Savant's Weekend Yoga Crush: CorkYogis

As Lara Sengupta was searching for a better way to be connected to the ancient Indian knowledge, she came up with CorkYogis. To add depth to her own passion for yoga, the company that specialises in sustainable cork yoga mats and bags hand-made out of recycled sarees, also helps human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives. 

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Dreams On Plates and Sustainable New Orleans Style Cooking: Food Influencer Richard McCormick

Richard McCormick – recently chosen as one of the biggest trendsetters in Finland by the local business press – is a chef, restaurateur, food stylist, and the author of many inspirational cooking books. We interviewed Richard for his take on the concepts born out of his captive creativity. 

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Positive Psychology: A Word With Rosa Nenonen from 'Pilots' Helsinki

Having worked as a model since she was a young girl, Rosa’s journey started from Finnish Lapland and took her through famous fashion capitals, Paris, Milan and New York, to San Francisco. During her years of self-exploration, she met several inspiring people and became puzzled by their secret: how are people able to reach their full potential?

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Eco-Living in a Big City: 'How to Handle it All' Guide

Even if you've already settled in a huge, gigantic metropolis, only dreaming of faraway greeneries in favour of big city excitement, how to still make yourself feel comfortable in a suitable living space and build a perfect environment for calm and harmony at home? Read our tips!

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What to Expect from a Cuddle Workshop? We Experience the Ultimate Intimacy of Human Touch

Cuddle Workshops offer attendees a space to explore the importance of touch in a non-sexual environment. They are designed to “which explores affection, intimacy, boundaries and verbal/non-verbal communication” and are open to all. I attended a ‘Cuddling for Beginners’ class, to better understand how these events helped a group of strangers to literally embrace one another.

Words: L.Gilbert

Image: Cuddle Workshop, UK. 

Image: Cuddle Workshop, UK. 

I arrived fifteen minutes early to the workshop, but hesitated before I enter the door labeled 'Room 1'. I have to admit, I was feeling nervous. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I knew I was about to engage in four hours of intimacy with absolute strangers.

When I finally plucked up the courage and entered the room, I found a trio of smiling women. One sat behind a table laden with biscuits, hot drinks and a large jar of mints, and offered me my name tag (punctuated with a little heart). Another gave me a laminated piece of paper with an ice breaker question. I dutifully went and asked the next person who entered the room "when was the last time you had a really amazing meal?" After a chat about the merits of London-based fish and chips, we discussed our reasons for attending a cuddle workshop.

For my part, I was intrigued by the idea of a space to explore platonic touch. As a teenager, I had been quite tactile, but became increasingly less so in recent years. I wanted to explore the idea of physical connection without worrying that my hugs would be misinterpreted. My companion told me she loves cuddling, and signed up to the workshop just this morning. She too had no idea what to expect.

What followed was an afternoon of sharing. We were asked to share our names, and how we were feeling. We asked one another if we could "share a hug". We shared the emotions stirred up by the exercises. Throughout the session, there was a real emphasis on being generous with ourselves, and one another.

"The experience of a cuddle workshop is subjective. Some participants would cry after an exercise, as the intimacy of the moment allowed for a great emotional release." 

The workshop was made up of a series of exercises. The nature of these was varied: one exercise involved lying with your head in a partner's lap, while he or she stroked your head, arm, shoulders and back. Another played with the idea of presence, asking us to feel the difference between touching someone when distracted, touching someone when he or she is distracted, and touching someone when both of you are focused on the moment. There was an exercise involving an embrace known as a "melting hug". There was another where we practiced saying "no" to a proffered cuddle, and explored what it felt like to both reject and be rejected. This focus on consent, and accepting one another’s boundaries, was key: our leaders, Anna and Andrew, created an environment of communal respect. People were able to opt out of exercises, and we were told to ask our partner's permission before we reached out and touched them. We were also told to thank everyone we shared a physical connection with, and to thank those who didn't want to be touched. At the end of the workshop, many of the attendees told the group that they felt "grateful", and no wonder: we were constantly encouraged to engage with this warm emotion.

The experience of a cuddle workshop is subjective. Some participants would cry after an exercise, as the intimacy of the moment allowed for a great emotional release. Two men both explained how stroking another man's arms reminded them of their fathers, and how this memory helped reconfigure their preconception about male-male touch. One attendee announced at the end of the session that he felt energised; many others that they felt calm. Some, no doubt, left that afternoon feeling that they would stay on their oxytocin high for a while yet. Some, no doubt, felt their initial anxiety completely subside shortly into the session. Others may have felt the occasional stirring of nerves, but were able to accept this, and still engage with others.

"I wanted to explore the idea of physical connection without worrying that my hugs would be misinterpreted."

I entered the workshop intrigued, but sceptical. I left with an appreciation of how open people can be, and an acute awareness of how quickly two individuals can connect. I feel that every embrace I shared today told me so much about the person I shared with, and I wonder how much they now know of me.

I also left having experienced some jolly lovely hugs indeed.

#WomenWhoWork Behind the Beauty Industry: Interview with Product Developer of Turbliss

It’s not just the founders that pave the way for ethical and natural cosmetics, but the people behind the scenes, although often understated, play a crucial role as well. I had the amazing opportunity to share a cuppa with Triin Truu, a product developer and lab enthusiast from Estonia. Triin works as a product developer for Turbliss, an Estonian beauty brand drawing its power from peat, offering a range of bioactive products for your hair and skin for daily use. A natural beauty herself, she’s a true inspiration for finding your way into vegan cosmetics. At a quaint café in Tartu, Estonia, we delved into the behind the scenes of beauty industry. 

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

Triin Truu, Product Developer of Turbliss. 

Triin Truu, Product Developer of Turbliss. 

Let’s start with you. How did you find your way to genetics?

Well, I was born in Viljandi [Estonia]. I had always enjoyed biology. I remember seeing some documentary about genome therapy, and then I thought to myself, “Wow, this is really game-changing – I want to do that!”. That’s when I knew I would be studying genome technology at the University of Tartu. I was convinced that this was my true calling. 

What brought the big change? I feel that sometimes university programmes can really disappoint. How did it go with you?

In high-school I used to be rather quiet and shy. But I feel like I completely changed during university years. They always try to make students more active and make them take part in different social activities. So, I ended up in the group of people who organised all the parties and events. The experience I gained made me open up. 

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. I had this huge dream of working with people and learning about the human body. But it ended up being more focused on bacteria! That’s when I really had to re-think my choices. 

From there, losing your interest in studying genetics, you ended up working for Turbliss, a brand that focuses on a range of natural peat skincare and haircare products. Seems like quite a big U-turn. 

In a way, it was, because it wasn’t anything I had ever considered before. However, I realised that I love make-up and I love beauty, so why not use my skills for that? I started to focus more on microbiology and learn more about the skin structure and how it functions. A good thing about my programme was that I got a lot of laboratory experience, which is what I essentially do today – I work in a lab and stir up new things from natural ingredients. 

Now that you work in a natural cosmetics company, has your beauty routine changed at all?

I use less make-up now for sure [laughs]. I definitely value sleep more. When I do use make-up, I try to go for naturally-made products. I like Ontic Minerals, which is an Estonian brand and they don’t add anything extra – it’s clean and exactly what you need for everyday. I used to use regular cosmetics brands when going out, but just that one night caused my skin to lash out and look terrible. 

"I had this huge dream of working with people and learning about the human body. But it ended up being more focused on bacteria!" 

Where does the difference come from? We often try to compare 'natural' with ‘regular’, but what is that determing factor in, for example, face creams?

The pH level is really important. For me, it’s important that the pH level is similar to our skin's own – around 5.5. Turbliss has a peat tonic that has quite a low pH level. It helps strengthen the skin and bring down the pH level, if you use other [chemical] products. Now, what happens when the pH is too high in a product is that your skin becomes dry and the wrong bacteria feel more at home – and that’s not good for your skin. More itchiness, redness – the unpleasant things.  

"What happens when the pH is too high in a product is that your skin becomes dry and the wrong bacteria feel more at home – and that’s not good for your skin." 

I think it’s really important nowadays to know what you are buying and where it comes from.  What’s your take on sustainable consumption and lifestyle choices, and how do you apply it in your life?

That’s an interesting topic, actually. I was just discussing the new plastic bag campaign with my granddad yesterday. They stopped giving out those small plastic bags in supermarkets in Estonia. But we realised that, surely, it does reduce the amount of plastic bags in circulation, but a lot of our food is still packaged and stored in plastic. There’s two sides to every coin. I try to use canvas bags when I go shopping. I think that if we want to call for change, we need to start the change from ourselves. 

Like in those zero-waste stores in Germany and Denmark, and there are a few here in Estonia, too. They have a package-free concept. 

Exactly. At first I thought I was weird when I put unpacked fruit and veggies on the counter, but it’s a tiny way to help the environment. That’s one thing I really like about Turbliss products as well – we use glass packaging, which can later be easily recycled. 

Another aspect of appreciating slow living is spending more time with yourself and not rushing everywhere. How do you like to unwind?

I enjoy hiking in the forest on weekends or taking the dog out to the seaside.  My dog loves it so much! I like travelling, too, especially in Estonia. There are so many strange places to discover here. I know I work with peat, but I really love our bogs. Time just stands still there. It’s just you, the silence, and the fresh air. 

If you could explore a place anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Probably somewhere in the Carribbean. You know, the first thought that popped into my head was that I’d go to my summer home in the country. Build a summer kitchen, make a herb garden and grow herbs. My boyfriend and I really enjoy cooking. It’s a great way to spend time together. 

Finally, what advice would you give on cosmetics to our readers?

It’s not all about the brands – sometimes small and less known brands make products just as great, only that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy it. Don’t hesitate to read the ingredients and ask for assistance. Usually, ingredients with very complicated chemical names are actually some very basic compound, like coconut oil. Less is more. With a lot of ethical natural cosmetics brands you get what you need – no bullshit. And that’s what I love about it.