that to include detoxification. Epsom salts act as a toxin repellent, essentially flushing toxins out of your skin cells. Best of all, you can purchase epsom salts at almost any drugstore and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a relaxing aromatherapy effect. A full body epsom bath a few times a week throughout the autumn and winter months could do wonders for your skin!

Dry Skin Brushing

Dry Skin Brushing - What it is and how to do it

Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing

Dry skin brushing has been known to help with cellulite, detoxing, and leave your skin feeling refreshingly smooth. But that's not all—the constituents of skin mimics that of urine. It's continuously exfoliating to help remove the bodies toxins. It's essentially your third kidney.

Dry brushing your body is a great way to stimulates your lymph system, which is your network of organs and vessels that make and move lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. Lymphatic therapy experts say that a healthy lymph system is a major part of maintaining a strong immune system. This is mostly because to 70% of your lymph system is located just below the top service of skin.

So essentially, skin brushing is a self-massaging way to stimulates your entire nervous system while removing toxins. What's not to love!? Let's get to it then:

How to Dry Skin Brush

  1. Pick up a natural skin brush online or at any natural product shop – one with natural bristles is recommended.
  2. Starting from your feet, stroke the brush upwards, moving the brush towards your heart.
  3. Optional: Rinse off in the shower to remove remaining dead skin cells.

The hardest part is remembering to do it. It only takes 30 seconds and comes with incredible health benefits. So be sure to set a reminder or simply hang your brush near the shower so you don't forget!