5 Great Ways to Exercise During Pregnancy – Yes Yoga is One of Them!

Keeping fit and getting regular exercise during pregnancy not only helps you to regain your pre-pregnancy figure after childbirth, but it also reduces stress levels and helps to prepare you physically for labour. Many women worry about harming their unborn baby through exercise, but there are several ways to safely exercise while pregnant, and here are five of them.

1. Yoga

Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for pregnant women. It tones, strengthens and stretches your body, and it provides relaxation and inner peace. Practicing yoga strengthens your core, calms your mind and loosens up your body – all great practice for labour. There are specific prenatal yoga classes and DVDs readily available, but if you prefer to stick with your regular class, be sure to let your instructor know that you’re pregnant. There are certain yoga postures that you shouldn’t do while pregnant, or that will need to be modified while your pregnant. Better yet, sign up for yoga classes designed specifically for pregnancy. Try Evolve’s Prenatal Yoga workshops and classes.

2. Swimming

Swimming is a great form of low-impact exercise that is suitable for everyone, including pregnant women. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and joints in a way that you don’t find in most other forms of exercise. It provides a combination of gentle aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening movements in a safe environment where you’re unlikely to injure yourself. It supports a larger range of motion and helps you avoid overheating. As long as you take the usual precautions, such as avoiding food for an hour before swimming and keeping well hydrated, swimming is a safe and beneficial form of exercise during pregnancy.

3. Walking

One of the easiest and cheapest forms of exercise is walking. It’s perfect for those that are pregnant and for anyone new to exercise. Walking for 30 minutes everyday at a moderate to brisk pace, provides cardiovascular benefits, strengthens the body and increases flexibility. As long as you wear comfortable and supportive shoes and keep well hydrated, walking is ideal for pregnant women. Even if you have a busy schedule, walking is something that can be incorporated into your day-to-day routine. Try leaving your car at home when you go on short journeys, i.e. to the doctor’s office or picking the kids up from school. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or go for a 30 minute walk during your lunch break.

4. Weight Training

Weight training with free weights, weight-lifting machines or resistance bands can condition your body and strengthen your core. If done carefully with proper lifting technique, it can be a superb form of exercise for pregnant women, as it strengthens tummy muscles and your pelvic floor – both areas that are usually affected by pregnancy. As with yoga, some weight training exercises should be avoided or modified for pregnant women, so make sure that you discuss your pregnancy with your fitness trainer or sign up for a specific prenatal class.

5. Water Aerobics

Water aerobics, also known as aqua aerobics, is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy because the buoyancy of the water supports the body. Your joints, which are already strained due to pregnancy weight are protected and there’s no risk of falling or injuring yourself while in the water. Like in swimming, the water supports a larger range of motion and helps you avoid overheating. The water also gives great resistance so you’ll still feel like you’re working hard to keep fit and healthy.

Whatever exercise you choose to do while pregnant, always do so only under the guidance of your doctor or midwife, and always listen to your body. If something hurts or feels wrong, then stop. Keep workout sessions to a moderate duration and frequency. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout. Move smoothly and with full body awareness. Avoid saunas and hot tubs. As long as you follow these tips, you’re on track for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

Reduce Back Pain with Yoga, Massage and Simple Lifestyle Changes

Eight out of every 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. An estimated one in three sufferers find the symptoms severe enough to affect their daily lives, including interfering with work. These figures come at no surprise, as back problems are more or less an accepted part of modern life.

What’s perhaps more surprising is that nearly nine in 10 sufferers never discover the primary cause of their condition, which makes it almost impossible to find a suitable cure. For the vast majority of patients, treating back pain is all about the reduction of symptoms, allowing you to lead as normal a life as possible while your body works to heal itself.

Here’s how to do that with some simple lifestyle changes that don’t require medical intervention.

1. Light Exercise

When you’re stricken with painful back spasms, exercise of any kind may not feel like the right thing to do. However, staying active as long as possible is one of the best ways to counteract the symptoms of chronic backache. Light exercise, such as walking or swimming will strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments to help support your spine in a natural way.

It’s important not to exercise your way through acute pain, as you don’t want to risk further damage. Make use of relatively pain-free periods to tone your back and reduce the recurrence of symptoms in the future.

2. Pain Management

Sometimes your back pain will feel debilitating regardless of what measures you take to control it. In these situations, soothing the discomfort is important. Pain and stiffness can quickly become a vicious circle where you’re too tense from the pain and immobile from the stiffness to release the spasms. Medication is often the only option here. When taking medication for pain, be careful that you’re not simply masking the symptoms and making them worse by moving when you should be resting.

For a more natural treatment, try alternating between hot water bottles and ice packs, pressing them into the painful area for ten minutes each whenever the discomfort becomes too great. Try relaxing in warm Epsom salt baths to ease muscle pain. A Registered Massage Therapist can also work wonders (Try Evolve’s Registered Massage and Hot Stone Massage therapy sessions.). Some people find that acupuncture and chiropractic therapy offer relief. Try a variety of therapies that won’t further aggravate your condition until you find what works for you.

3. Relaxation

Lastly, trying to relax as much as possible is important although naturally this is difficult when you’re in pain. Tension, stress and anxiety all tighten your neck and shoulders, putting extra strain on your back. This can cause you to tense up, further exacerbating the problem. Yoga (try Evolve’s Gentle Hatha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Relax & Rejuvenate by Candlelight Yoga classes), meditation (try Evolve’s meditation class), aromatherapy, breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can all be of great help during a painful episode.

4. Pay Attention to Posture

Light exercise will help to improve your posture, but it’s also important to be mindful of how you’re sitting and standing throughout the day. Try to avoid putting your back under too much strain. If you feel yourself slouching or bending, try pushing your shoulders outward and backward to gently move your spine into a straighter position.

5. Take Care with Sitting

More than half of people with backache symptoms report that they spend the majority of their day sitting down with poor sitting habits often playing a major role in the worsening of symptoms. If you spend your working days at a desk, it makes sense to invest in an ergonomic office chair to provide proper support for your back. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. It’s important, however, to always choose a solid chair that’s not too soft and giving and that supports your lumbar region.

It’s essential to make sure your chair is properly adjusted for height; your arms and thighs should be in a right angle position when sitting comfortably at your desk with your hands on your keyboard or desktop. Try keeping your shoulders relaxed yet upright and remember to get up from your desk and walk a few steps at least once an hour to reduce muscle cramping.

6. Sleeping

Back pain sufferers need to sleep like anyone else, but spending up to eight hours a night in a soft or lumpy bed isn’t ideal for the lumbar region. Your mattress should be reasonably firm so your body doesn’t sink into it and you should try to sleep on your back, which is the best position for relieving back pain. Although it may be relaxing to read in bed before sleep, this habit is particularly bad for your posture, so try to do your late night reading in a comfortable armchair instead.

7. Slim Down a Little

There’s no need to panic about carrying a few extra pounds, but being overweight will put extra strain on your back. Making the effort to shed even a little extra weight will help. If you’re already suffering from back problems, the extra misery of a crash diet is probably not the answer. By bringing the yoga mindset into your eating routine, you can transform your body into its healthiest version.

8. Quit Smoking

If you smoke, you’re probably already well aware of the many good reasons to kick the habit. However, you may not know that smoking can also contribute to backache among all the other health problems it causes. Not only can smoking cause degeneration in the spinal discs, but every bout of coughing places extra strain on your back and can quickly lead to spasms when you already have a weakness.

9. Comfortable Footwear

Poorly fitting footwear that makes it difficult to balance will eventually create problems, such as back spasms and back pain. Specially made orthopedic shoes can be extremely helpful, but even padded insoles can help correct poor walking posture. Avoid high heels whenever possible. If you must wear them, switch to flats when you can, i.e. when you’re sitting at your work desk.

Back pain can quickly make life a misery. Surgical treatments are to be considered if no primary cause can be found, but they are a gamble at best. Thankfully, making these simple lifestyle changes can reduce back problems to a level where they don’t interfere too much with daily life, allowing your body the chance to heal naturally.

Healthy Morning Habits

Have you ever felt like you got up on the wrong side of the bed, triggering a downward spiral that lingered all day? How you wake up in the morning has everything to do with how the rest of your day will go. With this in mind, it’s helpful to develop a healthy morning routine that will set the stage for a more positive and productive day.

Try adding these 6 wellness habits to your morning ritual:

1. Drink a glass of water right away.

If you’re waking up groggy and tired after a full night’s sleep, there’s a good chance mild dehydration is at play. While asleep, the only fluid you’re swallowing is saliva and that’s not nearly enough to keep your body hydrated. A full glass of water will help bring your cells to life and get your digestive system working. If you keep this habit up for awhile, you’ll probably notice better-looking skin and improved digestive function.

2. Pause before checking your phone or email

When you sleep with your phone nearby and check it as soon as you open your eyes, you create an exaggerated sense of urgency that can lead to a stressful day. Your mind will be much more clear and focused if you learn to wait at least an hour before checking emails, messages and social media. Instead of using the alarm on your mobile phone, invest in a real alarm clock—eliminating any excuse to keep your phone within reach.

3. Create a gratitude list

Instead of waking up with a sense of dread, try focusing on gratitude. Come up with a list of things you’re grateful for the night before and read it when you wake up. The longer the list is, the better. By the time you jump in the shower, your mind will be focused on positive thoughts. This can make all the difference in how you interact with others throughout the day.

4. Get outside

Take in some fresh air and natural sunlight as soon as possible. Weather permitting, get into the habit of taking a 15 minute walk each morning before doing anything else. Your body needs sunlight to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D and if your workdays are spent locked up inside an office or warehouse, your best opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays may be in the early morning.

5. Move your body

If you start your morning with exercise, the rest of your day will seem less stressful. The physical movement and effort you make will get your blood pumping and restore alertness after a night’s sleep. Any form of exercise will improve your sense of well-being, including stretching and yoga (come to one of our Evolve yoga classes to get some morning routine ideas!). Walking and running are popular among morning exercise enthusiasts, especially those who enjoy the outdoors.

6. Eat a healthy breakfast

Skipping breakfast deprives your body of vital nutrients it needs to operate properly—it will have already gone a minimum of eight hours without food since your last meal. Instead of eating the same processed cereal you always eat, try feeding your body real nourishing food that will boost your metabolism and provide the fuel you need to get through the day. Eggs, oats, fruit, greens and breakfast shakes are excellent options that won’t take long to prepare.

Remember, your morning routine will largely determine how the rest of your day goes. Establishing healthy morning habits will ensure your day gets off to the best possible start. It may take some time for these new wellness habits to stick, but if you work on them one at a time you’ll soon see a difference that should inspire you to keep at it!

Healthy Eating to Evolve Your Mind and Body

Trends in nutrition, like fashion, come and go – and the popular preoccupation with nutrition has fluctuated over the decades. In these post-modern times, the focus on a healthy lifestyle has become increasingly important to the average person. Today’s consumer finds it important to invest time and effort in quality nutrition, regular exercise and a healthy mindset – with millennials leading the way.

Bringing the Yoga Mindset into Your Eating Routine

The healthy living community has embraced yoga for its ability to offer multiple benefits, from mental and spiritual wellness to physical fitness. Yoga practice can be adapted to an individual’s specific needs, and its intensity can range from very gentle to a high-intensity workout. It can be practised with ease outdoors, at home and even on work breaks, as it does not demand special equipment.

Regular practice of yoga often affects different areas in your life. It gives you better control of your mindset, helping you get more in touch with your feelings. It also gives you better control of your body – and that shows in everything you do. Confidence leads to better relationships, while mindfulness moderates compulsive behaviour and anxiety. If you embrace yoga, it gradually becomes a lifestyle.

There is also a strong, though underemphasized, connection between yoga and healthy eating. Many people practise yoga despite unhealthy eating habits, so they don’t get to experience the full extent of yoga’s benefits as a lifestyle.

Food is something that can comfort you and make you happy; as a consequence, it is not easy to change your eating patterns and preferences. It also can be a matter of convenience: 41% of Canadians surveyed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation say they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

Preparing your meals at home can be a huge money-saver, but its main benefit comes in controlling your nutrition. Healthy eating often is perceived as being expensive and time-consuming, but cooking and meal preparation can be incredibly adaptable to different lifestyles.

Life in a highly digitized community can be of great advantage to your goal of healthy eating. You can find motivation, inspiration and guidance by searching online advisors and publications. Each niche is now covered by specialized content, and you can find solutions for specific dietary needs.

The good news is that cooking healthy meals also can be fun and enjoyable; like yoga, it supports a balanced lifestyle. A balanced approach allows you some flexibility – unless you have a specific medical condition, you don’t have to reduce your options strictly, nor do you need to feel like you are on a clinical, bland diet. Food is about enjoying life and bathing your senses in stimuli. Yoga teaches mindfulness and focus, both of which you can apply to your eating, too. Smelling, tasting and feeling the flavours, textures and colours of food is a great application of mindfulness.

There is also the social aspect involved in preparing your meals at home. You can involve your friends or family members in the cooking process and really bond together. Websites such as Tree House Kitchen can give you plenty of recipe ideas and cooking tips, and can serve as a great inspiration for your meals. By putting together a menu for the day or week ahead, you’re involving yourself in a positive activity, whether you do it for yourself or for the whole family.

As with any lifestyle change, especially when it comes to exercise and nutrition, it’s a good idea to consult your health provider if you experience certain sensitivities or conditions. Create habits that fit your needs and lifestyle and keep learning about them. Practise yogic thinking, ask questions and experiment. Mindfulness can be very rewarding and lead to a healthier mindset and overall wellness.


Prenatal Yoga: A Restorative Exercise Routine for a Mom-to-be

When a woman expects a baby, it is a very special time in her life. Pregnancy comes with a long list of body and mental changes, including stress and anxiety. It’s a natural process, but sometimes it takes a while for a woman to become used to the symptoms associated with bearing a child. Many women must carry on with their pre-pregnancy lifestyle and work around it; for example, going to work while pregnant, or continuing their commitment to their passions and activities. At home, outdoors or even at the office, prenatal yoga can become a part of a mother-to-be’s adaptation process, by helping her to relax while staying active.

Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, staying active is recommended strongly, unless your doctor advises you to do otherwise. Physical activity will help you rest and sleep well, while increasing the strength, flexibility and endurance of those muscles needed for labour and the recovery after birth.

You will want to shift your routine dramatically toward a healthier lifestyle, but it’s important not to overdo it when engaging in physical activity. If you know how your body changes when it’s carrying a child, you will become aware of the limits you need to impose. The first rule is to be aware of your body’s limitations and not start an exercise routine that is more difficult than you are used to.

You will find your joints becoming looser over the course of your pregnancy, in preparation for giving birth. High-intensity sports such as running or basketball can expose you to injuries to the joints. You will also notice tenderness and sensitivity in your breasts — another reason it’s wiser to choose low-impact sports. During the first trimester, you may be able to maintain your familiar levels of mobility and effort but, as your pregnancy advances, you’ll have to limit your routine.


The Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

Whether you have never tried yoga or already are a veteran of the practice, you will find that prenatal yoga is an ideal form of exercise during pregnancy. Not only will yoga keep your body in good condition, but it also will balance your mind and teach you relaxation techniques that can be of tremendous help during labour.

Breath-work practice is a wonderful tool; it can help during labour and also can keep your blood pressure and heart rate in check. Stress hormones can impact your baby’s development, so the relaxing effect of yoga practice is beneficial for both you and the baby. By slowing down, you are able to bring your focus to what’s happening on the inside. You are building awareness of how your body works and what it needs for you and the baby.

Prenatal yoga can decrease the incidence of lower-back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, headaches and shortness of breath.

Prenatal yoga classes also can give you a sense of community, as you find comfort in spending time with people who know what you are going through.

Joining a Prenatal Yoga Workshop

Prenatal yoga can be very beneficial for all moms-to-be. Join a workshop or class, where you can monitor your breath and listen to your body while the instructor gives you safe suggestions as needed. As your pregnancy advances, adapt your routine to what is needed to accommodate that growing adorable bump. Certain poses won’t be available to you any more, so you will want to modify your routine or change to a more comfortable pose. Prenatal classes can include take-home stretch lessons to help with the aches and pains of pregnancy. Yoga can restore you, help you stay grounded and let you flow through the worries of labour and being a mom. Try Evolve’s prenatal yoga workshops and classes.

Practising yoga mindfullness on a calm beach.

Learning How to Breathe in Yoga Will Improve Your Life

For people new to yoga, the biggest challenge often seems to be holding the poses and achieving those wide-stance or body-folding stretches. That’s why breathing exercises can be overlooked and why they usually deliver great surprise when they start working. Learning how to breathe in yoga is one of the essential skills to achieve. It really takes this practice and your general well-being to another level.

Why is Breathing so Important?

This may sound like the most fundamental part of being alive, but the practice of breathing properly has to be relearned by many of us. It’s easy to get in the habit of shallow breathing, or chest-breathing, in our hectic, fast-paced lives. However, shallow breathing can impact your emotions and lead to fatigue or even headaches. Shallow breaths don’t allow you to use your entire lung capacity and they weaken the diaphragm over time.

How to Breathe Correctly

Did you know that you once knew how to breathe properly? Babies naturally use a deep type of respiration called abdominal breathing. You can observe how their bellies go up and down when they inhale and exhale. This is exactly the type of breathing you will do well to relearn.

Abdominal breathing is learned by actors, athletes, public speakers and other professionals because it improves physical performance, creates mental focus and calms them down. Abdominal breathing comfortably fills your lungs to their full capacity, facilitating optimal delivery of oxygen to your brain and muscles. Deep breathing connects you with your body, improves your posture and increases confidence.

Give yourself plenty of time to practise how to breathe in yoga. Eventually you will do it naturally without thinking about it. You will notice changes in your entire system, from your blood circulation and endurance to your ability to achieve a more relaxed mental state. That’s when you really can relax and enjoy yoga’s benefits to a deeper degree.

Beginner Yoga Breathing Exercises

Holding a yoga stretch, achieving posture balance and controlling your movements involve both strength and optimal oxygen flow through your body. Try these simple breathing exercises.

1. The “Glass of Water” Technique

If you are not sure how to control deep breathing, concentrate on three areas in your body: chest, middle abdomen and lower abdomen. Divide your breaths between these three areas and be aware of how they move when you breathe. When inhaling, think of a glass being filled with water. First, the bottom is filled, then the middle and finally the top. Take a deep breath and expand your lower abdomen, then the middle part and finally the chest, in a constant, fluid way. Exhaling can be compared to pouring water out of the glass. First the top empties, then the middle and finally the lower portion.

2. Breathing Retention

Some yoga asanas will involve holding your breath. Practise holding your breath in a rhythmic, calm way, without puffing your cheeks or feeling pressure. Take deep breaths and hold them in for a few seconds before exhaling. Begin with short intervals and gradually increase the breathing retention. This will train your mind to keep calm and your body to use your oxygen resources optimally.

3. Alternate-Nostril Breath

Nadi Shodhana, or alternate-nostril breath, is a gentle breathing technique that helps when you are panicking or having an anxiety attack. Use it to slow your heart rate and calm your mind whenever you need to do so. Close your eyes and use your right hand to hold each nostril closed in an alternating pattern. First, hold your right nostril closed and breathe in through the left nostril. At the peak of the breath, press on both nostrils and hold your breath for a few moments. Release your right nostril and breathe out slowly. Hold your breath again at the bottom. Repeat the cycle by changing the order of the nostrils.

Learning how to breathe in yoga can help you hold the poses, and it will also teach you how to better understand and nurture your body. Yoga dedicates much of its philosophy to breathing and the benefits it brings to your body, mind, and spirit. Practising it will bring happy results in all aspects of your life.

Yoga practioner meditating in peaceful space on a rocky cliff.

Go Beyond Yoga Postures and Explore the 8 Limbs of Yoga

When you think of yoga, what comes to mind? Most of us will imagine postures and some of us will also think of breath control practised during these postures. These are important aspects of yoga, but this discipline goes far deeper. Its ultimate purpose is to create a strong bond between mind, body and spirit, resulting in a richer life.

Yoga Sutra was written at least 1,700 years ago, by a sage named Patanjali. This guidebook of classical yoga serves to structure the practice into eight limbs, each covering an aspect of a purposeful life.

While no one expects you to approach yoga holistically from the start, it is beneficial to be aware of the eight limbs that form the complete path. Instructors may touch on some of these aspects in class and you can always choose to focus on them one at a time in your daily life. Let’s explore the eight limbs of yoga.

1. Yama: Universal Morality

Yamas deal with your moral conduct and values. There are five yamas that encompass a moral code in yoga: Ahimsa is non-violence; satya is truthfulness; asteya is non-stealing; brahmacharya is right use of energy and aparigraha is non-attachment. Together, these guidelines help you to choose respectful and peaceful behaviours. As an ethical standard, they help you to develop a sense of integrity.

2. Niyama: Internal Observances

The second limb teaches you to be closer to the divine through self-discipline and meaningful habits. Personal observances give you a purpose in your own life and build up character. There are five niyamas in this limb: saucha is purity by living with clarity and single-pointedness; santosha is authentic contentment; tapas is purification through discipline; svadhyaya is the study of wisdom teachings and the self; and isvara pranidhana is finding your connection with the universe.

3. Asanas: Body Postures

The asanas form the most recognizable limb of yoga; many modern practitioners focus on this limb as an immediate experience of yoga. Asanas are yoga poses, movements, bending and stretching that use your body strength and balance. Yoga postures help you heal the body and calm the mind. As they are learned and practised, asanas connect your body and mind, bringing you closer to a spiritual experience.

4. Pranayama: Breathing Exercises and Control of Prana

Pranayama is the formal practice of controlled breathing, connecting your respiratory process with your mind and emotions. The breath is the source of your prana, or vital life source. Learning more about pranayama can transform your stamina, posture, confidence level, state of mind and peacefulness. You can practise pranayama by yourself in daily life or combine it with the asanas.

5. Pratyahara: Control of the Senses

The fifth limb of yoga is pratyahara and it focuses on withdrawal of the senses. By practising pratyahara more profoundly, you will learn how to focus your senses inward and isolate all external distractions. Withdrawal of the senses does not imply that you shut them down completely. Rather, this state releases you from knee-jerk reactions to external stimuli, so they no longer cause disturbances in the mind or body.

6. Dharana: Concentration and Cultivating Inner Perceptual Awareness

This limb of yoga is the training of the mind to meditate. It could be said that dharana is the effect of pranayama and pratyahara achieving a balance and working together. Dharana is the active state of concentration that precedes the next limb, dhyana. Dharana involves concentrating on an image, breath or mantra, and then repeatedly redirecting the mind back to the subject. Once redirection is no longer needed, the next limb, meditation, has been achieved.

7. Dhyana: Meditation on the Divine

The seventh aspect of yoga is a state of meditation. Mediation interrupts the fluctuations of your daily mental activity, such as sensory knowledge, memory and imagination. When the mind becomes silent and its functions are regulated to work together as one, you can stop acknowledging meditation itself and just embrace it. Achieving this mental state requires intense practice and control over the other limbs. This deeper concentration of the mind enables you to separate illusion from reality.

8. Samadhi: Union with Your Divine Essence

Samadhi, the last of the eight limbs of yoga, is a state of consciousness that transcends the confines of ego. You are fully absorbed in the present moment in total awareness. Feelings of worry, judgment and fear no longer control you. You feel fully connected and in a state of bliss.

Now that you have a taste of the depth of yoga practice, you can continue your journey by digging more deeply into those limbs that might pique your curiosity through reading, online research and listening to your yoga class instructor. You decide to what extent you wish to take on this yogic way of life. But once you go beyond yoga postures and start working on your mind and spirit, you are being reborn into a different world perspective.

Woman holding sore and tight neck trying how to stretch her neck.

Have Headaches and a Stiff Neck? Here’s How to Stretch Your Neck Effectively

Headaches and neck stress can sneak up on us without us really paying heed… until it becomes too painful or interferes with our activities and sleep.

While a headache can be a symptom for many conditions, it can be caused by poor posture. This is commonly the case if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Busy schedules often push us to bypass moments of self-care throughout or work day – such as stretching or massage breaks – that would prevent avoidable discomfort.

About your heavy head…

Your neck is constantly under pressure. It carries your head’s weight, which is about 10 to 15 pounds. (That’s 8% of your total body weight!) Optimal posture places the head’s weight vertically on the shoulders, but many times a day we lean forward, causing the neck to cope with greater force. Each time you lean towards your screen or check your smartphone, your neck is straining with more pressure. Be nice to yourself and learn how to stretch your neck!

Try these two simple stretches to relax your neck muscles and improve your posture. Repeat them several times throughout the day to keep your muscles more relaxed. (If you feel any discomfort or pain during any of these exercises see your doctor!)

A do-it-anywhere neck stretch

Give your neck a light stretch with this exercise. Either sitting or standing with good posture, keep your back straight and shoulders aligned with the hips. Move your head slowly and hold each position for about 20 seconds:
• Tuck your chin down while keeping your back straight. Hold and return.
• Lift your chin and tilt your head backwards. Hold and return.
• Tilt your head to the right by directing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold and return. Do the same move to the left. Hold and return.
• Turn your head to the right and to the comfortable limit of your motion. Hold and return. Repeat the same motion to the left. Hold and return.

Do the corner stretch

Open your chest to compensate for the neck-straining hunching posture we often take on.

  • Standing, face the corner of the room with your feet together.
  • Place your palms and forearms on each wall at a ninety-degree angle, keeping the elbows a little below your shoulders.
  • Gently pull down your shoulders while pushing your forearms against the walls and engaging your abdominals.
  • Take a step forward to lunge toward the corner, allowing your chest to lift slightly at you flow through this motion.
  • Hold, pull down your shoulders and lift your chest and abdominals in to the corner. Hold for about 20 seconds.
  • Step back and release.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

There are additional neck stretching exercises that deserve to be in your neck care routine. If you want to learn them or need any help with these stretches, book a consultation.

Stretching through massage and yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on calming breath, lengthening of muscles and opening of joints. Therapeutic massage offers another way to stretch out tight muscles. Massage can work through relaxation techniques or deep tissue treatments that can break up scar tissue.

Learning how to stretch your neck and making a habit of it can make neck-stress-induced headaches and neck pain a thing of the past.

Our Top Tips on How You Can Sleep Well

Have you ever imagined how good it would be if you didn’t need sleep at all and could just use the 24 hours in a day as you wish? We all know how we feel after a late night, or a light and interrupted sleep! The reality is that deep and uninterrupted sleep helps us make better decisions, be more efficient and feel happier during the day.

Stick to a Regular Sleeping Pattern

One way to improve your sleep habits is by going to sleep and waking up at around the same hour each day. The amount of sleep required can vary by the individual and it can change throughout your life. Generally, it is recommended that you get six to eight hours of sleep every night. You might find it difficult to respect your sleeping hours each night, but getting your body used to a routine will help you calibrate your inner clock. You will soon notice that falling asleep and waking up gets easier over time.

Exercise Every Day

What you do during the day inevitably will affect your sleep pattern. Exercising each day, even for a little bit, will help you use your energy productively and sleep well at night. Yoga is wonderful for you because not only does it tone your body and add strength, it also teaches you how to focus on the present, connect to your mind and practise calmness. Include at least a few yoga poses in your daily routine and you will notice the difference.

Create Your Own Wind-down Ritual at Bedtime

Switching from daily activities to a more peaceful state of mind before going to bed is crucial, especially if you have trouble falling asleep. Many of us use our smartphones to browse social sites before going to sleep. This habit is counterproductive; it engages your mind and doesn’t allow you to switch to sleep mode. Turn off all screens (phone, tablet, TV, etc.) a couple of hours before bed. Consider reading a book or listening to calm, serene music instead.

Evening Yoga Techniques that Help You Sleep Well

Practising yoga helps your body in many ways, but you also may be surprised to see how much it helps you sleep. Adding a yoga practice to your evening wind-down ritual will help you channel your energy into the present, by releasing the rush and stress of the day. One of the most effective ways to fall asleep is a yoga asana called the corpse pose, which commonly is used to end yoga class. Lie in a comfortable position and start relaxing all of your muscles. Start with your toes, move through your legs and arms, then all the way to your neck and head. Regulate your breathing by inhaling more slowly and deeply. You will notice how your body is preparing to go to sleep.

Finding your Peace

These are only a few basic guidelines you can use to start regulating your sleep routine. Once you have a regular sleeping pattern and learn basic breathing techniques, you can experiment further with yoga. (Learn yoga in a group class. Once you become familiar with the movements and techniques, you will be more confident to use them at home.) There are many poses that will relax your body and mind and get rid of the day’s clutter and tension. Yoga nidra is a technique you may also want to learn. It is meditation that helps you achieve a deep state of peacefulness and joy.

Massage can also play a part in your overall state of mind and body. From relaxation to pain reduction, therapeutic massage can help you ease into your dreams.

If you have sleeping problems, especially stress-related ones, invest in yourself. Mindfulness, yoga and massage are healthy, natural and fulfilling ways to find your inner peace and sleep well.

Why You Need Yoga in Your Life

Yoga has been a hot health topic for quite some time now and it has been gathering more followers as people shift toward a healthier lifestyle.

You probably already know someone who is excited about taking a yoga class — or you may be considering doing this yourself, but don’t know where to start. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it can be adapted to a wide range of mental and physical needs, lifestyles and fitness levels.

Available and Convenient

Unlike other physical activities that may require specialized equipment or locations, yoga is accessible and can be practised even in your own home. You mainly use your own body weight to effect the poses. The basic requirements are a yoga mat (if you practise on a hard floor) and clothing that moves with your body.

Builds up Flexibility and Strength

Through its poses, yoga helps you use your body and pushes its limits gently, without shocking it. Over time, you will notice that your flexibility will increase and you will be capable of performing wider moves with ease. Many of the poses will use your own weight to build up strength and help you achieve a lean, more defined look. When practising yoga, you get to learn how to control your body — and that helps you feel stronger and more confident.

Improves the Condition of your Whole Body

Yoga has a subtle impact over your body. Over time, your joints may regenerate more quickly because they are being used to their full range; this can relieve chronic pain or stiffness. Your core will be stronger, which helps your posture and breathing — things you will notice right away in your daily life.

Teaches you How to Control your Breathing Better

One of the main things yoga focuses on is breathing. It’s surprising how much a correct breathing technique can improve your well-being; it enhances any other sport you are practising and sharpens your mind-body connection. It truly can shift your mood and relieve stress and negativity.

Helps you Relax and Unwind

If anything sets yoga apart from many other physical activities, is the way it nurtures and trains your mind as it strengthens your body. During the poses, you learn to concentrate on each movement and focus on your breathing. This process keeps you in the present and eliminates possible distractions, so it can be an invaluable method to apply outside the yoga studio. These techniques can improve your sleep, your productivity at work and even your personal relationships.

It’s easy to see why yoga can become a way of life for some people. It’s a practice that adapts to your life as it nurtures new and healthy habits into becoming your second nature. Its effects are often subtle and achieved over time, but it won’t take long until you fall in love with it.