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What can massage do for you?

massage-has-had-a-positive-effect-on-every-medical-condition-weve-looked-atMassages are often sold as a purely indulgent treat that you get when you visit a spa or go on vacation, but there’s so much more to massage than just a feel good treat. Did you know that the symptoms of many health problems can be reduced and even eliminated with regular massage?

Here are a few conditions that massage can work really well on; a few you probably know and some that may surprise you!

Stress

It’s no surprise that a regular dose of massage therapy is good for your stress levels, it works by helping to lower your blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep, and by reducing your stress levels, it’s also thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In 2008 the journal Psycho-oncology published a study which came to the conclusion “…a significant reduction in cortisol (the main stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being.”

Lower Back Pain

This is such a common problem, often caused by bad posture at work, so no wonder many employers are drafting in massage therapists to help. Poor posture and sitting for too long can cause a lot of lower back problems, as can simply getting older. Get your massage therapist on the case and you can hopefully wave goodbye to a sore back.

Sports Injuries

Fitness and sport are great for your health but they can sometimes lead to injuries and overworked muscles. A regular massage can help to heal any wear and tear on your muscles and tendons, and can also help you manage the pain from a chronic or acute sports injury. Having well looked-after muscles may also help prevent future injuries – one more reason to book those regular sessions.

Joint Stiffness

Massage can be a relief for people dealing with the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and other joint problems. Research published in 2013 in the Complementary Therapy in Clinical Practice journal said that people with rheumatoid arthritis reported relief from pain and stiffness after four once-a-week moderate-pressure massages, topped up with self-massage at home in between treatments. Massage can also help with your range of motion and flexibility, which can relieve pain in your shoulders, knees, and hips.

Circulation

There are a whole range of health problems that can be caused by bad circulation, so it figures that boosting your circulation will be a bonus for your whole body. Regular massage helps to get the blood moving, getting essential nutrients to where they are needed in your tissues and vital organs much faster. The squeezing and pulling actions involved in a good massage also help to flush lactic acid out of your muscles and improve the circulation of lymph – the fluid that carries metabolic waste away from your muscles and internal organs.

Migraine symptoms

Nobody really knows what causes migraines, and there isn’t a cure, but if you’re a migraine sufferer you’ll be pleased to hear that studies have shown that massage can help reduce the frequency of attacks, and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Some migraines, especially those triggered by stress, are especially receptive to massage treatment.

Allergies

A massage helps to stimulate lymph flow around your body, which boosts your immune system and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Sometimes a therapist might be able to tell just from your lymph nodes if you are an allergy sufferer as they can feel tender or swollen.

Did any of those surprise you? Of course, you don’t need to make an excuse for wanting a massage, but if you are dealing with any of these health issues, it’s good to know that your regular massage habit is helping.

Undecided?

i-voted

Ever since I have had the privilege of voting, I have enjoyed the process and take it pretty seriously. But, as someone who works in the wellness industry, I try not to bring up politics on a public level as I want to present myself in a neutral way. I’ve been sitting back and watching the show along with everyone else. I had a couple of conversations this weekend, though, that made me feel like I needed to share my view about the current situation.

I understand the frustration that I am seeing from many of my friends and acquaintances. I didn’t vote for either of the major party candidates in the primary and there seems to be a growing laundry list of issues being exposed on both sides. There is no question in my mind, though, about who I will be voting for. Not all of my friends agree with me. A couple of my friends have very good reasons to vote in opposition to me. I respect them and their opinions. I just feel differently.

About 24 years ago, in my early 20s, I was actively feeding my budding alcohol addiction. I was able to hold it together enough at that time to live what seemed to be a normal life, but there was nothing normal about it. I was living in Philadelphia and hopping from one restaurant job to another. I was lost with no idea where to go. It would be a few more years and a lot of problems before I figured out that I needed to get sober. I found out that I was pregnant and made the decision to have an abortion. This was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life. I had been seeing a young man for a while and knew him well enough to know that he had already had another child and that he wasn’t able to take care of that child. He broke up with me because I was “too crazy” before I even knew that I was pregnant. I felt alone, I felt scared and I knew I couldn’t raise a child or even carry it to term safely.

I went to the local Planned Parenthood. They were professional, clean and supportive. I got all the help I needed at a reasonable price. This process is hard both physically and mentally, even when it is done legally. I trusted that I was in good hands and the procedure went as expected. I am not proud of this piece of my history. I don’t believe that abortion is something to take lightly. I don’t believe that it should be the 1st choice. Of course, I have no idea what my life would be like today if I had carried that child to term. I don’t dwell there anymore. I realize that I was not well. It has taken many years to forgive myself.

This post isn’t so much about me anymore, though. It’s about my daughter. It’s about her right to be able to make decisions about her body. I hope and pray that she never finds herself where I was. I hope that she makes better decisions than I did as a young adult. But I want to protect her rights to be able to do what she needs to do with her body. It is getting harder and harder to obtain an abortion, even in cases of rape. This is not ok. Planned Parenthood is being challenged. Abortion is just a small aspect of what they offer. After my abortion, they provided me with birth control so that I wouldn’t find myself in the same situation. Without insurance, I was able to get regular gynecological care at a price I could afford. Their services are important.

Right now there is a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Filling that vacancy is one of the 1st things that will be done by the next President of the United States. I am voting so that the seat can be filled with someone who supports Roe v. Wade. We can’t go backwards. If we do, abortions will still be performed but in less than ideal locations with subpar equipment and sanitation. We really can’t let this happen. Our girls could be badly injured or die. Keeping abortion legal is the best way to ensure safety.

One candidate will appoint a judge with my values. The other candidate is a wild card. I don’t know which way he will go. In interviews, though, he has stated that he is against abortion. My decision comes down to this. I’m with her.

How Often Should You Get a Massage?

Every day! Well, maybe that’s not practical, even though it would be nice. This is one of the most common questions clients ask about massage therapy, and it really all depends on WHY you get massages. Do you get massages for health benefits? Or, to help you relax and handle the stress of everyday life? Most likely it’s a combination of the two, so let’s look at some of the most common reasons to get regular massages:

Relaxation & Stress Relief

One of the very best reasons to get a massage is for relaxation. Relaxation massage helps to support your body, including blood circulation and flexibility of joints. Regular massage can help prevent pain, muscle tension, and stress points from building up and causing problems. Why wait until you have a problem to get a massage? Massage is perfect for preventing issues with your tissues. Relaxation massage is usually recommended at least once per month, or as often as you want!

There may be times in your life where you experience higher levels of stress and more muscle tension than normal. It is especially important to practice good self-care during these times. When we “don’t have time” for a massage, is usually when we need one the most. Make yourself a priority even during stressful times, your health is worth it.

If you are in a high-stress job or you work in an environment where you stay in a certain position for a long period of time (at a computer for example), you may begin to develop tight or “knotted” muscles. This will frequently occur in your shoulders, arms, and back. All of this increased muscle tension will make movement harder and can cause a great deal of pain. Regular massage can help to keep you loosened up and will help to prevent pain and stiffness.

Living with high levels of stress for a prolonged amount of time increases the risk of contracting heart disease and other diseases. It has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. The good news is, massage can help! Just knowing your massage is coming up in a few days can help to relieve stress, and a massage every 2-4 weeks will help with stress related tension.

Sports Recovery

Are you a weekend warrior, or do you just like to stay in shape? Either way, massage can help with sports performance and recovery. Many athletes and physically active people receive sports massage because it enhances their performance, prevents injury, and speeds up their muscles’ recovery. Competitive sports can put a lot of stress on a person’s muscles! Research conducted at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario shows that massage reduces inflammation and stimulates the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells, after strenuous exercise. This means that massage can help relieve pain, build muscles and help with muscle recovery too! For these benefits it is recommended that you get a massage up to three times a week or at least three times a month.

Chronic Health Conditions

People with ongoing health issues often find massage very helpful to alleviate symptoms. Chronic health problems that greatly benefit from massage therapy include back pain, joint pain, and localized inflammation. If you get therapy for specific issues, the frequency of getting massage therapy varies with the type of condition you have and how severe it is. Relief from pain can usually be achieved with 2-4 massage sessions per month. Your massage therapist will work with you to help you get on the best schedule for your body.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women can greatly benefit from massage therapy!  Prenatal massage and is popular among expectant mothers, who often experience a lot of aches and pains as their pregnancy progresses. Many women suffer from back pain, hip & sciatic pain, headaches, and tired legs & feet. But you don’t have to, a certified massage therapist can help to relieve those discomforts.

Going to your massage therapist once or twice a month can help with the symptoms caused by pregnancy, and it can even help you sleep better.  Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor and your massage therapist to ensure that you don’t have any pregnancy related conditions that would contraindicate massage therapy for you. Most women experiencing a healthy pregnancy can and should enjoy regular massage sessions.

If you have any questions about massage or if you are wondering if massage is for you, give me a call or send me a message. I would love to connect with you.

Spring Break Massage Special

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Spring Break Special

Panchakarma: Deep Transformation

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Panchakarma: Deep Transformation

I had the great pleasure and honor of facilitating a three day Panchakarma last week. It was for a woman who was looking for a deeper spiritual connection, some clarity of vision for the future, weight loss, and relief from anxiety.

Panchakarma is a transformative process that has been practiced in the Ayurvedic tradition for over a thousand years. The word translates to five actions. These are five cleansing actions to remove toxins, known as ama, from the body. In Ayurveda, anything that enters into the body through the five senses is considered food and needs to be digested. We all know that some foods are easier to digest than others. Likewise, some things that we may experience by watching or listening or feeling may also be easier or harder to digest. A Panchakarma is recommended yearly to help facilitate the cleansing actions of the body and mind. This opens up the channels of the body for greater energy flow and communication within the body/mind.

There were a few steps for my client to take at home before the Panchakarma even began. Once she arrived on the first day, we began with yoga and meditation. This was followed by several treatments including a steam sauna, body brushing, four handed massage, and shirodhara (a warm stream of oil continuously pouring onto the forehead). Each day was similar. I prepared her food and beverages. The conversation was light on the first day but by the last day we were discussing the big stuff. The stuff that matters and needs to be released. She left at the end of the third day feeling lighter, clearer, and more connected to her body and Source.

I gave this client recommendations to continue the process at home and I am happy to know that she is following through on them with great success. I give her a lot of credit. On one hand this seems like a luxurious experience, which it is in many ways, but on the other hand, there is a lot of deep work happening. This process isn’t for the timid or superficial. This is for those of us wanting to dig deep, let go, and move forward with purpose. A Panchakarma is a container which holds the possibility of transformation. I am so grateful to be a witness to such feats of bravery.

Warm Spiced Milk: the Perfect Evening Beverage

Warm Spiced MilkI have just discovered my new favorite nightcap. I have been listening to my teachers tell me for years to drink warm spiced milk in the evening. Something about it just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t drink dairy products and it seemed a little gross. But tonight I gave it a try and I’m wondering why I didn’t trust that this would be delicious.

Warm milk is easy to digest and the added spices increase the digestibility even more. The spices are very soothing and grounding. The whole combination is said to be nourishing and rejuvenating for the body and mind. The combination of warm milk and nutmeg is known by many as a sleep aid. I can see this becoming a regular thing.

Here’s the recipe for 2 servings:

  • 2 cups of whole organic milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a couple of shakes of cinnamon
  • a shake of black pepper
  • dash of Himalayan salt
  • 2-3 strands of saffron (optional)
  • sugar, maple syrup, or agave to taste

Heat the milk, water and spices (except sweetener) just to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Use a whisk or fork to stir frequently. Transfer the milk to your cup and add the sweetener to your liking. I used a teaspoon of maple syrup.

Good night!

Gratitude for the Bounty of the Season

IMG_1011When we realize that we are a part of nature and not something separate from it, when we see that we aren’t protecting or destroying something different from ourselves, we can really start to sink into nature’s rhythms and enjoy a deeper connection with all that exists. There are days that this is clearer than others. Or maybe some days just allow us time to reflect on this more than others. The Autumn Equinox is one of those days. A brief period of time that light and dark are in equal balance. We can give thanks for our bounty and set intentions for what we would like to experience in the coming months. I suppose we could do this on a daily basis and I’m sure some people do just that, but for me, I tend to get caught up in daily living and I appreciate the reminder to create space, feel the connection, and move forward with a positive focus. Rituals are important to me as they set the structure and framework for my life. Everything else drapes around that foundation.

On a different note, but still working with the bounty of the season, I have started to ferment my own veggies so that I can reap the amazing health benefits. I started with an easy sauerkraut recipe. Previously I had only had pre-made sauerkraut purchased at the grocery store. I never liked it. I could never even stand the smell of it. I kept hearing and reading how delicious it is if you make your own. The recipe met all of my requirements to try which is a low number of ingredients and minimal time to complete. Besides, it seemed like a fun science experiment on my kitchen counter that I had to check daily. I enjoyed this process. The problem was that I still didn’t like it. I want to like it, but I don’t. In my determination to use what I had made, knowing that there is no way my family will eat it, I found a recipe for coleslaw made out of sauerkraut. It’s delicious!! I’m so happy to have found a way to use the homemade sauerkraut without cooking off the beneficial bacterial that tastes so good.

Ayurvedically speaking, these veggies are “cooked” through the fermentation process so they are great for optimizing digestion and building the digestive fire. This makes it a perfect food to incorporate as we move into cooler weather. I’m curious if you are interested in fermenting veggies and if you already are, what ways are you enjoying them?

What’s your Ayurvedic body type?

imgres-1There are many things in life in which it is helpful to have an owner’s manual. Sometimes we read them and sometimes we don’t but it’s nice to know that they are there if we need to reference them periodically. Maybe a new light pops up on the dashboard of your car and you need to pull the owner’s manual from under a pile of papers in the glove box to see what this light indicates. Or maybe the clothes dryer isn’t drying so, because you have no idea where that manual might be, you Google the make and model to find a troubleshooting page. Occasionally something will trigger a reaction in our body and throw our health out of balance. In times like this, it’s nice to have trusted information we can reference that is specific to us. Many of us don’t have the correct owner’s manual to our body. We often have someone else’s. We have a manual that belongs to our neighbor who was able to lose a significant amount of weight but when we follow the instructions, we don’t get the same results. Or we have our Grandmother’s manual who was active into her 90s, yet we feel exhausted and depleted in our 40s and 50s. Some of us share a manual with our husband who never seems to need to stop for food so by 2pm he’s raring to go and we feel like crying. Fortunately, there is a simple way to get your specific owner’s manual.

In Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, each person has their own constitution. The Sanskrit term is Prakriti. People generally fall into one of 7 categories. Once you become familiar with your specific category, you are able to assess changes in your body and mind from a different perspective. Understanding a little bit about this art and science can give you the tools to make the proper changes to bring your health back in balance. So just like the light on the dashboard, you may notice signs such as anxiety or a rash. Having your owner’s manual will allow you to look at what would work best for you.

Don’t be intimidated by the use of Sanskrit language. Ignore it if you have to for now. Just focus on what’s comfortable. You may find that you are already intuitively doing the right things for your body. There are many different online versions of the Prakriti or constitution test. Feel free to take a few. Sometimes even after taking a test, we still aren’t sure, and that’s when it’s best to contact an Ayurvedic Practitioner. Here is a good test from Banyan Botanicals: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz/

I’d love to hear about your results and if you find this information to be helpful.

Celebrating Independence with No Poo

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fireworksA friend of mine shared an article with me about the difference between Independence and Freedom. It basically came down to Independence being the idea of not having outside oppression, or not being controlled by something outside of yourself. On the other hand, Freedom was an inside job. Feeling free within yourself to say, do, or feel any way without harsh self censoring. I like the idea of distinguishing between the two and figuring out if I felt restriction in either of these areas. It turns out, like in many other things, I have come a long way but I still have far to go.

One of the ways I am gaining independence is by slowly releasing myself from all of the consumerism around me. I no longer feel like bigger is better or that I need the newest item on the market. I have learned to buy many of the things I need on Craig’s List, at thrift stores, and through community swaps. I also, as many of you know, make cleaning supplies and other products out of common household ingredients. It feels really good to me to not be buying chemically laden products to clean my home or put on my body. One of my mantras is, “You vote with your dollars.” If we stop buying the products that are causing problems, they will stop making them. They will be forced to find other solutions. Why would anyone look for better solutions when they are making millions now?

I’m all about baby steps. I’ve been making my own toothpaste and deodorant for over a year. I use coconut oil as a moisturizer, I make my own bug spray and sunscreen. But I have been hesitant to stop shampooing with commercial shampoo. So, in honor of Independence Day, I took the next step. I joined the “no poo” movement. I’m committing to this for 30 days to see how it goes. If you aren’t familiar with no poo, instead of shampoo and conditioner, you use a baking soda and water solution to wash your scalp and then rinse your hair with an apple cider vinegar and water solution to condition it. This is done with increasingly less frequency until you get to a place where you are only doing this once or twice a week. Some people say there is a transition period of a few weeks where your hair looks terrible as your body adjusts and your scalp begins to produce the right amount of oil. One of the things that really appeals to me is that there is supposed to be considerably less frizziness, which if you have ever seen me, you would understand why I find this appealing. One of the things that concerns me is that I dye my hair (I haven’t gotten to that baby step yet), and there are mixed reviews on how this method works with colored hair. Regardless, I have 29 more days to go. I will let you know how it works for me. I’d love to hear any tips or tricks from those of you who are already doing this.

Easy Ayurveda to Stay Cool This Summer

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courtesy of Tess Welsh

courtesy of Tess Welsh

Welcome to summer. For many of us this means fun in the sun, vacations, BBQs, and lots of time outdoors. All of this can equal a fun, carefree couple of months. To make sure that we stay well in the extra heat, we can turn to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda. Lifestyle choices can have a tremendous effect on the way our physical body responds to stress, and the sizzling days of summer can put an extra load of stress on our system. Keeping regular sleep routines is a start. Exercising early in the day or later in the evening is also beneficial during the hot days. Finding balance in our work schedule to allow time for leisure is key to enjoying all the season has to offer.

We need to hydrate inside and out. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water will keep the body systems flowing. Limit ice if possible, room temp is best on the belly. Mint is a great herb to put in a pitcher of water along with some peeled, sliced cucumbers. This is a very refreshing combination. Just as important as hydrating inside, is the need to hydrate our skin. Coconut oil is an excellent choice for a daily self massage. It even contains a small amount of natural sunscreen (although not enough to protect you if you are sitting in the sun for any length of time). Another way to hydrate from the outside is to put some rosewater in a spray bottle and spritz your face, neck and chest for a beautiful smelling, cooling result that also has anti-aging properties. Eating plenty of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables will cool you down at meal times. Enjoy berries, melons, cucumbers, mangos, tomatoes and many others that you will find at your local market or growing in your backyard. Watercress is in season and is making it’s way to be the next super veggie. Try it in you next salad or soup.

If you would like to know more about Ayurveda, I am available for consultations in person, over the phone or through Skype. A consultation consists of getting to know your unique body type, where you may be experiencing imbalances and what Ayurvedic practices may help for you to find more balance in your body and in life. Ayurvedic practices may include nutritional information, life style suggestions, herbal recommendations and/or specific bodywork. Just fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you ASAP.

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