Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Homemade Coconut Oil Deodorant: Be a Hippie But Not Smell Like One

There's a rising trend for hippiedom these days, but instead of harking back to the days of Woodstock where people didn't shower and braided their armpit hair, we're forced to work jobs and look presentable to the non-hippiefied masses in order to enable our lifestyle. 

Enter natural deodorant.

I barely keep up with all the hoopla surrounding aluminum and other creepy chemicals in our seemingly harmless deodorant sticks. All I know is that it contains chemicals and if I can't eat it and still be healthy or alive, I don't want it on my body. Whether the breast cancer risk is real or not, I rather just not. So, I go for the lesser of the two evils with the natural stuff you can buy, like Tom's of Maine.

It's not the most innocent of odor-blocking sticks, but it's affordable and accessible to me compared with most other ones. Of course, I have to admit, I use it purely for psychological reasons because it simply does.not.work. Really. It just doesn't. I put it on and say to myself, "And ye shalt not smelt for the next twelve hours." when really it's about twelve minutes and I go around apologizing to my yoga students for my ripening odor.

At least it kind of fits my image…

But really though, I'm over the whole smelly armpits and having to wash my clothes more often than not because really, they can last a few more wearings if it weren't for that sneaky smell that slowly seeps out with every pass of upward facing dog. Besides, b.o. does not make me feel awesome or sexy or pretty or cool. Major self-esteem killer.

So I finally decided to give in and try homemade deodorant. Don't ask me why it took me this long. I've had all the ingredients for practically a year just sitting in my pantry and I just never put two and two together. But anyway, better late than never, right?

It only requires three ingredients for the most basic recipe: coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch or arrowroot starch. You can fancy it up by adding essential oils like tea tree oil, peppermint, lavender, or anything else. Tea tree and peppermint have antibacterial properties that will aid in killing odors so you get a little extra benefit. I just made the base recipe for now to try it out.

To make sure it really did work, I put it together just for our backpacking trip last weekend. Three whole days of woodland hiking plus two nights of camping. Not a shower in sight. What better way to truly discover the effectiveness of this deodorant? 

Result? It really did work! Granted, by the third morning, I was a tiny bit ripe, but dude, I didn't shower for three days, I'd be more freaked out if I did't smell at this point. Now, this isn't meant to be an antiperspirant but the baking soda does offer a bit of sweat protection as well, just a little bit. But I don't mind sweat, I just didn't want to scream "crunchy granola hippie" anymore. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Here's a recipe for a tiny batch, about 1/4 cup so you can try it out for yourself without a giant pot of deodorant going to waste if it's not to your liking. Double if you need.

Homemade Deodorant:

1 1/2 tbsp unrefined cold pressed coconut oil
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp corn starch or arrowroot starch*
Essential oils if using

In a small bowl, mix together the baking soda and starch until combined. Add softened coconut oil and gently press it into the powder mix until well mixed. Add more oil or starch to get the a paste-like consistency if needed. Add a few drops of whatever oils you like to use and mix together. Store in a jar or ziploc bag.

To use: Massage a dime-sized amount into each underarm until absorbed. Repeat if necessary. 

*The corn starch is to help turn it into a paste. Some people have expressed concerns with gmo in corn starch, arrowroot is a good alternative. I've read that arrowroot is a tiny bit more effective than corn starch but it's up to you.

Have you made this before? What do you think?

What Backpacking Does for the Soul

Despite a few initial setbacks such as pouring rain and cold temperatures, we finally headed down to Zaleski in Wayne National Forest to trek across hilly, woody terrain and camp out for two nights. It was the most magnificent experience. For the first time in a long while, I was able to think about nothing at all. I had taken care of any urgent errands and plans before leaving, so for the entire trip, I was free to blissfully take in the scenery with "reality" figuratively a thousand miles away.

We napped in the middle of the day in a hammock, the breeze gently blowing and the sun shining warmly my face.

We enjoyed each other's company and the company of the trees around us and the moths fluttering through our legs.

We ate simply. Drank pure refreshing water. Walked through narrow trails and muddy pits. Gazed upon a lake that surprised us over the incline. Stood on the edge of a cliff. Marveled at the blooming leaves, flowers, and ferns. Slept huddled against the cold. Roasted marshmallows over the fire. Grew awestruck at the millions of stars twinkling above. 

Found ourselves again.

The trip sent us back to basics. What is it that we truly need to be content with life? It's an exercise in discovering our santosha, contentment and satisfaction with our situation, and of course that  willingness to take risks. A soft bed with insulation against the cold is nice, but sleep is the key. Television shows and Facebook updates can be entertaining, but we truly need little more than the pulse of our footsteps along a dirt-covered path. 

We spend most of our lives sheltering ourselves from the great nature outside, but that's where our real self dwells. Floating through the wind and resting on the leaves of the trees, shimmering on the surface of the brook, and tumbling around with butterflies.

Coming back home made me feel like the reality was the dream. We're mindlessly look at computer screens and buying pre-made bread. Today, I worked my fingers through the pillowy mounds of pizza dough, gazing out the window wishing I could tear down the walls and make my vegetable stock and bread outside, where I really belong. I drive to work, watching billboard ads and stressed out people go by, and I feel out of place. I make money. Money for what? To invest in a society that is consciously driving itself away from our true place? 

I might be of the few who feel this way; yearning to go back to the real life and escape this dream, while most others view the trek through the woods as the dreamy distraction from real life. Whatever it is, I cling to the memories of my experience to preserve my soul and santosha as I live here and now. Images credit: J.J. Bechhold

Live Light - Travel Light - Be the Light - Spread the Light

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tabata My Glutes Off

I felt like a veritable beast during my yoga teacher training. I was out there taking two or more yoga classes a day, running on the trail, and doing "core-ture" workouts. Get it, torture, core-ture. Not only that, I did other completely random things: hooping, acro-yoga, arial yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, and whatever else I could find that was free and not at some ungodly early morning hour. Having been transplanted to Austin just for training, I didn't have a job or family obligations to deal with. So I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. Plus, it was nice that the friends I had made were right there next to me on the mat, trail, or paddle board. My yoga practice benefitted greatly through my recreation. I became strong and active because I had a well-rounded practice. I didn't focus on just one form of exercise, I balanced it out through cardio, flexibility training, and strength building. 

Now, I've returned to real life where I do have jobs, obligations, and so do most of my friends. My activity level had waned, not to mention the freebies here in Columbus are significantly fewer in number. Time and money got in the way and well, to be honest, the polar vortexes of this winter has prevented me from wanting to go outside at all. My well-balanced exercise regime have declined. While I can do sun salutations without breaking a sweat, I didn't feel an overall strength anymore.

It's made me realize how beneficial cross-training is. One person can practice running forever until they win a marathon. But for me, I don't want to just win a marathon, I want to take a weekend off to go rock climbing, drop in on a yoga class, then try flipping myself through the air on a trapeze. But again, we come back to time and money. How can I continue my badassary if I don't have the means to do so yet?

One word: tabata. For those in the know who I've talked to, it basically strikes fear into their hearts. Really, I should be terrified of it as well but we're still going through that delicious honeymoon period where I'm all, "This only takes 20 minute and I've burned off that slice of cake I just shoved in my mouth!" and tabata's all like, "Aww, this girl's really into me even though everyone else is scared of me. We must have something real!" Give me a few more weeks, then we can talk.

Basically, tabata is like a high intensity interval training exercise. You do various exercises and plyometrics at high speed for 20 seconds with 10 second breaks in between for 4 minutes for a total of 4 rounds breaking for 1 minute in between. With me so far? To be fair, I'm still very new to this and don't know very much about it. However, I do know that it has been an awesome addition to my practice and it only takes about 30 minutes altogether with warm ups and cool downs. 

Here's the first tabata work out that I've ever tried and that got me hooked on this whole idea. I begin with a set of pretty vigorous sun salutations to stretch out my muscles and get my heart going. Any cardio exercise is fine, whether it's running, biking, or getting a heart attack. Just kidding. Then, I did two sets of each round, totaling in four sets with one minute breaks in between. 

A timer is necessary to help keep track. I use my regular iPhone stopwatch but there are special tabata apps that can help you. Set it for 4 minutes for the first set and do each exercise for 20 seconds, taking 10 second breaks in between. At the end of the first set, take a 1 minute break, then repeat the first set. Do again with the second round for two sets. 

Then cool off. I walk around a little bit to get my heart rate and my shaking legs, oh my shaking legs, back under control. Then, I finish off with some yoga poses that stretch out my hamstrings, quads, glutes, and side body. Pyramid pose, side triangle, half split (or full,) lizard, and low lunges are pretty good. 

Many tabatas vary slightly in timing and exercise. This is what works best for me and I've modified it with different exercises, adding weights, alternating abs moves to keep it well-rounded. Just a quick Google or a search on Pinterest will yield so many options. Plus, the weather is finally beginning to warm up, so that just means I get to take this outside and try some of the sprinting moves!

How do you keep yourself in shape and balanced? Do you cross-train or prefer to stick with one type of exercise?