Relieving forward head posture: full body myofascial release (aka Deep Massage)

This is the fourth post in a series about Cate and me partnering in bodywork to relieve her forward head posture. Click here to read the first post, here for the second, here for the third, and here for a special post about the Still Point Inducer.

by Cate Radebaugh

Since I was in Austin for several days early this week, I opted to go to MaryAnn’s on Wednesday instead of Friday. She told me that it was time for a full body myofascial massage and gave me the familiar intake paper with four sketches of a human body — front, back, and both sides — and instructions to circle where I feel discomfort, pain, tension, etc.

It’s always the same for me: neck and shoulders, lower back, and feet — so that’s where I made my circles.

Then MaryAnn went out while I undressed, got on the table, and under the sheets. I’ve had massages before, so I knew about putting my face in the little face holder, but she also had a special pillow with holes in it that I could put my breasts in, and that was wonderful, because typically, they get smooshed between me and the table, which is not so great. With my breasts in a safe space, I felt completely comfortable for the first time ever laying prone on a massage table.

Continue reading

Update on using the sacroiliac belt

It’s been a week since I started self-treatment for SI joint pain. I’ve made some changes after talking with my teacher that I want to share, in case you’re doing this at home. (If you’re just tuning in, you may want to read my first post on this topic.)

First, I am wearing the sacroiliac belt at night while I sleep.

Since we spend about one-third of our life sleeping, and we’re unconscious while we sleep, sleep posture is extremely important when working on alignment issues like an SI joint that has been out of alignment for years.

I decided to sleep with the sacroiliac belt on 24/7 to prevent the alignment occurring during the daytime hours from being undone while I sleep. Of course I take it off to shower and swim.  Continue reading

Sunday morning: a little trauma release, a fine buzz, then some yoga jazz, and a tribute to a teacher

Long-time readers know I spent some time and energy on learning the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and practicing them. (If you’re a new reader, go to the tag cloud in the right panel and click TRE or trauma releasing exercises to see the many posts on the topic. If you want to learn them, I recommend Berceli’s book and video.)

I haven’t written much about them for a while. I still value them very much as a tool for releasing tension.

Sometimes at ecstatic dance, I allow my legs to shake for a little while, which releases leg tension, especially around my hip joint. (Nobody notices or comments, ever.)

Some mornings I wake up and just know I need to do them. I may tremble for 30 seconds to a minute or two. It doesn’t have to last long to be effective.

I imagine that the more you do them and really surrender to them, the less you need to do them. Also, the more you do them, the more aware you become of tensions accumulating in your body, and you adjust sooner — taking a deep, cleansing breath to let it all out, stretching and moving the tense area.

This morning I did them for longer, because my body wanted to keep going. First my legs surrendered to the shaking, then left my arm flapped, then right my arm flapped, then my lower spine hammered, then my upper spine waved, then more legs, and so on. It’s entertaining to witness where the surrendering moves!

Then afterward, the fine buzz inhabiting my body. Mmm.

Walk to my yoga mat. Tadasana, feeling feet, upward energy. Stretching arms up into hastasana circling to anjali mudra several times to warm up, each with my gaze a little higher, a little more backbend.

Then from hips, float down into uttanasana and just hang. Feel my tight hamstrings. Hold. Breathe. They become like rubber bands, surrendering to the stretch. Then extend spine and re-bow.

Left leg back into lunge. Feeling the tight gastrocnemius and soleus. Push heel back and breathe. Right leg back to join it. Breathe length into calves.

Plank, with spread fingers, sturdy column arms under shoulders. Feel strength. Pressing palm and fingers evenly into mat, slowly lowering into chataranga, feeling creaks and twinges in shoulders and elbows.

Once flat, press pelvis and tops of feet into floor and lift up into bhujangasana, cobra. Imagine the fronts of my vertebrae, deep in the middle of my torso, fanning wide open to give and receive and expand my energy. This spine, this flexible column of bone, fluids, muscle, nerve, this backbone. Yes.

Turn toes under. Strongly lift my body up, elevating my pelvis as high as it will go. Push palms and fingers evenly into floor. Push heels back to stretch my soles (I’m hearing my teacher Eleanor Harris now). Lift sit bones to ceiling. Feel strong shoulders. Downward-facing dog, adho mukha svanasana.

“Enjoy your breath,” as my teacher Brigitte Edery is fond of saying. And I do.

Then bring right leg forward into lunge. Then today’s standing sequence: warrior two, extended side angle, reverse extended side angle, triangle, reverse triangle, ardha chandrasana, warrior one, warrior three. Nice standing vinyasa (with room for improvement in the sequencing, I notice), and I am aware of all the different stretches each pose brings where spine meets pelvis meets thighs.

I am pleased with my balance in ardha chandrasana, but I need to put my extended arms on the top of a stool to hold warrior three. There’s always an edge. Today, and probably for a few weeks (or months, who knows?), that’s mine — balancing in warrior three.

Then back to lunge, uttanasana (notice how much deeper my fold is), extending spine, and reverse swan dive up, arms circling into anjali mudra.

Repeat on other side.

I follow with pigeon, a deep twist (thrilling as my shoulders reached the floor), happy baby, and rock to standing.

I am in my body, ready for today, for ecstatic dance, for community, for work, for learning prenatal massage.

Feeling very grateful for my friends, and for my teacher Gabrielle Roth, whose work I knew better than I knew her personally, who was so influential in opening my awareness up to new movements, rhythms, and energies in life, who is in her own life now moving into stillness. She dedicated her life to healing the mind-body split. Amen to that.

Here’s my favorite Gabrielle quote:

After you jump, before you land is God.

I’m going to light a candle and open myself up to God.

Self-care for massage therapists, part 2 (what works for me)

In part 1, I listed various self-care methods that massage therapists use for their own aches and pains from giving massage. In part 2, I want to share what I’ve tried (so far) that works.

First, I want to say that my strength and endurance have increased with practice. I used to be in pain after giving 3 hour-long massages in a row several days in a row. Now I can do 4 hours 5 days a week with just a few twinges and aches afterwards. For several weeks, though, I was hurting and feeling some despair about having upended my life to get trained and start working in this new profession and the possibility of not being physically able to do it.

Key learnings from a newbie:

  • I no longer attempt deep tissue work, sticking to Swedish and reflexology. My Swedish massages are good and getting better. I incorporate some of David Lauterstein’s deep massage strokes into every Swedish massage, and I use pressure points, stretching, techniques from sports massage, body mobilization techniques, and reflexology, depending on the client’s issues and the amount of time I have. I cannot deliver the pressure that some clients (well-informed or not about what “deep tissue” means) seem to want. If I work within my limitations, it’s win-win for everyone.
  • I trained in Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy so that I can deliver deeper pressure using my feet and body weight, controlled by holding onto overhead bars. It’s so much easier on my body and a lot of fun, too.
  • I rock with my feet and leverage my body weight strategically as I deliver Swedish massage so my arms and shoulders do less work.
  • Hydrotherapy totally rocks after a long shift. I fill my double kitchen sinks with hot water (my water heater is set to 130 degrees F. for sanitizing laundry) and cold water that I dump a quart or two of ice into. I immerse my aching forearms and hands in the water, alternating cold-hot-cold-hot-cold, for one minute each. I can barely stand it, and yet it makes a huge difference in just 5 minutes. Seems to flush toxins and swelling and pain right out.
  • I stretch my fingers and wrists, holding each stretch for 15 seconds. Good to do when driving, at red lights.
  • I press into the trigger points for the elbow and wrist (see part 1 for links).
  • I apply magnesium gel with seaweed extract topically. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, weakness, and fatigue, and fifty-seven percent of the US population does not get enough magnesium from food.
  • I love epsom salts in a bath. (Guess what? They contain magnesium!) When I was feeling a lot of pain all over, I would dump a cup or two of epsom salts into a fairly hot bath and add a few drops of lavender oil, then soak for 15-20 minutes. I felt like a new woman when I came out! I learned this years ago from dancers.
  • I use Young Living’s OrthoEase oil on clients’ painful muscles, and I use it on mine as well. Contains wintergreen, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and more that are analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
  • I keep hydrated and have been avoiding nightshades lately. I’m already gluten-free and eat fairly healthily. I’m interested in following an anti-inflammatory diet but haven’t done the research yet.
  • I take at least a couple of days off per week, not always together, though. I’m still finding my ideal schedule.
  • I do 10-15 minutes of yoga every morning. Sun salutations stretch and strengthen my body. Plus, it’s a great check-in to do something that starts the same every day. I start slowly and really let my hamstrings lengthen in forward bend before I move on to the next pose. I add standing poses, balance poses, and pigeon as I feel the need and to keep it interesting.
  • I get at least a chair massage every week. I’m interested in setting up a weekly trade for a full-body massage with someone, too.
  • I use a foam roller on back when needed, and a tennis ball to my gluteus.
  • I have two tennis balls tied into a sock that I use when driving to massage my back. I’ve also learned to “pop” my own back while giving massage!

Here’s something that just doesn’t fit into any of the categories I’ve seen so far about self-care for MTs. It’s about how you use your attention. I’ve learned to keep some of my attention on my body most of the time.

When I focused exclusively on the client’s body, delivering what I thought they wanted, I hurt and fatigued myself. I listen more to my body now and check in verbally with the client if I am not noticing nonverbal feedback.

If I notice that I feel rigid anywhere in my body, I say to myself, “Soften,” and my body softens.

Sometimes I put my attention on the soles of my feet and their connection to the floor/earth (I massage with bare feet always for Ashiatsu and as much as possible for Swedish), making the movements of giving massage into a soft, fluid dance.

Sometimes I attend to my breath, letting it become easy and relaxing (and audible to the client, as a nonverbal suggestion that they relax too).

All of these techniques activate the inner body, subtle body, energy body, whatever you want to call it. It feels better to give massage with this “soft present alive expanded body” than not. There is definitely an aspect of being “in the flow” that seems somehow related to doing Reiki, but I don’t know how to put it into words (yet).

Another bonus: the sensations of pain and fatigue become distant as peace and love fill my awareness.

I don’t know if clients perceive the difference, but I don’t think it could hurt. I do it for me because I “in-joy” it!

It’s been four months since I got licensed and began working. I look forward to learning even more new things about self-care and sharing them here.

In praise of reflexology and reflexology sandals.

Last Sunday, I took a reflexology workshop at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage school to further my bodywork skills. It was awesome. Although some people are very ticklish, most people love having their feet worked on, so it was great to expand my knowledge of the body and to begin to develop new skills.

I learned how much just working on the feet can do for the whole body. I now know of two very experienced massage therapists/teachers who begin and end with the feet. I’m changing the way I work to do this myself.

You’ve probably seen those charts that match parts of the body to parts of the feet. I had a massage client on Wednesday who told me she was feeling stressed and in need of support for her adrenal glands, makers of stress hormones. When I got to the adrenal points on her feet, they were very tender.

In reflexology, we ease up on the tender places but stay longer, gradually increasing pleasure as good energy returns.

I do find it miraculously wonderful that points on our feet can affect our glands, organs, and other body parts remotely.

One of my fellow students at the workshop was wearing sandals with little nubs on the insoles. Reflexology sandals! She said if she doesn’t wear them, her back hurts. If she wears them, her back doesn’t hurt. That’s a pretty solid testimonial.

My back is fine, but my feet have been hurting — not in the typical way of tired, overworked feet but of feet needing more stimulation, now that I’m back working at a computer to recoup financially from a year off work.

As I’ve posted before, sitting all day is not healthy. I get up and walk around, but it’s not enough.

So I bought myself some reflexology sandals, and I have to say, I love them! They feel great, the little nubs pressing into my soles with each step. They’re very casual (could work as beach sandals or shower shoes) or I’d be wearing them all the time.

(I once had a nubby bathmat that was pure heaven to step on in the morning. Wish I’d saved it when it wore out — could have cut it into nubby insoles!)

I rarely write testimonials for products, but I want to let you know about these, since this blog focuses on wellness and health.

The sandals are made by Adidas, and the style is called Adissage. And actually, I would have preferred a less flashy style without the brand name, and it would be nice to have nubs where the round logo is in the heel. Ah, well.  I’ll compromise on the looks because the feel is so great — and maybe someone else will design a pair that matches my taste.

You can get them at Footlocker, Academy, Amazon, Zappos, and other places for $20-30. They’re available for women, men, and children.

I bet your feet will love them as much as mine do.

Next week I’ll be working from home most days. Can’t wait! I’ll either be barefoot or wearing these.

Feet report, planting a tree

Well, my feet did not take me to Barton Springs after all on Saturday. I woke and remembered it was a day of honoring my feet, of letting them lead. I put my attention into my feet, feeling into them.

While still in bed, I did some exercises that Fran Bell gave me to increase my ankle and hip range of motion. Out of bed, I did the Z-Health foot exercises that Patrice Sullivan gave me to open foot meridians.

After that, my feet felt alive and glowing! They took me to the shower. I love washing my feet, especially between the toes.

You can say to yourself:

Oh, those are my ordinary feet, and they look clean. I feel them resting on the floor.

Or you can think:

Wow, my feet are tingling with life force, energy, chi! I wonder how far the energy would extend if I could see it. Seriously, if this energy produced light, you could read by it!

Well, those feet took me to my yoga mat! I did a leisurely round of sun salutions, paying special attention to my feet in tadasana, lunge, plank, down dog, and so on, feeling the mat and pressure and stretch and strength and position and air currents.

Then my feet walked me over to the zafu and zabuton. I turned on a timer for 30 minutes and sat. I wanted to spread the aliveness of my feet into the rest of my body.

That was a great start to my day.

The rest of Saturday, I checked in periodically with my feet without thinking too much. They wanted me to make monkey tea. They wanted me to do some more unpacking and arranging at the trailer. They led me to set up my hummingbird feeder.

Then we ran errands. We went to Home Depot, and among other items I bought a soaker hose. My landscape architect friend/writing client Merrie told me I need to water the ground under my trailer, where there are big cracks in the bare soil from the drought.

I came home and soaked the parched earth.

Feet, connect us to the earth, pachamama, terra firma.  Connect us to our big blue marble. Keep us grounded in what we do. Let us be of service to you.

In the evening, my feet served me well when I gave my daughter her first massage from me, the first of many, I hope.

I danced for 90 minutes on Sunday morning. My feet felt free, loved, and joyous. After lunch, I stopped at The Natural Gardener. I needed some potting soil and bought some basil, thyme, and peppermint. The garden center was nearly deserted. Most people give up on gardening in August around here. I’m just getting started in a new place.

And then I wandered through the tree section. Thirty percent off a tree is substantial, and they had quite a few $24.99 trees before the discount. Half my trailer is unshaded, and since I can’t plant a tree 10 years ago, now is the next best time.

I thought I was going to get a cedar elm but felt pretty ho-hum about it. After discussing various oaks, I was drawn to an arroyo sweetwood (new to me), and one of The Natural Gardener’s plant-loving helpers showed me a mature one next to the parking lot that had been planted about 7 years ago.

Wow. These trees grow fast, are native to northern Mexico so can take heat and drought, and are fragrant, smelling like cinnamon and vanilla. They are multi-trunked, and have spring flowers, a dense canopy, and autumn foliage. Something wonderful for every season, plus scent. How perfect can a tree be?

So that’s what I bought, for just under $18. The cashier said my tree looked like a happy tree! I was a happy customer.

On my way home, I saw a sign:

I bought a tree to plant on the hottest day of the hottest month of the hottest year on record.

Yes, you can plant trees at the end of August if you are willing to check the dampness of the soil several inches down every couple of days. They’ll tell you how at The Natural Gardener.

Got home, picked a site that will perfectly frame a view of the tree from inside a nearly-floor-to-ceiling window, and watered the ground. Water, let it soak in, dig, repeat.

I finished digging this morning and planted the tree. When I came home this evening, my new little tree was having its branches gently jostled by the warm wind.

Next up: mulch.

So that’s what happened from letting my feet lead. I got so connected to the earth, I bought a tree and planted it! I took care of the ground under my trailer. I gave my daughter a massage. I did yoga and sat.

Grounded.

Thank you, feet.