Thanksgiving treat from ELLIS FAAS

Creativity knows no boundaries and that is one of the reasons why I love ELLIS FAAS make-up so much. Ellis goes where no one ventured before, putting together incredible visuals and formulas that enhance our natural beauty ( by concentrating on the colours that are already present in our skin ).

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Even though the upcoming Thanksgiving is primarily a US holiday, read more

In conversation with Dr. med. Erich Schulte, cosmetic surgeon & founder of QMS Medicosmetics

Having experienced a QMS Medicosmetics facial only recently, I had a fair idea about the brand and the products but when an opportunity to interview the brand’s founder, cosmetic surgeon and lecturer Dr. med. Erich Schulte, was presented to me, I was excited and very, very nervous in equal measure.

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As a child I was a bit of a tomboy, preferring jeans to skirts and climbing the trees with the boys to dolly tea parties, so as a consequence I was familiar with the inside of my local A& E and the doctors had to stitch my face and head up a few times ( nothing drastic, don’t worry, if anything I was on the first name basis with them and bombarded them with questions while they did their job, much to the amusement and relief of my parents ).  Since then I have also been in the hospital to give birth to my children but touch wood, I have never needed the help of trauma or plastic surgeon and getting an opportunity to meet one was a little daunting-would he be a little too full of himself, as some surgeons are, would he be very clinical and uninterested in the questions of a journalist-all those issues were buzzing in my head as I entered QMS Medicosmetics Spa, which is located in Chelsea, just off Sloane Square.

Dr. Schulte, a serious looking but handsome silver-haired gentleman, was sitting by the window, together withthe managing director of the PR agency and his right hand woman, Valentina, answering the questions of another journalist. I heard faintly him talking about QMS facials and the journalist saying that she recently had some kind of procedure-I opened my mouth to tell her how wonderful the medical facials at this Spa actually are, but decided against it-after all, it isn’t polite to infringe on someone else’s conversation, especially as I haven’t been officially introduced to Dr. Schulte as yet ( he later gently berated me for it, saying that I should have mentioned my own experience ).

The journalist left and the introductions were made. I felt a bit nervous but after a gentle exhale, I started with asking Dr. Schulte about himself, his professional background and how he ended up developing his own skincare line.

He was born and raised in Germany and studied medicine, becoming a traumatologist, specialising in head injuries. At the time ‘there were no safety belts’, some of the injuries were very significant and required reconstructive, as well as facial surgery, which in itself is very physically demanding on the person who performs it. In order to get to the bones, the surgeon needs to cut through the skin and sometimes patients ‘made requests to have this or that done to them’ at the same time, from the aesthetic point of view, so Dr. Schulte realised that he could do that and he started performing what is called ‘cosmetic or aesthetic surgery’. Our face in particular is like our identity card and by looking at us many people make almost an instant judgment, so a surgeon carries a bit responsibility in the surgery’s final result.

While doing his University studies, Dr. Schulte was involved in scientific research into wound healing and the most important thing that came out from that research was the realisation that without collagen, there would be no wound healing. A good surgeon always tries to make sure that the wounds aren’t visible, especially if they are on the face-in as much as they can really achieve that realistically, of course. Dr Schulte also realised that if collagen is essential for wound healing, it must also be good for skin in general. However, natural collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin, so he developed a technique to ‘condition’ collagen, so it can penetrate deeper into the skin layers. Collagens are the most important proteins in your skin ( 67% of our skin’s proteins are collagen ), which are responsible for maintaining moisture and elasticity. So from the age of 25-30, the quality and quantity of our collagen starts to decrease and that’s why ‘you start to get the wrinkles’. What in effect QMS Medicosmetics products do is act as the ‘replacement therapy’ by increasing skin’s ability to maintain moisture, so as you age you can give your skin a more ‘youthful look’. Or as Dr. Schulte put it to me ‘of course, you can’t turn biological clock back, but you can look younger’. It’s like being short-sighted-you put glasses on, and you can see. This is effectively what we do at QMS Medicosmetics’.

Out of his daily, clinical routine Dr. Schulte developed some treatments which are custom-made for spa beauticians, so they can achieve results by using the products on clients, which normally could only be achieved by having medical grade prescription only. QMS stands for ‘quick medical skin problem solver’ and it is a system of products that, if used correctly, according to the aesthetician’sadvice, will guarantee visible results, which are both clinically proven and are absolutely safe. The products are OTC ( over the counter ) products that anyone coming into QMS Medicosmetics Spa can buy, use it at home and get the results. Dr Schulte uses only the highest quality ingredients and preserving skin’s barrier function, the most important protective shield between inside and outside. You don’t want to have a detrimental impact on this barrier by sandblasting or needling because you want to keep ‘the bad out and the good in’, as Dr. Schulte puts it. This is done via nano technology or galvanic currents or using special stem cells, when you come to the Spa for the treatments. 

There are two types of cosmetics-‘passive’  like a cream that you put on the skin to maintain its quality for as long as possible or, you have what Dr. Schulte calls ‘active cosmetics’ that help to change the structure of the skin for the better.

I wanted to know how long did it take to develop the products and whether they were initially tested on his own patients. Dr. Schulte started his answer by saying that when a woman has the facelift, the quality of her skin doesn’t get changed as the final result. If your skin is dry and blood supply is compromised, you are more likely to develop secondary wound healing than when you skin is kept in its optimal condition, whatever you age. All of doctor Schulte’s patients, three months prior to the operation, had to go on a special skincare maintenance programme, which included alpha fruit acids, as well as collagens. And very quickly patients started coming back, raving about the improvement in their skin condition and asking where they could purchase those products. The truthful answer was ‘nowhere’, as Dr Schulte custom-made those products for each of his patients. The demand in ‘Microcosmos’, Dr. Schulte’s clinic was becoming too high, as word spread and friends and relatives of the patients wanted those products for themselves too. So Dr. Schulte’s wife, who is Dutch and who is a very astute business woman, suggested that he starts making those products available for purchase (first batch was launched in 1986 ).  Products started selling so well, that soon a factory in Germany needed to be found in order to satisfy the demand that quickly went from the initial order for a hundred creams to a production of thousands. Currently there are 450 outlets in Germany alone, as well as in Austria, Switzerland and BeneLux countries and the brand’s current fastest growing market is South Africa.

I ask Dr Schultewhether his products are sold in Russia and China and he says that Russians for example, are very critical, yet when you convince them with your work, they become very loyal clients. He was one of the keynote speakers during Moscow’s 750th anniversary celebrations and was planning to launch his products initially in Moscow but they got confiscated by customs and he was let down by his’ technical’ translator, who, didn’t know terms like ‘a dermal layer’ for example. So as things stand at the moment Russians tend to buy the products mostly in Berlin and actually a few of the QMS Medicosmetics Spas are run by Russian personnel-there are a lot of Russian expats in the country, so not all Russians are in London .) A lot of Russians are discovering QMS Medicsometics in Cyprus, in AnassaResort and then many of them, who live in the UK, come back armed with brochures to QMS Medicosmetics Spa in London and stock up there ( most of them don’t buy just one product, but try to buy the whole line of them ).

The first products that Dr. Schulte launched were the exfoliating fluid and the collagens ( now known as the ‘classic set’ : exfoliant fluid, day collagen and night collagen ).

When I ask Dr. Schulte from what age would he recommend using his products, he says that they have products catering to different skin needs. For example, the ‘Sport Active cream’ ( I have been using it since my meeting with Dr. Schulte and have to say that it is better than any BB cream that I looked at on the market ), which gives you a hint of colour, like a tinted moisturiser, protects your skin from free-radicals, as well as offers an SPF15 sun protection. This product can be used when you are as young as 16 or 17, when you don’t require to speed up your skin’s turnover process yet might want to hide some minor imperfections when you are out and about. It is also very important to cleanse and tone your skin from your 20s, hence you can use QMS Medicosmetics Deep cleansing emulsion or Freshening tonic ( I have used both and they definitely get my seal of approval. To be honest, until I sat down to talk to Dr. Schulte I was of two minds about the toner in general-another gimmicky product, what does it really do, apart from taking extra time from your speedy skincare routine – was my way of thinking about it. But it actually helps to clear the dirt, if any gets left post-cleanse, as well as keep the pores open, to allow for deeper products penetration. You should never use soap on your face, because as Dr. Schulte says ‘it clogs your pores rather than open them’. It really is a choice-Dr. Schultecompares it  to ‘going to Harrods and buying the latest flat screen but not buying the TV antenna for it-so your end up with a blurry picture’. Toner increases the blood supply, opens the pores-it’s like ‘technical health’ if you like. ‘One size fits all doesn’t go in this category’ you do need separate products-a cleanser and a toner to suit your skin type and needs.

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Scrubbing-how often? Dr Schulte’s answer? ‘You can do it mechanically read more

My latest make-up ‘crushes’ from Armani, YSL, Ole Henriksen, Tom Ford, Studio 78, Jane Iredale

Forgive me if I have deserted make-up in favour of skincare lately, but in this post I will rectify my quietness on this subject.

Foundations: among a plethora of the latest launches, I would like to put two brands in the spotlight, namely Giorgio Armani‘s Maestro Fusion Make-Up SPF 15 and YSL Le Teint Touche Eclat, both of which made quite an impression on me and my make-up ‘looks’.

Giorgio Armani’s Maestro is the culmination of eight years of intensive research ( it comes in eight shades ) and the end result is nothing short of flawless. This oil-based foundation heralds the introduction of ‘Micro-fil’ textures ( i.e higher pigment levels than BB aka blemish balms ) which represent the latest generation of very fine and lightweight formulas that add luminosity and softness to your skin. This foundation blends into the skin so well that you almost feel like you haven’t applied anything at all and yet your face will look like you made an effort but haven’t gone over the top. It has a velvety texture that in reality is highly-pigmented. One word of advice though-make sure that you skin is well moisturised prior to application of this product or use a good primer, like Armani‘s Fluid Master Primer, after you apply your usual serum or cream. 

Armani

YSL Touch Eclat is a cult product, so the brand’s latest foundation launch had a lot to live up to andI would be surprised if it doesn’t win you over. With 22 shades, one is bound to suit your skin tone. This sheer, silky and moisturising formula is simply wonderful. It took about nine years to research andperfect and it really does make you feel model like, when it comes to how your make-up looks. My shade was tested on my jaw line and YSL make-up artist at Harvey Nichols counter got it spot on the first time round.

YSL

Blushers: Well, there are two that I want to highlight in this section. First-drum roll- comes from Mr. Suave, Tom Ford, make-up line and is called lip and cheek stain. And yes, Mr Ford’s make-up is not cheap, but this product ( £36 ) is a pure perfection multi-tasker. Apply it to you cheeks, apply it to your lips or even your eyelids, if you want a dramatic evening look-each time you use it, you will inhale and exhale with joy. It’s rounded shape makes blending a doodle and it gives you a hint of colour that is just seamless, like Tom Ford’s designs. I bought it in the shade called ‘tainted love’ which is a plummy, dense berry colour that is perfect for the colder autumn/winter months when our skin looses the summer glow and gives way to more dusky, pale skin colour. Vamp it up for the evening or blend it in a little for the day-all I can say, is that I am in love with this one, even though it looked a little challenging ( i.e bright, too self-assured shade ) at first glance. Appearances, as they say, can be deceptive .)

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The other ‘worthy’ blusher comes from an Ecocert French brand called Studio 78. I tried the brand’s products with lovely Kat, who is an in-store make-up artist at Content store, in October. I loved the brand’s very chic packaging, black labelling/prints on the white, glossy paper and the actual blush compact, with a little mirror in the top cover-handy if you need to re-apply your make-up while on the go. It uses innovative baked formula technology for mineral pressed powders that actually gives long-lasting result. You can build this powder blush up with your fingers but Kat’s tip was to use a brush and having used it at home myself, I think it’s a perfect tip that does make a difference to the final result. This blush ( We Walk/ On Se Promene ) actually enhances your skin naturally and has great staying power-what more can you ask for?   

studio 78 blush

Lips: if you need something that will hydrate, plump and protect your lips during the cold months, look no further than Ole Henriksen‘s ‘Fresh lips SPF 15’ – it’s like a soothing balm and gloss rolled into one ( contains camphor and cocoa seed butter ). It has a perfect application tip, that glides seamlessly along and around your lips and it smells and tastes delicious-an added bonus as far as I am concerned. My eldest niece wants one for Christmas ( and yes, Father Christmas did take notice and nodded his approval ).

 Available from www.feelunique.com You can get 10% off your order until November 12th, if you use the discount code offered by the fantastically inpring team of Get The Gloss (

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QMS Medicosmetics facial

As you probably noticed, I have reviewed a few facials lately but when I was offered to experience one at the QMS Medicosmetics Spa in Chelsea, I was initially slightly hesitant, purely because I have never had a medical facial before.

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QMS Medicosmetics Spa ( and the brand’s medical grade skincare products that were developped based on clinical research into  the critical role of collagen in skin regeneration; the main aim of the products is to return damaged or ageing skin to a much healthier state ) are very well-known and widespread in Germany, Switzerland, Austria  and South Africa, while their London flagship remains an insider’s secret of sorts. QMS Medicosmetics was started by a German cosmetic surgeon and lecturer Dr. med. Erich Schulte and all of the spa treatments ( as well as all of the products ) were developed based on his many years of active practise and extensive research into skin regeneration and anti-ageing process.

QMS Medicosmetics Spa is located just off King’s Road, across from Peter Jones and it is a welcoming & peaceful oasis, albeit with a slightly sci-fi edge. The Spa was designed around a perfect shade of white, with contrasting detailing in a lovely, azure sea-like blue. There are high ceilings throughout the spa and lots of light. When you enter, somehow the effect is comforting and not at all intimidating- it made me think of a cool medical laboratory where science is at a cutting edge.

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My therapist, Jasmin, came out to great me in a white doctor’s lab coat. Originally from Switzerland, where she has worked for QMS Medicomsetics for several years, before her re-location to London a couple of years ago. Even though she is young, she seemed serious and self-assured. I was taken into a treatment room, where Jasmin told me to get undressed and get comfortable on the treatment bed. I filled in a required questionnaire and Jasmin talked me through both the facial that she was going to give me, as well as my skin concerns-each treatment is personalised to your skin’s needs, so technically no two treatments are the same.

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My facial treatment started with a milky soothing cleanse ( using QMS Medicosmetic Deep cleansing milk ), after which Jasmin applied an Exfoliant fluid, which has fruit enzymes in its base, that allows for a 15% deeper penetration of active components. With the exfoliator painted on, a mask gets added on top of it and this dual combination of products  ‘eats’ dead skin away-it felt a little bit tingly in the beginning, but it wasn’t uncomfortable in any way. Lying on the treatment bed, surrounded by miticulously pristine, almost operating theatre whiteness, felt strangely nurturing, with the cleverly placed lights and no gimmicky music. Jasmin gave me a very soothing massage with a brush ( which only added to the feeling of relaxation ) and then proceeded to steam my face, in order to open up the pores.

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What makes QMS Medicosmetics productsspecial is that the formulations incorporate optimum concentration of active ingredients that help to maximise the absorption and effectiveness of each ingredient and each product has been developed and tested based on  Dr. Schulte‘s medical understanding of the skin’s functions.  

Then we moved on to an slightly unpleasant bit of any good facial-the ‘extraction’ -but what makes QMS Medicosmetics facial different, is that the facialists do it very thoroughly and address issue like milias as well. One gets ‘milias’ ( white looking spots that look like little dots on your skin’s surface ) when you pores are blocked and sebum can’t properly get out. You can see it in the mirror, but the trouble is that your usual scrub won’t get read of it and you can’t and shouldn’t ( never ever ! ) squeeze it out-only a professional can do that for you.

This facial was the first one when my milias ( of which unfortunately I got a few after  my summer break, probably due to me daily slathering on of the sunscreen ) got addressed in a very safe and diligent manner. Jasmin cleaned them all out with a needle and even though I had a few tiny red areas post facial, they healed beautifully and now my skin looks perfect, with no milia in sight.

After that slightly unpleasant, but very much needed  part of the facial out of the way, Jasmin proceeded with painting on of an Algae marine mask on my face, which felt cool and relaxing. This mask contains hyaluronic acid and marine collagen, which has an almost instant smoothing and relaxing effect on the skin ( it also works wonders on the stressed skin ).

My face got treated with oxygen that is 98% pure due to a very thorough cleaning, cooling and compressing process ( it boosts your circulation and has rejuvenating effect ), followed by the Freshening tonic, which acts as a gentle skin purifier that balances your skin’s natural acid mantle, thus making the skin feel clean, soft and more radiant. Jasmin then applied Day Collagen, which is a highly concentrated daily anti-ageing serum that helps to refine the pores and skin surface by boosting moisture levels, improves blood circulation within skin layers, while protecting skin from the damaging effect of free radicals ( this product is one of Dr. Schulte’s specialities, as collagen and collagen enhancing technologies are areas of his particular professional interest ).  All that made me feel like I was drifting on a cloud-I am sure oxygen was part of that effect, but then Jasmin followed it up with a tour de force’,which is QMS Medicosmetics Hydro Foam mask. Now, that mask was a titan, a superhero with a hint of sci-fi -the foam gets applied to your face, so it covers everything but the nostrils ( don’t worry, your eyes are safely protected and while the mask works its magic on you, the therapist massages your neck, shoulders and decollete, as well as your face-the overall effect seems scientifically heavenly. The mask itself is full of high quality ingredients that boost skin’s hydration levels. In addition to silk proteins ( that are responsible for plumping up your lines ) it also contains hyaluronic acid of high molecular density that smooths the skin, while jojoba oil acts as skin’s anti-inflammatory and shea oleine protects from signs of ageing and works on firming up the skin.

When it was time to take the mask off ( I felt  almost like I was taking part in a fun version of the movie ‘Face/Off’ ), I asked Jasmin if I cold take a peak at it ( imagine a white rubber-like imprint of your face, with lines and some dirt that comes out of your pores-pretty darn cool ! ), after which Jasmin gently cleansed my face again, in order to remove any mask residue and tapped in the eye cream around my orbital bones.

With my pores feeling clean, Jasmin applied QMS Medicosmetics Cellular Marine, a patented anti-ageing face cream with SeaFennel Stem cells, that is suitable to any skin type. This cream supports your body’s own stem cells by enhancing regeneration of the new skin cells, which generally slows down as we age ( simply put it helps to improve skin’s metabolism, or as Jasmin put it to me ‘ it makes your skin do its job even better ‘).

With my facial finished, Jasmin left the room to let me get dressed, leaving a glass of water for me to drink on the immaculately clean counter top. When I came out, she handed me a QMS Medicosmetics products brochure, with the little ‘x’ across from the products that she has used on me during the treatment. What makes QMS Medicosmetics Spa different to many other spas in London is that not only each of your treatments there is very personalised and tailored to your skin’s needs on a particular day,  there is no annoying sales pitch and no bombarding your with unnecessary information. What you get are helpful suggestions and tips, leaving you to be the judge of the effect of the facial and the products.

I can only add that I absolutely loved the whole experience from start to finish and even though I had a couple of red spots for a couple of days, the ‘side-effect’ if you like of milia removal, they have ‘healed’ beautifully and my skin felt soft, plump and ‘clean’ for days to come. I have since introduced QMS Medicosmetics cleanser, toner and Sports cream ( a multi-tasking cream that is also a tinted moisturiser ) into my beauty routine and have put the Exfoliant Fluid on my Christmas wish-list.

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What I also very much enjoyed is the fact that you are treated with respect and intelligence and your needs and concerns are addressed during the appointment. I am already planning to go back to the Spa and will be treating my mother to a facial there too-after all, such thorough medically researched facials are hard to come by. A definite seal of approval from me!

QMS Medicosmetics Flagship skincare Spa, read more

Halloween black fun from ELLIS FAAS

With Halloween coming up, black really is the new black. And since three of ELLIS FAAS make-up bestsellers are black, the EF team is treating ELLIS FAAS friends & customers with a discount on the whole order, if you do the trick of ordering any of these fabulous blacks:

Creamy Eyes E103 – a lifting, firming, velvety, longwearing eyeshadow that stays put until you decide to take-it off with a make-up remover
Mascara E401 – a luscious, creamy, lengthening mascara that accentuates the whites of your eyes
Eyeliner E501 – an intensely pigmented, liquid-to-powder eyeliner that I won’t be without. A genius product as far as I am concerned

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When placing an order and checking out, don’t forget to use coupon read more

Name in the spotlight: Tara Stiles, founder of Strala yoga

I have been doing yoga on and off for about twelve years now and even though I consider myself relatively experienced and confident to do an occasional advanced class, one can still find the actual practise of yoga a little intimidating. Sometimes people who are doing the class can be judgemental, making overall vibe wrong; sometimes you come across an instructor who either isn’t too precise with his instructions, so you stumble and start looking around, in the hope that other people might give you a clue, or are downright intimidating.

Lately yoga has become a bit too commercialised, with too many styles and too much rigidity, so when I heard about Strala Yoga and its founder, Tara Stiles, I was a bit hesitant. What type of yoga is it ? What makes it different from any other style? Luckily for me, I got to find out this week, when Tara came to London for the first time to teach open classes at London Om Yoga Showin Olympia. The tickets for Tara’s classes quickly sold out, but I was in with a chance, as Tara and I connected via Twitter ( Tara is an active participant in social media sources like Facebook or Twitter ) and she told me to come anyway.

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Tara herself is tall, rod straight ( she is a former ballet dancer and it shows in her posture ) and very pretty. She has an open, beautiful face that radiates joy, even if it is a gloomy, grey day outside and long hair that falls around her shoulders in natural, easy waves. She wore a loose fitting hoodie, a comfortable yoga tank ( she is currently developing a yoga-wear line together with Reebok, hopefully launching in the beginning of the year ) and I particularly envied her loose trousers-at times you might feel cold, hence her pants had long ends and if she needed to do an active pose involving legs, then the elastic bands allowed for the trouser to be pulled up comfortably). 

Her instructions are precise, yet her classes are the opposite of rigid. You flow from one pose to another at your own comfort, with Tara gently correcting you, if need be. She told all of us to be comfortable in the moment in time, in a particular inversion or bend and not to rush our bodies.

She uses music in her class, which is loud enough so you can hear the song’s words, but not too loud, so Tara’s instructions are well heard too and her music style encompasses anything from current popular songs in the charts to country music.

An hour flew by quickly and I particularly enjoyed her telling us to ‘listen to your heart pump’ while you are meditating, holding your hands in prayer position, next to your chest. Her point of ‘everything you need rests deep inside of you’ felt so right that I held my breath for a second, feeling it resonate with me and then settle deep down in my consciousness….

When the class was finished people thanked Tara and she hugged everyone and thanked everyone for coming, which I found both touching and endearing. In our day and age, when people tend to concentrate on themselves and be egoistic, she radiates calm and joy and it beams through her eyes. At times she feels almost unreal, in her enthusiasm, her joy and her desire to spread the yoga practise, not teach it. She actually told me that she didn’t have a desire to ‘name’ her style of yoga, it was at the urging of her clients that she took ‘Strala’ Yoga on the road. The name Strala was supposed to be an amalgam of words strength and radiance, but later it was pointed out to her that ‘Strala’ actually means radiating light in Swedish.

Talking to Tara is very easy, she is very young yet her gaze is wise and so are her words. She is natural and friendly. She is passionate about what she does, about the people that she meets and works with. And that light that she has in her eyes shines through her class, when she peppers her instructions with a very occasional girly giggle-radiance and joy, being in tune with oneself, sharing your knowledge and skills with others and thanking people for being receptive to you-isn’t it a definite path to fulfillment…..

Questions and Answers with Tara Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga     

Tara & I

GAP: Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself and how you went from being a model & dancer to becoming a yoga instructor?

Tara Stiles: My earliest memories are yoga-like. I grew up in the woods in Illinois where I felt super connected to nature and had my own understanding of consciousness and interconnectedness.  I taught myself how to meditate, and sat in trees and meditated, and danced around in the forest. Modeling was a super lucky break that happened in Chicago and then NYC with Ford models. It was a great way to express myself through photos and TV commercials, have fun, and learn how to navigate being in the world. I was always doing yoga and learning yoga from lots of different teachers and healers. The more I was integrated into NYC, the more I realized the approaches and schools were separate, and some of them very rigid and I didn’t feel represented how I felt and connected with yoga, and how I know yoga can reach so many, the way yoga was being presented wasn’t going to move it forward significantly to many more people. I’ve always had this strong sense that yoga is like a 6th sense, inside and available for everyone. From seeing the opportunity and potential demand for people connecting inward, I started small with my approach. I wrote, blogged, made videos, taught yoga in the park, in my boyfriend’s apartment. Things grew fast and naturally. It’s thrilling to be able to help so many connect inward.

GAP: From what age did you start doing yoga and who were the yoga teachers who most inspired your professional journey?

Tara Stiles: When I was a kid I saw a lot of colors all the time. They seemed to connect the fabric of consciousness. I started listening to them and my yoga practice developed from there. My ballet teacher, Rory Foster, saw my interest in yoga and handed me the first book I read on yoga, Autobiography of a Yogi, and I studied with his teacher, and other healers.  I hadn’t looked at older teachers who had created videos or taught a lot of classes so much, because what I was carving was very different. Teachers and leaders who I admire greatly are Deepak Chopra, Rudy Tanzi, and Tao Porchon Lynch.  

GAP: How did the idea of Strala yoga come about and what makes it different from let’s say Ashtanga or Juvamukti yoga?

Tara Stiles: Strala is a movement based system that connects people inward so they can find their own path to healing and happiness.  A big instruction with Strala is the idea of “finding the ease”. Whether the movement is simple or challenging, we instruct people to move with ease; more like water, less like rock. People become very capable quickly; this translates into bodies, minds, and lives. We are working with far eastern influences in Tai Chi and shiatsu. Our movement is healing based. Movement focused, and not pose focused. We encourage people to find their way into the poses, we don’t push or force bodies into a specific shape and we educate that the pose is not the goal; finding the ease in effort will get you much further than force.  People feel expansive after a class and that ripples into their lives. I want to help people expand. I’m not interested in poses. But by working on ease, the poses become something to do. 

Strala is a meditative movement that connects people with their intuition and awareness, simultaneously building strength, and capability, creating space for expansion.

GAP: What makes a good yoga instructor?

Tara Stiles: The ability to listen and the mindset to ask: “How can I help?” rather than “What can I prove.”

GAP: Why would you recommend to have a regular yoga practice to women as part of their fitness regime?

Tara Stiles: Do you want to feel fantastic all of the time? Have more energy, mental clarity and focus, reverse the aging process, have glowing skin, deep connection to your intuition, and have a ridiculously strong, lean body?  That’s what regular yoga practice (with ease) can offer you. 

GAP: What are the most important lessons that you have learnt since becoming a yoga instructor?

Tara Stiles: So many reminders every day. The most important is the famous quote from Ram Dass: ‘Be here now’.

 It has helped me with my leading style, in leadership, and relationships. 

GAP: How important is diet to you as a yoga instructor?

Tara Stiles: Your yoga practice should sensitize you to evolve how you feed yourself and what you do in your life.  If your yoga practice isn’t sensitizing you, practice This is Yoga ( it is Tara’s four part DVD set that will be available in the UKfrom December ), because that is my goal for you, and find a teacher that helps you in that way. When you become sensitized you start to want to eat healthier, be kinder, and live better. Living with purpose is the whole point of practicing yoga. For me, I eat plant based for a number of reasons. I can appeal to your vanity and health by telling you you’ll look younger, become your ideal weight and have loads of energy eating plant based. I can appeal to your consciousness and kindness that animals shouldn’t have to live in cages and be abused for you to eat lunch. I can appeal to your longevity by reminding you about the terrible affects of factory farming on the environment. It’s not sustainable to eat animals in the way we consume them no for the long term. Mainly, I stick to appealing to people’s health. It’s crazy healthy to eat plants, and you’ll get all the protein and everything else you need from them.  Best thing you can do is to keep practicing yoga and get interested in cooking.  It’s fun and you’ll get healthy fast and get hooked too!

GAP: Do you take any health supplements and what beauty products do you like?

Tara Stiles: No supplements. I eat a plant based protein and greens powder every few days in a smoothly.

GAP: You are a very active participant in social media. Why do you think it has become such an important part of our life and do you think it has a negative impact on how people interact?

Tara Stiles: Deepak says it best: “social media is neutral, its’ what you do with it that matters.”

I use social media as a tool to connect, share, help, inspire and create. The more people that use social media in that way the more we can collectively lift everyone. 

GAP: What drives and motivates you?

Tara Stiles: I’m inspired to help others become connected to themselves. When you feel connected, anything is possible.

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Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa + Urban Retreat at Harrods: Ananda ( signature treatment ) massage review

I have never been to Mauritius but have friends who go there every year with their children and rave every time how wonderful holidaying g on that island is-for both adults and children. As half-term approached, London looked increasingly grey and cloudy. Luckily, where there is a will, there is a way and Urban Retreat at Harrods had a trick up their sleeve, with the Mauritian Retreat, courtesy of Maradiva Villas Resort and Spa ( ile Maurice ) in the Indian Ocean, member of the Leading Hotels of the World and Leading Spas.

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Last Sunday, as I nursed a horrid, weather inflicted headache, I drove to Urban Retreat to have Ananda Blissful Oil Massage. My receptionist looked a bit bored and uninterested while she searched for my details on their computer system and when she found it, she told me to go and sit in the waiting area, her face lacking any sign of enthusiasm….

A few minutes passed, while I was sitting on a comfy purple sofa, looking at the beautiful pictures from Maradiva Resort and then a softly spoken voice called out my name, brushing my ear as a gentle breeze-Heidi, a very pretty, dark-haired herapist was standing before me, in her crisp long white tunic and trousers, her eyes radiating soothing joy-all I could do was smile in return and follow her, leading me graciously towards the treatment room.

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The room itself was large and airy, with a treatment bed covered in fluffy towels and beautiful pictures of the resort creating the sunny mood. Heidi asked me to change out of clothes and to fill in the questionnaire, covering my skin and medication, if any was applicable.

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When she came back a few minutes later, she went through the questionnaire and started the treatment by washing my feet in a large silver bowl, telling me that each guest of Maradiva Spa is treated as Holy, hence the cleansing foot ritual. With this ceremony over, we bowed our heads to each other saying Namaste and Heidi told me to get on the treatment table and relax.

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Ananda ( a martial art derived from Indian tradition practised in the southern part of India ) massage was originally given to the older wrestlers, offering them a traditional Indian deep tissue massage, leading to a well-aligned body and a relaxed state of mind. Now it forms part of Maradiva Spa signature Indian Therapies on offer. Other treatments, based on the Spa‘s holistic and Ayurvedic principles include facials, body scrubs and wraps, as well as deep, rejuvenating or cleansing treatments.

Heidi started with ‘cupping’ my body with her small but firm hands, from the soles of my feet and going up to my neck. What was lovely is that at some stage she climbed on the treatment bed, as her hands moved upwards, along my spine and then up to shoulders and neck. This allowed the massage movements to be firm and go deeper into the muscle tissue, very quickly leading to a deep sense of relaxation that spread all over my body.

The oil that she used on my body ( all oils are mixed by the Spa ) included peppermint and ginger. Heidi massaged each of my legs, from the soles leading up to the hips, unknotting the tension, particularly in my calves. The massage was nicely strong but Heidi did ask me several times whether the pressure was ok for me. The music, upbeat in tempo, soothed me, yet also created happy vibes that made me relax and smile at the same time.

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Heidi then concentrated on my spine, starting with a pinching massage move, on both sides of my spine. By that stage I was struggling to keep my eyes open and almost felt like pinching myself in order not to fall asleep, lulled by Heidi’s massage and the music-I swear to you, if I closed my eyes, I would have felt right on the island-the only thing missing was the sound of the lapping waves.

I also enjoyed the part of the back massage when each arm is bend at the waist level, allowing you to stretch your upper body and the therapistto go deeper into your muscle. Heidi’s hands then went on to massage both of my shoulders, my neck and the head ( as the oil is used on your scalp and hair, be warned that your hair will look oily post treatment, so do bring a brush along, so you don’t looklike the scarecrow when you leave Urban Retreat ). At times my shoulders felt a little sore during the massage but that’s because I do spent a lot of the time in front of the computer, generally gathering tension in my upper back and neck. With my muscles unknotted, Heidi told me to turn over and move slightly up on the treatment table.

Heidi started with massaging my face around my orbital bone, eyes and the mudra point, located between my eyebrows and often called the third eye. The oil that she used on my face had saffron and rose essential oils and their smell was subtly gentle and made my skin feel dewy and soothed ( I am a big believer in using oils on your body or face, particularly when it’s either hot or cold and your skin needs extra nourishment ) by the whole sensation. She then proceeded to massage each of my legs, from the soles of the feet, to each toe and going up to hips again. The music had a slightly upbeat tempo but I felt as if I was lying under the gentle sun and felt energy circulating around my body, feeling freer and very, very relaxed.

The treatment includes a very gentle abdominal massage, that follows a clock-wise notion and is gentle ( it really benefits you digestion ) and also covers your waist-line, and the therapist’s arms also overlap and go to the side and slightly behind your back. 

Each of your arms is massaged, each finger lovingly soothed with the hands warmed by massage oil ( and I have to say that unlike during some treatments that I had in  the past, the amount of oil is used is perfect-not too much, not too little-your skin absorbs it and feels soft but you won’t be dripping with oil and neither will you skin feel as if it was only gently misted ).

Then a warm towel is applied to your shoulders, neck and face and what follows is the blissful face and head massage. All the movements are precise and well-thought out and by the time that Heidi finished the massage I felt utterly and completely blissed-in all the honesty, I was almost convinced that I went to Mauritius and back in the course of that wonderful treatment. Heidi applied a hot cloth over my feet and told me to keep my eyes closed, while she sprayed a fine, rose scented mist over me-and then I opened my eyes and Heidi, her serene smile radiating even from the depth of her soulful eyes, asked me how I felt. All I could do was smile like an innocent child and say that I felt at peace.

Heidi said to me that my muscles felt particularly tight around my calves area and upper body and told me to do little, five minute stretches during the day, which help the muscles and the posture long-term. She also told me to preferably not wash the oil off my hair, face and body for at least two hours, in order for them to work their magic. She then applied a little of fine milled powder and a tiny flower to my mudra point and with that the treatment was complete and I was left to come down to Earth completely and get dressed. Harmony reigned in the room and my headache was gone.

Heidi waited for me outside and I thanked her profusely ( during the treatment I asked her about the Spa and the training and she told me that one has to be a fully qualified therapist in order to work at Maradiva Spa, but they train you for three months before you start working with clients. What made her approach even more endearing, was when she said that in her opinion, ‘a good therapist never ceases to learn something new’ and to hone their skills and practise ) for the blissful massage that her expert hands gave me.

I walked out of Urban Retreat and descended down to the ground floor via the escalator, walking out into a street full of grey, drizzling with rain, light outside. My head felt clear and my mind at peace, all I could think of was how content I felt in that moment in time. And I did make a wish to experience further treatments in Maradiva Spa in Mauritius when the opportunity arises-their treatments and therapist certainly seem special.

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