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Back to Basics

Holistic Living Made Easy with 9 Amazing Eco-Women

Published by Gabriella Volpe of Green Home Today Editorial Consultant: Heather Astorga

Inside Introduction by Gabriella Volpe ..................................................3 The Basics of Eco-Fashion: Or 7 Ways to Be a Conscious Shopper by Annching Wang .........................................................4 Green Decorating by Maggie Morgan ......................................8 Handmade? Who Cares by Patty Bachorz .............................10 Three Ways to Ease Into Eco-Friendly Cleaning by Stephanie Housman ........................................................................................13 Know Your Food by Nikki Gerlach .............................................16 Healthy Eating the Ayurvedic Way by Subhadra Allard .......19 Healing the Body, Mind and Spirit With Reiki by Suzanne McRae ...........................................................................................25 Just Breathe: Yoga and the Power of Breath by Krystyna Szadkowska....................................................................................27 Considering Consciousness by Heather Astorga ....................29

Back to Basics: Holistic Living Made Easy with 9 Amazing Eco-Women Visit Gabriella at or email Š 2013 Green Home Today ~ Gabriella Volpe ~


INTRODUCTION to. Natural is not a religion. It's actually a science. If natural was not truly effective, humankind would have ceased to exist long ago.

I was once told, "I don't believe in natural products." My first thought was: It's not a religion. As much as we think that the green movement is new and trendy (and questionable), I am sure our ancestors are amused.

Life was simple back then, and it was natural.

While our generation needs to be trained to use the laundry line, cloth diapers, garden, and to accept hand-me-downs without shame, our previous generations knew nothing else. They canned and reused handmade cloth bibs - stains and all. They did not have a too-big house to store electronic and paper clutter. Water did not magically come from bottles. Harmful prescription medication was not pushed down their throats. They never freshened the air with hanging pine-scented trees. And, they certainly didn't grab a box out of the freezer and call it a meal.

This book came about from a blog series I felt needed to be shared. It’s about going back to basics. On the following pages, you’ll find some of the most inspiring articles from nine influential women. You’ll find everything from shopping consciously for clothing to decorating eco-style; from handmade know-how to eco-friendly cleaning. You’ll get a taste of what it means to dabble in healthy eating and healthy baking. You’ll also learn how to heal the body, mind and spirit with Reiki while ridding the body of stress with yoga and breath. The final article sums it all up and leaves you with a call-to-action on your natural, ecohealthy journey.

Life was simple back then, and, it was natural. Vinegar was used to disinfect, and essential oils and herbs were used to heal. Plots of land were used to grow food, and scrap fabrics were used to make dolls.

This book has been created to make holistic living simple and approachable so that you can start with one thing today. May you be inspired to live an eco-healthy life.

Our ancestors didn't use words like "ecoconscious" or "environmentally friendly" or "natural" because they didn't need to. Everything was eco-friendly and virtually non-toxic - and everything was natural.

Gabriella Volpe

There was no need to believe in natural living. It was just a way of life. Our ancestors' fundamental belief was that everything they needed to survive was naturally provided by Mother Earth.

Creator and Writer at Green Home Today (Feel free to share this ebook with your tribe.)

To all those who say they don't believe in natural products - luckily, they don't have


Photo credit: Annching Wang

THE BASICS OF ECO FASHION: OR 7 WAYS TO BE A CONSCIOUS SHOPPER BY ANNCHING WANG Living a conscious lifestyle can not happen if you don’t take care of the thing that’s closest to you every single day: what you wear. Many people recycle, bike, eat organic, and are otherwise at least trying to live in a way that is better for the environment, but seem to be missing out when it comes to our closets, which are often overbrimming with stuff, or lack the love that our expression of personal style deserves. Fashion can be intimidating, and it is a world that some would rather not associate with, so instead you just pick up the cheapest thing you can find at the mall to get it over with, or you just end up hating your clothes and “giving up”. At the end of the day, living a green lifestyle is all about awareness and making


conscious decisions as a whole - but remember that perfection is not the aim (progress is). There is a whole world of conscious fashion out there waiting for people to discover, so here are 7 ways to start dipping your toes in conscious fashion:

1. Buy local. Did you know that .68 of every dollar spent in a locally owned business stays within the community, while only .43 stays when you spend at a chain? Might not add up when you’re counting cents, but when you think about the millions of dollars consumers spend, it really makes millions of a difference in the local community. Aside from the obvious economic benefits, buying locally made fashion means that your one item did not have to travel all the way around the world to get to you. Just because it’s made locally, doesn’t mean that every part is - but the point is, at any step in the process, if you can offset the cost of emissions caused by transportation, it’s better than your one item jumping through hoops the entire world over to get to you.

2. Buy organic. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the entire world. Put together a society that buys way more than we need, and crops such as cotton that require a lot of pesticides to grow, and we get hazardous risks to both our health and our planet. Toxic chemicals used in the production of apparel end up in the water, and are extremely hazardous to the people who rely on that water source. Literally, what we buy here can be killing people on the other side of the world. Choosing organic cotton and other fibres that require fewer pesticides (such as hemp), and buying natural fibres whenever we can (instead of synthetics that are often coated with hazardous chemicals) makes a difference.

3. Buy independent. Some of the biggest players in the fashion industry are also the worst when it comes to their impact on the environment. Putting our dollars towards small businesses with a commitment toward change is a vote towards social responsibility, and collectively if enough people send this message, the big players will have to sit up and take notice - after all, they want our money. Etsy has cropped up as one of the best places in my opinion to find independent designers. What I like to do is figure out what I want first, then search it up, and go from there instead of wading through pages and pages of stuff. And remember to favorite companies and products you like, otherwise, you might never find them again!


4. Buy fair trade. Fair trade fashion is a business model that’s transparent in their supply chain, and relies on a relationship between supplier and manufacturer that includes fair living wages, working conditions, and often, ongoing community support. Sounds infinitely better than the way most apparel companies are run today, which is focused on bringing as much as possible to people, as cheap as they possibly can - which often means sacrificing things like basic human rights.

5. Buy secondhand/vintage.

Many of the clothes that are being made now don’t even biodegrade meaning once they’re thrown away, they stick

Recycling works for fashion too. I recently went on a shopping trip with one of the directors of Eco Fashion Week here in Vancouver and we hit up a secondhand fashion market, a vintage sale, and two secondhand shops in one day. I spent $63.55 and came out with my entire summer wardrobe. The key is to check for quality, spend a little time going through the racks, and buy pieces that you can incorporate into your existing wardrobe. I am now an official convert!

6. Buy less.

The biggest problem I see in today’s world is that we consume too much. The funny thing is, we convince ourselves that it’s the norm to do so. Do you really need another tshirt? Do you really need that top all the magazines say is the season’s hottest trend? Maybe. But maybe not. Look into your closet: how much is still hanging there, with the tags still on? And to go beyond that, what we don’t see are the massive landfills, much of which is filled with clothing, many times perhaps only worn once. And worse, many of the clothes that are being made now don’t even biodegrade - meaning once they’re thrown away, they stick around, as waste.

around, as waste.

7. Buy slow. Fast fashion reigns our fashion landscape, and it parallels the way many of us live life today: always on the go, with a mindset of disposability. It’s cheap, convenient, and there’s lots of it. As a fashion designer, this may seem counterintuitive to say, but I think if we practice awareness,


Photo credit: Annching Wang

find ethical brands that we love and will wear, and buy less, we would actually save both time and money - and gain more freedom from the lifestyle of shopping or the constraints of not feeling our personal best when we’re wearing clothes that don’t look or feel good. So take the time to find brands that really resonate with you aesthetically and philosophically you’ll find that when you really love what you have, you don’t need a lot of it, and you’ll stop paying attention to “trends”. And the world starts to slow down, in a good way.

So there you have it. 7 ways to do it, all different, none better than the rest, all ways of being more conscious about what you put on your body. What I like to do is challenge myself. First I cut out all fast fashion. 10 months and counting - check. Then, I start actively looking. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found. One of my favorite new sites is Fashioning Change, a company that promotes ethical fashion designers and brands and compares them against brands most of us know well and wear, demonstrating that ethical fashion can be stylish and often cost less than designer brands.

Start there, start anywhere. But start. The question isn’t “Can I afford to shop consciously?” It’s “How can I find ways to take steps towards shopping consciously?” Sometimes, it starts with one real, good hard look into your closet.

Annching Wang is the creator of, an editorial and retail concept bringing a fresh perspective on life and style beyond the big box and fast lane. Contributor to Huffington Post and featured on, the former fashion designer gave up a world of glitz and fast-paced glamour to slow down and seek happiness and fulfillment out of the box - in the timeless, essential, raw and true. Follow her on Twitter for daily inspiration at @annchingwang.



everyone's taste. Luckily there are some really easy ways to have a green home that fits your style.


Almost all of my tips fall under one overarching idea: Shop smart, discard kindly. Be conscious of what is coming into your home (and how) and be mindful of how (and how often) things leave your home as well.

BY MAGGIE MORGAN When I talk about "green decorating," I don't mean painting the walls a shade of olive and upholstering the sofa in emerald, or stocking your shelves with jadeite. Maggie Morgan here, from Maggie Rose Interiors. I'm a decorator from Seattle - one of the most eco-conscious cities - here to share some tips for making sure your decor is earth-friendly.

1. Buy vintage. Vintage furniture is about the same cost as particle-board box-store junk but usually better quality and without harmful chemicals (or at least it's had a decade or two to off-gas any harmful chemicals). By bringing it into your home you're also keeping something out of a landfill and fullfilling the true meaning of recycling: reusing it! A lot of times I see "eco" ideas of turning something vintage into something new (a chair into a planter, or whatever) but you don't have to be overly creative... you can reuse a chair AS A CHAIR. And with a little (low VOC) paint or

When people hear "green decorating" or "eco-friendly interior" often they picture super-modern architecture (made from allrenewable sources, of course) and expensive all-organic cotton sheets. There is certainly nothing wrong with this kind of eco-style, but it can be expensive, and isn't



fabric, you can spruce it up to your liking. Just make sure it's sturdy (or can be fixed easily) and that any wood is in good condition and not damaged or rotting.

might be your appliances. Consider passing them along and upgrading to energy efficient kitchen appliances and washer and dryer. You might even upgrade your windows to ones that help retain heat in the winter and block harmful rays. You can install a dual flush in your existing toilet for very little money. Add better insulation in your roof to avoid losing heat. And replace your lightbulbs with energy efficient ones (even in just some of your lamps, it will make a difference). You'll be using less energy and less water, reduce your bills, and increase the resale value of your home. Plus, won't those pretty new appliances make your kitchen look great?

2. Buy new, with quality in mind. Even if you don't care for furniture that is labeled "ecofriendly" (side rant: why does "eco" have to mean "modern" anyway?), you can still buy new furniture without a guilty conscience. How? Shop smart. Buy the highest quality you can afford. That means no particle board. No flimsy crap that you'll toss out when you move next or will fall apart. Buy something you LOVE and will want to keep forever. You can even hire a carpenter or upholsterer to make something for you new if you're having trouble finding something that you really love. Buy things that feel like a future family heirloom and you'll reduce waste.

I hope these tips make the idea of "greening" your home a little less daunting. You don't have to live in a yurt to be earthfriendly! Just shop smart and discard kindly.

3. Discard wisely. Sure, you might get tired of something, or move and suddenly don't have space for that giant dining hutch you bought two years ago. Or the cost of replacing your old dingy sofa is less than recovering it. I get it. But don't toss your stuff at the nearest dumpster... there will almost always be someone who might have a use for it. Granted, selling items on Craigslist or listing them on Freecycle take time and effort (you may have to list them several times), but you'll have continued to "recycle" your item, even when they have worn out their usefulness for you. And hey, sometimes putting something on the curb with a FREE sign works wonders! And remember, if you decide to donate your items to charity (like Goodwill), it's a tax write-off.

I’m Maggie Morgan, an Interior Decorator in Seattle, WA. Since childhood I’ve been rearranging rooms, styling bookshelves, and obsessing over fabrics (I had a very thoughtfully decorated dollhouse!). I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 with a BA in English. Since starting the Maggie Rose design blog in 2008, I began decorating rooms for readers who became clients. In 2011 I launched Maggie Rose Interiors full-time. I live in Seattle with my boyfriend Ryan and our cat Thisbe.

Shop smart, discard kindly.

4. Upgrade for energy savings. Some of the things you might be ready to list on Craigslist


Photo credit: Patty Bachorz

HANDMADE? WHO CARES? BY PATTY BACHORZ Confession time. I was initially a bit confused when asked to guest post about the virtues of buying handmade. Huh? Of COURSE you should buy handmade. To me, it's a no-brainer. Why wouldn't you buy handmade? But then I realized, maybe that's not the norm? Maybe my family is a little kooky in our pursuit of finding more creative, more unique gifts year after year for Christmases and birthdays. We love sharing with one another a story about the Etsy seller we bought it from, or which craft fairs this year were better than ever.


Wearing, or using a handmade item feels like you've been given a special superhero power.

However, I know that's not every family. I think about people like my Dad, who, when he was alive, cared more about getting a "bargain" than he did about buying something that was made with care and craftsmanship. I think about Wal-Mart, who in 2011 was again America's number one biggest retailer with $421 BILLION dollars in sales. Don't get me wrong - I love shopping at chain stores like Target and grabbing a good deal, but at the same time I know how much more satisfaction and joy I get when I buy something handmade.

So why buy handmade? Here's my short-list:


Help the economy. Everytime we turn on the news, there's more bad news about the economy. But, you can actually do something about it. By buying something handmade, and better yet something local and handmade, you're putting money directly in the pocket of the artisan. With no middleman to take a cut, that's money that they in turn can use to feed their family, pay off their debt, and invest in selling more products- all activities that further help rebuild the economy. And to think, that all started because you chose to buy handmade.


Be unique. Who doesn't love it when you're complimented at work on a new necklace or pair of earrings? I love the feeling I get when I tell them it's handmade and one-of-akind, versus a mass produced item from a big-box store. It's like having a little secret all to yourself!


Make someone's day. Don't ever think "oh they have plenty of sales, mine won't matter." It does. The joy that comes from creating and crafting and then bringing that hard work to someone else never gets old. I love how the items I make get to travel to places I'll probably never get to go. It's like sending your kids off to college, but instead it's a coffee cozy sent to a remote address in the Northwest Territories; a wallet shipped off to a sheep farm in Australia; and a special pillowcase for a new mom to use during labor.



It's more than just a sale. Crafters and artisans like making money, but there's so much more to it. Unlike your big corporate giants who are only in it to provide more $ to their shareholders, artisans go beyond that and really try to create an experience for their customers. Our items come with stories. For example - I don't just sell luggage tags. I sell customers a way to find their bags quicker and stand out amongst a sea of black suitcases.

Yes, buying handmade is often more expensive than buying mass produced. But think about what you want to surround yourself and your home with. If you're new to handmade, start small. The next birthday or graduation gift you need, check out all the fine sellers on Etsy, or visit your local farmer's market or craft fair. Watch the response on their face when they learn it's handmade. I tend to find you get at least twice the number of "oohs" and "aahs." Or, try it out for yourself. Wearing, or using a handmade item feels like you've been given a special superhero power. For me, it helps fuel my own creative energy. Choosing handmade Photo credit: Patty Bachorz goes beyond buying "stuff." Handmade brings with it a whole lifestyle you can be proud of to wear and share.

Patty, owner of The Plaid Cupcake, creates handmade pick-me-ups to ensure your day is happy. When not creating, she uses the other half of her brain for freelance grant writing. In her spare time, she loves drinking a good latte and standing on her head (though not simultaneously!) You can find her on both Twitter and Facebook.

Handmade brings with it a whole lifestyle you can be proud to wear and share. 12

Photo Credit: Steffanie Housman

THREE WAYS TO EASE INTO ECOFRIENDLY CLEANING BY STEFFANIE HOUSMAN Eco-friendly cleaning. Those words tend to sound kinda scary or, worse, fluffy to most people. What they don't realize is that you can start making some simple changes to your everyday habits to make your environment healthier for you, your family, and the planet. I was first turned away from green cleaning because of the cost. All of the essential oils, the different ingredients, everyone had different opinions and it was just plain confusing. So, I started with


what was simple and worked best for my family. Our goals were to be wallet friendly and to use less chemicals - keep it simple as the saying goes.

Now, my best friends are baking soda and white vinegar. Baking soda is a nice abrasive that isn't too rough and white vinegar is antibacterial; together, they are even more powerful (remember science class and that volcano?). You can buy both at about any store from your neighborhood grocery to your corner pharmacy to the big bulk discount stores. Now, for some cleaning tips/recipes that I have discovered.

Photo credit: Steffanie Housman

The Shower

My arch nemesis is our shower floor. It has a grip to it so you don't slip and slide. I guess that is great for when you are showering and all, but afterwards, it grows this grime that bleach, magic erasers, ammonia and the list goes on would not remove. The trick? Baking soda and white vinegar. Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda all over the tub. Fill a spray bottle full of white vinegar and start to spray. You want to spray enough that you hear the reaction starting to happen and so that, if you wanted, you could create a paste with the baking soda. You don't want the baking soda to get wet enough that it runs down the drain. Let this sit for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10. Then, grab your scrub brush and give the tub a scrub. You shouldn't have to work hard. If you find that you are, rinse and repeat the process. The chemical reaction actually loosens the grime and kills the bacteria making the tub sparkling clean for you! Don't worry, the yucky vinegar smell will go away too.

I started with what was simple and worked best for my family

Cleaning Up After Pets Anyone who follows @oldtownsuds on twitter knows that we have two cats and a dog. Sometimes, like last night, accidents happen. We only wash with our detergent but have a trick for when we are washing things that have pet stains on them: white vinegar. We


discovered this searching pet forums many years ago when Mr Darcy (our male cat) was just a kitten and having some litter box issues. White vinegar neutralizes the waste, removes the smell, and we are all happy campers! Depending upon the accident size (and how frustrated the owner is) determines how much we'll use. A small accident means a half a cup is added to the wash at the beginning of the wash cycle. A larger accident means more. It's simple!

The Dishwasher You can make your own dishwasher detergent with simple ingredients, but I've found that most people prefer the commercial tabs. An easy way to be more Eco-friendly is in the rinse agent. Can you guess what I am going to suggest? White vinegar. This trick is super simple. Instead of the chemically based commercial products, put the super inexpensive white vinegar in just as you would the rinse agent and set the dishwasher as normal. The white vinegar smell goes away as the dishes dry and there are no spots!

I hope you've enjoyed our cleaning tips. Be sure to head over to Facebook to share how you plan on using these tips!

Old Town Suds began in 2011 out of the need to remove unneeded chemicals from everyday use. After some research and several successful experiments later our Sudsologist, Steffanie, found several ways to incorporate eco-friendly homemade cleaners into her family’s everyday lifestyle. Many successful loads of laundry and cleanups later, Steffanie decided she needed to share the products she created and Old Town Suds was formed. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay in the bubble!



Photo credit: Nikki Gerlach Photo credit: Nikki Gerlach

KNOW YOUR FOOD BY NIKKI GERLACH I love food. If you ask me about my day, most of the time I will give you a list of all of the delicious things I have eaten. I would imagine this is normal for a person whose mother has a culinary arts degree. Food was just always a big deal in my house. My Mother was always interested in nutrition and was always concerned about what we as a family were putting in our bodies.

I was never really aware of the steps my Mother took to make sure that the things that we put in were the best until I started school. I remember the exact moment that I realized that other kids’ bread was not brown like mine. White bread?! I remember

storming in the house after school and telling my mom to go to the store and get some white bread so that I could be like everyone else. I got my white bread and honestly, I didn’t like it at all.

Most people think of healthy eating when they think of eating organic. Eating organic doesn’t have to mean eating green vegetables for the rest of your life. It’s about making good food decisions and most importantly, knowing your food. Here are the best resources and tips to develop organic and healthy eating habits while not starving or losing your midnight cookie snack.



1. Know what you’re eating. I read an article the other day that only 33% of people read the nutritional labels on the back of their food and less than 10% read the ingredients. Take a peek at the ingredients on the label on the back of your favorite treats. Food labels shouldn’t read like the contents of a chemistry set and it also shouldn’t be a mile long. If I pick up something that looks delicious only to turn it over and see a list of ingredients that seems to go on forever, I put it back. If it’s that long, most likely it has some serious chemicals that the manufactures only put in to make it last till the end of time (twinkies anyone?) or to make it look as pretty as it can be to the consumer. If you read something and you don’t know what it is, do a basic google search and read up on that ingredient. If you have an iphone or android

of purchasing and it gives the scanned item a grade based on the ingredients on the back.

2. Get to know the product and the people. The best thing about shopping locally is knowing who makes your food. The best thing about farmer’s markets is that it is not only a great place to get your organic vegetables but also a great place to find fresh baked goods, treats, and other yummy food items. Have a conversation with a vendor about their product. People who make/grow delicious food love food and will want to talk to you about what makes their product great. This is also true for local bakeries and restaurants. Ask them where the products come from and how much processing goes in to the product. It’s your money and your body--make them tell you why their product is superior to a product sold in the local supermarket.

3. Eat as much junk food as you want, just make it yourself. This wonderful idea is borrowed from Michael Pollan from his mustread book Food Rules: And Eater’s Manual.

Photo credit: Nikki Gerlach phone, there is a great app called Fooducate that allows you to scan the items you have in your cupboard or are thinking

Do you just love Oreos or Hostess Cupcakes, but are intimidated by the amount of ingredients on the back of the package? Take control by experimenting and making it yourself! A twinkie is just a sponge cake with a delicious buttercream filling. A Hostess cupcake is just a chocolate cupcake, with buttercream filling in the center, and a melted chocolate coating on the outside. Think about what you love about that dessert and try recreating it! Most likely you have all the ingredients you need to make your favorite desserts at



home, minus the gross chemicals, additives, and unnatural colorings that the manufacturers put into it. One of the best things (and worst) in our world right now is the Internet! Peruse food sites like Epicurious or search on Pinterest for a knock-off recipe. Dissect what you are trying to make into simple parts and don’t be afraid to experiment! 4. Make your own ingredients. With summer break just around the corner, most parents are planning ways to keep their kids entertained for the what seems like the longest summer ever. Forego the pool or park and experiment with your children in the kitchen. Make a plan to create your own ingredients for a delicious dessert or meal. Visit a local organic farm and pick some ripe strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. Take them home and learn together how to make delicious jam or jelly. I guarantee it will taste so much better than the store bought equivalent! It’s easier than you would think, and YOU made it yourself.

Hi, I’m Nikki, owner and baker for Red Bird Baking. I learned at a very early age from my mother that baked goods make people happy; that a cookie is an edible hug and a warm brownie has the ability to warm you straight through to your heart. I believe that only the best ingredients can be used to make the best food. I believe in supporting my community by shopping local farmer’s markets. I believe that love and passion are key ingredients in any recipe. I’m inspired by so many things, including fellow bakers and creative souls. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


Photo credit: Nikki Gerlach


Digestion: The missing link “Ayur” what? Ayurveda, “the science of life”, is the ancient healing system of India that dates back over 5000 years ago. The focus is on maintaining health and harmony between one’s mind, body, and soul and the environment that surrounds us. The mind, body, soul connection is crucial to our well being. Ayurveda studies the whole person, what his/her natural balanced state is and where the imbalances lie.


Everyone is unique Each person is described according to three mind-body types called doshas (known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha). Most people are predominantly a combination of one and/or two doshas. Our constitution or mind-body type is determined by the genetics, constitution, and the state of health of the mother and the father at the time of conception. This individual unique constitution is unchanging. If we maintain it in balance, we maintain good health.

Unfortunately, for most of us this is not the case. Our lifestyles, emotions, eating habits, and our environment often are not in line with what we need to stay in harmony with our true nature. To return to a state of good health and emotional balance we need to eat the right foods and make changes to our lifestyle.

Digestion is the key to good health Our physical digestion is responsible for how our bodies digest, convert, absorb and eliminate what we eat and/or absorb through other areas of our body such as the skin. Our emotional digestion refers to how we perceive, digest, and react to our thoughts, feelings and experiences.

When our physical and/or emotional digestion is poor, our systems start to go out of balance, and eventually disease can set in. Ayurveda gives us the tools to recognize when our digestion is not optimal and how to improve it, therefore, hopefully, returning us to a state of balance before disease has an opportunity to take hold.

Our physical and emotional digestion are intertwined. A prime example is STRESS. When we eat in a state of stress our ability to digest is greatly diminished. If we eat a hard-to-digest meal, we will see some effects of poor digestion such as bloating or constipation. With poor digestion, toxins are not broken down and eliminated properly and thus begins the process of imbalance and declining health.

Similarly, improper lifestyle and poor eating habits can weaken our body’s ability to deal with emotional stresses and can lead to anxiety, nervous disorders, anger, irritability, depression etc. I have seen firsthand how changes to diet and lifestyle can greatly improve anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and improve our ability to handle the stresses of life.


Listen and respond to your body

First, we need to be in tune with our body and mind and take the time to listen to the signs that indicate something is off.

Some signs of poor or improper physical digestion

A heavy or lethargic feeling after your meal

Frequent burping

Nausea after a meal


When diet is correct,



medicine is of no need.

~Ayurvedic Proverb

When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.

Constipation or loose stools (not a fun topic I know, but elimination is a key indication of our digestion) Bad breath Obviously, any allergic response

Listen to your body. If a meal just didn’t sit well, take note of it. Perhaps try to make some changes to how, what, and when you eat. Make one or two changes at a time.

Ayurveda provides wonderful detailed diet and lifestyle guidelines for every dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). This vast topic is far too much for this article to tackle. Instead, there are some general guidelines that are beneficial to everyone and a great starting point to improving digestion and health.


General guidelines for healthy eating What to eat:

Eat whole foods and minimize or eliminate highly-processed foods, processed sugars, fast foods, and junk foods. Whole foods include fresh organic fruits and vegetables, whole organic milk and yogurt, whole grains, legumes and beans, healthy fats, and natural unprocessed sugars. Choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.

Eat organic and/or local as much as possible. The chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers can wreak havoc with our hormones and our body’s ability to digest and absorb the nutrients.

Minimize canned and frozen foods.

Increase your number of freshly cooked meals by one or two per week. If you normally eat 2 freshly cooked meals a week, try bringing it up to 3. Freshly cooked meals are more nutritious and better digested than leftovers and frozen meals.

When our physical and/or emotional

digestion is poor, our systems start to go out of balance, and eventually disease can set in.

Avoid preparing meals in a microwave oven.

Eat fruits (and drink fruit juices) by themselves. Proper food combinations are an important part of digestion. Many of the rules can seem overwhelming. However, this is a great one to start with. Fruits digest quicker than other foods and when mixed cause fermentation and indigestion. Eat them 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. Many people who are used to eating fruit as dessert may find this a real challenge. Try it and see how you feel. I never thought it was an issue for me until I stopped doing it and then broke the rules (yes, it does happen). Bloating and gas are almost guaranteed. So try enjoying those berries or that juicy slice of watermelon as a snack instead.


When to eat:

Start your day by sipping a warm cup of water first thing in the morning.

Make lunch the heaviest and largest meal of the day. Our digestion is strongest between 11am-2 pm. Therefore, heavier and harder to digest foods (such as raw foods, cheeses, pastas, fried foods etc) are best eaten for lunch.

The evening meal should be the lightest meal of the day. Ideally supper should be eaten before 7 pm and should be easy to digest foods such as soups and stews. The later the meal the more simple it should be.

Enjoy your meal! This may seem simple, but with our hectic lifestyles it is often ignored.

Only eat when you are hungry. Difficult when dessert is calling your name. Wait until you are hungry so you can truly enjoy it.

Eat at regular times each day. Our bodies love routine. This step will steady your appetite and help you recognize true hunger.

Eat sitting down. Again seems obvious, but as a mother of three I can assure you that I have been tempted many times to eat standing up with a crying baby on my hip. Desperate times sometimes calls for desperate measures, but this is definitely always my goal.

Focus on eating. No reading, television, or computer. Yes, you CAN do it!!! This is a tough one in our multi-tasking, on-the-go, high tech world, but it is so important. Many times, I have sat down to enjoy a delicious treat like a slice of cake with a cup of tea only to realize it was finished before I tasted it. Why? My eyes were glued to a computer screen! Eating consciously allows us to enjoy our meal and to feel satisfied after we eat, and you might not go back for that second serving!

Chew your food properly. Relish the taste. Savour and enjoy. Digestion starts in the mouth and specific enzymes are released to help breakdown the food.


Avoid drinking ice drinks and water before, during or right after meals. Drinking cold drinks is like pouring water on fire. It weakens our digestion. Instead, take small sips of room temperature water (not juice) during your meal. Enjoy cool summer drinks between meals.

Avoid emotional eating. Try not to eat when upset or stressed. Instead practice deep breathing and sip a relaxing, comforting cup of herbal tea. You will discover whether your hunger was real or to fill an emotional need.

During times of stress, when our bodies and minds are physically and emotionally exhausted, the body has much less energy to dedicate to digesting a meal. Therefore, it is even more important to eat simple easy-to-digest meals such as soups and stews. Salad might seem like an obvious choice here, but in fact, raw foods require our digestive systems to work harder. Opt instead for gently cooked warm nourishing soups and stews. On hot summer days, salads made with cooked grains and steamed veggies could also be a good choice.

Eating healthy is so important. However, the issue of digestion is often ignored. If our bodies are unable to properly breakdown the foods, and to absorb the nutrients, then eating only healthy foods won’t have the benefits we might expect.

Choose healthy foods, savour your meals, and listen to your body. Choose a few Ayurvedic tips that you feel you can manage. Feel the difference. Don’t let eating become another stress to add to your list. Rather, do what you can, slow and steady. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you for it.

Subhadra (Sue) Allard is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, school teacher, wife and dedicated mother of three living in Montreal, Canada. Her life long journey into natural medicine began over 15 years ago and includes a vast knowledge of homeopathy and western herbalism. Her love and passion for nature, herbs, healing and family compel her to further her studies in natural medicines and Ayurveda. With deep gratitude, she offers respects to all the masters and teachers who share their knowledge in order to benefit others.


BACK TO BASICS ~ GREEN HOME TODAY Photo credit: Suzanne McRae

Photo credit: Suzanne McRae

HEALING THE BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT WITH REIKI BY SUZANNE MCRAE I came across Reiki almost a decade ago while searching for alternative healing therapies for our son who has autism. I personally experienced first-hand the benefits of receiving a Reiki treatment, and it felt heavenly. Peace and calmness had washed over me. I knew then that I had found a valuable key to my wellbeing. What Reiki does is stimulates and accelerates the natural healing potential of the body. I have since studied extensively with various teachers and became a Reiki Master twice with different teachers and in 2010 I became a Karuna Reiki Master along with my husband this time. It’s been a journey

like no other that I have ever experienced in my life. I highly recommend Reiki to anyone who is looking to transform their life whether on an emotional, mental, physical or spiritual level. Reiki helps you re-connect with the deepest part of you, your soul. The meaning of Reiki is ‘God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power’ and ‘Life Force Energy’. When you study Reiki and become attuned to it’s energy, it remains with you for the rest of your life to be used anywhere and on anything that you wish. It is a gentle yet powerful Japanese healing technique mostly known to reduce stress. It also aims to increase energy levels and promote relaxation and wellbeing. Babies, teens, adults and seniors including people that may be dying all can benefit from Reiki. Animals are also greatly helped by Reiki’s healing energies. Reiki treatments can be used safely to support conventional and complementary medicine.



How Reiki has helped my family Years ago going to see a doctor for every little ailment was a common scenario for our young family, along with taking pharmaceutical drugs to help take care of the many aches and pains. Today I can see how medical care is extremely costly to society. This is where I find Reiki very beneficial and free to use once you have it. Reiki costs very little to learn and you have it for the rest of your life, to use as freely as you wish. Most pharmaceutical drugs only mask the pains and symptoms and don’t get at the root cause of what is behind the pain that ails us. The side effects from meds can cause other issues to surface. As well they are also toxic to our bodies on many levels, let alone what it does when old medications find their way into our landfill sites and our water systems... it’s simply not good for our environment. I don’t doubt that there is a time and place where doctors and drugs might be needed, especially in emergency situations such as when my husband had his appendix burst last year. When he couldn’t tolerate the meds he was given afterwards to help prevent infection from setting in, he continued doing Reiki on himself and using Young Living Essential Oils and he healed quickly and beautifully. For years I didn’t know that there were other healthcare options for my family… today after years of learning and experiencing first hand, I can honestly say these have been the best choices made for my family’s wellbeing.

Give yourself the best gift you could ever imagine yourself receiving… Reiki!

Your life will be transformed on many levels… your Soul will thank you!

I’m Suzanne McRae, and am passionate about energy healing (Reiki, Karuna, Sphe-Re, EFT, Heilkunst, and Crystal Healing), spirituality, genealogy, writing, Young Living Essential Oils, travel, photography and gardening. Over a decade ago I began exploring energy healing and alternative therapies for our son who has autism. I studied for many years with different Reiki, Karuna, Sphe-Re, and Reiki Crystal Healing teachers and masters. My husband and I both became Karuna Reiki Masters in 2010. You can read about my journey through life and about all the different healing modalities that we have experienced on my new blog as I begin sharing about it. I can be reached by E-mail, my Website, on Twitter, Pinterest as well as on Etsy. I live in Ontario, Canada with my husband, our daughter and son as well as Russell our family dog, an Australian shepherd/rough collie mix.

Here’s a great place to start learning more about Reiki and what it can offer you on your journey.



JUST BREATHE: YOGA AND THE POWER OF BREATH BY KRYSTYNA SZADKOWSKA Imagine for a moment you are stressed. How do you feel in your body? How is your breathing? Now, imagine that you are relaxed, calm, full of ease... How do you feel in your body? How is your breathing?

Our breath is constantly moving and keeping us alive, but when we are stressed we tend to keep our breaths shallow, and even hold the breath. Stress also causes us to hold tension in our bodies. Whereas when we are relaxed we tend to take longer, deep breaths and be more soft in the body.

Breath, and the awareness of breath is one of the foundational aspects of Yoga, which originated in India over 5000 years ago. Yoga is an ancient science that works to connect our body, mind and soul. Breath is linked with our life-force, our vital energy ('Prana' in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India). By holding back our breath in times of stress, we hold back our vital energy and therefore contribute to blockages in our body, mind and soul.

As an antidote to stress in our minds and bodies, we can begin to bring focus to our breath. Breathing into our belly in particular is a wonderful way to reconnect with ourselves and feel a sense of inner peace.

I invite you to try the following exercise in belly breathing. Feel free to sit on a chair, ensuring your knees are the same height as your hips, both feet flat on the floor with the ankles under the knees (90 degree angle). Ideally this is practiced with an empty stomach (or at least not right after eating).


BACK TO BASICS ~ GREEN HOME TODAY 1) Sit with a tall spine. Allow your sitting bones* to press downwards, as your spine reaches upwards. Roll the shoulders up towards the ears, then back and down. Then allow the very top of your head to reach towards the sky with ease. *These are the bones on either side of your bottom--you can feel them when you sit, especially as you rock side to side.

Breath is linked with our life-force, our vital energy ...

2) Take a moment to be present, and connect with your breath. You may want to close your eyes, to help coming inward. Notice, with kindness, the quality of your breath (Is it short or long? Is it smooth or choppy?). 3) Try to ensure you are breathing through the nose, most especially for the inhale. Our noses act as a filter to the air we breathe, and can also help to regulate and slow down the breath. 4) Once you are present with your natural breathing rhythm of the moment, begin to deepen the breath. Bring the breath through the nose, down into your belly. Expand the belly outward like a balloon on the inhale, and draw the belly gently inward on the exhale. If it is helpful, you can place one hand over the belly button as you move the belly with the breath. 5) Continue with awareness of the breath. Know when you are inhaling, and know when you are exhaling. Try to keep the mind present on the breath, with kindness rather than judgement. When the mind drifts off in thought, gently and kindly bring it back to the breath.

your eyes.

It may seem too simple to even try, but this simple exercise can have amazing results. If you feel up for a challenge, try to start and end your day with belly breathing—doing it first thing when you wake up, and just before going to sleep. Of course, belly breathing can be practiced any time of the day, but is especially helpful when it is done as part of our routine. The more we practice deep belly breathing, the more it becomes natural again. Yoga helps us to remember wisdom that we already know within ourselves. Coming back to the breath can help us to deal with the many ups, downs, and intensities in our lives.

Krystyna Szadkowska is a certified Hatha Yoga Teacher, trained in the Kripalu tradition, and is a certified Prenatal and Kids Yoga teacher as well. She has been studying Yoga for over 15 years, and continues to learn so much from this ancient science. She currently teaches beginner adult Hatha Yoga and Prenatal Yoga at Butterfly Yoga in Lachine, Quebec. Krystyna is also a Mama to a wonderful 3 year old, who teaches her a lot about love, balance and deep breaths.

6) On an exhale, release your belly breathing and come back to a normal breath in your body. Notice how you feel. Try to refrain from judgments, instead try to just be aware of how you feel. When you are ready you can open


CONSIDERING CONSCIOUSNESS BY HEATHER ASTORGA I’ll admit it, when I hear the term “eco-conscious” I tend to feel a little bit guilty. In a busy society, already jam-packed with schedules and Post-it notes, keeping up-to-date with today’s green buzzwords (organic, sustainable, vegan, handmade, home-grown…) can be overwhelming. With an ever-growing checklist of Things I Wish I Did or Know I Should Be Doing, it’s sometimes hard to remember to eat three meals a day (if that’s even the healthy recommendation anymore), let alone meals that will benefit my body and mind, the economy and the environment.

When asked to participate in the Back to Basics Blog Series I was thrilled to participate with the incredible line-up of talented ladies, I was thankful and felt inspired but unsure of what I could say to promote eco- and health-consciousness without feeling like a phony bologna. Sure I do what I can, but using reusable bags and living in America’s first fair trade town (shout out to Media, Pennsylvania!), there is nothing that I do that screams environmentally friendly or health conscious.


When I think about being “eco-conscious”, I automatically think of the things I should be doing to help the environment or limit the harm that I am doing on the environment, but consciousness does not relate to a list of actions, consciousness is the state of being aware.

Consciousness starts with paying attention—not with the action steps. The action steps will happen organically (buzzword!) when you train your mind to pay attention to the environment and all of its intricacies.

Three years ago, my To-Do lists looked a lot different than they do today. I was in my senior year of college finishing up my English and creative writing studies. I was immersed in the cycle of school and work, which I suppose isn’t too different to today, fitting the obligation #1 and Photo credit: Heather Astorga obligation #2 pattern. I walled myself indoors to study and write and considered it normal to not enjoy sunlight because it meant my paper was due or a walk in the park because who has the time, really. Sucking the marrow out of the books and taking the library for all it was worth. That’s what college was all about—or so I thought. Caffeine by the buckets and stacks of papers was what I chose—until one class changed it all. (Note: initially “chose” was written as “knew”, see what happens you learn to take responsibility and pay attention to your own choices?)

It was my early morning playwriting class that was hosted by a guest professor. My class only had five students in it, so it was very apparent when 40% were running late. The three students present raked through their assignments scanning for errors and quick fixes, grasping their coffees in silence. A little time went by until the remaining two dashed through the door looking even more tired than the coffee enthusiasts. When asked where they were, they each dumped a handful of sand onto the table. (Side note: Our University was a little over an hour from the New Jersey beaches.)

A mind too active is no mind at all.

~Theodore Roethke


While most professors would clench their fists for other reasons, our professor raised her fists in the air shouting, “Yes!” This is what it was all about, she explained. Filling your personal library with creative books and other reminders that you like to be inspired are not going to help you complete your master novel the way that experiences and taking a step back and noticing that everything around you is inspiration will. And experiences in nature—you can’t be beat. There was a reason that so many poets wrote and still do write about nature and that greater meaning. I was doing it wrong.

The next morning our guest professor came to class with a wide smile and a small tin. Inside the tin were five seashells she had kept from various beach wanderings.

We were each to take one as a reminder that:

There are more important things in life than being a habit of routine and obligations.

Inspiration in nature is free and always giving.

It’s important to live for experiences over obligations. With experiences come the real stories and the real truths.

Remember to take a step back and breathe and let your mind think on its own terms without deadlines and page restrictions or whatever glaring obligation turns your want to dos into have to dos. Be aware of your choices.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. ~John Keats

Paying attention to the details of life is key. For me, it’s the greatest source of inspiration although unfortunately, it’s easy to forget. When I let myself get sucked into the obligation #1 and obligation #2 pattern without giving myself room for any creative time, that’s when I make choices that are not eco- or health-conscious.

It’s the “have to do’s” that make it okay to eat in the car and spend money on “convenient” things that I don’t need. It also gives me permission to watch an afternoon’s worth of television and miss the sunset. Being stressed to the max allows for justifications—I deserve… I’m allowed… When I have more time…


Listen to yourself— pay attention to how your choices make you feel.

Try not to choose to take the overworked path because you’ve seen others travel it before you and that’s what is expected. Remember to take a step back, breathe it all in, enjoy the journey and notice. Just notice. It’d be a shame to let your busy schedule distract you. Think of all of the things you could miss.

If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from somethig bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem. ~Julia Cameron, “The Artist's Way” I propose that when you take a step back and notice the environment around you, see how giving it is inspirationally and physically, you will make green, eco-friendly, (insert buzzwords) choices because it feels right to you and not because it is an obligation. I ask:

If you spent an afternoon feeling the warmth of the sun on your cheeks while reading a book outside, would you remember how wonderful that felt and do it more often instead of watching tv?

If you spent a day listening to the noises outside your window would you notice the birds chirping more often whether you were running on a tight schedule or not?

If you walked around town and smelled the grass, the flowers, and then the fumes from passing cars, would you make the effort to decrease the amount of times your car stinks up someone else’s walk?

If you spoke with the vendors at your local farmer’s market and learned about organic produce, how it affects your body and the environment, would you also remember the face of the vendor and how it affects his livelihood?

Heather is a Renaissance soul with a passion for writing, creating and dreaming. She currently works in social media helping others communicate and support their voice. You can find her work at and her new project , which will document her growth and discoveries as a creative soul working to make things happen in today’s busy economy.


I'm Gabriella Volpe, and I'm a mother, teacher, writer, dreamer. Upon the birth of my son five years ago, I recognized the importance of using safe, non-toxic products in my home. I have since become a loud holistic health activist sharing the important message that clean living brings. I believe that we need to be responsible for our own health and well-being. We need to be informed and know the true and unaltered facts about the food we eat, the products we use and the air we breathe. My hope is to inspire you to make little changes in your life that will have a huge impact on your well-being. You can find me at Green Home Today. Did you love this ebook? Share the message.

A note about the images: All images have been used with the owners' permission and have been credited accordingly. All images without credits are public domain photos that are also used with legal permission. A note about printing: This ezine was created to be consumed electronically so as not to harm nature and waste trees. However, if you absolutely want to print it, I suggest using recycled paper and printing two pages per sheet. Thank you for living holistically as well as consciously. Each of us makes a difference – including how we interact with this free publication.

Back to Basics: Holistic Living Made Easy with 9 Amazing Eco-Women Visit Gabriella at or email Š 2013 Green Home Today ~ Gabriella Volpe ~

Back to Basics: Holistic Living Made Easy  

This ezine came about from a blog series that needed to be shared. From how we consume fashion to how we eat. From how we decorate our home...