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- All you need to know about candle wax
Have you ever wondered if the wax in all the candles is the same? Where does the candle wax go when it burns? Or what are the main differences between the different types of candle wax? We have prepared a short but handy guide to share everything you need to know about candle wax. What is wax and where does it go when it burns? Wax is a combustible solid matter that when heated at high temperatures it turns liquid, dissolving into the air as it burns. Wax solidifies again at room temperature. There are many different types of wax depending on its origin: mineral or petroleum derived wax, animal wax and plant wax. Where does wax come from? Wax can be made from different sources. They can be split into 3 main categories: natural, synthetic and a combination of both. Each type of wax has its own properties and characteristics. The most common types of wax used in candle making are: Paraffin wax, also known as mineral wax, is made from saturated hydrocarbons and it can be either white or colourless. It is obtained from petroleum by de-waxing light oil stocks. It can hold scent and colour very well and it is the most inexpensive kind to use. Paraffin wax is the cheapest option in the market and burns very fast. Therefore, candles made from paraffin wax won’t last very long. Why we don’t use paraffin wax: Paraffin wax usually contains harmful chemicals such dioxin and acrolein and it is often mixed with stearic acid from animal origin. Beeswax is another 100% natural type of wax, produced from the bees’ excretion into their combs. Beeswax is one of the oldest wax types to exist. Beeswax has one of the highest melting points (around 62-64°C (144-147°F) and therefore it’s a great choice for natural pillar candles, as it won’t melt as quickly. Why we don’t use beeswax: Although beeswax is 100% natural it is not a vegan option. Here is a link to read more about why beeswax is not vegan. Soy wax is made from hydrogenated soybean oil, which makes it 100% natural. It is obtained as a result of a complex process of harvesting, cleaning, cracking, dehulling and rolling the beans into flakes. Why we don’t use soy wax: There are two main reasons why we do not use soy wax: 1) It has a high carbon footprint as soy grows in temperate and tropical climates. 80% of soy originates from America (United States, Brazil and Argentina). 2) There are growing concerns that the soybean industry is causing widespread deforestation and displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe. For more information on this topic visit: https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/soy Coconut wax is made from cold-pressed coconut meat or coconut oil, often mixed with other plant waxes, either soy or rapeseed. It does not have color or smell and it is one of the more expensive alternatives. Why we don’t use coconut wax: Coconut wax also has a higher carbon footprint as it travels all the wax from South East Asia, mainly the Philippines. Rapeseed wax is made from the oil harvested from the yellow rapeseed flowers that are part of the mustard family. You can find rapeseed fields all over Europe and the UK in the early summer months. It is a 100% natural and sustainable option, offering a clean and long-lasting burn. Why we have chosen 100% rapeseed wax? After conducting extensive research and evaluating the different options available in the market we reached the conclusion that rapeseed is the right choice for us for the following reasons: It’s 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free Made in the UK by a family run business with a fully traceable supply chain Low carbon footprint, being locally grown and sourced Has a clean, toxin-free burn Is non-hazardous for us, our pets and our environment Offers an extended burn time due to the low melting point temperature Keeps and releases scent very well, making it the perfect match for our essential oils At Elm Rd. we know exactly what goes into each and every candle. We can guarantee that they are free from paraffin, additives and any harmful chemicals. We hope you find this article insightful and that it helps you make considered decisions when choosing to buy scented candles and home fragrances that are good for you, your home and the planet. Be clean, kind, conscious.
- Five top tips for gifting consciously this holiday season
As we head into November and a second national lockdown, it’s a great time to beat the rush and start choosing holiday gifts for your loved ones. Here are ELM RD.’s top tips for mindful gifting – minimising the environmental impact of your presents and ensuring your recipients love them. We’ve all been there: dashing to find the perfect holiday gift at the last minute, scrambling among crowds of shoppers and hoping we’ve made the right choice. But the events of this year have given a much-needed reminder to many of us – that there is value in slowing down, planning ahead and practising gratitude. Even pre-pandemic, the trend towards more conscious and mindful gifting was growing. Three-quarters of us would prefer to spend money on an experience than an item, one 2019 study found. More than two-thirds of us think the amount of waste generated at Christmas is unacceptable, another concluded. Yet half of us receive at least one unwanted gift every winter. By steering clear of the temptation to purchase an abundance of ‘stuff’ made with little to no concern for the environment at this time of year, favouring more mindful decisions, we can not only reduce our environmental footprint but the pressure on ourselves and on those receiving our gifts. It’s been proven that possessions take up mental space as well as physical. Here are our top tips for gifting more consciously in 2020 1. Shop with small businesses There are a wealth of reasons why, from the fact that small businesses typically have a smaller environmental footprint, to the personal connection small business owners feel to their customers. Items from small businesses often come with a beautiful backstory, making the recipient more likely to treasure them, also. And let’s not forget that following this step lowers the risk of your recipient receiving two of the same thing… 2. Streamline your gifting Do you really need to get several presents for your loved one, or would a single, more thoughtful gift have the same effect? If you have a large friend group, would a ‘secret Santa’ arrangement be kinder to your wallets and to the planet than all gifting to each other? There’s a reason the phrase ‘less is more’ is so popular. 3. Be mindful with packaging A lot of big retailers are removing plastic from their festive cards and wrapping paper, which is fantastic. But you can’t go wrong with brown paper wrap or reusable fabric wrapping, decorated with recyclable inks or accessorised with dried fruits, mistletoe or holly. And, if you already have a lot of gift bags or wrapping paper from previous years, don’t be afraid to reuse and repurpose them each year. 4. Think circular When choosing a gift, consider how long your loved one is likely to use it for; whether it can be replaced, repaired or customised; and whether the packaging could be repurposed or recycled. Households produce 30% more rubbish in December than at other times of year – so make sure your gifts don’t end up in that waste mountain. 5. Or simply give the gift of time You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would not appreciate the offer of a home-cooked meal, or getting their kids picked up, or simply some quality time with a friend or family member they’ve not seen in a while. You can definitely show that you care without buying piles of expensive things. Our range of home fragrance can make wonderful conscious gifts because… 1. They provide aromatherapy benefits for mind and body ELM RD. only uses natural essential oils, to help our community reap the full extent of the positive benefits of home fragrance. While synthetic fragrance oils can cause headaches and other unpleasant side effects, natural essential oils have a positive impact on the limbic system – the part of your brain which processes memories and emotions. The limbic system also plays a role in regulating heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels and hormone balance. Those who regularly make time for aromatherapy report a broad spectrum of benefits. You can read our previous journal post on the difference between synthetic and natural home fragrance to find out more. 2. They can help your loved one build a ritual to relax or recharge For all our daydreams about snow-covered mountains, crisp walks and cosy evenings in front of the fire, the reality is that winter can be a stressful and draining time. Whether due to the pressure of preparing and budgeting for festivities or to less sunshine, many of us find ourselves losing motivation at this time of year – and, after spending more time at home all year, the thought of being stuck indoors over winter may seem daunting. Of course, a candle will not solve the winter blues in and of itself. But home fragrance can be a powerful tool for building me-time rituals that will make the season more bearable. Whether your loved ones are looking for a morning ritual that will invigorate them in preparation for a long day, or a night-time ritual to reduce stress and improve sleep, our previous journal entry on incorporating home fragrance and mindfulness into daily routines will help you make the right match. 3. They make any house homely This point explains itself – after all, there is a reason that home fragrance is often given as a housewarming gift! As we spend more time at home, the importance of creating a space that fits us only grows. Moreover, we have created a brand new section where you can find all our gift ideas in one place – so you’re bound to find something your loved one will appreciate, whether they’re new to natural home fragrance or are a long-time devotee.
- How is scent linked to our memories and emotions?
With the nights drawing in and the school term restarting, September is a time for change and for reflection for many of us. So, as we make new memories and look back on months gone by, we’re asking: How does scent help us create and recall memories? If you’ve ever walked by someone in the street and been instantly reminded of a loved one after catching a hint of their perfume, or found yourself reminiscing about playing outside as a child after smelling freshly-mown grass, you’re not alone. Scent has the power to instantly transport us back to a special time and place. This is because our brains are hard-wired to create powerful links between scent and memory. Once our noses detect aroma molecules, the scent is processed by the olfactory bulb in our brain. This processing directly stimulates the limbic system, which is also the part of the brain that processes emotions and memories. So, very often, our olfactory memories will be registered in our brains next to an emotion. While we may recall memories when presented with a sight, sound or texture, the connection between smell and memory is far stronger for the great majority of people. This is because the relationship between the olfactory bulb and limbic system helps our brains to subconsciously connect scents with memories – often, for our entire lives. Moreover, smell is a “chemical” sense and is known to be our oldest sense; we’ve had centuries of our central nervous systems being stimulated by the detection of scent molecules in the air. Because of these phenomena, we can deliberately evoke memories – and the emotions they entail – by choosing scents wisely. You may have been aware of this fact as a child without realising it and sought to smell your grandmother’s perfume or grandfather’s cologne when you were missing them, or to hold on to a cherished toy or blanket mainly for its comforting and unique scent. As adults, we can fine-tune this process, selecting home fragrance products which remind us of specific moments, places or people. If you wish to be reminded of a relaxing evening stroll taken by the seaside on a past holiday to Europe, for example, a mix of jasmine flowers, lavender and citrus fruits is likely to do the trick. Sandalwood, cedar and juniper, on the other hand, will likely bring back any memories you have of hiking through forests, skiing in the mountains or staying in a cosy log cabin in the colder months. Our recommendation for fragrance blends which will take you back to…. Sandy beaches and blue skies: Summer Days Rich sunsets, balmy air and citrus fruit groves: Summer Nights Alpine getaways and hiking at natural beauty spots: Chalet Romantic strolls through world-famous cities: Intimacy It is worth noting that the limbic system has an impact on our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, stress levels and hormone balance as well as our emotions and our memory recall, as detailed in our recent journal entry on using essential oils to help with sleep. When these healing benefits of natural fragrances are combined with memories which evoke joy, relaxation or romance, the result is a blissful feeling of pure escapism. So as the days get shorter and as our schedules get more hectic, now is the ideal time to harness this feeling.
- The healing power of nature
During lockdown, many of us turned to nature to find solace in uncertain times. But as we return to our workplaces and as our calendars begin to fill up, and with autumn just around the corner, how can we stay connected with our local landscapes? Lockdown has been described by some as a ‘great pause’, a period in which so much of the world was brought to a standstill that we were forced to change our daily routine. But one constant was the great outdoors and, for those living near the seaside, those close to fields and forests and those living in cities alike, time outdoors provided a welcome break from the pressures of remote working, working on the front lines or home schooling. One recent survey, commissioned by the National Trust, found that more than two-thirds (68%) of adults in the UK had found happiness and relaxation by spending time in nature between March and June. With shops, restaurants, leisure centres, gyms, theatres and cinemas shut, social calendars filled with socially distanced walks, runs and bike rides. 2020 has doubtless been an extremely stressful time for many of us, but nature is known to have a relaxing and restorative effect. According to one Finnish study, spending just 15 quiet minutes in nature can help people feel less stressed, depressed and anxious. Other researchers have found that time in nature can help to bring down your blood pressure and heart rate, ease muscle tension and slow the production of stress hormones. The healing benefits of nature are so revered that there is a type of formal treatment for mental health issues which involves immersing the patient in nature while they complete day-to-day activities – ecotherapy. This is before we come on to the fact that spending time outdoors often entails physical activity, connecting with loved ones or even meeting new friendly faces. Our new-found appreciation for nature should, therefore, not be written off as a passing phase. The National Trust survey found that more than half of the population (55%) plan to keep their habit of spending more time in nature going forward – but with offices re-opening and social calendars refilling just as the nights begin to draw in and temperatures start to drop, this will be easier said than done. Six Ways to stay connected to Mother Earth as we return to a new normal ELM RD itself was created to help people slow down and prioritise not only themselves, but their connection to the natural world. During an unplanned stroll in Golden Gate Park, California, founder Miguel was struck by the sights and smells of beautiful trees and decided that his purpose was not to work a corporate job with a hectic schedule, but to bring natural scents to others and help them feel rejuvenated. With this in mind, this blog explores some of the ways we can stay connected to Mother Earth as we return to a new normal. 1. Create a short nature-based ritual. The difference between a ritual and a routine is, in short, a sense of purpose and mindfulness, and the good news is that rituals can be as little as 5-15 minutes long. If you do not have time to take a full walk in nature on working days, meditating for a few moments in your garden or a local park is a wonderful alternative. Some people swear by the practice of ‘grounding’ – simply standing barefoot on grass for a few minutes. 2. Complete more of your everyday activities outdoors. Whether it is yoga, reading, working, eating meals or simply enjoying a cup of tea. 3. Grow or pick your own food. If you use social media, you’ll have probably seen friends showing off their home-grown herbs, fruits or vegetables in recent weeks. Growing your own has benefits beyond impressing your contacts list – as well as helping you connect with nature, it gives you a nurturing purpose and inspires you to try new, healthy recipes once you’ve picked your produce. If you can’t grow food in your garden, you may want to try a window box, look into allotments or book an appointment at a local pick-your-own farm. 4. Watch the stars. While the nights drawing in may seem like a shame, it provides ample opportunities for stargazing. There are many apps and websites which can help you recognise different stars but, even without these tools, simply enjoying the night sky can bring peace. Bear in mind that it takes your eyes 15-30 minutes to adjust to the dark. 5. Look for local activities. If you don’t have the time to get outdoors every day, a longer stint each week, fortnight or month can still be soothing. Depending on where you live, you may want to look into beachcombing, rambling, wild swimming or geocaching – searching for hidden items in outdoor locations with the help of an app. 6. Bring nature indoors. If the weather is simply too bad, you are busier than usual or you do not have easy access to the outdoors, don’t underestimate the benefit of simply looking outdoors from an opportune spot, growing a houseplant or looking at photos of your favourite places in nature. There are also an array of apps and playlists for nature sounds like birdsong or waves breaking. Freshly-cut flowers or burning a scented candle are a particular indulgence – but be sure to choose scented candles made with natural ingredients to reap the benefits of aromatherapy. Our previous blog will help you differentiate between natural and synthetic products.
- What is slow living? 7 tips for living a slower life
Whether 2020 has had you juggling working from home and childcare, or you’ve had more free time on your hands in lockdown and beyond, many of us are striving to lead a slower lifestyle and make time to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. But what exactly is slow living? And how can we get started? A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that almost three-quarters of us have felt so stressed in the past year that they have been overwhelmed. This is perhaps to be expected; research has repeatedly shown that we are working longer hours than ever, with technology blurring the boundaries between working hours and leisure time. But the feeling of being rushed off your feet or spinning different plates constantly is not an inevitable fact of life. There is a growing movement of individuals and communities striving to cultivate a slower, more mindful lifestyle, in which wellbeing is prioritized and gratitude practiced frequently – known as the slow living movement. Slow living, at its core, is about rejecting chaos and materialism in order to complete activities at a leisurely pace, with a relaxed mindset. ‘Slow’ is, for some, taken as an acronym as well as an adjective, standing for sustainable, local, organic and wholesome. Some apply this ideology to all major aspects of their life, living rurally or in a mobile home, growing their own food and rejecting corporate jobs. But practicing a slower lifestyle in your current home and job is also possible - those practicing a slow lifestyle may simply wake early to make their own loose-leaf tea or iced coffee, and to stretch and journal before work, rather than waking to a last-minute alarm and grabbing a drink to-go on the way to the office, for example. With this in mind, we are taking the time today to outline a few simple practices you can incorporate into your daily routine to carve out quiet space for yourself and escape the rat race. 7 slow living practices for beginners 1. Ditch your alarm clock Adults are urged to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but the majority of us aren’t reaching that amount. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may feel groggy for up to four hours after waking – but well-rested people can expect to feel energized within 15 minutes of waking up. While it may seem counter-productive, many people swear that avoiding alarm clocks has improved the quality of their sleep, helping them to fall asleep earlier and wake earlier. If you are worried you will miss the start of your working day/ child’s school day/exercise class without an alarm, you can set a “safety alarm” at the latest possible interval you can manage – but by letting your body clock get into a natural rhythm, you’ll almost certainly wake up ahead of time. 2. Make time for breakfast Breakfast is known as ‘the most important meal of the day’ for a reason. If you’ve fallen into the habit of eating at your desk or grabbing something between tasks, you may well feel calmer and more in control of your day by taking the time to make and eat a healthy meal. For more information, you may wish to read our blog on creating a morning ritual for self-care. 3. Create a ritual around your favourite food or drink It’s not just breakfast that can be slowed down – any meal, snack or drink break can be approached more mindfully. Avoid purchasing pre-made items where possible and take the time to make your own dish or cup, noticing the smells and textures as you prepare it. Many people find the process of making fancy coffees, loose-leaf teas, juices or smoothies relaxing. Once your food or drink is made, make time to savour it rather than eating in front of your computer or TV. 4. Try candle-gazing meditation Candle gazing meditation, also known as Trataka, is one of the most ancient forms of meditation practice. It is widely regarded as helpful in bringing about a calm and reflective mood. Any kind of candle can be used for Trakata and you can practice for as little as ten minutes to feel the benefit. To help you set up your first practice, we’ve published a blog post with guidance. 5. Practise yoga It may seem a little cliché, but the benefits – both physically and mentally - of incorporating yoga into your routine are not to be underestimated. Whether you are looking to minimize anxiety or reconnect with your body, or build strength or work towards a specific pose or flow, there will be a yoga routine that’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to try different videos or teachers, to practice for short intervals or to modify poses with props if needed. 6. Keep a gratitude journal Always wanting more than you have is a defining feature of the ‘rat race’. We are socialized to want better jobs, bigger houses, flashier cars, luxury holidays and clothes. In striving for these improvements constantly, we often forget to make time to appreciate what we already have, leading to less quality time with loved ones. Writing a weekly journal answering the following prompts can help us to see the beauty in our day-to-day lives: What am I grateful for this week? What actions can I take to view each day as a blessing? What have been the three most beautiful moments of this week? 7. Connect with your local small business community A recent poll by E.ON found that more than half of us have made more of an effort to buy from small, local businesses during lockdown – a habit which two-fifths of people intend to continue as restrictions ease. As well as connecting you with high-quality products with a story – which, in itself, will incentivize you to use your belongings more mindfully – small businesses are a cornerstone of local communities. Beyond products, they often host events and community spaces, whether online or in-person, which will help you feel more connected and grounded. This isn’t to say that there aren’t chains with fantastic services, but there is something special about building relationships that go beyond one purchase.
- Celebrating International Yoga Day with Ally Vispo & Emma Barfield
The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on the 21st of June since 2015. Yoga is a group of ancient physical, mental and spiritual practices that originated in India. We believe yoga practise is a great form of self-care and we know that many of you love burning our candles while practising it at home. Today, we'd like to introduce you to Ally and Emma, two great yogis and great friends of ELM RD., who will be sharing with us how yoga has become a key part of their self-care rituals. ALLY VISPO Barcelona, Spain Favourite ELM RD. Scent: Sueños www.viamalama.com Ally is a writer and sustainability thought-leader, currently residing in Barcelona. She moved to Spain after almost a decade living and working in London in the e-commerce and luxury fashion industry. In 2014, after experiencing a series of very tough personal situations, she decided to completely change her lifestyle. She started eating healthier and soon became vegan. She also trained in yoga and started studying nutritional therapy, mindfulness and Ayurveda. These changes in lifestyle led Ally to enter the Zero Waste world (a lifestyle that she has adopted since 2015-16) and learn about sustainability, ethics and the well-being of people and animals in a deeper way. In 2019, she completed her yoga teacher training (Hatha Vinyasa), something that she had wanted to do for many years! How long have you been practising yoga, and how would you describe your preferred practice style? I have been practising yoga since 2014, almost daily, and my preferred style is either Dharma (my favourite by far, I love a devotional practice) and Vinyasa, although I quite like Jivamukti too. I like mixing it up with Yin and Restorative too! What does your typical daily routine look like? What non-negotiable rituals do you practice both on and off the mat? There needs to be a yoga practice somewhere - for me, it’s about body and soul and my daily practice is non-negotiable. I always plan my day in a way that I can practice at least for 1-3 hours. My mornings usually involve yoga, meditation, work, a healthy breakfast, and hanging out with my 7-month-old kid. But the first thing I currently do as soon as I get up is having a cup of freshly brewed coffee and tending to my plants! I have a lovely urban jungle on my terrace and I find it so relaxing. A great way to start my day! Yoga has an extensive and well-documented array of mental and physical benefits. What is the most noticeable way in which yoga has enriched your life, personally? Yoga has helped me to know myself better, discover who I really am and what I am here (on Earth) to do. It has taught me to see what’s really important in life, and to be grateful for every single second I can spend on Earth. But mostly, it has shown me that I should do no harm but take no shit either! Respect towards myself and others, mainly. "Yoga has helped me to know myself better, discover who I really am and what I am here (on Earth) to do." What general advice would you give to those who are just getting started with yoga and may not have a lot of props, or a lot of time to practice long sequences? The most difficult part is getting to the mat. Even if you have 5 minutes, I can assure you it WILL make a difference. And if you don’t have any props, don’t worry! Be creative and use books instead of blocks, a scarf instead of a yoga strap… you don’t really need much to practise yoga, just the willingness to do so. If you can breathe, you can practice! How can yoga help with wellbeing in the current climate specifically? Yoga helps us to move stagnant energy, stretching the muscles and oxygenating the body. It is extremely important that we practise daily and make it a habit - only then we will be able to feel all the benefits from our practice. I think that lots of jobs will be done from home or remotely from now on too, and that means more time just sitting at home, so it is even more important to tend to our body and find the time to stretch and move it to make sure we keep it healthy! Do you have any tips for practising at home? Find a safe space and make it your own. Put on a candle, burn some incense, use your favourite essential oil roll-on or drops, make it a thing. Also, invest in a good yoga mat and take care of it so it can last a long time. You can find Ally on Instagram as @ally_viamalama EMMA BARFIELD Gloucester, United Kingdom Favourite ELM RD. Scent: Intimacy www.emmabarfield.com www.maiamoon.co.uk Emma is a yoga teacher and spiritual mentor. She works a lot with feminine energy and facilitates healing retreats and events around the world. Emma started this journey with an intention focused on the breath; to improve her lung capacity and alleviate asthma symptoms. She says that the more she studies, grows and evolves with her practice, the more humbled she is to the magnitude of what this ancient practice is able to offer. Simply put, Emma is spreading the message that yoga has the power to make the ordinary extraordinary and gives us the chance to connect to our own innate inner wisdom. How long have you been practising yoga, and how would you describe your preferred practice style? I have been practising yoga for around twelve years now and teaching for the last five. My practice has changed so much over the years and evolves as I do, at the moment I practise Hatha and I also adore the magic of Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga), and delving into this ancient wisdom teaches that, of course, our practice will change as we will require different techniques and practices to maintain balance depending on what is happening for us on any given day or time in our lives. What does your typical daily routine look like? What non-negotiable rituals do you practice both on and off the mat? As I am self-employed and tend to work around the clock without much of a schedule of set working days and hours, my practice definitely changes week-in, week-out. During this period - particularly where I have sometimes experienced moments of overwhelm because my entire business had to be adapted (no more in-person classes, retreats and events) - I have crafted out extra time in my evenings to wind down and tune out of work entirely. I have also now gifted myself regular 48-hour digital detoxes where I am not on my phone at all, and that in itself, I find is more therapeutic than an entire spa day! My regular non-negotiables are simple, slow evenings -limited exposure to blue light from our devices (blue blocker glasses are amazing), SLEEP, and plenty of wholesome food and lots of water daily. I'm also a huge essential oil lover, so spend time with my natural products, diffusers and candles to really anchor me into a space of 'me time'. Yoga has an extensive and well-documented array of mental and physical benefits. What is the most noticeable way in which yoga has enriched your life, personally? Yoga, in short, has absolutely changed my life. It truly is a map for navigating our internal landscapes, and of course, when our inner world is enriched, vibrant and balanced, it is reflected in our outer world too. I simply don't remember life before Yoga, as I started so long ago. I have always been incredibly fiery, and without balancing my breath, body and mind I certainly notice how my energy and mood swingscan turn 'out of control'. But everything that I now know with yoga and this incredible work, is that we're never broken or out of control, we're simply disconnected and out of balance from our true, unique nature. Yoga is the map to bring us back into a deeper state of balance and harmony with ourselves and, ultimately, the world around us. "Yoga is the map to bring us back into a deeper state of balance and harmony with ourselves and ultimately our world around us." What general advice would you give to those who are just getting started with yoga and may not have a lot of props, or a lot of time to practice long sequences? Just start. Just start. Just start. You have a body and if you're reading this you have your breath too, it's all you need. I always love to share with anyone starting out not to think yoga is about handstands or full-on 90 minute practises. In fact, the ultimate 'goal' of yoga is to be able to sit in meditation -all of the poses that you're working on are simply so that you can take a comfortable seat, breathe and connect. I used to seek out teachers that would teach all of the complicated crazy arm balances - now I'm all about the breath, long savasanas and meditations. Start with 5 minutes, we all have that. Seated with simple, spacious breaths. Your biggest obstacle is your mind; I see students all of the time with all of the gear lose their practice after a few classes. Ultimately, master your mind, master your life. Set yourself realistic and attainable amounts of time for you to start with. For example, if you currently have no practise, it's important not to start with a goal of practicing every single day. The likelihood is that you won’t, and then you’ll feel like you have failed yourself at the first hurdle. Look for a 1%change, each day, each week – that way, you’rebuilding up a sustainable practice. How can yoga help with wellbeing in the current climate specifically? There has never been a more important time than now for us to be collectively maintaining balance and keeping centred. Whenever we feel out of balance and overwhelmed, as I'm sure anyone reading this may have felt recently, it's incredibly hard to support anyone else around us in our immediate communities. We're always creating a ripple effect to those around us; it starts with us. So breathe, for all things conscious! You can find Emma on Instagram as @emma.barfield
- Using essential oils safely at home:
Top tips for home fragrance with pets and young children The benefits of using essential oils for aromatherapy – enhancing mental and physical wellbeing through smell – are well-documented, from reduced stress and improved focus to improved circulation and digestion. It is believed that children and even some animals can also reap these benefits. But not all oils are suitable for use around young children or for pets, given that their immune systems and respiratory systems are so different from those of adults. As such, it is important to choose the right blend to ensure the health and wellbeing of all members of your household. As a general rule of thumb, one of the safest ways of using essential oils is by choosing home fragrance products containing them, such as candles, room mists and reed diffusers. Adding oils to potpourri or to a hot bath or shower is also widely regarded as safe. Applying essential oils topically (i.e. directly to the skin), however, produces higher rates of adverse reactions. Ingesting them is more likely still to result in negative effects. Using essential oils for aromatherapy is safer solely in that your body is not exposed to large quantities of the oil at any one time, be that internally or externally. Nonetheless, some oils are not recommended for any use on or around children, animals or pregnant or breastfeeding women, home fragrance included. If you have young children… Be aware that they are more sensitive in general to aromas due to the fact that their respiratory systems and immune systems are not fully mature. As such, some essential oils deemed safe for most adults have been linked to slowed respiration or to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Young skin is also much thinner and more sensitive, so be sure to keep diffusers and pure oils out of reach of young children. This risk is particularly pronounced for those aged two and under, but much advice cautions against using essential oils topically adding drops to showers and baths for those until your child is 10. Essential oils which should be kept away from children include: Wintergreen Peppermint Eucalyptus Rosemary Sage Thyme Lemongrass Basil Tea tree Cinnamon Cardamom Clove bud Essential oils regarded as safe for children include: Lavender Chamomile Cypress Marjoram Rose Patchouli Cedarwood Sweet orange Mandarin Lemon Note here that diffusing of any kind – whether using hot water or an electric diffuser – is not recommended around children aged six months and under. This is because their chemosensory system and central nervous systems will still be developing, as well as their immune and respiratory functions. When diffusing around older children, be sure they have access to fresh air by opening a door or window. If you are pregnant… While there is no evidence that using essential oils in home fragrance will cause any issues for yourself or your unborn child, you should always consult and check with your GP. Horror stories have been almost exclusively recorded when women ingest toxic essential oils by mouth. Nonetheless, experts advise avoiding aniseed, basil, birch, cinnamon, camphor, hyssop, mugwort, parsley, sage, wintergreen, tonka and nutmeg throughout all trimesters and while breastfeeding. Safe alternatives which may provide wellbeing benefits at this special time include bergamot, black pepper, chamomile, cypress, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, juniper, lavender, lemon, mandarin, marjoram, neroli, rose, sandalwood, orange, tea tree and ylang ylang. If you have pets… It is important to appreciate that their chemosensory, respiratory, digestive and immune systems are very different to those of a human and to choose home fragrance with care. What may cause a dry throat in humans may cause seizures, strokes and even death for some cats and dogs. As well as choosing your oils wisely, you will also need to take caution when choosing product formats. Cats and dogs have been known to drink out of reed diffusers, and to lick pure oils off of themselves or of surfaces if they are spilled. As is the case with humans, topical application and ingestion bear much higher risks than inhalation. It is worth noting that the use of any essential oils, even for home fragrance, is not recommended around pregnant cats or dogs. If your pet is expecting but you would still like to indulge in aromatherapy, you are safest to simply lock them out of the room or rooms where you use home fragrance.
- What do ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’ mean in home fragrance?
As we become increasingly aware of the environmental, ethical, health and wellbeing pitfalls of animal products, more and more of us are choosing veganism and opting for cruelty-free products. On the former, The Vegan Society estimates that the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled to 600,000 between 2014 and 2018. On the latter, the number of cruelty-free cosmetic brands globally almost doubled between 2013 and 2018. But while these terms are well-defined in the dietary and beauty spaces respectively, how can you tell if your home fragrance products are vegan and cruelty-free? It is first important to recognise the difference in meaning between the two terms. For a product to be vegan, it must not contain any animal or animal-derived products. For a product to be cruelty free, it – and all its ingredients – must not have been tested on animals. Additionally, many shoppers who strongly advocate for animal rights choose not to purchase products from brands which test on animals for different ranges or in different regions. Of particular contention is the Chinese market; by law, all cosmetics and health and beauty products require animal testing. So this journal entry explores some of the simplest ways to check that your home fragrance aligns with your ethics. Identifying vegan home fragrance If you are opting for a reed diffuser or room spray, essential oils will be your main consideration. By their nature (i.e. that they are made by cold-pressing or distilling plants) essential oils are usually vegan friendly. However, not all brands which make essential oils are fully vegan across their entire portfolio, so it is worth checking the manufacturer where possible. It is also important to ensure that your product contains essential oils rather than fragrance oils. Essential oils are natural and plant-based, whereas fragrance oils are synthetically created in a lab and can contain as many as 200 ingredients – some of which may be animal-derived. Even if the fragrance oil is vegan, it will not provide any aromatherapy benefits and may even lead to adverse effects. More information on the difference between natural and synthetic oils can be found in this previous journal post. As for scented candles, the wax and wick will also need to be considered. Most scented candles on the market are not vegan because they are made using paraffin-based wax, chosen for its low price point and ability to take on synthetic dyes. Paraffin itself is derived from petroleum and classed as vegan in most cases – but because it is soft and translucent, stearic acid is typically added to harden the material and improve its appearance. Stearic acid is most commonly derived from animal fat. Coconut-derived stearic acid is available but is more expensive and, therefore, not as frequently used. Aside from paraffin, tallow and beeswax are also not vegan. These materials are, however, much less popular now than they have been in decades past. Vegan alternatives include rapeseed, soy and coconut. Regarding wicks, wicks are typically made from braided cotton, making them vegan. Wood wicks are also vegan. However, vegans will want to steer clear of wicks pre-waxed in paraffin, given the complexities noted above. Is my home fragrance cruelty-free? Essential oils and the other components used to make home fragrance products are usually cruelty-free by their nature – essential oils, waxes and wicks have been in use for many hundreds of years and do not require new testing. But, as above, some brands supplying these components are not certified as cruelty-free and may test on animals elsewhere in their portfolio. The bottom line is that unless a brand or supplier clearly states – either on its packaging or website – that its home fragrance lines are cruelty-free and/or vegan, they probably aren’t. Some brands and suppliers may choose to use certification scheme logos rather than written explanations, so look out for The Leaping Bunny or Choose Cruelty Free (CCF). PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies is another common certification scheme but it is worth considering the organisation’s multitude of controversies. To summarise, home fragrance products are not all created equal and it is better to be safe than sorry. The good news is that cruelty-free and vegan products have never been more popular, affordable or easy to find. ELM RD. only uses 100% natural, vegan and plant-based materials and avoids using any ingredients that have been tested on animals for cosmetic purposes since 1 January 2006. This is in line with our core values: Wellbeing, sustainability, slow and mindful living and kindness. You can find out more about how and where our scented candles, mists and diffusers are made and what they are made from by visiting our FAQs page.
- How essential oils can help with sleep
Since the coronavirus lockdown began, the hashtag #CantSleep has trended on Twitter multiple times. It comes as no surprise that so many of us are experiencing trouble either getting to sleep, or getting a restful night free from tossing and turning, jolting awake or nightmares, given that we are experiencing disruptions to our usual routines and are probably dealing with additional sources of worry and stress. Without daily routines – often filled to the brim with commuting, business meetings, errands, childcare and social events – it is easy to still have surplus physical or mental energy at our usual bedtimes. Routines also keep our natural rhythms in check, so our brains signal to our bodies when it is time to start winding down for sleep at a reasonable time. Add this falling off of routine to decreased exposure to daylight, a lack of clear boundaries between spaces for work and relaxations, additional worries about health or finances and, for some, increased consumption of alcohol, caffeine and rich foods - and you have a recipe for poor sleep. In addition to developing a healthy daily routines and minimising these barriers to restful nights where possible, you may wish to use essential oils to reap their benefits. Essential oils – oils derived from cold-pressing or distilling natural ingredients - have been used with the aim of improving health, mood and wellbeing for thousands of years. The act of simply smelling essential oils stimulates the limbic system – the connected parts of your brain linked to emotions, heart rate, stress, hormone balance, blood pressure and breathing. As such, they can have a subtle yet holistic effect on the body, readying you for rest. How to use essential oils for better sleep Some of simplest and safest ways to use essential oils involve using them as a home fragrance. You can add a few drops to an air diffuser, or to potpourri, and place these items strategically around your home. Candles, room mists and reed diffusers are also good options. When choosing these products, be sure to check they contain essential oils rather than fragrance oils. While essential oils are made from natural materials and provide aromatherapy benefits, fragrance oils are manufactured in labs and will have no inherent benefits, instead often leading to headaches or allergy symptoms. You can read more on differentiating essential oils and fragrance oils in our previous journal entry. As an alternative to home fragrance, you may wish to add a few drops of essential oil to a hot bath, or to the floor of your shower before turning on the hot water. Start with two drops and build from there if needed, making sure to use no more than 20 drops in any 24-hour period. Inhaling essential oils is generally safer than applying topically (i.e. directly to your skin). If you do opt for topical uses, you should always use a carrier oil for diluting, such as jojoba or coconut oil, and carry out a patch test. Do not apply essential oils directly to skin. This last step is especially important if you have sensitive skin. Some essential oils are not advised for pregnant or breastfeeding women, young children or animals, so be sure to check beforehand. Note that essential oils should not be ingested unless you are advised to do so by a healthcare professional, as many are toxic when taken by mouth. Moreover, many products on the market are not pure and are instead diluted with less expensive ingredients. People ultimately respond to different essential oils in different ways, so your best bet for finding the oil to suit you is to try a few out. If you are looking for a ready-made solution, ELM RD.’s Sueños scent range contains essential oil blends designed to help with sleep, as do the Sleep essential oil blend and candle from the Heal's collection. When used to complement a daily routine that prioritises wellbeing and includes good sleep hygiene, the right essential oils can work wonders. So, happy searching and sweet dreams!
- How to create morning and evening rituals for self-care
Since social distancing measures came into effect, many of us have undergone sizeable shifts in our daily routines. The need to wake up early and commute to the office or rush to a meeting, class or conference has, for millions, stopped. Afternoons are no longer divided into lunch breaks, school finishing and rush hour. For some, this will be a welcome chance to slow down, savour a leisurely breakfast in the morning and spend more quality time with loved ones throughout the day. But, without structure to your day or changes in scenery, it is all too easy to fall out of usual routines and feel the days blending into one. The benefits of keeping to an established routine are well-documented. Research has proven that routine has far-reaching psychological benefits, from reducing stress and improving sleep to alleviating anxiety disorders. This is largely because routines both help make tasks habit, preventing the build-up of mountains of paperwork or laundry, and inject a sense of achievement and progress into each day. So, it’s hardly surprising that many of us are searching the internet for the answers to questions such as “how to create a routine” and “what is the ideal routine”. But creating rituals may, in fact, be even more effective at adding harmony to our lives. The primary difference between a routine and a ritual is mindfulness. Routines are simply a sequence of actions carried out at set times – often on autopilot in a bid to prevent chaos - whereas rituals have a specific meaning attached and are completed predominantly for spiritual or wellbeing benefits. In order to complete a ritual, you must bring yourself into the present moment. You do not have to be a spiritual or religious person to create a ritual, only to have a sense of purpose. Some tasks you may wish to use in a morning ritual include: Meditating for 10 minutes or more – perhaps trying candle-gazing meditation Adding to a vision board Completing a gentle yoga practice Making a cup of tea using loose leaves and savouring it Making a nutritious breakfast from scratch Tending to your pets or plants Practicing gratitude (writing down or speaking aloud the things you are grateful for) Taking time to complete your usual skincare routine more slowly And tasks often recommended for a bedtime ritual include: Switching off electronics to make way for meditation or quality time with a loved one Taking a hot bath or shower using products with aromatherapy benefits (we recommend this essential oil blend from the Heals collection to aid sleep) Refreshing your bed linen with a natural room or pillow mist, diffuser or candle designed to aid sleep Tidying your bedroom mindfully, to create a calming space Completing a multi-step night-time skincare routine Journaling for reflection and intention-setting Gentle stretching to release tension Rituals can be as long or as short as you wish; can consist of one or several tasks; and can be carried out with any wellbeing goal in mind – it is simply about finding what works with your schedule and aims. If you are new to rituals or have a busy schedule, you may wish to pick one task to complete mindfully in the morning and one in the evening, for 10-15 minutes each, and build from there. The only thing which should be fixed are the time and location in which you complete your rituals. Rituals are ultimately meant to help you set a mood, ground yourself or ignite a certain kind of energy – be that relaxation, connection or invigoration. So, experimenting to find an ideal fit should prove peaceful in itself.
- What’s the difference between natural and synthetic home fragrances?
In the current climate, we are spending more time at home than usual and likely experiencing additional stress – so it is only natural that many of us are using home fragrance in a bid to inject more relaxation, creativity or energy into our daily routine. Fragrance is proven to be powerful. When used correctly, scents can enhance psychological and physical wellbeing, offering benefits from stress reduction and boosted cognition to better circulation and improved digestion. But using candles, sprays or diffusers made using synthetic or toxic materials can have the opposite effect, leaving us feeling lethargic and suffering from headaches, allergy symptoms and even hormone imbalances. How to differentiate natural and synthetic scented candles Candles have three main components which can be either natural or synthetic: the wax, the scent and the wick. Paraffin is commonly used for wax, given that it is low-cost and can be dyed to take on an array of bright colours. This makes for eye-catching and affordable candles, but paraffin is made from the sludge that is left after crude oil is refined into gasoline. All fossil-fuel-based materials give off toxic fumes when heated. Natural alternatives to paraffin include rapeseed, soy, coconut and other vegetable oils, as well as beeswax. It is worth noting here that beeswax is not vegan. You can tell the difference between paraffin and natural wax candles by either checking the colour, ingredients on the label, or how fast the candle burns. Natural, plant-based wax candles generally burn longer than paraffin candles. They also have a richer and creamier colour compared to paraffin wax, which has a whiter and slightly translucent appearance. Don’t let the price of the candle confuse you; most well-known luxury candle brands use paraffin wax to maximise profit. As for scent, there are two main kinds: essential oils and fragrance oils. The former are plant-based and typically made by cold-pressing or distilling natural ingredients like flowers, leaves, citrus fruits, barks or seeds. Smelling essential oils has been proven to have numerous aromatherapy benefits for both mind and body. Essential oils are precious and can be expensive due to the large quantities of raw natural ingredients needed to produce them, as well as their complex and time-consuming extraction processes. Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are synthetically made in a lab and it is unlikely you will ever be able to trace the full production process. They can contain up to 200 ingredients and can result in numerous unpleasant side effects. On product labels, fragrance oils can sometimes be called perfume, parfum or fragrance. Synthetic fragrances are much cheaper than essential oils and can be artificially manufactured to mimic almost any scent. This is why they are widely used and preferred by many home fragrances brands. But, unlike essential oils, fragrance oils have no inherent therapeutic benefits. To find out if a candle is scented with essential oils or synthetic fragrance, read the scent descriptions and notes. A common misconception is that essential oils can be extracted from all fruits, which isn’t the case. Most fruits, except for citrus fruits, cannot effectively be distilled to produce essential oils. So, if a candle smells like berries, fig, coconut or other exotic fruits or ingredients, then it contains synthetic fragrances. Given that fragrances soften wax, metal cores or zinc and tin are typically added to the wicks of candles. These cores – not to be confused with the aluminium base that holds wicks upright - release trace amounts of heavy metals when burned. As such, it is best to look for candles with cotton or wood wicks, like those used by ELM RD. Is toxic the same as synthetic, and non-toxic the same as natural? This is a very complex subject and the simplest answer is NO. Most synthetic materials can be toxic to some degree, but not all. And at the same time, certain essential oils extracted from nature can be toxic too. So, just because a candle contains synthetic fragrances doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad for you. However, synthetic fragrances cannot be expected to have any sort of influence on your mood or wellbeing. If you are reading this, you most likely hold the same values as we do: Wellbeing, sustainability, slow and mindful living and kindness to people, planet and ourselves. So, given that extra time at home provides a chance to pause and explore what’s in the products you and your family use every day, now is the opportune moment to check whether you’re living those values in your home life.
- Candle Gazing Meditation
Candle gazing meditation, also known as Trataka, is one of the most ancient forms of meditation practice. There is something truly hypnotic and mesmerising about the naked flame of a candle and the calming effect it has on our minds. In this meditation, the candle acts as the main focal point. You can use any type of candle: pilar candles, tea-lights, votive candles or lager candles with multiple wicks. Our favourite candles to practice candle gazing meditation are wood wick candles, as they have a hypnotic dancing flame and they make a very atmospheric and relaxing crackling sound. Make sure your candle is on a flat surface and in a safe space away from anything flammable or that could catch fire. How to Practice Trataka Meditation This meditation is best suited for when you are in a calm and reflective mood. We'd recommend to practice it in the evenings or in a darker room to create a nice relaxing atmosphere by candlelight. Light your candle and sit right opposite at a safe distance (approximately 1 meter away). Ideally the flame should be comfortably positioned at eye level. Focus your gaze to the candle's flame and take a moment to observe how it flickers. Appreciate how it changes shape in a dance-like movement. If you are meditating with a wood-wick candle, take notice of its crackling sound. Now gradually shift your focus on to your breath. Notice how your chest moves when you inhale, and when you exhale. As you inhale, imagine you a breathing in the warmth of the candle, as you exhale visualise the word "Breathe" (or any other word that resonates with you). Continue to allow the flame to be your main focal point and if you notice that your mind starts to wonder and gets distracted, simply accept it and bring your focus back to the flame. Keep going for as long as you wish, and when you are ready to end your practice, put out the candle with a gentle blow or covering the candle jar with a lid. The benefits of candle meditation Here are some of the many benefits of candle gazing meditation: Helps to combat anxiety and manage stress Enhanced focus Improved quality of sleep Increased self-awareness TIP: This mediation is a particularly effective way to de-stress and unwind at the end of a busy day. You can also enhance your experience with one of our mood-boosting essential oil blends. Serenity, Intimacy and Freedom are our favourite blends for candle gazing meditation.