Imagine sitting at your computer for six to eight hours with your head twisted sideways and your pelvis contorted. If it sounds like a sure-fire way to invite neck and back pain into your life for a long stay, you’re right. But most of us think nothing of lying in those same postures night after night – and we have the chronic aches and pains to prove it.
To find out how your sleep posture may be affecting your body, take a fresh look at the way you usually lie in bed. Whether you sleep on your back, side or curled in a ball, the bottom line is the same: If you want to lose that neck and/or back pain, it’s important to keep your body in alignment while you sleep.
10 tips for improved sleep posture
- Try using a down pillow – they’re great for molding into the perfect shape for maximum comfort. For a super-cozy effect, lie on your back with your head on the pillow, grab the two bottom corners and pull upward to curve the pillow snugly around your head.
- For optimal body alignment, sleep on your back with your head straight. It evenly distributes your weight and ensures proper alignment. It also minimizes teeth-grinding.
- When lying on your back, keep your pillow under your head and neck, not your shoulders. It should fill the space between your neck and the mattress to keep your head in a neutral position. Use a thicker pillow when you lie on your side, so your head isn’t tilted downward. (Sleeping on your side with a too-thin pillow is like holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder for hours on end. Ouch!)
- If you habitually sleep with your arms under the pillow, your head may need to be higher. Try sleeping with two pillows.
- If your back aches when you lie on your back, place a pillow, bolster or higher wedge beneath your knees, to flatten out your back.
- If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips, pelvis and spine aligned, rather than pointing downward.
- When lying on your side, don’t turn your body so that your top leg crosses over your lower leg – it creates a twist in the lower back and may cause chronic backache.
- Twisting your shoulder downward as you sleep can cause ongoing neck pain. If you’re a side sleeper, try draping your arm over a pillow to keep your shoulder up and back.
- Avoid pointing your toes in bed. Loosen the sheets so your toes aren’t pressed downward to avoid getting cramps in your feet – pointing your toes while you sleep can also exacerbate restless leg syndrome.
- If you wake feeling stiff, stretch before you get up: Bring your knees to your chest, and/or put your legs in the air, and point and flex your feet.
Once you take a good look at how you sleep, you may be amazed at the stress your neck and back are under night after night. Straighten and support your shoulders, back and neck, and you’ll remove the conditions that cause chronic pain and sleep sounder. Your body will thank you.
When was the last time you really looked at your tongue? Did you know that all tongues are not the same? They often vary in size, shape, color, coating, and geographic features. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, all the variations indicate imbalances in your body’s energy flow.
Every medical field has to have a way to ‘see’ into the body. Western medicine uses CAT-scans, MRI, X-Rays, and blood work. Chinese medicine has other tools, including tongue diagnosis. Each feature variation on the tongue guides our understanding of how and where your health is blocked, inhibiting you from feeling your best.
In my practice at Canyon Ranch, I look at tongues all day long. The tongue mirrors your internal conditions. A tongue that is bright red often means something very different than one that is pale with a thick white coating. A tongue with toothmarks on the side can yield a different diagnosis than a tongue with a crack near the tip.
The ‘ideal’ tongue is one that is pink, with a thin white coating and good moisture, without any major cracking, toothmarks, or swelling. If your tongue doesn’t look like that, your energy may not be flowing optimally. Whether I’m selecting herbal medicines or acupuncture points, the tongue helps me to choose the most appropriate and specific ones for my patients.
By James Rohr, D.O.M
Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach
Believe it or not, exercise can be enjoyable, productive and even mentally stimulating! The body is the part of us that interacts with the environment through movement. The body has an innate intelligence that constantly looks to improving the efficiency of its operations, conserve energy and maximize resources.
The body, like the mind, constantly craves to learn. Part of the fun in learning new information is experiencing how its application can benefit your life.
Early movement evolution began when you learned to crawl and advanced to: walking, running, skipping, bounding and so on. Evolution continued as we entered gyms and exercise classes where new movements were learned such as: squatting, lunging, pressing, lifting etc…
Your movement evolution needs to continue. To change, grow and learn, the body needs to experience stimulation through new movements that it is not used to performing. From this, the desired results of increased metabolism, decreased fat and improved aesthetics will arise. More importantly, your health and longevity will improve and you will be on your way to feeling younger.
Jeffrey A. Dolgan, M.S., RCEP, HFI, BXMO
Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach
‘Tis the season. For family and friends. For dashing through the snow. For giving. That’s the biggie. The spirit of Christmas should not reside in the mall but within us. And not just on one day a year, but each day.
That’s one of the things I love about Canyon Ranch – the generosity and philanthropy of its founders and staff, something that resonates throughout the organization. Countless departments adopt families at Christmas and attempt to fulfill the wishes of the children. Many collect food for the local food bank to fill the families’ bellies as well.
In this organization, however, the spirit of giving back permeates the entire year – both outward and inward. Not only does our compassionate staff volunteer time and resources to organizations near and dear to them, but when a Canyon Ranch “family” member needs help, there’s always a raffle or bake sale to ease the burden.
In this season of joy and wonder, may you find the true meaning of the holiday and spread it out over the entire year. Others will benefit. But the most satisfaction will come back to you.
Happy Holidays to you and your families – and much health and happiness in the New Year.
Until next time,
Vice President of Sales & Strategic Alliances
I, along with many Canyon Ranch Tucson guests, had the thrill of dancing with a star last week. Louis Van Amstel may be best known as a 12-time dance champion, Emmy-nominated choreographer and consummate professional on the hit ABC show Dancing with the Stars, but last week he led his Louis’ Dance Blast cardio class to a packed gym of eager participants. The energy was incredible and the workout was amazing. Dozens of women doing ballroom-dance-type moves to heart-pounding non-stop music – Wow!
And Louis is as nice as he is talented. He graciously posed with every camera-toting guest who wanted a photo with him (including me!). He taught two classes each day for the three he was here – one advanced class to his students who accompanied him to the Ranch, and a more introductory class for those who hadn’t yet been exposed to his vigorous workout.
Louis believes that great dancers are made, not born, which contradicts most theories, including the classic cop-out from people who claim to have “two left feet.” Proof lies in the celebrity contestants on the show who are athletes, singers and actors with no dance experience or training who end up looking almost as professional as their partners by the end of the season. Similar to the Canyon Ranch philosophy which meets people where they are and helps them make enhancements in their lives.
Our hope is to have Louis not only return to Tucson but visit our other locations as well, so stay tuned to our website for an announcement of dates and locations. Until then, dancer wannabes can enjoy the always-popular Gotta Dance! in Tucson December 5 and in Lenox April 6.
Until next time,
Vice President of Sales & Strategic Alliances
You love your home, you love your work, and nobody could have better family and friends. Sure, there are some bumps in the road, but you have so much to be grateful for that every day should be a delight. And yet.
Even a life filled with blessings can feel humdrum if you don’t take time to notice what you have and renew your appreciation. Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., Life Management Director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, says this scenario is not uncommon. His advice: “Cultivate an attitude of mindfulness and openhearted curiosity.” You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to achieve this, either. “It’s not about seeing new things,” he says, “but seeing through new eyes.”
Ordinary is extraordinary
Seeing the same mountain every day does not make the mountain any less spectacular; you may stop noticing it, though. Jeff says that practicing mindfulness is a powerful way to keep wonder in everyday life. “Living in the present allows for full acceptance and appreciation of each moment,” he says. “We can bring this approach to everything we do, whether it’s in our relationships or at the office or in solitude.”
At Canyon Ranch, Jeff leads mindfulness workshops using the most ordinary of props: a raisin. “I give each person a raisin, and tell them they’re going to have a mindful encounter with that raisin.”
First, Jeff asks them to pay purposeful attention to the raisin, noticing its color, the shine, and its one-of-a-kind ridges and shape. How does it feel in the fingers – sticky, soft, mushy? Feel it against the lips, then the tongue. And, finally, take a bite. See what it tastes like, hear the sound of chewing. Are there personal memories that go along with eating raisins? Now … imagine eating a whole meal that way.
This same technique works in everything you do. If you truly focus on the person you’re with, the garden you’re planting or your morning walk, you can experience all the possible joy in that moment. “It’s living in 3-D,” Jeff says, “but you don’t need the glasses.”
A spot of courage
Jeff points out that it can take courage to break out of the normal routine and try something that might present surprises or challenge. On the other hand, staying safe all the time can turn your comfort zone into a rut.
“The idea is to break through any self-created perimeter,” Jeff says. “This could mean trying something new, or it could be going back to something you loved to do in college. If you played clarinet when you were young, picking up the instrument again brings familiarity and renewed excitement.”
Jeff says that trying something new doesn’t necessarily mean changing what you do, but trying it in a different way. If you’re an artist, you might switch from oils to pastels. A regular hiker? Explore another set of trails – new scenery, same benefit. If you’ve always taken the same classes at your local gym, try something different.
The mindfulness that you apply to a raisin or a walk in the woods can enrich your relationships, Jeff says. “You see each other differently when you’re in the moment, not judging the past or worrying about the future. You appreciate each other in new ways.”
Jeff says that couples can choose activities to share mindfully. It might be a quiet dinner, or an outdoor adventure with focused awareness and communication. You can share this mindful attention with anyone who’s important to you and see each other with fresh eyes.
Stages & phases
Some times of life offer themselves as opportunities for change and renewal. When children grow up and leave home, if you change careers, when you retire or go through any major life transition, you can find yourself at a loss for your next step.
“It can seem like you’ve lost your identity,” Jeff says, “but it’s also a chance to reinvent yourself or explore the things you’ve always wanted to.”
Consider professional athletes: If a player gets injured and returns to the sport later, he or she may never reach the same elite level again. And even an athlete without injuries will have a shorter career than people in most professions. This leaves relatively young people without the full-time involvement in the sports they loved – and it gives them plenty of opportunities to explore the areas they’ve set aside.
“Retirement for anyone at any age can be a crucial moment,” Jeff says. “Maybe that person had a great career, but family life has suffered. This can be the time to work on that. Or it’s the chance to do that one thing you’ve always meant to do – sail around the world, audition for community theater or go back to a long-ignored hobby.”
Young children & pets
One of the best ways to get into the present moment is to hang out with masters of mindfulness – little children and pets. If you play with a child, you get a second chance at experiencing a child’s feelings. Pets will also teach you how to enjoy the moment. Have you ever met a dog who worried about the economy?
To see how effective these masters are, just bring a baby or a puppy into the board room and watch the world change.
The world’s new challenge – uni-tasking
In this era of multitasking, people often feel unproductive if they can’t text, talk and change a tire at the same time. It may seem that the more things you do at once, the greater the achievement. The opposite might be true.
Jeff’s suggestions for renewal and appreciation through mindfulness are really about focusing on one thing at a time. How can you really appreciate anything if you’re mind is constantly jumping around and putting thoughts on hold? Being mindful makes life feel fresh every day. Think of it as uni-tasking – focusing on the one thing you’re doing now. Can you do it?
The Elephant & the Rope
Elephants in India are trained not to roam by this simple technique: A stake is planted in the ground and strong rope is tied to one foot. The elephant comes to realize it can only walk in circles as far as that rope reaches. At some point, the rope is removed, yet the elephant stays within that circle. It could move anywhere, if it knew it could.
Luckily, the only rope on our legs is imaginary. Explore!
Good news – holiday desserts can contain good-for-you ingredients and taste sublime without adding unwanted extra inches.
Pastry Supervisor Andrew Ruga, who runs the bake shop at the Double U Café at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, says Canyon Ranch recipes – including pastries – are specially created to taste delectable while containing a minimum of fat and sugar. It’s simply a matter of making replacements, like substituting unhealthy amounts of butter in a cookie recipe with low-fat cream cheese.
Less is more
Subtly reducing portion sizes is another easy way to enjoy delicious holiday desserts with fewer calories. Bake pies in a 7-inch pan instead of a 9-inch one. Make desserts into a feast for the senses by adding a twist of tangy lemon, a seductive swirl of low-fat chocolate sauce or a sprinkling of colorful berries, and serve them in small, attractive dishes to create culinary memories that will last.
“Everyone loves desserts, but none of us likes the spare tire that comes from eating too many of them,” says Andrew. “Producing great-tasting desserts that are good for you allows you to enjoy a little treat without the guilt.”
In fact, adds Chrissy Wellington, M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N., C.P.T, a nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, desserts can be good for your health. “Noshing on low-calorie fruit along with your dessert adds sweetness and nourishment.” Better yet, she says, “New research has found that one ounce of 70% cocoa dark chocolate daily can decrease your risk of stroke by 30%. So go ahead and have a little slice of heaven!”
Holidays are on the way – tips for healthy eating:
- Don’t feel you have to say yes to every dessert or beverage offered to you.
- Chew or sip slowly, enjoy the music, laughter and experiences around you.
- Recognize when you’re full.
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine. If you do overindulge a little, challenge yourself with increased movement the next day.
- Begin each day with a protein-rich breakfast. Eat fiber-rich meals throughout the day.
- Remember holidays are only a few days. Stay within healthy calorie ranges by choosing smaller portions of higher calorie desserts.
- Treat yourself to a taste – moderation is the key to success.
“Food, especially dessert, tends to be the foundation of celebration during the holiday season,” says Chrissy. “You don’t have to deprive yourself during this festive time, but keeping control and a little self-restraint will help you stay ahead of the game.”
Last Saturday most people around the country set their clocks back one hour. Here in Massachusetts it will start getting dark at about 5pm. Many people dread the disappearing daylight and the five months of cold, dark days that will follow. At Northern latitudes many people experience a lower mood, irritability, decreased energy, and changes in appetite, starting around now and lasting until spring.
If you find that your mood bottoms out when the days get shorter, here a several strategies to boost your spirits through the fall and winter:
- Make your seasonal mood-boosting plan now, including light, exercise, social contact and constructive attitude adjustment. Get to know what works best for you and build it into your life. For instance, some people find a mid-winter trip to a sunny climate helps them make it through the season. Others find their salvation on the ski slopes or at the gym, or in coming together with friends and family.
- Let there be light! Getting exposure to sunlight can be a powerful way to boost your mood. In fact, on a sunny day, the brightness outdoors is many times greater than the light emitted from a high intensity light fixture. If you can go out for a walk when the sun is out, put on your overcoat and get outside. Don’t be daunted by the cold, but do be careful in sub-zero temperatures to protect yourself from frostbite.
- If you can’t get outdoor light, consider a high intensity indoor light fixture. Thirty minutes of exposure a day has been found to be effective for most people who suffer from low moods in the fall and winter.
- Get moving! Boosting your exercise in the winter can provide a powerful lift to your mood and your energy. If your climate or job makes it difficult to get outside during the day, find ways to work out at home or the gym.
- Eat for energy throughout the fall and winter, combining protein and complex carbohydrates. Limit your consumption of alcohol, sugar and high fat foods, all of which may temporarily lift your mood and then leave you feeling tired soon after.
- Change your thoughts. Learning to think less negatively will help improve your mood. If you notice yourself feeling less peppy or enthusiastic during the winter, you can accept that feeling as a normal response to the dark and cold of winter without getting down on yourself about it. You can also respond to negative thoughts like “I hate winter”, “I can’t deal with this”, or “Winter is never going to end” with “I know what to do to feel better”, and “Winter is a challenge and I become stronger by meeting the challenge”.
- Reach out. When the outer world is colder and darker, your connections with friends and family offer love, warmth and stimulation.
- Reach in. Your inner life can be a source of strength and inspiration when the forces of nature lie dormant. Prayer, meditation, and inspirational reading provide inner light that can illuminate your journey through the darker days of fall and winter.
- If you are experiencing seasonal depression that is impairing your ability to function, or if you have had a pattern of serious recurrent seasonal depression, consult with a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker or mental health counselor who has experience with seasonal affective disorder.
Jeff Rossman, Ph.D.
Director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox
What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. – Yiddish proverb
According to Ann Pardo, Director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson –
and a very funny lady – the reasons are endless.
To begin with, there are demonstrable physical benefits.
“A good belly laugh immediately recalibrates the body’s CO2/oxygen balance, strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, massages the heart and other internal organs and stimulates the cardiovascular system,” says Ann.
The benefits of a laugh-filled life reach much further, of course. A person who sees humor in the absurdity of the world, and who is ready to laugh at his or her own reactivity and mistakes, has a way to reroute anger, reframe fear, and build an escape hatch from stress.
“When I give presentations on laughter, though,” says Ann, “I’m always careful to emphasize that sarcasm is never humor. We are not talking here about biting wit that hurts – we’re talking about good-hearted, generous humor.
“One observation I like is that the best sort of humor is when you wake up and smile because the sun has risen. Genuine humor has a strong component of positive acceptance of the way things are, of letting the bad things roll off you.”
Asian societies widely revere an embodiment of the power of laughter – the Laughing Buddha, known as Budai in China and Hotei in Japan. The fat, broadly smiling Zen monk is appreciated for embodying the principles of tolerance, contentment and lightness of spirit, thus helping bring heaven to earth.
“In the West, we tend to think of holy people as being serious and solemn, but there’s nothing incompatible about enlightenment and a sparkling sense of humor. Anyone who’s ever heard the Dalai Lama speak knows that the spirit of laughter – of self-mockery and even of mischief – is very much alive in him,” says Ann.
“I strongly suggest to guests that they try to laugh from their bellies at least once a day, which requires connecting each day to things that make you laugh.” Among her suggestions:
- Read the comics
- Watch comedies – it doesn’t matter whether they’re sophisticated or dopey, as long as they make you laugh
- Listen when someone tells a joke, and, if you like it, retell it
- Take the time to read the funny emails that your friends circulate
- Visit comedy sites online
- Relish the antics of your pets
- Spend time with small children, who, like animals, are effortlessly funny
Another good strategy is to deliberately seek out the people you know who make you laugh, individuals who see the funny side of things.
“Just a quick exchange with someone who makes you smile can be a healing and refreshing break in the day.”
Joke of the Day:
A man wants to get his dog into a variety show, so he grabs the reluctant theater manager for a quick audition.
“This is a talking dog,” he explains.
“Yeah? Well, show me,” the manager says.
“Okay,” the man says to the dog, “What do you call the thing on top of a house?”
“Roof,” says the dog.
“Right. Now, what’s the opposite of ‘smooth’?”
“Rough,” says the dog.
“Correct again! Now, who’s the greatest baseball player of all time?”
“Ruth,” says the dog.
“Just what I thought,” says the manager. “That dog is just barking.” He walks off in disgust.
The dog turns anxiously to the man and asks, “Should I have said ‘DiMaggio’?”
Some people might break out in hives at the mere thought of hosting a dinner party for a couple dozen people. Me? I orchestrate them! You may already know that cooking and entertaining are two of my passions. Put them together and I am in heaven – which is why I invited 20 trail-riding friends to a dinner party at my home recently.
I get excited by every aspect of entertaining, starting with menu planning. Great parties need great food – and I try to serve what I know my guests will like. A savvy hostess always tailors the evening – menu, company, ambience – to her guests’ pleasure. Bottom line: it’s the synergy of the people at the party that constitutes a successful event, so it’s important to invite groups who will mix well together. I also like to include friends who know my kitchen, because inevitably they’ll want to help.
In a “past life” I was a wedding planner, and now at the Ranch I often coordinate outside events with partners, so entertaining is second nature to me. Is it a lot of preparation? You bet it is! For me, the satisfaction comes in watching my guests enjoy themselves and each other as a result. And to hear them tell me they can’t wait to come back!
Until next time,
Vice President of Sales & Marketing