4 Tips to Identify & Mitigate Common Pains

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Pinpointing the origin of many of your aches and pains is no easy task. Whether it be the crick on the side of your neck that just won't go away or the mild tension on your outer hip that annoys you while seated in your chair at work, the reason for these discomforts can’t be easily identified. Many pains that start off as minor discomforts can snowball into full-blown-it’s-time-to-do-something-about-this-right-now-excruciating pain. The source, in many of these circumstances, unveils itself sneakily in the unconscious ways you move or don’t move your bodies throughout the day.

Let’s take a moment to think back on the last 24 hours of your life. How long have you spent seated in a chair, on the couch or even reclined in bed? How was your posture during these periods? Do you cross your ankles throwing off the weight in your hips while seated? Do you lay on one side applying more pressure to one shoulder? How about the shape of your spine? If someone took a picture of you without your awareness, what would you look like typing on your phone/computer or even driving? Add up these minutes and hours. How much time per day do you spend in these precarious shapes?

The reality is most of us sit, stand, and move throughout our days like we are some sort of contortionist, twisted into pretzels without the delightful cinnamon topping, setting ourselves up for a lifetime of pain and injuries. So what can we do about it? By being aware of your posture and integrating mindful habits you can discover the root for your pain and retrain your body to move with you instead of against you. Check out these 4 quick tips to realign your daily movement and identify the culprit of your pain!  

1. Start By Identifying Your Problem Areas

Stand facing a floor length mirror without thinking about your posture. What shapes reflect back to you? Now, turn to the side. What shape does your spine make from the top of your neck to your tailbone? What you are looking for is an “S” curve. The concave curve of your neck matches your low back. The convex curve of your upper back matches the tiny convex curve of your sacrum and tailbone. This natural shape helps shock absorb when walking or moving and also helps the spine hold up your head.

We all have misalignments and much of our pain comes from the misshape of our spines. Some things may be obvious, others less so. Pick one area of your body that you notice a discomfort and visual misalignment. Below you will read a few realignments cues that can help with common aches and pains.

2. Shoulder Maintenance: Aligning the Upper Part of Your S Curve

Neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist pain? All of these may stem from poor posture in your shoulders from years of hunching over a computer.

The muscles between your shoulder blades are supposed to help with posture. The rhomboids and trapezius are responsible for pulling the shoulder blades together which naturally opens the chest. However, most of us round our shoulders and stretch the trapezius and rhomboids instead of strengthening them. If you strengthen your upper back, your chest will naturally open.  

Follow these steps to find your proper shoulder alignment:

  1. Lengthen your side bodies. Your upper arm bones may lift to the same height as your collarbone. The upper arm bones are now firmly rooted into the shoulder socket.

  2. Hug your upper arm bones back and squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades (rhomboids).

  3. Move your shoulder blades closer to your hips.

  4. If you feel crunchy in your low back, breathe a little puff of space into your back ribs.

Walk around a little with your shoulders engaged in this way. You may notice it is difficult to maintain the squeeze between shoulder blades. If this is you, that’s your signal that this is an area to keep building strength.

There are many ways you can get stronger rhomboids and trapezius muscles. Practice squeezing your shoulder blades together when you’re sitting or walking for the bus or carrying groceries, do pull-ups, exercise with a rowing machine or a lat pull-down machine at the gym, or practice rowing at home without any machinery.

3. Low Back Strength: Align the Lower Part of Your S Curve

Low back pain? We’re talking to you. Our abdominal and low back muscles stabilize and control a significant amount of our daily movement. While leaning over the table, putting a heavy bowl down, and twisting in your chair to respond to your coworker who sits behind you, we need core strength. It’s important to build low back strength, front and side abdominals, so your body has 360 degrees of core strength.

Follow these steps to strengthen your low back:

Stand with your feet hip width apart or wider. Wrap an imaginary gym towel around your neck and hold each imaginary end with your hands at armpit level. Bend your knees, shift weight into your heels, and sit your hips so far back you almost fall backwards. Without moving your legs, lift and lower your chest 10 times, while only hinging at your hips. Your low back is most likely burning with effort. This is an excellent way to build low back strength and retrain your lumbar curve into a healthy shape.


In addition, missing the arch through your low back is pretty common. To retrain, practice core strengthening exercises or purchase lumbar support for your chairs to implement change in your daily posture. Even sliding a block or pillow behind your low back while seated in a chair can be a great reminder.

Standing? Visualize the lumbar curve or pretend there’s a yoga block between your upper thighs and you’re trying to squeeze it backwards.

4. Set Your Sight Straight Ahead

Look forward. It’s really that simple but as you can see in the picture above, many of us unconsciously look down at our phones. Bring your chin level to the earth and take note of how often your chin drops down or creeps up or out. You might notice your chin lowering most while texting, playing a game on your phone, or if your computer screen is on a desk that lower than eye level. Fix this by placing your computer strategically on a stack of books and use your upper back muscles to lift your phone to eye level.

Conclusion

It’s the little things that matter. Bad sitting habits—from slouching, crossing your legs, to looking down at your phone—can lead to serious injuries and chronic pain. The good news is, healthy postural habits can lead to longevity and less physical pain. Start small and pick one best practice to start implementing today. Then, ask a buddy to help keep you accountable. Chances are they could work on something too!

For specific questions, please email info@nwcorporateyoga.com. Please note we are not doctors or licensed therapists. If your pain persists or is unbearable we recommend you speak with your doctor today.

4 Best Practices for Creating a Fall Routine

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With only four months left in 2018, the fall season presents the perfect time to hunker down and refocus on those slightly forgotten, and perhaps dusty, 2018 New Year resolutions and goals. Now that schools are back in session, the weather starts to turn crispier in the morning, and summer vacations are only a memory of the past, this season couldn’t be a better time to set your mind on finishing this year strong.

As fall brings less daylight, our inclination to sleep in, watch a little more television, and rest through the weekend starts to grow. Knowing this, however, we can be strategic in how we spend our waking hours during the fall season. A rainy Saturday every now and then might be a good opportunity to catch up on your favorite TV series,  but eight or ten Saturdays spent catching up might leave you feeling a sense of regret or disappointment come December 31st. So what can you do to make the most of this time of year?

Well, before the hectic holiday season starts, you can prepare yourself for a strong finish in 2018 by developing a healthy fall routine now. So grab your planner, find a comfortable spot, kick up your heels and check out these four awesome tips for setting your routine.

1.    First things first, set your year-end goals.

It’s hard to know where you’re going when you don’t have directions and a final destination. With your planner in hand, take time to sit down and write out anywhere from one to three goals for your mental, physical and emotional health this season. Be sure to set your goal completion dates when you’re planning. Your completion dates don’t all have to be December 31, 2018. In fact, we encourage you to sprinkle goals throughout the rest of the year to make them more manageable.

Need an extra best practice for writing goals? Make your goals measurable so you know when you’ve reach them. For example, if you're looking to shed a few pounds, set a goal weight instead of simply saying “I want to lose weight.” When you’re done with your goals, share them with a trusted friend who will hold you accountable and encourage you to hit them.

Once you've identified your goals, pick the first one or two you want to complete and dedicate your time and energy to finish it early in these last few months!

2.    Plan your work week on Sunday.

From food to social outings, setting a schedule allows you to be more strategic throughout a busy work week. We all know what it feels like to have an entire week, even month, go by in what seems as quick as a blink of an eye. As such, if you aren’t strategic and intentional about what you’re doing, before you know it, January 2019 will be at your doorsteps.

Take the time weekly to sit down and plan out what you’d like to accomplish each week. You can start by reflecting on the past week. What did you do well? What where your areas of improvement? Then, create space in your schedule for exercise plans, social outings, spiritual growth, work goals, housekeeping, and/or financial targets for the week. This planning shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes, and at the end of it, you'll have a roadmap to help you get through the work week.  

3.    Re-discover balance in this season of your life.  

Balance. It’s a real buzz word in today’s society. Yet we all know that sometimes “balance” isn’t really possible. Balance is an ever-changing equation based on not only the calendar season but the season of life you are in personally. Starting a new job? Welcoming a baby? Buying a home? Searching for work? Life brings various different opportunities for our balance equations to shift.

As you evaluate what’s ahead this fall, get real about what balance looks like for you through the end of the year. Where will you be focusing your energy? Where can you give a little? To help, set clear expectations for those around you in order to communicate what’s going on in your life and where you are.  Communication and an analysis of the season you are in or moving into will help as you commit yourself to what’s ahead and fine-tune your balancing act.

4.    Embrace unexpected changes to your plan.

While many of us like think we are in control of our lives, every now and then, something happens in life that clearly shows we’re not in as much control as we think whatsoever. Sometimes, life just happens, and the variables capable of throwing wrenches into our plans are endless. Rather than letting speed bumps throw us off, we can use them as opportunities to slow down, reflect in the moment, and grow from it. When the hiccups occur, we can re-evaluate our balance equation, and see what’s important at that time and how we can move forward.

Planning is great, but be careful about becoming so focused on getting things done. The unexpected interruptions can easily sour your mood, even if distractions are pleasant. Prepare by being realistic and accepting that not many things go as planned. Embrace the new paths that are forged as your life progresses and re-balance your equation.

Conclusion

Routines are a great way to create a consistent level of motivation in the areas in which you would like to grow. Those routines can be for work, health + fitness, family life or other areas you find important. By setting goals, planning your weeks, re-balancing life's commitments and embracing unexpected change, you can develop your own routine for finishing 2018 strong and hitting your goals.

 

5 Quick Exercises to Fix Bad Posture at Work

5 Quick Exercises to Fix Bad Posture at Work

Let’s face it, maintaining good posture within the office setting is a constant struggle. Statistically speaking, eight out of ten Americans will suffer from back pain over the course of their lifetime. With so many people, places and things fighting for our attention every second we’re awake, finding time to be mindful about our body position while going about our work day can be exceptionally difficult. Hours spent commuting, working at our desks, checking our phones, and sitting through meeting roll right into eight plus hours a day. All of this toiling silently takes a toll on our bodies. It’s only when the pain begins that we finally stop and listen to our bodies. Fortunately, there are several exercises to help reduce your risk of pain in the office, and I’m going to share them with you.

7 Natural Ways to Boost Your Energy at Work

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The season of sunshine, long days, cool nights, BBQ’s, vacations, and outdoor activities is upon us - finally! With the additional sunshine providing more of that glorious daylight for summertime activities, sleeping in and naps have lost all their shiny luster and allure.

Not only are the summer months filled with more outdoor activities, they also have other naturally occurring phenomena that make sleep more difficult. Take, for example, the light that hits your bedroom in mid-December versus early July. For many of us, this provides a stark difference in sleeping in arrangements. While a quick pillow over your face can help some, the natural light works to awaken your body’s clock, which makes sleeping in a battle set for defeat. Let’s not forget the additional heat a well-lit room provides, fighting the warmth can make you sleepier and you might as well rise with the chickens to embrace the change.

In addition to the physical differentiations in our sleep settings during the summer months, the increase in temperature during this period encourages the consumption of cold beverages, many of which can be loaded with sugar or alcohol, increasing your risk of dehydration while disrupting your natural sleep patterns.

Being mindful of these natural shifts that occur in the summer months can make the transition to the warmer season more manageable. The extra sunshine can help provide a natural boost of energy, unfortunately many of us can’t reap the benefits of hours of vitamin D while working at a desk all day long. Early morning meetings run into working lunches moving us straight into afternoon hours where we need to be productive. How do we fight off the sleepy 3:00 PM hour, especially when we aren’t able to get a good night of sleep?

Rather than reaching for that extra cup of joe, which can make falling asleep in the evening harder, opt for a natural boost of energy. Check out below 7 quick tips to give your mind and body a surge of energy that will propel you through the end of your workday and clear into the evening hours.

1.    Take a moment to laugh

You read that correctly. Laugh. Laughing produces many incredible benefits, such as increasing your mood and decreasing stress. Fortunately, the benefits it doesn’t stop there! Laughing also works as a natural energy shot! Stress and anxiety are energy zapping emotions. When we laugh, we flood our bloodstreams with oxygen and help flip any negatives emotions to more positive and energizing emotions. Laughing also fights burnout by giving you back your energy!

Take a short break from your work to laugh. Watch a few clips on YouTube (work appropriate) or read a joke of the day. If you can, involve a co-worker! Studies show that we laugh more when we’re laughing with others.

2.    Break out the aromatherapy

Essential oils anyone? The aromatic molecular compounds in essential oils can pass through the blood/brain barrier, directly affecting the areas in your brain that control feelings of stress, anxiety, and mental fatigue. Benefits of aromatherapy:

  • increase productivity and positive mindset,
  • help refocus and increase concentration, and
  • alleviate fatigue and stress responses.

When you are struggling with low energy, simply apply essential oils topically or inhale gently to re-energize your mind and body. Specifically, look for scents including orange, peppermint, and lemon to boost your energy. Once you locate your favorite sent, twist off the cap and take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe in that sweet scent. You can also use a spray to spritz your desk. Of course, check with your officemates before you share your bouquet with the rest of the office.

3.    Listen to uplifting music

Have you ever turned on a song only to be immediately driven to a moment years ago? The gift of a happy melody has the ability to transform any moment from stress to joy. In fact, studies have found that short bursts of music increase the blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain, giving you a burst of energy.

Take time to search for, or build your own, playlist of songs that uplifts your mood. Then, when you start to feel yourself slouching back in your chair, put your headphones in, turn up that song – and jam!  

4.    Sit up straight

It seems only natural that when your energy starts to wane you sink back into your chair as if you can slowly make your way to a horizontal rest. We have a tendency to sit or stand with our shoulders, neck, and head is shifted slightly forward. This affects your arteries that carry blood to your brain. When your arteries are bent out of shape, you restrict the blood flow to the brain, which, in turn, causes fatigue.

In order to decrease the energy wasted through blood flow constriction, simply sit up straight. Lengthen the crown of your head to the ceiling, invite a little arch to your low back, then roll your shoulder to sit over your hips and bring your chin parallel to the floor. Give it a try right now.

Feeling better already? Maybe even add a smile to your face.

5.    Breathe deeply

Just saying breathe deeply helps bring awareness to your unconscious breathing patterns. Shallow breathing prevents your body from getting the necessary oxygen it needs to function properly. Are you noticing a theme here? Research shows that when you mindfully control your breathing, you can increase your brain size in the areas associated with attention and processing of sensory input. Strengthen your mind by exercising your breath.

Let’s do this one together. Take a deep breath in [pause] and then exhale all your breath out. For best results, repeat this exercise for 4 or 5 rounds before moving back into your task at hand.

6.    Chew a piece of gum

Sugar free of course! Chewing gum increases your heart rate, which in turn stimulates your blood flow to your brain. Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales found “[chewing gum] stimulates the autonomic nervous system, which can increase alertness.”

Want an extra kick? Pick a mint-flavored pack to stimulate your nerve fibers. Mint helps to invigorate your taste buds, which can  produce an effect that is similar to splashing cold water on your face.

7.    Massage your ears.

This one’s a little silly, but trust us. When you’re dragging during the day, and looking for energy boosting ideas, you’ll be all ears! All of your body’s acupressure meridians, i.e., your energy pathways, pass through your outer ears. By massaging the outer ear, you can unite the meridians and move energy through your entire body.

Apply pressure to the outer rim by simply pinching the rim of each ear between your thumbs and pointer fingers. Then, rub up and down for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat again as needed.

So, the next time you feel yourself start to drag resist the urge to hit brew on your fancy coffee machine. After all, caffeine loses its power as you build up a tolerance within your system. Instead, opt for a natural energy supplement to pump more oxygen through your body and carry you through the long summer days. Laugh often, enjoy invigorating essential oils, turn up the music, sit up straight, breathe deeply, pop in a piece of gum, and last, but not least, massage your ears and enjoy your new found energy!

 

How to Prevent Neck Pain at Work

How to Prevent Neck Pain at Work

Do you ever think about the fact that your neck holds the weight of a bowling ball (8-10 lbs.) all day long at work?  So it may not be a surprise to you as to why you might find yourself with sore or tight neck muscles at the end of the workday. Those symptoms might be related to the stress placed on your neck and spine through common, everyday work-related activities, such as working at a desk. To help you stay safe and productive at work, here are 7 quick tips for preventing neck pain in the office.

5 Quick Tips to Avoid Unhealthy Snacking at Work

5 Quick Tips to Avoid Unhealthy Snacking at Work

Do you find yourself sabotaging your desire to eat healthy at work?

Let’s be honest, it's easy to indulge when break rooms are notorious for providing sugary, salty snacks, birthday cakes, pizza parties, and treats sent from clients. Even the anti-snackers can find themselves susceptible to office snacking temptations.

When we consume too many carbohydrates or minimal healthy fats and proteins, our blood sugar levels spike and crash quickly. When this happens, your body starts to crave the fastest fuel it can consume - refined grains and simple sugars - resulting in unhealthy snacking habits.

So how do you avoid the never-ending flow of unhealthy snacks and make healthier choices to maintain high energy levels through your day? Click below to find out.

How To Declutter Your Desk Like Monica Geller

How To Declutter Your Desk Like Monica Geller

Do you ever find yourself playing defense at work? A memo thrown at you here. A proposal tossed over there. A report on this corner. A sticky-note on that corner. It seems that no matter how hard you try to defend your desk, more and more information finds a way to land on whatever clear spots are available.

“There’s only so much space,” you plead, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the onslaught. Eventually, you grow weary from the defense and temporarily let down your guard. It’s at that moment when the clutter pile seed gets planted and begins to grow.

Clutter can be everywhere you look, but when clutter comes to your work desk, however, the piles of folders, projects and office swag can do more than create an eyesore for your office’s resident Monica. The clutter can also impact the way you work and how you think.   Fortunately, clutter can be controlled, and when it is, you’ll get to enjoy the amazing benefits of having a completely decluttered desk I’m going to share with you. As a bonus, I’ll also share 6 easy steps for decluttering your desk.

How to Make a Delicious Salad for Your Office Lunch in 6 Steps

How to Make a Delicious Salad for Your Office Lunch in 6 Steps

Contrary to popular belief, salads can be delicious without bacon bits, cheese and ranch dressing. As crazy as this may sound, there are other ingredients out there that can be just as, if not more, tasty. So, if those three ingredients aren't invited to the party, what else could possibly make lettuce palatable? Well fret not, my friend, I'm going to share with you my secret process for building unbelievably delicious salads and give you some hints on extra tasty ingredients that’ll make you forget about bacon.

3 Quick Tips for Keeping Your Wrists Healthy at Work

3 Quick Tips for Keeping Your Wrists Healthy at Work

There's no surprise that computers are here to stay.

Not only do many us live on computers throughout the work day, but even when we're home, we find it difficult to get off our devices.  While keyboarding and mousing may not be considered a strenuous activity, when done improperly, they can cause damage to the wrists over time, resulting in painful and sometimes permanent damage.