May Flowers Playlist

Hey, friends!

It’s been a hot second since I shared one of my Spotify playlists with y’all. However, because spring is finally in full force and because I’m totally digging this playlist, I figured now’s a good a time as any. It’s full of (mostly) alternative goodness and is ideal for evenings spent on the patio, sippin’ on sauvignon blanc (or whatever your warm-weather beverage of choice happens to be). I may or may not be doing so right now. ;)

I hope you enjoy it!

xoxo,

Lauren

DIY Conditioning Detangler

Sadly, most household and personal care products are laden with chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters. Um, no thanks. If this topic is of interest to you whatsoever, I encourage you to check out EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. When I plugged my commonly used household and personal care products into these resources, I was appalled by what I found. That, my friends, is when I embarked on my journey of knowing better and doing better.

As part of that process, I’ve slowly phased out toxic products and have instead embraced products made with plant-based ingredients. Hair care products will be the last category of products to go, and I’m starting with detangler. Yep, I’m a 29 year-old chick who still uses the stuff. I’ve got lots of extremely fine hair, making for an easily tangled mess. My ends also tend to get extremely dry and frizzy, making a high-quality, conditioning detangler a must in my beauty routine.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I ended up creating my own. There’s something incredibly empowering about knowing exactly which ingredients go into something that I use almost daily. Of course, I included a variety of essential oils in my DIY concoction. After engaging in some research, I decided on the following: Sandalwood to lock in moisture, Ylang Ylang to combat static and frizz, and Clary Sage to add shine. Aside from serving as effective ingredients for a conditioning detangler, these essential oils smell fan-freaking-tastic together. Possibly the best part about this project is that I was able to throw it together in less than five minutes.

What you’ll need:

  • 8 oz spray bottle
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
  • 2 tbsp. fractionated coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. alcohol-free witch hazel
  • 15 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
  • 10 drops Sandalwood essential oil
  • 10 drops Clary Sage essential oil

What you’ll do:

  • Add all ingredients to the spray bottle and shake well to combine
  • Spirtz over ends of hair just after a shower and comb through

Winter R&R Retreat at Kripalu

My grad school spring break was in the beginning of March, and I was determined to embark on a new adventure during my time off. Because I felt in need of a getaway, yet wanted to keep the cost down, my mom and I sought out drivable escapes. She brought up the idea of Kripalu, and I was immediately sold. My mom experienced Kripalu about 10 years ago and has always raved about her time there. However, because I’ve more recently gotten into yoga and the mind-body-soul wellness that comes along with it, this was my first time. And, certainly not my last.

If I could use only one word to describe my short, but sweet time at Kripalu, it would be “magical.” However, for the sake of this blog post, I’m happy to dive much deeper. For starters, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The main building is surrounded by over 100 acres of land and is situated on a hilltop that overlooks Lake Mahkeenac.

Leaving from Philadelphia, it took us about four hours to get there. Being that Kripalu is located in Massachusetts, I was expecting a much longer journey. However, it turns out that it is located just above the New York border. The latter portion of our drive was exquisite, as this region was still experiencing the Nor’easter that had hit Philadelphia earlier that week. It was both scenic and serene, as the backcountry roads that led us to Kripalu were surrounded by bountiful, fluffy snow. In fact, the snow continued through Saturday, making us feel like we were inside one of the most magnificent snow globes to ever exist. ;)

Before we arrived, we agreed to leave our phones in the car. At that point, I’d recognized that the last time I was without a phone for an extended period of time was during a life-changing trip to Costa Rica in 2012 – almost five years prior! Yikes. Well, can I tell you how liberating it was to ditch my phone for a weekend?! Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, or loading up my Amazon shopping cart with “necessities,” I engaged in soul-nourishing activities. I definitely plan on incorporating technology detoxes into my life more often.

Once we checked in, we began our weekend in the best way possible! We headed to Kripalu’s Healing Arts Center to indulge in the following services: Deep Pressure Meditative Massage, Dr. Hauschka Classic Facial, and Energy Balancing. Because Kripalu incorporates Ayurvedic principles into everything that it does, the services were arguably the best and most unique spa services that I have ever received. Each treatment was better than the next, and we left feeling like we were floating in the clouds.

Although I was unsure about what to expect from the Energy Balancing portion of our afternoon, I’m so happy I gave it a try. The energy therapist that I worked with had an incredible vitality to her, and it was truly contagious! The session involved both chakra work and affirmations, which are right up my alley. I engaged in a pretty intense journaling session after my experience, as I was blown away by the blocks that were uncovered and the auras that were visualized in just one session. Because I understand that these topics are a little too “woo-woo” for most, I won’t go into too much detail here. However, if you are interested in hearing more about my experience, I’m happy to share it with you!

After our time at the Healing Arts Center, we dove headfirst into the weekend. However, before I explain our weekend in detail, I’d like to shed light on the three different ways that Kripalu can be experienced: 1) participate in a program, 2) engage in an R&R retreat, or 3) attend a teacher training. Although Kripalu is known to host presenters that are world-renowned in the wellness world, the programs taking place during the weekend that we visited simply didn’t speak to us. And, because programs and healing arts services are add-ons, we opted for the latter. Further, while I’d love to participate in one of Kripalu’s teacher trainings in the future, my journey hasn’t led me there just yet.

With all of that being said, I’m sure it comes to no surprise that we decided to engage in an R&R retreat. Accommodations, meals, use of amenities, and participation in a variety of workshops, yoga classes, and outdoor activities are included. The beauty of the R&R experience is that you are encouraged to participate in as little or as much as you’d like; it is all about customizing it to be an experience that is uniquely yours. Want a sneak peak into what my weekend looked like? See below for a brief synopsis.

Friday, March 9th, 2018

  • Deep Pressure Meditative Massage with Paul
  • Dr. Hauschka Classic Facial with Joanna
  • Energy Balancing with Jane
  • Dinner
  • Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

  • Breakfast
  • Clearing the Clutter with Izzy Lenihan
  • Origami and Mindfulness with Mary Hannah Parkman
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Sherrie Howard
  • Lunch
  • Yoga and Art with Ali Cramer
  • Dinner

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

  • Breakfast
  • The Yoga of Dylan with Lara Tupper
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Petersen
  • Lunch

Say no unless it’s a resounding HELL YES! That was my motto for the weekend. As such, I skipped workshops, yoga classes, and outdoor activities that didn’t excite me. During those time periods, I journaled, read, took photos, walked around the property, cat-napped, and moseyed around The Kripalu Shop. Although I’m so grateful for everything that I experienced during my weekend at Kripalu, there are three experiences that I cannot recommend enough: 1) Journaling, 2) Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis, and 3) Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Peterson.

  • Journaling // I use the notepad app on my phone almost daily. Whether it’s to create a to-do list or record a random musing, I’m constantly jotting things down. That’s why, knowing I’d be without my phone, I brought a journal along with me. Having it allowed me to track my journey in a meaningful way and prompted me to engage in stream of consciousness writing for the first time in a long time. Doing the latter was very unexpected, yet extremely cathartic.
  • Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis // My first experience with yoga nidra was a fantastic one. Essentially, yoga nidra is a systematic approach to sleep meditation. The idea is to travel through the panacha maya kosha (five layers of self) while lying in savasana (corpse pose). No joke, I was knocked the eff out in under two minutes. After coming out of the meditation, I zombie-walked my way up to our room and fell into nine blissful hours of sleep.
  • Vinyasa Yoga with Michael Peterson // I was blown away by every instructor at Kripalu, but this dude takes the cake. While most of the weekend was profound in nature, Michael’s class was lighthearted and fun. As such, it was a welcome break from the deep reflection that I’d engaged in for most of the weekend. He’s both talented and hilarious, offering a one-of-a-kind, entertaining, and vigorous flow.

As a side note, I’d like to mention that, while snapping photos was an enjoyable part of my experience, every photo taken was of the scenery surrounding the property. And, because the walkways were limited due to the snow, I have few photos to share with you guys. Taking photos inside the main building didn’t feel right, as everyone at the retreat does a tremendous job of respecting each others’ desire to just… be. Fun fact: Luann and Sonja from the Real Housewives of New York were at the retreat with us, and even they were left alone so that they could unwind.

Of course, being the food-obsessed gal that I am, I would be doing everyone who reads this post a disservice by not mentioning The Kripalu Kitchen‘s unbelievable food! With an emphasis on local, seasonal, and primarily plant-based ingredients, it was nourishing, yet so flavorful. I particularly loved that breakfast was eaten in silence, as it allowed for mindful eating and time to reflect before we took on each day. Notably, it was here that I first began to wrap my head around Ayurvedic principles regarding how one should eat according to his or her dosha. In fact, I was so taken by this concept that I have since taken a crash course on Ayurveda at a local yoga studio.

Want to give their incredible house dressing a whirl? The recipe can be found here.

Admittedly, I’m already itching for my next Kripalu visit. Because we experienced it in all of its winter glory, I’d absolutely love to see what it’s like during the summer months. Hiking its beautiful trails, especially the Meditation Garden, and participating in outdoor yoga are what I look forward to the most! Oh, and remember those world-renowned presenters that I mentioned? There are some pretty badass babes presenting at Kripalu this summer! Ruby Warrington (author of Material Girl, Mystical World) and Gabrielle Bernstein (author of The Universe Has Your Back) are two of them. Decisions, decisions…

Lastly, if you’re thinking of heading to Kripalu in the near future, here’s a packing guide comprised of items that I consider must-haves:

  • Yoga Mat // Kripalu provides yoga mats if you prefer to travel light, but I’m partial to using my own.
  • Reusable Water Bottle // Love your Mother! Water-filling stations can be found throughout the main building.
  • Comfortable Sandals // Although it was the dead of winter, I was wearing my sandals the entire time, minus our outdoor walk.
  • Slippers // Despite the above comment, I wish I’d had my slippers when we were relaxing in our room.
  • Sneakers // Although these will be neglected most of the time, they’re necessary for an outdoor walk or hike.
  • Tote Bag // Between carrying around my water bottle, yoga towel, room key, and journal, I wish that I’d had something larger than my purse with me.
  • Watch // It’s relatively difficult to keep track of time when you leave your cell phone in the car. I learned the hard way. ;)
  • Sound Machine // Although the environment at Kripalu is overwhelmingly serene, the walls are thin and I much prefer my sound machine to the ear plugs provided at the front desk.
  • Essential Oils + Diffuser // We diffused grounding oils throughout the weekend, and it most definitely enhanced our experience.
  • Journal + Pen // I think you’ve caught my drift with journaling by now, but I’ll leave you with one last reminder. ;)
  • Reading Material // This weekend is all about going where the wind takes you. Bring a variety of books that you’ve been meaning to read so that you have something for every mood.
  • Camera // It’s crazy how reliant we are on our phones, huh?! Plus, if you own a fancy camera that tends to collect dust (ahem – me), this is the perfect opportunity to give it some love.
  • Clothing // Athletic yoga wear by day. Casual yoga wear (read: a sweater and a pair of joggers) by night. Swimwear if you plan on utilizing the hot tub or sauna.

Have you ever visited Kripalu or participated in a similar retreat? If so, please leave a comment and share about your experience!

Forgotten Longwood Garden Photos and a Lesson in Extreme Gratitude

Today, I took on the daunting task of sorting through thousands of photos and videos. Deciding which to keep and which to toss was arguably the most time-consuming, emotionally-draining aspect of the whole endeavor, but the mere act of backing everything up takes time as well. Although I had been dreading this task for months, it swiftly morphed into a lesson of extreme gratitude. The highlight reel of my life quickly reminded why we collect memorabilia in the first place.

On a day-to-day basis, I find it so incredibly easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Most of the time, I can’t help but feel like I’m simply going though the motions. However, after sifting through what felt like an endless collection of photo and video footage, an overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over me. My heart felt like it was about burst. I mean, seriously, how lucky am I to have lived so much life in my short 29 years? Better yet, how lucky am I to have done so with such incredible people by my side? The best part of all is that I’m just getting started.

In the midst of re-living so many precious memories, I came across a group of photos that I had intended on sharing but ended up completely forgetting about. They were taken at Longwood Gardens on Mother’s Day of last year. I figured, better late than never, I’d share them with you guys. If Longwood Gardens is accessible to you and you have never been, do yourself a favor and visit its beautiful grounds this spring. If not, please enjoy some of my favorites from the day.

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5 Products That Have Changed My Hot Yoga Practice

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How ironic is it that the style of yoga that I once claimed to hate is the style of yoga that ultimately led me to practice multiple times a week? Hot yoga is now my most treasured workout, and I look forward to stepping onto my mat prior to each and every class. Now that it’s a constant in my life, I can’t imagine my wellbeing without it.

Now, let me give you a little background as to why I came to the conclusion that I “hated” hot yoga. Once upon a time, I decided to check out a new yoga studio without taking the time to read the class description, and low and behold, I arrived at a hot yoga studio. I went into that class with the mindset that the heat would make me feel claustrophobic, and what do you know? It did. This was when I was practicing yoga sporadically, averaging about one class per month, so this experience did little to encourage me to practice more regularly.

Then, one random day, I had the overwhelming desire to attend another hot yoga class, and the rest is history. To this day, I can’t explain what came over me, but I’m so incredibly grateful that I listened to my heart. I went into that class with the mindset that it would make me feel grounded in a way that I never had before, and what do you know? It did. You see, mindset is everything.

Spirituality aside, there are several other reasons why my love for hot yoga runs deep. I am not an innately flexible person, so the heat is a game changer for my flexibility. I can touch my toes, for crying out loud! While that may seem like a small feat for some, it’s a huge accomplishment for someone who hasn’t been able to do so since elementary school. Secondly, the heat makes me sweat like a maniac, allowing for an intense detox that makes me feel completely refreshed. Last, but certainly not least, the heat allows for some intense breath work. Yep, you read correctly! The reason that I once “hated” hot yoga is now one of the reasons that I love it. It is undoubtedly more challenging to breathe amidst the heat, which forces me to be more mindful about my breathing. In turn, I feel more meditative and connected.

As with all hobbies, investing in high-quality products can make the world of a difference. See below for some products that have rocked my yogi world!

eKO Mat by Manduka

I did a ton of research before I took the chance on a yoga mat, and this was the lucky winner. It has yet to disappoint! There are a few reasons why I’m obsessed with it. Its density is not too thin or too thick; instead, it’s juuust riiight. It’s also got excellent grip to it, which is particularly important for hot yoga. I’m sweaty and clumsy AF, so I need all the help I can get in that department. Perhaps the reason why I love it the most is that it’s made from non-Amazon natural tree rubber. This means that it is made from both sustainable and non-toxic material, and you know I’m all about that life.

The (Small) Towel by lululemon

Have I mentioned that I’m a sweater? These incredibly absorbent towels allow me to look somewhat presentable after class. However, they serve a purpose during class as well! Made of microfiber, they allow for additional grip. Because my hands tend to slip the most, I keep one of these towels at the top of my mat. For being as absorbent as they are, I was pleasantly surprised by how little room they take up in my bag.

Insulated Water Bottle by Hydro Flask

While drinking water during yoga practice is generally discouraged due to its interference with the ushna (heat) that the body has worked to generate, there are times in which pausing to drink water feels necessary. In these instances, I want my water to be cool and refreshing. That’s why I’m obsessed with my Hydro Flask. It keeps my water chilled for an absurd number of hours, so the higher temperatures of hot yoga studios have nothing on this bad boy. I have the 32 oz wide mouth bottle, but the world is your oyster!

Sacred Frankincense Essential Oil by Young Living

Although similar, traditional Frankincense (Boswellia carteri) and Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) are two distinct plant species. Traditional Frankincense is indigenous to Somalia and is considered the “workhorse” of the two because it’s so versatile. Sacred Frankincense, on the other hand, is indigenous to Oman and is thought to be the variety that is referred to in the Bible. Outside of Oman citizens and Saudi royalty, Gary Young (the founder of Young Living) is the only individual with access to this sacred crop. How freaking cool! As it has a higher vibrational frequency than traditional Frankincense, it is most commonly used for spiritual and meditation purposes. This is precisely why I use it just prior to engaging in yoga practice. First, I add a couple drops to the palms of my hands and rub it onto the back of my neck. Then, I cup my hands around my nose and mouth, taking several deep inhalations. It is incredibly grounding, and it shifts my state of mind from overdrive to calm within minutes.

Breathe Again Roll-On by Young Living

This powerhouse essential oil blend is comprised of Peppermint, Myrtle, Copaiba, Blue Cypress, and four varieties of Eucalyptus. In combination, these oils are known to open up respiratory channels and aid in effective breathing. Because breath work is a foundational component of yoga practice, I’m sure it’s a no brainer as to why I incorporate this essential oil blend into mine. I especially love that it comes in a roller bottle so that I can quickly roll it onto my chest just prior to class.