sleep hygiene

How to improve your sleep hygiene

Sleep and hygiene may not be two words we necessarily think of putting together. But, sleep hygiene is most definitely a thing (it’s basically just how well you’re taking care of yourself in terms of the amount and quality of sleep you’re getting). There’s no shortage of evidence on why sleep is so important to our health and general sanity (a fact which any parent can surely attest to!).

Did you know that being awake for 24 hours straight has a similar impact on your reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination as having a blood alcohol content of 0.1!? It also leads to symptoms like reduced alertness and attention span, reduced ability to understand complex ideas, poorer memory, less ability to regulate emotions, and increased likelihood of making mistakes (have a read of this to learn more). We all know we need to sleep. Just because being tired has become normalised (idealised even, and associated with being productive, motivated and hard-working) doesn’t mean that it is ok. If you’re tired, you’re not able to function or feel your best. So, let’s improve that sleep hygiene and get in some more zzzs.

What can you do?

Stick to a routine

One way we can improve the quality of our sleep is to have a bedtime and a ‘getting up’ time, and actually stick to it. By maintaining a consistent circadian rhythm, your body and brain are better able to fall into a deep sleep. Tempting though it may be to stay out a few hours later on a Saturday and enjoy a long lie-in on a Sunday (which definitely has its place!), maintaining relative consistency will make that early Monday morning alarm that much less difficult.

Limit the screens

This is far from a newsflash, but we spend a LOT of time on screens, and it’s not always great for our health. Spending just two hours on a phone or computer a day leads to increased risk of weight gain and associated diseases like cardiovascular and heart disease and diabetes (have a read of this article to learn more about the impact of our collective addiction to screens). Specifically in terms of sleep, the blue light of our electronic devices supresses the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone essential to helping us nod off naturally. So, aim for at least 30 minutes of screen-free time pre-bed – maybe a cup of tea, reading a book, listening to some calm music, or taking a shower. Pinterest will still be there in the morning, we promise. One way to help yourself resist the temptation of ‘one more email’ or ‘five more minutes’ is to have the phone in a designated spot NOT in your bedroom.

Avoid stimulants in the afternoon

We are all different in the way our bodies respond to stimulants (like we are all unique in a myriad of ways) but even if you don’t feel that coffee or alcohol have a big effect on you, they still are. Having higher caffeine levels in the bloodstream can make it harder (or impossible for some) to fall asleep, and also prevent us from entering the deep, REM sleep-phase (which is where all the gorgeous, healing, memory-storing, goodness happens). Opt for less stimulating drinks – like herbal tea, or mineral water in the afternoon, or at the very least in the few hours prior to bedtime.

Go as dark as possible

Get your room As Dark As Possible (or ADAP, an acronym which we definitely didn’t just make up right now). Even little bits of light, like around the outside of your blind, or from your computer charger impact how we fall asleep. Try to get your sleeping area as pitch dark as possible – cover any ambient lights (or, even better, switch off the devices at the wall), get blackout curtains (so our bodies can produce the hormone melatonin to increase feelings of sleepiness). There are also some amazing alarm clocks now which use light to ease you back awake in the morning by getting incrementally brighter, mimicking a sunrise (check out theseor these).

Do you have any hacks for getting a fabulous night of shut-eye? We’d love to hear them!

Image by Kaori Aoshim.


tree

5 simple ways to be kinder to the planet

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the huge amount of information out there about going green, reducing waste, and being more environmentally friendly. So, to counteract some of the panic, here are five super simple, easy things you can start doing today to be a little kinder to our beautiful Mother Earth.

  1. Carry a keep-cup and drink-bottle

If we lined up all of the coffee cups Australians drink from per year, we could go round the world TWICE. And that’s not even counting bottled water – of which we purchase 118,000 tonnes per year, and most of which end up straight in landfill. Plus, did you know that one litre of bottled water uses 3-7 litres of water 1 litre of oil to produce? But it’s not all bad news – to this dilemma there is a very simple, very easy solution. Just make a habit of carrying around your own water bottle. With so many gorgeous glass and stainless steel ones on the market, why wouldn’t you? Plus, you’ll probably end up drinking a little more H2O – win win!

  1. Unplug something

A lot of us accumulate all sorts of gadgets. Some of which are incredible, and help make our lives easier and simpler. But many of us probably also have a few things constantly plugged in and using power that we don’t need at all. Have a look through your house – anything you don’t use a few times a week can probably just be switched off, and plugged back in when you need it.

  1. Turn your switches off at the wall

A lot of our devices are sapping our energy, even when we’re not using them. Sure, you switched off our TV, but it’s likely just sitting there in standby mode, secretly eating up your power. Known as vampire power or phantom load, the energy used by idle devices can rack up extremely quickly. So, where possible, make a habit of switching things off at the wall – it takes a second longer, but can have a huge impact on how much energy you’re consuming (and help lower your electricity costs!).

  1. Skip the plastic bags

This is a simple one – invest in some strong, pretty totes and pop them by your front door or in your car so you remember them when you go to do your shopping. Such an easy, no-brainer way to use a little less plastic, without even noticing.

  1. Shop mindfully and locally

Unfortunately, we waste a huge amount of our food –around a third of all food produced. In our own shopping and food planning, we can reduce waste just by being a little more aware of what we’re purchasing, and thinking critically before throwing something into your basket. Purchasing food grown and produced locally can also really help reduce carbon footprint, so we aren’t needlessly shipping food around the globe, and can help support your local economy.

As always, we’d love to hear your ideas. Let us know what you do to help take care of our beautiful planet.

Image by Trent Haaland.


winter

Thriving in Winter

Game of Thrones called it: Winter is coming. As the days get colder and shorter, and people around us get sniffly, it’s more important than ever to boost your immunity to help you thrive through the colder months. As always, eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential to give your body what it needs to thrive. Here are a few vitamins which are especially associated with strengthening immunity, and foods to include to ensure you feel your best.

Vitamin C

This one needs no introduction! We’re often told that Vitamin C can ‘cure’ you of your cold – while this is actually not proven, it does help build our immunity so that we are less likely to develop colds in the first place, so aim to eat a diet rich in Vitamin C all year round. Vitamin C is readily available in lots of our food sources – we may automatically think of citrus like orange and mandarin, but it is even more potent in foods like capsicum, leafy greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, kiwifruit and guava.

Echinacea

Echinachea is actually a daisy-like flower native to the United States, and is a common ingredient in immune-boosting supplements because it contains a huge range of essential nutrients. Studies have found mixed results, but it is generally considered most effective in tincture (liquid), rather than pill form. Check with a professional before starting these supplements.

Olive Leaf Extract

A traditional natural remedy, olive leaf extract  has been used since the 1800s for various health benefits like decreasing joint pain, regulating the heartrate, diminishing food cravings, and of course strengthening immunity! It can be made into a tea if you have access to an actual olive tree, or for the simpler solution you can simply purchase a supplement in a liquid or pill form and take a regular dose (you can also include it in liquid form in your skincare!). Aim for an organic or pesticide-free version where possible. If you are pregnant or on blood pressure or diabetic medications, check with a professional first as olive leaf can lower your blood pressure, but there are generally minimal side effects and it is safe for most people.

Vitamin D

We absorb Vitamin D from sun exposure, so it makes sense that many of us dip in our Vitamin D levels through winter. Our ability to absorb Vitamin D depends on a few factors, like the sun where we live, our level of sun exposure, and the darkness of our skin. This is not to say that we should spend lots of time in direct sunlight – our ability to absorb Vitamin D is capped, so after a certain amount of time, and in some types of sunlight, we may be doing ourselves more harm than good by increasing our chances of skin cancer. We can supplement our Vitamin D intake (especially in winter) with oily fish or fish oils (like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), egg yolks, and mushrooms.

Image by Aaron Burden.


gratitude

The Magic of Gratitude

Like mindfulness, hygge and manifestation, gratitude has certainly earned its place as a wellbeing buzzword du jour. While we all know the word gratitude, actively and consciously cultivating it in our day-to-day lives might feel new, and even a little strange. So, what’s so great about gratitude?

  1. It makes you kinder, more empathetic, and less aggressive

Think of a time you felt deeply grateful. Maybe for your health, someone incredible in your life, being in a beautiful place, or a particularly delicious cup of coffee. Now try and imagine being very angry in that moment. You can’t, right? When we feel and focus on feelings of gratitude, we are necessarily focusing on the positive – what we do have, rather than what we don’t. The more we switch on and strengthen our ‘gratitude muscle’, the more fulfilled and satisfied we feel in our lives, and the more we are able to be supportive and empathetic towards others. This 2011 studyshowed that grateful people are therefore able to foster better relationships, and have a decreased drive to exact revenge.

  1. Gratitude helps you increase mental strength and self-esteem

A number of studies have found that grateful people are less likely to indulge in social comparison, and better able to focus on themselves and their goals, whilst appreciating other people’s accomplishments. The mental strength and resilience associated with gratitude also help people recover from traumatic events– and this holds true in everyday challenges too. Rather than having your day spoilt by someone driving rudely, or something not turning out the way you’d hoped, gratitude can help you focus on the positive, and minimise the impact of negative events on your mental state.

  1. Gratitude helps you sleep better, and improves general physical health

The simple act of gratitude can help deepen and lengthen your shut-eye, as well as reduce general physical aches and pains. People who are grateful for their bodies and health are also more likely to take care of themselves by exercising regularly, getting medical assistance when needed, and eating well, therefore increasing their overall health.

Convinced? With this myriad of benefits, why wouldn’t you want a little more gratitude in your life? So onto the nitty-gritty-gratitude practices are many and varied – here are just a few suggestions of how you can incorporate a little more into your life.

  1. Start journaling

Each day, put aside a few minutes (somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes is perfect) to write down some things that you are really, deeply grateful for. Try and get as specific as you can – so rather than just say ‘my health’ or ‘my partner’, get super detailed. Something like ‘I’m grateful for having strong, healthy legs that let me walk to the shops’ or ‘I’m grateful that my partner made me a cup of tea’. When you start actively reflecting on good things around you, you’ll notice them more.

  1. Express gratitude

This doesn’t necessarily mean big sweeping gestures – just taking a moment to thank people for helping you. Super simple, but it’s amazing how much simply acknowledging and thanking people can light up both their and your day!

  1. Turn your ‘autopilot’ complaints into opportunities for gratitude

There are some things in life we go through that are incredible difficult, and these things absolutely need to be acknowledged, and processed. But so often, we get in cycles of negativity about not just big things, but small things. Turning these around and looking at the flip side can help us maintain a sense of perspective, and choosing to adopt a more positive mindset. For example – getting caught in the rain could be seen as an inconvenience, or an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful place you live in, and how green everything will be afterwards, and how warm your shower will feel when you get home. A little naf? Maybe. But effective? Most certainly.

We’d love to hear how this resonates with you, and any ways you build a little more gratitude into your life.


Setting intentions for The New Moon

So maybe you’re a moon aficionado who knows the lunar cycles intimately and understands how to leverage them to make your life a little smoother. And maybe you’ve got no idea what a waxing or waning moon is, nor remotely understand how this might impact your life. If you fall into the latter camp, never fear. This is our quick guide for how to set intentions during the time of the New Moon – no degree in astrology required!

 

During a lunar month, the moon goes through eight glories phases. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can download a lunar calendar here. Today we’re focussing only on the first of these eight phases – when a moon is considered New or ‘dark’, and what that means for your life.

 

Each phase of the moon has its own distinct energy and look, and has been closely observed by people for centuries. After all, the moon is perhaps our oldest time keeper.

The first few days of a New Moon’s cycle is energetically the perfect time to set yourself new intentions and help propel yourself forward. It represents birth and beginnings, and is a rich, fertile time to plant seeds, begin projects, or breathe life into things you hope to grow and cultivate. During a New Moon, there is a Yang energy, and that strong, ‘doing’ energy can help bring a little more weight and push to your goals and desires.

 

The flip side of this is also true – the new, humming energy of the new moon is the perfect time to do some emotional clearing out, to let go of past trauma and direct your energy and attention to manifesting those magical dreams of yours.

 

So how do you go about doing this? Our gorgeous founder Emma led a beautiful, heart-centred meditation and goal setting ritualthis new moon, which if you didn’t tune into at the time is certainly worth a listen.

 

Please remember – setting intentions, reflecting and manifesting are powerful, gorgeous rituals at any time of the day, month, year, or lunar cycle. You can do this without ever considering or referencing the lunar cycle. But when you have a beautiful, glowing, time-keeper right up there in the sky, sending you little periodic reminders to relax, reflect, check in with yourself, and set yourself intentions, why wouldn’t you listen?


What controls your weight?

Just prior to Christmas, our founder, Emma Seibold, shared her thoughts with Vogue about whether our minds can control our weight. (Particularly during the silly season.) Here's what she had to say, and you can view the original article right here.

Along with tinsel and Christmas tunes, this time of year comes with a good dash of stress. If it’s not the department store crowds or the last-minute work priorities, it’s the failed turkey and the family dramas. Unfortunately, stress seems to simply be a part of modern life (particularly at Christmas time), but the worst part? It’s not just our brains that suffer, as research shows us that stress actually causes our bodies to cling to fat. In other words, that pudding may not be solely to blame. In fact, even if you’re eating well and exercising regularly, if you’re experiencing regular levels of stress, your body will not only resist weight loss, but it could even add some additional kgs to your frame. Great, thanks!

While I’m certainly not a hater of a little extra softness around the holidays, if it comes from a place of stress – I have no time for it.

So how does this happen? To simplify what is a very technical process, when you’re under stress, your brain sends a message to your cells to release potent hormones. As a result, you receive a burst of adrenaline, which taps into your energy stores so you can enter ‘fight or flight’ mode and deal with your stress. Simultaneously, you receive a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy. (Even though you haven’t actually used much energy in the form of calories.) The result? You’re pumping cortisol, you fuel your body with more food, which turns into fat and clings to your system. Sound unkind? It is.

So save for taking off to Bali for a lifetime of bliss balls and meditation, what can we do to give our bodies the love required to release stress (and with it, perhaps some weight as well)?

Indulge in exercise you adore
We see it time and time again at Barre Body and Bende. When our clients move their bodies from a place of love, that’s when weight loss occurs. So find an exercise class or practice that you adore, and then enjoy every moment of it. When you’re moving at harmony with your body and your mind, that’s when you’ll change your body.

Give your mind a rest – regularly
Sure, to-do-lists have their time and place, but are they ever really done? Rather than waiting until everything is off your list before relaxing, dedicate some time throughout your day to resting your mind. Meditation – or simply the process of focusing on your breath – can be transformational, and doesn’t need to be for more than five minutes to have a positive impact on your mind (and your body).

Enjoy savasana
After a tough class, savasana also allows your body to rest, and to digest the important changes that have taken place in your body throughout class prior to entering the madness of normal life. Just like lifting weights to strengthen your biceps, placing controlled stress on the nervous system allows your body to develop the strength and endurance you need to manage normal life. However, if you don’t take that opportunity and jump straight back into normal life, your nervous system will become too tightly wound. The result? You won’t gain all the benefits from your practice.

Surround yourself in love
Perhaps most importantly – particularly at Christmas – do your best to surround yourself with love. Whether it’s self-love, or generated from family, friends, or your community – when you’re moving through life from a place of love, you’ll in turn love your body, regardless of its size. And in my mind, that’s one million times more important than whatever the scales may be telling you.


Our fitness guide to Byron Bay

Our founder, Emma Seibold, recently shared her fitness guide to Byron Bay on Urban Sweat. Including day trips, the best spots for smoothies and of course, where to swim, it's not to be missed!

Here are some highlights:

So Emma, where would we find you for brunch on any given day? 
I love Bayleaf in Marvel St. The owners, Dan and Nikki are lovely and treat everyone like old friends. It’s the busiest café in town (forget about getting a table when Splendor or Bluesfest are on!) and the food is delicious. Their sister café next door, Leaf & Grain is great for takeaway and a quick coffee.

Where do you cool off with a swim afterwards? 
“The Pass  it’s halfway between Byron Main Beach and Wategoes. The water is crystal clear and a beautiful temperature for eight glorious months of the year! Basically from October to May it’s perfect.”

Your best pick for surfing?
“Also The Pass, though I’ve only tried surfing a couple of times. Maybe this year, I’ll be brave enough to give it a go. All the cool kids are doing it.”

Where should we go for a morning workout?
“I love Belongil Beach for a workout because it’s a little bit more quiet and the mornings are stunning there.”

Where do you love to workout?
“That will definitely be Bende, the signature class that I am developing for our new concept studio, Bende Mindful Movement, opening in Byron Bay in August 2017 (check out their instagram profile). It’s best described as a magical blend of slow and conscious movement, toning and strength work, a little dance like no-one is watching, and heart-pumping cardio, interwoven with moments of mindfulness and connection to self. Definitely check it out if you are in town.”

Where do you go for a scenic day trip?
“A drive out to the hinterland visiting Crystal Castle and Minyon Falls is a pretty special day. Crystal Castle is one of my favourite places and I often go there to walk the Labyrinth or just sit in the gardens.”

What’s your favourite running route?
“I’m not a runner, but my favourite walking route is definitely from Clarkes Beach up to the lighthouse and back. It’s about a 7km return walk and you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins surfing the waves or a whale or two on their migration path. It’s pretty magical.”

Where do you go for a post-workout smoothie?
“I always stop for a green smoothie (add watermelon for my friend Emma’s special blend) on my way back down from my lighthouse walk at The Pass Café. It’s a lovely spot to stop and take in the magic of this beautiful place I am blessed to live in.”

Where do you think the most underrated place in Byron?
“There are so many beautiful swimming holes, like Hell’s Hole in the hinterland of Byron. You need to ask a local to find them though as you won’t find them on Google Maps. I also love the tea-tree lakes behind Byron High.”


Sporteluxe visit Bende

We were delighted to recently be featured on our go-to site for all things health, wellness and fitness - Sporteluxe.

Click here to read the full article, but here is a sneak peak:

“Since moving to Byron two years ago, I have been inspired by my new surroundings. I felt drawn to create something uniquely “Byron”,” Emma told us. And the result is Bende, a mindful movement studio that recognises that sometimes you want to move your body fast and hard and other times you need to slow down.

Along with your favourite barre class, Bende offers dynamic and flowing Pilates, yoga, soulful yin and meditation, so you can pick and choose whether you want to chill out or sweat it out. And if you want both in the one hour—because we’re female after all—she’s even developed a signature Flow class, which involves strength and toning work, heart-pumping cardio and conscious movement followed by a sweat savasana or meditation.

“Life is getting busier and faster with more distractions and to-dos. I wanted to create something that was a total body and mind experience where you dance like no one is watching, sweat like crazy, release endorphins and move consciously and mindfully, connecting to body and spirit—and Bende’s Flow class is exactly that,” says Emma.

Thank you, Sporteluxe.


A new type of fitness

Life is getting busier and faster by the day; with more distractions, apps, and to-dos, it’s hard to achieve everything we want achieve, particularly when it comes to finding a balance between striving for our goals and slowing down and appreciating what we have in each moment.

It’s not enough to just workout now, we also want to find some down time. Reasons why meditation, mindfulness and yin practices have been increasingly on the rise over the past few years. Women now want a fully integrated fitness experience, where they move their bodies fast and hard (think HIIT) and slow down and experience moments of mindfulness and connection to self, all in the one session.

As the founder of Barre Body, I recognised this movement in the fitness industry and created the Flow class for her my Byron studio, Bende; a blend of slow and conscious moment, fluid flow, cardio, toning and meditation. A total mind-body experience in one hour to tick all the boxes for a busy life.

Flow classes are only available at Bende in Byron Bay at present, but you can also expect to see them in Barre Body studios in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane soon.

See this original article on RUSSH.