2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My posting has fallen off this year as I’ve focused more on building my bodywork practice. I continue to be interested in and practice “life hacks” — self-care practices that pay off. Some current ones:

  • Drinking 8 ounces of water every morning (after brushing and flossing my teeth), and stirring 1 tablespoon of organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of gelatin.
  • Doing yoga each morning in the form of slow sun salutations — slow as in about 2-3 minutes of standing forward bend to allow my hamstrings to gently lengthen. I also hold downward facing dog for a few minutes to feel the stretch in the entire back body. I add warrior, triangle, and reverse triangle for strength, hip mobility, and spinal twist.
  • I bought a device from HeartMath that allows me to check on my stress level (measured as heart rate variability) and take steps (heart-centered slow breathing) to de-stress. It works with my iPhone and clips to my earlobe. My goal is to use it three times a day for 5 minutes each time, and for a longer period (15-30 minutes) at least once a week. The beauty is that I can measure stress when I’ve been driving, shopping, and working — just doing daily tasks. It doesn’t replace seated meditation, just adds more body awareness throughout my day.

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The stats that are most amazing to me are those showing where readers came from. By far the most come from the U.S., followed by Canada and the UK, and other countries with a lot of English speakers (Australia, Brazil, India, Germany, and South Africa).

But there are a lot of surprising places that had just one reader, including Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Albania, Grenada, Yemen, Guadaloupe, Reunion, Jordan, and Moldova. And Bosnia and Herzegovina, Aruba, American Samoa, Kyrgyzstan, Malta, Guernsey, St. Kitts and Nevis, Papua New Guinea (!), and Zambia. And Nicaragua, Northern Mariana Islands, Isle of Man, Paraguay, Mozambique, Cameroon, Luxembourg, and Haiti.

The nationality of readers (based on IP address?) has been noted since February 2012. I am still hoping to get readers from Cuba, Greenland, Suriname, and French Guiana in the western hemisphere, several Central and West African nations as well as Lesotho in southern Africa, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and North Korea in Asia. And there are also probably still some small island nations who have yet to discover this blog.

A girl can dream of collecting readers from all the planet’s nations. Regardless, it is inspiring and humbling to realize the reach of the internet. I hope my posts have been of some small value.

Thank you, dear readers!

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.

My feel-good hack using yoga, spine aligner, breathing, TRE, and more yoga

I’m sharing a little feel-good hack I discovered today.

I used to hang upside down by my knees daily to lengthen my back and let gravity work the other direction. It’s a great way to put space between the vertebrae, lengthen the back muscles, and give the spinal nerves more space.

Well, I don’t have a way to hang in my trailer (until I get a yoga swing and hang it outside from a tree, maybe in the spring).

I’ve been experiencing some little kinks in my back, the kind of thing a chiropractor could easily adjust, but I don’t see mine until tomorrow.

Here’s what I did to release the kinks and energize myself for the day:

  1. To wake up and limber up, I did one very deep, very slow, very mindful round of surya namaskar/sun salutation, dropping deep into lunge and integrating a heart-opening variation of utthita parsvakonasana/extended side angle pose, vir 1/warrior 1, and later adho mukha svanasana/downdog with variations into the sequence. This is my true yoga love, sun salutation with infinite variations, my own custom every-day-is-different vinyasa tailored for my needs.
  2. I laid down on my yoga mat, picked up the spine aligner/ma roller (photo below), and placed the two middle knobs between two vertebrae between my shoulder blades, mid-way up. I breathed 10 breaths, then rolled it down one vertebrae. Repeated this all the way down to L5/sacrum. (If you are new to using this tool, start using it on a bed; otherwise, the discomfort will stop you.) It 
  3. Removed the spine aligner, placed my soles on the floor, and let my legs shake shake shake until all the tension was released, like in the Trauma Releasing Exercises. I hadn’t planned to do that. It just came up that I needed to release.
  4. I returned to yoga and did a reclining spinal twist with knees together that I learned from Eleanor Harris, my long-time yoga teacher. Sorry, not sure of the Sanskrit.

My back feels much better, and my energy is flowing well. This relaxation business is seriously fun and creative!

Yoga update

Cross-posted on the Yoga Classes page of this blog…

Unwinding, a restorative yoga class, meets Sundays from 5:30-7 pm at Oak Hill Oriental Medicine, 7413 Old Bee Caves Road. We warm up with Sun Salutations, do asanas for low back and neck issues, and move into deeply relaxing, melt-into-the-floor poses, using a variety of props. Your body and soul will love it! $15. For more information, call 512-775-3053 (clinic) or email me at the address on the Contact page of this blog.

The series Beginner’s Yoga, Beginner’s Mind continues for another 12 weeks starting December 1. You can join us any time. We meet on Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30 pm, in a private home in Wells Branch. $10. Please call for more information as space is limited. 512-507-4184.

Contact me if you’re interested in co-creating any of the following classes:

  • Non-Sweaty Office Yoga. I teach a mixed level class at your workplace over the lunch hour. We do deep stretching and strength-building without much sweat, ending with deep relaxation. Includes special poses to counteract heavy computer use, increase energy, and refresh well-being. $10.
  • Yoga for Kids. I teach a 30-minute class for children ages 8 and up. We learn belly breathing and asanas and end with 5 minutes of sitting in silence, which most of them love. I come to your home, classroom, or gathering place. No props used in this class. Rates highly negotiable!
  • Beginner’s Yoga, Beginner’s Mind. I teach yoga to novices. If you find yoga attractive but don’t feel comfortable in a studio or gym, this may be the class for you. We start with what you can do now and build on that. This class helps you gain strength, flexibility, alignment, body and mind awareness, and respect for your body. I come to your home and help you prepare for (or enhance) a home yoga practice or a beginner class at a studio, and I can offer personal attention and adjustments you may not find in a crowded studio or gym yoga class. 12 week minimum, up to 6 students.
  • Unwinding. I teach restorative yoga — passive poses held long, using props for deep stretches and relaxation — in your home or office. Gather family, friends, and neighbors for an evening session in your living room. You supply the mats, I bring the props, we move the furniture. Get rid of unwanted stress and tension you didn’t even know you had! Experience more spaciousness and freedom in your body! Find relief from low back and neck issues as well! 90-minute classes, weekly.

To request a class, ask questions, and/or make a proposal, please call me at 507-4184.