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

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.

Pelvic Health: No Where To Go But Inward

Pelvic health has a huge effect on quality of life. Daily activities influence pelvic health in ways we may not be aware, like sitting postures, bathroom habits, etc. Learning what your pelvis holds and how it is interrelated to your anatomy can be very empowering. Gaining this knowledge helps increase awareness and appreciation for the pelvis and its important functions as the floor to the spine, connector of hips and pelvis, holder of organs and babies, etc.  Understanding what “normal” pelvic floor function is can be a starting point of awareness.

Dysfunction in pelvic health happens across the population, from pediatric to elderly, and can be affected by more things than having babies and aging. Improving pelvic function often helps with pain that is not responding to other therapies, especially low back pain, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction, painful intercourse, and lumbar and spine dysfunction. The pelvic floor depends on the spine, abdomen, breath, and lower and upper extremity strength and function. Conditions such as low blood pressure and bowel and bladder issues may be directly related to pelvic dysfunction.

There are simple daily habits you can be aware of to bring better health to your pelvic area, including certain postures, bowel and bladder habits, and exercises. Histories of trauma, like sexual or physical trauma, pregnancy, birth, or surgery can all have an effect on pelvic health.

The most important starting place, though, is to learn to breathe into the pelvis. When you inhale, bring your breath all the way down to your vagina and/or perineum, and then fill the diaphragm, and then the chest. The pelvis is a body part you can’t see, and once you can be still enough to connect with it, there is an awareness that will open up. So be still, be with the breath, and breathe into the pelvis for pelvic health.

Fibromyalgia Symptom Relief through AIYA Yoga Therapy

Fibromyalgia symptoms cross physical and neurological boundaries, as do symptoms from traumatic accidents and surgeries that throw off the nervous system. There are many conditions that seem to affect the nervous system but that challenge Western medical diagnositics. The symptoms are real, even if they can seem mysterious and confounding to Western medicine. Assisted Integrated Yoga Asana (AIYA) Yoga Therapy is excellent at calming this family of symptoms.

The gentle assisted movement of AIYA Yoga Therapy, developed by Kristen Hubbard, brings relief to muscles and joints by moving through a range of motion and stretching as well as flushing of interstitial fluids. Sessions are done one on one on a thick mat on the floor, as the therapist takes you through a passive series of assisted stretches, other gentle movements, and working with the breath.

Kristen Hubbard has worked with fibromyalgia patients since 2011. Her treatments have a wonderful positive effect for fibromyalgia symptoms, and include a gentleness of process that makes sure all parts of the body are always supported and that there are no jarring or intense movements. This proficiency in effective treatment is informed by Kristen’s expertise in restorative yoga.

New clients should begin with a 1 hour initial treatment so that client and therapist can build trust and feel comfortable with each other. Depending on what the client needs, Kristen often recommends coming every other week for 4 or 5 treatments and then dropping down to more of a maintenance schedule. Since every body is unique, treatments also include discussion about self-care recommendations and some ideas for stretches at home in order to prolong the positive effects.

AIYA Yoga Therapy helps people with fibromyalgia symptoms get to a place where they are more comfortable in their bodies as they get to know their range of motion through safe movement free from fear of injury. They tend to have lessened pain days and less intensity of symptoms. The effects seem to last for several weeks before symptoms begin to return.

The Folk Art of Thai Massage

Thai Yoga collage

Thai Massage is a folk art, a healing art, and is a great complement to other healing therapies. It has its roots in both self-care and love and care of others, as inspired by the practice of Loving-Kindness, or Metta.

Practicing Thai Massage teaches a person how to ground and focus, how to center themselves, and helps create a sense of body-conciousness and body awareness.

Receiving Thai Massage helps drastically reduce stress levels in the body, and is a good treatment for neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and muscle soreness, as well as helping to open the joints.

Thai Massage is a branch of Thai medicine and medical theory, and is something that has been practiced by the indigenous people of Thailand for a long time. It started as a form of partner yoga, with its roots in self-massage. That is where the terms Thai Yoga Bodywork or Thai Yoga Massage come from.

There’s a system of self-care and self-massage techniques rooted in the whole Thai process because it starts with yourself. The techniques taught in classes are designed to mimic some of those original self-massage techniques, only they are modified to be done with a partner.

These partner techniques are especially fun for couples, parents, family members, and friends to learn and practice with each other. Once you have the training, you can easily do it together at home. It is also useful for fitness professionals like personal trainers, for massage therapists to broaden their skill base, and for yoga teachers to use with private clients.

Thai Massage is a wonderful practice to integrate into your lifestyle, with its benefits for giving, receiving, and sharing with others.

Ha.Le’ is pleased to offer an upcoming Thai Massage training workshop March 5th and 6th 2016 with Charlene Gaffney. More information here.
massage for fibromyalgia

Massage for Fibromyalgia brings relief

Fibromyalgia is a frustrating syndrome.

People with fibromyalgia suffer from generalized pain, rigid joints and at times overwhelming fatigue. Performing basic activities becomes difficult. Trigger points, or areas of intense tenderness, make matters worse, both physically and emotionally. Depression, with or without anxiety, is common.

Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms makes intuitive sense but research backs the approach as well. Studies show myofascial release therapy can be especially helpful in relieving symptoms. In it, therapists palpate, pull and stretch soft tissue known as fascia that surrounds and separates muscle layers. Circulation increases and contracted muscles relax.

In a 2010 study, 64 myofascial patients were assigned to one of two groups. In one, patients received 90-minute weekly treatments for 20 weeks. In the second, patients received “sham” treatments -30 minutes with a magnetic therapy machine that was disconnected. They did not know the treatments were fake.

Researchers evaluated myofascial therapy’s effects on pain, anxiety, and quality of sleep and depression in fibromyalgia patients. Measurements at baseline, after 20 weeks and six months following the treatments showed myofascial therapy provided significant benefits.

The patients in that group experienced  improved sleep and quality of life and reduced anxiety and pain — both immediately following the treatments and up to one month after. Six months after therapy, patients continued to report improvements in sleep.

The benefits did not extend to the control group.

The study was led by Adelaida Maria Castro-Sánchez at the University of Almería in Almería, Spain. She led a similar study in 2011 that examined more closely how fibromyalgia patients respond to massage therapy and found reductions in pain sensitivity to their pain, including some improvements that lasted as long as a year after the study was over.

Myofascial release is an effective alternative and complementary therapy for patients with fibromyalgia. Research as well as our own experience in Nashville with massage for fibromyalgia suggests regular sessions can make day-to-day living less painful, and more enjoyable. Watsu for fibromyalgia also is quite effective. Warm water alone helps our clients relax but gentle manipulations with a Watsu therapist can reduce pain and fatigue.

We’d love to tell you more.

Massage for knee arthritis eases pain

Cartilage is our friend.

Protective cartilage on the ends of our bones cushions the bones and allows easy movement. Over time, though, this firm yet slippery tissue wears down, and the rough surface creates friction. Friction creates pain. The pain intensifies when cartilage breaks down entirely and bone rubs on bone.

This is the most basic definition of osteoarthritis, which is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis and degenerative arthritis. Not surprisingly, it develops most often in joints we use a lot: hands, neck, lower back, hips and knees.

We commonly see clients with joint pain, inflammation, and connective tissue conditions. We also see many clients who have rheumatic conditions such as gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis has no cure; treatment is about managing symptoms of pain and stiffness and increasing range of motion. A new study suggests a massage regimen for knee osteoarthritis helps decrease pain and improve function.

The study is especially important because the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the research.

The findings? Weekly massage for knee arthritis decreased pain and stiffness and increased functionality for at least 16 weeks after the massages ended, according to a 2012 study.

In the study, 125 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee were assigned to eight-week regimens that included usual care with no massage, 30-minute massages once or twice week, and 60-minute massages once or twice a week. Baseline metrics included participants’ ratings of pain, based on an accepted arthritis index; range of motion and time to walk 50 feet.

Massage therapists involved followed protocols for techniques and massage strokes to be used on specific body regions to keep treatment patients received as uniform as possible.

People in the group that received massage for knee arthritis demonstrated “significant improvement” over baseline at weeks 16 and 24. Researchers found the people who received 60-minute massages once a week reported the greatest reduction in pain.

At our practice we’ve successfully treated cases of osteoarthritis and pain associated with rheumatic conditions by reducing pain, increasing range of motion, restoring function, and decreasing the need for NSAIDs and other pain medications.

The study, “Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial,” was originally published in PLoS One. 2012; 7(2):e30248.

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