Audrey At Home: Healthy Living Tips From The Classic Actress

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Dear Readers:

I had always known Audrey Hepburn as a classic actress with those amazing eyebrows, little black dresses, and the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in her later years.  Very recently, I read this article,written by her son, Luca Dotti,  which focused on his mother’s approach to wellness and living; two of the main themes in his new cookbook and memoir “Audrey At Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen.

When most of us think of Audrey, we think of a demure figure, somewhat of a waif, with a precocious pixie cut and wide-eyed wonder. What I was not aware of was her passion for life, deep kindness and natural attraction to health and wellbeing.  Not health in the aim of maintaining a slim figure or strengthening muscles, but in vitality and wholeness; she maintained a pure, organic guide towards inner health.  “She lives a healthy life because it made her happy,” says Dotti.
I found myself intrigued as I read the piece as I seemed to discover that I had far more in common with Ms. Hepburn that I had originally thought; ego much? Audrey opted for a natural, seasonal produce, back-to-basics life. As I get older (and I say that gently as I am twenty-six), I have less of an urge to live in the fast lane, but to have more of an appreciation for the natural aspects of life. I’m not a health freak, and I definitely splurge (often), but most of my life is led in a way that is positive for my mind and body.
After reading through the cookbook, Audrey at Home, I have discovered some beautiful one liners, and some fresh seasonal recipes that I am excited to share with you over the next couple of weeks.   In closing, I want to share a few of my favourite quotes in the book:
“I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls.”
‘I believe that laughter is the best calorie burner.”
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others.”
A healthy body, mind and soul.  Now, that’s truly beautiful.
Much Love,
Jo

Can Pickles Prevent Anxiety? New Research Says Yes

Pickles on Johanna May Irwin's blog for Johanna May Pilates in Sydney

Dear Readers:

If you have ever walked into a party solo only to find yourself in a near-panic at the thought of having to muster up the nerve to make small talk with a bunch of strangers, you know that social anxiety, even in small doses, can be downright debilitating.  Until now, those suffering had four choices; pop a pill (vitamin or prescribed), decline the invitation, go to the party, grab a huge glass of wine and hide in the bathroom all night or stand there (in a sweat), hoping the clock would move faster.

Well, apparently, you can now simply eat a pickle.

Yes, you read that right.

A study in the August issue of Psychiatry Research detailed research involving 710 college students that found that the probiotics in fermented foods (such as pickles, sauerkraut and yogurt) eases neuroticism.  As someone who has long been interested in the mind-gut connection, I am intrigued by these findings. In the past, studies have found that healthy bacteria in the gut  could have positive impacts on the mind, but this particular study found a link between the amount of fermented food consumption and the decrease of shyness and fear.

It may or may not be a miracle cure (I’m thinking not) but I love the the exploration of the body and mind connection on a nutritional level. For me, this study really reinforces my belief in paying attention to the foods we eat in a way that far exceeds caloric consumption; we truly can nourish ourselves and change our lives by making healthier choices.

And, I know you’re going to ask. Yes, beer is fermented. No, it was not on the list.

Much Love,

Jo

5 Ways To Sleep Better (and Make It To Your Morning Class Awake and On Time)

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Dear Readers:

If you have ever found yourself hitting the snooze button several times in a row only to finally pull yourself out of bed and attempt to gather up enough motivation to get your booty into your barre class, you know the importance of getting a solid night’s sleep. While there are some who can place their heads to their pillows and drift away without much effort, many others struggle with sleep issues. Bottom line: on a scale from 1-insomnia, most of us are tossing and turning in the middle. If you’re a part of our sometimes sleep-deprived pack, here are five ways to sleep better (and have a better morning workout, hint hint).

Put Your Electronics To Bed. Late night Instagramming (is that a word?) and texting might be loads of fun, but they can wreak havoc on your sleeping patterns. Numerous studies have shown the blue light emitted by electronics inhibits the production of melatonin which is needed to become sleepy.

Try This: Say goodnight to your iPhone, TV and computer an hour before bed. Take a hot bath or shower and crawl into bed and write in a diary or read a good book (as in a real book, or a magazine if you rely on an e-reader) before bed.

Monitor Your Caffeine Intake (and Not Just Coffee). Most of us know not to down a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee before bed, but how many times have you had a bit of chocolate or enjoyed a sip of soda only to lay wide awake in bed?  Caffeine, even in small doses, is a stimulant, so it’s best to enjoy it no less than four hours before bedtime.

Try This: Enjoy your mid-afternoon coffee, but try not to enjoy it past 1:00PM.  Caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours (the time it takes for ½ of the drug to be out of your system) and can stay in the body up to 18 hours.  See why that 3:00PM cup may not be such a great idea?

Watch Your Wine-Down’s. Titles aside, all alcohol impairs your sleep by reducing your REM which is why those who drink often wake up seriously groggy, even without being hungover.

Try This: Cut yourself off by 7:00PM, if possible.  Enjoy a glass of red or white with your dinner and then move onto seltzer.

Be Grateful For Winter: Well, cooler temps aren’t all bad. As it turns out, people tend to sleep better in cooler weather.

Try this: If possible keep your home in the 16-22 Celsius range as it is noted as the most beneficial for a good night’s sleep.

Schedule a Morning Workout: Ah, and we come full circle.  Studies have shown that physical activity too late in the evening can stimulate the body, making it harder to sleep.

Try This: Well, this seems obvious, but how about we do everything in the post, and if we notice a difference, we make a morning class a priority?

What is your best “sleep better” tip?  

Much Love,

Jo

Love The Skin You’re In: Health From The Inside Out

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Skin is your biggest organ and is often  a pretty good indicator of your overall general health. Stress levels, pain, sleep, digestion, hydration, mental health…we all deal with these struggles and they are right there for our skin to bare.

A common (and incredibly flattering) compliment I received recently was that my skin was looking nice. Trust me when I say that this has not always been the case. In fact, I used to break out constantly. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had a plethora of other skin issues to deal with. You name it and I will assure you that, at one time, I had it.

This all changed when I changed my diet.

After years of going back-and-forth with doctors, I began to accept  that it was “normal” to feel sick after eating (something that is completely unacceptable to me now). I finally figured out that I am lactose intolerant in the extreme and I have a weak gall bladder to boot. This means that I can have absolutely no dairy and must be very careful about the fats I consume.

Now, I am not saying that everyone should cut out a food group, that’s not the point. I am saying that we need to learn what works for our body and what does not. It is all too common for people to disassociate how they feel with what they have eaten when there is a vital connection.

In honor of boosting our health from the inside out, here are 10 great foods that will not only make you look good, but feel good.

 

Blueberries: These rich-coloured berries are ultimate immune-boosting food. Rich in antioxidants, blueberries have been shown to fight aging and memory loss.

Carrots: High in beta carotene, known to boost the immune system, inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lettuce and Salad Greens: Tangy varieties, such as chicory and endive stimulate the liver, making them great detoxifiers. Most lettuces contain valuable amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Beetroot: Bursting with minerals and boasting anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-boosting and detoxifying properties, this is indeed a “super” food .

Brazil Nuts: You only need to eat two or three a day to benefit from their great combination of immune-boosting nutrients: vitamin E, selenium and B vitamins.

Grapefruit: Grapefruit has immune-boosting, antiseptic, wound-healing and antibacterial properties. Please note: It may increase the effects of some medications, so be sure to check with your health provider before consuming if on meds.

Garlic: This potent food strengthens the heart and blood, and has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It’s also believed to help lower blood pressure. A key ingredient is allicin, which has cancer-fighting potential.

Avocado: Loaded with heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and carrying with it more potassium than a banana, this high (good) fat food is one of tastiest ways to lower cholesterol and give skin a beautiful glow.

Cranberries: Best known for helping to prevent and treat urinary tract infections(especially cystitis), in women, these sweet treats also maintain antifungal and antiviral properties.

Ginger: Not only it a great go-to for nausea, the flavorful food also boosts the immune system and circulation.


What are your favorite natural treats and remedies?

Much Love,

Jo

C’Mon, Guys, Get With The Program: A Day Teaching The Boys

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Dear Readers:

Many of you may not know that I hosted a special male-only class a couple of weeks ago.  Speaking candidly,  teaching the boys was fun, interesting and a little challenging, but mostly fun.  As they are all family, they definitely try things on a bit more, but for the most part, they were respectful.

In general, men who have not practiced Pilates before assume you lay on the floor and stretch. James, my brother-in-law, does Crossfit, Peace, my partner, is a kitesurfer, and John, AKA Dad,  is a golfer (and sometimes Pilates student). I am pleased to say that the boys picked up the idea of the class quite quickly. Even though the movements are small, they are definitely not understated. The class was really just a taste of Pilates but I feel like I’ve curbed their idea of Pilates to a more positive one. Read on for our post-class interview.

 

JM: When you were invited into the class, what was the first thing you thought?

James: “Uh, why am I doing this?”

Peace: “A few days before. I hope she doesn’t hurt me.”

John: “This is going to hurt.”

 

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JM: How did you view Pilates before the class?  Did you see it as Manly? Feminine?

James: “I never gave it a good thought. Maybe targeted for old women

Peace: “Neither. I had heard about it from girls and guys before.”

John: “Yep.”

 

JM: What did you expect the class to look, smell, feel like?

James: “A big open clean space for stretching and shit.”

Peace: “A clean room with strange looking machines. No smell.”

John: “Felt just dandy.”

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What surprised you the most?

James: “The actual burn in my muscles.”

Peace: “How hard it was to isolate certain muscles correctly.”

John: “How much it hurt.”

 

JM: Did anything funny happen while you were in the class?

James: “I couldn’t quite master the jump on the surfboard. And Johns moans and groans.”

Peace: “A lot of lost balance, which requires concentration, which is pretty hard when laughing.”

John: “Rutty and Peace.”

 

JM: Did you experience any “why did I sign up for this” moments?

James: “No actually enjoyed it.”

Peace: “Yes, about 9 years ago…”

John: “No way I was too busy trying not to think of how bad I was hurting.”

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JM: How did you feel post-class? Were you euphoric? Sore?

James: “I felt pretty good. Nice and limber.”

Peace: “Energised, not sore, but feeling a little burn.”

John: It hurt.

 

JM: What would be your best advice for men looking into Pilates?

James: “Get involved.”

Peace: “If you are getting repeat injuries doing the thing/s you love. Definitely give pilates a shot.”

John: Come with a heap of pain killers!

 

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JM: Did you feel competitive with the other men in the class?
James: “Not at all. I was clearly the athlete in the class.”

Peace: “Not really, Jo is the least competitive person in the world, not allowed. Plus we do different things a lot of the time.”

John: “No other way round.”

 

JM: Finally, Would you do it again?

James: “ Yes, For sure.”

Peace: “Do I have a choice?”

John: Absolutely.

 

Detox Blog: Wine: 1; Detox: 0

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Dear Readers,

So, as you know, I told myself that I would go 30 days sans alcohol. Apparently, I told myself a slight white lie (about white wine). The good news is that I am going longer without it than ever before. The bad news is that I still haven’t gone a full week…yet. Read below for the weekly round-up (no judgements).

 

Day #8

Monday is a great day for me. As I only teach a half day, I actually have the place to myself on the evenings. This usually involves a tub, a trashy TV show and a glass of wine. I’m doing all of that minus the wine. Starting the week off fresh feels good and I am feeling motivated!

 

Day #9

I went out to dinner with friends, all of them intent on knocking back a few during the meal. I am pleased to report that I had no real desire to join in. Could it possibly have been the $5 bottle of “chilled red” wine that turned me right off? Perhaps. I also found out that half of the dinner party guests were restricted to their bed and feeling horrible for most of the next day. There may just be something yet to this non drinking thing…

 

Day #10

Ah, The vicious Hump Day desire. So far so good (although it is only 9.30am).  I feel like this process is getting easier. I even booked a private Pilates class for myself to help keep my focus. Feeling good!

Update: I went out to dinner this evening and am sitting here, at a bar, with no desire to drink…yet.

 

Day #12

Ok, the jig is up. I want a glass of wine. In fact, I would love one. I am, however, getting into the whole not drinking during the week”. I feel like that is a healthy habit to continue. Having a glass of wine is like a treat for me. I’m missing my treat. No, seriously, I want my treat.

 

Day #13

So, as you probably guessed based on the last diary entry, I slipped once again. I went away to my parents holiday house and had  a nice cold glass of white wine placed in front of me. What can I say? I caved. I did, however, last two days longer this week round! That counts for something, right? As I am aiming for 30 days with no booze, i might be adding a few extra days onto this detox.

 

How do you feel about my progress? Are any of you keen to do this with me?

 

The Detox Blog: Can I Go 30 Days Without Alcohol? No. 29? Maybe.

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So, I have decided to do the impossible, folks. I have decided to make an attempt to stop drinking for an entire month.  As in thirty days.  As in 730.484 hours. As in no alcohol.  Since I feel a public proclamation will aid in my success in this venture, I have decided to blog about my journey. Please find the entries for week one below (and check in every Tuesday to read about my progress).

Cheers!

JMP

Day #1

My family and I celebrated early Christmas and my partner had a work function which meant my weekend went something like this: Roast Pork, potatoes, Christmas ham, wine, champagne, more wine, bread and more wine. My body feels. well, truly dusty. It’s only November, and well, silly season is truly upon us. With the endless Christmas parties and end-of-the-year celebrations, its easy to let things creep up on you. I have never taken an extended break from alcohol but I am feeling determined.  My partners family is coming over for dinner tonight. This should get interesting.


Day #3

Hump Day nearly killed me. After one hell of a day, I would have loved (loved) a glass of wine. Instead, I went to sleep at 9PM. Fortunately, a nice glass of wine and sleep are pretty much on the same desirable level for me.

 

Day #5

I have to say, I am feeling pretty fresh over here (if I do say so myself).  Again, I enjoyed lots of sleep and and didn’t have to teach until 9AM which is quite a late start for me. I woke up at 5:30AM still feeling well-rested.  I am feeling pretty confident. Later Update:  It all happened so fast, I swear. I met a friend at a cocktail bar before a movie on a very hot day and well, I failed. So many bad choices. I have to say that I did love that ice cold glass of riesling. Let’s see how the weekend goes…


Day #6 & 7

Ah (AKA Augh), my first booze-free weekend in quite some time. It’s not easy, but I’ve got an early morning Booty Barre class booked for 8am Sunday morning’s for the next month. Hopefully, that will steer me away from trouble.   We shall see…

 

Have you ever done a month-long detox? Could you ever do one?

 

 

Intimidated By Pilates? Three Things To Know

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You Think: The equipment Looks Like Medieval Torture Devices, Or a Scene Out of Fifty Shades of Gray.

OK, I will admit that if you have never seen the equipment before, it can be intimidating. But, as with anything, knowledge is power. Once you get a solid overview and understanding of the mechanics behind each design (which a good instructor will share with you) you will see that the equipment is not there to bring harm (or kink), but there to support and challenge your body. You will then extend and bend into places you didn’t think you could go.
 

You Think: Why Does My Teacher Keep Poking and Prodding Me?

Many moons ago, I had a client who was an old golfing friend of my dad’s. Dad came into the studio to have a session, only to see me touching his mate Rodger’s arse. The horrified look on his face will forever be etched into my mind.  The bottom line:Your instructor will often use hands on cues to get the muscles activating at the right time. As it can be quite hard to juggling all the mental cues in your head, your instructor’s hand are there to help guide the way.

You Think: It Is Quite Personal.

Even before you get moving, the initial questionnaire is pretty full-on. Asking about digestive issues, current exercise routine (note: most people lie in this section) and birthing processes.  I recently had a client’s husband come in for his assessment the other day. He was very curious about the women’s-only section. He was specifically interested in a question relating to incontinence,  which he did not understand. While it might be difficult to share certain items, the more open and honest you are, the more your instructor will know about you and your body —and the the more you are going to benefit from your sessions. 
Were you intimidated in your initial sessions? If so, share your best advice for newbies below!

Feeling Bloated? Pilates Can Help.

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by Johanna May Irwin

These days, it seems that mostly everyone suffers from some kind of digestive discomfort.  I am no exception. Having been diagnosed with IBS at the age of 12, I know all about bloating, believe me! Although my symptoms have eased over time thanks to dietary changes, cutting out all lactose, and reduced wheat, I still have a sensitive stomach.

The good news is that I have found that practicing Pilates really does ease my discomfort.

 

Here are three wonderful ways Pilates aids digestion.

 

The Breath

Throughout class, you are instructed to breath laterally. This allows your lungs to fill up to their greatest capacity. Not only does deep breathing help relax the mind and body–anxiety and stress are directly related to digestive issues– but each deep breath stimulates the internal organs, including the heart.

When the heart gets going, circulation is increased and you get fresh blood coursing through the body. This carries oxygen and nutrients to every cell while also removing waste products. Deep breathing is your easiest and most available internal cleansing mechanism.

Abdominal Strength

There is a strong abdominal focus in Pilates. This is important as the abdominal system supports the spine and the surrounding organs, including your digestive system.  Thus these exercises activate the core which engages and increases blood flow around the area.

Spine Extension

IBS sufferers often find themselves living with a closed front body, or poor hunched posture.  Don’t get down on yourself if you can relate to this; this is a protective instinct. In every Pilates class you will work on extending your spine which will allow your abdominals to stretch out, and creates a sense of space in the area. This space is essential for digestive comfort and reducing bloating.


Do you suffer from IBS or another digestive disorder? If so, have you found refuge in Pilates? Share your story below.