Etiquette for massage: how to handle stinky butt

Warning: This is a delicate topic.

All massage therapists and bodyworkers who work with unclothed people have encountered this phenomenon, and it goes by several names: stinky butt, monkey butt, smelly ass, stinkbutt, stinky bum, ass stink, swamp ass, sweaty bum, and rotten smelly butt hole. You get the idea.

It happens like this: The therapist leaves the room, and the client undresses and lies down on the table between the sheets. The therapist re-enters and begins the session.

When the therapist is ready to work on the client’s hip/sacrum/gluteal muscles, he or she undrapes the area, usually leaving the butt crack covered.

Suddenly a nasty smell hits the therapist’s nose. Pee-yew! It’s gross, and the client is often unaware of it, which makes it embarrassing for both the therapist and the client.

And it can happen to anyone. Continue reading

12 ways to improve your health by sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)

If you commute (usually sitting) to a desk job (mostly sitting) and then go home and watch television (sitting) and/or spend a lot of time on your computer (sitting), even if you manage to work in an hour at the gym, your health is at risk.

You can Google to learn more about the science of this — and they’re just beginning to learn. I’m just here to give free advice on behavioral changes you can make.

To counteract all the sitting, you could consider:

  1. Cutting the car commute and work from home as much as possible. Seriously. Present this option to your manager as a way to cut their costs, improve your health, and therefore make you more productive!
  2. If you can’t avoid car commuting, every time you’re at a red light or stop sign or gridlocked in a traffic jam, stretch your legs, and tense and relax them several times. Really pull the muscles to the bone. (Okay, that’s the yoga teacher in me talking.) Point and flex your feet and rotate your ankles.
  3. Take public transportation and stand during your commute, a la New York City subway riders.
  4. Bicycle to and from work, or combine biking with riding the bus or light rail. Many now have bike racks available. You may want to request that your workplace provide showering facilities.
  5. At work, take frequent breaks (1-2 minutes every 20 minutes) to stand up and walk around. Set a timer and do it. Go get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, stretch, shake the tension out of your body, do a forward bend to stretch the backs of your legs. Walk to the best view from your building and partake of it to refresh your spirit.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball. You have to use your legs to balance. You can also bounce when no one is watching. It will strengthen your core muscles because there’s no back — you have to hold your torso up. This will burn more calories, if you’re interested in doing that.
  7. Instead of emailing, texting, or phoning, walk over to a colleague’s office to communicate with him/her. I know, I know, this is really analog, but it’s also refreshing. Think of how much more information you get from seeing their face and hearing their voice in person. You might even learn something about them from seeing their office decor.FitDesk
  8. Persuade your office to invest in a FitDesk. One FitDesk shared among eight employees sounds like a great start. I imagine 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon would make a big difference in the health and longevity of those eight employees, especially if they’re doing some of these other things when not pedaling. Of course, if your office can afford it, get a FitDesk for every employee! If you can’t afford it, you could phase this in over time as finances allow, as employees using it report they’re feeling better, missing less work, being in better moods, and being more productive, improving the company’s bottom line. Hey, maybe this is the key to the economic recovery and the obesity epidemic! FitDesks for every employee!
  9. When you get home, turn off the TV and computer and do something that uses your legs: cook, go for a walk, clean house, garden, do yard work, do yoga, lift weights, kick box, have sex, play with the dog, take a shower, swing your kids around, give them piggy-back rides, roughhouse, dance, put on a show. Also known as “living life” and “being embodied”.
  10. If you can’t eliminate TV or video games or Facebook or whatever is so compelling on your computer (okay, blogging and Facebook for me), limit it to an hour (with a break every 20 minutes; see #5 above) and get up during commercials unless you are on your feet while watching. Or…
  11. Get a FitDesk for your home so you can move your legs while watching TV and being on the computer.
  12. Do this with other people. It will be more fun.

Making the world a healthier place, one blog post at a time…

Altucher on oxytocin and polyvagal theory, with humor

10 Unusual Ways to Release Oxytocin Into Your Life Altucher Confidential.

I love this guy. He’s so real. I can only wish I was as good a writer as James Altucher.

He tells about being caught shoplifting as a kid, his disgust for going to the bathroom, cortisol, stress, the vagus nerve, a photo of a woman’s tattoo of “Fight or Flight”, and oxytocin.

There’s another photo of a foot with the chemical formula for oxytocin tattooed on it.

Then he lists 10 ways to increase your oxytocin levels.

One of the ways happens to be shooting guns. I don’t think that one would work for me. Loud sudden noises like gunshots make me really jumpy. That’s cortisol, not oxytocin. Maybe that’s a guy thing?

I would replace that one with getting a massage. I notice that with almost everyone, receiving massage decreases their cortisol. I can tell from feeling their energy before and after, gauged by how they move and their voices.

For others, especially those who are accustomed to regular massage, an hour or so of good bodywork vastly increases their oxytocin. They are all soft and mellow and receptive and happy afterwards.

I would also add rocking a sleeping baby, but you might have had to nurse your own baby first to get that feeling.

The rest of Altucher’s recommendations for increasing oxytocin work. Even using Facebook! And I especially like his strategy for dating.

I will tell you my pre-date secret. In the brief period when I was single in between separation and re-marriage I had a technique before every date. I would watch either Michael Cera doing comedy or Louis CK doing standup. This would get me laughing, make my oxytocin hormones go on fire, and then I’d go right into the date, with all my sex hormones raging. Plus. I would be temporarily funnier, with a half-life of about two hours. I knew after four hours I would be boring again so the date would have to be over by then. I do this before talks also.

How to have good boundaries: the third energy

In the energy of being grounded, you learned that you have a space, a position on this planet. You fully connected your energy with the earth’s energy and felt the strength and power of that.

Then you learned about being centered in your own energy, further strengthening your felt sense of yourself.

Having boundaries involves knowing where you end and not-you begins, and knowing when and how to protect and defend that space and give others their space. This is the third energy.

Have you ever experienced someone’s bad boundaries? Perhaps they stood too close when they were talking to you. Perhaps they got in your face or stepped on your toes. Or someone touched you inappropriately, or worse. Connect that to how you felt in your body. Uncomfortable, crowded, resistant, fearful, violated, powerless, worthless, what else might someone feel whose boundaries have been crossed?

We’re often not really aware of our boundaries until someone violates them. This can distort our boundaries. Think of all the incest, physical abuse, emotional abuse, rape, molestation, sexual abuse, child abuse, and more-power taking advantage of less-power stories that you’ve heard, seen on TV, or read about. There’s a lot of suffering in this world because of this type of behavior.

When someone’s boundaries have been violated, their sense of their own boundaries can easily become distorted, or maybe it wasn’t that strong to begin with. Part of recovery is restoring those boundaries and strengthening them by learning how to better protect and defend your space. Without doing this, people can suffer for years, by being distant and isolated, by violating others’ boundaries, or both. Having a good sense of boundaries has a positive impact on social and intimate relationships and your trustworthiness in general.

This energy is important for feeling like you can be yourself in the world and be safe, for trusting life. This is a huge component of well-being, and most of us have no real training in it.

Here’s how you begin to experience your boundaries:

The first boundary is your skin. Everything inside is you; everything outside is not you. Stand up and get centered and grounded. With your hands, pat yourself from head to toe and back up again. Feel your skin with your hands, your hands with your skin. Take your time and really notice. Appreciate your skin.

Did your skin notice the rhythm of your hands patting? Did you notice changes in sensation as you patted different areas of your body? What does your skin do for you?

Close your eyes and imagine the distance where you feel comfortable when talking to another person. Imagine them walking up to you. How far away do you want them to stop? (Or if you’re with someone, talk to them and notice the distance.) Notice if the distance is different with different people. Imagine your mother, your best friend, a lover, a stranger.

Next: If a growling wild animal were to slowly walk toward you, and you couldn’t run, how would you set a boundary? Think of the length of your leg. You could kick the animal if you had to. (But hopefully you can avoid hurting any animal.) So the length of your legs creates a boundary.

The length of your arms forms another boundary. You can use your arms to push someone out of your space. If they got even closer, you could bite them to get them out of your space.

This next experiment requires a partner. Stand several feet apart, grounded and centered.  Extend your arms and notice that boundary. You may feel that arm’s-length space as a column that extends from the ground to over your head. This is an important boundary.

Now face your partner and slowly walk toward them, arms extended. Stop with your palms against your partner’s. Notice how you feel. Determine who is Partner A and who is B.

With palms still together, A steps into B’s space and tries to get closer. B pushes A back to the comfort zone. A: Really push! B: Tell A “This is my space. Get out of my space!” as you push them back. Feel the effort.

This is going to feel uncomfortable at first. It’s not so hard for children, so pretend you’re on the playground if that makes it easier. I hope you’re breathless from the effort and laughing when you’ve each done it!

Boundaries are a lot more complex than centering and grounding because they’re relational and situational. Maintaining good boundaries requires your attention, especially in new relationships, when someone’s behavior changes toward you (or yours toward them), in new situations, when meeting people from other cultures.

Being able to say “no” without alienating someone is also part of the art of setting good boundaries. Have you ever been roped into doing something you didn’t want to do? That could be a whole blog post or maybe even a book!

Quickly, here’s how I like to do it: I appreciate the other person’s intent, and then tell them no. I may tell them why, but I don’t have to.

Other person: MaryAnn, we’d love to have you on that committee.

MaryAnn: I appreciate you thinking of me, but I cannot take that on at this time. I have too much on my plate already, and I doubt I could do the job as well as someone with more time. Have you thought of asking Lucy?

You get the idea! That’s the nice way. If someone is persistent, don’t hesitate to get tougher. “Absolutely not!”

Good luck with sensing your boundaries and making them real. Thanks to Brian D. Mahan, SEP, for inspiring me!

Four steps for discovering your Enneagram type

The Enneagram is a system that classifies people by type, like personality typing. It’s kin to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. But it’s about more than personality—it’s based on fixation.

According to Enneagram theory, we are either born with or acquire in the earliest years of life a fixation that deeply influences our identity: who we believe we are and how we view life. The fixation is what keeps you from experiencing your essential (healthy) self. It’s how you get in your own way. It’s a filter that in some ways has worked for you, but it can eventually limit you into a habitual way of living that feels too small. You may suspect there’s more to you than that. You can transcend your fixation to find more essence, more freedom, more joy.

Maybe this is what enlightenment is.

There are nine Enneagram types. Each type has two wings and three subtypes. Furthermore, each type moves toward two different types when you are stressed and when you feel secure. Plus, your development level changes with age, experience, and your desire and ability to grow. So it’s a fairly dynamic model, even though (according to theory) people remain their type their entire lives.

To illustrate, my type is Five. Other names: The Investigator and The Observer. We Fives are classic nerds: bookish, shy, avoiding conflict, private, attracted to minimalism, curious, alert, intense, innovative, insightful, cerebral, having a rich inner life, seeking mastery.

Would you believe that part of the path to my essential self is exercise? Living in my body connects me to a vitality that I could never experience living in my head. It took the painful aftermath of a car wreck in my 40s—and the subsequent healing journey—to really get this.

Daily yoga, the outdoor activities I love like snorkeling and kayaking, dance, meditation, giving and receiving massage, hugs, touch, and sex all help me connect with my body, more fully occupy it, and be more present in my full vitality, my essential energy that radiates joy, love, peace, and happiness.

So if you knew me as a child, you’d have known a shy, bookish, smart, aloof nerd. If you know me now, you’d see some of those qualities at times, but you’d also see someone who has a lot of vitality, who lives with an open heart (and who still really likes to think).

For me, the journey from being immersed in my type to living more from my essence has been like moving from a black-and-white world into a world full of amazing colors of infinite variety. I can’t say it’s all due to knowing about the Enneagram, but it has helped and provided much insight.

If you are interested in using the Enneagram as a tool for personal growth, and you don’t know your type, here’s how to find out. It’s not always easy (but sometimes it’s very obvious). You can definitely narrow it down to a couple of types, and then you’ll get an aha! (And you may change your mind later on.) Plus, you will easily recognize some people you’ve known.

It’s important to first note that we often do not see ourselves as others see us. Therefore, learning your Enneagram type might make you feel uncomfortable. Prepare yourself. The truth often hurts before it sets us free.

  1. The Enneagram Institute offers free and low-cost online tests. The free, brief QUEST takes 5 minutes.
  2. Watch a brief video of each of the nine types and self-identify your type.
  3. Watch the videos with people you trust with the intent to identify each person’s type with compassion. Others who know us can be honest yet tactful and supportive (as you can be with them—agree on this beforehand and don’t invite anyone who is insensitive).
  4. If you’re still confused about your type, read how types are often misidentified.

To learn more about how it works, read books. I suggest The Wisdom of the Enneagram and The Enneagram for beginners. For more advanced students, I recommend The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram.

Once you are more or less settled on which type most accurately describes you, you can subscribe to a daily “EnneaThought” email for your type that can support your developmental growth.

Here’s my EnneaThought for today:

EnneaThought example

How do you soothe yourself? Here are some of my favorite ways.

Self-soothing is an activity that nearly anyone can learn and get better at. It encompasses techniques and behaviors that we can use to soothe our emotions when ruffled, disturbed, distressed, overwhelmed — when we encounter difficult situations in life.

Self-soothing means not going to others expecting them to make you feel better. Of course, if we’re lucky, we have healthy loving people in our lives who help us feel better, but what if they’re not around? And…how can you become one of those healthy, loving people?

Self-soothing is a skill that you can cultivate to take better care of yourself.

You start with recognizing when you need soothing. It starts with self-compassion. Maybe you experienced a bad day at the office, an argument with a loved one, an unpleasant bit of news, mistreatment by a clerk, a fender bender, or all of these things.

Can you treat yourself as well as you would treat a friend in these circumstances if you had the resources to treat your friend really well? If you’re not your own best friend, who else is going to be?

You probably already use some self-soothing techniques without thinking about it. What do you do that brings you pleasure? I’m not talking about special techniques like EFT or NLP. This post is about ordinary things that people can do to soothe themselves, by themselves.

Here are some of my favorites –and I believe it’s good to have many self-soothing techniques in your repertoire that you can draw on when you need to. It’s a way of adding richness to your life, and you can share these with others, enhancing their lives as well.

For visual refreshment, I love walking in botanical gardens, especially Japanese gardens. I love looking at landscapes, cityscapes, sunrises, sunsets, and the star-spangled night sky — the big picture.

I buy myself flowers on occasion, and depending on the flowers, the color and shape not only please my sense of sight, the fragrance pleases my sense of smell.

Walking on a scenic trail or kayaking or paddleboarding on water is very pleasant, and the sensations of movement, temperature, and more just add to my pleasure.

Traveling to a beautiful place is awesome! I love Maui and West Texas for the gorgeous — and very different — scenery. Those landscapes feel very friendly to me.

Reading a good story takes my mind off my problems and sweeps me up into some other story.

Music is one of the greatest soothing inventions ever. Hearing a beloved golden oldie, music that you associate with good times and good feelings, or listening to new music that engages and calms — those can shift your comfort level profoundly. A couple of my favorites are Wachuma’s Wave and Chakra Chants.

Listening to a waterfall, rain falling, the ocean — the sounds of water definitely soothe me.

I just love listening to Mango purr. Listening to someone read some good writing aloud is also quite pleasurable.

I adore smelling fragrant flowers, any essential oil, herbs and spices and fresh produce, and teas. I once grew a rose called Souvenir de la Malmaisson that smelled so much like a fine wine, just the fragrance was intoxicating. It was like catnip is to a cat. I wanted to roll in it!

Petrichor is the word for the smell of rain. I wish I could bottle it because it’s always so refreshing!

Soothing touch includes feeling soft, sensual textures in bedding and clothing. Curling up is relaxing. So is tuning into the sensations of just breathing. Of course, you can touch yourself pleasingly, and I need not say more!

To some people, exercise soothes. They love sweating. I love yoga and dance. The movements please me and wake my body up pleasingly.

Be careful about soothing yourself with taste. It is the self-soothing method that many people use to the exclusion of all others, and it can easily result in weight gain and/or an unbalanced diet and dis-ease. Be mindful — take tiny bites, eat slowly, let your taste buds savor — and have lots of other self-soothing techniques.

Another fine thing you can do is to take a happy memory and relive it as fully as you can, re-experiencing the sensations and emotions.

Finally, laughter soothes jangled nerves, aching hearts, hurt feelings, failures, and disappointments. At some point, you’re ready to laugh again.

In that case, watch a good, funny video, listen to a funny audiotape, or read a funny book. To each his or her own. Steve Martin, David Sedaris, George Carlin, Saturday Night Live, Christopher Guest, Ellen deGeneres, Monty Python — there are lots of funny, funny performers, films, and books available that you can bust a gut enjoying.

If you have any favorites not listed here, I welcome you sharing!

Kaminoff on Broad: yoga did not start as a Tantric sex cult, you idiot

Leslie Kaminoff once again responds to New York Times senior science writer William J. Broad, who has written sensationally that yoga is killing people (see Kaminoff’s response here) in order to sell his book The Science of Yoga, which Kaminoff reviews and actually recommends without totally buying into it here).

The latest bit of drama is Broad’s assertion (again in a New York Times article and in interviews that I wrote about here) that yoga began as a Tantric sex cult, so no wonder the John Friend/Anusara yoga scandal happened!

Kaminoff points out Broad’s inconsistencies and lack of scholarship and shows the evidence of artifacts depicting yoga poses from ancient times, 4 to 5 thousand years ago, greatly predating medieval Tantric cults, not to mention that yoga is one of 6 well-developed philosophical systems of Hinduism.

Dance: finding the play in the moment

Psychology Today has posted a slew of articles under the heading The Last Dance? You’ll shed stress, forget pain, amp up your brain–and your sex drive!

Now we know that in addition to all the other benefits of exercise, dance activates the brain’s pleasure centers. It certainly feels like that to me. When I think of the joy I get from dancing, there’s nothing that comes really close, except being in love and having really good sex. Especially when they go together.

Dancing is like joy unleashed. I was at Ecstatic Dance Austin this morning, a bit less energetic than usual because of recent illness but still there, to move, to connect, to get happy.

I took in the whole room — the music, the 60-plus people dancing their hearts out, the wide variety of dancers in age, skill, style — and it felt like being inside a huge heart, pumping bodies, music, laughter, play, freedom, silliness, sweetness, sweat, all with a dance-like-nobody’s-watching attitude.

Some of the dancers are skilled. There are performers, teachers, yogis, and also, people who have issues with their feet, ankles, shoulders, backs. Some dancers stick to very simple moves and pretty much stay in the same place. Some move around the room.

Some dance every dance with a partner (same or different), some dance every dance alone — or with the entire room, who can tell the difference? No one is watching or judging — all dance activates pleasure.

I danced with an old friend, a woman, early on, and it felt like we were the two hottest chicks in the disco. A guy friend shared a yummy, slow, and tender dance with me — thanks so much, my dear. Another man and I playfully played, and he dazzled me again with his joy. I danced alone and with the room, and also was still and wept, and I did some handstands against the wall. It was all good. This dance is a large container.

Below, some excerpts from the articles that I found interesting:

“Dance allows people to experience themselves in ways they didn’t know they could,” says Miriam Berger, a dance professor and dance therapist at New York University. “You can change your internal state through external movement.”

dance boosts mood more than does exercise alone. In a study at the University of London, researchers assigned patients with anxiety disorders to spend time in one of four therapeutic settings: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class, or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.

Cardiac-rehab patients in a recent Italian study who enrolled in waltzing classes not only wound up with more elastic arteries, but were happier than participants who took up bicycle and treadmill training.

What accounts for the emotional high dancers experience? As a general rule, moving to music activates the brain’s pleasure circuits.

The brain’s structure may explain another important source of mood boost: Dancing bonds people, according to Robyn Flaum Cruz, president of the American Dance Therapy Association. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you yourself were doing the moves. 

For your pleasure and education: 

Berger speculates that the sense of achievement and well-being that comes from expanding and perfecting one’s movement repertoire may carry over into other areas of life. “One of the most important parts of psychotherapy is relearning things you learned wrong,” she says. “With dance, you have a great opportunity to do that on a physical level.”

In a study done at the University of New England, participants who spent six weeks learning tango’s fancy footwork recorded significantly lower levels of depression than a control group who took no classes, and results similar to those of a third group who took meditation lessons. Study author Rosa Pinniger credits the extreme focus—or “mindfulness”—of dance, which interrupts negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression.

The physically expressive nature of dance also helps people release and thereby recognize pent-up feelings, the first step to dealing with them.

…if conscious communication through motion is the hallmark of dance, then we better call painters like Jackson Pollock dancers too. In his drip paintings, Pollock placed the canvas on the floor and moved around it rhythmically, flinging paint as he went. Painting was, for him, an experience and an expression of the moving body. His paintings might even be considered dance notations!

Dancers exercise every one of the universal thinking skills we explore in Sparks of Genius, The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People (Houghton Mifflin: 1999). They observe the movements of people and things. They image, or mentally manipulate, what they have observed and experienced, seeing with the mind’s eye the movements they wish to make, feeling the feel of these movements before they enact them. Dancers analogize, linking the human body to living forms and inanimate processes around them. They imitate or model the movements of these things. They abstract certain elements of these movements in order to simplify, to grasp the essential. Thinking dimensionally, they form patterns in space and through time. They play with these patterns, altering and improvising. Ultimately, dancers transform stories or pictures or sculptures or games or ideas into dance. They synthesize music, choreography, costume and setting into one coherent spectacle. But most of all and most specially, dancers empathize through role-playing. And in related fashion, they think with the body, exploring what they know about the world with muscle movements, visceral tensions, gut feelings, and emotions.

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. – Vicki Baum

Dancing: the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music.  – George Bernard Shaw

If you’re interested in reading why dance is a radical act vital to our survival as humans on earth, read this entire article, which is too difficult to excerpt. Well, except for these:

To dance is to play with the movement that is making us. It is to cultivate a sensory awareness of how this movement is making us, and of how our own movements, as we shape and transmit the energy of life, are making us. To dance is to play with this movement in ways that allow us to discover and exercise our capacity to make our own movements—movements that align with our health and well-being.

One who dances knows: the reason we “exercise” is to play–to find the play in the moment, to release the capacity to play within ourselves. Dancing, we explore the possibilities for movement alive in the moment. We cultivate a receptivity to impulses to move as they arise in our bodily selves. We improvise. We imagine. We allow our bodily selves to guide us in new patterns. We follow a toe, a finger, a nose, the waves of our breathing into new spaces of sensation.