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 :)

TuttidelMonte.Denka.Boudoir.NYC-2.jpg

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.


 

Loving the Skin You're In

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 Loving The Skin You're In. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine Harris, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Chelsey Korus, Danielle Bennet, Kate Labat, Joanne Encarnacion and Nikia Phoenix. 


It was dinner time. I was hanging out at my neighbors’ house because I loved spending time with their three young daughters as they played with their toys and talked about their day. The eldest daughter, who was about five or six years old by then, looked over at me as she was braiding my hair and asked, “Why do you have so many mosquito bites on your face?”. Despite the tiny punch to my stomach and the tears that followed, I felt relieved that someone FINALLY had the courage to admit that my acne was real, that I wasn’t making it up. For so long, I had struggled with an annoying stress-and-hormone-and-everything-induced acne condition, but everyone around me kept telling me that it “wasn’t as bad as I perceived it to be” and that “I was beautiful no matter what” and that also “no one really notices it.” Well, I noticed it, dammit! Didn’t that count for something??? 

It did. It does. 

When I first started thinking about turning photography into a full-blown career, I remember comparing myself to my peers based on what they'd experienced and what I hadn't. They'd either had a rough childhood or gone through some sort of dramatic experience that led them to feel more than me - in my eyes, their voice, their expression, their work mattered more than mine. I remember feeling that I'd never create anything as compelling as them because nothing that'd happened to me had been that bad. I mention this because when it comes to digging into what we're feeling or what our story is, we're all equally worth the work and worth the freedom from it. 

It doesn't matter if it's something as seemingly simple as an acne predisposition or as serious as an eating disorder, it all matters equally. What I feel matters. What you feel matters. We all feel shitty sometimes, we all struggle with self-esteem issues, we all feel beautiful sometimes, but not so beautiful other times. It’s all real. When it comes to loving MY skin, the first step I had to take was to simply admit to myself that I didn’t have to love it ALL the time. That just wasn’t a realistic approach for me and every time someone tried to diminish what I was feeling, it just made the feeling exponentially stronger. One day, however, I was having a cup of coffee with my friend and she just blurted out something about hating her wrinkles. I looked at her in disbelief because I honestly couldn’t see what she was referring to. A lightbulb lit up in my head. Was it possible that I was looking at her through some biased lens because I deeply cared for her? Like beer goggles but instead of beer it was love? I thought back to that evening at my neighbors' and realized my young friend was acknowledging me and my biggest insecurity through eyes of innocence, and it was then that I first asked myself, “How can I be present with how I feel - and maybe a little innocent and raw - but still choose to see myself through the eyes of love?” 

We are masters of lifting our loved ones up and loving them wholly. We're all willing to accept their stories, holdups, challenges and struggles as somehow more valid than ours. The biggest challenge I’ve faced in loving myself as a whole and not despite my perceived flaws but because of them has been in turning the lens of love around on myself. One of my favorite [paraphrased] quotes is, “Care for yourself like you would the most special person in your life.” It speaks to me because I tend to give love freely, affirm others with all my heart and lift them up until they believe me, but I’ve noticed that I rarely give myself the same blessing. Does anyone relate to this? Realizing this was the first move into stepping into a life of authentic self-love. Self-love doesn’t mean the crap I sometimes feel insecure about doesn’t exist or that my story is less meaningful, it means that I choose to see a bigger picture. A more loving picture. 

What does that look like for me? I tend to eat healthier, workout harder, meditate more often, research about natural skin remedies, ask people about what’s worked for them, do more face masks, practice more fun yoga poses, wear more colorful clothing, roll deliciously scented oils all over my skin, surround myself with positive people, go out more, stay in more, and just about anything else that lights me up. This whole loving-myself-in-the-skin-I’m-in thing is one of the hardest practices I’ve honestly thrown myself into, but it’s also one of the most liberating experiences I’ve felt. No matter what your particular thing is, I’m certain you’ve experienced freedom from it at some point. Maybe it was a passing compliment, maybe it was a great mood or even something as simple as great lighting! But that powerful feeling is the closest thing to tangible that the self-love lifestyle continuously brings - if you choose it. 

Let's continue to lift each other up and to allow each of our stories to be told. In verbalizing what's holding us back from fully loving ourselves we release its hold on us and therefore create space for love to settle.

Yours in all things love,

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 Loving The Skin You're In. Be sure and check out the other women who are a part of this Collective: Katherine Harris, Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, Chelsey Korus, Danielle Bennet, Kate Labat, Joanne Encarnacion and Nikia Phoenix.