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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 

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. 🙂

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.

 

 

September is National Yoga Month. To celebrate, I’ll be posting articles every Friday on my favorite topic: yoga OFF the mat.

Today’s topic: Insomnia.
Insomnia is a wily beast. I have wrestled it for most of my life, using every tool at my disposal. I’ve tried teas, tinctures, prescriptions, over-the-counter options, essential oils, yoga, meditation, mantra, and pretty much anything else that I could find (and you can imagine!).

Yet it was these two major realizations that changed the way I thought about sleep and set me on the path to experiencing profound rest. They shifted EVERYTHING. From there, it was simply about finding what worked best for me. Now I regularly get restful sleep almost every night — and lead restful sleep workshops around the country to share my favorite sleep hacks with my fellow insomniacs.

Realization #1: How you live during the day impacts how you sleep at night.
When I worked a high-stress PR job, I zoomed through each day in a blur of adrenaline, caffeine, and anxiety. I worked as fast and furiously as I could. I ran from meeting to meeting, guzzling coffee. I frantically multi-tasked, speeding through each day as though the hounds of hell were pursuing me. (Often the hounds of hell took the form of various hellacious bosses. Example: Vomiting Vicky, Phyllis, and Medusa to name just a few.) Then I finished my workday, ran to the gym (or slid into yoga just as the doors were closing) to cram my workout or weekly yoga class in, before running home, inhaling whatever was fastest/easiest for dinner, quickly showering, and rushing to bed.

It should have come as no surprise that I then couldn’t decelerate and immediately fall into a blissful sleep. But it actually WAS a surprise to me. I literally couldn’t understand why sleep insisted on evading me. I was desperate. Wrung out. Completely drained and exhausted. I had nothing left to do and no energy left to do it with. So shouldn’t I have been passing out before my head hit the pillow? Nope. Doesn’t work like that.

Take away: Your days and nights have be in alignment. Don’t expect to race through your days, and then go from 60 to 0 in the space of a few hours. Instead, learn to slow down during the day, focus, and approach every task with a calm, confident energy (this will actually enhance productivity) so that you’ll be ready for sleep later. Take breathing breaks. Be aware of when anxiety or adrenaline try to kick up. It is extremely hard for us fast-moving, quick-talking, anxiety-prone multi-taskers to slow down. And yet that is EXACTLY what we need to do in order to get restful sleep (and be calmer in general). Lastly, if you’re caffeine-sensitive like me, cut the caffeine 12 hours before you want to catch your Zs.

Realization #2: Get to the Root of Your Insomnia.
Don’t just keep trying to fight insomnia in order to get to sleep that night. Too often, we treat what’s above the surface, but never get to the root cause. But if you want to solve your insomnia, you’ve got to dig down to the real heart of the matter. If it’s a medical issue, get it diagnosed. If it’s another issue, figure it out. The root cause of my insomnia was anxiety. Once I realized that, I started to address the underlying anxiety directly. Now if I can’t fall asleep, I figure out what’s really going on instead of continuing to ignore it and force sleep. Am I worried about my flight the next morning? Giving an upcoming speech? Forgetting something? Even the simple act of identifying what you’re worried about and writing it down can free your mind from spinning about it endlessly.

Takeaway: Don’t just fight, figure it out.

Realization #3: Rushing to Yoga, Home, and to Bed Does Not an Evening Ritual Make.
When I was zooming through my days, I didn’t take the time to be thoughtful about my evening ritual. To be honest, I’d never even heard of an evening ritual. But as I’ve started becoming more aware and mindful, I’ve learned to look at evenings as an opportunity to transition from day to night. Creating a little evening ritual is a way to signal to my body-brain complex that it’s time to rest. It’s also an opportunity to nourish myself a bit. So now I brew myself a cup of bedtime tea. I smooth lavender oil on my pulse points. I play spa music while I take a bath or brush my teeth.

Takeaway: Building an evening ritual is a powerful, nourishing way to end each day.

Insomnia is a wily beast, but it is not insurmountable. Taking the time to explore these insights and what’s underlying your sleeplessness is the most effective, efficient, and expedient way to getting your Zs. So brew yourself a cup of herbal, sleep-inducing tea, carve out a few minutes for silent reflection, and take that first step toward forty winks.

 

 

 

Greetings from NOT-so-sunny Philadelphia (the show whose name was “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia LIED!).

I came here to give the kickoff talk for The Good Fest and also spoke on the “Real Life Routines Panel: Living the GOOD Life, Everyday” (because you guys know I love to keep it real!) 🙂

It was an awesome day where 300+ people showed up to learn, be inspired, and connect. My goal for the kickoff talk was to:

  1. Set the tone for the day.
  2. Invite people to get clear on WHY they were there
  3. Give attendees tools to get the most of the day
  4. Give attendees tools for taking what they learned OFF THE MAT and home with them in their real world lives
  5. Invite them to set an intention for their Good Fest experience

As you know if you read my book, yoga was a life-saving tool for me. It reduced my stress, made an unbearable job bearable, and helped me to eventually gain the clarify and courage to leave that job and pursue my most fulfilling life.

But yoga is only an hour or so per day (at the most. Please dear God, don’t tell me you’re doing yoga more than that!)…and that leaves 22-23 hours for the rest of the day. So what I’m really interested in is the concept of yoga OFF THE MAT. In how can we take the tools of the practice off the mat into the rest of our lives–our home, family, work, friends…whatever your life looks like. I this THIS is where the real usefulness, magic, and far-reaching, long-term benefits can be seen.

One of my other big takeaways/tools that I wanted to share with people is: Follow your discomfort. Let it be a sort of internal GPS.

When something is uncomfortable or painful, our first (and normal) human response is to Ignore, Deny, or Push it Away. To cover it up with something else (food, wine, bad TV…whatever the distraction is). To pretend or deny that it’s there. I get it. I want to do that too at first.

And yet…I actually prefer to hone in on, explore, and follow the discomfort. Not only is it s an incredible act of courage to SIT and LISTEN to it, but it’s also your quickest way THROUGH it to the other side. Lastly, it’s trying to teach you something. So give it a try–follow it where it’s trying to point you. <3

It was such an honor to share these thoughts with attendees. And for everyone who couldn’t make it, stay tuned, I’ll be writing more on these topics. <3