Guest post: How to get to sleep with a wall inversion

This post is written by the amazing Lucy Bannister who has been teaching Dru yoga in the workplace on behalf of Fit School for over a year.

I’ve just started getting my Pilates participants to try this wall inversion. It’s a fantastic passive stretch for your hamstrings and hips. Do try it.

I wanted to get Lucy’s take on the inversion as a yoga instructor. There’s more to the pose than just stretching as many of you have discovered. Give it a try.

How are you sleeping?

If the answer is not so great, or could be better, then read on.

When the clocks change it can totally mess with our sleeping patterns, or perhaps it is the arrival of a small person in your life, long work hours or an intense social life that is leading to you not getting the rest you need.

All too often, though, it is not these external factors but rather our own minds and habits that are causing the barrier to sleep.

Sleep is beautiful, restorative and quite frequently in modern life, an indulgence. And those who are getting too little sleep will know only too well how hard life becomes without it.

Sometimes moving is the only way to get our minds and bodies to rest properly, but there are a few other things you can try too:

Dont drink caffeine after 4pm (it stays in your system and can leave you wired for many hours after).

Switch off your screens. The flicker from digital screens activates our stress responses. So whatever your screen of choice TV, mobile, computer switch them off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed and dont start Tweeting or updating your Facebook status when you wake in the night!

Breathe. Simple but oh so incredibly important. Once you start you will realise how precious being aware of your breath is.

– Yoga. A gentle yoga practice before bed, and if you wake in the night, is ideal for calming and clearing the mind, aiding the all important relaxation response. Had many hours of lying in bed with your body tense and the mind racing? Get up and relax, then return to bed ready to sleep.

A perfect pre-bed yoga pose is Simple Inversion (it also works if you wake in the night). It allows the flow of blood to return to the heart, which is great for easing out a stressed body and calming a busy mind.

WallInversion

Simple Inversion | Sarvangasana 1

Preparation

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor
  • Interlock your hands behind your head
  • Breathe in and as you breathe out draw your elbows together, lifting your head from the floor
  • This stretches out your neck and spine ready for the inversion


Posture

  • Fold a blanket so that is the length of your torso (hips to shoulders)
  • Place the blanket against a clear bit of wall (or door or wardrobe)
  • Sit on the blanket, up against the wall and position your hips as close as you can to the wall
  • Lie down along the blanket and manoeuvre yourself around so that your legs are upright on the wall and your buttocks are resting against the base of the wall
  • Open your arms at right angles to your torso, and no higher than your shoulders
  • Breathe and relax in this position


If your legs won
t go straight up against the wall, place your feet flat on the wall and bend your knees slightly. If your hamstrings are tight it might take a while before you can put your legs flat.


Start with five minutes in this position and build up to longer sessions. Don
t go into an inversion for too long the first time as the venous return (the flow of blood back towards the heart) can be quite powerful.

Give it a try next time you need to relax and get a good nights sleep.

Lucy Bannister teaches Dru Yoga in and around SE London. Class information is available on her website: http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/

Lucy has two yoga retreats coming up this year. Dru yoga is brilliant for beginners so if you fancy some mindful time out check the details here: http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/yoga-retreats/

The New Mummy Diet

HELP! I want to get my body back.

You have a new baby.

You are shattered.

You feel less than blooming.

Your pre-pregnancy wardrobe is neither practical (especially if you are breast feeding) nor flattering – that’s if it even goes over your hips. And you are just all a bit jiggly. Plus to top it all off you have neither time nor energy to shop/eat/cook/all of the above.

So how do you get your pre-pregnancy body back?

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NEWSFLASH: You won’t. That’s not to say you can’t have a body that you love but it will always be different. A scar here or (down) there; wrinkles on your tummy; or stretch marks on your boobs (which may also have gone down there). But it’s okay. You’re a mum.

Wear your baby badges with pride.

GETTING THIN AGAIN: Please please please know that this is the least important thing right now. Until your baby is letting you sleep for a good seven hour stretch and you have stopped lactating, it is not the time to consider cutting calories or dieting for the way you look. And I promise you, there’ll be a time in the very near future when you are so busy running around after your toddler that eating at all will become a challenge.

NewMummyDiet

THE NEW MUMMY DIET

So here’s the good news. My new mummy diet is what you really need to consider eating and drinking to cope with the now. To enable your body to cope with the demands of being a new mummy and perhaps feeding a new baby. And as luck would have it, a diet to cater for the above, is just the sort of diet your body needs to lose fat – so these are some good habits to get into.

What do you really need from your diet?

  • You need energy;
  • You need good quality sleep in the patches that you get it;
  • You need fuel to heal, repair and produce milk that satisfies your baby;
  • You need foods that help to stabilise your energy levels (and with that your emotional state); and
  • You need nutrients to keep your immune system high and pass that on to baby.

So what are my recommendations for THE NEW MUMMY DIET?

1. CUT OUT REFINED SUGAR AND REFINED CARBS

Yes this means chocolate, bread, sweets and cakes.

It sounds impossible, especially when you’re sleep deprived and you feel like you need a quick pick me up. But sugar highs will lead to massive sugar lows, which can affect your energy levels, milk supply, hormone balance and emotions. It’s also pretty bad for your health.

If going cold turkey feels like too much, start by cutting back. Your tummy fat will start to reduce in days if you cut out refined carbs.

2. CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE

If you’re breastfeeding this probably goes without saying but did you know that caffeine has a seven hour half life? So if you need to sleep when baby sleeps keep your coffee to the morning.

Evidence suggests that drinking more than three cups of coffee in a day massively reduces your sensitivity to caffeine, so you won’t feel the benefit anyway.

Stick to one caffeinated drink only.

3. SLEEP/REST

This is a toughie when you have a new baby. You just need to do what you can. If day naps are a challenge, try to at least rest.

When you miss out on quality sleep, your hormones are affected and can make you crave sweet foods.

So rest whenever you can and call in the troupes to help you get sleep if you have some available.

4. EAT PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL/SNACK

When we pick at foods, good quality protein sources can be the first thing we lose from our diets.

Protein is essential, especially when you are healing and perhaps feeding a new life.

The easiest way to ensure that we get enough is to include it with every meal or snack. This will also help keep your energy levels stable. So an egg at breakfast, some nuts with a piece of fruit, some humous on toast and a piece of fish or meat with your lunch will all help you to feel fuller and more energise.

5. EAT A PINT OF GREEN VEG

To ensure you get your vegetables in, visualise how many it would take to fill a pint glass. Try and eat this amount throughout the day.

You could invest in a high quality blender to get your greens in that way. Greens are important for your health, will help keep your vitamin levels high and are great for your digestion.]

Oh and drink loads (of water that is).

These are just guidelines for what to put into your mouth. Yes I’d recommend post natal specific exercise too but if all you can do is eat well, that’s a great start and is absolutely something daddy or friends/family can help you with.

Be flexible and realistic though. Don’t be hard on yourself for eating a biscuit (or two) but know if you are hungry, tired and grumpy and hour later, that’s why.

If you’d like more information like this on post natal health, read my most popular blog all about post natal recovery: The Princess, the bump, your body

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist.

Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.

Read the latest Fit School newsletter here: Fit School News

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Why can’t I stop eating sugar?

I know. It’s hard. Without decisive action I can quickly slip into a sweet and sugary space. Going cold turkey seems like the hardest thing to do. We are programmed with a sweet tooth (mother’s milk is slightly sweet) it gives us energy. In fact studies consistently show that sugar is a harder addiction to crack than cocaine. So why is it that we get so obsessed by the white stuff?

1. LOW FAT CULTURE HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR BRAIN.

Years of low fat diets have a lot to answer for. We used to think reducing fat in our food would reduce the fat on our thighs and consequently make us healthy. Research is consistently proving that this is absolutely not the case and far from making us healthy, removing the naturally occurring fats from food has led to a rise in the amount of rubbish taking its place. Including sugar. Take a Starbucks Skinny Stem Ginger Muffin. It has twice as much sugar as a standard Blueberry Muffin. A low fat or skinny label does not mean healthy – it’s a clever marketing tool to make you want to buy it.

2. YEAST OVERGROWTH IS FUELLING YOUR CRAVINGS.

Nice! Candida is a naturally occurring yeast which lives in our guts. Too much is toxic but really hard to diagnose. One of the key signs is the need for sugar. Candida thrives on sugar and needs it to grow. The more it grows, the more sugar it needs. Frequent bouts of thrush, digestive complaints (including lady pumps), headaches and rashes or itching are also common signs.

How to stop it? The best course of action is to go cold turkey. Cut out the hard stuff and see how your energy shifts.

3. SUGAR OVERLOAD HAS SWITCHED OFF YOUR BRAIN’S ‘I’M FULL’ MESSAGES

The past ten years have seen massive developments in the study of hunger hormone, ghrelin and full hormone, leptin. Scientists used to believe that one of the hormonal causes of obesity was a lack of the ‘I’m full’ hormone leptin but new research is suggesting that it could instead be a resistance to leptin. So your body produces it but the brain somehow bypasses the signals and instead sends out ‘I’m starving – feed me’ signals making you crave sugary, high energy food. Professor Robert Lustig (University of California) has recently found it could be sugar which is causing leptin resistance. Professor Lustig and his team have shown repeated sugar spikes cause insulin resistance (the body no longer responds to sugar in the same way) and in turn, leptin resistance, which means your brain simply doesn’t recognise the fact that you are actually full. The findings were published in his book Fat Chance.

4. YOU ARE SLEEP DEPRIVED

While we’re on the subject of ghrelin and leptin, your body resets itself over night. Too little sleep and your hunger hormones get out of whack, meaning you don’t get that full up feeling and just crave sugary, energy dense foods all day. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprived, new mums hit the biscuit barrel!

5. YOU’RE PREGNANT

Pregnant women are necessarily less sensitive to insulin. It’s the body’s clever way of ensuring enough energy gets to little bubba’. Also, pregnant ladies are growing a whole new person, which takes a lot of energy. When you don’t eat enough good stuff to fulfil your pregnant energy requirements, you crave sugar.

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/07/13/why-do-we-get-fat-when-we-get-pregnant/

6. YOU’VE GOT YOUR PERIOD

A bit like pregnancy, when you’ve got your period, you’ll be more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows so it’s even more important to eat well and eat regularly. Some women swear by raw chocolate when it’s their time of the month to get them through. I love Om Bar coconut chocolate, it’s the least weird tasting raw chocolate I’ve ever eaten and there’s no sugar or dairy in it either.

7. YOU’VE GOT DIABETES

Craving sugar could be an underlying sign of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when cells fail to use insulin properly or become insulin resistant. Some nutritionists, like obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe (author of The Harcombe Diet) believe type 2 diabetes is the result of your body no longer being able to process the levels of sugar you are pumping in. It just, gives up.

8. YOU ARE EATING SECRET SUGARS

So you don’t have sugar in coffee, you rarely eat biscuits but you still seem to want some of the white stuff. It could be those hidden sugars that are fuelling your sweet fire. When did you last check cereal packets? You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial breakfast cereal which does not contain sugar or invert sugar syrup (don’t start me on that stuff – it screws your body’s system up on a whole new level to sugar) and yes, we like to feed this to our little babies too?!? Processed foods like soup, baked beans, or ready meals (yes the branded diet variety especially) all contain sugar too. And then there’s alcohol – which is sugar, refined to make you drunk. It’s everywhere!

What to do? Great piece of advice I recently heard, don’t eat anything that has a TV advert.

9. YOU ARE CONSUMING ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Ooh, now I’m not going to go deep on this one. There’s just too much science involved for a little blog (which is already pretty long). So aside from the whole heap of chemicals doing weird things to your body (like make you store fat) when you consume artificial sweeteners, eating sweet stuff that isn’t sugar confuses your body’s sugar response. It gets so used to expecting sugar when you guzzle diet drinks and then not getting it that it ultimately doesn’t respond as well to sugar when it finally comes. It gives up hope! So then you need more of the sweet stuff to get the hit etc etc… Just don’t do it. Aspartame is one of the worst culprits and oh, most artificial sweeteners will give you bad guts too.

What to do? The best replacement we’ve found is a product called Z-Sweet. If you really need the hit!

10. YOU’RE HUNGRY

I learned this the hard way before I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. When you are hungry, you crave sugar. If you eat refined foods when you are hungry, you’ll get a high, shortly followed by a dip, then want more refined foods.

What to do? Eat good food and don’t skip meals (yawn). But if you are stuck and starving, go for a piece of fruit with some sort of protein. Nut butter, cheese (a little piece) or nuts are a good option.

For more information on food to make you feel good take a lot at my other posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/24/say-no-to-rainy-day-blues/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/06/25/mood-food/