Massage, Musings, Shiatsu, Wellness

Massage and Anxiety

Intro

On a regular basis clients experiencing some sort of anxiety come into my office.   Anxiety shows up differently from person to person; for example, one client may have a general sense of stress and worry while another might already be under the care of a doctor or psychologist for a diagnosed condition. Some people feel it in a general sense of agitation while others might have headaches. Body work helps ameliorate the signs and symptoms of anxiety both on a mental and physical level.  


Bodywork calms down the nervous system

Basically, Massage therapists are wizards of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is in charge of “rest and digest” and is when it is on the healing happens.  Part of what is at play with anxiety is a heightened flight or fight response which is hardwired into our sympathetic nervous systems.  We live our lives with our sympathetic nervous systems keyed up to handle what ever threats(real or imagined) are around the corner.  What we do as body-workers is provide an opportunity for your sympathetic nervous system to turn off and your parasympathetic nervous system to turn on. Signs that your body has switched to the parasympathetic nervous system are slower breathing, gurgling tummy, and a drop in body temperature. When you sit up and say, “wow, I can get on with my life” I know that I have done my job.

There is a method to the calmness of a Massage room as the soothing music, the aromatherapy, the heated stones all trigger the relaxation response.

The Physiology of Worry

Not only does body-work engage the parasympathetic nervous system, it actually causes changes in the endocrine system; the system in charge of hormone secretion.

For example, massage has been linked to elevated levels of dopamine and lower levels of cortisol, which provides evidence of reduced stress.”

Benjamin, Patricia J Tappan’s Handobook of Massage Therapy p.136

Dopamine and oxytocin are feel good hormones whereas cortisol is emitted during times of stress. Due to the relationship of the PNS and impact on hormones Massage also helps with the psychosomatic signs and symptoms like headaches, tight muscles and upset tummy through hands on application.  Regardless of the science behind Massage, caring human touch makes people feel good.

Emotional Release

Emotional release  is when a clients might have a deep sense of letting go of some intrinsic stress that has been held in the muscles and it usually involves a good cry during a bodywork session.   Our muscles store our memories and sometimes when we are touched in a safe environment our minds and muscles let go of some negative feelings that has been stored inside. Not to worry if this happens, crying is a normal way to shed stress and most people feel better afterward. 

It’s not the job of the Massage therapist to process the feelings like a talk therapist would, but rather to hold the space so that you can release deep tension.  I like to say that we listen with hands and heart.

The Practical Healer Full Body Approach

Whether you choose Massage or Shiatsu a full body approach is best.  For example; the scalp muscles can tense from making worry faces.   Also Abdominal massage is great if worry has your stomach tied in knots.  Rubbing out the shoulders is a way to take off the weight of the world.  Working on the feet helps bring the energy down from the head and is deeply relaxing.  Also, evening out the energy of the channels from an Asian bodywork perspective helps support the underlying condition.

Comfort and Safety are Key

The cornerstone of working with anxiety is good communication.  No two clients need the same thing.  I have anxious clients that prefer the deep pressure points of Shiatsu and others that prefer a soft Swedish Massage.  One thing that everyone has in common is a need to be comfortable and safe.  It’s not uncommon for those with anxiety to need adjustments to the bolsters, face cradle, music, lighting and so on.  A good Massage therapist is there to help and can make infinite adjustments.

Aromatherapy

As far as aromatherapy goes, Frankincense, Lavender and Ylang Ylang are notorious for calming the mind.  I can send you home with an aromatherapy inhaler which you use in times of stress.  It’s also great to use before you fall asleep.

Acupressure Points

There are many acupressure points that are associated with couple the mind. Below are a few examples. A therapist trained in Shiatsu can access these points to augment a treatment for someone struggling with excess worry.

Gently Pressing on Pericardium Six Reduces Nausea and Anxiety.

Conclusion

In conclusion bodywork is an effective tool for coping with anxiety-whatever form it takes.  On a personal note, I too can find myself taking a ride on the worry wagon.  Over the years I have learned that that talk therapy, medication, exercise and great body work are all helpful ways for me to deal with stress of anxiety. In particular bodywork helps with the psychosomatic manifestations like headache and stomach ache. I hope that you will find relief too so that you can continue to enjoy a vibrant life.

Shiatsu, Wellness

Shiatsu for you!

Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage are probably the most well known forms of bodywork. Did you know that there is another great form out there just for you-Shiatsu?.

Like with a good Massage the goal of Shiatsu is to ease pain and help you feel more relaxed. The intention and methodology, however, are a little different. The most noticeable difference is that it is done fully clothed which allows for more stretching. The technique also is more pressure point oriented. The acupressure points are activated along the meridians- the same as used in Acupuncture. It is through this manual manipulation of the energy that the muscles, tendons and ligaments find relief.

For example, if you come in experiencing neck pain I will work along the meridians of the neck. Those meridians extend down into the finger tips and for that reason I will work the whole meridian. I will also use corresponding acupressure points on the feet to ensure that your energy is balanced also.

Main advantages of Shiatsu

  • No greasy lotion
  • Keep clothes on
  • More energizing than Massage.
  • More efficient-I can cover more territory faster with pressure techniques
  • Awesome stretches for upper and lower body are included
  • Great for anxiety
  • Great for low back-in part because it’s easy to achieve side position,
  • Full body approach.
  • Good for digestive or menstrual complaints -do to abdominal massage component.

What’s with the Pulse?

It is traditional to take the clients pulse before beginning a Shiatsu treatment. This pulse is not like at the Drs. office. There are three different positions and two different depths. I am looking for the overall quality of your energy and will then work according to ancient principles.

History of Shiatsu

Body Mechanics, Wellness

Better Phone Ergonomics

Ergonomic use of the cell phone is a regular topic around my Massage office. Sometimes, we talk about tech thumb from too much game play or texting. Other times we discuss a kinked neck and locked elbow from too much chatting with on the phone. Unless one is extremely disciplined, it is all too easy to find oneself drifting into electronic reality and staying there longer than our bodies are comfortable.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
In this stock photo you see that this women has brought her phone up closer to her eyes and her elbows are resting on her body. The kinked wrist of her left hand could cause chronic discomfort.

It’s true that Massage can unravel some of the distress created by cell phone overuse. As it is said “Prevention is the greatest cure.”

I personally had to take my favorite game(June’s Journey) off of my phone and put it on the computer because it was aggravating my thumbs.

Here is my home video PSA on Tech Neck.  Hopefully, you find it instructional and entertaining!

Here is a longer phone ergonomics video made by somebody else. This presenter basically compiles ideas from other websites into a more entertaining format. Everything he talks about I have seen in other YouTube videos by experts.

Phone ergonomics!

  • The most important thing is to keep it up at eye level.
  • Bring the phone to you and not the other way around.
  • If you can rest your elbows on a table or your own body that is fantastic.
  • Try to use both hands to text.
  • Adjust the brightness so you are not squinting.

Practicing what I preach!!!

While we are on the topic of ergonomics let me tell you about my new electric table. The electric lift raises and lowers the table so that I can always work at my best height. It is also much easier for me to lower it so that I can do the full range of stretches. The electric table facilitates the transition between Massage and Shiatsu.

Recipes, Wellness

Summer Zucchini and Tuna Salad!!

This zesty and refreshing salad is healthful, easy to make and uses one of Summer’s most abundant ingredients-Zucchini.

This is a variation of recipe I found while watching “Lidia’s Kitchen” on PBS.

This Tuna and Zucchini Salad is a healthful way to enjoy one of Minnesota’s most prolific vegetables. The unique boiling method for the Zucchini works particularly well.
I buy this Tuna from the Wedge Co-Op. It is ethically caught, delicious and a fair price. The herbs I used are from my garden and include Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and Parsley

For the Recipe you will need:

4 small or 2 large Zucchinni (whole to cook)

1 Can of Tuna-drained

1/2 Cup of Kalamata Olives(whole, pitted)

1 TBLS Parsley (minced)

1 TBLS Fresh Herbs (minced)

1 TBLS Lemon Juice

2 TBLS Olive Oil

1/2 tsp + Salt

1/4+ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

The method:

Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Put the Zucchini whole into the water. Boil the small ones for about seven minutes and the large ones for ten minutes. Get a bowl of ice water ready. When Zucchini are done put them in the bowl of iced water to cool.

While Zucchini are cooling put everything else in a bowl and mix up.

Slice Zucchini into big half moons and stir in with everything else.

Serve on it’s own or with crackers. Goes great with a pesto Pasta.

Serves Two. Easily doubled.

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.

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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.

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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!!