meet courtney sunday
Courtney had just moved to Philadelphia from Canada when I met her a few years ago through a mutual yoga friend. The very first thing that strikes you about her is her energy. She’s got this infectious vibe, aura, or whatever you want to call it that makes you want to spend all day with her. Our dinner dates always go wayyyy past my bedtime. She teaches yoga around the world, is writing a book, and majorly kicking butt at carving out a meaningful life. Not afraid to don a red lip or dye her hair pink, she’s got a fresh perspective on finding balance in wellness and beauty. And she never takes herself too seriously.
Name: Courtney Sunday
Occupation: Writer / yoga teacher / soon-to-be wellness counselor
Hometown and Current Residence: Toronto, currently residing in Philadelphia
When someone asks what you do, what do you tell them?
I’m a writer. It took me years to say this, but it’s how I most identify. The first time I said it out loud, I felt shy about it, as if people would expect me to be a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. Then I realized that I am a work in progress, just as everyone else is. I’m paid as a writer, therefore, by some magical fortune, I must be a writer.
You’re working on a book! Can you tell us what it’s about?
I’m working on two books! One is about meditation and is kind of tongue and cheek. It has a humorous bent to the ancient practice, because frankly, meditation has helped me most when I haven’t been on a cushion and I’ve been confronted by real life stress. The other one is fiction and about two women who live two hundred years apart who work in various capacities in the wine industry. It delves into how there are some human experiences that time doesn’t change.
You're also a yoga instructor. What do you love about the practice?
Yoga has helped me to rehabilitate weak areas of my body and to stop my mind from running into the future. It’s allowed me to slow down and be non-judgmental, even if I look nothing like the Instagram yoginis in terms of what my body can do. It benefits other aspects of my life as well. The other day my computer crashed. I calmly called Apple and dealt with it. The lack of worrying proved to me that this yoga thing was working!
do you have any advice for yoga newbies?
It's important to connect with the teacher and know that no one’s expecting you to perform. Yoga's more of an inner journey than an outer demonstration. If you don’t connect with one style of yoga, there are countless others to explore!
What’s your day-to-day like?
I wake up early, make my partner breakfast, meditate, eat my breakfast, write for a few hours, walk some dogs, write again, teach a yoga class, go to a yoga class, write again and often teach in the evening too. I wind down by cooking. I cook most of my meals from scratch and like to play around in the kitchen to release my work brain. I need this, as I can always think about new articles or sequences.
What are you most excited about in life right now?
I’m really most excited about my books right now, as well as the fact that I‘m getting certified as a wellness counselor through the Mayo Clinic this year. I’ve worked as a health and wellness writer for six years and I can’t wait to learn more.
Who are you most inspired by?
It changes day to day, but right now I am most inspired by my friends Monica and Meghan. They have both had difficult years for different health-related reasons, but they demonstrate strength, courage and beauty in a very real way.
If you could talk to your 18-year-old self, what would you say?
Oh man, so much. I was a ball of stress at 18. I would tell her to not worry so much about grades. I was so worried about which University I would get into and then which grad school, but it didn’t even matter in the end because I ditched grad school for a job in Europe. I would also tell her that her life isn’t going to go as planned. It was going to be even better, as long as she could drop the reins from time to time.
What does beauty mean to you?
I was lucky to have been born into a family that focused more on what I could do than what I look like. Beauty now to me means feeling good from the inside. For me, it mean some quiet time, replenishing moments with friends, good vegan food, exercise and a good night’s sleep. When I was younger, I didn’t connect as deeply with the fact that how I treated my body directly contributed to how I looked. I had years where I drank a lot of wine and didn’t eat balanced meals. Looking at photos now, it showed.
What’s your A.M. and P.M skincare routine?
In the morning, I just rinse my face and apply SPF 15 to my face. I sometimes use an under eye cream. In the evening, I use a good exfoliating makeup remover, wash my face, and let it breathe.
Is there anything more intensive you do skincare-wise?
Twice a week, I use a Retinol on my face at night and once a week, I use a sheet mask (which I bought in bulk when I went to Korea last year). I’ve noticed a difference in how firm my skin looks when I added these two steps to my routine. However, I also don’t want to fuss with my skin too much. The simpler a skincare routine, the better.
What’s your makeup routine?
As I’ve gotten older, I play with makeup more. Lipstick is my go-to, even if it is a nude and I really like Kat Von D from Sephora which lasts forever and is vegan-friendly. On good days, I incorporate mascara and I just learned how to use eyeliner in a non-embarrassing way. I don’t wear too much makeup because of the movement in my life.
You travel quite a bit, any travel rituals you have that keep you centered and help you keep your healthy habits on track?
I used to work in the travel industry, so making one flight a month feels like nothing. I drink a ton of water. I go to Starbucks, order a tea and ask them to fill my bottle with filtered water – much cheaper than the water at the gift shops. I also walk a lot on vacation, often choosing that as my go-to mode of transportation. I’ve used ClassPass in different cities to try new classes, or signed up for a gym near my hotel for a week, which is often amazingly affordable. I do my best to eat well and consistently like I do back home, but if something is once-in-a-lifetime, I go for it; it’s hard to say no to a good cupcake on vacation.
Do you have a beauty trick you’d like to share?
Live a life that lights you up. This will definitely reflect in the way you look and even how you treat yourself. When I’ve been in relationships that weren’t right for me, or jobs that were boring, I would go home and eat or drink to make myself feel better. It’s hard to break up with our habits, and even harder if we aren’t looking at their root causes.
As a girl-on-the-go, how do you find balance work and play?
I’ve learned to say no. Whether it’s a work project or a party, if I am feeling depleted, I listen to that. A night with a cup of tea and an early bedtime can fix a lot of the feelings of imbalance.
What’s on your nightstand?
Earplugs (for loud upstairs neighbors), eye mask (if I plan on sleeping way in), my IPad for books, my library books for the moment (between 3-4) and often a cookbook.
What do you do to pick yourself back up when you've had a rough day?
Lie on the floor. Pet my cats. Get hugged by my partner. Repeat.
What does being well mean to you?
Being well means listening to myself. This changes all of the time. If the way I am eating now doesn’t work for me in five years, I want to be receptive to listen to it, rather than dogmatic about it being the only way. The same goes for movement. I also think that it’s easy to be well when you’re surrounded by people who lift you up.
What dish makes you feel so healthy and glowy?
I’m a salad girl. I remember reading blogs about 8 years ago when everyone was on the “Hugh Jass” salad train. I used to eat salad in mixing bowls! I’ve reduced my cow-like eating ways, but I still love when I have a big bowl of greens in front of me.
Walk us through your meals on a typical day.
Breakfast: overnight oats, a homemade quick bread, or avocado toast
Lunch: salad, open face sandwiches, or most often leftovers from the night before
Dinner: everything and everything from tempeh teriyaki over brown rice, mushroom bolognese sauce, homemade pizza dough with sautéed mushrooms and onions
Dessert: small bit of chocolate or a cookie. I make a huge batch of vegan cookie dough and freeze it individually so that we can have a fresh-from-the-oven cookie!
Craziest beauty trend you’ve tried: I dyed my hair with KoolAid in the 90s. I also took hair paint and painted it purple, which came off on my pillow.
Desert island skin care or beauty product: sunscreen, hands down
Personal style in one word: sporty-chic.
Something you’re super good at: sleeping.
Something you’re embarrassingly bad at: singing.
Guilty pleasure: This Is Us, the TV show
Favorite (or dream!) vacation destination: I loved Hawaii. I was also newly in love there, which gave the place extra sheen. I also loved Bali and would go back in a heartbeat. I’m dying to go to New Zealand.
Smoothie or juice?: smuice.
Must-read book: Fiction: Defending Jacob by William Landay, Non-fiction: Movement Matters by Katy Bowman.
Favorite yoga pose: sphinx—it hits the lower back spot!
In your fridge right now: all the vegetables, clementines, leftover pizza, filtered water, mango juice
Change you’d like to see in the beauty industry: stop it with the botox; let people age naturally and call them gorgeous still