Yoga, Massage, and other Self-Care Tips from an Actress on the Go
This actress, filmmaker, activist, and mom knows how to maintain balance amidst a busy schedule of traveling, filmmaking, and raising a family. When it comes to beauty, Alysia Reiner prefers to choose shades of green, an ethos that is also central to the sustainable renovation of her family’s Harlem Brownstone. Alysia’s been busy lately: she’s currently filming Masters of Sex for Showtime, she just wrapped season one of Better Things for F/X (premieres September 8), the fourth season of Orange is the New Black is now streaming on Netflix (Alysia plays Natalie “Fig” Figueroa), and Equity—the feature film she produced and stars in that premiered at Sundance—is being released by Sony Pictures Classics nationwide on July 29.
We had the opportunity spend some time together at the Exhale Spa at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood recently, where we talked about yoga, massage, what to eat quietly on set to nourish the skin…and films.
LA YOGA: Tell us about the film Equity.
Alysia Reiner: I call it my stealth-bomb-social-issue film, because it’s the first ever female-driven Wall Street movie. It’s written by a woman, directed by a woman, produced by two women—me and my producing partner Sarah Thomas—and of course it stars women. It’s not only a great thriller and an enjoyable movie, but it has a lot of social commentary about what it is to be a woman in a man’s world. There are parallels to all careers; it’s not just relevant to Wall Street.
One thing that came out in our interviews with all these women is that sometimes women help each other, and sometimes they don’t. That was not the story I set out to tell but that was the story we ended up telling, because that was the truth that we heard. For me, part of the journey of this film was acknowledging that truth – which was hard for me. I am a consummate Polyanna, and for a long time I wouldn’t admit that adult women sometimes are not so kind to each other – even after having myself been bullied as a kid. I think it happens when women feel like there’s “not enough,” be it in the acting profession or in the banking profession, where there are only so many spots for women.
FT: So you feel like women feel threatened by other women?
AR: Sometimes, I have to admit the answer is yes. I was talking just the other day with my friend who is a working mom. She was saying how on the playground, the stay-at-home moms can be cruel to her and so competitive. I don’t understand that. We’re all just doing the best we can. I think part of the lesson of this film for me was to acknowledge that this unkindness sometimes happens, and then double down on being the opposite!
LA YOGA: What does yoga mean to you in relation to maintaining balance?
AR: I love yoga so much and before I had my daughter I had a lot more time for it! I was first introduced to yoga in college and I’ve been practicing ever since. It’s been a challenge to find the time for it with a child and a busy schedule, so I’m blessed that I have a meditation room in my house where I can practice daily. I light a candle, pick a couple of angel cards, and do my yoga set for 5-10 minutes. Then I sit in meditation for just a couple of minutes as a way to connect every day.
The cool thing is, I have a seven-year-old who has been watching me do that for so long that now she loves yoga! When she’s having a rough day she’ll say, “Mama, I’m going to go in my room and meditate.” It blows my mind! It’s so beautiful to see someone who has that tool at such a young age.
A couple of years ago, I played a massage therapist and a yoga teacher in a pilot called Down Dog for Amazon. We were living in LA at the time, and we were at a new school for my daughter Liv. Her teacher asked if I could teach yoga to her kindergarten class and I said, “Sure!” I taught all of these kids’ yoga classes. I taught one on animals with animal poses, and one on different breathing techniques. I had the best time! One of the kids’ projects we did was to make Mindfulness Jars. There’s a great kids book called Moody Cow Meditates, and in it they teach you how to make a Mindfulness Jar, which is a little jar with glitter in it and you shake it up like a snow globe, and the kids watch the glitter settle and it helps their mind settle.
LA YOGA: It sounds like your daughter picked up yoga by example because it’s a part of your life.
AR: I think with kids you don’t want to push them, because of course they never want to do what you tell them to do. But they do want to do what they see you doing. She loves veggies because she just wants to eat what I’m eating.
LA YOGA: How do you incorporate your yoga practice when you’re on the road?
AR: Fortunately, you can take your meditation and yoga practice everywhere. You don’t really need materials. I listen to podcasts and there are yoga videos on YouTube or online. One of my favorite teachers, Lisa Langer, just gave her me her video as a gift for the Equity press tour! One of my best friends does a ton of YogaWorks videos, she’s brilliant, so I’ll take a class with her online. I can be in the middle of Missouri—like I was last week, doing a film and playing a ghost in the middle of the woods—and still take class with Melanie, which is great.
LA YOGA: What are some of the things you look for in a yoga studio or spa?
Alysia Reiner: What I love about yoga is you’re always learning; it’s a continuous process and expansion of your practice. To the day I die, I’ll be perfecting my down dog. It really is about progress and practice, not perfection. Instead of feeling like “Oh I can’t get this right,” I try to experience “Oh how interesting this balance is.” I look for studios that challenge me in that specific way.
I’m always open to adventures. For example, on Mother’s Day my daughter and I went on the flying trapeze at a place in New York called Circus Warehouse. I love trying new things like that, so I’ll follow friend’s recommendations for any new studios to go to!
LA YOGA: What are some of your favorite places in LA?
AR: Of course, Golden Bridge. And Exhale, it’s amazing. For nourishment afterward I love Real Food Daily, Cafe Gratitude, and Gracias Madre. When I have enough time (which is rare!) I love to go to the Olympic Spa because that’s such an experience, but it’s not worth going unless you have a good two to three hours. Do the whole thing, all the baths and everything, just lie there and sweat it out. So good! The women there range from teenagers to women in their 90s and you’re just one of many. You see how absolutely gorgeous every body is.
LA YOGA: In addition to yoga, what else is part of your self-care practice?
Alysia Reiner: I also love massage and I think massage is so important and so good for your body.
When I’m at home in New York, I make a commitment to receive a massage on a regular basis and I have a regular massage therapist. When I’m on the road, it’s fun to try new places (like Exhale), and there is an amazing therapist here in LA named Keith Anthony Sikora (he is magic). I do wraps and facials, but I think massage is incredibly important to the body for healing, including for dealing with jet lag. Since I love to be active and work out every day, I also want to give my body the time to relax.
LA YOGA: Do you have any other go-to daily practices?
AR: I have a MELT massage ball which I try to bring with me everywhere – so I can roll my feet on it every night while I floss my teeth.
I also just got into foam rolling; my husband has been foam rolling for years. It took me until I had an injury and I hurt my hip during this last movie, I think due to stress more than anything. I love it now, and I do it almost every night because I find that it helps everything.
LA YOGA: I love what you said about using the ball under your feet because we usually think of self-care as being this thing that is separate from routine, but integrating it so that it’s like flossing our teeth is key for success.
AR: One of the things about being an actress is that every day they’re putting layers and layers of makeup on your skin, and it’s important to look at what you choose to use to take it off. Your choices around self-care of your skin is a huge piece of the puzzle, too. It’s taken me a long time to find the products that really work for me. A lot of my friends just use a make up wipe at the end of the day. For me, that’s not enough.
LA YOGA: What are some of your favorite products?
AR: I’m a huge fan of ACURE products, and they have a scrub and a face wash that I just adore. I mix them and they remove the make up in a fantastic way. I was just given a fantastic toner by Kimberly Parry – it’s clean and I love the scent of it. My favorite nighttime line is from Evolue, and she has what we call “face crack” (it’s really called Reverse Time Serum) which is a serum for night time that helps protect my skin.
LA YOGA: Do you have anything you eat or drink to take care of your skin?
Alysia Reiner: Lots of vodka. Ha ha ha, kidding!!! Of course, the basics, like lots of water. Then there’s cucumber, I’m lucky that I have a taste for things like cucumbers. Cucumbers particularly are just so refreshing, and there’s so much water in them. When I’m on set, for example, it’s funny, there’s a difference between chomping on celery or carrots, which are very loud and you can’t really eat those on set! You can’t be loud on set when someone else is doing a scene, so cucumbers are a nice, quiet crunchy vegetable. Who knew?
LA YOGA: In your film Speed Grieving, you explore your reaction to your loss – the death of your father from cancer. How did your yoga practice help you through that process?
Alysia Reiner: Simply by creating the space to feel the feelings. Sometimes I’m running around so much and doing so much that I don’t have a lot of time to feel my feelings. I’m a huge fan of Pema Chodron, and have gone on retreat with her, and a huge part of that is simply time to FEEL.
On the recent anniversary of my father’s death, I found myself just crying in my morning meditation time, because I hadn’t made any other time/space to just sit and feel.
One of the things that I started doing with my daughter as part of that meditation is a little visualization. Even when she’s not with me meditating, I practice this visualization and it helps me to connect to my heart. So I did that, and my heart was needing a good little cry, you know what I mean?
LA YOGA: It seems like beginning your day in that way is about creating space, which is especially important, and especially in the kind of work you do when you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions at once. That’s the under-rated self-care right? Just creating space?
Alysia Reiner: Yes! That’s self-care, that time to yourself. Find it! Do it! Make yourself the priority!
Read more about Equity and find theaters and more information at: http://sonyclassics.com/equity/
For more information about Alysia Reiner, visit:
facebook.com/AlysiaReiner or alysiareiner.com
Hair and makeup by Jeannie Jeffries using Kevin Aucoin Cosmetics and Schwarzkopf Professional Hair. couturebeautyteam.com
Photos shot on location at Exhale Spa at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. exhalespa.com
Photos by David Young-Wolff davidyoung-wolff.com