Get Outside and Play!

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

This past weekend I spent time with my nephew. He recently turned 13 and he is super fun to hang around with. We have similar senses of humor and ways of being in the world and I always feel refreshed after a visit with him. A few years ago he told me that both my husband and I are kind of like big kids. “Do you mean immature?” I asked. “NO!” he said, “because you both love to play, silly!” Heeheehee.

As I mentioned in my last post I have started a more focused exercise routine to get myself back in shape. Since one of the days of my weekend visit was a workout day I decided to recruit my nephew in the activities as well. He was totally into it! And… he made it way more engaging since we spent a good portion of the routine giggling and teasing each other between gasps for breath and sips of water.

After the real workout we made a “fake workout” video that was, I must say, completely ridiculous and hilarious! My Mom, who was sitting nearby in the yard (another bonus to the workout…OUTSIDE!), was cracking up – always a good sign of quality entertainment.

While I am serious about exercising, making it more playful made it seem more do-able and not just another chore on my list. We forget how important play is in our everyday lives. Focusing on the things we have to get done is important but it can drain our reserves when we don’t get a break from the “work first” mentality. Not only is it fun to play, it stimulates portions of our brain that have to do with creativity, structure, organization, imagination and concentration. Adding in a bit of playfulness may even boost your productivity.

Throw in laughter and WOW! There’s a recipe for great health!

So… get out there and play! With the kids, the dog, your spouse, friends, whoever! Add a game night in every once in a while. Skip down the street for a block or two, swing around each street sign you come upon (or tree), go to the park and SWING! Doesn’t have to be for hours, just a few moments can shift your energy and mood.

Ready…set…GO!!!!!

Posture Power

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Posted by Gwyn MacDonald

When I was kid, 8, 9, maybe 10 years of age or so, my brother who is several years older than me, would poke me in the back or the side and say “Stand up straight!” – Man, did I hate that! In response I would shriek something along the lines of “Leave me alone!” As much as I hated to admit it then, I did slouch and slump quite a bit. I was shy and awkward and that just felt a bit safer to me than sticking my chest out and strutting about.

I bring this up because while I have been thinking about posture for this blog post, it hit home this morning during my first workout with my personal trainer, Paula. (Woohoo!!! She ROCKS! and I get to say I have a “personal trainer”. Mind you this is not part of my usual vocabulary. Sweet!) As she was guiding me into one of the many exercises we did today she said “Now bring yourself into proud posture and then bring your arms back”…etc. Proud posture. Nothing earth shattering here but it just brought to mind the sense of well-being, confidence and groundedness that open, upright posture exemplifies.

In my daily massage work I see the effects of poor posture. Forward head positioning, tight pectoral, scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles. Strained posterior neck and shoulder muscles, tightness in the ribcage and diaphragm, and low energy. While one session of massage does not “fix” these issues, it can remind my clients how good it feels to lift their chins, open their chests and breath deeply and with ease.

Our posture says quite a bit about how we are feeling on the inside. But our posture also has the ability to work from the inside out. Try this: if you are sitting at your computer or on your smart phone reading this, take a moment and observe your posture. I mean really observe and take note. Are you slumped over your keyboard with your head forward? Are you looking down with your head flexed forward and your shoulders in your ears as you are walking down the street? Are you slouching in your chair with all of the above head/shoulder postures? Not trying to invoke your Mom or Grandma here (or my brother!) but straighten up!

Now take a deep breath…bring your head back so it floats above your shoulders. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears. Take another deep belly breath. Nice and slow. Roll your shoulders up and back and few times. Open your mouth and stretch your jaw. Tuck your tailbone and feel yourself straighten up. Remember that string that lifts you from the top of your head? (or how about Leather Tuscadero with the phone book balancing on her head? Gotta love Happy Days! Now the Fonz had POSTURE!)

Do you feel a difference? Practice for the next few days. Every 1/2 hour or so (or some other time frame that is realistic for you) during the work day check in with your posture and your breathing. Do you need to adjust? Do you notice a change in your energy or your mood when you open and shift your posture? Are you noticing a bit less tension in your neck and shoulders?

We may not be able to change what we have to do for many hours each day but we can change HOW we do it. My brother wasn’t just teasing me for the fun of it! (well… maybe a little) Our posture affects both physical and emotional well being. Gently reminding ourselves to lift our heads, open our chests and take a deep breath can change the way we see the moment, the day, the world.

After my workout and my massage (self care!!!!!!!) today I’ve been strutting around with “proud posture” like crazy – and it feels GREAT!

My Secret Weapon For De-stressing

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Posted by Judy Moon

Everyone experiences stress at some time in his or her life. It’s not fun, but it’s part of life here on this planet earth. The cool thing is that we came equipped with choice. We have the ability to choose how we handle stress.

There are tons of options for stress management available to us ranging from aromatherapy sprays, meditations, CD’s, Mindfulness classes, the list goes on…

My favorite way to instantly de-stress is the 4-7-8 breath. It was recommended to me years ago and it’s literally like a secret weapon I can whip out at any moment and experience an immediate shift. Like when the bus is running late in the morning, I could choose to get myself all twisted about it, or I can do a few rounds of 4-7-8 breathing instead.

I learned about it Dr. Weil’s website, he’s a big fan of it as well. Here are his instructions:

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.  Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

Give it a try, right now, start with a big whoosh exhale:
1. Breath in – 1.2.3.4
2. Hold – 1.2.3.4.5.6.7
3. Exhale – 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8
4. Don’t you feel better already?

The only thing that would make it even better is adding some Infinite Love and Gratitude at the end.

Let us know how it’s working for you!