Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Luxury of Self-Care

I am so proud of my clients who have begun to take more time for their own care; who view their monthly, or twice-monthly massages as a part of a Self-Care routine that insures their continued comfort and ability in their day-to-day. Our bodies often are the last thing we think to care for, unless we are in so much pain we can't sleep or sit comfortably, or we can't walk or move throughout our day without extreme discomfort. It shouldn't have to feel this bad to become an excuse to finally take care of ourselves.

Luxury is really a misnomer when it comes to getting massage or bodywork. It shouldn't be labeled a luxury to care for yourself. One of my clients works in construction, and he tells me that his co-workers often give him a hard time for getting regular massage; 'oh, that must be nice', they tell him. He laughs, but as hard as he is on his own body; lifting, twisting, walking around on cement all day, he knows that what keeps him going is his regular massages. He tells me, he probably couldn't get out of bed in the morning without massage.

Hyperbole aside, I stumbled across an article recently from a 2008 issue of Body Sense. Lee Picciuto explained this Luxury rhetoric well:

"Some people believe that massage therapy is either an indulgence for the wealthy or a "treat" for special occasions. Most therapists have some clients who only come in once a year, usually for a birthday or special holiday.

I have also encountered clients who have been influenced by others and made to feel guilty for spending money on a monthly massage session. These clients seem to think of massage therapy as a frivolity they don't deserve. 
Admittedly, massage therapy has a monetary cost, but that should be weighed against the benefits of the treatment--diminished stress, decreased pain, improved moods, etc. There is usually a way to budget for a monthly massage with a bit of reprioritizing."

My clients who have committed to regular massage have noticed a huge difference in the way their bodies feel; decreased chronic pain in common areas that hold stress, or do repetitive motions, and they tell me the just feel better, less "stressed". We hold the tension we collect from the world in our bodies; our physical reactions to what we experience, in addition to what we do (walking, running, sitting at a computer, gardening, lifting heavy boxes...). It is always a joy to witness my clients continued relief of their pain and stress, these are not things I believe they should carry with them every day.

I notice in my clients a difference in the tissue, the way the muscles move and feel, the way the body reacts to receiving massage, how quickly muscles release tension and adhesions. I cannot speak for their change in emotions, but I do notice their stress dissipate. I notice more smiling. I notice a deeper connection with their breathing on the table, and an understanding of how they are living in their bodies from appointment to appointment, as we continue to change and effect a more comfortable way to live with each massage.

Think about you commitment to caring for yourself. It isn't selfish, it isn't a luxury. You can save money when you sign up for a "monthly maintenance massage" with a 6-month commitment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is an invigorating way to support the skin and the body as a whole. It is said that 1/3 of the bodies toxins are excreted through the pores; dry brushing exfoliates the skin and helps to unclog the pores. As it encourages circulation, it also exercises and supports the lymphatic system through gentle stimulation of the glands as you glide the brush over your body. And a healthy lymphatic system is the foundation of a healthy immune system!
How to Dry Brush:
With a dry, natural bristle brush, apply your preferred pressure, and gently brush your skin. Starting at your extremities, brush toward the center of your body. Avoid the groin, breasts, and face. It's best to brush before bathing.

And, to really help detox the body, at the end of your shower take a 10-30 second cold plunge! This helps the blood return to your vital organs to replenish your body systems, as well as stimulate your nervous system.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

the history of massage in America

The history of Massage can be traced back to Greece, ancient Romans, and the Eastern modalities of shiatsu and tui na. The oldest and most common training in Western-styled massage that most therapists receive today is in Swedish-style, traced back to 1868 and Dr. Johann Georg Mezger, sometimes miscredited to Per Henrik Ling, a physical therapist, who instead created a gymnastics protocol which included manual techniques(1). Mezger first practices French "frictions" which would evolve into his methodology of Swedish massage: effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (kneading of the muscles), friction (firm, circular rubbing motions), tapotement (tapping or percussive movements) and vibration (shaking particular muscles).

Massage in America can be traced to the 1700's with "rubbers" who would uses rubbing and frictions to effect orthopedic ailments. "Medical rubbers were typically women hired by surgeons to assist with the rehabilitation of patients after surgery, and with treatment of lameness and joint diseases. Rubbers had little education, but possessed a knack for hands-on therapy. Their basic techniques were simple, but were modified to produce different effects. Rubbers incorporated joint movements into their treatments to increase range of motion, and to get lame patients walking again." (2)

Swedish-style made its way to America in 1890 in Boston, at the Posse Gymnasium, which paved the way for training of masseuse and masseur. in the Mezger and Ling traditions. "Agnes Bridget Forbes became the first licensed masseuse in North America in 1916." (2)

By the 1930's these practitioners were called physiotherapists, utilizing manual therapies, but also hydrotherapies, electrotherapy's, and movement therapies -more similar to today's physical therapy. In the 1943 an associated body came together to standardize and protect the masseuses and masseurs.

In 1958 the practitioners started to be called Massage Therapist, to disambiguate from the "massage parlors" which were associated with prostitution, and to help "give the field legitimacy as a health profession." (2)

As with most things, there was a boom of knowledge and transmission of modalities practiced around the world. "The human potential movement, epitomized by the Esalen Institute in California (est. 1962), fostered new types of manual therapy, such as Rolfing and Esalen massage. Hands-on approaches from Asia—including acupressure from China, shiatsu from Japan, and Ayurvedic massage from India—were embraced in America.

The term bodywork was coined to encompass the diversity of manual therapies that surfaced in this period. The wellness movement, fitness boom, concern about unhealthy stress, and growth of alternative medicine all contributed to a rising public interest in massage therapy, which expanded its scope to include diverse massage modalities." (2)

In the 1990's more regulation was set in place to protect both the practitioners and clients seeking care within this health field. Today, there are an innumerable amount of modalities of bodywork and many wonderful practitioners, helping us learn the ways our bodies can work, what are bodies can do for us, and how we can support them and how they support us. 

(1) AMCollege blog https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/dutch-origins-of-swedish-massage-amc-miami
(2) Patricia J. Benjamin https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/3285/brush-up-on-the-history-of-the-massage-therapy-profession

Monday, July 27, 2015

knowing your body

I recently had acupuncture. It had been several years since my last treatment, and my neck and arm muscles were feeling particularly taut. She placed needles in my lower leg to alleviate my head and neck tension. The muscles instantly released upon the prick of the needle. My mind drifted, my body rested. This treatment reinforced my thinking around the systemic connection of the body; that one point can hold deeper sense of inner workings.

I must admit, I haven't been taking very good care of myself lately -a lot of working, and planning, and performing, and...not enough revitalization. I am determined to prioritized self-care. I've had massage. I took an Epsom salt soak. I stretched every morning and evening. It takes a lot of work, and after a week of working on myself, I don't feel better -(!!!)- I feel pretty mediocre. There is no miracle, and it takes time and energy. Our bodies are ever-changing, adaptable, and impermanent. When we heal, we don't heal to our former self -our "pre-injury" status- but rather a new status, one that remembers the pain and weakness, yet strives for physical knowledge beyond our past afflictions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

full moon of feelings

Cancer Sun //Capricorn Full Moon exact at 7:20pm PDT July 1st, 2015

Stephanie Gailing of Planetary Apothecary says:

"What’s...highlighted during this Full Moon is the importance of maintaining a balanced sense of perspective. Cancer inspires us to both feel as well as value our feelings. It has flowing, soft, and undulating energy. Capricorn, on the other hand, is not focused on feelings but rather on diligent and responsible approaches to accomplishing tangible outcomes. The question becomes how the nurturer (Cancer) and the achiever (Capricorn) can co-exist."
Read her full article here: http://planetaryapothecary.com/2015/06/capricorn-full-moon-2/

What interests me in Stephanie's words is this balance between self-care, and what we need to get done. These things are more often than not contractions. It is hard to make the time with our ever-swiftyly-moving lives for us; for a breathe, for meditation or mindfulness practice, for self-reflection, or self-care.

I've recently shifted my work-load, I don't know how I was doing it, working three jobs, attempting to create within my Art, renovate a home, all while living with my partner in my childhood home, but I did it. The easiest thing to drop off my list? Self-care. My work-out, my yoga, my meditation, my own massage.

How can we balance how we nurture our bodies and minds? How do we attend to our feelings? All the while walking forward on our distracting paths ahead?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Sun and Your Skin

Massage therapists are very conscientious of skin. Summer is a difficult time for our skin; it gets warm, it gets damp, and too often, it gets sunburned. The best thing to do is to stay out of the midday sun, and know that even when the sun is hiding under the clouds on these hot and humid days, you are still catching rays. So when you enjoy the outdoors wear sunscreen -I usually wear Badger natural sunscreen- and always try to wear a hat, and a light-weight long-sleeved shirt. If you do get a sunburn, slather on plenty of pure aloe vera or calendula oil to help soothe irritated skin.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

peaceful abiding

Karuna Contemplative Living posted a link to this the other day.
Take some time, take a breath.

Preparing to Practice
Taming our mind through shamatha meditation, or “peaceful abiding,” is the most important thing we can do. Through peaceful abiding, we learn to rest fearlessly in our natural state, which is basic goodness. We experience basic goodness when we relax deeply into how things are, without wanting to change them. This is why we meditate. Even though we may think we don’t have time to practice, the stability, clarity and strength we’ll discover through meditation can make our life simpler and less pressured.

The first step is to establish a basic routine. When will you practice, and where? Once you settle on a regular time, stick to it. A successful meditation practice is a consistent practice. Ten to twenty minutes of sitting practice a couple of times daily over a lifetime is good.
Create a proper environment for practice—a place that is comfortable, quiet, and clean. Buy a proper meditation cushion. Prepare the body for meditation with yoga, a martial art, or simply stretching. A supple body helps support peaceful abiding. So does eating properly.

Prepare your mind for practice by assessing how it feels before your session. Be compassionate and honest in this; each day is different. If you’re feeling speedy or drowsy, a slow walk or a cool shower might help your meditation before you start. If you’re just out of the office or an argument, reading about meditation can provide a helpful bridge to the cushion.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

have chair, will travel

You guys, I got to work with the wonderful and gracious employees of Pigeon Toe Ceramics yesterday. I am basking in the after-glow of a local small business that not only makes beautiful hand-crafted ceramic treats, but also cares for their employee's wellness and health.

Thanks, Pigeon Toe, for a wonderful day!

Are you a business owner? Do you want to thank your employees for their hard work? Do you want to treat your office to a day of relaxation? Contact Stephanie for rates.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Studio (SE PDX) Open House

Since the beginning of the year, I set the intention to find my own studio for massage. It has been delightful meeting new therapists and sharing space with some great bodyworkers, however I was called to create my own space for my clients and my work.

I am happy to announce that I will be moving into a gorgeous studio in Karuna Contemplative Living, in great company of Anandi Gefroh, the proprietress of this meditation supply store, and another licensed massage therapist, Wes Burden, specializing in Somatics and sound therapy.

Find us at:
1725 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214

Come say hello at our Open House: Thursday, June 11th 6:30-8:30pm.

Monday, June 1, 2015

injurious feelings

As the days get sunnier and beckon us to play, and we begin to move our bodies more (often in new or renewed ways), we might find ourselves with some aches, a little pain or tightness.

I woke up one morning this week in a tremendous amount of pain. I stretched a little, and got ready for my day. I worked, and found myself not walking my walk, my body contorted, wincing with every step.

What do we do when our body isn't working how we expect it to? I went through a little denial "It's nothing big," I thought, "it will go away in a couple hours."  The pain subsided, but I had a long day ahead; running around, driving, and massage clients. By the time I could kick my feet up, I was sore.

I laid on my mat, took thirty minutes -I was convinced I didn't have- to stretch, a slow, meditative session of stretching and breathing.

The next morning it was worse. I could hardly get out of bed! I cried as I got ready for another long day. I got to work and hobbled along, until I couldn't. I call my chiropractor and he got me in an hour later.

I was reminded of what of some my clients feel when they come to me; desperate, in unbearable pain. I wanted to feel better, right now! But, after my adjustment I felt worse.

I went home drew a hot bath, soaked in Epsom salts. I slathered my pain with Sombra warming gel, and got back to my day. It wasn't until 10 hours later, that I felt like I could fully use my body again. I am still recovering, still allowing my muscles and bones to return to their alignment, still allowing myself to slow down enough to listen to what my body needs.

Immediate relief can happen, but sometimes our bodies take their own pace to heal. What are some of your self-care habits that help you body heal?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

take five: open those shoulders!

Most of us suffer from internal rotation of the humerus and upward rotation of the scapula (Think: over-stretched shoulders creeping up and forward as you slouch over your computer). Our upper trapezius is tight and tender, our rhomboids are achy, and our pectoral muscles are weakened, and our necks are strained. Some great things to do, take a deep breath and raise your shoulders to your ears, and as you exhale lower your shoulders down and back.

I suffer from frequent and malicious migraines, I have several comforting stretches. Fish Pose is one of them, and one I suggest for anyone who sits too long at a computer, or desk, or book, or suffers from pain due to repetitive motions in the shoulder, arms, and neck.

Fish Pose (matsyasana):
The unsupported version of this pose is lovely. It can be a deep release and stretch.

For a relaxing, more inactive stretch/opening of the shoulders, chest, and throat, try restorative fish pose.

Restorative Fish Pose

Lying on the ground, place a bolster, or two blankets (one rolled under your spine, the other folded under your head -if needed) along your spine and neck.

Bring your arms out to a T, palms facing up.

Lay for 5-10 minutes. Focus on breathing deeply, and smoothly. When you are ready to move, slowly roll to one side. Then use your arms to bring your upper body in to a seated position.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

fluid motion

I took a wonderful course this weekend which focused on the fluidity of the spine, evoking our aquatic days. Undulation, a technique for spinal bodywork, is based in structural integration modalities, like Hellerwork and Continuum.

"Undulation, a fluid movement through multiple joints that include waves, bends, and curves, can be used as a tool..." to get through dense myofascial restrictions (stiffness) and revitalize lost range of motion due to our postural habits and repetitive-use injuries. (Anita Boser, LMP, CHP).

There are some common misconceptions when it comes to our bodies, that through idiomatic phrases, our bodies (and minds) believe is true. This class helped to unmask these words, and redefine, or rather, return to the definition via the evolution of our connective tissues and the past uses of the spine. The Spinal Column, evokes a solid, upright, rigid support. However, our spines (and our boney structures, in general) can do incredible things!

video: Emilie Conrad speaking about the fluid connective tissue that is the spine, as a Continuum teacher demonstrate the beautiful and free movement that our bodies, in health, hold.

Another broader cultural habit is to assume that once our bodies are in a state of injury or decreased motion, that we must adjust to or work around this new habit, greatly decreasing our body's entire range of motion. Bodywork and manual therapy (massage) restores our bodies to their highly functioning state, through the movement of fluid (lymph, blood) to the connective tissues (muscle, bone) and, by the breaking up of adhesions (places where the fluid surfaces of the body are no longer simply gliding, but stuck in fricative, decreased motion).  If we continue to encourage limits of our range of motion, we impress into our muscular memory, solidifying our dis-ease, a reduced range of motion that eventually can effect our entire body. With self-care practices and hands-on bodywork encouraging stretching and movement, we could hope that we could create patterns of a little more movement, instead of a little less movement.

So get up, stretch, and let your spine dance. Free your structure with fluid motion!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

for dark winter months, a cold remedy

This yearly combination of darkness, a calendar full running around, hugging and cheek-kissing, and the over-sugaring of the holidays has brought a cold to a few of my housemates. I have evaded it (for now) with a few simple rituals that I'd love to share with you:

1. Plenty of water!
Drink room temperature water (my naturopath suggest half your body weight in ounces), to help keep your body hydrated, as we tend to crank up our thermostats or crowd around smoky fireplaces!

2. Daily exercise!
I wake up every morning and get my heart-rate up for thirty minutes. There is nothing like sweating it out!

and most importantly...
3. Fire (fights the cold) Tea!
This has been my go-to beverage for a couple years now, I don't recall where I picked it up (some old remedy typed onto some other blog), but it always proves delicious and restorative! Whoever is in my home, especially in the winter months, will be handed a mug of this if they are feeling under the weather, a last ditch effort to NOT GET SICK! The recipe is simple: Ginger, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Lemon Juice, & Raw Honey, in Hot Water. Mix to your taste, sometimes I want it spicy-er, other times a nice spicy/sweet balance. As I sip this I like to pretend that the tingly feeling is really the Spice knocking out all of those pesky germs!

the goods + your favorite mug

fresh grated ginger, cayenne, cracked + whole black pepper (whatever you are feeling)

juice (half of) a lemon, add it to your spices

add a spoonful of honey, and stir in hot water

give to your ailing, but soon to be better loves