About Me

My photo
Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Did you know... What we could learn from other times and places

Living legends

From the Middle Ages to this day, overly conservative sources had portrayed Greek heteras as cheap whores. In fact, much like Japanese geisha (frequently reviled by the same conservative sources), being a hetera went far beyond being beautiful, desirable and available to men.

A hetera's education began between the ages of three and six, and involved the study of history, literature, music, the art of balance and various styles of dance. A full-fledged hetera was expected to have an impeccable style in her dress and behavior, to be well-versed in the appropriateness and symbology of various jewels, to be capable of carrying on a conversation on a variety of subject and putting on a spontaneous dancing or singing performance. In addition, each hetera was expected to master at least two traditionally male sports (such as horseback riding, running or swimming) well enough to compete with an average man.

Heteras were frequently invited to organize and host large gatherings of artists, poets, musicians and politicians of the day. Being in amazing physical shape combining strength with femininity (no stick figures, thank you very much!), they were expected to pose for artists and sculptors for paintings and statues of nymphs and goddesses.

Naked hips - healthy... hair?

Spartan women were famous not only for their phenomenal strength, beauty and far greater freedom compared to women of Athens, but also for their incredibly healthy thick hair. The reason, it was said, was that the Spartan ladies favored garments that left their hips opened and wore them year-round, even in winter. Their tunics were essentially long pieces of fabric with an opening for a head and falling all the way to the ground, but with no side seams - they were held in place with slender ties at the waist.

What a way to show some leg and - apparently - have healthier hair! The famous Greek expression "be splendid with your hips" was inspired by the women of Sparta.

Shake your booty!

Bellydancing has been around for ages. It has not, however, been universally accepted. In the end, however, those who claimed bellydancing to be obscene, ended up only punishing themselves. In countries where women were confined to the indoors and forbidden to bellydance, miscarriages, birth defects, and premature births were more frequent and more women and babies died in childbirth.

Wherever women were encouraged to learn this lovely art of rocking hips and undulating bellies, they received the benefits of strengthening their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor - essential for healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Those women went on to have healthier children and had easier time doing so - thus the birth-related child and mother mortality was significantly lower.

So dust off your harem pants, put on some lively music and get that tush moving!

Take some time off... No really!

If are planning a trip to Portugal, don't go in August. Why? Because that's when the entire country takes a vacation. Some go traveling themselves, some stay at home. The emergency services still operate, of course, but the rest of the population stocks up on food and drink and just chills for a month.

Imagine what you could do if you had a month to do anything you wanted or nothing at all. How much more productive would we all be if we could take a month off!

The first snow facial

A lovely old tradition, popular among young women of Central and Eastern Europe until late 19th century, involved celebrating the first snow of the year by running out first thing in the morning, while still in their nightgowns, and rubbing handfuls of fresh snow over their faces, neck and shoulders. The old paintings of Russian and Polish women and particular (peasants and noblewomen alike) show the magnificent complexion these ladies had as a result of this radical skin treatment.

The burger alternative

I will be the first to admit - I love a good burger or a juicy steak. I know that makes me a cow killer, but until someone comes up with an organic substance that looks, smells and tastes like fillet mignon, I just don't see myself giving up the meat for good.

African tribes vatussi and masai, however, discovered a different approach to getting some of the benefits from their livestock without having to kill it. They would carefully open a vein in a cow's neck, draw some blood and mix it with milk. The wound would then be carefully closed and patched up and the milk - drunk by all to keep healthy and strong. Incidentally, these tribes were considered among the best-looking and most intelligent people in the world. Of course, it would feel like a bit of vampirism from the cow's standpoint, but, given a choice, the animal would probably prefer the Dracula treatment to the meat packing plant.

Goddesses come in all shapes and sizes

The popular notion that a goddess ought to be tall, blond and blue-eyed is actually rather misguided. Both Greek Kharitas (goddesses of dance) and Indian fire spirits were portrayed as curvaceous women of just over 5 ft tall.

In 19th century Russia curvy petite women were referred to as "pocket-size Venuses". I don't know about you - but I like that much better than being called "shorty" or "pint-sized".

Kevlar skin

People living in the jungle areas all around the world share one feature developed over hundreds of years of natural selection - very smooth skin that is also incredibly tough and elastic. Generations of them grew up navigating the woods filled with prickly plants with thorns up to an inch long - many of them poisonous. At the same time, wrapping themselves in skins wasn't exactly an option - you try wearing anything in a tropical zone.

So, the smooth look of the Central American and African statuettes is not just decorative in nature - it's a fairly accurate representation of the beautiful, smooth and highly protective skin of the people who inspired these works of art. This lovely lady could probably walk through the jungle carrying a full jug of water or a heavy basket on her head, and wearing nothing but a flower in her hair and never get a single scratch.

Regal bearing

Speaking of carrying objects on your head... Wherever this exercise is still practiced, women possess a beautiful distinctive posture. 19th century Russian aristocrats instructed their daughters to walk around balancing a small stack of books on their heads for at least 15 minutes a day, attempting to replicate the proud bearing of Indian and African women described by adventurers and scientists who ventured to exotic destinations.

Unlike drinking cow blood or tearing through the jungle to toughen your skin, you can actually try this one at home. Don't use anything fragile or overly heavy that might crush your foot should you drop it. Grab a couple of small paperback books or a firm pillow, stand up straight and place the object on the top of your head until it's sitting relatively flat. Let go. Let your arms hang down loosely. Just stand there for a few seconds getting the sense of the balance. Try taking a few steps. You'll probably drop the thing a few times, but once you get a hang of it, consider doing this balancing act a couple of times a day and working your way up to 10 - 15 minutes every day.

The exercise will strengthen your neck and back and give you a better posture to help you feel taller and leaner. In addition, rolling your shoulders back and lifting your chin will open up your lungs, thus improving your breathing and circulation. This trick was discovered thousands of years ago, so why not quit slouching and take advantage of it?

Throw in the gentle sway of the hips you picked up from belly dancing and you get that flowing feminine walk thought to be reserved for goddesses and queens.

No comments: