My favorite way to unwind!
We all have days when we feel absolutely exhausted by the time we get home. Have you ever felt like your legs have have stopped working and your hips are made of molten steel? I know the last thing you want to think about is stretching, but stay with me – this stretch is absolutely worth it. It'll make your hips, low back, legs and shoulders feel like they can actually function again.
Begin by laying flat on your back on a moderately hard surface (a yoga mat on the floor is good; a mattress or couch is not a great choice.) Bend your knees softly so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are together. Stretch your arms out on the floor at shoulder level.
Keeping your knees together, slowly let your legs fall to the left side of your body, keeping your arms on the floor. This will pull your entire pelvis to the side of your body. Take a breath.
Slowly drag your right arm on the floor up over your head, tracing a large circle above your body, ending on top of your other arm. This will twist your body completely into a fetal position on to your left side. This is one side of the stretch.
Move your legs and arms back to the starting point and repeat the motions to the other side.
If you notice that your shoulders, neck or clavicle are tight at any point while moving your arm, pause there, take another breath, and try to consciously relax that specific area. Don't let your legs come apart, and don't elevate your arms above the level of the floor. Attempt to keep your core muscles tightened, not letting your low back come up off the ground.
The concept of this stretch is that your arms are like the hands on a clock, slowly moving in a circle above your body. Your legs will pull your hips in opposition to this shoulder movement at first, which will stretch your lower spine. This means that this very simple movement stretches both the upper and lower body; and because it's so slow and controlled, also creates a sense of calm and relaxation.
This is my favorite stretch (to force myself) to perform at the end of a long day. It only takes a few minutes, and make the entire body feel amazing. Should you find that you body still needs some extra attention, feel free to make an appointment with me for a massage therapy session. I'm happy to schedule you at the end of your day, for when this feeling strikes. I'll see you in my Westport office!
My all-time favorite chocolate snack!
We all need a little treat sometimes. But just because we have chocolate and sugar cravings, we don't have to resort to crummy checkout aisle candy bars. These little wonders are easy to make, vegan, gluten free, provide a kick of energy, and can even be frozen- seriously, is there a more perfect snack?! I've used my favorite combination of nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), but you can use any unsalted variety or combination you like. You can also roll them in anything you like; I've used cocoa powder, chopped almonds and goji berries here, but coconut flakes or any other dried fruit would also be delicious. These keep best refrigerated, but will make it through a day in your lunch bag (or beach bag!)
Yield about 24 truffles
16 oz (or about 2 1/2 cups) whole pitted dates
2 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I use equal quantities raw walnuts, raw almonds, and toasted, skinned hazelnuts
½ cup cocoa powder, plus 1/4 extra, for rolling
2 Tablespoons agave (omit if you prefer; they'll still be sweet!)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Extra cocoa powder, chopped goji berries, chopped toasted almonds, for rolling
Place dates in a medium bowl. Cover with hot tap water. Let soak while you continue with the recipe.
Place nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until very fine, but not quite turned into nut butter.
Add half the soaked dates and process again until completely smooth. (No need to squeeze all the liquid out of the dates.) Add the other half of the dates and process again. You may need to pulse the motor and scrape down the sides a few times to get everything to combine. Reserve the date soaking liquid.
Add the cocoa powder, agave, vanilla and salt and process until completely combined. The mixture should be as smooth as possible, yet thick and sticky. At this point, you may need to add some of the date soaking liquid in order to make the mixture come together. It should be completely smooth, but not soft or watery. Add the liquid only a little at a time until the cocoa powder is completely incorporated. I find that the fresher the dates are, the less water I need.
Spread the cocoa powder out on a sheet of parchment paper. Spoon the truffle mixture onto the paper and roll in the cocoa powder, and in other toppings, if desired. Refrigerate immediately and for a few hours for best texture. Keep refrigerated for a few weeks, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 5 months. Enjoy!
And when you're ready to treat your muscles, make a massage therapy appointment at my Westport office. I subtly suggest eating these after your session for an amazing day!
You may not even realize you need this!
In everyday movement, we may take our clavicle (collarbone) for granted. It attaches to to significant muscles and provides critical stability. When it's not moving as freely as it should, we can feel as if we can't take a deep breath, can't stand up straight, and can't move our neck and head easily. Understanding how to mobilize the clavicle, therefore, becomes very important.
The clavicle is sits above the first rib, at the sternum, and notches nicely into a part of the scapula (shoulder blade) called the “acromion process.” Understanding both of these attachments is critical in understanding how to mobilize this bone: The sternum has little or no movement in daily life; the scapulae, on the other hand, have an incredible range of movement. Every time we move our arms, the scapulae move, and therefore, the clavicle moves. The clavicle can also move independent of the sternum. This occurs when we shrug our shoulders, for example. Many ligaments are located in this region, and their job is mainly to keep the clavicle from dislocating. While we can't “stretch” ligaments, we can move them through the actions they allow, mobilizing and creating the feeling of freer movement.
As we learned above, to stretch the clavicle completely, we need to move it both at the sternal and scapular attachments. Although these motions are simple, we don't perform them in daily life, so take these stretches slowly and mindfully.
Begin standing with your arms at your sides, slightly pulled toward your back.
Flip your palms up so they are facing away from your body.
Touch your thumbs and fingertips together, but don't interlace them.
Keeping your fingertips touching, slowly move your palms toward the ceiling.
Your focus with this movement is not squeezing your scapulae together, it's moving your clavicles away from your sternum and up toward the ceiling. Gently let your neck and head fall backwards to increase the stretch. You may find that one side of your chest/neck is tighter at this point; you can move your chin gently toward the side that hurts, then the opposite side, and even in small circles to help mobilize the joints.
Don't hold the stretch for a very long time; you may tense more muscles than joints you help. After the stretch, move your arms freely and try to let your shoulders relax completely.
This is a fantastic stretch to try after sitting for a long time, like at your desk, in a car or on a plane. It's also great first thing in the morning as our clavicles often get a little squished while we sleep. Give it a try and I'm confident you'll feel that you can move your upper body more easily. As for the attached muscles, I can help you work that out at your next massage therapy session in my Westport office. I'll see you there!