Diabetes Support

Diabetes is a stressful and common condition that requires constant management. It puts tremendous strain on the physical body, and elevates mental and emotional stress levels. Creating health and support for diabetes means treating the body systems that are under strain and reducing overall stress levels so that you can switch the nervous system out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair mode.

Bodywork and massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, which brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and boosts insulin uptake. It also calms the nervous system, helping to turn off the alarms, and is effective at treating the stiffness and mobility issues caused by high blood sugar levels.

Mindfulness practice helps to both lower blood sugar levels and to better self-manage diabetes. In one study, 16 weeks of practice improved mood, lowered stress, addressed sleep issues, and decreased fasting blood sugar levels.

Therapeutic Movement classes like yoga provide the physical activity needed to increase circulation, especially to the arms and legs, where people with diabetes most have issues. Regular physical activity also helps the body improve its response to insulin, and helps directly lower blood sugar levels by reducing stress hormones in the body.

Acupuncture is able to reduce the nerve pain and neuropathy that can come from diabetes. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels, and to regulate the urge to eat too much, drink too much, and pee too often. Overall, it helps to rebalance and support the many physical systems under strain from diabetes.

The constant management of diabetes means that you are in an ongoing conversation with your body about its health status on a daily basis. There are ways to have that conversation and to reduce the strain and stress of this condition through health care that also increases your overall sense of wellbeing and supports your whole self. All of these therapies, including bodywork, mindfulness, therapeutic movement classes, and acupuncture, work with the care of your doctor to improve health and quality of life.

Relief for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common source of joint pain, caused by wear on the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones of the joint. It can start at any age, and by age 60, most adults have some arthritis. The bones most often affected are in the hands, spine, knee, and hip joints. Bodywork and massage, movement classes like yoga, and mindfulness practice can all help with the pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion of osteoarthritis.

Part of osteoarthritis is that collagenous tissue will settle in to create a patchwork of scars that creates a lot of stiffness, and bodywork is effective at helping to restore that lost range of motion. It also works to realign posture, which relieves strain on affected joints, and decreases swelling. Additionally, massage and bodywork reduces pain by directly impacting the nerves of the affected joints.

When it comes to movement classes, the general rule for students with osteoarthritis is: if it hurts, stop and do it a different way. The benefits of yoga and other therapeutic classes include increased mobility, balance, and range of motion, all of which help to reduce arthritis pain. Everything done in class can be modified to accommodate physical issues, so if any pose or motion is uncomfortable, let the teacher know so they show you another way.

Mindfulness techniques are also proven to help treat people with osteoarthritis. They retrain the brain away from focusing on pain and thereby magnifying it and making it worse. The effects of mindfulness practice are cumulative; the more often you do it, the more it helps.

Osteoarthritis may be a common cause of pain, stiffness, and discomfort, but it is possible to feel significantly better through treatment. Supporting your health through bodywork, therapeutic movement classes, and mindfulness can improve both your symptoms and your overall sense of wellbeing.

Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders

There are over 80 kinds of autoimmune disorders, where the body is either attacking itself and causing physical problems in the organ or system it is attacking, or where it is creating excessive amounts of inflammation. Treatment focuses mostly on symptom management, and bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness are all effective at treating autoimmune symptoms.

Bodywork supports clients with autoimmune disorders by reducing levels of inflammation and irritation. It helps move the body out of fight or flight mode and into rest and restore mode, which supports nutrient flow and reduces stress on organ systems like the adrenals. It also releases muscle tension and aches, which in turn helps to ease strain on the spine and joints. Bodywork sessions are able to be uniquely customized for specific disorders to support affected tissues, treat secondary symptoms, and move lymph fluid.

Movement classes like yoga and qigong also help treat autoimmune disorders by helping to lower immune response and inflammation in the body. The physical activity of the class helps to quell inflammation and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. The mental awareness and focus of the classes support a sense of calm and well being, which helps relax the accumulated mental stress of a chronic condition.

Finally, Mindfulness is also effective treatment for autoimmune disorders. It is a proven method for reducing pain and discomfort, as it is able to turn down the volume on pain signals from the body. In the case of autoimmune disorders, this shift then sends a “cooling” message to the body’s inflammatory response, helping it to subside and come back into balance.

Autoimmune disorders are often chronic conditions that impact daily life in difficult and painful ways. At HaLé, we see firsthand how treatment through bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness is able to help reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and improve quality of life.

How Mindfulness Reduces Pain

Mindfulness is a specific form of meditation that has been proven to reduce pain. Clinical trials have shown it to reduce chronic pain by 57%, and accomplished meditators can achieve even higher levels of pain relief. Other studies have shown that it does not use the body’s own natural production of opioids or endorphins to accomplish these reductions, so how does it work?

The practice of mindfulness brings quiet, focused attention to the body and its sensations. Typical exercises help you observe with the mind’s eye, and just notice what is happening. When we are in pain, our minds spend a lot of time thinking about it, trying to solve it, and worrying if it will ever end. Mindfulness allows you to observe painful sensations as you feel them, and quiet the mind’s reactions and struggle.

This process has the biological effect of soothing the brain patterns of your pain perception. With regular mindfulness practice, these changes will alter the structure of the brain itself so that pain is not felt with the same intensity.

This works because there are two layers to the perception of pain. First, there is the sensation of the illness, injury, or damage to the body that is causing the pain. Second, there is the brain’s reaction to this sensation. The brain is trying to protect the body from further damage or injury and so it focuses on the sensations of pain. This effectively turns up the “volume” and increases suffering. For chronic pain, this process becomes a feedback loop, and the brain gets better and better at feeling more pain.

Mindfulness practice effectively turns the volume back down again, so that the brain does not amplify the pain signals the body is sending. This in turn reduces the pain-related anxiety, stress, and depression, and creates room for the body to begin to relax and then heal.

8 Ways to be More Mindful at Work

There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness throughout your work day, and you only need a few minutes at a time. Here are 8 ideas to get you started:

1. Take a moment when you wake up: Take 2 minutes to just notice your breath when you first wake up. We release the most stress hormones right after waking up, as our thoughts about our day provoke fight-or-flight responses.

2. Take 10 min in the car or at your desk: Spend the first 5-10 min of your work day just paying attention to your breath. When you find your mind distracted, release the distraction and return attention to your breath. Many things will compete for your attention throughout the work day; for these few minutes, your attention is entirely your own.

3. Pause between meetings: Take a minute or two to practice mindfulness at the beginning of each meeting to boost your focus and effectiveness.

4. Single-task: When we multi-task, our brain switches rapidly from one task to another, often losing information each time. Try to group similar tasks together and do one task at a time as much as possible.

5. Connect with your senses: Up to 47% of our day is spent on autopilot, thinking about something other than what we are doing. Come back to your senses, sight, sound, smell, etc. in order to stay more present and aware.

6. Use reminders: Every time your phone rings or dings, take a mindful breath. Or set an alarm to go off every hour to cue a minute of mindfulness. Place a small sign or note in your workspace to remind you.

7. Practice gratitude: Humans have a negativity bias, where we naturally focus on problems. Deliberately find things that are going well in order to boost creativity, health, work relationships, and the quality of your work.

8. Accept what you can’t change: Being mindful means accepting the present moment as it is, and yourself as you are now. Once you accept what is happening, you can move forward with next steps and learning from any mistakes.

What Really Works for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and there are new guidelines on how to treat it. Researchers analyzed more than 150 studies to understand what really works and what doesn’t. The conclusion: instead of medication, try yoga, massage, or mindfulness.

These guidelines, published by the American College of Physicians on Feb 13, 2017, say to use techniques that speed up the healing process to relax muscles, joints and tendons. This can be done through massage, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation, as well as mind-body therapies like yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

This new recommendation is in alignment with the new CDC & FDA guidelines for the usage of opiods, which are now known to be inappropriate for chronic pain management. It instead recommends trying massage, yoga, and mindfulness first, then NSAIDS like ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce inflammation. Acetaminophen is not recommended, since it does not reduce pain or inflammation.

Low back pain is common, and the way it is currently treated in medical settings is a good example of low value health care: expensive tests and therapies that don’t fix the problem. Moving to more effective treatments for both acute and chronic conditions by recommending yoga, massage, and mindfulness will help reduce suffering in patients and frustration in those who treat them.

At HaLe’, our manual medicine therapists and our self-care class instructors are experienced in treating low back pain. For regular aches and injuries, we recommend you come to class or make an appointment. For more severe conditions, please talk with us so we can guide you to the right treatment plan for your body.

 

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.

5 Ways to Cleanse with the Changing Seasons

by the HaLe’ Team

The change of seasons can shake things up in a body and affect the balance of health. The roots of our systems, rhythms, and routines loosen. New order is about to be established, but hopefully not before a good cleansing. Here are several simple ways to support your body through the seasonal shift:

Massage & Bodywork: The changes in atmospheric pressure and temperature affect the lymphatic system and its ability to clear out the body. This especially true for people with damaged lymphatic systems, but a lot of people will begin to feel bloated and icky, and generally not great. The lymphatic support of massage helps the body complete its cleansing process and move body fluids. Any kind of massage will help with this, though if deep, vigorous massage doesn’t sound good to you, consider trying a gentler technique like lymphatic massage or relaxation massage.     -Adie Grey MacKenzie, LMT

Cupping Therapy: These cups use negative pressure (suction) to literally create space in the body. This allows the old stagnated blood to be broken up and moved out. The body’s response is to heal and restore the area that received the cupping, which brings a sense of lighter, cleaner space in the body, a free flow of energy, and room for new possibilities. -Erin Law, LMT

Yoga: The onset of Fall is a powerful time to use our yoga practice as a means to re-balance the body. Big exhales, deep twists, and gentle forward folds help to prepare us for the onset of brisk weather. Winter is soon approaching. We want to shake out our bodies and flush away the unnecessary holding so that we can comfortably turn inward and nestle into ourselves during the darker months of Winter.     -Jane House, RYT

Ayurveda: Support other cleansing practices with tongue scraping. Do it every morning, back to front. Cleanses build up ama, or toxins, which are described as a sticky waste. Scraping these from the tongue keeps the toxins from being redirected back into the body, and reduces bad breath. Also make sure to take extra time to rest, and try to plan your cleanse during a time when you can take it easy.     -Summer Leniger, Ayurveda Wellness Counselor

Mental Cleansing Meditation: Visualize the mind space as rooms in your house. With eyes closed and body upright, awake, and alert, travel from room to room repeating these cleansing phrases:

  • Entry hall / front door: “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”
  • Great room / main living area: “Being here, Being now.”
  • Kitchen: “Letting go of worry, Letting be this moment.”
  • Bedroom: “Calming the mind, Releasing the tension.”
  • Bathroom: “I can have peace any moment,I have peace in this moment.”
  • Attic / crawl space / basement: “Nowhere to go, No one to be, Just being.”      -Elmo Shade, Mindfulness Coach

3 Ways to Be Mindful at Your Desk: Easy, Easier, and in Motion

by Elmo Shade

There are simple ways to begin a mindfulness practice.  It’s not mystical or magical; anyone can do this.

1. The Easy Way: The 3-Breath Technique (sit or stand)

Picture an hourglass wide at the top & bottom with a narrow center.

Breathe IN (count of 5) through nostrils deep into belly (expands) then breathe OUT through nose and/or mouth (count of 7).

Connect with the wide, open space of the present moment.

Breathe IN and connect with a particular part of your body, e.g. palms, feet, heart as though you were aerating it with the breath, then breathe OUT. Same count of 5 and 7.

Breathe IN and connect with the ENTIRE body, widening your awareness and spaciousness, then breathe OUT, same count as before.

 

2. The Easier Way: Sit or stand without any agenda for 2-5 minutes

Shift from “doing” to just “being” whatever that means for you

Watch where the mind goes without judging it or trying to change anything you are experiencing. Just allow.

Feel free to switch between the “Easy Way” and the “Easier Way”.

Begin with 2-5 minutes daily, expand to 2-5 minutes during the day whenever you have an opportunity and/or are feeling stressed.

The more you “practice” the stronger your “mindfulness muscle” becomes.

 

3. Mindfulness in Motion:

Sit with back supporting itself by moving to middle or front of chair

Feet are flat on the floor. Sense the 4 corners of the feet with your awareness (sides of big and little toes and both sides of heel)

Hands rest on knees, palms down

On IN breath, retract hands back moving along upper thighs until heel of hand touches hip bone (waist)

On OUT breath move hands back down slowly to starting position at knees

Do 5X

Then, on IN breath, retract hands back as before

On OUT breath, move hands past knees all the way down to ankles

On next IN breath, retract hands all the way back up hip bone (waist)

Do 5X

With both iterations, sync the breath so top of the IN breath is at the TOP of the movement and bottom of the OUT breath is at the BOTTOM of the movement

 

Better Sleep through Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness

Sleep is a complex biological process that is vital to our overall wellbeing. There are now 85 different recognized sleep disorders that affect almost 70 million Americans, and the long-term consequences of sleep loss are associated with a long list of chronic and sometimes very serious health conditions. In addition to being linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, poor quality sleep is also related to chronic musculoskeletal pain, specifically osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and low-back pain.

Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all drug-free ways to improve quality of sleep.

Massage: People who receive massage experience deeper, more restorative, less disturbed sleep. It doesn’t matter which modality of massage or what time of day; studies consistently report that massage contributes to a more organized sleep pattern, where the various stages of sleep happen in consistent order and duration. The positive effects of massage on sleep also contributes to a reduction in pain-sensitizing neurotransmitters, which lowers pain levels. (Source: Ruth Werner, Massage Bodywork)

Yoga: There have been several studies recently that show yoga can improve disrupted sleep. A Harvard Medical School study showed that yoga can help chronic insomnia, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, feel well-rested, and wake up after sleeping. A study of cancer survivors linked yoga to better sleep quality, less fatigue, and improved sense of quality of life. In general, yoga seems to increase sleep efficiency, enhance quality of life, and decrease insomnia. (Source: Michael J Breus, PhD, Psychology Today)

Mindfulness: Like Yoga and Massage, Mindfulness is a way to invoke the Relaxation Response, which is a deep physiological shift in the body that is the opposite of the stress response. For many people, sleep disorders are a reaction to stress. Spending 20 min a day in a mindfulness practice helps create a reflex to bring forth a feeling of relaxation. Then it is easier to access that feeling of relaxation at night to assist in falling asleep and maintaining better quality of sleep. A study on a mindfulness awareness program showed results including less insomnia, fatigue, and depression. (Source: Julie Corliss, Harvard Health)

Sleep is crucial to our health, and Massage, Yoga, and Mindfulness are all effective tools for improving the overall quality of our sleep without using pharmacological drugs. They help with insomnia, fatigue, pain levels, sleep pattern organization, and sleep efficiency. Getting enough high quality sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy life, and there are many ways to improve your sleep and your sense of wellbeing.

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