Rita’s 40cm Hair Donation

Model, beauty queen, television host, fashion stylist, wife, mother – and most recently – blogger, Rita Lamah Hankach is a woman of as many titles as the passions she pursues in life. Rita has proven to be an ideal role model for young Lebanese women with her radiant beauty, both on the outside and on the inside. Alongside earning the second runner-up “Miss Lebanon” title in 2003 and honors in other beauty pageants, Rita has hosted a range of different television shows on Future TV and worked as the executive manager of famed Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad.

Rita on the left at Miss Lebanon 2003 (Photograph source: Lebanese Pageant)

Rita, on the left, at Miss Lebanon 2003 (Photograph source: Lebanese Pageant)

Earlier this year, Rita donated a record 40 cm of her long locks for our “Make the Cut” hair donation campaign. It came as a delightful surprise to us and a gesture that has undoubtedly inspired others around her to also follow suite.

We took a few minutes with Rita to get a more intimate understanding of that experience and what it meant for her:

1. You recently made the cut and donated a generous 40 cm of your hair to our campaign. What inspired you to take this drastic step?

My cousin, Karen. One day, she came to my place with a totally new haircut and told me about how she had donated her hair.

Karen, Rita's cousin showing her new cut - Photograph source: Life and Style and Co

Karen, Rita’s cousin, with her new haircut after donating (Photograph source: Life and Style and Co)

2. How was the experience for you? Did you decide in advance how much you would end up cutting?

The moment Karen told me her story, I decided that I would do it too and cut my hair short. It would grow back before I even knew it!

3. Have you donated your hair before? If so, when?

No, never.

Rita

It would be the first time Rita would make such a drastic cut (Photograph source: Life and Style and Co)

4. How have people responded to this change in your hairstyle and to your reasons for doing this?

My hair was very long and I took really good care of it. Everybody around me knew that. They called me crazy at first when I made this decision, but once they knew the reason behind doing it, they were very encouraging.

As for the hairstyle itself, I guess it wasn’t easy for my close friends to quickly adapt to it, especially since I’ve had long hair forever. It took me some time to get used to it myself.

5. Would you encourage others to make the cut? If so, how?

Definitely yes! I have also done two interviews on TV about the experience and have shared about it on my blog to encourage people.

Before, during and after the cut

Before, during and after the cut (Photograph source: Life and Style and Co)

6. Although many women don’t like wearing wigs during their treatment, the majority in Lebanon do whether for discretion of their sickness or to regain a sense of self. What’s your perspective on the role of wigs in helping a breast cancer patient cope? Are you for or against a patient wearing a wig during this period in their life?

Wearing a wig during treatment is very important and helpful – especially for a woman who might have already lost a very valuable part of her body because of breast cancer.

On the other hand, we should also work more on encouraging our society to accept this disease as cancer could happen to any of us. It should not be treated as a taboo.

7. We’ve all unfortunately been affected by cancer in one way or another – whether directly or indirectly through a friend or family member who’s had it. What is your relationship to this cause and what have you personally discovered through it?

Well, the person that I needed most in my life got affected by cancer. My mom fought it for two years before passing away at the age of 36. I was only 14 at the time! I remember I didn’t know what was wrong with her back then because of the social taboo I mentioned before.

My mom used to wear wigs and I guess I was in a state of denial. I didn’t want to admit or even think for a second that a disaster could happen to us – and it is a disaster indeed!

What did I discover? That cancer is a despicable, ugly, mean, evil disease that could happen to anyone at anytime in our lives.

We just have to live with it, try to enjoy our lives with our loved ones, and if we pray to God, we will definitely survive this awful experience.

8. Do you think there’s enough awareness about breast cancer in Lebanon? What do you think can be done more to help the women being diagnosed with it?

The campaign you’re doing is definitely helpful and different, however, I think it should be promoted further so that more women are aware of it.

Offering a free diagnosis in order to encourage everybody to get checked is also very important.

We’d like to thank Rita for donating and for sharing with us so openly about this important subject. If you wish to keep up with her latest news and projects, be sure to follow her blog: Life and Style and Co

Find out more about our “Make the Cut” hair donation campaign and check the hair donation guidelines here.

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Breast Cancer Yoga

A few weeks ago, we came across Breast Cancer Yoga led by New York-based breast cancer survivor and certified TriYoga teacher Diana Ross. This sort of yoga is a growing trend that has many benefits to both the mental and physical recovery of the survivor. We explored more about this form of recovery yoga through this interview with Diana:

1. How long have you been practicing and teaching Breast Cancer Yoga? Tell us more about why and how you started this program in New York.

Breast Cancer Yoga was founded in 2009. As a practicing Certified TriYoga teacher of 17 years, it was a natural progression to teach to students that had injuries and illnesses. One illness that seemed to present itself more often then not was breast cancer. Teaching Breast Cancer Yoga felt like the right thing to do, in that my sister, two sister-in-laws, cousin and myself all had breast cancer in common.

2. How does this specific type of yoga differ from other yoga practices?

Breast Cancer Yoga is specific as it targets primarily the entire breast region, including arms and shoulders. Other poses are incorporated to round out the practice but it primarily focuses on circulation and stimulation of lymph, increased ROM and breast health. There are many specific back bends, chest openers and flowing arm movements whereby other disciplines have a wide varied blend of poses. Not all being targeted for breast repair.

Diana Ross, the founder of Breast Cancer Yoga

3. What are the main benefits for breast cancer survivors practicing it? What are some reactions you’ve received from the women in your classes or workshops? 

There are so many benefits to these flowing sequences of poses for breast cancer recovery. Benefits such as increased blood flow and lymph drainage when twisting, arm extension that stimulate healthy blood flow to axillae, increased circulation which promotes healing and lessens fibrosis tissue, repairs post-surgical adhesions and scar tissue, strengthens and stretches weakened muscles, releases muscles of the chest allowing circulation to flow freely to the heart and lungs, breaks up muscle tension and stress so an inner calm surfaces. All theses benefits are only part of a total reach.

The breath too plays a large part in developing relaxation and building immune function. Breast Cancer Yoga works with the breath and movement of the pose.

The womens’ reactions give me the enthusiasm to continue because they keep coming back and they keep getting better and better both with a healthy recovering body and a happy attitude. I will also say that there have been many tears of joy, or expressions of tension release and many many laughs in class.

This yoga is a restorative therapy so eyes are typically closed and the focus is to go inward.

There is not doubt that the first thing you commit to is “yourself”

4. Are there types of poses that benefit breast cancer survivors more than others? Please give us an example of such a pose and how it helps.

Yes, there are specific yoga poses that isolate the pectoral muscles or lymph nodes, such as the classic arm extended pose below that has a nice twist to it.  It can be slowed down and modified.

Classic arm extended pose, as recommended by Breast Cancer Yoga

Just looking at it makes you feel a sense of “freedom” to the breast area.

5. Are the classes and/or workshops you lead directed only towards breast cancer survivors? Can restorative yoga flow also benefit patients still undergoing treatment?

Breast Cancer Yoga is Restorative Yoga Flow, except that BCY focuses a lot on the circulation of blood and lymph. It helps restore strength and promotes relaxation in action (meaning flowing movements coupled with an awareness on the breath) create an inner quiet and calm to heal.

When I teach at an event or workshop, there are students in recovery, passed recovery, just diagnosed and others that are working through lung cancer, chronic lung disorders and friends that are there to support family and friends.

6. With yoga as a healing practice for cancer patients on the rise recently, what makes your program stand out from others? Are there special considerations one should take before signing up for such a class?

I, too, have noticed an increase in specialized yoga’s for a wide variety of illnesses and injuries. I can only speak for my yoga and I say that because in reviewing others, some do stay focused and others just present a bunch of poses without any true direction. Breast Cancer Yoga truly focuses on recovery and on breast health.

There are a ton of flowing arm movements, chest openers and gentle backbends. Then as the student progresses, we add in arm strengtheners and core poses.

As far jumping in to any yoga class; not all yoga’s are the same. Thank God. My first comment as far as considerations of which class would be a good fit would be to find out about the teachers credentials. Nowadays the teachers need to be registered with the Yoga Alliance and should have training under their belt in this area, or lots of anatomy. The more hours teaching the better. For example I am an E-RYT 500 (Experienced Yoga Teacher) – the highest category – and I have taught over 28,000 hours, traveled to India several times and continue to enroll in medical and therapeutic workshops.

7. You lead weekly classes at The Restorative Yoga House in Northport, New York but have you given similar classes or workshops elsewhere? If not, do you have any future plans to do so in other parts of the world? 

I do this as a calling, and I love it too. Workshops and events seem to work out the best for me. I have done BCY workshops at YOUCANTHRIVE in NYC, Sisters Network, HBCAC, the Huntington Hospital for survivors and so on. We have some more upcoming breast cancer coalition groups this fall so I will be posting them.

Workshop led by Diana at “A Jewel in The Lotus” earlier this month. The students are captured here in the “Puppet Pose Flow” which is great for core strength.

I do not have plans to travel outside the country.

8. On your website you also have a section about Alkaline Water, Herbal Teas, Aromatherapy, Massage Oil and Recipe Books. How do they tie into your Breast Cancer Yoga program and is it necessary to adopt a holistic lifestyle for post-cancer treatment recovery?

I feel strongly that good health takes a total body and mind approach. We talk about the three necessary pranas in yoga, i.e., air, water and food. Alkaline water provides negative ions that drive out or neutralize free radicals and remove toxins. “A have to have.” Water now days are so polluted and chemicals are added freely frequently. Plus we really need to remove all the chemicals that our bodies have been introduced to via chemo. Herbal teas are soothing and nourishing. Great certified organic foods are a must to help support our body by way of good nourishment, strong immune function and increased energy. We are working on a healthy, exciting and tasty cookbook.

The worse thing about going through treatments is how it make you feel, so getting physically right is paramount. As for aromatherapy for recovery; nothings seems nicer than the smell of lavender or peppermint. It shifts your state of mind, repairs an upset tummy and reduces stress.

We are not just our mind, or just our body; we are a grand total of all things divine. We need to make sure that we take the best possible care during recovery and there after so that we can shine for ourself and for others.

Thank you for letting me share my experience, strength and hope.

For more information, videos on poses to try and workshops, check out the Breast Cancer Yoga website or Facebook pageAll photographs in this post are courtesy of Breast Cancer Yoga.

Dance Yourself Better

We all know the general benefits of moving and shaking our booties (so-to-speak), but how many of you consider dancing a form of therapy?

Whether you’re conscious of this while you’re doing it or not, dancing has numerous benefits that can (in some cases) outweigh a visit to your shrink – and it’s certainly a more fun and cost-effective way to feel better about yourself!

Dance therapy is a creative methodology dedicated to helping patients develop positive body image, improve self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, decrease body tension, increase communication skills and encourage a sense of well-being [Source].

Over the weekend, we had a chance to learn more about the benefits of dance therapy, as it relates to breast cancer patients, at the “Integration of Dance Therapy in Femininity Reconstruction after Mastectomy” lecture by Dr. Annie Nganou (which was also part of the “Advances in Breast Oncology” seminar the was being held at the Bellevue Medical Center (BMC) that day).

Dance therapy, as Dr. Annie defines it, is “psycho-corporal reconstruction through dance and movement” and it benefits victims of abuse, traumas, accidents and other physical disabilities. Her classes are open to anyone and she advocates that’s also part of the healing process that there is no segregation.

So what inspires someone to become a dance therapist, you might be wondering? Like most good things, Dr. Annie stumbled into this passion by chance. As a medical student, Dr. Annie was giving dance classes on the side when she noticed that several of the women (from the class) would confide in her things they’d never shared with others before. This got her thinking more in-depth about the benefits of dancing as a mode of recovery and releasing mental baggage. She later went on to pursue this subject more in depth as part of her Masters’ thesis.

(Image Source: Daamu Dance Company website)

Dr. Annie employs oriental dance techniques in her therapy sessions to help women regain their sense of femininity and inner self. After all, who can help not feel sexy after a session of seductive belly-dancing, right? More importantly, for women who’ve had a mastectomy or suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of their treatment, this style of dancing allows them to regain confidence in themselves through the gentle and feminine movements while also helping them re-connect with (and re-appreciate) their bodies. She has, so far, worked with around five breast cancer patients and has noted the positive changes in them since.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself “the dancing type” as the classes are organized to be gentle and accommodate to your comfort level. There’s no pressure applied whatsoever and if you prefer to simply watch on days when you’re not feeling so energetic, then that’s o.k. too.

For anyone interested in getting more information about these dance therapy programs, Dr. Annie is part of the Daamu Dance Company in Paris and Brussels so be sure to check them out online.

** We’d like to thank Dr. Annie for taking the time to talk with us. We look forward to collaborating with her and dance therapist based in Lebanon soon. If you know someone, please don’t hesitate to let us know by email to onewigstand@gmail.com. **

Poster available on Zazzle.com (Click on the image for more information)


Interview | Benefits of Laughter Yoga

Laughter Yoga has become a household concept in Lebanon as more people are trying out this new, and might we add very enjoyable, form of stress-relief. Nothing beats laughing your cares away and, as highlighted in this interview with Laughter Yoga’s leading practitioner Sabine Jizi, it also has many health benefits we may not be aware of.

But how does Laughter Yoga benefit One Wig Stand’s key demographic: women diagnosed with or undergoing breast cancer treatment? Find out more in this special one-on-one interview with Sabine as she shares her insight with us:

The smiling founder of Laughter Yoga Beirut, Sabine Jizi (Image Source: Laughter Yoga Beirut)

1. Laughter Yoga is a new practice here in Lebanon, growing quickly in popularity. What are the main benefits of this form of yoga?

Laughter Yoga is not the typical kind of yoga we usually hear about. It is a unique concept whereby anyone can laugh for no reason. It is based on laughter and breathing exercises practiced in a group that allows people to laugh without relying on humor, jokes or comedy.

Of course, this kind of yoga has many health benefits:

  • Laughter releases endorphins, giving us the “feel good” factor.
  • Acts as aerobic exercise and is like “internal jogging”; 10 minutes of hearty laughter is equivalent to a 30-minute treadmill workout
  • Unleashes inhibitions and breaks down barriers. It helps us deal with challenging situations in a more positive way.
  • Great team-building tool, which encourages better communication.
  • Helps boost our immune system which helps us resist disease.
  • Tones muscles, improves respiration and circulation.
  • Encourages positive thinking and creativity.
  • Blood and all major organs are fully oxygenated, leaving us bursting with energy.
  • Promotes cardiovascular health.
  • Depression is lifted. Even chronic depression is often cured.
  • People who laugh don’t worry as much as people who don’t laugh and, as such, enjoy life more.
  • And lastly, laughter makes us feel good because it defuses three of the most painful emotions (fear, anger and boredom) by releasing them.

2. Yoga is recommended as a recovery therapy for women undergoing breast cancer treatment. Have you ever tried the Laughter Yoga practice with breast cancer patients? Please tell us a bit about that experience.

I haven’t held a session for women undergoing breast cancer treatment yet, but I did have the chance to meet a few incredible, powerful women during my certification training in Germany. I was astonished by what laughter had done for them, helping them undergo the treatment in so many different ways.

People bursting into giggles while doing Laughter Yoga (Image Source: Laughter Yoga Beirut)

3. How does Laughter Yoga in particular benefit these women and how did they react to it?

Laughter Yoga is not a replacement for medical treatment, however, it does accelerate the treatment process and helps ease the pain. Laughter was like a free pill for the women I met in Germany; it helped them accept and embrace their situation, and love themselves – no matter how difficult their treatment was.

Laughter Yoga lifted their depression, helped them release their painful emotions and replace them with the “feel good” hormones (Endorphins). It also encouraged them to think positively and helped them deal with their challenging situation in a much more constructive way. It was also a great way for those women to interact together and help each other beat the disease.

It was also a great team-building exercise for them. They felt like they were part of the same team, supporting each other during this period. It certainly helped boost their immune system which accelerated the healing process. Laughter is the best medicine!

One can't help laughing while trying out this new form of yoga! (Image Source: Laughter Yoga Beirut)

4. In your opinion, at what point during or after breast cancer treatment is it advisable to practice Laughter Yoga (or any other form of yoga)?

In my opinion, because laughter offers everybody great health benefits, women diagnosed with breast cancer should definitely practice laughter yoga during their treatment. It helps them in so many ways – even if they were not in the mood to laugh, feel positive or be happy.

The concept of Laughter Yoga is in fact based on a scientific study that says that the human body cannot differentiate between a real laugh or a fake laugh; so either way, one is likely to get the same positive health benefits.

Laughter Yoga becomes a way of thinking and living, and these women can apply it within their lives, after breast cancer, and spread it along within their own surroundings. Laughter is highly contagious!

5. Are there any questions a cancer patient should consult their doctor about before starting Laughter Yoga or can anyone do it regardless of medical conditions?

Usually, anybody can practice Laughter Yoga, but I always encourage people who have a certain medical condition to refer to their doctors first just to be on the safe side – but doctors have never restricted it.

People from Laughter Yoga session in Beirut (Image Source: Laughter Yoga Beirut)

6. Do you plan on doing more sessions for breast cancer patients here in Lebanon in the future?

I’m actually very much looking forward to holding sessions and working with women with breast cancer. I feel like I have so much to offer and teach them. Laughter Yoga will, without a doubt, help them emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s definitely a project I have been thinking about for a while now, hoping to do it in the near future.

We’d like to thank Sabine for taking the time to do this interview with us and sharing her invaluable input on this interesting, new form of yoga. We recommend anyone reading this to give Laughter Yoga a try and giggle their way to a healthier recovery and lifestyle.

Find out more about Laughter Yoga via the website and Facebook page.

The Different Sides of Poly (and Her Wigs)

Poly, a talented singer and songwriter making a huge bang in the Lebanese music scene, knows how to stand out. Besides her vivacious stage presence, you’ll seldom catch her without one of her funky wigs – even on a regular day when she’s not performing.

One Wig Stand took a few minutes from Poly’s busy schedule to conduct this small one-on-one interview to get to know her (and her wigs, of course) a little bit better:

Poly performing at DRM – December 2011 (Photo by Loryne Atoui)

1. What’s with all the wigs? Tell us about your obsession with wearing them.

First off, I want to say that my wigs are not natural.

For me the point of wearing a wig is not about trying to make people believe that I have natural, colorful, awesome, funky hair – I wear them literally because I can. I used to get bored with my hairstyles very easily. I think having braids was the only hairstyle that took months for me to get over, so instead of messing up my hair every week with new colors and cuts, I figured, why not wear wigs? That way I can change colors and cuts whenever I want.

My wigs are an expression of my moods or what I’m feeling that day.

That’s why I’m called Poly; I have different sides of me and I have a wig for each of those sides! The wig world is a limitless one.

2. When did you first start wearing wigs?

Less than a year ago when I took out my braids.

Poly, back in the braid days.. (Photo source: Poly’s Official Fan Page on Facebook)

3. How many wigs do you currently own?

Around 25, but I don’t always use all of them..

4. How do you choose which wig to wear during your performances?

To be honest, I rarely plan ahead when it comes to what I’m wearing, including the wig I’ll be wearing, which is something that really annoys my designer Farah Hourani! But I just want the way I look on stage to completely express the way I’m feeling that day (or week) so we usually grab a bunch of outfits and wigs and then we mix-and-match them backstage before the concert!

Experimenting with looks – Which wig will Poly wear today? 🙂 (Photo source: Poly’s Official Fan Page on Facebook)

5. Where do you purchase or get your wigs from?

I get my wigs from Hair & More in Sin El-Fil but I always find a way to recreate them or cut them. My friend, and co-songwriter, Carl Ferneine once decided to play around with my purple ponytail and made it into my fauxhawk.

6. How do you take care of the wigs?

I brush and wash them, but I don’t take care of them nearly as much as I should..

7. Do you have a wig stand?

Yes I do! Waking up next to plastic heads wasn’t very pleasant in the beginning so I had to move all my wigs and heads to what we now call “The Wig Room”.

8. How do others respond to your wearing wigs?

Mostly I get people asking me if the wig is natural or not, and my typical answer is “It never is.. ” Or I’ll get people asking me why I’m wearing wigs and where I get them from. The intense staring never gets old of course, but that doesn’t stop me from experimenting with my wigs and fashion.

Poly behind-the-scenes (Photo source: Poly’s Official Fan Page on Facebook)

9. Do you wear them on a daily basis outside of your performances or public appearances? If so, please share why.

I wear my wigs whenever I feel like it – which is 80% of the time. It’s not just for entertainment purposes. For me, it’s like wearing a funky hat, or an accessory. I love my natural brown curly hair but I just get bored.

And basically, why not?

10. Have you met others who wear wigs for other reasons (such as breast cancer patients) and can you now tell when someone is wearing a wig?

I actually haven’t met anyone in person that wears wigs (for any reason), but yes, sometimes I can tell when someone is wearing a wig.

Poly performing at DRM – December 2011 (Photo by Loryne Atoui)

Don’t let all the wigs intimidate you – Poly’s one of the sweetest performers you’ll ever meet. Not only is Poly a singer and fashionista, but she’s a passionate human rights activist who supports causes close to heart. Who knows? Perhaps our unified obsession with wigs might bring forth an interesting collaboration for breast cancer awareness with the up-and-rising star in the future!

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Follow Poly on Twitter:

@FollowPoly

Follow Poly on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/OfficialPoly