The Health Benefits of Relaxation

Relaxation is one of the easiest ways to increase health and vitality. Without regular relaxation, stress levels can creep to dangerously high levels that negatively affect health. Relaxation practices ideally set aside time each day, as well as longer breaks on a weekly, monthly, and yearly rotation.  Here are 9 ways relaxation can create health:

1. Protects Your Heart: The research is unanimously in favor of relaxation for heart health. Stress is as bad for your heart as other risk factors like high blood pressure and lack of exercise, and sudden shocks can cause a burst of adrenaline that can keep the heart from functioning correctly.

2. Reduce Inflammation/Boost Immune System: Chronic stress can double your risk of catching a cold, likely because it interferes with your body’s ability to “turn off” its inflammation response.

3. Improve Memory: Stress can impair the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, and even small stressors can reduce the brain’s ability to learn and remember.

4. Lower Risk of Stroke: People who cope best with stressful situations reduce their risk of stroke by 24%.

5. Fight Depression: The stress hormone cortisol can reduce levels of dopamine and seratonin, which is linked to depression.

6. Regulate Appetite: A lack of rest and regular sleep increases our appetite, especially for less healthy foods. Reducing stress and getting enough sleep is very helpful for bringing the body’s hunger cues back into healthy balance.

7. Better Problem Solving: Stress can kill brain cells in the hippocampus, which is linked to complex thinking and problem solving, whereas a good nap increases problem solving abilities by allowing the brain to work on making new connections between bits of information.

8. More Inspiration: When you turn down the volume of the outside world and relax into yourself, your intuitive and inspired self can be heard more easily.

9. Get to Know your Whole Self: A practice of restful self care opens you up to understanding who you are as a whole person, instead of focusing only on what you DO.

Alertness vs. Awareness

There is a difference between alertness and awareness.

Alertness is a state of being ready to react immediately to a stimulus. It activates the sympathetic nervous system, which prepares for a quick response. The body becomes ready to run or fight, but also to think quickly, make decisions, adjust plans, and catch falling objects.

Awareness, on the other hand, cultivates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms, nurtures, and nourishes the body. It is a process of noticing and bringing attention to things without jumping into action. As a state of being instead of doing, it often brings a sense of expansiveness and ease to the body.

The stress of daily life often calls for alertness as we activate our sympathetic nervous systems and jump in to deal with crisis, solve problems, and move quickly from one thing to another. This is not a sustainable lifestyle, though. We need to also practice awareness to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and to nourish and rebalance the body.

Practicing awareness brings resiliency and vitality to the body, so that there are deep reserves of energy to call upon when switching into action mode. The nervous system thrives when it has opportunities to replenish and restore, and our health is depleted when we are unable to switch off our alert action mode in order to rest.

Cultivating awareness in order to balance our times of alertness helps to raise our life energy and to better handle the stress of daily life. If you can only do one thing, try coming to class at HaLe’. Any and all of our classes will support your body in shifting into rest and repair mode. For deeper or more acute issues, explore the personalized care of our therapy offerings.

Hygge is another word for WellBeing

Hygge (hoo-gah) is a Danish word that is hard to translate but easy to feel. It is a lifestyle dedicated to coziness in its broadest sense, where you are relaxed and feeling as at-home as possible. It is about being kind to yourself with small, delightful things like warm drinks, candlelight, good company, and comforting food.

At its core, hygge is about self-care. It is about indulging a little so that you are not punishing or denying yourself anything, but being kinder to yourself. Winter is especially the season of hygge, when the dark and the cold send us searching for warmth and light. The word itself is probably related to the English word “hug”, and they both speak of feeling comforted and secure.

HaLe’ is a form of hygge. Attend our classes and come for massage and other therapies in order to cherish yourself through a sometimes difficult season. Self-care of the body mind addresses aches and pains, relieves tension and stress, helps prevent injury, and improves digestion and sleep. In other words, it helps you feel more comfortable in your own skin, bringing that sense of comfort and ease that is hygge.

Healing in Community

from Janice Cathey & Jane House

Are we evolving, moving toward our higher selves? Our practice is important. It is revolutionary. When we are in living practice, we are asked to turn inward and meet ourselves. We turn inward and we breathe. We ask, what more can we do, what more can I do?

It starts with a singular, Am I taking care of myself? When we take care of our own well being, it sets the stage and grounds us to be able to contend with life. Life can be intense. That intensity has a way of seeping into our daily lives. It constricts the way that we behave in the world and though we may not realize it at first, over time that feeling of constriction results in something bigger than we knew; bigger than we were paying attention to.

A living practice helps us pay attention and to look within. Imagine a diver, diving inward to do the research, asking how do I feel right now, and how is my body? The body is not object; we are living organisms all co-creating our life together.

When we start having those conversations with ourselves, we can then start having those conversations with each other. When we have those conversations with each other, we create community. If we can come together and listen, come together with understanding, then perhaps we will grow our compassion. Compassion not only for others, but for ourselves, and for ourselves when we feel discomfort.

We are not a one size fits all culture. As we each develop our living practice of being fully engaged, participating, collaborating, and striving to live fully, we ask: What does it feel like to live in your life’s purpose? What does it feel like to live in vitality? We hope that HaLe’ can be a safe place for that practice of engagement, as we provide tools to both nourish and play.

Emotional Benefits of Yoga and Massage

Profound emotional release and calm can come through massage, bodywork, yoga, and gentle movement. Here is what some of our team members have to say about this process from their own experience and practices:

I’ve heard it said that the body never lies, and also that the body is faster than the mind. If this is true, we must honor our bodies and allow them to speak truth to us because they will know in their cells faster than we do in our minds. Yoga and body work provide safe environments in which we can be fully vulnerable, face our fears, and come to know our true selves. And our true selves can never be annihilated, they are infinite and eternal and we can rest easily when we remember and feel this. -Erin Law, Massage and Cupping Therapist

Stress, fear, anger, and other negative emotions stimulate our sympathetic nervous system, which is our fight or flight response. This causes our muscles to tense, and we have a higher respiration rate and higher heart rate than normal. Massage, bodywork, deep breathing, and gentle motion stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our repose system. This counteracts the effects that come from thoughts of the future being different from what we anticipated. Also, positive touch and things that feel good stimulate the brain chemistry to bring deeper sleep, clearer thoughts, and movement toward a better emotional space. -Adie Grey MacKenzie, Massage Therapist

Yoga is considered by researchers to be the best evidence-based movement for stress reduction.  As we thoughtfully, intentionally, powerfully and beautifully move through the poses and the moving meditation that yoga provides, we move energy within and around us.  As we send breath, self-compassion, and strength during yoga to those places in us that are feeling unease or suffering, we create calm and quiet.  Our physical systems slow down and experience increased calm, our minds quiet, and we are better able to discern with wisdom and clarity what we need to do for ourselves and for others. Practicing yoga in community often creates comfort and a sense of belonging with others who are like-minded and like-spirited.  -Janice Glasscock, LCSW Psychotherapist

The practice of yoga is about finding equanimity and balance regardless of what is occurring around you.  Through an asana practice, one develops a stillness in one’s state of mind throughout the activity.  Just by doing the practice – the benefits of this ease and stillness awaits you. -Nancy Kirkland, Yoga Instructor

During this time of societal change, which may create turbulent and tumultuous feelings of uncertainty, yoga can be grounding and centering, and massage can support our emotional equilibrium.

Cooling, Receptive, Restorative Yoga

from Katie Noss

Restorative Yoga is a really great practice, especially in this day and age when most of us live with a lot of time pressure and stress. We all need to take a break, and in this yoga class, that’s what we do. We deeply relax and rest, fully supported with props, to create healing in the body.

Dedicate time for yourself to destress. Dedicate an hour. Dedicate more than hour. A lot of us feel like we don’t have the time, but this is a practice, and you just have to suit up and go. It is hard, so hard, to dedicate that hour for yourself, but you’ll see a lot of benefits. You will be glad you did it. If you are just running, hyper stressed, and super fast paced, if you don’t stop to relax, it can break down your physical body.

The benefits of Restorative Yoga far outweighs downtime at home. A lot of us can’t rest in our own home. So come to a beautiful space that is totally dedicated to healing, where there is nothing else going on except that. I have worked with people in class who had Parkinson’s and MS and other issues, and injuries are highly unlikely in Restorative Yoga because it is so gentle and supported. It can help take the edge off high blood pressure and really deepen the healing for other health issues, especially anything that is about too much heat (inflammation, pressure, etc) in the body. I personally had a sacrum injury and couldn’t lay flat on the floor. I just felt like I was stuck and I couldn’t move because I hurt so badly. That’s been gone ever since I started practicing 12, 13 years ago. Yoga offers these tools and you never stop learning. You never graduate from yoga; the benefits just continue to build.

Starting with Restorative Yoga, starting with my class, is a great place to start with yoga. A lot of us don’t even realize we aren’t relaxing until we come and do it. For some people they have to learn and practice. If you have a really fast paced high stress kind of life, this is a great yoga to start with because it is very gentle and soothing, not competitive at all. This is your own personal practice, and it is just about you, just you, showing up. There is nothing hard or forced, no pretzel poses. This is the opposite of that. It lays the foundations for more yoga practice, and all of us can use it; no matter what age or shape your body is in, injuries or surgeries, Restorative Yoga meets you wherever you’re at. Restorative Yoga is a cooling, receptive practice. It is not about doing, but about being.

Behavioral Health for Mind, Body, and Spirit Care

from Janice Glasscock, LCSW

Behavioral health care and mental health care focus on thought processes and emotions, on personal narrative, and helping the mind communicate with the brain. This allows us to better understand our own stories and feelings so that we can make better decisions and act towards healing.

Behavioral and mental health care is especially useful for people in situations that feel stuck, full of loss or fear, and/or during large transitions. These situations can include an unhealthy pattern in a relationship, moving into new parenthood, and launching children from home. They can also be about dealing with a life threatening health condition or diagnosis, stage of life transitions like aging or health concerns, work place or work relationship concerns, or the loss of a significant relationship.

Approximately 67% of people with behavioral or mental health concerns do not receive treatment, and these concerns account for about half of disability days from work. Depression is the #1 condition currently affecting health care costs right now, and it has a global and pervasive impact on health issues and conditions.

We can improve our overall sense of well-being, health, and quality of life by paying attention to our behavioral and mental health as a part of our mind, body, and spirit interplay. This means paying attention to our thinking and cognitive processes, and to our decisions and actions. Strong behavioral and mental health helps with:

  • positive, effective work and personal relationships
  • good life choices and lifestyle development
  • physical health/well-being
  • handling natural ups and downs of life, and coping during life crises
  • self-discovery and personal growth

Psychotherapy as treatment for behavioral and mental health concerns is an evidence-based way to reduce depression and anxiety and more effectively cope and problem solve. It has long-lasting benefits, and helps to address chronic low and high levels of stress that are on-going contributors to compromised health and well-being.

Within a positive, safe, and constructive relationship with a professional, psychotherapy helps identify and better understand cognitive sources of unease, and to change/broaden thinking about both the problems of daily living and the catastrophic, all-consuming psychological and emotional crises from which we need recovery. It is a great modality to help us take action on the paths of healing.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

from Elmo Shade

The most common reasons people come to a Mindfulness Practice are

  1. Physical pain or chronic pain
  2. Emotional pain due to loss, death, or serious or potentially fatal diagnosis
  3. Inability to manage the day to day stressors of life

The benefits of mindfulness are known and well-documented. It reduces levels of stress, meaning the autonomic nervous system is not in fight, flight, or freeze mode. This then reduces both anxiety and depression, reduces fatigue and burnout, and reduces periods of restlessness. This leads to an increased ability to pay attention and concentrate and higher cognitive performance, particularly while learning. It enhances hormonal balance for women, and enhances the immune system of men and women.

Chronic pain, many of our physical ailments, and even diseases that we are experiencing are not actually illnesses or diseases. They are a result of the body system storing stress and pain that has never actually been released in a healthy manner. Mindfulness helps to reduce the discomfort of pain, both emotional and physical, and increases our capacity for compassion for ourselves and others.

Because Mindfulness Practice is about paying attention to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies, it often leads to increased levels of energy. It can decrease fatigue and increase stamina. This higher energy level then brings increased movement. The American Psychiatric Association shows we spend 6-12 hours a day not moving, and this does not count the time we spend sleeping. Having the energy to move is a tremendous benefit.

Mindfulness Practice is evidence-based and proven to benefit quality of life through the reduction of physical pain, emotional pain, and chronic stress. Our collective stress levels are higher than they have ever been, especially for women, and that takes a toll on our health. We can bring ourselves back into balance through mindfulness.

The Benefits of Yoga at Any Age

from Nancy Kirkland

People derive different kinds of benefits from a yoga practice. Yoga and other eastern practices differ from most western forms of physical activity because you really have to incorporate the mind into the practice. With aerobic oriented activity like running or swimming, you can just let your mind drift off. With yoga, the mind focus brings a greater benefit in addition to the physical benefits of greater strength, flexibility, and balance. A lot of people sleep better, feel calmer, and breathe better. You don’t have to go in with the intention to get those benefits, they just result from doing a good yoga asana practice.

Yoga also helps people find what is challenging for them, be it physical, mental, or emotional, and helps find a way to address it. People often do yoga positions way too quickly. They will say their shoulder hurts, and I’ll say give it 6 months. Give pain time to resolve. Pain is a very good teacher and yoga is not a pain free practice. When people come to class with pain, they need to recognize that yoga is not an immediate cure all but that there are great benefits to a regular practice.

Yoga is a practice for people of all levels. HaLe’ has students ages 20 to 80, so don’t let fitness or age keep you away. Find a teacher that resonates with you and then stick with them. Don’t try for a lot of variety; go deeper instead of wider. Allow your class to become a community that develops over time. That’s a very supportive group to be in.

Also, don’t avoid props and don’t underestimate restorative yoga. Props like blocks, straps, and chairs make yoga much more accessible to people and allows them to achieve a comfortable practice with a properly aligned body. Restorative yoga is key to improving breath, awareness, and observations skills, even though a lot of people really resist it when they are new to yoga practice because they feel restless, want to exercise, and don’t see the value. It is an important part of a yoga practice; don’t ignore it.

A yoga practice, because it incorporates mind and body instead of being just body, comes with a lot of benefits. A good asana practice should be both convenient and enjoyable, and doing the yoga postures properly has different benefits for everyone. Most of all, though, don’t take it too seriously. It should also be fun.

 

Nancy Kirkland has 45 years of yoga practice and has been teaching yoga for 17 years.

The Medicine of Sound

From Julie Fisher

Sound Healing provides deep relaxation and stress relief. It is especially helpful when emotions are running high, whether from stress, or grief, or going through something traumatic. We are not taught how to let our feelings flow, but instead are often encouraged to shut them down and ignore them, or to tell their stories, which can keep us in our mind and reinforce the emotion. But with sound, it shows where the feeling is in the body. It might wrap around the shoulders, or move down the spine. The sound gently brings the emotion up to the surface, where it might be felt as a warm sense of tension in the heart, and then it releases. It moves through us and leaves us relaxed.

People often come in to a sound healing class, workshop, or private session high strung and bouncing off the walls. It takes a minute for them to settle down, and then a switch happens and they go into a new state. Their body shifts, their breathing changes, and they go into a place of rest. Their awareness increases, they become aware of different sensations in their body, and the mind is finally able to let go and relax. Creating that space and awareness allows a deep release of stress and tension. Afterwards, people’s faces are more open, with more light in their eyes.

One person comes to Sound Healing because she literally receives messages, connecting with her higher intelligence and intuition. Another came when he hadn’t slept in 3 days, fell asleep, and woke up feeling like he’d had hours of the best sleep of his life when it had only been 50 minutes. Someone else has gained an improved sense of rest and is now able to connect with her breath as a simple and easy to access tool with powerful and immediate effects. We often talk about the power of the breath, but the Sound Healing helped her distill that in a way that is so simple and obvious that it became a discovery.

We all have issues whether we are aware of it or not, and sound brings it up to the surface in a way that feels safe, like a comfortable cocoon. When we are safe enough to look at it, then it can come up and release. Sound Healing allows us to become aware of things we didn’t even know, like patterns of tension in the neck and shoulders, and then the healing sound allows it to just pass through us and relax.

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