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The importance of stretching

Are you ready to give up and live with those aches and pains?  There’s one more thing you can try at home that can make a huge difference in how you feel.

downward dog pose

Stretching first thing in the morning and just before bed can ease your body enough to help you be happier, more productive, and get a good night’s sleep.  Keeping muscles tight takes up a lot of your physical and mental energy.

I like to do the downward dog yoga pose followed by the rag doll in the morning.  It elongates my spine and loosens up tension in my neck and between my shoulder blades.  Then, at night, I’ll stay in the legs up the wall pose for 5 minutes to release back tension and soothe my nervous system.

If you’d like help finding the right stretches for your problem areas, just give me a call, text, or send an email.

legs up the wall

Easy Stress Relief

December can be stressful. Here are a few easy, inexpensive ways to relax:
  • Pour a handful of Epsom salts in a plastic tub with hot tap water. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. You’l also absorb some magnesium which calms your nervous system
  • Place plain, inexpensive rice in a cloth bag (or pillowcase) and close the end. Microwave until the rice is warm, but not too hot. Place it around your neck, on your lower back, or wherever you need it.
  • Lay as flat as you can (I prefer on the floor). Take at least three slow, deep breaths and extend the exhale so you fully release your breath. I find that my neck and back relax more when laying flat. In this position, gravity is helping you roll your shoulders back too.

Relief for your neck and shoulders

No, this isn’t a picture of a robbery.  It’s a great exercise that not only relieves your shoulder pain, it strengthens your muscles to prevent further pain.

All that’s required for a proper wall angel is a stretch of empty wall. Put your back against the wall with your heels touching and your elbows at 90 degrees. If your heels don’t reach the wall yet, that’s ok.  Focus instead on making sure your hips, spine, and shoulder blades are pressed into the wall.  It doesn’t matter if your knees are bent or not.

Begin to straighten your arms directly overhead, trying to at least keep the elbows sliding up against the wall. As you get stronger and looser, your forearms and the back of your hands will be able to stay in contact with the wall as well.

If you want to be an over-achiever, pull your bellybutton into the wall to tighten your abdomen.  This also helps keep your spine against the wall.

Lift and lower your arms five times at your own pace.  Going slowly may help you more.  Try this once or even twice a day and I bet you’ll feel better in a hurry.  I’m amazed at what a difference it’s done for me and I’ve only been using this exercise for a few days.
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The Nicest Yoga Pose

Legs Up the Wall Pose

This pose is exactly what it sounds like. From the photo you can also see that you can do this pose anywhere, anytime. Don’t worry too much about how close you get to the wall or how straight your legs are. You really can’t do this wrong. The most important thing is to stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes.

The benefits:

  • You’ll notice fairly quickly that you feel calmer. Having your feet above your head is very soothing. This is a great pose to do right before you go to bed.
  • Gravity will gently roll your shoulders towards your back. We’re in this together since we all have the same issue of hunching forward too much.
  • This should relieve discomfort in your back. If it doesn’t, put a soft mat under your body.


Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

Do you have?

  • headaches
  • muscle spasms or cramps
  • irritability or anxiety
  • trouble sleeping
  • or stress?

You might be low in magnesium and may need supplements.  Magnesium is used in our bodies for a multitude of processes, including those that help slow the signs of aging. Stress, coffee, and diuretics can all further reduce your magnesium levels.

Find your magnesium number by asking your doctor for a simple blood test. It’s not included in the standard CBC. You need to make an additional request. The accepted range is wide so even if you’re within normal limits, ask for your number. You may be at the very bottom of acceptable limits and may be a candidate for magnesium supplements.

Drink Juice to Reduce Stress

There’s a simple way to reduce stress every morning in your whole body. Drink a juice full of greens once a day. Green juices are convenient, packed full of nutrition, and provide your body with the tools it needs to keep all your systems working smoothly.

You can put greens in a juicer and just add an apple, celery, pineapple or another fruit to make it sweet enough for you. The dark greens such as kale and spinach are among the best. There are also many pre-made juices that you can buy. Just make sure you read the label so that you’re not getting sugar which can worsen any nagging aches and pains. I personally use a protein powder that is made of greens, grains, herbs, and a little fruit.

Your Attention Please.

I had an epiphany on vacation.
Even though time passes quicker when you’re having fun, this time it didn’t. I think it’s because my attention wasn’t diverted by my phone. You see, I was reliant simply on wifi which I could use mainly in the hotel. During the day my phone was only used for taking pictures. I paid attention more so many of the details of my trip are clearer. They’re also more fulfilling.

I did some research and found a few ways you can clear the clutter that is stealing your attention.

  • Take time each day to sit quietly, undisturbed. It doesn’t matter if you actually meditate. If you do, that’s great. I personally struggle to routinely meditate. But, I do make time each day to completely unplug for about 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s as simple as leaving my phone inside and sitting on the deck listening to the birds. Feeling brave? Try it for an hour.
  • Stop multi-tasking. I’ve been doing this for a year or so. I notice that my concentration has gotten better, I’m more creative at problem-solving, and best of all, I’m more calm.
  • Turn off notifications. I’ll warn you, this kind of feels like giving up your favorite food. For the first few days you can’t think of anything else except what you’re missing. Be strong. After a while, it will became your new routine to only check email once every 3-4 hours. You won’t die from notification deprivation. It just feels like it.


Catching Some ZZZZZZZZs

We all have sleep problems. Let’s look at a new way to catch some ZZZZZs by seeing what changes during the day will improve your sleep at night. Most of these tips are working with your body’s normal rhythms which were created long before we used light bulbs.

1) First thing in the morning, open up those shades to get some daylight. This helps trigger chemical messengers that sets your sleep/wake cycle.

2) Limit your caffeine intake to just the morning and early afternoon. Better yet, order decaf.

3) After dinner, begin dimming the lights in your house and dim the background on your phone. This reminds your brain that the sun has set and sleep is coming soon.

The Power of Walking

There are many benefits to a 20-30 minute walk each day:

  • Any workout is good exercise for your lungs and heart along with the obvious benefactor, your muscles.
  • A simple physical act like walking gives you some necessary down time for your brain. Your brain needs time to rest and recover similar to how your muscles need a rest. So, don’t bring a cell phone with you. Just walk and let your mind wander.
  • If you’re walking outside, you’re also receiving an additional soothing effect to your nervous system simply from being in a natural setting.

Slowing Down Can Make You More Productive

Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss on how to increase your productivity and I was very surprised at the advice. Instead of offering techniques for multi-tasking or other ways to become busier, he suggested five things to do every morning that seemed like what you’d do after sleeping in on a Sunday.

Could it be that slowing down actually helps not only our minds, but also our emotional state with understanding, processing, and proceeding with all the input that’s in front of us?

I’m going to try this until the end of February and see if it not only helps me get more done, but also keeps away the inevitable midwinter blahs. If you’re willing to go ahead with this, I’d love to hear about your efforts and results.

The first one made sense, make your bed. I get it, you create a small section of order where you can. The second one isn’t too much of a surprise either, meditate. I’ve had good luck with a 3-minute meditation as long as I really focus on breathing slowly and fully.

The third one was interesting. Tim suggests that you decompress your spine every day, several times a day if you can. He gave all sorts of methods such as hanging upright from bars in the doorway, using inversion tables, and buying gravity boots. I’m pretty happy stretching backwards over my $10 physical therapy ball from the sporting goods store.

Number four was the one that really surprised me, have a cup of tea. Don’t just microwave it either. He wants you to put the water on to boil, steep the tea leaves, and sip slowly. He recommended Reishi mushroom tea, but I think I’ll stick with my herbs for now.

Number five was to journal. He suggested that you answer a few questions, my favorite was “How can I make today better?” In the evening, you also answer, “What could I have improved on today?” Apparently, Tim got so tired of having the same answer for what he could improve, that he changed just to write in a new answer.

We all have busy days, so getting at least 3 out of the 5 things done is still considered a good start to win the day. Who’s with me?