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Month: July 2020

How to Plan Your Day Around Peak Brain Performance Hours

If there’s one word we can all relate to right now, it’s change. Each and every one of us has experienced more transition and uncertainty in the past few months than we have in years or maybe, ever. The good news is, we’re in it together. And Tiffany Cruikshank is right there with us. For the Yoga Medicine founder, COVID-19 has brought about major changes in her business model, forcing her to bring her renowned yoga teacher training completely online. 

Working with over 25,000 patients, Cruikshank knows a little something about healing. She views her newfound challenges as blessings in disguise—pointing out positives like being able to reach a broader market virtually, and having the opportunity to optimize her schedule while at-home. Perhaps her favorite recovery technique of all? Yoga. “I feel strongly that exercise you enjoy is important, not only so you stick to it but also in its effects on our musculoskeletal system, physiology and mental health,” she tells Nutritious Life.  “Yoga is wonderful for a home practice, my favorite part is that you don’t need any equipment.”

Cruikshank’s practice actually began at home in 2003, where she led informal trainings to local teachers in her area. Today, she offers hundreds of online classes at YogaMedicine.com, making it accessible to anyone in need of a mindful break. She opens up to Nutritious Life about her layered fitness philosophy, the ingredient that’s in almost every meal she eats, and the simple breathing technique that has saved her from stress.

How have things changed for you since COVID-19 hit? What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you worked to overcome it? 

What hasn’t changed is the better question. My schedule used to be planned out a year or two in advance and now everything is changing all the time. The biggest challenge for me was moving all of our Yoga Medicine scheduled trainings online. I was unsure about it and overwhelmed at the idea at first, but it’s been really well received. People love having the content online to do at their own pace and come back to anytime. Our students get to save a lot of money that they would have spent traveling to trainings with us. We get to reach a broader market that wouldn’t otherwise have access to travel to and attend trainings.

What are some of your tips to stay focused? Especially now. 

Having a schedule is key for me. Having cozy workspaces around my house, even just small nooks or chairs. Keeping the house tidy is important for my mental clarity. I’m a smell oriented person so I love essential oils- some of my favorites for focus are sandalwood, geranium, lime, frankincense, ylang ylang, wild orange and spruce. I do afternoon meditations when my brain goes fuzzy.

Do you prefer to workout in the morning or evening?

I used to be morning only but I’ve become more of a late morning or early afternoon person these days, now that I can control my schedule a bit more at home. I prefer to use the morning for brain work since I’m most efficient then, usually I’m writing or creating courses or content then. When I feel my brain fading around noon, I start to move.

What is your fitness philosophy?

I feel strongly that exercise you enjoy is important, not only so you stick to it but also in its effects on our musculoskeletal system, physiology and mental health. It should be enjoyable in some way, maybe creative, stretch your limits and be something that makes you feel better. There tends to be this pervasive mentality in the fitness world of having to beat yourself up to get in shape and I just don’t buy into that. 

How often do you exercise, and what’s your workout of choice?

I exercise daily, though it doesn’t always feel like a workout. I think that’s important! Usually yoga in some form but I also like to use weights, bands and do all sorts of weird new movements- whatever is inspiring me at the moment. When I go to the gym I’m usually the one doing something strange in the corner. I’m fascinated by the body and love experimenting. Some days it’s  just getting outside to go for a run or a hike. My favorite work break from sitting all day is dancing around the house, it’s the best way to get diversity of movement! My commitment is to move and breathe and listen to what my body needs daily, which mostly requires being honest with myself and pushing myself when needed as well.

Can you share a workout that we can try at home with little to no equipment?

Yoga is wonderful for a home practice, my favorite part is that you really don’t need any equipment. Even the props that are used can be swapped out for simple home items like a rolled up towel. I have hundreds of classes online at YogaMedicine.com ranging from 5 minutes to an hour.

If you had to name your healthy diet, what would you call it? Why? 

I’ve always been a fan of a simple whole foods nutrition plan, eating a variety of veggies, fruits, whole grains and proteins. Quality over quantity and a variety of nutrients to nourish my cells. I believe food is medicine, which is why I wrote my first book, Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life. I wrote it as a resource for my clients and students to take their healthcare into their own hands with nutrition, yoga, home remedies and simple but powerful resources.

Has it been hard to stay on track with your nutrition while in quarantine? 

I definitely fell off a cliff at the beginning. We were drinking and indulging a lot for the first couple months. There was so much stress and uncertainty. Then we just hit a wall and did a total 180. We did an intensive version of my 30 day detox in my book and turned it around. Thank god! It’s amazing how much your food and routines change your happiness and appreciation of life, much less your mental focus and physical well being

What’s your go-to breakfast?

A green smoothie for sure! I love getting in some good veggies, fats and vitamins and minerals early in the day. That’s a requirement for me, I need sustainable energy and nutrients for a busy day ahead so I can be focused and efficient.

What’s the one food you always have in your fridge? 

Avocado. It’s such a great food and gives me sustainable energy for my day. There’s so many tasty ways to eat or incorporate it, from garnish (guacamole or sprinkled on top of a dish) to entree (stuffed avocado) to dessert (avocado mousse). I add a bit of it to just about everything to make sure I’m getting plenty of healthy fats.

Your favorite food indulgence? 

There’s so much incredible food here in Seattle so finding someplace new or cooking something fun at home. I love finding great recipes online. Just whipped this Marinated Peanut Tempeh up today, so tasty! 

Other than water, what do you sip regularly? 

I love sparkling concoctions. Grab some herbs from the garden (I love thyme, mint, lavender, sage or rosemary), squeeze half a lemon or lime, and add sparkling water. You can also add stevia drops or muddle a few frozen blackberries or raspberries in there for an extra treat.

What’s your go-to tool for managing stress? 

I love my work but there’s never a shortage of things to do and decisions to make. And when I have down time I often start brainstorming new projects, which doesn’t help. But I’ve learned that I really thrive when I’m creating so I like a bit of busyness. My favorite stress buster when I’m short on time is pranayama, which refers to the breathing exercises in yoga. These are such a quick efficient way to halt the release of stress hormones in the body. Just a couple minutes and I’m ready to go. My favorite when I need both energy and calm is a 4 count inhale, 7 counts to hold it in and 8 counts to exhale. You can count faster or slower to suit your breath in the moment but keep the count steady like a metronome. 3 to 5 rounds is usually just right but you can do more if needed. Meditation is more of my long term strategy, though if you have a regular practice, something simple like just noticing your breath for a few moments can also be a quick fix. The key is noticing when the stress kicks in and halting it in its tracks.

How do you express and spread love? 

I think love is in the moments we lean in to listen or share with someone we care about- it’s our empathy, our time, our energy. My husband and I are very tactile so we love long hugs and snuggling together. Those moments are so valuable for me, they recharge my soul.

What is your evening routine to wind down at the end of the day? 

Making dinner with my husband. We usually work from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and then draw a hard line after that. We put our work away and cook. We love to wind down by giving each other foot massages, or sometimes just watching a movie or show. Then we head to bed pretty early for a good night sleep, which is essential to all the rest of it.

The 3 C’s of Chair Yoga

By Kimberlea Smarr for Yoga Medicine®.

In 2008 I was fresh out of my teacher training in India and back home in rural Colorado. I came back ready to teach stressed out moms (like me) the benefits of yoga. What I found instead was a population that was in need and underserved. I met the director of the local senior center at a chamber of commerce meet and greet. She asked if I taught chair yoga and I told her no, but if she was willing to let me try, I was willing to figure it out.

This began an exploration into the adaptability of yoga for me as an able-bodied yogi and teacher. I discovered with imagination, willingness and creativity yoga can be made assessable for every BODY. Teaching chair yoga has been one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my teaching career. My students range in age from 60-90 years old and have many circumstances such as oxygen tanks, pacemakers, knee replacements, hip replacements, shoulder surgeries, spinal fusions, diabetes and other chronic illness. Instead of seeing them as their circumstances, I approached them compassionately and with curiosity. Working with them has provided me with an insight into the complex yet beautiful adaptability of the body and spirit.

Over the years my approach to teaching chair yoga can be boiled down to 3 C’s: community, compassion and circulation. Using this as framework, you can create a meaningful and beneficial chair yoga practice for many circumstances that people are facing. I feel like my main priority is to help my students focus on what they can do, not on what they cannot do. This has resonated deeply with my students not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

Community

Circle the wagons (or chairs)! This is the only class that I teach in a circle formation. This is a symbol of wholeness, community and connection. In an aging population, I find it is so important to create eye contact and to have a feeling of being a part of something bigger. We notice if our circle is smaller and we realize immediately when someone is missing and inquire about their wellbeing. We spend the first bit of class doing “mouth yoga” which is code for gabbing and catching up. This is often where I am mentally editing my class so I can meet them where they are. My care and concern is genuine. This creates a tone that carries the supportive energy throughout the entire time we are together. It elevates the mood and ties us together. Yoga, after all, means union.

This is also the only class that I teach and participate in the whole time. I want to be included in the energy of the practice and refrain from just standing up at the front to teach to a population that is much wiser and more seasoned than me. Because of so many individualized circumstances, I do not make physical adjustments. I rely on my verbal cues and demonstration to make corrections. Being in a circle helps them reference each other so they can see how the pose looks on other bodies that have challenges too. This is not meant to compare, but to see the diversity and to celebrate and support each other.

Compassion

At the beginning of practice, I set the tone for self-compassion. I have found body shaming to be a normal reference for many women in this generation. Along with that, I hear so much talk around the resistance to aging and how “it’s all downhill from here.” A disconnect with their body is often present. With deep compassion, I carefully navigate with language that helps them to consider that aging, perhaps, is a privilege instead of a curse. Many times, it is the first opportunity they have had to make room to love and care compassionately for their bodies. Compassion coupled with gratitude allows the mental practice to set the stage for the movement. When we move with loving kindness towards our body instead of angst and disapproval, it changes the quality of the movement immensely.

Circulation

Once the tone of the class is set, it is time to move. I look at promoting circulation in the entire body – especially the nooks and crannies that are not included in our “sit, stand, walk” daily patterns. You must imagine the chair as a prop and use it as such. It allows many people to still create postural strength as well as tap into the entire spectrum of movement in the body.

We start by welcoming our feet to class by spreading and lifting the toes then placing them back down. We close our eyes, lengthen our spine and breathe. Once we establish ujjayi breath, I encourage them to never sacrifice the breath for the movement or posture. The breath is primary, and the postures are secondary. There are limitless ways to sequence a class, but below is a structure that can help create circulation in a diverse group of students.

Seated ½ Sun Salutations

Each ½ of the breath shape shifts us from one pose to the next, it begins to establish the body mind connection. Do 3-5 rounds of the following:

  • Inhale: arms reach overhead

  • Exhale: Uttanasana

  • Inhale: ½ way lift

  • Exhale: Uttanasana

  • Inhale: rise, arms overhead

  • Exhale: Hands to heart
Flexion and Extension (Better Known as Cat/Cow)
  • Inhale: Cow – Stay upright as possible, rock forward of your sitting bones, squeeze shoulder blades
    together and curl the sternum up as you lift the chin

  • Exhale: Cat – Rock behind your sitting bones and turn your gaze in towards your navel and draw it back
    towards your spine as you spread the back body wide.

Twist Right and Left
  • Sit tall with knees and feet together. Take your right hand across the body to the outside of the left knee. Reach your left hand behind you to help lift the spine a little taller.
  • Inhale feel the length of your spine and exhale twist your upper body to the left while keeping both sitting bones heavy and grounded
    to the chair. Stay 3-5 breaths. Inhale to release and repeat on the opposite side

Lateral bend Right and Left
  • Still seated in the chair, separate your feet hip distance apart and ground your sitting bones into your chair.
  • Inhale both arms overhead. Your right hand grabs the left wrist and side bend to your right without unplugging your pelvis. Begin little tiny bounces to the right as you breathe smoothly and calmly. The bounces won’t match the breath necessarily. Stay 3-5 breaths and then change sides.

Now that the spine is lubricated, it is time to bring in more circulation to the periphery.

Shoulder Rolls Forward and Back

Place fingers on head of arm bones and inhale shrug shoulders up, lift your elbows forward. Exhale widen elbows out to the side as you squeeze shoulder blades together and down. Repeat 3-5 breaths. Change directions for 3-5 breaths.

Wrists

Interlace fingers in front of you. Keep the palms together and begin to rotate hands in one direction to create a circle. Go slow for 2- 3 breaths then speed it up for 2-3 more breaths. Change the interlacing of your fingers to the “weird way” to hold hands with yourself and repeat circling the other direction.

Hips/Ankles

Sit up tall and gather your right knee towards your chest with your right hand. Begin to rotate your knee the right to create circles. After 3-5 rotations, reverse the circle direction. Then place your right thigh on top of your left thigh. Begin to rotate your ankle in a clockwise circle for 3 breaths then counterclockwise. Keep the shape of the legs and begin to squeeze the outer shins towards each other, maybe tuck the right foot behind the left calf for Garudasana (eagle pose). You will see diverse positions in this pose for many reasons. Take this time to give everyone permission to let the legs cross comfortably and squeeze whatever shape they can make. Take your left arm on top of your right and hug the outer arm pits with each hand (they may only be able to hold opposite elbows instead of armpits). Lift your elbows to shoulder height. 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left side starting with hip circles.

Warrior 2 Seated

Shift to the right side of your chair. Turn you right knee and foot to the right as you sit into your right thigh and sitting bone. Extend your left leg behind you by squeezing your quadricep and turn your left foot sideways. Open your arms to the side and turn your shoulders and belly to face the side. Hold 5-7 breaths. You can do reverse warrior 2 and side angle as a variation. Repeat on the left side.

Uttkatasana

Bring your feet about hip distance apart. Draw the heels back just slightly behind the knees and pretend to spread the floor with your feet without moving them anywhere. Inhale press your hands in Anjali mudra and keep your shoulders on your back, eyes forward. Exhale hinge slightly at the hips press into your heels and hover your hips above the chair while the chest and eyes remains up (encourage students to use hands if necessary or just try to lift without coming out of the chair). Inhale sit back down; exhale repeat 3-5 times. On the last one, stay hovering for 3 breaths then rise to stand on an inhale.

Down Dog

Once standing have the students turn the chair so they can place their hands on the seat of the chair and step their feet back into down dog. Encourage bent knees and wide feet as well as bum higher than head. This often takes a “mini workshop” to get them into the correct position. I demonstrate technique that shows poor alignment and proper alignment and the explain the myriad of benefits of down dog. Hold 3 -5 breaths.

Plank

Once in down dog you can move forward to plank. Inhale to plank, exhale back to down dog. I always give the option to stay in dog. I encourage inner armpits forward and neck is free from tension. You can also hold plank once they get stronger or just pulse back and forth from plank to dog. Move for 5-10 breaths. Finish in down dog and walk your feet towards your chair. Lengthen the spine in ½ lift. Take hands to hips, elbows point to the sky and with a strong belly and flat back rise.

Figure 4

Turn the chair around and take a seat. Flex your right foot and place it on top of your left knee to create a figure 4 shape. Many bodies need extra support so to modify take your hands to the outside of the right shin and lift slightly. Do not let the right foot go to sleep and sickle. Wake it up and that helps protect the knee in this shape. Widen the right knee away from the right shoulder and hold 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the left side.

Savasana

You can incorporate ½ sun salutes here if you have a little extra time, otherwise lie back into the chair and find a comfortable resting pose. If they can get up and down off the floor, I demonstrate legs on the chair for savasana. Conscious breath continues for 1-2 minutes with guidance then let everything go for 2 minutes.

Yoga Digest: Best of What to Read

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.  So no pressure but, if you are looking for enlightenment, guidance, transformation, self-study, awareness and growth, start with this list!  These are our top picks of what to read if you are ready to be the best version of you.  We even included a selection for our young readers, or one you can share with the little ones in your commitment to wisdom and evolution.  This list includes playfulness and a light heart as well as some very deep soul searching and chakra work.  Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body!

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids Around the World

 

 

Simple Yoga for Kids

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids Around the World is the newest title in the international bestselling kids’ yoga series, The ABCs of Yoga for Kids. Written by acclaimed yoga expert and Kids’ Yoga Day founder, Teresa Anne Power, this beautifully illustrated hardcover book is a wonderful read-aloud for parents/educators and children. It takes readers on a fun-filled tour of 32 countries, sharing kid-friendly facts about each, as well as teaching simple yoga poses suitable for children of all ages and athletic abilities. This book also introduces to the alphabet and how to say ‘hello” in the language of each country represented.

Learn More

aim true

 

 

Must Have Guide for Yogis

In Aim True, Budig extends her empowering message beyond the mat. Life is an adventure that is meant to be explored, challenged, and fully lived. The best part? When you approach life with an open mind and heart, the possibilities are endless. Allow Budig to be your guide along the journey with yoga sequences, recipes, meditation, homeopathic self care and more! Whether your goal is to love who you are right now, reshape the way you view food, develop a meditation practice, or discover new ways to embrace the great balancing act that is life, this holistic approach to yoga, diet, and mindfulness has something for you. Filled with vibrant photographs and whimsical illustrations, this guide is as beautiful as it is life-changing.

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Meditate Your Weight

Meditation Program

Internationally renowned master yoga teacher, and meditation, health and wellness expert, Tiffany Cruikshank (Lac, MAOM) offers an exciting way to use meditation: to lose weight and revamp your body-brain relationship with Meditate Your Weight. This book provides a daily meditation program to guide you through various mental obstacles and poor habits and behaviors that stand in the way of positive body image and living a healthy life. Meditate Your Weight will help retrain your brain to rid your life of unhealthy mental habits, calm your nervous system, and maximize your mind’s role in a healthy metabolism.

Learn More

Read the full list of Yoga Digest’s best reads here.

 

The Complex Nature of Grief During COVID-19 (Plus 3 Simple Practices to Help You Cope)

COVID-19, has really changed so much in our lives, including how we’re coping with grief from the loss of a loved one. Quarantine and social distancing ask us to adapt in different ways when it comes to love and loss, and to saying goodbye.

In normal circumstances, when a loved one gets sick, we can have contact and care for them, share sentiments and love, and be present with them as end of life approaches. We can hold their hand as we say goodbye and assure them, they are not alone.

A pandemic changes all of this.

As one approaches the end of life, it must be experienced without loved ones nearby, which can be scary and leave loved ones without a sense of closure over the loss.

People are missing out on their final farewells, which is relatively common when a loved one dies suddenly, like from an accident or heart attack. But there’s added stress that is unique during a pandemic, in that we are aware that the loved one is declining, but there’s little ability to be of support and the inability to be present for the end of life.

This can lead to deep despair, feeling a lack of control, guilt, and sadness over the inability to be of comfort.

In addition, once the loved one passes, rituals like celebrations of life and funerals can’t be held due to social distancing measures. While some are engaging in virtual funerals and other rituals, it doesn’t replace the hug of family members or the shared experience of mourning together.

So a lot of the grief is left to be done alone or at a distance from the loved ones needed for support. Finding acceptance, a key tenet of grief processing, can be disrupted as a result.

Want to learn how to cope with grief and work toward healing and health? Click here to read the full article originally published on YogiApproved.com.

***

Check out Diane Malaspina’s online course, Working with Grief – Theory and Therapeutic Application of Yoga, which is designed for experienced yoga teachers who work with clients in a private setting and would like to refine their approach to helping those experiencing grief.

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How Yoga Boosts Your Immune System

By Lisa Ash Drackert for her lisa.ash.yoga blog.

Did you know that yoga can boost your immune system by promoting lymphatic regularity and nourishing your tissues with oxygen-rich blood cells? 

Your lymphatic system plays an essential role in healthy immunity, circulation and detoxification. It is a complex network of vessels found throughout the body (especially in the fascial system) that efficiently circulates lymphocytes, disease fighting antibodies, metabolic byproducts and lymph fluid to keep your body vital. 

Yoga, Self-Myofascial Release and yoga pranayama (breathing exercises) support a robust lymphatic system by encouraging the removal of impurities from the body. In addition, contracting your muscles as you move and breathe in yoga acts as a pump for the lymphatic system. Mindful, vigorous movement of any kind helps the lymphatic system flow more efficiently, however, yogic techniques in particular also help mitigate harmful effects of stress on your body. This combination builds the base for strong immunity.

Try these 3 Yoga Practices to Boost Your Immune System:

 

1. Legs up the Wall Pose

Scoot your hips close to the wall and lay down on your back, sliding your heels upward. Set a timer for 6 to 10 minutes and rest on your back. Don’t have a wall? Sling your feet up on the seat of a chair. Gentle, supported inversions help promote lymphatic flow, reduce swelling and remove excess build-up of fluid around major organs.

2. Foot Massage with Self-Myofascial Release

Grab a tennis ball and roll the bottom of your foot on the ball from heel to toe. Use medium pressure so that it feels reassuring to the tissues but is easy to control the movement. After 3 minutes, decrease the pressure significantly and “scribble” the ball in all directions like its a marker making random patterns on the bottom of your foot. This encourages lymphatic return and can help re-circulate disease fighting lymphocytes all over the body.

3. Diaphragm Strengthening

Roll up a towel and slide it under the soft part of your belly as you lie down in sphinx pose: belly down, chest supported by the forearms. Take 10 cleansing inhales and exhales; inhale through the nose and exhale a loud sigh out of the mouth. The lymphatic system helps to remove toxins and other natural metabolic byproducts from the bloodstream through perspiration, bowel movements and breathing, keeping your body healthy.

Learn More! Join Lisa for an Online Workshop: Yoga Immune Boost Workshop

 

Sunday August 2, 2020; 9:00 am- 10:30 am  (CST)

held in the Online Classroom at Westport Yoga KC

Enroll Here

Get Your Stretch On

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers

Muscle tension, lower back pain, stress… sound familiar? Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are working from home and may be finding new aches and pains or a lack of flexibility – especially if they are sitting at less-than-ideal desk setups. 

To ease this muscle tension – and relieve stress in general – stretching is one of the best things you can do. And if you’re a novice stretcher, don’t worry – stretching is beginner-friendly. 

“The main thing to note is that consistency will really pay off,” says Yoga Medicine therapeutic specialist Jenni Tarma. “However, you don’t need to do anything complicated or time-consuming to get the benefits of stretching; even a few minutes of easy movement at a time sprinkled out throughout the day will make a big difference in how you feel.”

Where to Start

If stretching is a new habit you’d like to create, Tarma says having a strategy can be helpful. She suggests two techniques to make it part of your day:

Set a Timer

“Setting an hourly reminder to get up and stretch (and actually following through) will make sure you don’t get to 5 p.m. and realize you’ve been sitting all day.”

Stack the Habit

“Habit-stacking is another great tool: Tack your stretch break onto another habit that’s already firmly established. For example, you might decide to do a few stretches every time you get up to get a glass of water or make a cup of coffee,” says Tarma.

As for what kind of stretches to do when you’re starting out – you basically want to do gentle movements that feel good.

“Moving the spine in a variety of ways is simple and feels really good for most people: Either seated or standing, twist to the right and to the left; side bend in both directions; round and arch the spine a few times,” she says. 

Tarma also recommends doing a forward fold – essentially, standing up straight and then bending forward to where you can touch the floor or near the floor.

“A gentle standing forward fold is an easy way to stretch the hamstrings and decompress the spine; you can bend your knees if the backs of the legs feel very tight or resistant. Additionally, forward folds are thought to have a down-regulating effect on the nervous system, which means they can be a good way to reset a busy mind any time you’re feeling frazzled or under the gun.”

Stretch to Fight Stress

If you work a stressful job or if you’re feeling anxious amid the pandemic, stretching can be a useful tool to calm your mind.

“Stretching can certainly ease stress in various ways, and many people find it to be a pleasant and relaxing activity in and of itself,” Tarma says. 

“More symbolically, the act of setting aside some time for self-care is also significant: Simply making a conscious decision to prioritize your wellness in this manner can feel soothing and comforting on its own.”

One general guideline Tarma offers is to keep the intensity of your stretches to between low and medium. 

“An overly strong sensation in the tissue can be perceived by the nervous system as a threat,” she explains, “and subsequently produce a sense of alarm and alertness in response, as well as a defensive contraction in the muscle. This reaction is, in effect, the exact opposite of what we want. … Holding the breath or tensing up elsewhere in the body are reliable signs that you can take the intensity down a notch or two.” 

Stretches for the Work-From-Home Crowd

“Generally, since sitting at a desk puts us in a globally flexed (or rounded) position, it feels really good to undo some of the resulting ‘computer hunch.’ This simply means moving in the opposite direction by arching the spine,” Tarma says. 

She recommends simple movements like cat and cow stretches – a movement on all fours, in which you round the spine upwards, pulling the belly button in, and then arch the back and open up the chest.

Tarma says any movements that strengthen the muscles along the back of the body will be helpful, and can improve long-term posture and function.

“Try a yoga pose like cobra (lie on your belly with hands under the shoulders, then lift your chest up away from the floor), or locust pose (often also called a ‘superman’). Both target the muscles of the back and open the chest to counter the forward-rounded seated position.”

For tight or hunched shoulders – a common ailment among daily computer users – Tarma suggests a simple roll of the neck and shoulders to get things moving and set the shoulders in a more neutral position.

In a broader sense, Tarma says incorporating a greater variety and frequency of movement into your day will prevent the body from getting stiff. 

“No position or posture is inherently bad in and of itself; we just need to make sure we don’t get stuck into any one position and lose the ability to access the others,” she says. 

Going for walks around the block, setting a timer to stand up from your desk and stretch, playing with your pets or having mini dance parties are all great ways to loosen up your body.

Sample Stretches You Can Try

 

Upper Trapezius Back and Shoulder Stretches

Here’s one Tarma recommend: Drop the right ear toward the right shoulder and gently drape the right arm over the top of the head, allowing the weight of the arm to pull the head a little further over. You can either let your left arm hang loosely by your side or take it behind your low back with the palm facing back behind you. Finally, feel free to add a slow, careful roll of the chin down toward your chest and back up. You’ll feel the stretch move to different parts of the shoulder, upper back and neck as you do so. Repeat on the other side.

The following seated stretches come from Hannah Daugherty, CPT-NASM and fitness expert, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living. 

Hamstring Chair Stretch

Start seated and extend your legs straight in front of you with your feet flexed. Exhale, and slowly hinge forward, reaching for your toes if possible. Keep your back straight and take nice deep breaths, feeling the stretch in the back of your legs and lower back. Hold for 30-45 seconds.

Seated Spine Twist 

From a seated position, cross one leg over the other, then twist toward the back of your chair in the direction of the leg that is on top. Let your head rotate with your upper body to look over your shoulder. Pull yourself into a deep stretch using the arm of the chair if needed. Hold for 30-45 seconds while breathing deeply. 

Seated Chest Stretch

Sit up nice and straight in your chair, bringing your arms behind you and interlocking your fingers together. From here, bring your shoulders down and back, and straighten your arms to feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders. Take deep breaths and hold for 30-45 seconds. 

It is Selfish to Be Self-Less

Three keys to keep in mind in the critical practice of regular self-care.

My friend works as a lawyer full-time, has two young children and a spouse. Recently, her doctor told her that she needed to find a way to take some time for self-care. When she heard this, she laughed and responded, ‘that’s impossible, how on earth will I find the time!’

The truth is that self-care is important for your physical, mental and over all health. Escalating pressure to do and be everything at work and at home are creating a context breeding exhaustion, overstimulation and the World Health Organization has declared ‘burnouts’ as a global mental health crisis.

Without taking time for self-care, it is quite possible that every aspect of your life could suffer tremendously. So if we want to be a good spouse, manager, colleague, teacher, parent, student or friend… it’s vital that we take care of ourselves first. We have to be a bit selfish to be self-less.

Self-care is an intentional and regular process of committing oneself to protecting, maintaining and sustaining physical and mental wellness and for many of us, it comes in different forms: finding a quiet space, going for a bike ride, learning an instrument or reading a book.

For most of us respite, rest, and time off seem like luxuries. In my own experience working at a school, I often find resistance to the suggestion of self-care. It seems like an unrealistic luxury that’s unachievable when stress-levels are high due to enormous demands around every corner and the never-ending ‘to-do’ list.

The reality is that we often don’t know that stress is negatively affecting our health until we actually get sick. As a society, we need to recognise the important of self-care as a way to build physical and mental resilience. Prioritising self-care needs to shift from being seen as a luxury to being a priority.

Here are three considerations to self-care a regular practice:

1. The Power of the Breath 

The power of the breath cannot be underestimated. Our respiratory system has an intimate connection with our nervous system, meaning that our breath has the capacity to change how we feel, how we interact and how we respond to the world around us. And if that wasn’t enough… the benefits of conscious breathing are quick and be felt within a minute or so. Here is my go-to pranayama practice, called ‘ssss’ breath:

  • Find a comfortable seat on the ground or on a chair. You can also be standing still or lying down.
  • Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths in and out through your nose.
  • Take a deep inhale through your nose, breathing to the full capacity of your lungs.
  • Exhale through your mouth making a long, soft ‘ssssssss’ sound, making your exhalation longer than your inhalation.
  • Repeat for 1-3 minutes.

2. Self-Care is not Always Easy 

Of course it can be now and again… sometimes self-care might be obtained through inhaling an entire chocolate bar! There’s no doubt that we all need moments of indulgence; this is a healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

But we need to be mindful that the instant feeling of happiness that comes from over-eating, scrolling through facebook or Instagram is short-lived and sometimes even detrimental to how we care for ourselves. In fact, sustained happiness often comes through growth that isn’t necessarily easy. Some examples of this type of self-care include: going for a run, studying for an exam or taking time to sort your tax return. Probably not particularly pleasurable, but certainly a way to take care of yourself in the long run.

Give Yourself Permission 

Most of us feel uncomfortable with the notion of prioritising time for ourselves. We are accustomed to taking care of others and it’s a substantial shift to decide to focus on yourself. This is an example of your values and pride in helping others, but it can also be combined with deeper complexities surrounding a sense of unworthiness. So when we give ourselves permission to invest in ourselves, we are more likely to extract the most amount of benefits from our self-care practices. We realise our great value and know that we need to take care of ourselves so we can continue to be of great service to the world around us.  

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s about prioritizing and protecting your mental and physical health not only as a way to benefit you, but as a way to benefit the people and the world around you as well. Self-care routines are not the same for everyone, but the research gives us a lot of clues as to what can help sustain us: maybe its gardening, maybe it’s running a marathon. What ever it is, schedule it into your life as if it were an appointment. Prevention is less costly than repair.

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