Sleep Problems in Adults? Try these 2 Techniques


Recently the CDC sponsored Natural Sleep Awareness Week.  They reported that many of us are sleep deprived and it affects public safety, health and wellbeing. This comes as no surprise as most of us reading this probably have sleep problems.

In my book, I open a chapter about sleep as follows:  Remember the sweet bedtime saying: “Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite?” Back then, we tightened up because we were on constant alert for the dreaded bed bugs, and this was our good night sendoff!  Today, we still fight off bedbugs, but they have morphed into the constant chatter in our mind, hindering our ability to get a good night’s sleep or to wake up refreshed.

We try many techniques but inevitably our thoughts get in the way.  How can we shut down our thoughts?  The truth is that you cannot force your mind to stop, but you can tame and relax your mind, allowing for a deeper state of relaxation and much needed rest.

Here are a few simple techniques:

This Simple Bed Twist calms your nervous system, massages your internal organs which increases their blood and oxygen supply, and lengthens and twists the spine.

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Try this:

  • Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest.
  • Hold your knees and roll over to the right side, keeping your knees bent at a right angle, and allow them rest on the bed.
  • See if you can have your legs are no lower than the right angle to your torso.
  • Slide your left hand to your waist and allow your elbow to rest back, creating a gentle twist to your spine. If your knees come apart, or if you feel too much pull, place a pillow or your hand between your knees.
  • Rest your head wherever it is most comfortable.
  • Stay here for 2-4 minutes noticing your breath; then change sides.

*If this hurts in any way, come out of the pose. If you have any disc problems or any form of osteoporosis, you must be extra careful as any deep twisting may be counterproductive.

Breath: A few of the many benefits is that breath oxygenates your body and calms your nervous system.

Try this simple Ocean Sounding Breath (it is one of my personal favorites):

  • Place a pillow under your head to slightly tuck your chin.
  • To find the ocean sound, pretend you are fogging a mirror through your mouth and then do it again with your mouth closed. It is the sound that you make when you are trying to whisper to get someone’s attention with no one else hearing you.
  • Gently narrow the back of your throat passages and breathe in and out through your nose. The sound is similar to the sound of a conch shell at your ear, or when you submerge your ears below water. It also reminds me of the sound of Darth Vader’s voice from Star Wars.
  • Once you have the soft ocean sound, make it smooth and steady. You are breathing normally, but with a gentle narrowing at the back of your throat. The key is to listen to the sound of your breath and make it so quiet that only you can hear it, both on the inhale and exhale. Every time you have a thought (and you will), guide your awareness back to the sound of your breath. If you cannot find this sound, do not force it, rather simply listen to your easy breathing.

These two techniques are very effective to help you access a deep state of relaxation.  Even if you still cannot sleep, you will reap the benefits of a calmer body and mind.  Until next time:  Sleep well!

Let me know in the comments below if you tried these techniques.  How did the work?  Were you able to calm your mind a bit more?



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Posted in: Physical Wellness, Splash into Calm

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New Year, New Habits

Have you ever fully realized that life is, after all, merely a series of habits, and that it lies entirely within one’s own power to determine just what that series shall be?– Ralph W. Trine

At the beginning of the year we resolve to make changes at home and work and before we know it, we are back to the same behaviors and habits.

What I find is helpful is structure and making it approachable and inviting.

 If you are trying to begin a meditation and centering practice, try this:

  1. Find a space in your home or office and make it inviting and comfortable.
  2. Create a ritual:  It only takes s short time to create a habit.  Do your practice every day, even if you don’t want to.  Set up a time each day, the same time would be preferable but not necessary.
  3. As prep before meditation and centering practice, take a moment to prepare.  Do something to calm and quiet your mind. Some examples are: Breathing, yoga, listening to music, lighting incense, walking, etc.
  4. If this is a new practice, start at no more than 5 minutes a day and slowly increase to up to 30 minutes each day.
  5. Leave your watch and cell phone in another room. If time is a concern use a timer with a soft alarm.   

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you and if you were able to create your space. If you did not, what do you think got in your way?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Digest a Happy Thanksgiving!

Physical digestion is most effective when we take in nutrients from our food and excrete what is no longer needed. 

The same is true for digesting life.  When we embrace all of our experiences no matter what they are and then let them go, we live a centered life.

The problem is that we hold on to both the positive and negative.  Our mind ruminates on what happened, leaving no room for fresh new perspectives.  We overflow with information, emotions and thoughts and we miss out of the present moment.

It is important to find ways to clear away some of the clutter.  Think of it as rebooting a computer when it is not responding.  Practices of meditation, breathing and yoga are quite effective at helping to make room for new experiences. 

Thanksgiving is here and we will be around family and friends, which can bring up many challenges.  Our mind is so busy that we eat and do not even taste our food which took hours to prepare.

With each experience, let go of what is not needed and have a Thanksgiving with only the leftovers that you want!

Let me know in the comments below how your Thanksgiving was.  Were you able to stay present and let go of what you did not need?  If not, what do you think stopped you?

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Meditation: An Attitude Adjustment

The purpose of meditation is to relax the body and quiet the mind. Think of your mind as a jar full of liquid.  If you keep pouring more in it will overflow, making a big mess. 

First we need to clear our thoughts so we have an empty vessel to reset our attitudes and outlooks.

Meditation is simple, but not easy.  Simple, because all you do is concentrate on a single point to focus.  Not easy, because the minute you try to quiet your mind, you see just how crazy it is!

Every morning, try this for a few minutes:

  1. Get in a comfortable position- it can be a chair, the floor, or the bed (dangerous as you will probably meditate yourself to sleep!)
  2. Focus on your breathing, without changing it in any way- simply notice you are breathing
  3. Find the most noticeable part of your breathing cycle: For example-The expanding and relaxing of your belly, the breath moving in and out through your nose, or your full breathing cycle.
  4. Keep focused on that area.
  5. If your mind gets busy, gently and kindly guide it back to focusing on your breath.
  6. Practice this daily and work your way up to 5 minutes. 
  7. Keep practicing, even if you do not think it is helping.  I promise, it will!

Let me know how this worked for you.  If you did not even try to do it, what do you think is stopping you?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Fibromyalgia Symptoms Improve with Breathing Practices

Article: Slow Breathing May Soothe Pain:  February 08, 2010 Pain journal

Authors:  Reuters interview with Dr. Alex J. Zautra:  Psychology professor at Arizona State University

Fibromyalgia patients need help dealing with the physical and emotional reactions to chronic pain.

Objective:  The study gauged pain responses among 27 women with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia and 25 healthy women the same age.  The study looked at the effects of becoming more aware of your breathing.

 Results:  Researchers found that when they had the women perform slow breathing; it dampened their reactions to a moderately painful stimulus.

Overall, the women rated the pain intensity as lower and reported less emotional discomfort when they slowed their normal breathing rate down by half.

Conclusions:  How we breathe" does alter perceptions of and responses to pain.  The findings suggest that breathing techniques could offer an additional way to deal with fibromyalgia or other types of chronic pain.

"It is not 'all in your head, but it may be in your brain."

Custom Calm founder, Ellen Sichel has trained with the originators of evidenced based programs for  Mindful Based Stress Reduction and  Yoga of Awareness for Fibromyalgia and incorporates many of the techniques used into Custom Calm programs.  The practices are non-invasive and easy to learn, offering lifelong support for both patients and their loved ones. 

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Article: Market Stress? Try Yoga-It Might Also Relieve Your Asthma, Ailing Back

Exciting evidence based studies have been made for over a decade.

The medical community is supporting and recommending practices of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing as complementary therapies to traditional medicine.

This article from the Wall Street Journal in 2002 supports these practices.  

Physicians in the US and abroad did studies in three areas:

Chronic back pain:  Studies showed that after 3 months the results were reduction in pain by 80%.  The study spoke of “therapeutic yoga”, which is quite different from some of the more aggressive traditional styles that are practiced.

Mental Health:  The article studied yoga’s focusing practices and found significant improvement in adults suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder.

Cardiovascular Diseases:  Yoga practices showed a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate and improved cardiovascular endurance.

All of Custom Calm practices positively influence medical ailments. Custom Calm therapeutic yoga and yoga therapy is a gentle, supported yoga designed to decompress the spine.  All practices are accessible to everyone.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Studies Show Decrease in Menopausal Symptoms

Studies were held in the Department of Anesthesiology and Peri-operative medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.

The Yoga of Awareness program was studied for menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors.  Studies showed significantly greater improvements relative to the control group in hot-flash frequency, severity, and total scores and in levels of joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, vigor, negative mood, relaxation and acceptance.  

The program included practices of gentle yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing practices,  relaxation and calming techniques. 

Conclusions of Study:  Provides promising support for the beneficial effects of a comprehensive yoga program for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in early –stage breast cancer survivors.

Custom Calm practices include Yoga of Awareness practices along with other minfulness- based techniques. The research of these practices are supporting the powerful results that many students have already reported. 

The practices are very simple and empowering for patients suffering from side effects of cancer.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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6 Benefits of Breath: Part 1-Your Mind

Breath has a tremendous impact on your mental and emotional well-being.  Something as simple as breathing has powerful results.

 Check out the facts below.

  1. Breathing brings you back to the moment, lowering anxiety and fear.
  2. Breathing stimulates the relaxation response, calming your body and mind.
  3. Breathing is free and portable and can be used in the very moment when facing stress.
  4. The root of “breath” in many languages is “spirit”, thus breathing is a key to accessing your calm center, increasing spiritual connection.
  5. Breathing creates a deeply restorative state, which aids in healing and transformation.
  6. Breathing is a simple, effective tool for meditation.

Are you ready to start breathing consciously to lower your stress level?

Posted in: A Calm Perspective

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Judy Feels Overwhelmed with Life

Judy’s Challenges

I was feeling very lost and could not put my finger on what was wrong. I work in a high pressure job, where others depend on me. I am a wife and mother and my children have grown up and have moved on with their lives.

What Judy Tried

I  did not do anything specific but try to calm down and relax, which was not effective.   I had no idea where to turn.

What Worked

A friend suggested coming to a Custom Calm class. It was the best thing I have done for myself.  When I go to yoga, I feel like I can handle anything life tosses my way.  Sometimes I go off the yoga wagon but always there is a driving force to find my place again.

When I practice at home it gives me a sense of serenity and calmness.  I must convince my mind that I need to practice every.  The instructor lets me go at my own pace and I am very comfortable.

I now find myself doing little yoga things, standing in line in yoga, breathing when I feel myself getting anxious and simple yoga pose after standing too often at work.  I love yoga and gave up other activities to join this class.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and my back also!!!

What you can learn from Judy’s Expereinces

The practices are very powerful and relieve physical and emotional stress and pain.  The Custom Calm techniques are so practical that they can be practiced anywhere at any time.  The entire experience supports a happier, healing more peaceful life..


*Last name has been left off for anonymity.

Posted in: This Stuff Works

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Hope After Loss of a Loved One

Carol’s Challenges

The loss of my husband, both parents and other family members to cancer had repercussions that were both physical and emotional. I had continual back and neck pain and it was very difficult for me to deal with the losses emotionally.

What did Carol do to help herself?

I am grateful for what I receive from my classes with Ellen. I use the Adapted Yoga poses I learned from her in my daily life and they are very helpful in relieving my back pain brought on by travel. I am thankful that I now know how to take care of my body when it hurts. I am learning to be aware of my breathing which helps reduce my stress level. Since I began participating in classes with Ellen, my lower back feels better than ever before. My emotional and spiritual well-being has been greatly enhanced.

What can you learn from Carol's Experience?

Experiencing loss has both physical and emotional consequences. It is often easier to help ourselves emotionally first, by using techniques to relax the body, and then use practices to calm the mind. The Custom Calm techniques that Carol uses are easy for her to incorporate into her life and have improved her overall well-being tremendously.


Posted in: This Stuff Works

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