Just Breathe

This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!


It happens to me so often. An entire day goes by... I somehow navigated through various meals, different conversations and plentiful moments but the one thing I didn't "get done" was simply becoming aware of my breath. Our breath is magnificent in that it's the only function we do both consciously and unconsciously, voluntarily and involuntarily. How amazing is that?! We can do this because breathing is connected to two different sets of nerves - our sympathetic nervous system and our parasympathetic nervous system. What I want to shed light on in this post is recognizing when to tap into each individual set, why it's important to do this and what can happen if we don't. 

Beside being our life force and one of the most incredible gifts we're given every single day, our breath is closely tied to our health and well-being, specifically our hormones. Without getting too scientific, it's important to understand the role our hormones play in our health and how we can alter their relationship to our bodies and, moreover, their overall effect on our minds and mental state. WHY? Because we all want to be happy and enjoy highly functioning bodies, right? Right. Enter: our beautiful breath. 

The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of keeping us safe from danger - when it's activated in our bodies, we're able to face threats and quickly decide to "fight or take flight." This is tremendously helpful when we're actually facing dangerous threats, such as being chased by a lion or predator. In these stressful cases or simply when the sympathetic nervous system is activated (even without actual threats), the hormone cortisol gets dumped into our bloodstream to deal with this stress - physical or mental. The way cortisol works is it essentially shuts down other systems - like our immune system - to divert all energies to dealing with the stress. You can see how this could become an issue over an extended period of time when we're not actually being chased by lions (because most of us aren't). Our bodies - our sympathetic nervous system - can't tell the difference between a real threat and something like "I have so much on my plate right now at work." It deals with both stressors in the same exact way. Too much cortisol in our bloodstream can lead to many illnesses and unhealthy effects, such as high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, skin conditions, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. No one wants any of that! 

Our parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is in charge of helping us heal, recover, rest and bring calmness into our bodies. Sometimes referred to as the "rest and digest" system, the parasympathetic system works to balance the effects of having triggered our "fight or flight" sensors. What a cool balancing act our bodies innately have. 

I've already established how both systems are connected to our physical health through the hormones that get released when each is activated. But what's also extremely important to recognize here is how directly tied both systems are to our mental health. In understanding this close relationship we can begin to infuse our daily life and general health with doses of the good stuff. What's the good stuff you ask? Yep, you know it! It starts with our breath. 

Remember when I said earlier that our breath is both voluntary and involuntary? The involuntary is what keeps us alive despite us forgetting to breathe for an entire day (or days, weeks, months. AH!). The voluntary is what we do intentionally. The voluntary kind can be used to actually kick the parasympathetic nervous system (think: recover, rest, balance, exhale) into gear and deactivate the sympathetic one (think: fight or flight, reaction to stress, inhale). This is wonderful news because we live in a world where we're all constantly ON; we're constantly going and doing and trying. Think of someone who's highly stressed and you can probably visualize rapid breathing as opposed to visualizing someone who's quite calm and the word exhale almost drips from the scene. The problem is we are living in full-on stress mode, most of us land on the sympathetic side most of the time, preventing our bodies from getting that healing parasympathetic goodness. I know this firsthand because I've felt the immediate effects of turning that off simply by breathing and noticing how much better I feel. If you've ever done any type of meditation or yoga or breathing exercise, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's time to take control of our bodies, our minds and our overall health by simply taking the time to breathe. 

Here's a daily practice you can do to start blessing your body with healing and calming vibes:

  • Find a comfortable seat. This could be in your home, at your office, on the subway or anywhere you're able to sit quietly for 5 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and gently let your hands rest on your legs.
  • Begin just by listening to your breath. The tone. The length. The temperature. Where it lands. Where it expands. No judgements. Simply being curious with yourself and your breath.
  • Exhale all your air out.
  • Inhale for a count of 2 - breathe in air to capacity. Fill yourself up. Pause for a moment at the top.
  • Exhale for a count of 4 - let all the air exit your body. Empty yourself completely and pause at the bottom. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 4, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 6, pause. Continue with this count until you feel you're ready to to lengthen each cycle. 
  • Inhale for a count of 6, pause.
  • Exhale for a count of 8, pause. Continue with this count for another minute or two.
  • After 5-10 minutes, allow your breath to continue naturally, at its own pace. 
  • Softly flutter your eyes open and smile.

I've prepared a video to guide you through this process so you know you're not alone in this! I hope you take this exercise and weave it into your life intentionally and voluntarily. If this is something you've enjoyed and want to see more of, please do leave a comment or message me separately - I always love keeping conversations going! 

Sending you immense love and wishes for your breath and body to be spacious and soft,

Tutti


This post is written in collaboration with some of the most stellar and deep-thinking women I've met. It's a series called The Refined Collective, organized by The Refined Woman. Each month, we'll each share our thoughts on an assigned topic. This month is all about Breathing. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine HarrisJoanne Encarnacion, Corie Clark, Jackie Viramontez, Julien Garman, Nikia Phoenix, Brynn Watkins, Jessica Chow and Tonhya Wysong. Check out the other ladies on Instagram!

 

Posing 101: The Most Useful Tips On How to Pose

When it comes to the topic of posing, most of my clients get intensely intimidated. "I have no idea what to do," or "I don't know what looks good," or "I don't know how to be sexy" are all common phrases I hear when discussing expectations with my clients. I get it, being sexy is quite a vulnerable act I'm asking from women, especially because most often they're strangers! But even though I believe sexiness and that sultry energy I love capturing is something innately within each of us, there are some general rules and tips I like to use during my shoots that make you and your body look absolutely incredible. 

All the images used in this post are completely unedited and, in my opinion, breathtaking as-is. They're all from the same test shoot with my model-friend Denka, who's an absolute joy to shoot because she exudes femininity, grace, beauty, confidence, sexiness, movement, softness and strength. In an effort to keep this article positive, I'd love to share my favorite "Do's" of posing and show you how you can apply each tip and take your photo from being stunning to magazine-worthy!

DO:

1. Elongate your body using extremities: In practicality, what this looks like is extending your arms or legs to the sides or toward the camera. With these angles, your body appears extra long and free of creases / folds that you feel extra self-conscious about.

These next three are a great example of this concept. If you're looking ONLY at the body and not the overall feel of the images, you can clearly see how the extension of the legs creates a leaner and longer perception of Denka's gorgeous body. Simply by extending her legs and propping herself up, she gives the illusion of an even longer body when looking at these from left to right. Personally though, I adore the vibe of the picture of the left, so that's the one I'd choose out of a bunch. 

2. Keep your toes pointed. This is related to the previous tip but it's a simple way to lengthen your legs even further. It's a small but noticeable difference.

3. Laugh! It doesn't get much simpler than this. I often ask my clients to start laughing and beside being a bit weird to start laughing out of nowhere, it makes for natural, fun and beautiful photographs where your beauty really shines through. Once the laughing starts, it gets to be so ridiculous that we end up laughing for a long period of time - hence the not-so-focused shots :)

4. Lean forward. This reminds me of the sticker on car mirrors that reads, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." In this case, "Whatever is closest to the camera appears biggest." What that means is that it's typically better to lean your upper body forward and/or toward the camera so that your waist, hips and legs appear smallest IF flattery is what you're going for.

5. Use props to cover, play and/or get variety. Props such as pillows, sheets and t-shirts are quite useful and make for sexy photos.

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6. Create shapes and move. This isn't the time to be shy or coy - instead, push your boobs together, create tons of cleavage, arch your back, throw your head back and use your arms to create space away from your body!

Arch........

Arch........

....... That back! Ahhh there it is :)

....... That back! Ahhh there it is :)

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7. FLIRT. A boudoir session is an intimate experience where you get to let your inner vixen play and be seen. It's a set time where you get to experience yourself as a sensual being and discover what that looks like. With that said, I know it's easier said that done and that this is probably the hardest tool to sharpen. But like I tell all the women I work with, this session is for YOU. Use it as a time where you explore your body, feel and do what feels sexy to you, and get your flirt on. If giving these images as a gift, believe me, your special someone wants to see you get lost in your own sensuality. And if doing this for yourself, you'll want to see and feel how gorgeous and freeing you look when you simply let go. 

That's it for now! If you're interested in learning more about the boudoir experience and how to prepare for it, check out my Boudoir E-book! I hope these tips help ease any nerves you may have and inspire you to approach your shoot with lots of excitement!

With love,

Tutti

/ / C R E D I T S / /

Model: Denka
Location: Boro Hotel
Style: White set from Victoria's Secret, Green top from Aerie and Black bodysuit from American Apparel.


 

LIVING SEXY IS... All About Who I Surround Myself With

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There's a crispness in the air that lets me know Summer is winding down. After a much needed break from developing new content, I'm ready to reveal this season's first Living Sexy feature - a nurturing goddess and sultry mama, Anna. I had the unexpected surprise of meeting the lovely soul that she is while shooting a wedding down in St. Thomas this summer. Side note: we may or may not have left the wedding reception to go skinny dipping in the ocean (AFTER my photography duties were over, of course). I can't begin to explain how hot it was - the reception, that is ;)

Needless to say, she immediately struck me as a cool chick who made me feel like a cool chick too. Add to that the fact that she's a mother of two precious babies and I quickly developed a girl crush that would culminate in me shooting her for the blog. I just can't help it! Some people are inspired by museums, I'm inspired by the person behind the artwork. People are my thing.

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I told Anna my vision of capturing her in her element - as a mother - and she was 100% on board. At that point, I had yet to photograph a mother nursing her baby. For whatever reason, as close as I am to women of all ages and stages, it just hadn't happened. But alas, my time had come, and I knew in my heart that Anna was the perfect woman for the task. She's the type of woman who'd feel the freedom of letting me capture the special bond while breastfeeding. I knew she'd trust me in making it easy and comfortable, and that my main goal was to show her how perfect she is in this stage of life. 

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I'm not one to talk because I'm not a mother and I can't begin to imagine the psychological aspects of giving birth, sleep deprivation, dealing with related body issues, hormones, etc. BUT, if there's one thing I hope for when I become a mother, it's for self-acceptance + grace. Scratch that, I hope for that right now. I think a lot of us fall into patterns of judgement and dissatisfaction during times when what we really need is a little grace. Anna caught me off guard because she represents a woman who not only accepts herself but also loves herself even when her little one asks her to turn around so she can lay on her "squishy side." I'd want to stay squishy forever if my baby said that to me. Awwwwwwww.

The goal of this Living Sexy column has always been to hold a space for women to be themselves, feel loved and spread love in this community, starting with themselves. The goal of this specific post is to show you how different stages of womanhood can be beautiful, in hopes that no matter where you're at, you find grace within. I'l leave you with these special and striking images and video. 

 

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Please note these images are quite sensitive as they portray Anna and her beautiful baby while breastfeeding. Any inappropriate comment or misuse of this content will be immediately taken down. 

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View the slideshow below and make sure to Subscribe -----> to stay updated on other posts!

Anna - I can't thank you enough for your time, beauty and trust in letting me include you in this project. Your little girls are blessed to have a mama who exemplifies self-love, playfulness and joy.