Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy for Allergies

With the weather change comes the pollen. This simple trio of essential oils is one way to ward off the effects of allergies. I still have to take an over the counter allergy pill. Some days that isn’t quite enough.

No photo description available.
Allergy Power House

You will need:

Cedarwood also known as Juniperus Virginiana. The latin name is important because there are a couple different types of Cedarwood and they do not all have the same properties. Cedarwood is safe to use around children and is excellent at drying up phlegm. Cedarwood is also a mood booster.

Lemon: Organic and pressed is best. Lemon kills germs and is an uplifting scent.

Tea Trea This is easy to find anywhere.

I buy essential oils from Aromatics International.. They are high quality and quite a bit better priced than a company like DoTerra. Because I use a lot I buy a bigger bottle and store them in the fridge. For most of you 5ml is enough and they can go rancid. I also like to buy the Pranaroma brand when they are on sale at the co-ops.

Put about 5 drops each into your diffuser. Fill with water and let it go. Experiment with different proportion to find what you like.

Diffusing these oils in the air is a natural way to kill of germs and bacteria.

They start around $20. What makes them more expensive is capacity and aesthetics. This one is from Target.

You can also put a few drops of these oils at the bottom of the shower and let the hot water create a steam for your sinuses.

These can also be added to a little spray bottle with water to create a pillow or room spray.

Please note that these ideas are taken from a course I took on allergies from Aromahead.

Massage, Musings

Lunch with Cadavers

I just finished a weekend of learning at the Northwestern Health Sciences Massage Symposium. A highlight of the symposium is an opportunity to spend 30 minutes in their prestigious cadaver lab over the lunch hour. So, yes it was billed as Lunch and Cadavers. Stop reading if you are easily grossed out.

Into the Cadaver Lab

Outside the lab I was informed by the experienced attendees that I might want to put some Vick’s VapoRub under my nose to keep out the smell of formaldehyde. Thankfully, I was at a massage symposium and there were samples of smelly unguents to be had around every corner. I chose a packet of China Balm to be my olfactory friend. The smell was nothing compared to the existential unease that came over me.

For the most part, the bodies were mid-dissection. The skin was mostly removed and the exposed muscles were dry to the point of looking like beef jerky. That was less problematic for me than the intact body parts that gave hints of the life once lived.

For example, while the size of the femoral artery was fascinating to see I couldn’t help but notice the chipped blue nail polish on the intact, but wrinkled, toes of the donor. My vivid imagination overtook my scientific mind. I began playing out my own personal morgue scene from one of those murder mystery shows I love so much. Surely, she must have painted those toes about three weeks prior to her death but never had a chance to remove or re-apply the nail polish. So sad.  

Deep breath, April. Stay focused on the anatomy!!!

We moved on to the second cadaver. While my colleagues were eagerly grabbing at the glutes to get a better look, I was focused on the short curly hair of the donor; not to mention its missing face. As everyone “oohed” and “aahed” over the the third cadaver I was mesmerized by its intact ears and hands. They looked like something out of a mad scientist’s lab in a classic horror film. The pacemaker cords sprouting out of another donor’s chest didn’t bother me as much as the detail of the coarse hairs growing out of his ears. I couldn’t not create stories in my mind about these people. After only ten minutes I was the first to leave the lab. 

The other attendees were mostly graduates of the Northwestern Health Sciences massage program so perhaps they were more accustomed to an academic morgue. The instructors in the lab were way more interested in teaching anatomy than helping me process my encounter with death. Perhaps she was putting on a brave face for me but my fellow therapist said bluntly, “It’s no big deal, you get used to it.” The more I write this I realize I was less put off by the lab but more so by the insensitivity of my fellow massage therapists.

Allow Me to Process

Sadly some of my former clients have passed away. I have experienced that strange feeling of knowing that someone who was once pulsing and alive under my hands is no longer with us. There is a certain intimacy between my clients and me. I have a great respect for the vulnerability they bring into my room. It is always sad when I hear that someone I once worked with is gone. Let me just take this moment to say “thank you” into the great beyond to all those who have shared sessions with me and have crossed over.

Maybe next year will be the year that I put my imagination aside and join the cult of dissecting the dead. But this was destined to be the year where I humbly observed the fragile mortality of my fellow human beings. For now I will appreciate learning through palpating living breathing humans!

 

 

A

Recipes, Wellness

Lentil Soup

Here is one of my favorite go-to recipes.

I love Lentil Soup because it is nutritious, tasty, economical, versatile and above all else hard to screw up. It can easily be vegan, vegetarian or meaty.

clone tag: 8783931679487755232
In this version I used leftover chicken.

We eat it plain, with homemade croutons or over mashed potatoes or rice.  Our favorite thing to do is put John’s homemade sour kraut into the soup.  The tangyness of the kraut balances out the earthiness of the soup.

If you are pressed for time you just through everything in the crock on high for 5 to 6 hours.

I wish that I could take the credit, but it comes from my favorite cookbook of all times: The Joy of Cooking.  The classic recipes of Joy are time tested and always turn out great.

In a large pot over medium low heat:

  • 3 TBLS olive oil

Add and cook until tender but not browned about 5 or so minutes:

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in:

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups lentils(french or brown work), picked over and rinsed
  • 1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes(I prefer fire roasted)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme or (3 sprigs of thyme wrapped with the parsley)
  • A bundle of parsley (I wrap it in twine and pull out before serving)
  • 1 bay leaf(also pull out before serving)

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft about 30 to 45 minutes. Pull out parsley bundle.

  • Stir in: 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper.
  • Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar.

Options: Leftover Chicken meat, or smoked sausage add flavor and make a great meaty addition.

Sometimes I stir in Spinach at the end.

For more flavor squeeze lemon juice or balsamic in at the end.

I like mine with a little Parmesan sprinkled into the bowl.

Like I mentioned before it is great with saur kraut.

ENJOY!!!!

Musings, Wellness

Breakfast and Healing in Maine

MaineRecently, I had a chance to travel to Maine with my spouse John. We stayed in the quaint twin towns of Saco/Biddeford-just a two hour train ride north of Boston.  This used to be a thriving mill town and cute old houses and brick buildings abound.  In the latter part of the 20th century the town lost its main industry and suffered a significant economic down turn.  It is now a rebounding tourist and industry town.  On Main Street one will see unique, independent shops.  The buildings in the town mostly have that weather worn look.  The town is full of well groomed hipsters, who migrated up from Brooklyn and beyond to seek their fortune.  Alongside these motivated young adults exist the old time meth addicts hanging out together sporting last decades fashion trends.

43913190_260386798014108_2565439347690184986_n(1)

Here I am at the vintage and chic Tiny Diner.  It still only seats about 20 and the bathroom is located outside of the caboose.  Within is a well oiled breakfast machine. Although it serves traditional diner food everything was elevated to the next level.  My scrambled eggs were perfectly done with a little bit of cheese and chives scrambled in.  No industrial carton of egg puree here.  The breakfast potatoes were battered and fried.  The toast and jam were of good quality.  I stole more than a few bites of John’s corned beef hash.

Enough about breakfast-I want to tell you the  story of Flourish

Our first night we walked down to the Main Street with our hosts to eat a Thai dinner. As we headed to our next destination- I spied “Flourish” a little new age healing space and store.  There just happened to be a “healing salon” going on the following night.  It has been a good decade since I attended such an event so I knew I had to check it out and my host, Kate, was in for the adventure.

On a dark, cold, Thursday night Kate and I entered a cozy healing space.  Picture low lighting and a room with gigantic, beautiful mandala paintings on old brick walls.  A women was playing auto harp for all to hear.  There were various practitioners around the space and for a small fee one could get a sample session.

For example, for a fee the auto harpist would play the auto harp on your stomach.  With the addition of Reiki she would use sound healing to cure what ails thee. I still wish that I would have tried this one.  My friend Kate chose reflexology.  I chose to see Martha Fishback for flower essences and energy healing.

I was having a little pain in my right hip so I stated that as the main complaint.  Martha swung a pendulum over a chart to discern what the problem was and then to choose the correct flower essences to go with it.  Flower essences are the distilled essences of flowers.  A few drops are put into a cup of water and imbibed by the client.

After swinging a pendulum over a chart she decided that the root cause was emotional stress from work.  Although I wasn’t actively feeling that stressed about work I figured it was worth reflecting on. At this stage of my career I’m pretty good at managing my energy when working with clients.  Even so, I sometimes take on my client’s emotions without realizing it.   Also, there is always a certain stress that goes with the uncertainty of self employment.

She gave me my paper cup with a little water and flower essences.  Next, she invited me into a makeshift tent of colorful tapestries which housed a Massage table.  I lay down on the table face-up.  Without putting her hands on me she did about seven minutes of energy work over my head and about seven minutes over my feet.

I entered a very relaxed state.  Some very nice imagery came to me and I even shed a few happy tears.  It was nice to take a moment of calm in the middle of a vacation.  The auto harp music in the background was lovely.

My hip pain really didn’t abate, but I did have some emotional revelations.  More than anything, I was reminded how nice it is to have an energy practitioner give me full attention. While I really enjoyed the experience and felt some emotional relief, I ultimately needed more attention paid to the direct cause of the hip pain through Massage and Chiropractic.  Kate absolutely loved her reflexology session.

I see that they are hosting a medium in a few weeks.  If only I were in town to witness that!!

 

Aromatherapy, Uncategorized

Aromatherapy Updates

Luxurious Peppermint/Clove Massage Lotion

Item Zoom

I’ve settled on a favorite blend for giving Massage.  The Peppermint and clove oil are analgesics.  The clove has such a comforting smell.  To this I add a few drops of Rosemary oil-which smells great and is great for tight muscles.  To round it out I use Lavender essential oils to give the smell balance.  Lavender is also more gentle on the skin

Image result for lavenderthan the other oils and creates a bit of a buffer so the other oils don’t irritate the skin.

 

 

A word about Peppermint essential oil.

Image result for peppermint

It smells lovely and has many healing properties-but one can have too much of a good thing.  You only need a few drops and never put it directly on the skin.

I recall a few years ago, before I took a course on safely using essential oils, I experimented with putting steamy hot towels on my client’s face like they do in the salon where I get my hair cut.  I had the brilliant idea to add Peppermint to the towel because I liked how it smelled.  Even with only using a few drops it stung my client’s eyes.  It’s very hard to relax when your eyes sting.  Lesson learned.  Thankfully that client forgave me and still sees me for Massage. (Thanks KK if you are reading this) It was really a good thing I took the Aromatherapy for Massage Therapists course and hopefully won’t commit such an error again.

 

Citrus Blend

This month I am also trying out a new Cheerful Citrus Blend.  This one features essential oils of Grapefruit, Lemon and Orange.  These citrus oils are one little way to help beat back those Winter blahs.  Orange oil is also anti-spasmodic and great for digestion. It is said that the Citrus oils are also great for the immune system.  For how dry it is right now my clients are soaking up loads of essential oils.

 

In the Diffuser:

For the Winter months I have returned to my favorite Winter blend “Bayberry Balsam” from Sunleaf. It just smells right for the season and isn’t over whelming.  Steamy Balsam fir is also great for the lungs and can help with breathing and sinus problems.

From the Sunleaf Website:

BayBerry Balsam Pure Essential Oil Aroma

Add a touch of warmth to your home this holiday – with BayBerry Balsam.

BayBerry Balsam is a festive seasonal aroma featuring pure essential oils of aromatic balsam fir, spicy clove, and precious bayberry.

This Aromatherapy Blend is made from 100% pure essential oils, lot-tested and certified for purity. Use to scent pine cones or make seasonal potpourri, diffuse in an ultrasonic diffuser, or make your own recipes.

Available at the Wedge Co-Op.

 

Body Mechanics, Massage, Shiatsu

Simple guide to arm and hand Pain

If you clicked through to this link there is a good chance that you get occasional hand and arm pain.  You may have tried to Massage your hands only to get no relief.  There’s a trick to this-pain in the hands almost never originates from the hands.  Hand pain is almost always referred from higher up on the body.

Culprit number one: The Forearms……

Pain in the hands often starts in the forearms. The joints of your hands are mostly surrounded by tendons that connect to muscles that are located in your forearms.  It is often the muscles in your forearm that are contracted and tug on the tendons in your hands.  The remedy is usually to stretch and massage your forearms.  In particular there are usually trigger points around your elbows.  To review, trigger points are little sore spots in the muscle belly that refer pain to another part of the body.

See the source image
Notice the white tissue over the fingers and hands-those are tendons and ligaments.  See how the white tissue connects to red muscles further up the arm. When those muscles get tight they tug on the tendons in your hands.

See the source image
Because of this connection between the muscles of the forearms and tendons in the hands you will notice some common referral patterns.  The T shows the trigger point and the red shows the referral patterns.

You do not need to memorize this chart.  I just want you to understand how this pain relationship works.  Go ahead, do your favorite arm stretches.  It’s always a good idea to self-massage around the elbow.

WIN_20180921_16_02_52_Pro_Moment
I put the hurting arm down on the table.  I cross the other elbow over and place it on top of a sore spot.  I lean in and press for 3-5 seconds.

See arm massage video here.

Culprit number two: The shoulder. 

A lot of arm pain actually starts in the shoulder girdle.  There is a really good reason for this-the brachial plexus nerves starts up in your neck, goes under the clavicle and works it’s way down to your arm. Different branches of it go into your pecs, your armpit and back.  Often when you come into my office with arm pain I will check out your neck muscles, chest muscles, armpit muscles and back to see if we can find any referral patterns.   This is why it is erroneous to only think locally about hand pain.

Over the years, when I have had bouts of thumb pain it has been very important to have a Massage therapist work on my pectorals as well as dive into my armpits.

arm anatomy
As you can see the brachial plexus starts up in the neck, works its way under the clavicle and then down the arm.  It’s no wonder that tight muscles along this nerve pathway will cause discomfort in the arm and hand.

My clients are often surprised that a session treating arm pain will include the shoulder girdle.

This image shows the referral pattern of a trigger point in the pectorals.  The x is where the trigger point is and the red shows the referral pattern.

Stretch the shoulders for the good of your hands

This is why it is also important to stretch out the shoulders.  For Massage therapists our all time favorite stretch is the “Doorway stretch”  This opens up the shoulder girdle and allows blood flow to the hands.

Guess what I am usually doing when I am waiting for you to come out of the room?  That’s right, leaning into the stairwell doorway next to my office.

Keep those shoulders loose to keep your hands warm…..

As a side note, I’ve learned that opening the shoulders is key to keeping the hands warm on a cold day.  So much blood passes through the shoulder girdle that if you are tensed up whilst outside on a chilly day your hands will get cold.  Breath while raising and lowering those shoulders and you will notice your hands warm up. Swing your arms in front of you-it’s better than a hot pocket!

Same thing with biking

Similarly, you may  numbness notice tingling while riding your bicycle.  Most likely, the pain is not directly in your hands, but rather from crunching the shoulders in.  I find that if I can stretch my arms behind me while riding I can usually get better blood flow in my hands.

What about arthritis?

Arthritis is deterioration of cartilage of the bone.  Massage cannot reverse arthritis-however we can reduce the inflammation in the tissue surrounding the arthritis.  Sometimes the irritated tissue is as painful, if not more than the arthritis itself.  Also, I have formulated an ointment specifically for joint pain using trauma oil, essential oils of cardamom, ginger, and juniper. Read more about April’s Active Again Arthritis Antidote.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some insights into hand pain.  Self care is awesome and a Massage or Shiatsu from a trusted professional is even better.  All the best.

FAQ, Massage, Shiatsu

Tipping and Massage

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Clients often wonder: Do I tip my Massage Therapist and if so how much?

Here’s the clear answer:

If the Massage Therapist works at a Spa, especially a Massage Envy type place then you absolutely must tip them!!!!  Their wages are lower. If it is a Groupon then you must tip them well!!!!

Here’s the less clear answer:

If you are seeing an independent practitioner like myself it can vary.  We can set our own rates and have more control over our overhead. I have some colleagues that set their prices about 15 percent higher than mine, but don’t accept tips at all.

I would say 70 percent of my clients tip me and they tip between 15 and 20 percent.  My clients that tip me usually have the financial means to do so and come in about once a month.

For the clients that don’t tip, the appointment with me is already a financial stretch and the tip would be cost prohibitive. Some clients also don’t tip because they take the view that I am a private business owner and I can set my own rates.

I don’t want to turn anyone away because they can’t tip and it is really important that you come in as often as you like.

I have colleagues that don’t accept tips, but charge a higher hourly rate.  I prefer to keep my rate lower.  As I said, those that can usually do and those that can’t don’t.  I want to leave that up to the client to decide.   It’s like a self-selecting sliding scale. Whether you tip me or not I am grateful for your patronage and will give you a great Massage or Shiatsu.