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.

TuttidelMonte.Denka.Boudoir.NYC-10.jpg

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.


 

Forgiveness

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 Forgiveness. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine Harris, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Chelsey Korus, Danielle Bennet,  Joanne Encarnacion and Nikia Phoenix. 

Memories of my childhood are full of laughter, fun and love all around. Looking back at pictures + videos of my elementary and middle-school years and talking to my mom about it, I'm affirmed that my friendships came in all shapes, colors, sizes, social classes and family upbringings. Years ago, when the concept of bullying started inundating the media, I remember feeling so lucky that I'd never been a victim of it or, even worse, succumbed to becoming a bully. The thought of it gives me shivers. I thought I was in the clear. As an adult, I never thought I'd go through the debilitating emotional punches of being bullied by a close friend. 

When I first moved to a new town, life was an exciting time. My days were filled with new adventures, my nights were capped with new memories and my life in general was unfolding beautifully. Professionally, I wasn't where I was hoping I'd be and some days seemed more frustrating than others but, all in all, it all felt right. I was happily living in the same building as a close friend and up until then we'd only had minor clashes as friends - the type you'd have with just about anyone you spend all your free time with. Everything flipped suddenly. Friendship was replaced with animosity. Words were laced with anger. Energy was contaminated with scorn. And the world around me became pitch-black. For six months, I had to walk through the cloud of darkness that had enveloped around my room, my apartment, my building and even my neighborhood. All interactions were contemptuous and directed at my heart. I had zero drive to pursue a creative career because my creative abilities were ridiculed, and I basically felt insecure about everything else once I allowed that to happen.  

One of the best decisions I made back then was to Forgive. I took baby steps toward reclaiming my spirit with the help of people who actually cared about me. I broke a lease in order to find a healthier living environment, I dove deep into a yoga program, I started taking pictures again, I looked for ways of meeting other photographers, and I did everything I could to let go of those dark months. But it still felt as if I was dragging a heavy burden with me. Every time I'd follow a yoga teacher's cues during meditation or Savasana to either think of a person to dedicate the practice to or someone who needs extra love in their heart, that particular person would fly into my sight. It was so frustrating. I was doing everything in my power to let go; to release myself; to move forward. I remember talking to a friend about a physical feeling I had in my sternum. It felt blocked and physically tight, similar to the feeling you get when you feel compelled to crack your neck, knuckles, toes or back, and all I wanted to do was break it open so my heart could be plump again instead of the shriveled weak thing it felt like! She advised me to sit with this feeling, to allow myself to bring this person into my heart, and to forgive. To forgive. After many, many uneasy meditations and tears, I decided to write a letter of forgiveness and actually send it. I remember a specific yoga practice a few weeks after that - I was in my new room, listening to loud melodic music, in the middle of a high lunge pose with my arms reaching far into the sky, all of a sudden the area in my sternum popped. It literally popped! I fell to the floor and started crying because I could feel the new lightness in my body. 

The stuff we go through weighs us down. It's no joke. Being bullied brought a darkness to my life that I'd never thought possible, but the power of forgiveness broke the barriers and allowed for light to shine through. The light allowed for love to come into my life once again: I met one of my best friends during that time, I received countless professional inquiries, I met a great guy, I set up an intentional business, I felt the desire to create again and I explored the possibilities of a whole new life in my new town. In a previous post, I mentioned that life can get boiled down to experiences and lessons. If that stage of life taught me anything, it's that our hearts are capable of infinite love and infinite forgiveness. Sometimes the space between the two is not as far as you'd think. In fact, very often they're right on top of each other. Though it feels icky, sticky, dark and difficult, it's a space worth claiming. 

I recently finished a book called The Hiding Place, it’s a compelling and powerful story of a Dutch woman who survived the concentration camps during the Holocaust. The book is a remarkable example of this woman - Corrie’s - ability to not only forgive but to build a life of kindness, compassion and love. There’s a ton of context leading up to the time when she and her family were actually captured. An entire chapter is dedicated to a man she loved - Karel. They’d go on walks, talk for hours, exchange meaningful looks and experience all the joys of falling in love. The story doesn’t end well for Corrie and Karel - because of his family’s social status, Karel ends up marrying another woman. In her intense and utter heartbreak, Corrie’s father shares his wisdom,

"Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel. God loves Karel - even more than you do - and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way."

This paragraph struck an acute chord with me. How many of you have been heartbroken, felt the hollowing despair of the absence of love? It’s painful! That’s exactly what the absence of love feels like - real, guttural pain! But the part that really hits home is when her father explains the idea that there’s something much bigger that simply loves us for who we are, and that it’s a love that none of us can comprehend. Despite what your religious beliefs are (I don’t categorize myself as anything specific), I invite you to embrace this concept of a majestic element / being / spirit that sees love within you and everyone around you - including those who’ve perhaps hurt you in real ways. In choosing the path of forgiveness, we have an opportunity to let go of the human ties and emotions that impede us from experiencing love and instead we invite love into not only our life, but into the life of those around us as well.

The experience of forgiveness is varied because our lives are all so varied. One thing I know for sure though is that there’s so much more light in the path of forgiveness than in the path of control. As humans, the best we can do is to care for our own hearts and to try to live our best lives every single day. In my life, this includes forgiveness at every chance. I’ve let go of the desire to control outcomes, situations and even people so that I don’t create space for unnecessary disappointment in my own heart. Instead, I choose the higher way of seeing situations or people. When possible, I step out of my own human way and try to see the bigger picture. 

Whether you're going through something, have buried a hurtful past or want to cherish your beautiful heart for its infinite love, I want you to use this affirmation today when you find a quiet moment:

My heart is resilient. I spread kindness and goodwill to those around me and forgive those who've hurt me. My heart is open to love.

Sending you all infinite love,

Tutti

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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 Forgiveness. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine Harris, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Chelsey Korus, Danielle Bennet, Joanne Encarnacion and Nikia Phoenix.