Strengthening Your Core to Prevent Injury and Stay Healthy

Your core is your center of balance and strength for almost everything you do.

Your core muscles are a group of muscles running down the center of your body. These include your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and your pelvis. These core muscles work together to help you
maintain balance, posture and strength.

A strong core is good for your overall health, but it’s especially important to work on strengthening this group of muscles if you suffer with any kind of lower back pain. Working on your core can help you to improve your posture, which prevents aches and pains.

If you’re sporty, it’s wise to keep your core nice and strong because a strong set of core muscles is vital for athletic performance and helps to prevent injuries.

Can I Strengthen My Core?
It’s easy to strengthen these important muscles with a few exercises you can try at home. They also have the added benefit of helping to tone your abdominal muscles, back, glutes, and legs.

Easy core strengthening moves:

1. Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates type exercises are very popular workout routines that are aimed toward building a strong and healthy core. You can find yoga and Pilates videos online, on DVD, or even learn poses from books and magazines. These are easy to do from home and most routines do not even require any sort of equipment.

Yoga Moves: http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/6-yoga-poses-rock-solid-core

Pilates Moves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QURr_ujngCg

2. Planking
The Plank is a classic core strengthening move that’s fiendishly hard at first but gets easier with practice. Planking is great for the whole body, from your arms all the way down through your legs, and is thought to be better exercise for your abs than crunches.

Start by getting into push-up position on the floor, but rest on your arms at 90-degree angles. Straighten your whole body out, through to your feet up on your toes. Use your core muscles to hold the position for as long as possible. Each day, hold the Plank pose for a few more seconds.

Here’s a tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz0oFaVGuh4

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3. Balance ball
Using a balance ball helps you to focus on your core muscles when doing certain exercises. You can use a balance ball to do push-ups, crunches, and more. Even simply sitting on a balance ball instead of a chair helps you strengthen your core muscles during the day.

4. Bicycles
Starting in crunch position with your hands behind your ears, reach your elbow to the opposite knee, extending the other leg out. Repeat the motion, alternating sides, and working your legs as if riding a bicycle. Continue the motion for an extended period of time, at least 30 seconds, before resting and then repeating.

Try to make time for a few core-strengthening sessions a week. Your whole body will thank you for it!

What Kind of Massage Should YOU Get? Types of Massage

What’s the Best Massage for You?
Sometimes it can be confusing – you know you’re stressed and everybody tells you that you need a good massage, but what type of massage should you get? There are so many options available, how do you know which one will suit you?

That’s where your friendly massage therapist comes in – if you’re not sure, just call or drop in for a chat and we can help you find the perfect technique and style for your needs. If it’s your first massage, too, we can put you at ease and make sure you know exactly what to expect.

In the meantime, here’s the lowdown on some of the different types of massage and what they can do for you.

Swedish Massage
This is one of the most popular massages – it’s sometimes called the ‘relaxation massage’ which is a clue; it’s absolutely great for getting rid of stress and anxiety. It’s also a good one to try if you’re new to massage as it doesn’t work too deeply into your muscles and the techniques we use are all designed to relax and de-stress.

So what can you expect? Well, we use long, flowing strokes all over your body, combined with kneading, tapping and circular motions. We’ll also use oils or lotions to make the massage smoother, and feel great for you. If you’ve got tight muscles, aches and pains, we can increase the pressure where you need it more. Swedish massage is helpful if you’re experiencing pain from conditions like sciatica and arthritis, and it can also give your circulation a boost as all the techniques are designed to help get blood pumping around your body.

Hot Stone Massage
This is a supremely relaxing massage where the therapist uses specially designed warmed stones to increase its effects. This one is designed for pure relaxation and is an indulgent treatment that’s also great for first-timers. While you’re enjoying your massage, we carefully place the smooth, heated stones on different areas of your body. Sometimes they are also used as part of the massage to help get deeper into any troublesome areas; the heat from the stones helps loosen the muscles even more. This one will leave you feeling calm and relaxed.

Thai Massage
Thai massages can be like a mini-workout so they are best for people who have had massages in the past but want to try something different! Thai massage is an incredibly effective, energizing treatment where your therapist will use techniques like deep stretching, acupressure and yoga style positions to give you a really intense massage. Thai massage is really good for you if you have a lot of muscle tension, posture problems, or headaches caused by bad posture. It can feel a little uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. Always tell your therapist if the pressure is too much, or if you’d like more.

Reflexology
Reflexology is so much more than just a foot massage. It’s based on a holistic therapy which teaches that there are pressure points on your feet which correspond to different areas of your body, and if there’s something out of balance in your body, working on the area of your foot that relates to it can help to relieve the symptoms. It’s also very calming. When you have a reflexology treatment, your therapist will work on these different pressure points, paying attention to any where she feels a blockage. Even if you normally squirm when your feet are touched, the specific techniques and pressure we use are really relaxing and most people say they find reflexology enjoyable.

Deep Tissue Massage
This is more of a remedial massage than a relaxing one; ideal for anyone who does a lot of sport or has very tight muscles. It can feel uncomfortable as your therapist will work deeply into your muscles and connective tissues to release any tension in them. It can feel slightly painful although people tend to describe it as a ‘good hurt’ – and you may feel a bit of soreness afterwards, especially if it’s your first deep tissue massage. Most people agree that it’s worth it as you’ll feel amazing afterwards!

Shiatsu
Shiatsu is another type of massage that is carried out fully clothed, but using quite intense techniques designed to deeply relax you, and improve your wellbeing. Your massage therapist will use her fingers and thumbs, and occasionally knees and feet, to apply pressure where it’s needed. You’ll usually lie on a mat on the floor or a specially designed bench. Although it’s quite an intense massage, you shouldn’t feel pain or soreness afterwards.

With so many different massages to try, why not try them all?

Common Health Problems: What Can Massage Do For YOU?

Massages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?

Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!

Stress
It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”

Lower Back Pain
This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.

Sports Injuries
Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.

Joint Stiffness
Massage can be a blessed relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported some relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.

Circulation
There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.

Migraine symptoms
Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.

Skin Cancer
Of course, we wouldn’t tell you that massage cures cancer; it can’t. But in some cases your massage therapist can notice abnormalities in your skin that you can’t see or just haven’t picked up on, and alert you to them. Regular massage can also be good for your skin as it gets the circulation going and the nourishing oils used in a treatment help to keep skin feeling soft.

Allergies
A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.

Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.

Three Tips to Quiet Your Mind

If you are not extremely busy in today’s society, you are the exception and not the rule. We are all in high gear; we overextend, overachieve, and overstress ourselves to the point of breaking. This can have lasting negative effects on our health! Here are a few ways to break the cycle:

Gratitude
It is so easy to be upset when things do not go our way. From the moment we spill our coffee, lock our keys in the car, and forget our lunch, a spiral of circumstances can set us off into a tailspin of negativity. We can choose to stay in a state of discontent and let that dictate our day, or we can be grateful for the other things in our lives even if they are not present in front of us right now.

Did you ever notice that when something nice happens, we tend to smile for a moment and then move on? However, when something goes wrong, we feel the need to tell everyone and anyone that will
listen. It is in those exact moments that we need to focus on what we are grateful for, and that is how we can instantly change our perspective and attitude.

Keeping the focus on gratitude offers your mind something to smile about, regardless of outside circumstances. Focusing on people, places, and even things that make you grateful, gives your mind a break from stress!

Stillness
Everyone has a busy schedule; that is a fact. We all tend to create schedules that are overflowing and then complain that we do not have time for ourselves! Take a good hard look at your schedule and see what you can delete and what you can delegate. If you are going to have a healthy mind, you need to take care of it just as you would your body, and that means giving it some rest.

One tip for quieting your mind is to put it on your schedule. Put it in big red pen on your calendar, text yourself a reminder, and place it on your list of things to do this week. Take time for you.

Stay in the Moment
Being in the moment has become a cliché; however, if you really take the time to focus on what it means, you can start to practice quietening your mind. Focus on what you are doing at the exact moment you are doing it. If you are washing a dish, focus on the water, the soap bubbles and the dish in your hand. When you take time to do this, you will be in the moment and not two days from now when something big is scheduled.

Your Mini-Guide To A 1-Day Detox

By Dr. Tiffany Lester

Considering doing a cleanse this fall after a summer of indulgence? Doing a one-day detox after a long weekend or vacation can be just what your body needs to get back on track. If you’re suffering from any of these common ailments, your body is practically begging you to hit the reset button:

Allergies
Bloating, and/or constipation
Weight gain, especially abdominal
Insomnia
Joint pains
Fatigue
Low energy

Why fall?

As the seasons change, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate our habits and cleanse our bodies, homes, and minds. Choose one sacred day this month and devote it to your health. Try to combine it with a digital detox by turning off the phone, computer, and TV and enjoy time alone or with family.

Or spend a portion of the day tackling a closet or drawer that needs to be cleaned out. (Think you’re bad at decluttering? Here’s some motivation.) Choose one physical thing that needs de-cluttering in your life and do it today.

Your Mini-Guide To A 1-Day Detox

Morning

When you wake up: Drink warm lemonade. Mix 8 ounces warm (not hot!) water with half a lemon (freshly squeezed) to hydrate your body and stimulate digestion.

Meditation: Set yourself up for success and quiet your mind with a 10-minute meditation. To settle yourself before you begin, take 10 deep cleansing breaths. Not sure how to begin meditating? Try the Calm app, which has a timer with guided meditations for every mood.

Breakfast: Start your day by flooding your body with antioxidants, thanks to a green smoothie. So many delicious ways to go about this, but go easy on the fruit. A simple rule of thumb is to use three servings of vegetables for every piece of fruit. My favorite combo is the following:

A handful of spinach
A cucumber
Half avocado
1 inch freshly peeled ginger
Pear
Add filtered water or coconut water then blend for 30 seconds.

Mid-morning: Enjoy a cup of matcha tea and a handful of raw, unsalted almonds. This will calm any cravings and the matcha tea will give you a calm alertness for the rest of the day.

Afternoon

Lunch: Avoid the afternoon slump by eating a light lunch. Try a marinated kale salad with a cup of carrot ginger soup. Add as many different colors as you can to your salad including a healthy fat, like avocado. Avoid store-bought dressings as they’re often filled with preservatives and hidden sugars. Dress your salad with extra virgin olive oil and the other half of your lemon from the morning.

Exercise: Go for a light 20-minute walk outside after lunch — without your phone.

Mid-afternoon snack: If you’re hungry, eat a half cup of goji berries with 8 ounces filtered water. If possible, take a 20-minute nap!

Evening

Unwind: To aid your body in releasing toxins, unwind with a hot stone massage or an infrared sauna treatment. This will provide relief for sore joints and muscles while also helping you to relax.

Dinner: Keep it simple while focusing on whole foods. Try roasted chicken with brussels sprouts; cruciferous vegetables are great for liver detoxification.

Nightcap: Drink a cup of hibiscus tea. Filled with antioxidants, it reportedly helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol while also supporting your digestive system. When buying at the store, make sure it is caffeine free as some brands blend with green tea. I like to enjoy mine in a wine glass – it looks just like red wine!

Gratitude: Write down three things for which you are most grateful today in a journal or scrap of paper. The practice of writing versus thinking has a way of activating the pleasure centers in our brain. Go the extra mile, and add in another 20-minute meditation before drifting off to a restorative sleep.

Notice how your body feels after just one day of avoiding common food triggers like gluten, corn, dairy, caffeine, and sugar. I hope you’ll feel fantastic!

Combating Stress

How Much Would You Pay to Combat Your Stress?

Melissa Leong | March 11, 2014 4:39 PM ET
More from Melissa Leong | @lisleong

According to a 2006 study for the Fraser Institute, people spent an average of $365 on massage therapy, up from $211 in 1997 — and almost 60% of the cost was covered by insurance.

Knowing that stress comes with nasty health consequences such as heart disease and stroke, it makes sense for us to spend money to fight it.

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But as our stress levels soar, many of us are reluctant to “treat” ourselves. Even when our company health insurance helps cover the costs, the vast majority don’t fully utilize those benefits.

Massage and combating stress in Longmont Colorado

Great-West Life Assurance Company reports that even the most basic of stress reduction techniques, massage therapy, is only claimed by 27% of its plan members. In 2001, only 10% took advantage of the benefit.

The use of other paramedical benefits such as physiotherapy and psychology services are used by a still smaller percentage of those eligible. Only 4% of members made claims for psychological services in 2011, compared to 2% in 2001.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to a 2011 Sanofi Aventis Canada Healthcare survey said that workplace stress had been so overwhelming that they’d been physically ill in the last 12 months.

“Stress is a reality for most of us and to think that you don’t need to do things to manage it would be a little irresponsible,” Jasmine Baker, president of For The Love of Food, an event planning business based in Toronto. She works out more than four times a week and once a month sees a massage therapist ($100) and visits a spa ($250). “These are things that allow me to physically keep doing what I love. For me, it’s the cost of doing business.”

Nearly one-quarter of all Canadians (23.5%) aged 15 and older reported most days were “extremely or quite a bit stressful,” according to a 2010 Statistics Canada report. Stress rates were highest for 35- to 54-year-olds.

Yet, a number of Canadians don’t even use their allotted vacation time to unwind. Twenty-seven percent of Canadians in 2013 were carrying over unused vacation from the previous year, an Expedia.ca survey said.

So take time off. Save money throughout the year to fund a relaxing getaway. “Getting away from it all helps to put things in perspective,” says Kelsey Matheson, a Toronto resident and one of the owners of the Anamaya Resort in Costa Rica, which ranges from $795 to $1,895 for a week-long retreat.

Or visit a wellness centre specifically for stress. The Gaia Clinic in Canmore, for example, features a restorative health week which ranges from $3,500 to $5,000. The program includes services such as psychological work, stress testing, brain testing, nature walks, meditation, yoga and massage therapy.

“If I hadn’t it done the investment, what would have been the other option?” says Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford who attended the clinic last year to curb stress. “It would’ve been to carry on struggling, carry on diminishing my health and had even more serious consequences in health and lost career time down the road.”

These are things that allow me to physically keep doing what I love. For me, it’s the cost of doing business

At the least, use your work benefits, including any spending accounts that your company might have for health-related expenses, that’s what they are there for. More than 23 million Canadians have supplementary health coverage for things such as massage and psychological services, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says. (The association says stress and mental-health related problems represent 40% to 50% of short-term disability claims in some of Canada’s largest corporations.)

According to a 2006 study for the Fraser Institute, people spent an average of $365 on massage therapy, up from $211 in 1997 — and almost 60% of the cost was covered by insurance.

Some benefit plans require that you have a doctor’s note for services to be covered. Be mindful that if you ask your doctor for a recommendation to see a psychologist for stress, for example, this could affect your future applications for long-term disability coverage. In their underwriting process, an insurance company could choose to exclude coverage for stress leave.

“If somebody has a boyfriend with a break-up or a parent died or they went through a job change, these are very stressful situations and people often can cope with it themselves or they need some help. If it was a time-bound situation, there should be no problem getting disability insurance without an exclusion,” says Mark Halpern, a certified financial planner with illnessprotection.com who sells insurance.

Meanwhile, some people find spending money stressful and indeed, financial issues are one of the top stressors in people’s lives. In this case, opt for free relief: go for regular walks at lunch, take up meditating and interact more with your social circle.

Another option would be to rejig your budget to cut back on some expenses to make room for more stress-relieving expenses, especially if the stress is having an adverse affect on your health.

Jennifer Podemski says that any extra money she has is going to her well-being.

The 41-year-old Toronto resident was producing a television show and a movie while racing to finish by 4 p.m. to pick up her two and three-year-old from daycare when her stress caught up to her and manifested into a health condition.

One morning in November, she woke up and her legs felt as if they were filled with cement and being pricked by needles. To help de-stress, in December, she purchased a $2,000 infrared sauna for her home.

“These are the kinds of investments that I’m making for my health and my sanity so I’m a better mom, a better entrepreneur, a better person, a better wife.”