"By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air that you can," says Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) in his most well known book, Return To Life Through Contrology. The same text includes such gems as, "Whenever and wherever possible, wear 'shorts' or sun suits outdoors, and let the life-giving ultraviolet rays reach and penetrate into every skin pore of your body."
Conceding the importance of skin cancer prevention, we now have some science to support the suggestions in Joe's book, which he wrote in 1945. We know that Vitamin D, largely acquired by mammals through sunlight, is responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc, directly impacting the mineralization of our bones. In fact, Vitamin D was first discovered as scientists searched for a link between an unknown nutrient deficiency and those suffering from rickets (the childhood form of osteomalacia).
Historical accounts say that Joseph Pilates himself suffered from rickets as a child, among other ailments. It's unlikely that he knew of the relationship between poor bone health and lack of sunshine when he was young, however, as Vitamin D3, the specific form produced by the skin, wasn't identified until 1937. Nevertheless the young Joseph was determined to strengthen himself by traditional means; he began bodybuilding, studying martial arts and training in gymnastics, all modalities that would influence his creation of Contrology, now known as Pilates.
In his first book, Your Health, published in 1934, Joe talks about the ancient Greeks, a culture he seemed to revere: "These people were nature lovers. They preferred to commune with the very elements of nature itself - the woods, the streams, the rivers, the winds and the sea. All these were natural music, poems and dramas to these Greeks who were so fond of outdoor life." He continues on, highlighting that the Greeks were not hampered by extra clothing, instead preferring very little on their bodies. Joe certainly practiced this philosophy, as evidenced by the many photos and videos we have of him demonstrating his method in just underwear or swim trunks!
Joseph Pilates had one daughter and offers plenty of observations about young ones in his first book: "Children, if left to follow their own natural inclinations, without restraint, will not hesitate to discard unnecessary garments. In fact, the fewer the clothes, the better they like it." I must say that I can relate to that one. Born in Tahiti and with frequent travels to Australia my mother could not keep clothes on me. Like many children, I was constantly pulling them off no matter how comfortable or cool the fabric. Perhaps young people instinctively know what Joseph Pilates claims, "that your body also 'breathes' through the pores of your skin as well as through your mouth, nose, and lungs."
Joe's thoughts on this topic allow his method once again to reach far beyond the Pilates studio, indeed out into the hills and onto the beach! If "doing Pilates" means being in the sunshine and fresh air wearing little clothing, there's no excuse to not keep up your practice this summer.
By Téana David
Please note that this is an updated version of a blog post that appeared in 2015.
Now that spring is here, and the wonderful healing weeds and flowers are out, we can begin to make infused oils. I always recommend making infused oils rather than buying essential oils, for a number of reasons. Essential oils cannot be made at home as they require a complicated chemical process that is very similar to how pharmaceutical drugs are made. The process is one of extracting, purifying, and concentrating, resulting in a product that is not whole in any way. Instead of connecting with the entirety of a plant, we are only interacting with the one constituent that has been removed for us in a laboratory. Furthermore, essential oils require thousands of pounds of plant material for a very small amount of product, which cannot be environmentally sustainable. On another note, my herbal medicine teacher Susun Weed reports that some commonly used essential oils like lavender can affect hormones in young boys and girls. They are very potent - please consider using them in tiny amounts if at all!
How to Make Infused Oils
You will need:
A glass jar with a lid
a small plate or bowl
Enough *fresh* but dry plant material to pack a jar of your choosing full.
Olive or almond oil to entirely cover the jar, the less scented the oil the better
A chopstick to stir
When harvesting flowers or plants for oils, be sure that it has not rained for at least 48 hours prior and harvest well into the day so that any dew will have evaporated. Some plants to consider infusing in springtime are Calendula, Lilac, Rose, Red Clover, Dandelion, Plantain and Chickweed. If you have any doubts about the dryness of the plants, let them wilt for a day or two (out of direct sunlight) before infusing with oil.
Fill your jar of choice with plant material, packing it tightly to the top. Pour your oil slowly into the jar and use a chopstick to distribute it evenly throughout. Make sure that the herb is completely covered at the top, then lid. Shake gently and reopen to see if more oil is needed. Place a label on the lid of your jar with the plant name and date. Don't place the label on the side of the jar as the oil will inevitably seep out and melt it off! Place jar on small saucer and then let it sit in a cool spot out of direct sunlight for 6 weeks. Sunlight can make oils rancid. Shake your jar gently once a week or so and watch out for any mold, which is caused by moisture in the plant. If there is mold, best to discard and start again.
After six week's time, strain the oil and place back in jar or in a new container, again storing it out of direct light. If you will be making a salve with your oil, gently heat it in a small sauce pan and add a small amount of beeswax. The amount you will need varies, but trial and error has worked well for me. The more beeswax the harder the end product. Store your salve in a tin or small glass jar.
I hope this tutorial has been helpful! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section.