Five Yoga-Inspired Stretches for Desk Dwellers to do Right NOW!

Looking for a relief from your 9-5? Try these moves to stretch out every part of your body that tenses up during the work day.

You roll out of bed in the morning, chug a cup of coffee, make your way to work, sit down at your desk and lock in for an 8+ hour work day. Sound familiar? We’ve been there. When you have so much to get done in a day, it’s easy to get lost in the motions. Your needs become an afterthought because you already have so much on your plate.

But the fact of the matter is this, and it’s simple: you will feel better, and therefore perform better, if you prioritize your own well-being.

Sitting at a desk all day means our muscles are essentially deactivated, which can wreak havoc on your hips, back, shoulders and neck, weakening them over time. We know that moving your body is essential to living a healthier life, but who’s got the time when you have to respond to that email, sit through that meeting, hit that deadline, etc.?

YOU have got the time! Yep, it’s true. We’ve put together this list of accessible stretches that you can do WHILE you respond to emails and DURING your team meetings.

Let’s start from the ground and work our way up.

Seated Pigeon

The hips are the biggest joint in the body. While sedentary, the hips are forced into one position, and one position only. This can affect not just the hips but also your low back and your legs. It’s important to keep the hips loose to stimulate blood flow through these areas.

You may even practice this stretch without knowing, but it’s important to do it on both sides of your body. Cross your ankle over the opposite knee, so your legs will make somewhat of a “4” shape. Keep your elevated foot flexed (this will protect the knee), and feel for reaching the elevated knee out to the side, and externally rotating the elevated thigh. You can even do this manually, by using your fingertips to rotate the thigh outwards. Take a deep inhale, and on your exhale, slowly lean forward with a straight spine. Take another deep inhale, and fold forward again on your exhale. Find your max, and hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Seated Twist

The spine is what holds it all together - it keeps you upright, and protects all of the functions of the body. Twisting is not only good for spinal health, but it also benefits your hips, shoulders and all surrounding muscles and tissue. If you can keep your spine from getting stiff, then you too will be more mobile.

Sitting with feet firmly planted and back straight, bring the back of one hand to the outside of the opposite knee. Take an inhale to lift the crown of your head up a little higher, and an exhale to twist to the right or left, towards the hand you brought across your body. It’s important to keep the hips square as you twist from the upper body, the shoulders. Inhale again, and as you exhale, feel for moving back the shoulder you are twisting towards. Hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Eagle Arms

It’s easy to overlook how tight your shoulders get from sitting hunched over at a desk all day. In fact, over time, the shoulders can round more and more forward simply from not noticing something like our posture! Use this pose to stretch the tops of the shoulders and increase mobility in the shoulders.

Bring your arms up overhead, and then bend at the elbows so your arms make a “goal post” or “cactus” shape. Cross one elbow under the other, so that the backs of your forearms and backs of the hands touch. Stay here, or double bind and bring the palms together, fingers face straight up. Wherever you are, inhale to squeeze the elbows together and exhale to push them forward, away from you. Hold for at least three deep breaths.

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Neck Stretch

We hold short-term stress in our necks and shoulders. So when you feel the pressure of that deadline, your shoulders can bunch up and tense up the muscles in your neck.

Relieve that in as little as a minute, by extending one arm at a downward-diagonal angle, pointing fingers to the spot where the wall meets the floor. Bring the opposite hand to the top of the head, take a deep inhale, and exhale to slowly lower the opposite ear down to the shoulder, so you are lengthening the side of the neck that your arm is extending from. Take at least three deep breaths.

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Pericardium Stretch

The secret weapon! The pericardium lining goes through the front of your chest, so this stretch can literally stretch your chest and your heart. In moments of stress and anxiety, it increases blood flow and oxygen to the heart and can help you calm down.

With a straight spine and feet planted, extend arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. Strongly flex fingertips up to the ceiling and spread them wide. From there, take a deep breath into your chest, and a strong exhale, imagining the exhale going out both sides of your chest, out of both palms. Hold the arms and hands in place as if you are keeping two walls from caving in on you. Take at least three deep breaths.

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You can do these stretches at any point during the day, for as long as you’d like. Just do them! And then take some time to notice how you feel before, during and after the work day. Let us know what you think about these in the comments, on Instagram or Facebook.






True Life: Kitchen Essentials. Part Two.

Namaste, OMies! Maggie, here. We are back with Part Two of my ride or die kitchen essentials. Part One covered the pantry, and this week we are taking a very exciting deep dive into my refrigerator. Never thought I would be typing that sentence, but I'm excited nonetheless! 

Every day I'm guiding clients to work from their own OM, and in order to effectively do that, it's important that I myself am operating from a place of truth. This, to me, means ensuring my body and mind are nourished with the proper nutrients, which can get a little tough with such a hectic schedule. 

After years of trial and error, I have finally found what I deem to be a sustainable balance. As with my pantry items from last week's post, these refrigerator staples allow me to make quick and easy meals, some of which I can eat on the go and others I can come home after a long day and have ready in 10 minutes.

Having said that, here are my Top 5 FRIDGE ITEMS:

*Disclaimer - I am not by any means a nutritionist or doctor. This is just what works for me, and I encourage you to find what works for you.*

Photo courtesy of  Raw Pet Kitchen

Photo courtesy of Raw Pet Kitchen

 

FRUITS

I could literally eat an entire pineapple if given the opportunity. I. Love. Fruit. Even in the dead of winter! I always have bananas and blueberries somewhere in my kitchen, and when I’m feeling it I’ll throw in some pineapple chunks, mango, strawberries, raspberries and/or blackberries. I try to reserve my fruit consumption to earlier in the day (not always successfully, but alas) so I have ample time to use the energy and digest the natural sugars.

*Pro tip*

Throw some fruit in the freezer, and when you want a sweet little treat, eat by itself or blend with choice of milk and nut butter. Sweet tooth = satisfied.

 

SUPER SEEDS

Chia, flax and hemp seeds are a part of my daily routine. I call them “super” because, yes, they are considered “superfoods,” but I also put them on a very high pedestal and credit them with making me feel SUPER.

I mix all three in a mason jar and store it in the fridge for freshness, and put them in smoothies, on oatmeal, salads.. really anything that makes remotely any sense. These are another source high in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which can also improve heart health and cholesterol levels. They provide a good serving of fiber, antioxidants, and are a complete protein.

 

ALL OF THE GREENS AND VEGGIES

This doesn’t need much of an explanation. We know that greens and vegetables fuel a healthy life, and I am all aboard that train. I restock my greens and vegetables supply every week, and typically go for spinach, arugula, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers, sweet potatoes and butternut squash. This can change with the season, but they all give me a lot of room to mix and match for my meals.

 

PRE-MADE DRESSINGS AND SAUCES

I am all about that meal prep life. I don't have a designated day to meal prep (though Sundays are a solid choice), I just do it whenever I have a few hours at home. This includes roasting vegetables, washing greens, cooking grains and proteins, and... mixing up my favorite dressings and sauces, because what is life without condiments? It's a sad life, that's what. 

But instead of using ketchup with mystery ingredients, prepackaged dressings with all of the oil and sodium, etc., I've started making my own! I know what you're thinking, "Maggie, that is too complicated, I'm not down with this." But let me tell you, if I can get down with it, then you can too. 

My favorite salad dressing is simply a mixture of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sometimes I will put a serving of tahini in there, and it has a faint resemblance to caesar dressing. My favorite sauce is a vegan cheese sauce I found on the Instagram; a blend of cashews, olive oil, water, nutritional yeast, paprika, salt and pepper. Sometimes I will throw in some spinach to get those extra greens, too! It's creamy, it's delicious, it's everything. I will prep a batch of both of these and store them in the fridge for the week. If you have questions on exact recipes, PLEASE ask, because I can talk about this stuff for hours.

 

NON-DAIRY MILK

I tend to avoid dairy. I’ve discovered I just feel lighter without it! So, in comes non-dairy milk, typically almond, for smoothies, oatmeal, coffee, and any recipe that calls for milk. I was never much a milk drinker, I actually don’t think I’ve ever had a full glass, so I suppose I don’t know what I’m missing by choosing this substitute, but it keeps my tummy happy!

 

And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my everyday life and it gave you some inspiration to find what makes YOU feel good! I’d love to hear your feedback or any questions in the comment section below, or reach out on Instagram.

 

Love you all,

Maggie

 

 

True Life: Kitchen Essentials. Part One.

As a full-time yoga and meditation teacher, I am always on the go, running to and from different parts of the city to get to class and meet students. It’s so important to me that while I do this, I can still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, a healthy lifestyle FUELS me while running around every day! So, how do I do this? Well, I’m glad you asked.

What we put into our bodies is the foundation that keeps us going every day. Food and nutrients energize us in the morning and energize us throughout the day. After years of trial and error, I have found a group of staple items to make quick and easy meals, some of which I can eat on the go and others I can come home after a long day and have ready in 10 minutes.

For someone whose health is very important to her, these are my ride or dies. This post will be broken up into two parts, pantry and fridge, because let’s face it -- there’s too much goodness for just one post.

Having said that, here are my Top 5 PANTRY ITEMS:

*Disclaimer - I am not by any means a nutritionist or doctor. This is just what works for me, and I encourage you to find what works for you.*

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FATS

In my pantry at any given time, you can find more than one jar of almond butter. If I’m feeling frisky, maybe I’ll throw in some cashew butter and/or pecan butter (I’m looking at you, Georgia Grinders). I also always have avocados, oils, butter/ghee and raw cashews.

These GOOD fats (*cue avocado meme, see below*) nourish and satiate your bod to keep you going through the day. They give not just your body energy but your brain (enter: omega-3 fatty acids). Minimal Wellness nutritionist Rebecca Shern, RD said these sources of nutrition also help maintain blood sugar levels and cut cravings. 

PROTEIN POWDER

During the week, I am typically running around and need quick and easy meals to keep me full. Protein powder, specifically designated as a meal replacement, gives me energy and satiety that lasts. I have tried many, many brands but have found love in a hopeless place - with the Garden of Life brand, a raw and plant-based protein with a billion superfoods (the website says 44 - but that’s almost a billion). I use protein powder every day mainly in smoothies or smoothie bowls. Do I need to clarify this isn’t an ad? I just love the stuff, and really feel it gives nutrients my body needs.

GRAINS/LEGUMES

Quinoa, lentils and rice, oh my! I don’t eat many animal products. I try to listen to my body and what it wants, and the past year or so it hasn’t had much of a need for meat. But, I digress, because of this, a lot of my meals come with a heavy helping of grains and/or legumes.

Quinoa is a complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids, and has twice the fiber of most other grains. It’s also a great source of iron, which is great for anemic people such as myself. Lentils are great for heart health, digestion and protein. Rice is pretty much just used when I don’t have quinoa or lentils.

SPICES, SEASONINGS

I take my spice game very seriously. Every single meal is spiced/seasoned heavily. I couldn’t even tell you measurements of what I use, because I tend to just dump everything onto food and see how it tastes. This *usually* ends well.

In my usual rotation is turmeric, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, nutritional yeast, black pepper and Himalayan pink salt. Sometimes I use these all together, sometimes I pick and choose. These all have a variety of health benefits; they provide a good dose of antioxidants, help with inflammation and more. Nutritional yeast is an amazing source of B-12, which we tend to be deficient in, protein and folic acid. Do your research - for all of the juicy benefits, and the delicious taste combos :).

RAW CHOCOLATE

I have a serious problem, and that problem is an insatiable need for chocolate! I am addicted to Eating Evolved caramel and sea salt coconut butter cups. They satisfy any and every sweet craving I have, and they’re made with real ingredients: coconut, cacao, coconut sugar, cacao butter and himalayan sea salt.

Growing up, my house was always stocked with snacks on snacks. You know that house in the neighborhood all the kids flocked to because of the snack selection? That was us. We had literal cakes for no apparent reason, no celebration (hi mom, I love you, thanks for making every day a celebration). Long story short, I have gone through life unable to shake this sweet tooth I developed. Instead of going crazy depriving myself, I found substitutes, which are arguably better than the real thing, with REAL ingredients. That’s the key, no matter what you’re eating - real, whole ingredients that are nice and easy on your beautiful body.

And for now, this is where I leave you. Leave your thoughts and/or questions in the comments below, or feel free to connect with me on Instagram or Facebook. Check back next week for Part TWO where we will take a thrilling and riveting look inside my refrigerator! 

Namaste, 

Maggie

How To Slow Down Time: Meditation And The Theory Of Relativity

By Sarah Vaynerman
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post

If asked what meaningful accomplishment one could achieve in just 10 minutes, most of us would be hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Ten minutes is nothing! But ask the average person to sit quietly and focus only on mindful breathing meditation for those same ten minutes and be prepared to be met with an incredulous scowl and an unwillingness to participate. Ten minutes, in the latter scenario, may as well be a lifetime. It's all relative.

Meditation can be scary. In an age where the demand for our attention is greater than ever - Psychology Today estimates that the average person has 25,000-50,000 thoughts per day -- the idea of sitting alone with one's thoughts can be understandably daunting. We're used to being at the beck and call of our smartphones, each notification supplying a very real hit of dopamine that validates our desire to be needed, liked, or even just noticed by the outside world. What most people fail to realize is that we've created a vicious cycle of false and unsustainable gratification.

Next time you sit down to meditate, think of it this way: You're giving yourself the gift of time and attention, indeed a commodity that becomes scarcer every day. Sure, meditation can make 60 seconds feel like an hour, but as human beings we have the power to choose whether that seemingly endless minute is ridden with debilitating anxiety or a blissful calm. We all have a choice, in any moment, to tune into our best self.

Try it right now by following these instructions: Close your eyes and take a deep breath for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of eight. As you inhale, really feel the cool air flowing in through your nose. Visualize the flow of oxygen through your respiratory system, traveling to all of the nooks and crannies of your body. As you exhale, imagine all of the stress you've been holding float away with your out-breath. Repeat five times. You've just activated your parasympathetic nervous system (ie your relaxation response) and all it took was one minute.

Congratulations! You just meditated. Didn't it feel nice?

I have great news for you -- that gift of serenity that you just gave yourself is available in infinite abundance and is instantly accessible anytime, anywhere. And if that minute of calm felt like much longer, you've just made the theory of relativity work in your favor, effectively enabling yourself to slow down your own perception of time and experience it at its best. In other words, you're learning how to manipulate the very concept of time (#mindblown) using breath-based meditation.

So next time you're feeling one of the many natural but unpleasant emotions that human beings face every day, just close your eyes, focus on your breath and give yourself a minute of relaxation that feels like an hour.

 

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Stress Management Techniques & Meditation with NYC's "Urban Monk", Yoga for the Office With Certified Corporate Yoga Teachers!

Picture this: it’s Monday evening and you’re in a packed room filled with NYC’s busiest professionals - in quiet meditation. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong! Nothing is impossible. Indeed, this was exactly the scene we set at last week’s Stress Management, Yoga and Meditation Workshop at OFFSITE, our preferred venue partner for corporate events.

On May 4th we held our first open-to-the-public event with Pandit Dasa, Work From Om® Urban Monk-in-Residence who spent more than fifteen years as an East Village monk, studying and applying wellness and meditation techniques and helping countless New Yorkers cope with stress. In this two-part event, attendees were engaged in Pandit’s Stress Management Talk & Guided Meditation, followed by a Mindful Movement asana sequence and demos led by our co-founder and certified yoga teacher Ashley Mancuso.

Here’s a summary of the takeaways for those of you who weren’t able to make it (don’t worry - more events are on the horizon!), and a refresher for those of you who were.

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4 Yoga Props You Can Keep Under Your Desk and Use at the Office (NYC, we're talkin' to you!)

4 Yoga Props You Can Keep Under Your Desk and Use at the Office (NYC, we're talkin' to you!)

No time for yoga? Nonsense! That excuse is as tired as your lower back after a day of crunching numbers at the office. In fact, you may be surprised at how much mind-body work you can fit in between your emails, calls, meetings, and coffee runs. Every moment offers an opportunity to check in with the body and the breath, and with these handy props it’s never been easier to make yourself at om right at the office.

Check out the 4 yoga props that you can keep under your desk - without losing precious legroom!

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Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Stress Management and Running From Tigers

Office-dwellers of New York City, I have a some questions for you. Just to humor me, please read them over and make a mental selection of your answers. Here we go:

  • What is more frightening: running from a tiger or making a presentation in front of co-workers / clients?

  • What is more intimidating: battling a predator for food or clamoring against another commuter for the last seat on a rush-hour subway car?

  • What requires more focus: escaping a fire or escaping a last-minute Friday 5pm assignment?

The choices seem obvious, right? Well... not quite, at least from a physical standpoint. Believe it or not, since all of these scenarios are stress-worthy by today’s standards, you’re likely to experience a pounding heart, sweaty brow, hands that get cold and clammy, and tense muscles as much from fighting for that rush-hour subway seat as you are from running from a tiger (albeit maybe not to the exact same intensity).

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