• Take the Pledge to Simplify Your Holidays

    The holidays, meant to be a time of peace, reflection, and celebration, too often exhaust rather than uplift us. If you sometimes feel trapped by the shopping, spending, crass displays and frenzied preparations, you aren’t alone.

    The Simplify the Holidays Pledge offers many fun and creative actions you can take to add more meaning and environmental mindfulness to the holiday season. Celebrate what really matters: creating a meaningful life, contributing to community and society, valuing nature, and spending time with family and friends. This year, take the pledge to make your holidays more simple!

    Below is a list of ideas to help you celebrate the holidays with more joy and less stress.
    Pledge to five actions – or more! – that you will adopt this year:

    • Give the gift of time by creating your own gift card for a service (e.g. babysitting, carwashing, petsitting, chores, making dinner, organizing an outing)
    • Give a handmade gift like a memoir of cherished memories with that person, a book of family recipes, a collage of pictures and mementos, or a calendar filled with the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family.
    • Offer to teach a skill you possess (e.g. knitting, photography, computer skills, financial planning, a foreign language, music lessons, canning tomatoes, cooking a favorite recipe).
    • Consider less gimmicky, less commercial gifts for children, such as arts/crafts supplies, books, a magnifying glass, or building blocks.
    • Create a paperless holiday letter on the computer and email it to your list.
    • Draw names in your family for gift giving (for extra fun and surprise, make it “Secret Santas”), so that you can put more time and thought into one gift instead of having to give to several people.
    • Shop for used items for all or most of your holiday gifts (e.g. local thrift store, Craigslist, Freecycle, used products on Amazon or eBay).
    • Share the gift of music by caroling, and include visits to elderly neighbors or a nursing home. Or, gather friends and family for an in-home holiday sing-a-long.
    • Give back to your community by preparing care packages for the homeless, or volunteering at an organization to help those in need during the holiday season.
    • Adopt a “less is more” attitude toward holiday decorating. Opt for natural trimmings such as clippings from local evergreens and holly bushes.
    • Save paper by wrapping gifts in newspaper comics, junk mail, paper bags decorated with markers, recycled gift bags, old maps, phone books, or other reused paper.
    • Prepare holiday meals with as many seasonal, locally grown, and/or organic foods as possible.
  • Lack of Sleep: Can it Make You Sick?

    Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.

    During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.

    So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.

    How Much Sleep Do I Need?

    How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
    But more sleep isn’t always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

    20 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

    1. Set a sleep schedule – and stick with it
    2. Keep a sleep diary
    3. Stop smoking
    4. Review your medications
    5. Exercise, but not within 4 hours of bedtime
    6. Cut caffeine after 2 pm
    7. Write down your woes
    8. Take time to wind down
    9. Sip milk, not a martini
    10. Snack on cheese and crackers
    11. Listen to a bedtime story
    12. Stay cool…
    13. …especially if you’re menopausal
    14. Spray a sleep-inducing scent
    15. Turn on white noise
    16. Eliminate sneaky light sources
    17. Consider kicking out furry bedmates
    18. Check your pillow position
    19. Breathe – deeply
    20. Stay put if you wake up

  • 5 Easy Ways to Counteract a Sedentary Lifestyle

    When the weather takes a turn for the worse, our exercise and eating habits tend to change and we adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We stop riding our bikes, going for long runs along the beach and eating lighter meals with fresh local produce. And even without the change in seasons, many of us are already sedentary all day, in jobs that require long periods of sitting and working from a computer.

    Sedentary Lifestyle: working at a computerThe irony of this situation is that after long periods of inactivity, we feel tired and lethargic—even though we haven’t expended any physical energy. This is when we often end our day sitting even more, either ‘relaxing’ in front of the TV or by reading a book. Or we’ll try eating more for energy, when our bodies actually need fewer calories if they are inactive for most of the day.

    There are multiple studies showing that a sedentary lifestyle may lead to premature death, a risk that’s higher for those that sit still for more than four hours a day (that’s it…only four hours!). Being inactive can be a risk factor for multiple health issues including depression, anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis and many more.

    To counteract a more sedentary lifestyle, try the following tips:

    1. Go outside – Make a point to bundle up and go for a short walk, even if it’s just around the block, to the mailbox, the park or to the store. Get yourself a good waterproof jacket, rain boots and/or umbrella (we live in a temperate rainforest after all) and walk to your errands.
    2. The 20-minute rule – Set your timer every 20 minutes to take a break. Take a stretch, get a glass of water and walk over to your co-worker instead of sending an email. Place your trash can further away from your desk so you have to walk to it. This rule applies while you’re watching TV too…get up during commercial breaks and stretch.
    3. Take a stand – Instead of sitting down for lunch in front of your computer or a book, try standing and reading instead. Stand up whenever possible—while on the phone, waiting, riding the bus or even in a meeting (this is becoming more popular in progressive companies).
    4. Hoof it – Find creative ways to incorporate more activity into your workday. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator—even if you walk up three flights and use the elevator for the remainder. Or get off at the bus stop before your regular stop and walk the extra block.
    5. Get a leg up – After a long day, put your legs up the wall to restfully restore your energy. In yoga this is called Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose). This is one of our favourite things to do after a long, stressful day and it’s better than a nap because it revives you for the evening. A passive stretch, it allows the blood to drain from the legs and calms the nervous system. When trying it, your buttocks should be fairly close to the wall, and your legs should be straight up the wall, creating a gentle stretch in the hamstrings. Close your eyes, exhale and stay in the pose from 5-20 minutes.

    What do you do to counteract a sedentary lifestyle? Share your tips with us.

  • Pregnancy Massage: Stomach or Side?

    We’ve heard from many of our pregnant clients that they initially didn’t consider prenatal massage therapy to be safe or all that comfortable. It wasn’t until during their pregnancy massage at Soma Studio that they became more informed about how we approach this special type of massage.

    Safety, comfort and therapeutic effectiveness are foremost in any certified prenatal massage therapist’s mind. Positioning of your body is critical to all of these. While many therapists feel it’s better to position a pregnant body on its side, our Vancouver massage therapists feel it’s more beneficial to lie on the stomach (or ‘prone’). Here’s why.

    Massage in the Stomach Position

    Lying on the stomach in pregnancy massage is more restful and allows the therapist to better access your back and hips for a more therapeutic full body massage. When a pregnant body is pillowed properly and consciously, the spine is in neutral position and the back is longer. Similar to swimming, this position takes the weight off and makes you feel like you’re floating. After over 20 years of relying on this position and hearing consistently positive feedback from repeat clients, we know that it works.

    Massage with a Pregnancy Pillow

    A good pregnancy massage pillow support system can accommodate a growing belly as well as enlarged breasts. Soma Studio’s pregnancy pillows consist of several pieces: two large pieces with a half-moon ‘dip’ to support the belly as well as smaller rectangular pieces to support the shoulders—watch our pregnancy pillow video to see how these work. Our prenatal massage therapists work with each client to carefully adjust each pillow, ensuring the back isn’t in extension and for maximum comfort before starting the massage.

    Massage in the Side-Lying Position

    Many prenatal massage therapists choose this position because they don’t have access to a good pregnancy pillow system. In the past, some therapists have used tables with a hole for the belly, but the hole wasn’t padded or adjustable, causing the abdomen to dangle, stressing the lower back and creating discomfort with the stretching of uterine ligaments.

    While Soma Studio’s massage therapists prefer to use the pregnancy pillows, you still have the option of lying on your side—especially if your breasts are too tender or you’re suffering from nausea or congestion.

    No matter what position you’re lying in, your body will always let you know if it’s uncomfortable, with symptoms like nausea, overheating or pins & needles. Trust and listen to your body, and do what you feel is right for you.

    Learn more about prenatal massage therapy on our Pregnancy Massage page or please contact us with any questions or concerns.

  • Movember: Changing the Face of Men's Health

    November is now known by many as “Movember”, an annual official event in over 14 countries to raise awareness of prostate cancer and other male health issues. Movember encourages the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces to literally “change the face of men’s health”—in a fun way.

    Support Movember with our mug
    The Mo Mug, as modelled by Russ

    Soma Studio is involved in supporting Movember because we have more men in the clinic than ever before, both as clients and massage therapists (we now have three male RMTs: Denis, Jean-Luc and Cheyne). Pregnancy and babies have been a big part of Soma since our beginning, so it’s due time that we support the other half of the fertility equation!

    The Movember Effect

    Movember encourages both men (Mo Bros) and women (Mo Sistas) to get involved and change established attitudes about men’s health in order to increase the chances of early cancer detection, diagnosis and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths.

    The Movember movement incites men to be aware of any family history of cancer and to adopt healthier lifestyles….taking better care of our bodies through exercise, improved eating habits, stress reduction and, of course, massage therapy.

    How to Support Movember

    Movember in Canada is a big deal. In 2011, Movember Canada was the largest contributor to the effort in the world. So let’s do it again! There are three ways you can help out:
    1. Buy a $5 Mo mug the next time you’re at Soma Studio
    2. Donate on our Soma Studio team page
    3. Grow your own Mo and register as a Mo Bro

    The Mo mug is perfect for those who can’t grow a decent Mo but want to visually support the cause. And you can never get started too early on your Christmas shopping.  We’ll keep you updated on our Movember fundraising progress on our Facebook and Twitter pages.