A hero’s journey: lessons in reversing diabetes

Note: This is a summary of Phyllis’ return to health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. To read her four-part story, start with Part 1.

“The adventure of the hero is the adventure of being alive.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The path to healing autoimmune disease is not a well-worn path, but it can be done. If it’s possible for Phyllis to reverse her Type 2 diabetes, it’s possible for others. Many people still treat autoimmune diseases as intractable — believing they can only cause a steady prolonged decline, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take the prescribed medications and wait for disability and death.

Even doctors, as Phyllis learned, don’t always offer counsel that lifestyle changes can improve health.

I wanted to look at Phyllis’ sojourn as steps she took on her life path where she learned to choose those forks in the road that led her in the direction of better health. Continue reading

NPR covers the homemade treadmill desk

Just spotted this story on the NPR website: Can You Move It and Work It on a Treadmill Desk?

The author cites an expert who says not to try to walk on the treadmill all day long. Instead, walk for a half-hour on the treadmill, then a half-hour off, and so on, for two to three hours a day. That’s a maximum.

Don’t know if that means two to three total hours maximum of walking, or two to three hours maximum of on-off. The wording implies the latter.

Even just standing the rest of the time might be enough to mitigate “the sitting effect.”  You are using your leg muscles, and that’s what seems to count most, from what I’ve read.

I liked finding out that someone is now an expert and is consulting with companies. There’s a new “walking meeting,” in which participants walk and talk.

Levine is on a mission to get any kind of movement into the workplace and the workday. He’s consulted with a number of companies nationwide to help them do this. The most popular activity by far, he says, is the “walk and talk” meeting. “They’re generally shorter, more productive, and people don’t fall asleep during walk-and-talk meetings.”

Also, during one study in which participants rotated on and off treadmill desks, the company earned its highest revenue ever.

The environment, he says, was simply “more dynamic.”

Yep, moving people are definitely dynamic!

“The 5 rhythms are a contemporary shamanic Zen practice” ~ Gabrielle Roth

Okay, so science has recently showed us that dancers have genes for transcendence and social connection. (And if you don’t dance, maybe you have these genes too and don’t know it yet. And consider this: if stress turns on the bad genes, maybe the opposite of stress — joy? contentment? — turns on the good genes! Just sayin’….)

In this interview, Gabrielle Roth explains the connection between ecstatic dance, Zen, and shamanic practices.

The 5Rhythms are a contemporary Zen, Shamanic practice. Zen, in that they are a map to an inner journey for seekers of wisdom and freedom, the wisdom to know who we are and the freedom to get over ourselves. Shamanic, in that they address the Great Divide, the divorce of spirit from flesh that has created the loss of soul, which haunts us. We’ve rendered the soul homeless, it can’t breathe, exist, or move disconnected from the body. The body is the womb of the soul, a begging bowl for spirit, like Aretha when she sings….

The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body. All the profound spiritual teachings in this world don’t mean anything if they’re not embodied. Feeling totally high and connected to the divine mystery while sitting on a meditation pillow is fine, but how do we put the rubber to the road? As Charlie Parker said, If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. So I take refuge in the 5Rhythms practice to keep my horn in tune.

There are videos of Gabrielle as well on the site. Check ’em out!

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.

Tips to counteract a sedentary job

If you have a desk job that requires a lot of sitting and you’re concerned about the health risks now being associated with prolonged sitting, here are some things you can do that require no expense:

  • Use a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch and walk around every 30 or 60 minutes. Google “timer” to find a virtual timer you like. Aim for a few minutes of non-sitting movement every hour.
  • Find ways to walk more: Place your phone away from your desk, so you have to stand up and walk to it to make or answer calls. Use a small cup for your drinking water or beverage of choice (or fill your regular cup partway), and when it’s empty, get up to refill it. Don’t use the restroom that’s closest to your office — walk to a more distant one. Instead of emailing colleagues, walk to their offices to talk, when feasible.
  • Breathe fully and deeply, using your abdomen, moving your ribs front, sides, and back. Do 5 of these breaths, then return to normal breathing.
  • Take a yoga class on your lunch hour. Or do desk yoga (Google “rodney yee 4 minute”  to see videos of Rodney Yee doing seated sequences). You can evendo cat-cow ever so often while sitting: curl your spine forward and back a few times, exhaling when you curl forward, inhaling when you arch your back.
  • Close your door or put on your headphones, turn on your iPod or a music video, and dance!
  • Fidget and wiggle. Especially move your legs.

When you’re not at work, avoid sitting as much as you can:

  • If you drive to work and your car has no lumbar support, place two tennis balls inside a piece of pantyhose with a knot in the middle and at the ends. Put it behind your lumbar vertebrae and press into it as you drive. It will feel great — and you’ll know when you’ve had enough.
  • If you watch television in the evenings or on weekends, stand, use your treadmill, or bounce on an exercise ball while watching. If you sit, get up and move during commercials.
Sit on an exercise ball at work instead of a desk chair. It strengthens your core, improves balance, improves flexibility, burns more calories, and requires you to use your legs. You can get them for under $20. Get a 75 cm for the most height. 

All of these tips can make a difference, helping to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, and waist size; improve posture, breathing, and metabolism; and decrease back pain.

“If there’s a fountain of youth, it is probably physical activity,” says Yancey, noting that research has shown benefits to every organ system in the body.

Next: standing desks.

Graphic showing why prolonged sitting is unhealthy

Here’s a graphic showing the health risks of prolonged sitting, which I’ve blogged about before:

Besides the reasons shown here and described in the NY Times article link, here are a couple of more reasons why prolonged sitting creates dis-ease and why movement is good for you:

  1. The lymphatic system aids the immune system in destroying pathogens and filtering waste, and it delivers nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to the cells. It has no central pump, like the circulatory system. Instead, the lymphatic system depends on muscular movement, breathing, and gravity to move lymph throughout the body. Frequent movement is critical to move lymph. 
  2. Walking moves the sacrum, which acts as a pump for cerebro-spinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Cerebro-spinal fluid nourishes, removes toxins, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. 

Next, tips if you have a job that requires sitting.