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Sleep, Calm and Stretch

Monday Canyon Ranch Ride

How a Sleep Scientist Falls Asleep by Hannah Seo

Half of all Americans have trouble falling asleep each year. But for Leah Irish, an expert in sleep behavior at North Dakota State University, getting a good night’s sleep starts during the day.

I asked Dr. Irish what she does to prepare for a restful night. Here’s what she said →

She checks in with herself when she wakes up.

A big part of getting a good night’s rest is thinking about and keeping track of how you sleep, said Dr. Irish.

When she wakes up in the morning, she notices how she feels — and reflects on how her actions from the previous night might have influenced her rest.

Sleep-tracking devices or apps can help you notice and learn from patterns in your own sleep.

She keeps her sleep space “cool, clean, and comfortable.”

Studies show that having your bedroom on the cooler side is best for optimal sleep. Dr. Irish optimizes her sleep environment throughout the year by switching out seasonal bedding.

Having a clean and tidy bedroom also helps with peace of mind, she said.

She keeps her phone away from the bed.

Phones are an enemy of sleep, Dr. Irish said. She keeps hers across the room from her at night. That way she can’t just roll over and pick it up when she can’t sleep.

She removes her dog from the bedroom

Sometimes you have to make tough decisions about who gets to share your sleep space. Dr. Irish said:

We had to kick our giant pit bull-lab mix out to the living room to sleep because he would walk around on the bed during the night and wake us up.

There’s no shame in putting a pet in a separate room if you are incompatible sleepers.

She makes sleep a priority.

A commitment to good sleep means planning around it, said Dr. Irish. It’s a paradigm shift; she’s often fitting her social life into her sleep schedule rather than the other way around.

She knows what works for or against her sleep.

Caffeine doesn’t bother Dr. Irish, but working late does. So she makes sure to factor in a few hours post-work to wind down, giving herself enough time to get into a sleep mindset.

Know what keeps you up, and abstain from those things after a certain hour.


How to Stay Calm Like a Monk - Dani Blum

I asked Shunmyo Masuno, a monk, and author of a new book, “Don’t Worry,” how he stays grounded in a frenetic world. Here’s what he had to say →

He wakes up early.

“The trick to feeling better all day and a sense of fulfillment is rising early.”

Masuno doesn’t recommend waking up too early — “that can be a burden,” he said, but suggests people aim to get out of bed around 30 minutes earlier than their usual wakeup time.

By carving out that extra time for yourself, he said, you can check something off your to-do list right away.

He cleans for 10 minutes each morning.

Masuno recommends spending the first 10 minutes of the day cleaning, designating a different area for each day — the kitchen on Monday, the hallway on Tuesday — so that you’re starting off with an accomplishment.

“You’ll feel good once you’ve done it — refreshed,” he said. That way, he added, you won’t need to undergo a more substantial cleaning over the weekend.

He spends his morning meditating.

Masuno’s morning meditation helps him ease into the demands of the day. It includes sitting zazen, a practice that prioritizes posture.

He does breathwork.

When he feels overwhelmed, Masuno uses a breathing technique that he says promotes “inner calm” and focus. Focus on your tanden - the point a few centimeters below your navel (really, the pit of your stomach) -

and slowly exhale. Repeat several times. Picture the flesh air flowing as you breathe in. Keep your gaze down, at a 45 degree angle.

Raise your pelvis when you breathe, thrusting your abdomen forward. This will help each breath grow longer and slower.\



Sitting too much? Five Seated stretches to ease the kinks courtesy of Canyon Ranch

If your most frequent exercise lately is getting in and out of your chair, your body may be aching for help.

The power of stretching extends far beyond pre- and post-workout. It keeps your muscles nourished by promoting healthy blood flow and fluid exchange. While improving flexibility, you’re also preparing your joints to move in their full range of motion, decreasing your risk of injury. And, of course, we all know that stretching releases tension and just feels so good. It’s the reward your body deserves.

Take a few minutes – wherever you are – to try these simple, seated stretches. All you need is a chair.

Hamstring Stretch

Tight hamstrings can lead to discomfort in your knees, hips and spine, so it’s important to keep them loose.

  1. Move to the front edge of your seat. Place your right foot forward, stretching your leg out nice and long. Your left foot should remain flat on the ground with your knee bent.

  2. With your spine straight and your left hand on your left thigh, reach for your right toes with your right hand, feeling your spine elongate and the stretch extend through the back of your leg. If you aren’t able to touch your toes, rest your hand on your shin or thigh.

  3. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds as you inhale and exhale. Slowly come back up and repeat on the other side.

Hip Stretch

Your hip muscles can easily tighten, limiting your flexibility. Stretching this area reduces your risk of injury while in daily activities, playing sports or working out.

  1. Sitting in your chair, cross your right ankle just above your left knee. Use your right hand to gently press your right knee, feeling the stretch through the hip.

  2. Maintaining this position, lean forward while keeping a flat spine and relaxed shoulders. Inhale and exhale as you feel your body melt deeper into the stretch.

  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then slowly sit up straight and place your right foot back on the ground. Repeat on the other side.

Neck Stretch

It’s common for the upper trapezius muscle (which extends from the base of your skull to your collarbone) to get tight. The effects of this – “high” shoulders and tense neck muscles – may already be familiar to you. This stretch can help alleviate that tension:

  1. Sitting up straight in your chair, bend your head toward your right shoulder. Try to avoid leaning your whole body by keeping your shoulders level.

  2. Reaching up and over, place your right hand on the left side of your head and gently apply pressure, feeling the stretch through your neck and down your left shoulder.

  3. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure to breathe throughout the stretch.

  4. Release your hand and slowly bring your head back to the center. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Stretch

Carrying heavy bags, leaning in toward computer monitors – our lives are full of situations that lead us to round our shoulders forward, which encourages poor posture and muscle strain. To help this, try a few shoulder rolls:

  1. Inhale and simultaneously raise your shoulders up to your ears.

  2. Roll them back and exhale as you lower them, letting your shoulder blades slide down your back. Avoid rolling your shoulders forward, concentrating on the up-and-down motion. Your chest should feel open and proud.

  3. Repeat this motion for 20 to 30 seconds. When you’re finished, be mindful of the settled posture of your shoulders throughout your day.

Spine Stretch

Sitting all day can make your body feel compressed. Stretching and elongating your spine keeps the muscles and tissues limber while helping you feel taller. This stretch involves rotation through the spine:

  1. Sitting with both feet on the ground, place your left hand on your left knee and your right hand behind you on the seat.

  2. Inhale and twist your torso to the right, keeping your hips forward and your shoulders down. (Picture your spine winding like a spiral staircase.)

  3. Turn your head as if you’re looking for something behind you. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Feel your spine get taller, then exhale and unwind back to the front. Repeat on the other side.

  4. Do all these stretches to the best of your ability, remembering that your flexibility will only improve over time.

We hope you enjoyed the topic this week and have a great week! as always...

Be Kind, Do Fearless

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