Thursday, 29 November 2012

Base Knowledge - The First

As a few of you know, I have been going over older ground over the past 18 months and looking at Aromatherapy; an art form of massage that I have not looked at since I left college about 10 years ago. I have been reading around it, taking a distance learning course covering the basics of blending with Stonebridge College, and looking at some workshops in order to get my brain back in tune with this fantastic form of therapy.

I wanted to start writing some blogs about Aromatherapy that you and I can drip in to every so often in order for a mini-series to develop over the next few months, allowing you to learn a little more about this ancient art.

These blogs are not aimed at telling you how to blend oils, use them on yourself, family or friends, or give you the techniques to practice. It is just aimed at giving you background knowledge so that you can identify with your therapist in a deeper manner. If you are interested in the subject, please look to your local education providers so that you can learn how to use these tools safely, as they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

So where do we start? Do we start with the story of ancient Egyptian wall art depicting the use of oils? Do we look to the Bible and where each book therein tells us how oils, herbs and blends are used? Shall we cover the history of the East and how their techniques of distilling essences travelled West so that we, too, could benefit from what they had to offer? Well, I would love to look at that aspect, but I actually want to look at the oils with you and work out some basic principles for Aromatherapy so that we can plainly see why it is so beneficial to the body.

Base Knowledge is going to be three blogs looking at some of the base oils that we use in Aromatherapy. These are oils derived from vegetables, nuts, seeds or maceration and all contain unique qualities to help aid the body. In this blog we will be looking at two vegetable oils which are commonly found in many Massage Therapist's treatment rooms; Avocado and Olive Oil. I have chosen these two oils to write about as they are both very good for the treatment of what I personally call 'Winter Skin'. Skin that has become brittle, dry and dehydrated.

Base oils are also known as Carrier Oils. The reason is that they carry the essential oils and allow the essences that the therapist chooses for you to enter the skin in a safe, dispersed and easy way. The skin is semipermeable, meaning that the body allows things in as well as gets things out through the skin. When the base oil is massaged into the skin the it allows the Essential Oils to enter the body through the blood stream within 20 - 70 minutes after application, and their effect can last up to 48 hours.

Always ask for Virgin Cold Pressed Oils where at all possible.

  • Virgin means that the oils have been collected after it's first initial press, rather than being overly processed (maybe up to three times or more). 
  • Cold Pressed means that the oil has not been heated over 60 degrees centigrade. Any higher and some of the nutrients may be stripped out of the oil, leaving the oil less potent and acceptable for therapeutic purposes. Machine Pressed also offers these benefits as well. 
It is never acceptable for your Massage Therapist to use any oil that they have picked up from the super market. (I have had a Therapist blend an oil for me who happily used an economy brand sunflower oil from her local superstore, I was horrified.) You are paying them for a professional service and that includes the best oils that they can source, not a cheap oil that may have been dyed, stripped and heat blasted.

Olive Oil

This thick, green, rich oil is taken rather for granted in our kitchens I think. It is a fantastic nourisher, feeding our skin with numerous vitamins including A, C and E. Vitamin E is the one that we are most interested in at this time of year when we think about helping the skin as it helps chronic dehydration in the skin. Used on its own, I personally find it rather thick and heavy during a massage and I can't think of when I would use it without blending it with another oil, normally Sweet Almond Oil. You will still get all the benefits from the Olive Oil from the this blending process, added with those of the Sweet Almond (which are mainly that it is light, fairly easy to work with and provide a high amount of vitamin A).

The smell that some people find Olive Oil has can be strong, but never so much that it takes away from the blend of the essences during a massage. It's defiantly an oil to have on hand to help anyone with a dryer, thinner skin, so it can also help those with less collagen and elastin in the skin. This type of skin can be super sensitive to touch and will need a rich oil to allow the therapist's hands to glide over the skin to help calm agitated nerve endings. I find that even when I need to use a lot of oil for a client, I can still effectively treat Trigger Points and muscular based tension; it just takes a bit more focus and that can never be a bad thing!

Avocado Oil

Now this really is a thick, gloopy, fun oil and I love it as it is so rich in Vitamin E! Not only does it help 'Winter Skin' but it is perfect for eczema sufferers as it deeply nourishes the skin, (although beware, never use it on broken skin). When it is cold pressed and at its premium it shimmers a deep green. When heat has been passed through it the colour is more a pale yellow and not something to bother with as far as a therapeutic product is concerned. Again, for an aging skin it is a dream to work with, giving bounce to the skin and in winter it is a must due to it's trace element; Vitamin D. We don't get much sun in the winter here in the U.K, so make sure you get enough in your diet to balance the lack of it in nature.

This is another oil that I would blend with Sweet Almond Oil as it needs to be loosened as it can be too thick to glide on the skin for a massage treatment. It is under-rated by therapists I feel as it can stain sheets. However when used it gives the client a very comfortable skin and is a fantastic carrier for any essence blend during the treatments.

I hope this has given you a clear view of two of my top Base Oils for the winter and that we can carry on from here. Next time in the series I will take you through some Base Oils that are derived from nuts and seeds and then we can look into some quite chunky macerated oils.

Of course, I have used some great books to help with this series of blogs and they are:
Essential Oils by Susan Curtis (Neal's Yard Remedies Publishing)
Aromatherapy An A-Z by Patricia Davis (Daniel Publishing)
The Art Of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand (Daniel Publishing).

Happy reading!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tai Chi And My Misconceptions.

Coffee at Cafe Mila
I think I have mentioned before that I really enjoy going to Cafe Mila in Godalming and how it is linked with the Yoga Vita Studio. To be honest, I am much better at drinking James' coffee than I am attending any of the classes, but when I saw that they were starting a new class on a Thursday morning, I felt that I really needed to give it a try.

Tai Chi is often used at Jing to start the day before the learning begins, so my past experience of 'flapping my arms around' has just been to wake my body up a bit before we used to hit the anatomy books. I was also taught how to use a couple of standing stances and ways of moving around the massage couch that were loosely based on Tai Chi. Loosely is the word.

So a couple of days ago I asked David, (my husband and long standing sufferer of my many fads,) what he thought of me doing a Tai Chi class. His response was that if I wanted to do some mystic dancing and channel some spiritual stuff around my body, go ahead and see how it goes.

Between my arm flapping and his mystic dance we couldn't have been more wrong about Tai Chi.

All 4 look as if they are different, but all are moving perfectly
for their own bodies. Not jarring any joints; just flowing. 
My lesson was led by Debbie Heaney and there was 3 of us in her class at Yoga Vita this morning. The first thing that struck me was how she emphasized the idea that we are simply there to move our energy in sequence; there is no perfect way and the only thing we should think about is the quality of our movement, not that we are doing it perfectly. We should not think about doing it 'right', we should just move in a way that is comfortable to our own body; so if we need to sit on a chair to do it, then we sit. If we can walk, we walk. If we can't lift our arms up, we just do what we can.

Tai Chi is a martial art! It was very surprising to me that such a fluid looking form of movement is a combative art that can be traced back more than 4,000 years. As we move, we encourage the Chi energy to flow around the meridians of our body. Debbie used Chi Gung with the Tai Chi so that the harmony between our health and well-being was balanced.

I really enjoyed my hour learning how to move with more thought and tuning in to my body a bit more. I like the way that there are no positions that we have to 'hit' perfectly, there isn't any pressure on the joints and that there is power behind the moves. It was paced to a very steady tempo and it helped calm my mind whilst leaving me with a sense of achievement and energy to get on with the rest of my day.

No arm flapping, mystic spiritual dancing or chanting ... In one hour all misconceptions fell apart. I love that the most!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Skin Care Routines ...

Good morning!

This month I have had a couple of really good chats in the treatment room about skin care routines. Let's face it; they are boring. Every day we have to fix our face in the morning and evening and then a Therapist turns round and says, 'Oh Honey, you are missing a vital step! You also need to make time for exfoliation and a face pack twice a week!'.

Oh boy. The amount of times I have heard my own advice given back to me by my Skin Care Therapist and my heart has sunk. Doesn't she know how stressed I am? Doesn't she realize that I have dead lines, a house to organize, people to see, a life to live and a business to run?! Well, it's time we stop procrastinating and face the fact that if we want great skin, we have to make routines that work for us.

A routine is only as good as the person doing it.


Sun Rise From Our Balcony Jan 2012.
The morning is a great time to face the day and if you are Fly Baby like I am, you'll know that FlyLady gets us to dress to shoes before the day starts so that we are ready for anything! Well, if your skin is not clean, fresh and moisturized you are not going to be ready and you'll have sleepy-dust crusted around your eyes ... It's not a good look.

So in the morning we need to do a few simple things in that can be done in the shower and then when we have brushed our teeth.

  1. Cleanse your face properly! Use a Pre-Cleanse that will help you to remove all the excess oil based debris, including night creams, on the skin. Rinse it off and follow with your cleanser which will remove all the water based debris the clings to the skin. 
  2. This is optional, but I use my Daily Microfoliant at this point instead of at night as I find that it buffs my skin wonderfully and preps it for moisturizers and make-up. 
  3. Hop out of the shoer and quickly spritz 3 pumps of your chosen hydrator on you your skin. 
  4. Pop a Spf 15 Eye Cream around those peepers to help protect them from the aging UVA, UVB, and Infra-Red rays. 
  5. Moisturize! Make sure you are using at least a Spf 30 during the day and that the cream is hydrating for you. 
Then your make-up is optional, but you know you have the best start to the day and you have prepped your skin and done the best you can for it. Honestly those five steps done each morning, including washing my hair and body (including moisturizing it), doing my bathroom Swish and Swipe and doing teeth and eyebrows takes 15mins. Any more and I would be bored ... life is too short to spend any longer in a bathroom each morning! 


The 'Night-Time Routine' needs to be re-branded as an evening routine. There is no law that says that you have to do your skin care routine just before you go to bed. If you have little ones, why not do your skin care whilst you are in the bathroom with them as they splash and play with their rubber ducks? If you are like me and don't have kids, why don't you do it when you get in from work at 7? The point is that if you want to take care of your skin on a daily basis the timing has to work for you and you only, so look at your evening routines and see where this will EASILY fit in to your life. 

  1. Cleanse your skin with Pre-Cleanse and follow with your skin cleanser. (You need to do this for precisely the same reasons as in the morning and this time your Pre-Cleanse will also get rid of the makeup for you). 
  2. Spritz your skin with three pumps of your skin hydrator. 
  3. Pop a nourishing eye cream that will help target your own personal eye care issues. (Mine is always dryness!)
  4. Use a great quality overnight serum or cream that will help your skin to radiate. Why bother with a different cream at night? Simple; your skin repairs itself at night and so whilst your skin cells are working overtime, nourish them with targeted treatments that matter to you. Use the time that you are asleep to get these great creams working ... Why waste the time just sleeping?! 
Now, for my personal battle. Finding time to exfoliate and masque. 

For years I procrastinated over this as I didn't see how I was going to get all my other stuff done around the house if I did a exfoliation and face pack twice a week as it would take half an hour (my exfoliator sets and needs 10mins before my masque!!). I realized that I could do 10mins of ironing whilst the first part was on, go wash it off and slap a face pack on with very little effort, go back for 15mins of ironing and then pack the ironing up, take the face pack off and then nourish my skin with my night time serum. There ... 2 jobs in one ... Fantastic skin and no ironing pile building up. 

So, what if you have kids. Simple. If you are doing your evening routine when they are playing in the bath, just carry on your routine of reading them a bed time story and tucking them up with your face pack on! They will think it is a hoot and you'll have great skin. What more can we ask for? Laughter and skin health. It's all good. 

So, I hope that this has helped you see that skin care doesn't have to be so precious and you have the power to buck the advertising trends and make it your own. 

As a final note, I know all the links here are to Dermalogica, but I hope that you will understand that Cornerstone Therapies has had a fantastic relationship with them for 9 years . There is nothing else that I would want on my skin and I passionately believe that it's the best professional product range for you too! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Happy, Healthy Crafting.

Good morning!

As many of you know I am a bit of a crafter; nothing special, I just enjoy faffing! I am currently knitting, printing, sewing and binding  up a few Christmas gifts and one of them is rather a large project. On Sunday I knitted for about three hours and yesterday I cracked on with some rather repetitive ribbing and accomplished five hours.

So, I hear you ask, apart from telling us all you have far too much time on your hands, why are you telling us?

Well, I know a few crafty people and all of them suffer from static induced aches and pains and so I thought I would put a 'First Aid Box' together for all of you who are wanting to stay fit and healthy for the up coming Holiday Season!

Start as you mean to go on!

The first thing to do is to make sure you have all the bits and pieces that you need for your crafting session together in one place. Write a list of what you need to accomplish the task, get the bits onto the table and arrange them so that they are near at hand. Also, on this list write one thing that you would like to see finished today and one bonus item. That way you are less likely to get sidetracked and stick to the point, which will leave you feeling more in control and mentally happier when you can come to the end and see that you have finished what you set out to do.

Get the blood flowing. 

Once everything is together, make sure that you spend 15 minutes moving; I like Darcey Bussell's 'Pilates For Life', as it has a 15 minute routine for me to do and it gets me motivated, blood circulating and I know I am starting with a healthy body. Or you can go for a walk up and down the road and allow yourself to get your thoughts in order before you start your play-time!

Hydrate your creativity.

Pour yourself a glass of water, or make a cup of herbal tea. You need to keep hydrated whilst you play, so make sure there is always some at hand. I know if there is a tricky cable pattern I need to do I am more likely to miss this step as I am deep in thought, but knowing it is just by me makes me able to take small sips as I go.

Take a break and stretch out.

Now, for this part I use my phone, but if you have an oven timer or a buzzer you can use that too. Set your timer for an hour and when it goes, put down what you are doing and walk around a bit. I try to make sure I go to the kitchen and fill up my water glass, play with the cat, look out the window and do some gentle arm and neck stretches for then minutes before I get back to the task.

This time is important as it helps with hydration, allows your muscles to move around in a non-static manner, gives your brain time to reassess where the project is going and for your eyes to stretch and the muscles around them to re-engage with the full distant stare. Close work can bring on headaches simply due to this part not being done.

Multi-task and indulge. 

Use this time to read! I indulge myself with reading as I knit and cannot advocate the special world of Audiobooks enough. I am enjoying 'Brideshead Revisited' at the moment and it's always a personal joy to me to see things I have made and remember which actor/reader read to me as I created something special. (Last year I quilted a set of hot pink cushions with Liberty print for my living room and Philip Frank read me Margery Allingham's Albert Campion Mysteries!)

Take it easy.

Never do more than a five hour crafting day if your craft is a hobby. You need to keep it special and any more than five hours I feel is too much on the body and mind. Don't forget to eat! Lunch is vital as you don't want to get a sugar dip and feel drowsy just as you are getting to the home straight in the afternoon!

Finish up and celebrate YOU!

Make sure you pack up really well. Put everything back in it's right home, clear the area (which for me includes a quick vacuum if I have been dress making as the threads get everywhere!), and fix yourself a good healthy snack. Enjoy what you have accomplished today! Have a 'GO ME' moment for all you have achieved.

Ease it all out. 

Now take time to move again. If you went for a walk before you began, go for another and see how the light is different now the day is closing. Enjoy the colors on the tress and the cool air on your skin. If you are a stretching kind of person, maybe do another Pilates session for 15 minuets. If you want to pump some blood, bounce on a mini-tramp/re-bounder for 10mins. Movement will nourish your brain, soul and body so you are ready for next time you craft.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Daily Microfoliant

Hello All,

Today is just a quick blog as I have had a few people ask how and why they should be using Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant and if it is safe to use every day. Well, instead of me telling you why I think it is one of my top 3 products, I thought I would let Dr. Diana Howard (who heads up product formulation at Dermalogica), and Jane Wurwand , (who set the company), tell you what it's all about!

Click this video to see Dr Diana Howard explain the ingredients and technology behind Daily Microfoilant:

Click this video to see how and why you should start incorporating it into your daily skin care regime:

I hope it all helps and that you find the joy of radiant, hydrated, glowing skin!

Monday, 5 November 2012

It's Not Stopping!

Hello, I hope that you all had a good weekend. If you are here in the U.K I hope that you enjoyed Bonfire Night with a bang! We had a good time at Godalming Town Bonfire with my brother, David's cousin and some great friends. We were all wrapped up with our welly-boots on and up to our ankles in mud, but a great evening was had.

Todays posting is all about Skin Care Therapy and its role within Cornerstone Therapies.

Many of you know that I have been involved with Skin Care Therapy for around 13 years now and I have been a keen supported, advocate and user of Dermalogica for around a decade. There have been a lot of questions asked within the treatment room over the past two weeks about whether I am about to stop offering Skin Care as part of the core approach within Cornerstone Therapies now that I have finished my Advanced Clinical and Sports Massage Therapy course. I can understand why people are asking, but there is a simple answer:


I would never stop offering great Skin Care Therapy to my clients as I firmly believe that looking after your largest organ is paramount to a healthy mind, body and soul. I wrote a blog earlier in the year called 'Holistic Anger', which really states my argument for great skin and massage as a combined approach to Bodywork, so you can click on the link to read more.

Dermalogica has changed their education system in the U.K this year and are now offering a 'Skin Expert' course at the International Dermal Institute and I am pleased to let you know that I will be popping up to head-office as soon as the new year roles around so I can learn more about every aspect of the skin's wonderful process of living! I'm looking forward to learning new tricks of the trade, new approaches to dealing with dysfunctional skin barriers, helping to ease the aging process and combating dull, lackluster skin. All the knowledge is there to be grasped and I look forward to grabbing it with both hands!

There are also some wonderful new products to look forward to in the 2013; new foundations, primers and tinted moisturizers ... I have had a sneek peek and I have fallen in love with the Skin Primer!

So fret not; Skin Care Therapy is still at the heart of Cornerstone Therapies and it won't be going anywhere!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

It's All Over

Hello Readers,

It's all over. After meeting Rachel Fairweather and the Jing Institute of Advanced Massage in May 2008, and starting along a very long road of study, I have finally finished my B-Tech Level 6!

I actually finished a month ago tomorrow and then I took two weeks of holiday. During that time my brother, Robin, helped me work through my study, my treatment room and our living room. We sorted out all the old lecture notes, anatomy books, physiology concepts and sorted them out into two piles of 'Bin' and 'Keep'. We took the old, huge, pine desk that had seen me through all the studies over the past 13 years and swapped it for a lovely little one from The Futon Company, which has made my study seem very fresh and new. We swapped bookcases from my parent's home and put them in my living room and added some new ones to the study and took about 20 bags of books to the charity shop. The computer was cleared of all the old notes, ideas and 'stuff' that had accumulated and was just taking up hard-drive space and files where stripped out with only the best knowledge kept. Space was cleared, washed, refreshed and now I am surrounded by things that I love, want to keep and fill my life with at the moment.

It was a deep cleansing process over days and I can safely say that although there was a lot of tears with letting go of what was once so dear, I am now grasping hold of a fresh part of a new life!

Little things are making me so happy. David and I no longer have a homework schedule pinned to the fridge, but I have a great note book filled with the research that I want to do on my own for the next three months with no pressure or deadlines ... I can take a year over it if I want to ... or I can do it in a week ... it doesn't matter as I can just enjoy the trip.

I have been thinking a lot about the blog and wondering whether I should take it down and start a new one, but for now I am happy to be blogging away and having you guys get in touch as and when. It may change in a few months, but I'm not sure yet, so we shall enjoy this for now.

One thing is for sure; I am taking a lead out of my best friend's book. Laura is a stunning embroiderer and her work is amazing! But Laura is also very good at blogging, posting one on a weekend and then another on a Wednesday. Her blog, Mason Bee, is really worth a good look and her shop is just sublime! For all those who have admired the Peacock near my front door, she is the creative star behind it. I am going to try my best and post on a Monday and a Thursday, keeping it short and sweet and maybe picking themes of the month.

So; now I can enjoy the amazing job that I have which is looking after you guys! I can't think of a better reason to get out of bed in the morning!

I look forward to blogging more and chatting with you in the future.

Happy days!

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