Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Core Four Principals - Relaxation

The Core Four Principals are fundamental to our health and wellbeing. These are the main areas we need to cultivate into our daily lives. Without thought to these four basic areas, we become stressed, sick, may experience pain and/or dysfunction and possibly be more susceptible to disease. Not only that but we could end up unable to care for our family members or even do the things we are passionate about.
In this four part blog, we are going to sift through each of these four core principals so you can find what works for you and can realistically incorporate into your life.
  • Relaxation
This is one of the reasons I wanted to become a massage therapist. I knew my life as a database analyst in an office environment with multiple management changes and constant layoffs was wreaking havoc on my stress levels. Nothing sounded better to me than to help others find peace and tranquility in their day. I knew something in my life had to change or I was headed for a breakdown. Thankfully corporate shut down our facility and I went back to school to be a Licensed Massage Therapist. Not everyone can change careers (or maybe you can but it will take some work and planning) but finding peace where you are currently and handling stress better is key.
As we all know, stress will come no matter who or where you are. It’s really how we handle it. Listening to your body will be a huge indicator of your stress level. Are you feeling tired or sleepy? Irritable or cranky? Experiencing neck pain, grinding teeth or pain in jaw? Nervous energy, forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, depression or mood swings? I know, that’s not even the whole list of possible stress symptoms. These symptoms will have an effect on the body as a whole so it is wise that we find ways to release this stress.
Cortisol has a bad rap in the media today. It is one of our main stress hormones. Cortisol is the hormone our bodies release naturally and is released normally at a higher amount in the morning. This is good; this is the time of day when we are most active. We need it to motivate us to move but also we need it to change our focus from sleep (melatonin) to wake mode. The reason cortisol has such a bad rap is because we are not using it appropriately in this digital and sedentary age we live in.
When cortisol is elevated it means we go into fight or flight mode or otherwise called the sympathetic nervous system. The human body was made so complex that we have this built in switch we can turn on when we have a perceived threat, real or imagined. For instance, let’s take Charlie. Charlie is on holiday on a safari. Charlie wanted to get off the bus to take a picture of a giraffe. Out of the corner of his eye, Charlie sees a lion and the dude looks hungry. Our body has this ability to turn on the systems that we need in order to run or fight. As the lion is licking his lips, Charlie’s brain is deciding what to do. Charlie will need use of his eyes, he needs to be able to breathe deeply to run, his heart rate increases as well as blood pressure and he needs quick energy (blood glucose) elevated by cortisol, as well. He needs swift feet so his muscles need to move quickly back to the safety of the bus. He doesn’t, however need his digestion, reproductive or growth process systems in this moment so they are shut down temporarily.
Pretty amazing, huh? Here is the problem. There are fewer times when this type of real crisis happens and there are far more moderate stressors happening during our everyday life that keeps us in constant elevated stress. The body doesn't know the difference. Cortisol demands us to release physically in some way. Run away from or fight the lion. Physical release. The problem is in this relatively safe environment we find ourselves in, our perceived threat may come from an angry boss or some crazy lady in the grocery store using ALL her coupons or we have stress from driving in traffic but no physical release. So, if the cortisol isn’t physically released, what happens to our bodies? Here is a very small list of symptoms that could potentially occur if left in a high stress mode.
Depression, digestive issues, heart disease, headaches, jaw dysfunction, decreased libido, anxiety, sleep deprivation, weight gain and concentration/memory impairment.
So how do we lower our cortisol?
The plan is to put ourselves into parasympathetic nervous system or otherwise known as rest and digest mode. Notice what it feels like to be at peace and notice what it feels like to be stressed out. Really notice. Notice your heartrate, take note of your breathing, your anxiety level or mood. Once you really take into account of how you feel moment by moment then do what your body tells you and listen to it. If you’re feeling extra stress or anxiety, walk it off or exercise if you’re able to.
Here are some other ways to combat high levels of cortisol. Omega-3 fatty acids found in some foods can slightly reduce cortisol release influenced by mental stress. Laughing, music and regular dancing is said to significantly decrease cortisol levels. We know that our pets are enormous stress relievers. Meditation, connecting to others and taking walks. Deep belly breathing and of course I saved the best one for last…studies show that massage reduces cortisol levels and it's one of the best ways to switch to parasympathetic mode, also.
In closing, find ways to de-stress. Make it a priority. Schedule it into your day. It makes us better human beings. Better fathers, mothers, employees, coworkers, daughters, brothers, business owners…etc.
Stay tuned for the second core principal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How Our Bodies Speak To Us

Paying closer attention to my habits and activities has been on my list of to-dos. Things I do on a daily basis as well as those new activities I introduce to my body every so often. For instance, I wore high heels to a friends’ wedding. I haven’t done that for years. I found myself in the sitting position for most of the ceremony and reception so I kicked off the heels hoping my feet didn’t turn into Barbie feet, I thought I would be alright. 
Tightness, stiffness, numbness and shooting pain from my hips down for 3 days afterwards. Even pain to the touch on my lower extremities. (What we do for our friends, huh?)
Obviously my body was screaming pain at me. What we know about pain is it is an indicator of a need to change something. I got the message my body was sending to NOT wear heels.
Interesting, I thought. These are symptoms I hear my clients complain about often. What in the world did those cute little dang heels do to me! Well, besides the fact that my body isn’t adapted to the form of heels, my calf muscles are shortened, and my ankle is in a awkward, funky plantar-flexed sort of fixation. I am also not walking at my normal gait. Not to mention, the other issues such as poor back posture which puts strain on the nerves housed in the spine, which in turn caused that nervy obnoxious shooting pain, numbness and pain on touch feeling I was having. Then there are the toes, squashed down further into the shoe due to gravity.
Lovely little cute heels.
I see them now as those cute little gremlins, they are cute until you get them wet! Remember the movie Gremlins much?
For more information on the effects of wearing “gremlins” and how to stretch your feet see this link…
It really matters how we care for our feet since it will eventually affect our legs, gluteus muscles, sciatic nerve, backs, and neck among other structures. The feet do so much for us. They take us everywhere we go. I believe our bodies tell us when something is wrong, we just need to listen. This experience was a great reminder for me to take care of my feet and not push through the pain.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Introduction to Natural Movement

Introduction to Natural Movement
As many of you know, I’ve been doing some research on movement. I have been a real believer in movement as long as I’ve been studying and practicing massage. Recently, I have been following a bio-mechanist named Katy Bowman. She has done numerous podcasts, blogs and written books on movement and alignment among other topics related to the human body. She is my hero. She speaks to the differences of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to our own under-nourished diet of poor movement. A life filled with all sorts of different movements versus a life we live spending most of it sitting in a comfortable chair or seat. She says we have disease of captivity.
Katy uses orca whales to illustrate her point. When an orca is in the wild, it swims in any number of ways and with different speeds and varying distance to forage for food. When in captivity an orca only swims in a circle. Thus their fins flop over. Their tissues collapse. (Most of us has seen the movie Free Willy). Katy shows us that we are also at risk of tissue collapse and calls it diseases of captivity and how our habits are “casting” our bodies unnaturally.
So, I’d like to introduce you Katy.
A List Of Body Casts
Body cast rhymes with podcasts, of which I’ve done about 50 in the last 8 months. On most podcasts I have been discussing this idea of how immobile we are–how it’s not only that we exercise or don’t. The very habitat in which we dwell is preventing full use of our body.

When I talk about “body casts” I use the analogy of a cast on a broken arm to illustrate a familiar example of how immobilization brings about tissue adaptations. For example, after wearing an arm cast for some time, you’re likely to experience not only a decrease in muscle thickness, but a decrease in the length of your muscle as well. But it’s not only loss. In muscles that are casted long, they have to adapt by increasing in length. Which in turn skews a joint’s range of motion. And it’s not only muscle tissue adapting. Connective tissue grows between muscles forming a sort of internal cast between unmoving parts.
Some casts (as in the case of shoes or a belt) are made of physically present “walls” that prevent a structure from moving through a full range of motion. In other cases a body is cast by a reflexive reaction to input. A good example of this is how the muscles in your eye will change shape in response to focusing on what’s in front of it. A computer screen doesn’t “hold” your eye lens in the way a cast holds an arm, but the reflexive behavior of the eye “holds the position” of your lens all the same…
To read the full article, follow this link:
Also, Katy has an awesome book called Move Your DNA, which explains more on this subject. It also gives simple corrective exercises that can help correct our alignment and give us better range of motion and more. Good stuff.
I find it pays to really be attentive to our habits and activities. Things we do on a daily basis as well as those new activities we introduce our bodies to every so often. More movement and different movement to all joints is really the key. Knowing is half the battle.
Move on,

Monday, February 1, 2016

No Bones About It

Did you know this? According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “When you do regular weight bearing exercise, your bone adapts to the impact of weight and pull of muscle by building more cells and becoming stronger. Some activities recommended to build strong bones include: Brisk walking, jogging, and hiking.”

Did you get that? Isn’t that the most amazing news ever? We can build our bones to make them stronger by simple movements. If we only hold a can of soup in our hand while doing a simple bicep curl while watching HGTV… we are not only strengthening our upper arm muscles but we are BUILDING BONE DENSITY IN ALL OF OUR BONES, NOT JUST THE HUMERUS!! We can also do other great activities like bowling, dancing or gardening. Wow, who knew we could be having fun and building bone mass all at the same time! This is great news for those of us that are seeing more and more signs of aging occurring in our bodies. The picture above is showing the slow decrease over time of bone density as we age but we can certainly fight it starting at a young age or even start your fight at 63.  

Here are some great resources on the subject of strengthening our bones.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Inflammation:  a local response to cellular injury that is marked by capillary dilatation, leukocytic infiltration, redness, heat, and pain and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of noxious agents and of damaged tissue. (defined according to Merriam-Webster)

Leuktocytic infiltration: the influx of white blood cells that are the Military infection fighters of our bodies (defined by me)

We’ve all been there; we’ve all had inflammation at one point or another. No one is immune to it (pun intended). It is a great way our bodies tell us that something is happening. We notice best when we feel the pain. Then we know we need to do something about it. Either changing what we are doing or stopping it altogether. We feel the effects of inflammation possibly from of our diet, sickness, an injury from repetitive motion or trauma, or a chronic autoimmune disorder (Common conditions: Crohns disease, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease).

It’s our body’s way of protecting and healing itself. If our systems work correctly we are essentially superheros. We are the superhero that can heal itself…AMAZING really. Some of our body’s tend to overachieve in that department (the Superhero overachievers being those with an autoimmune disorder).

I said all that to say this…I see many superheros with autoimmune disorders on my table. I am proud to help them with better sleep, increased range of motion, less stress and pain. I also see many folks who have had injuries due to car accidents, sports activities or repetitive actions. You are all superheros to me, every one of you.
Originally posted 10/25/2013