About MaryAnn Reynolds

Website: maryannreynolds.com. I practice advanced integrative bodywork in Austin, Texas.

New pillow recommendation

This may be a new concept for some of you, but we have posture 24/7, including when we sleep. Our bodies shape themselves to how we use them. Spending 1/3 of your life with a bad pillow is an invitation for neck pain, possibly headaches, and exacerbated jaw pain.

My profession is bodywork, and I specialize in craniosacral therapy and TMJ Relief. I’m interested in the quality of life of my clients and my readers, and that includes quality of sleep, posture, range of motion, habit change, breathing, awareness, deep relaxation…and so much more.

In the past I’ve recommended the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow often. Nearly every person with jaw issues also has neck issues, so inquiring about sleep posture and pillows is part of my evaluation, and treating the neck is part of nearly every TMJ Relief session.

The Therapeutica pillow is what I’ve used myself for years, and I never have neck pain. It comes in 5 sizes — you measure the width of your shoulder to get the right height for side sleeping. It also supports the curve in the neck for back sleeping.

I’m still recommending it, and there’s another option now as well. Yes, it is more expensive than the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, but it has some qualities you may appreciate.

A client recently shared with me that she’s discovered a pillow that she just loves. She has neck, head, and jaw issues. I looked it up, and it has much going for it. It’s the Turiya Organic Latex Pillow.

It’s made of natural latex and is mold and mildew resistant. The cover is made of organic cotton. The pillow is described as “medium firm”.

The top is for side sleeping, and the bottom is for back sleeping. The ear indentations are great for side sleepers with lots of ear piercings.

The average review is 4.2 stars. I haven’t tried it myself, but my client just loves it, and she’s a savvy woman…with neck, head, and jaw issues.

It’s $118, and you can buy it in 4 interest-free installments. If you buy one, you get 15% off a second one. You can try it for 30 days (which they recommend because it may take some getting used to). It comes with a 365 day guarantee, and returns are free.

It is 5 inches high, so if your shoulders are wider than that, you can put a folded towel under it for added height.

If your shoulders are narrower than that, please don’t get this pillow! Try the Therapeutica instead.

The Therapeutica pillow comes in 5 sizes, doesn’t have ear indentations, uses one side for both side and back sleeping, costs about $80 for the average size, is firm, and comes with a 5-year guarantee that it will hold its shape. It does not have ear indentations, but it does have “valleys” to minimize pressure on the jaw for side-sleepers.

It is non-allergenic and has a 90-day return policy.

If you have a favorite pillow or have tried either of these, I’m interested in your experience.

After the Texas freezepocalypse…

I’m working in my office one day per week (Tuesdays) and have since September. I took 6 months off because of COVID, and it’s almost 6 months since I’ve been back.

Working one day a week means that my workday is full with no gaps between appointments. This is time-efficient for me since I have a 30-minute commute each way (barring rush hour, which can take 20 minutes longer).

Although I optimize my road time by listening to relaxing music or audiobooks or podcasts, honestly, I’d rather not be in the car that much.

I’ve had one dose of the Pfizer vaccine with the second scheduled for later this month. My system should reach maximum COVID immunity on April 7, and at that time I will add another day in my office, Wednesdays. I’ll continue to add days as my time in the office fills up.

I’m seeing a lot of people coming in for craniosacral therapy. It’s so good for stress, and the pandemic and recession and political insanity have taken their tolls. You may have heard something about the polar vortex reaching Texas in mid-February, creating what’s being called “snowmageddon” and “freezepocalypse” because of the electrical grid nearly going down.

There was a lot of uncertainty with that. Even for those who came through it with little discomfort (including me), no one knew if they would lose power or how long it would be out, or if their pipes would freeze or burst, or if they would have food and water.

Temps got down to 4-8 degrees F in this area and stayed below freezing for 4-5 days. Usually if our winter temps go below freezing, it gets down to maybe 28 for a few hours. So homes aren’t built for cold. We have no snow plows. We sand icy bridges, and businesses and schools and offices close, and that’s it. “Snow day”.

So…lots of stress means lots of clients for me. I’m offering a discount now, which helps make craniosacral therapy affordable for more people. And we’re still taking full COVID precautions. And because of the downtime, I’ve been able to study in more depth both Upledger and biodynamics styles of CST.

I spent 8 days with my family during the freeze, and it was wonderful, 5 of us under the same roof, cooking, watching WandaVision (which I liked although Avengers fans had to explain the backstory to me), Servant (which I didn’t enjoy), enjoying each other’s company. One member has 4WD but not much was open. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs. Laughter.

I did miss the silence of my solitary abode, where birdsong is the soundtrack, but I was out of propane to cook with, and it was cold. My pipes froze but didn’t burst, and my electric bill will probably be enormous.

And now it’s spring, just like that, with highs ranging from 60 to 80.

We’re taking stock of the freeze damage to the plants. My Meyer lemon tree is probably a goner but I’m going to wait before doing any cutting. My spinach, collards, parsley, cilantro, carrots, onions, lettuce, and fennel made it through with frost damage, but chard and beets, snap peas, fenugreek didn’t.

The live oaks look bad but will probably recover. Palm trees, agaves, cacti, nope.

I’m doing a lot of MELT method sessions to help my body recover from a low back injury last fall when I tried to lift too much. Because some yoga poses were prohibited, I decided to give up yoga classes and to do MELT at home this year. It’s so good at helping the body to release compensatory tension patterns from injury and lack of use (being sedentary or workouts that don’t work the whole body).

I have a way to go but the pain is much less and my range of motion in all my joints has improved a lot.

Although the governor of Texas has declared Texas 100% open for business and ended the mask requirement, all the major grocery and superstores are requiring them, although how good enforcement (which usually falls to low-paid but somehow essential workers) will be remains to be seen.

Texas is something like 47th among states in getting its population vaccinated, and Houston is the only city in the nation with all 5 variants of COVID.

What? What was he thinking? Diversion from the near-crash of the electric grid and dozens of deaths and billions in damages resulting from that? Because of policies recommended during past less-serious strains on the grid but never enacted, to keep Texas attractive (cheap) to businesses? Because he appointed the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT (whose board is mainly people he appointed)? Because most of the cities in Texas are Democratic — although GOP gerrymandering and voter suppression are what keeps them in power? To slap President Biden in the face after he quickly released FEMA funds to the state (in the minimal amount Abbott requested) with no questions asked?

I’m pretty sure only Republicans will be attending mask-burning parties, before they are even vaccinated. I’m pretty sure that businesses who thought Texas was a good place to do business are having second thoughts.

Time will tell, but this extreme partisanship and lack of sensible governing could sure tilt Texas blue again. I’m ready for it.

Hello from the deep freeze that is Austin, Texas.

Some years, the temperatures never get below freezing in Austin. In the years when it does freeze, it doesn’t last longer than a few hours. We’re accustomed to 70 degree days in January, not consistently, but warm enough that some younger men don’t even seem to own a pair of long pants.

Not this year. We are breathing Arctic air, experiencing ice, snow, and prolonged below-freezing temps, and many are without heat and water due to the Texas electrical grid being overloaded and shutting down in many places for several days, so far.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that my power has stayed on the entire time.

My central heat is struggling to keep up. I’ve had a large pot of bone broth simmering on my stove day and night, dipping into it for an occasional cup of warm nourishment.

I discovered that a weighted blanket is even better than a sleeping bag at keeping me warm because I can sprawl out underneath it and it holds my body heat in just as well.

It’s chilly at home, but it’s a fun challenge, like winter camping. So far, anyway!

It started when it rained on 2/11 and froze on the bare limbs and twigs of the trees and bushes around my place.

On 2/12, the temperature briefly rose above freezing, and the ice on the branches slowly started melting.

On 2/13 I covered my Meyer lemon tree with a quilt and 3 tarps to prepare for temps in the teens. They’re supposed to be good down to 20 degrees F, but seeing as it’s 6 degrees as I write this on 2/16, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make it.

We got five inches of snow overnight on Feb. 14-15. It’s the most snow I’ve ever seen in Austin in my many years here, and it’s definitely lingering the longest. The forecast changes slightly from day to day, but it looks like we may get above freezing briefly Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

My four square-foot gardens are covered in snow. Not sure which plants will make it.

From my long-ago experience of an entire January spent below freezing in Oklahoma, it will melt the roads just enough to be passable for a few afternoon hours, and then slick over once temps drop at night. Saturday night will remain above freezing, or so it’s forecast.

It was 4 degrees this morning, and more snow and freezing rain are forecast.

My bird feeder has been super busy with puffed up birdies getting nourishment for all the energy they need to stay alive in these temps.

~~~

Well, at nine am, I ran out of propane. My daughter is coming to pick me up, and I’ll stay with her until this cold front is over, probably on Friday.

MELTing and staying hydrated to reduce pain

I posted this on my business website’s blog and then thought my wider readership on this blog (more about wellness in general) might be interested too.

Some of you have been following my posts about the work I did to recover from a sacroiliac joint injury and may find this of value.

Shall we all become as pain-free as we can?

New Self-Care for Jaw Pain course starts in February

Featured

I am a bodyworker, and one of my specialties is TMJ Relief. I help relieve jaw pain due to muscle tension. I’ve been doing this since 2013.

It has not been safe to work in people’s open mouths since March. I’m a one-woman practice without the resources of a dental office to acquire state-of-the-art air cleaners and make a large investment in PPE.

Meanwhile, the need for relief is even greater due to the stresses of COVID and the economy, working unergonomically from home, and poor sleep. People are clenching and grinding and damaging their teeth more than they did before COVID.

So…not wanting my skills to go to waste, knowing I could relieve some of the suffering, I spent the summer developing a Zoom course for people who would like to learn how to relieve their own jaw pain, offering it for the first time in the fall.

I’m offering it again in February 2020. There are 4 classes a week apart in the course. You will learn to replace the clenching habit with Relaxed Resting Mouth Position — you can accomplish this during the 4 weeks of the course with some helpful hints and daily mindfulness.

You will learn the quickest stress reduction technique available, documented by a neurobiology lab.

You will get helpful information and direction about stopping a night-time grinding habit. It’s more involved than daytime clenching and usually takes longer to eliminate, yet people have done it so we’ll model them.

You’ll learn how to work on yourself, releasing tension in both your external and internal jaw muscles.

You can learn more and sign up on my website. You can also join my email list for future announcements, join my Facebook group Word of Mouth for people seeking solutions for jaw issues, take a jaw pain quiz, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or a 30-minute Zoom consultation.

The class starts February 4, and the size is limited, so if this interests you, please sign up early to ensure you get in.

Not everyone has jaw pain, but nearly everyone knows someone who does suffer from it. I would be much obliged if you would share this post if you know someone who’s suffering who would at least want to know about this offering.

Water within, water without

I gave myself a gift, Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening. The subtitle is “having the life you want by being present to the life you have”.

He’s a poet who experienced a major health challenge from which he emerged with this book of inspirations, one for each day of the year.

I’m enjoying it deeply and appreciate that the readings are about one page long. It’s not too wordy, just enough to absorb and integrate easily, early in the day, and coming from a poet, the words are well-chosen.

Today, December 8 (2020), the reading is this:

In the Source-Place

Take a pitcher full of water and set it down in the water — now it has water inside and water outside. We mustn’t give it a name, lest silly people start talking again about the body and the soul.

~ Kabir

We can’t help it. We make much of where we end and where others begin. Yet only after declaring healthy boundaries can we discover and experience the true common water of spirit that Kabir talks about. It can be confusing. But, though we are not always eloquent or clear in what comes out, everyone is clear as water in the source-place where mind and heart start as one.

As Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Entering our days with this perspective can make a difference. It provides the ocean for our small pitcher of life.

It helps to remember that despite all our struggles for identity, despite the weight of living, there is an irrepressible ounce of spirit in each of us, a wellspring we carry within, that can be blocked but not contained. It emanates through all beings as the longing for love and peace.

When opening our longing, our honest want for love, we open the fountainhead of spirit, and then, like Kabir’s pitcher, we are water living in water, love living in love, a small thing alive in a big thing alive, a breath inside a wind.

  • Sit quietly, and as you breathe, think of yourself as Katir’s small pitcher of water.
  • Breathe deeply and freely, and think of the unseeable world of spirit around you as an ocean that carries you.
  • Breathe slowly and cleanly, and try to feel how you and the life around you are made of the same thing.
Pitcher of water

~~~

I woke this morning feeling the expansion of energies in my feet and my hands and throughout my body. This reading resonates strongly with that.

Outside, inside, all one.

Today is a working day in my office, a day when I offer artful touch to bodywork clients. I have two craniosacral therapy sessions booked for this afternoon that I’m anticipating, and this experience of expanded energy that I experienced on awakening and often experience while giving sessions is similar to water living in water, a breath inside a wind.

Antioxidants may lessen severity of COVID in older people

My email this morning contained news from Science Daily that researchers have discovered the mechanics of why COVID tends to be more severe in the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

I’m no scientist, but this was something I wondered about. I’m 67 and although I don’t consider myself elderly, I am an elder. (Humor me.)

I wondered what exactly is it about being older that makes one more vulnerable. I know lots of people my age and older who are healthy and living active lives. They don’t have underlying conditions, and apart from wrinklier skin, graying hair, and joints that are a little bit stiffer, are pretty healthy and fit.

According to this research as I understand it, it’s cellular oxidation that gives the COVID virus something to latch onto.

“Our analysis suggests that greater cellular oxidation in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions could predispose them to more vigorous infection, replication and disease,” says co-author Rajinder Dhindsa, an emeritus professor of biology at McGill University.

…According to the researchers, preventing the anchor from forming could be the key to unlocking new treatments for COVID-19. One strategy, they suggest, could be to disrupt the oxidizing environment that keeps the disulfide bonds intact. “Antioxidants could decrease the severity of COVID-19 by interfering with entry of the virus into host cells and its survival afterwards in establishing further infection,” says Professor Singh.

Source: Science Daily article

Cells produce free radicals as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result. Antioxidants can help prevent this.

It appears that over time, an excess of free radicals can do the kind of cellular damage that results in not only more severe cases of COVID, but also heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s, respiratory illness, and more.

How do you prevent oxidative stress? Avoiding inflammation, pollution, smoking, and too much UV exposure help.

You can also consume antioxidants from food. They are free-radical scavengers.

Antioxidant is a broad label for hundreds of substances that do the same thing: prevent or slow oxidative stress.

You’ve probably heard of some of them, like beta-carotene and lycopene. Each one does a specific thing, but all of them are plant-based, so it’s important to eat lots of fruits and veggies, especially the most colorful ones like berries, citrus, greens, beets, tomatoes, mangoes, etc.

Without knowing this, I learned that I was already doing a lot of things right.

  • I drink matcha every morning (green tea is a major antioxidant).
  • I eat lots of leafy greens.
  • I eat a small apple for a snack nearly every day.
  • I keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies.
  • I make and drink beet kvass (a fermented drink).
  • I cook with a lot of herbs and spices. I grow herbs and pick them right before cooking.

With supplements, more is not necessarily better, and some can interact with meds. You probably want to talk to a nutritionist first.

I hope that this is helpful. I hope you stay well, and if you get sick, that you recover well. If you want to know more, I found this article credible and helpful.

A delicious green soup, plus a craniosacral therapy discount and packages

I did a craniosacral therapy session last week on a friend whom I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. I went to his home since he has a massage table. We wore masks during the session with the window open.

The session was successful. He’d taken a spill on his bike, hit his head, didn’t seem too badly injured, went home…and noticed that he just didn’t feel right for a couple of weeks and called me. He felt shifts and releases throughout the session.

I sent him my Post-Concussion Self Care guidelines. If it was a concussion, it was minor, but any time the brain gets sloshed via head injury, craniosacral therapy can help.

Anyway, he’s a great cook, and he invited me to share a mid-afternoon meal of his homemade green soup outdoors on his patio. Of course I accepted!

It was so delicious, I want to make it myself.

Here’s how he described making it:
1. In a stockpot, sauté an onion in olive oil.
2. Chop 2-3 different bunches of greens and stir into onions and olive oil. Choose from chard, spinach, kale, beet greens, collards, dandelion greens, arugula, or whatever leafy greens you like or have on hand.
3. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
4. Add about 6 cups water, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
5. When cool enough to handle, pour into a Vitamix and blend.
6. If purée is too thick, add water to thin to desired consistency.
7. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

After heating it, he added chunks of avocado, a handful of pumpkin seeds, fresh garlic chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Oh, and bird peppers! I tried one. Too hot for me.

Yum. The amazing thing is how simple this recipe is. Of course, you could fancy it up by adding garlic, herbs, lemon juice or vinegar, and veggie or chicken stock instead of water. You could add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream or some croutons, or grate Parmesan on top.

I urge you to try it plain first. You may like it a lot, just that way.

~~~

I’ve dropped my prices on craniosacral therapy, from $120 for 75 minutes to $100 for a single session.

I’m offering a package of three such sessions for $250 and a package of 6 for $500.

Why?

Well, selfishly, doing craniosacral therapy is really good for me. I enter a healing state that (what else can I say?) feels really healthy.



I’m also planning to get certified in CST, which is a big deal, consisting of an essay exam, an objective test, and a 2-hour examination of my ability to use the techniques and describe why/what/how I’m doing them by a skilled, experienced teacher/examiner.

It’s a big deal, and I need to practice, practice, practice.

What’s in it for receivers?

Pretty much everyone gets deeply relaxed, maybe even more relaxed than they can get by themselves. It’s great for letting the nervous system move into parasympathetic dominance, where healing, tissue repair, and optimization occur.

Beyond that, little releases occur throughout the body throughout the session. Sometimes the receiver notices, sometimes not. It seems to depend on how sensitive they are to their own sensations and how accustomed they are to being deeply relaxed and aware at the same time.

MaryAnn Reynolds demonstrating craniosacral therapy

If you need sleep, you’ll fall asleep. Good. You need it. CST also helps with insomnia.

And…how relaxed can you get and still be awake?

I advise newcomers to CST to get three sessions. It’s so different from other forms of bodywork, it simply will not be what you expect. It’s more subtle and deeper, and it often lasts way longer than a massage does, in my experience.

I recommend checking in by doing a body scan before and after each session to notice what’s different. Tune into your whole self, too.

For me, years ago, I noticed that I felt calmer (which was unfamiliar at that time in my life). It was like CST helped me discover a quiet, still place inside me that was present and aware, not doing anything, simply being.

I had no idea how busy my mind was, until it wasn’t.

I came to think of this state as being more centered in myself. That’s part of the healing state I enter when working. I also feel a lot of energy in my body, especially in my hands. I experience relaxation and releases too.

CST works really well when people get it regularly. A regular experience of relaxing and releasing restrictions works cumulatively over time.

Hence the 6-session package. Two of those would net you monthly sessions for a year, costing you (if bought separately) $83.33 each. That’s a deal.

After three years of monthly sessions, I had cleared so much baggage (aka restrictions), I felt like a new person: aware, present, resilient, positive. I went on to make some major changes in my life, for the better.

I never thought about becoming a craniosacral therapist myself until 6 months after I finished massage school when a new friend who was a craniosacral therapist asked me why I wasn’t one. I started taking classes 3 days later, in early 2013.

If you’re in the Austin area, you can book online here: https://maryannreynolds.as.me/

If you’re not in Austin, you can find a craniosacral therapist here: https://www.iahp.com/pages/search/index.php

Sacroiliac joint pain returned after 3 years. Now what?

Nearly 3 years ago, I posted that my SI joint was healed. This injury was from a 1996 car wreck. I finally got the right help years later from a physical therapist who evaluated my pelvic alignment and said it was out of symmetry every way possible — tilted sideways, tilted forward, rotated more on one side than the other.

She put a Core Wrap (stretchy fabric with Velcro on the end) around my pelvis, pulling the bones together, and voila, instant stability.

None of the 3 chiropractors I’d seen, for more than a year each, had even suggested that. I’m sure not every chiropractor is like this, but it seemed to me that they wanted to keep treating me forever without fixing the problem, just providing a little relief.

If they understood that stretched out ligaments need bracing to shorten, they never let on. I had to go to massage school and take advanced classes to learn that. Rah for PTs!

I stopped wearing the Core Wrap in Dec. 2016 after 18 months of wearing it pretty much 24/7 because my pelvis finally felt stable without it. I could go for long walks, even hiking in the mountains, without pain.

The alignment still wasn’t perfect but the ligaments had tightened up from wearing the Core Wrap and I wasn’t in pain. I was able to resume doing a full yoga practice, complete with lunges and twists, backbends and splits, joyfully meeting many challenges, developing symmetry and strength, and improving my balance. My alignment improved.

Well………

In October 2020, I was house- and pet-sitting for my daughter and her wife, and I needed to move a 30-pound bag of dog food from the garage to the pantry.

It was too much weight for little old me. (I’m 5’0”.) Even though my arms and upper body are strong, I’m guessing that my pelvis may always be a weaker spot, particularly where L5 and S1 meet. The disc felt compressed. Not herniated, but compressed.

I felt a strain immediately in my low back.

Over the next few weeks, it got worse. I began to wake up with a familiar old discomfort, especially at the left SI joint, and also down the outside of my left leg. My fibula felt out of place, and my knee felt slightly unstable.

It was as if the old asymmetrical tension patterns had returned. The body has memories of the dysfunction as well as the function. My choices move me toward function. I had made a poor choice. (Next time: move the dog food bin to the garage and fill it there.)

Le sigh.

I’d discarded my well-used, stretched-out Core Wraps.

I’m going to try something new. I had some KT Tape stashed away. I went to their website to see how to tape for SI joint stability. It pulls the pelvis together in the back with extra support on the side that is problematic.

So today I’m trying that. The cotton version is supposed to last for 1-3 days. The best thing is that KT Tape doesn’t show under your clothing.

The velcro on the Core Wrap could be irritating to my skin, so I ordered a genuine sacroiliac belt.

I chose the Vriksasana Sacroiliac Belt. It has 4.3 stars from over 4,000 people, the most for any SI belt on Amazon. Their instructions say to wear it for two weeks, including while sleeping. It’s $26.

Vriksasana is tree pose in Sanskrit — one I’ve been working on to develop better balance standing on my left leg. The name is a good omen.

It looks like it would be bulky under clothing, so I will simply wear it outside my yoga pants, which have become my daily uniform. People who are curious enough to ask about it will learn something new that may help them or someone else.

Meanwhile, I am not lifting heavy things and being super careful of sleep posture and in yoga. I danced and did some gardening today, with a lot of attention to not straining anything.

Several people have found my previous posts about my SI joint healing journey because they are searching the web looking for help for their own SI joint issues. They’ve reached out.

This is why I write about it. I am a bodyworker myself, and I am fascinated by the healing journey, especially when it’s not a quick fix. I’ve had several long and meandering ones, and I know that when you find the right information or practitioner or aid, progress can be rapid. I like to help people make progress.

I’ll be back with a report before too long.

Small print: I have an affiliate account with Amazon and may receive a small percentage of sales made through clicking these links.

Take the jaw pain quiz

I created a 3-minute quiz that you can take to get a quick sort on how serious your jaw pain is, along with some possible next steps.

Click here to take the quiz.

It’s not a full-length evaluation like you would get if you came to see me in my office. But it seems that a lot of people with jaw pain don’t know how common it is — and how much jaw symptoms can vary from person to person.

Understanding the factors that contribute to jaw pain is not well-researched, but stress, posture, and habits are commonly involved.

We address these factors in my Self-Help for Jaw Pain online course, which is one option after taking the quiz.