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If you, like the rest of us, are logging more time than ever in front of your screen and on your phone, chances are, at some point, you’re going to experience tech or text neck—discomfort, tightness, or pain in your neck and upper back. Fortunately, there are quick, easy, and effective ways to release those muscles which are most vulnerable to stress and strain. And best of all, you can do them at your desk.

As a national yoga teacher who specializes in the intersection of yoga and life off the mat, I can tell you that questions about and requests for neck releases are among the most popular I receive, which is indicative that, yes, Houston, we do have a work-posture problem. Whether I’m teaching yoga classes, in-house corporate workshops, or giving talks at events around the country, people often ask how to deal with and heal their chronic neck discomfort. And since nobody has endless amounts of time to follow a lengthy and rigorous protocol, I’ve assembled these 3 effective, efficient stretches for us desk jockeys, myself included.

1: Upper back. This is one of my favorite ways to release the upper back muscles. According to Lalla McHugh, a seasoned physical therapist with private practices in both Braintree and Roslindale, MA, “Eagle arm posture can help counteract long hours sitting at a desk, or using a cell phone. It provides a good stretch for your latissimus, trapezius and deltoids, (muscles of the shoulder and upper back), and can help maintain a healthy length of your rotator cuff muscles.

How to: sit up tall and bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for you, stay here. If you need more, drop the right elbow below the left and twine your forearms. The key to this release is to keep the elbows comfortably lifted–if it feels ok, equal height to the shoulders–and the shoulder blades as relaxed and low as possible. McHugh, who is herself a yoga practitioner, senior meditation teacher, and certified level 10 esoteric healer, advises, “To ensure an effective and safe stretch be sure to sit up straight while performing it, and don’t to push the stretch to the point of pain.”

 

If you need more stretch, press the elbows away from you slightly and let the head hang forward (photo below). McHugh explains, “When you gently bend the head forward, you increase the fascial pull from the neck into the upper back.” Stay for 30-60 seconds, then switch sides if you dropped an elbow, or just do the pose again with the elbows next to each other.

“Lastly, remember,” McHugh said, “if you can’t comfortably do the full posture, ask an experienced yoga teacher well-versed in anatomy and modifications how to best modify the stretch.”

 

 

 

2: Side of your neck. If you’ve been working on your computer or texting on your phone, you might start to notice you feel it in your neck.

How to: sitting tall, try to relax your shoulders down toward the floor and then drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Immediately, you should feel a really nice stretch down the left side of your neck. Stay for 30 seconds, then stay exactly as you are and turn your gaze down to the floor. Now stay here for 30 seconds. These stretches target the levator and erector spinae muscles.

 

 

 

 

To intensify this stretch, lift your right hand to the back of your head and with the pressure of one finger (aka NOT TOO HARD), BRIEFLY (about 2 seconds) try to gently lift your head up, as you also gently resist with your fingertips. So the head won’t actually move, but you’ll deepen your stretch. You can repeat the lift/resist 2-3 times.

Why does this work? Dr. Leonard Kamen, Clinical Director of MossRehab Outpatient (a tertiary rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia, and one of 10 best rehabilitation hospitals in the US), and Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Temple University, explains: “The extensor muscles work to keep your head up. When you work at a computer, and hang the head forward, they become less and less capable of maintaining postural control. The levator scapulae, which connects to the superior medial corner of the scapula bone and then makes its way up to C 2-3- transverse process juncture (in your neck), is a long muscle and tends to fatigue easily. Over time, hunched over your desk or device, it takes a beating. So it’s an important muscle to strengthen.”

When you press your head up and resist with your fingertips, you’re gently strengthening this vulnerable muscle—which is great. But you may also notice, as I do when I try this at my desk after a day of writing, that you’ll also feel a deeper stretch. I asked Dr. Kamen why and how that works.

“When you give yourself this isometric pose, you’re resetting golgi-tendon organs—the spindles inside the muscles that tell you how much stretch you’re capable of,” he explained. “When they’re tight, they’re fully loaded. But with first an isometric engagement followed by relaxation, you’re resetting them.” (So don’t forget the relaxation part!)

In my opinion, the really cool part of this is that you’re not just going to feel better (although that is pretty cool), but you’re actually reprogramming your body and redefining your flexibility—as you also strengthen those muscles! Now, that’s a major win-win-win in my book.

3: Lengthen and release the back of your neck with occipital traction.

How to: Sit up tall. Bring your fingertips to the back of your head. At the base of your skull, where the head meets the neck, you’ll feel two bony ridges—that’s your occiput. Consciously draw your shoulder blades down and relax the shoulders,  then hook your fingertips under the occiput and gently press forward (toward your chin) and lift up (toward the sky). Drop the shoulders again—the goal is to create as much length and space along the neck between the head and shoulders as possible. When you draw the shoulders down and pull the occiput up, you’ll probably feel a really nice release. Hold for 30 seconds as you traction the occiput, lengthening and releasing the muscles that run down the back of your neck, then let it go.

I also asked Dr. Kamen if he and other doctors in the pain field are seeing a rise in patients with tech neck. He said he tech neck is technically classified as a repetitive strain disorder. And went on to explain, “There’s a long history of repetitive strain disorders (based on the work people do), and over the past 20 years it’s been on the rise for computer workers for sure. It has always been controversial in the medical field because you can’t get a picture—(an MRI, or ultrasound) of it. It’s just a repetitive challenge to muscles because you’re sitting in odd postures for long lengths of time. For practitioners in my field, it falls into recognizable myofascial pain.”

Friends, that’s why I’m giving you these tools to support your wellness in these vulnerable areas. Follow along for more well-focused work series and let us know in the comments how these feel.

All photos by Jenna Blum 

As I’ve shared on both the page and the stage, I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Yoga has been a powerful tool to combat it. As a yoga student, the practice provided a sanctuary for me to become more present, grounded, and calm. As a yoga teacher, I seek to provide this experience and these tools to others. I’m especially interested in the intersection of yoga and life because even if you’re practicing yoga every single day, 365 days a year (and let’s keep it real, who the heck is?), what about the other 23 hours of the day? What about when you roll up your mat and step back into your real life, only to be clobbered over the head with work/life stress?

That question is why I became interested in exploring how to take tools that provide yoga-induced calm off the mat and into the rest of your life: So that when you’re back at your desk/in the car/having a difficult conversation, you can tap back into that yoga zen. Seven years ago, I started developing workshops to share the tools that worked for me, and I’ve been teaching them nationally ever since. Here are some of my favorite, proven hacks, as well as techniques from the world-renowned Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. I hope they help you take your zen with you too.

1: Extended-Exhale Breathing. To do: Breathe in for a slow, calming count of three, and out for a slower, calming count of four or five. Repeat for 3-5 minutes (or as long as you like) and students tell me they notice an immediate sense of relaxation. I turned to Laura Malloy, LICSW, director of yoga programs, and director of Successful Aging at the Benson-Henry Institute to understand why and how this works. Malloy explains, “This replicates how we breathe when we’re sleeping. It initiates the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response, which is the opposite of the stress response.”

The Benson-Henry Institute’s founder, Dr. Herbert Benson, is a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and credited with discovering the relaxation response. Together with his colleague Robert Keith Wallace, Dr. Benson studied the effect of meditation on the body, and found that it reduced metabolism, rate of breathing, heart rate, and brain activity, which Dr. Benson labeled “the relaxation response,” a term which has become a staple in the field of mind-body medicine (as well as within the worlds of wellness, yoga, and meditation). So what are some of Malloy’s favorite tools to teach at the Institute?

2: Ten-Count Exhale How To: Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say  silently to yourself, “Ten.” Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say, “Nine.” Repeat until you reach one. Then do additional rounds as needed. Malloy, a licensed therapist, who also holds her 500-hour yoga certification from the internationally respected Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, says she often starts with this technique for patients. “This works well because the mind loves to have a focus, so if we give the brain something to focus on, it gets us off the ‘everyday train of thought,’ as Dr. Benson says.”

Malloy says that anxiety is defined as the mind worrying about the future—something we can all relate to, amiright? Who hasn’t caught themselves on a runaway mind train where, “I’m nervous about giving that presentation/job interview/other thing you have going on in your life…”  spirals into doomsday-type worries, “…my mind will go blank/I’ll say something stupid/I won’t get the job/I’m a huge failure/Now I’m sweating through my clothes and can barely breathe.”

3: Take a Pause How To: Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Keep repeating. This gives your mind something to focus on—your breath—and creates a place to break the anxiety cycle and take a pause.

Malloy explains each of these breathing techniques are designed to interrupt that anxiety escalation and bring you back to the present moment. But what about people who don’t want to do breathwork?

4:   Physical Mindfulness How to: Malloy says the key to this is to focus on the sensations in your body. “Feel your feet on floor, feel your back resting on the chair.” And for those who don’t want to focus on their body, “Notice the view out the window. Have a cup of tea and notice the temperature, the taste, the color, the feel of the mug in your hand.” Malloy explains the key is tuning in to the sensations in your body or what’s going on in the immediate world around you.

5: Mantra Mindfulness How To: Again, because the mind loves to have something to focus on, giving it something positive to hone in on can help steer it away from that runaway anxiety train, and get you back on track to Zen Town. Malloy suggests, “I am…at peace,” which you can sync to breathing in, breathing out. And what about those of us who have yet to achieve Yoda-like Jedi-level enlightenment and may accidentally have a thought or worry interupt? Don’t beat yourself up. As Malloy says, “When the thoughts creep in, put them to the side and go back to your mantra: I am…at peace.”

Malloy says they call these hacks “mini-relaxations,” which sounds like something I’d like to order from my favorite spa’s menu while wearing a big fluffy robe, but can conveniently be done anywhere including while commuting, wearing anything including a suit.

So what does Malloy herself, therapist, co-director at the world-leading institute on mind-body medicine, master yogi practicing since 1994 and teaching since 2001 do to relax? You can bet your mandala I asked. “My favorite is having a mindful moment: bringing my head to where my feet are, breathing belly breaths, and allowing myself to be here now. If my mind starts to run too far into the future, with this awareness, I can bring it back to the present.”

Malloy advises that these mini-relaxations should ideally be practiced as a booster shot to your larger relaxation practice, which the Benson-Henry Institute recommends doing 20 minutes a day—whether it’s yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or the mindfulness practice of your choice. “It takes practice to get good at them, just like you have to practice an instrument, or learn to brush your teeth. It’s the same thing with doing a relaxation every day, you have to tap into that and train your body how to relax. We teach it as a practice, instead of a band-aid approach. We hope people will do a relaxation practice 20 minutes a day, and then view the minis as booster shots.”

A prescription to relax 20 minutes a day with a booster shot of extra zen? Now that’s mind-body medicine we can look forward to taking!

Long day? Long week? When there’s no time to hit a yoga class or head to the gym, here are four easy poses to help you unwind and rejuvenate. Try breathing extended-exhale breaths (exhaling longer than your inhale) to amp up the calm vibes in each pose.

You will need: A pillow or bolster, a full-size bath towel folded into a square, two hand towels, and your favorite lavender-scented body oil, butter, lotion, or essential oil.

#1: Seated Calming Pose. Begin seated on the floor, or in a chair. If you have lavender-scented body butter, oil, or lotion, apply it to your palms and rub together to warm up the essential oil and release the calming scent. If not, you can do this without any scent. Cup your hands over your face, especially nose, and breathe deeply, inhaling for a count of three and exhaling for a count of four or five. Repeat three times. Then cup your hands gently over your forehead and eyes, and take three more breaths. Allow the calming pressure of your hands, blocking out the light, and scent of lavender, soothe and calm you.

 

 

 

 

 

#2: Child’s Pose. Begin kneeling in table pose with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Bring your toes to touch, knees wider than hips, then sit back on your heels and walk your hands forward. If your forehead rests comfortably on the floor, great. If not, place a yoga block or folded towel under it. Stay for 30-60 seconds minimum (or as long as you like).

 

#3: Legs up the Wall Pose. Sit next to a wall, with a pillow or folded bath towel next to you. Swing your legs up the wall, place the pillow or towel under your hips, and extend your arms out to each side. This should feel delightful. If not, you can move to a chair and try “Legs up the chair” variation, letting your calves rest on the seat cushion. You can stay for 5-7 minutes (or as long as you like).

 

#4: Supta Savasana. Lie on your back and place a pillow or bolster under your knees. Fold a hand towel in thirds (or fourths depending on the thickness of the towel and how much support your neck likes), and then roll it. Place the roll under your neck. Fold the other towel in thirds or fourths and place it over your eyes. Stay, practicing extended exhale breathing, for as long as you like.

When you’re ready, roll gently to one side and press slowly up to seated. Bring your hands over your heart and imprint a sense of calm. Gently open your eyes when you’re ready. Enjoy!

 

Winter tightness is the worst! And if you’ve been shoveling snow lately (thanks, #SnowBombCyclone!), you’re may find yourself with a doubly aching back the next day.

Yoga to the rescue! Here are my four key stretches for survival!

1: Release Your Hip Flexors & Lower Back: Crescent Lunge
The psoas is the largest hip flexor muscle. It runs up the front of the hip, cuts through the abdominal cavity and attaches to the lower lumbar spine. Stretching the psoas not only gives you a hip flexor stretch, it can also release lower back tightness. Stand in a lunge position, with your right foot forward and the right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Tuck your tailbone forward to intensify.

BONUS: Open your arms, bend your elbows, and pull your shoulder blades together to add a chest stretch.

Stay for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.

 

2. Release Your Upper Back: Eagle Arms
Bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for the shoulders/upper back, stay here. If you need more of a stretch, drop the left elbow below the right and twine the forearms, pressing the back of the palms together. The key to releasing the upper back muscles is to keep the elbows lifted and equal height to the shoulders, and the shoulders as relaxed and low as possible.

Take ten deep breaths and switch sides.

 

 

3. Release Your Lower Back: Modified Half-Moon Pose
Your lower back may bear the brunt of the winter tightness AND certainly will feel it after any significant amount of shoveling. Release this vulnerable area with this gentle stretch.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your right hand on your right hip. Lift the left arm up and then to the right. You should feel an immediate (and delightful!) release of your lower back muscles (the quadratus laborum or “QLs”).

Take ten deep breaths here, using your breath to expand the left ribs, deepening the stretch, then switch sides.

 

 

4. Release Your Chest Muscles: Doorway Pose
Anytime you stretch a muscle group, you want to release the synergists and antagonists. After you stretch the upper back, you also want to stretch the chest. While we began that work with the open-arm bonus above (Pose #1), let’s stretch them pectorals (chest muscles) a little more deeply now. Stand in a doorway or agaist a wall and put your right arm out at a ninety-degree angle. Press your palm, forearm, and elbow against the doorframe and twist your chest gently away (in this case, to the left).
Stay for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.

Taking time to stretch all the major muscles you’ve just worked will minimize soreness and increase your chances for the quickest snow bomb cyclone recovery possible. Stay warm, stay hydrated, and remember the most important pose of all: couch-asana, which should be done lying down and for an extended amount of time. Bonus if done with a puppy. 🙂

Friends I’m thrilled (and slightly nervous) to announce I’m taking over Athleta’s National Instagram Stories today as part of their “Day in My Life” Series. As such I’m sharing my day, some of my favorite recipes, a first-time peek inside my office (where I write my books) and much, much more with their 348,000 followers.

(Did I mention I’m petrified and awkward on video…but I’m doing videos??? Hey, I’m 40! I’ve gotta keep challenging myself and embracing that which scares me!)❤️

Anyway to celebrate, I’m also launching a Power of She Absolute SelfCare Challenge! For 10 days I’ll be sharing my top wellness tips, tricks, hacks, and recipes to enhance your Absolute SelfCare starting with food today.

To Enter:
1: click over to Instagram and follow me: https://www.instagram.com/saradivello/

2: Comment there with questions or what you’re excited to try or you want me to include (or even just a to let me know you’re there)

3: Follow along Daily for my tips (and to see new prizes added). Winner will be picked on Day 10!
https://www.instagram.com/saradivello/

 

I first met Latham at the inaugural W.E.L.L. Summit in 2015, where we were both speakers, and she is an incredible, truly radiant human, and an insightful, brilliant speaker. She exudes a warmth and wisdom that is rare today, and I can say there is truly nothing like basking in this woman’s presence. I’m so excited to host her for an afternoon of SelfCare and conversation as we celebrate her new book, Own Your Glow! A Soulful Guide to Luminous Living and Crowing the Queen Within.

Here’s what the event entails:

Circulate among our “Glow Stations” designed to help you glow in every part of your life–sip tea and sample almond milk from Nectar & Green, enjoy salads from SweetGreen, workout tips from Healthworks’ personal trainers, mini chair massages from the Healthworks Spa therapists, complimentary organic spray tans, and more!

Then we’ll segue to soul-deep conversation–including answers to the questions you care most about. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday!

This exclusive, one-time-only event is your chance to ask Latham (who’s new book is about creating rituals to deepen, enhance, and elevate every part of your life) ANYTHING.
What you will get:

  • All Attendees will leave with a signed copy of Latham ‘s new book, “Own Your Glow” so that they can continue to be nourished and pampered at home plus a gift from Organic Bath Co.
  • VIP Attendees will receive 2 copies of Latham’s book (1 for you and a perfect holiday gift for a special woman in your life), a gift from Organic Bath Co., front-rows seating, front of the line privileges for Latham’s post-talk book signing, PLUS VIP yoga with me to kick off the day!

Tickets available here: https://wellsummit.org/own-your-glow/

You’re busy. I know. You’re hustling hard, juggling it all: multi-tasking, overwhelmed, overworked, overbooked, and running ragged. Which means sleep can be one of the first things you sacrifice. But cheating on sleep could yield way bigger problems than bags under your eyes (although that IS a legit problem!). According to Dr. Eric Olsen, “Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”

As I’ve shared in my book, Where in the OM Am I?, being overwhelmed, overworked, and overbooked were all too familiar when I worked a high-stress corporate job. Now as an author, speaker, and national yoga teacher, I travel around the country sharing how to use yoga tools to find life balance, direction, and fulfillment. Getting restful sleep—and enough of it—is a pillar of overall wellness, and the topic of one of my most popular workshops, “Sleep Hacks: How to Power Down, Tune In, and Experience Profound Rest.”

If you’re wrestling with insomnia, the first step is to shift your thinking and get to the root cause of what’s going on. Next, start to make positive, powerful changes.

Here are 3 of my favorite tools to help you create a Bedtime Ritual that will calm your mind and prepare your body for restful sleep. The best part? They’re quick, easy, and actually enjoyable.

1: Apply lavender oil to your pulse points in a slow, mindful, intentional way. Dim the lights, signaling to the brain that it’s time to wind down, then gently, slowly apply it to these four points: your inner wrists, the crease of your elbow, the sides of your throat, and the center of your chest. Apply it in gentle circles in rhythm with your slow, deep breaths. If you only have time to do one point, apply to the wrists.

Clinical studies prove this deepens and lengthens sleep compared to the control group, as published by the National Institutes of Health and takes about 19 minutes to get into your bloodstream. So half an hour before you head to bed, try this soothing evening oil routine.

My favorite is Stress-Less by the award-winning Organic Bath Co. They tested over 20 kinds of lavender before choosing this relaxation-inducing variety. If you do this every night, the soothing scent will soon signal your brain it’s time to rest even before you’re in bed.

 

 

2:Next, ease into this restorative yoga pose: Place a pillow under your knees and another under your head. Make any adjustments you need to get extra comfortable. You can do this on your mat or in your bed. Cover yourself with a blanket, place an eye pillow over your eyes, another pillow on your belly. Allow these gentle weights to help you feel grounded and centered, and studies indicate the weight of them may facilitate sleep.

3: Begin an extended-exhale pranayama (breathwork practice). This stimulates the vagus nerve, the largest nerve into the central nervous system, and sends a “relax-rest-digest” message to your brain. Breathe in for a slow, calming count of 3, and out for 4, 5, or 6. Try a few rounds. Then gently add in the mantra “Let go.” Inhale and “Let,” exhale, “go.” Inhale and “Let,” exhale, “go.” Let…go. Let…go of anything weighing on your mind with every cycle. Continue as you drift off.

I designed these sleep hacks to fit easily into your evening. The goal isn’t to give you yet another thing you have to make room for in your already-busy life, but rather to offer easy-to-implement, powerful tools that will help you rest deeply, restore, and rejuvenate.