It's funny how things happen in life, and at the time you have no idea why... And, then years later you can look back and put the pieces of the puzzle together to see the beautiful picture of your life, and realize that everything happens for a reason and it happens at a specific time for a specific reason. Everything eventually has led you to exactly where you are right now at this time reading this blog. How exciting?!
My journey with yoga began when I was 18 years old, and in massage therapy school. Every day in school we were required to do either yoga, meditation, or Thai Chi. At the time, I enjoyed yoga, but I don't think I had much appreciation for it. I was in the best shape of my life, and extremely flexible, so the poses and stretches came easily to me. However, being in the moment, and trying to quiet my mind was extremely difficult. I have an over-active imagination, and love to day dream, so turning off the chatter in my mind and staying present was and is a challenge I still strive to attain.
Fast forward through marriage, two children, three dogs, running my own busy massage practice, the death of both of my parents, and gaining 40lbs, had really started taking a toll on my body. My lower back was always hurting, my wrists and hands hurt, then my both my knees and hips started hurting. I knew something had to be done. At the rate I was going, my massage career more than likely would not last. I had taken training in Ashi-Thai massage which requires a lot of upper body and leg strength. A colleague mentioned that yoga had really helped build the strength that's required to pull off some of the Thai stretches. So, I made the decision to try a yoga class at my gym.
The first class I attended was mind-blowing. I could barely do anything. Plank? Yeah right! My once limber body just was not cooperating with me like I wanted it to which was extremely frustrating and disheartening, and yet when I walked out of class, I felt the wonderful dreamy yoga bliss, and was instantly hooked. I began taking regular classes, and was so amazed at how with each class, I was able to do a little bit more each time. Mat yoga was not without it's challenges. Any pressure on my knees was painful, and yet with modifications I worked around it. I learned to listen to my body, and most of all I learned to respect my body. And, respect where I was that day at that specific time and moment.
Then one day I came across a groupon deal for an aerial yoga class. It looked quite interesting and sort of cirque de solieah -ish. I figured what the heck. I purchased 3 classes. My first class was kind of a bittersweet experience. I realized two things that day: I had zero upper body strength and zero core strength. Let's just say, it was really hard, and yet the instructor made it look so easy. I will say, I've never been one to shy down from a challenge. Then the last 15 minutes of class happened... the flying portion... I felt like I had been transported back in time to when I was 10 years old. That child-like, free-spirit, care-free, no responsibilities, no fear sense came back to me all at once. It was such an awesome feeling I longed to hold onto it. I would bottle that feeling if I could! As I continued taking classes, I started to notice the changes in my body. I was losing weight and eating healthier. My back, hip, and knee pain was gone. I struggled for a bit with my wrists but over time even that pain went away. Aerial yoga allowed me to achieve certain poses that I could not do on the mat because of the pressure on my joints. And the inversions... let's just say that's my new anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-aging method. Who would've thought all the time I spent climbing trees and playing on the monkey bars would've paid off? My massage sessions were so much better and pain-free because I was using my new-found core strength. I had cut out almost all meats, eating organic, and cut down on bread by about 75%. I was feeling better and looking better than I had in years. As of now, I have lost 30 pounds with ten more to go!
As with anything in my life that inspires and motivates me to be a better person, I always feel the need and yearning to share that experience with others. Ultimately, that is what lead me to taking the aerial yoga teacher training. In November, I opened up an aerial yoga studio right next door to my massage studio in Kingwood, TX. Having the opportunity to teach aerial yoga is such a huge blessing in my life. It has broadened my yoga practice to horizons I never thought were possible.
Yoga is so much more than just the stretches and the poses. It's about appreciating each moment. Because all that we really have is the present. We can't change the past and we can't predict the future, so why not enjoy each moment we are in? Please join me for a group class or a private aerial yoga session customized just for you. I am now offering noon classes and evening group classes which can be booked on my website. To schedule a private session call or book online.
“Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth!”
Your skin is the largest organ of the body. It absorbs what you put on it. Parabens, alcohols, and hydrogenated oils that contain free radicals are routinely slathered onto your outer sponge. These are then absorbed into your bloodstream. Your skin “eats” some of what it comes into contact with, so do you really want to put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth?
My favorite oil to use for my massages is coconut oil. It helps to carry healing herbs and essential oils.The natural antibacterial agents in coconut oil keep it from going rancid or spreading germs over your body. The combination of essential oils and deep massage techniques using this oil will erase your tension and leave you relaxed and ready to rest.
After doing extensive research in coconut oil here are a few interesting facts that I thought I’d share:
Coconut palms grow in tropical regions as far north as Hawaii and as far south as Madagascar, and it takes from nine to twelve months for a coconut to completely mature. Coconut oil has been used for everything from spiritual ceremonies to maintaining healthy skin to treating illnesses. Just a few examples of the use of coconut oil:
- Hair/scalp conditioner
- Skin Moisturizer
- Massage Oil
- Reducing fever
- Wound healing
- Scar avoidance
- Maintaining a healthy heart
- Add flavor to foods
- Treats scabies, ringworm, and dermatitis
- Psoriasis, eczema, and acne
- Natural deodorant
- Lip gloss
Even science verifies what natural healers already know: It’s an antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. The benefits are derived from coconut oil that is extracted naturally and gently with no heat, and no chemical processing that can damage the delicate antioxidants and other healthy ingredients. It’s a good idea to know how the coconut oil was extracted before you buy it. The quality of the oil depends on the extraction process, and if the oil is refined.
Organic coconut oil guarantees that no fertilizers or pesticides were used.
Unrefined coconut oil AKA virgin coconut oil is left in natural state after it’s pressed. There is a richer, nuttier flavor, and maintains nutritional value because it has not been subjected to heat.
Refined coconut oil does not carry the coconut flavor which makes it more versatile, and you can cook with it at higher temperatures without burning it.
Hydrogenated coconut oil is used when you need more of a solid product like cake icing. Avoid hydrogenated fats if you can.
Fractionated is done for medical, cosmetic, dietary, or industrial needs. (not likely to find in grocery store).
Coconut oil is packed with lots of nutrients, it is an excellent healing agent, and kills the bad bugs that cause infection, disease, and illness. Pure coconut oil contains no trans fats and promotes heart and brain health. It can also accelerate the loss of belly fat. You will also find coconut oil in baby formula, sports drinks, and foods because it is easily absorbed and used.
The predominant fatty acid in coconut oil is lauric acid, a healthy fat, and contains a high amount of antioxidants, has microbial properties, and is good for cholesterol. Many health professionals recommend that 3 tablespoons of coconut oil per day will provide enough lauric acid to improve your immune system, boost your metabolism, and help keep your skin and hair healthy. Coconut oil is also an anti-inflammatory and is good for arthritis, soft tissue injuries, and acts as a minor analgesic.
For your skin:
Some oils clog your pores or dry you out, but coconut oil is actually just the opposite. It can even improve acne because it kills harmful bacteria on your skin. It helps slough off dead skin so that fresh, glowing skin can grow underneath. It can be used as a moisturizer because it penetrates your skin easily so the moisture and antioxidants can get in there and fight bacteria and dry skin. Wrinkles, saggy skin, and age spots improve, and you will look younger the natural way. Coconut oil can also be used as sunscreen. It protects you from UVA and UVB rays by blocking up to 70% of rays from ever touching your skin.
For your hair:
Coconut oil is good for dry itchy scalp, and dandruff. Most people believe dandruff comes from dry skin, but it is actually caused by fungus and an overly oily scalp. A coconut oil treatment is great for both. You can warm the oil just a bit and massage a couple of tablespoons into your scalp with your fingertips not your fingernails, put a shower cap on and let sit for a few minutes. You may need to shampoo your hair at least two times to get all the oil out. Avoid microwaving if possible. You can put oil container in a bowl of hot water or melt in small pan on low heat. You can add lavender, rosemary, or tea tree oil for added fresh scent.
A few recipes to try:
Coconut oil Toothpaste- 2 tsp virgin coconut oil, 1 tbsp baking soda, 3 drops peppermint oil
Brown Sugar body/face Scrub- 1 tbsp. virgin or refined coconut oil, 1 tsp brown sugar, couple of drops of your favorite essential oil.
Lip balm- 1 tsp virgin coconut oil,1 drop of food-grade cherry flavoring oil
Cellulite treatment- mix warm used coffee grounds with 2 tbps of coconut oil and rub it onto your skin in circular motions for a few minutes before rinsing.
Coconut oil improves thyroid function. Most refined vegetable oils can block protein absorption in the stomach which then leads to hormonal changes that can affect thyroid function.These refined oils can cause a decrease in thyroid function because they block hormone secretion which can sabotage your weight-loss efforts as well as health. Your body rapidly breaks down coconut oil and increases your metabolism. Incorporating coconut oil into your diet as a replacement for unhealthy saturated fats is a great way to slim down.
As with many holistic and natural treatments, coconut oil was used way before people understand how it worked. Our ancestor’s didn’t care what the chemistry was behind it. All that mattered was that it was effective for many uses.
I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about some of the basic uses of coconut oil!
The Psychology of the Body
We’ve all grown up hearing metaphors such as: “holding back your feelings”, “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”, “getting something off your chest”, or feeling "heavy hearted”. After doing extensive research in psychology of the body I learned that they are not metaphors at all, but are actually literal in a sense. When you “hold back” your feelings, you are literally holding your feelings in your back. When something is bothering you, or you feel “heavy hearted”, your body will then try to protect your heart by creating holding patterns, or body armor. Your chest caves in, your shoulders and upper back are rounded and hunched over, belly pushed forward, and your head is jutted forward like a turtle carrying it’s huge shell(protective armor over your heart) with this long extended neck. So, when you“get something off your chest” you are literally relieving your heart of a heaviness that is being weighed down by your feelings and emotions. After you “get something off your chest” you may feel lighter, happier, and freer, your head held high, shoulders go back and down, and your chest opens up, leading to a more confident natural posture because your heart is now open. When something is “eating you up inside”, these emotions are causing turmoil inside that may feel like something is eating away at your gut, or anxiety may feel like rocks are in the pit of your stomach. The term “superficial” is used to refer to someone who is “fake” or "not real". The holding pattern is held out because they are keeping feelings at a surface level.
Feelings and experiences are stored in both physical and mental states. When we hold back our feelings, we hold our breath. When we hold our breath, we restrict the vital nourishment of air to our cells and muscles, and in effect, deaden ourselves. Deepening the breath allows repressed feelings to surface and be mobilized, freeing the heart from the heaviness of grief and allowing the natural balance of taking in and letting go to be restored.
The mind and body are interconnected. Whatever goes on in the mind is reflected in the body, and whatever goes on in the body is reflected in the mind. Our bodies can recover memories that our mind has forgotten.When difficulties persist, coping strategies become chronic patterns anchored in the body as defense structures. Eventually they create holding patterns in our muscles that restrict the free flow of energy, known as “body armor”. Armoring can be defined as chronic patterns of tension in the body that blocks or alters expression and perception and restricts range of motion. Body armor affects: posture, breathing, metabolism,and emotional states such as: perceptions and interpretation. Like a medieval suit of armor, psychophysical armoring not only prevents “arrows” from injuring the person but also makes it difficult to move freely and express emotion. The cells in your body react to everything that your mind says. So, whatever is happening in the mind also manifests in the physical body.
Armoring defends against many aspects of human’s existence. The awareness of armoring maybe so profound that the person is unable to feel parts of the body. Armoring may cause a person to become numb. The body’s tissues have the ability to retain memories. The skin, muscles and nervous systems record memories and then communicate these memories through a flow of information between tissues and the brain called “tissue memory”. Facilitating the release of affected tissue also may cause the associated emotional issue to surface and be released. Armoring is a way of adapting to chronic, painful conditions and becomes a critical coping mechanism.
90% of illness is caused from stress. When high stress is not resolved it becomes chronic such as: PTSD, depression, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune diseases. Stress can be physical, mental, or emotional. Mental stress has the same physiology as physical stress. Cortisol is released with stress which causes more inflammation, slower healing time, weight gain (abdominal fat), high blood pressure, and a nervous stomach. Stress due to worrying about something may cause your forehead or shoulders to get tense. That tension and pain in your shoulders and forehead may make you feel more stressed reinforcing a stress pattern causing a continuous loop. Massage therapy can create change.
Tension patterns and emotional reactions to life situations are determined early on in life. Some reactions may intend to provide protection, but they are not the best for coping with stress later on in life. Burdened shoulders may lead to chronic soreness. A collapsed chest may conserve energy and protect the heart emotionally but may lead to feeling depressed and low energy. Think about how you feel when you’re stuck in traffic. You start gripping the steering wheel, tension builds in your shoulders, and your jaw may also be tense. The source of the tension is your emotions responding to how you feel about the experience, not to the actual physical demand. Your body is continually reacting to whatever you are thinking. If you think of things that provoke anger, your physical reactions – tighten your hands into a fist, tense arms and shoulders, thrust your jaw, inflate chest, and stiffen neck. They may have become an unconscious habit. Anxiety, insecurity, desire, and other feelings, beliefs or thoughts are reflected in the body.
All emotions and defenses manifest in the body through tension patterns and energy flow. The way we hold our bodies tells us a lot about what kind of emotions are stored beneath our awareness. Someone who unconsciously blocks a great deal of emotion and feelings gets uptight. Blocked emotion is bound into the structure of the body and stored in the body as muscular tension. Emotions held in the body fixate our energy in holding patterns. Chronic holding patterns are locked in the posture and tissues of the body.
Beneath the surface of the body churn the emotions. When we experience a strong emotion, we feel our aliveness and often identify with the feeling involved. We are taught to control the body by way of the mind, but the body has an intelligence whose mysteries the mind has yet to fathom. Emotions have a spiritual function as the language of the soul. This language is spoken through the body. Our bodies are the home of our spirit. Only by recovering the body can we begin to heal. Healing the split between mind and body is a necessary step in the healing of us all. It heals our home, our foundation, and the base upon which all else is built. Once an emotion is released, we can reclaim that energy.
The effects of our emotions in the body:
1-FEAR- when survival is threatened, we feel afraid. Fear heightens our awareness and floods the body with natural chemicals (such as adrenalin) to energize it for action. We become hyper, restless, and anxious. We can’t relax and it’s as if we are jumping right out of our skin. The nervous system and the adrenal glands remain overworked. You will literally feel shaky and concentration may be difficult. As a result, the body is in a constant state of stress which becomes normal. This may eventually create high blood pressure, heart troubles, stomach troubles, immune system depletion, weak adrenal glands, insomnia, or chronic fatigue. People report that their tension increase in the shoulder, face, upper body, and jaw, resulting in shallower breathing.
2-PHYSICAL ABUSE- The anxiety from abuse produces stress hormones and this heightened state may become addictive, producing a need to create crisis throughout life in order to feel alive and overcome the numbness of dissociation. Crisis puts us in a state of survival. Bodily dissociation may make one accident-prone, where edges, boundaries, and dangers are not noticed. These minor injuries bring one home to the familiar experience of pain. It is possible that the same situation can produce equal and opposite reactions in two different people-physical abuse may send one person completely out of touch with her body, while another becomes overly focused on it. Studies show that receiving massage therapy resulted in lower anxiety and stress levels on people who have been abused. Helping the client to feel safe and cared for on the bodily level may be essential to healing.
3- PLEASURE- invites us to pay attention to our senses, to live fully in the present, to enjoy the experience of being alive. Pleasure invites us to relax, which dispels stress. Pleasure makes us more receptive to new ideas, more enthusiastic about new tasks or demands. We suddenly see with new eyes, profound insight, and change our perspective and attitude.
Massage clients with mental disorders may benefit from anxiety reduction, increased body awareness and reconnection with the body. Someone with ADHD may find that massage helps to calm them, focus better and be less distracted and more organized. Massage therapy may help the depressed client feel more energized and less lethargic. Massage can reduce stress hormones, blood pressure, increase serotonin and oxytocin. Improving grounding is also beneficial. The release of blocked emotions can also help release muscle tension patterns to the extent that the muscles are no longer engaged in such stifling emotions.The surest way to release emotions is to embrace them. The more we know them,the more we can free up energy.
The Psychology of Touch
A physical component of the bodymind that has been identified is a type of peripheral nerve called C tactile fiber. Researchers discovered that C tactile fibers send pleasurable impulses directly to the emotional centers of the brain which confirms that touch triggers emotions.
We may describe people as “in touch” with their feelings, or “out of touch” when we feel they are clueless or uninformed, as well as when communication is “out of sync”. When we feel affected emotionally, we say we are “touched”. Someone who is reactive is “touchy”. When someone is unaffected emotionally, we call them “thick skinned”. Someone who is described as “being wired” and has a nervous quality will become calmer and centered through touch.
Physical touch promotes cooperation between people, communicates emotions, soothes in times of stress, and infers warmth and trust. Sports teams that touch each other more win more games. So, that’s why we always see teammates slap each other on the bum. Studies also show that waiters or waitresses, who touch the customer even on the arm or shoulder, will receive larger tips than if they had no physical contact with the customer.
Touch can disrupt the patterns of muscular tension intended to inhibit emotions, therefore, touch can change a person’s emotion response and promote emotional healing. Massage therapy can trigger events that intervene in our habitual patterns. Massage also creates a form of surrender, focused control that opens a person to a greater depth of feeling, and a more profound sense of satisfaction in the present moment. Sometimes in bodywork an emotional release may occur. Emotional release occurs when a pattern of tension in the bodymind is disrupted; in turn releasing defensive tension patterns that also releases the emotions held by tension pattern, which may result in a spontaneous burst of emotion, such as laughter or sobbing. Massage is a powerful vehicle for helping the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind begin to communicate. When a protective pattern is opened repeatedly and the client finds that the emotions the pattern was defending against are tolerable, the unconscious mind can begin to accept that the tension pattern is no longer necessary. The unconscious can then let go of patterns and become in line with the conscious mind allowing your true self to emerge. Altering those patterns can be like moving a stone that is blocking the middle of a stream, whether the client has any idea the stone is there or not.
Body awareness is very critical in preventing injury because awareness allows one to maintain balance and mobilize the body so it remains in safe alignment while moving. Body therapy helps people become deeply aware of their bodily sensations as well as their emotions and behavior. Clients become more conscious of how they breathe, move, speak, and where they experience feelings in their bodies. Just imagine how you would feel having all the attention of a person who is there for you, no matter how vulnerable you feel, and helps you feel better, and takes away your pain. Massage therapy is powerful and intimate work. Clients allow us into their personal space, beyond their “bubble” which actually facilitates in emotional and physical healing.
The fact that touch can be pleasant lies at the heart of the social domain as it allows positive pleasurable experience ranging from a pat on the back, the nurturing feeling of a parent hugging their child, and the feeling of a sensual caress. Touch can create trust, and promotes bonding, closeness, and compassion. Studies show that touch signals safety and it soothes. Warm touch such as a back rub or a hug calms cardiovascular stress and can trigger the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin has emotional effects, such as reducing anxiety, evoking feelings of contentment, calmness, human bonding, and decreases fear.
In the first several sessions of massage therapy, the client may not feel very much in response to touch. The knots are so hard the client has a relatively low level of feeling. Once the person feels safe and trusts the therapist, the body relaxes thus allowing the therapist to work out the knots of tension and holding patterns.
I’m sure we’ve all heard at one time or another to soak in Epsom Salts in a warm bath. But, how many of you actually know the reasoning behind it? Well I’m going to tell you…
What is Epsom Salt?
Epsom salt is not really salt. It is actually Magnesium Sulfate. Epsom salt got it’s name from a natural saline spring in a town called Epsom in Surrey, England. Magnesium sulfate is a natural remedy used for: beauty, household, gardening, and health issues.
Why use Epsom Salt?
Stress drains the body of magnesium and increases adrenaline. Magnesium helps produce serotonin (a mood-elevating chemical in the brain that creates a calm and relaxed feeling, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep & concentration, helps nerves & muscles function properly). Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes magnesium in the body. It regulates electrolytes ensuring proper functioning of muscles, nerves, and enzymes. Magnesium is crucial to absorb calcium in cells and gives the body sulfates which helps form protein in your joints.
The benefits of a relaxing Epsom salt bath:
- Relaxes muscles
- Soothes back pain & achy muscles
- Reduces swelling of sprains & bruises
- Increases metabolism
- Prevents headaches & migraines
- Sedates nervous system
- Natural emollient
Magnesium deficiency may cause:
- Muscle cramps & twitches
- Restless leg syndrome
- Poor memory & concentration
- Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Anxiety/Panic Attacks
- High Blood Pressure
- Kidney Stones
Suggested amount of Epsom salt is 1-2 cups to be dissolved in bath water. Soak for 15-20 minutes. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water after soak to ensure hydration. Contraindications are uncontrolled blood pressure, kidney disease, & pregnancy.
You may also want to try:
Detox bath- 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea salts, 2 cups baking soda in bath water.
Natural Salt Glow- Mix Epsom salts with vegetable oil, and add Lavender essential oil for natural painkiller and anti-depressant. Gently massage into skin for exfoliation and rinse.
The Power of Touch for Pain Relief
Most people are probably already aware that Massage Therapy helps reduce stress and promotes relaxation, but a growing amount of research has shown that massage is also effective for managing and relieving chronic and acute pain. The National Institute for Health states that one-third of Americans will suffer from chronic pain at some point in the lives, and 14% will have to take time off of work due to pain. Massage Therapy is also a healthier way to manage pain without the use of pharmaceuticals.
What is Massage Therapy?
Massage is not a new technique. It has actually been around a very long time. Ancient Egyptians painted pictures of people receiving massages on the inside of their tombs. Massage Therapy has been used to treat physical and psychological ailments for some time. It is even believed that Julius Cesar received daily massages for Neuralgia.
How Does Massage Work?
It is theorized that Massage Therapy enhances the production of certain pain blockers including endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These hormones work to counteract pain signals conducted by the brain. This explains why massage offers such dramatic pain relief.
3 Conditions I specialize in for pain relief:
1-Fibromyalgia- Relieves stress, depression, stiffness, tender points, increases flexibility, improves sleep patterns, and decreases "fibro-fog".
2-Migraines- Massage is a very important tool in headache pain relief. Due to different reasons the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and back of your head can become tender and stiff, and pressure points(known as trigger points) within these muscles produces severe headache pain.
When I work on trigger points, muscle tension eases, there is less pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, and as a result the pain can be effectively decreased. Massage is also known as a great way for reducing anxiety and mental stress that can cause or worsen headaches in the first place.
3- Oncology Massage- Cancer patients find that massage therapy improves relaxation, sleep, immune function as well as relieving anxiety, pain, fatigue, and nausea. Dr.'s consent is required while receiving chemotherapy, radiation, or any other cancer treatment.
If your body is relaxed, so is your mind. Your anxiety diminishes, your nerve systems calms, your breath slows and deepens, and your feeling of well-being is restored.