Restorative practices are key to maintaining and creating health. Our bodies are designed to regularly have deep rest in order to reset the nervous system, flush the effects of stress, and rebalance internal processes, which all supports health and healing on a deep, fundamental level. Without enough restoration, our bodies become locked into chronic stress patterns that create dysfunction in our physical, mental, and emotional lives.
Mindfulness principles support restorative practices, which in turn creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. As the body moves into rest and restore mode, the heart rate will slow, the breath will deepen, and blood pressure will decrease. Common areas of muscular tension like the diaphragm, pelvis, and neck and shoulders, will begin to relax and release. As the musculoskeletal tension along the spine releases, the vertebrae will be able to make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system will also re-regulate itself, which helps to turn down the volume of pain signals, and other systems of the body like digestion, circulation, and circadian rhythms, will also reset and rebalance.
Mind Body Therapy uses this effectiveness of mindfulness and restoration to address specific health conditions. At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation, and the initial conversation for Mind Body Therapy will assess your health condition and personal goals. We will also seek to understand your current physical, mental, and spiritual capacity. This allows us to create a personalized mind body practice for you that applies mindfulness principles to optimize your health.
Your personalized mind body therapy practice can provide specialized techniques for a variety of specific health conditions. It can help with chronic pain from musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease including heart failure and coronary heart disease. Mind Body Therapy can also address conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity, anxiety, depression, post traumatic disorder, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Mind Body Therapy is the application of principles of mindfulness for wellness and specific health conditions. Mindfulness techniques are able to turn the complex systems of the body toward restorative states, which creates space for deep healing and rebalancing.
Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a researcher, scientist, physician, and mind body therapist. He is now available for Mind Body Therapy sessions at Ha.Lé.
Mental clarity and general brain function can be affected by depression, disease, dysfunction, and general aging. Symptoms can include brain fog, frequent inability to think of the right word, forgetfulness, insomnia, and chronic restlessness. There are many ways to boost clarity of thought and brain health at HaLé, including treatment through acupuncture, bodywork, and classes.
Acupuncture approaches mental clarity by improving flow to the brain, which then helps to regulate information processing and response to stimuli. By significantly improving cerebral glucose metabolism of the brain, acupuncture can improve memory, concentration, and cognitive function. Thus far, all studies that have looked at how acupuncture affects mental performance, ranging from studies on dementia to college exam performance, have produced positive results.
Bodywork and massage also help with mental clarity, especially since tight neck and shoulder muscles can limit circulation to the brain. Sessions help to activate the left side of the brain, which boosts motivation, and they alleviate the mental block of stress, which frees up energy for creative thinking and completing tasks. Bodywork has also been shown to have a cumulative effect on improving memory, increasing awareness, and heightening alertness.
Therapeutic movement classes like yoga, tai chi, and MELT Method are also helpful for improving clarity of thought because of their blend of physical activity and mindfulness practice. Movement classes are shown to increase the levels of various biochemicals in the muscles and brain that are associated with improved brain health. Because they also incorporate mindfulness, they have been shown to be more effective than aerobic exercise alone for helping the brain focus, process information, and remember details. They provide positive stimulation of the brain, which supports optimal brain function and helps you stay alert and sharp.
Mental clarity and brain function is an aspect of health that can be supported and addressed, just like any other health issue. Whether your concerns are due to aging, medication, or other causes, it is possible to create and maintain brain health for improved function and clearer thinking.
Pain conditions change the body, creating deep muscle tension, restricting the breath, and raising levels of stress hormones. Yoga and other systems of therapeutic movement can shift these biological responses to pain, reducing suffering and helping to create health.
Gentle, mindful movements improve balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, and stamina. This helps to release the deep muscle tension that comes from chronic pain, and increases blood and lymph flow through the body, carrying nourishment to stressed tissues.
As tension releases, it becomes easier to breathe. While in pain, the breath becomes shallow and tight as the body stays prepared to protect itself. As the diaphragm and core release excess tension, the breath is able to deepen, which in turn signals the endocrine system that the threat has passed and it is safe to relax. The relaxation response then lowers the levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, allowing the body to switch into nurture and restore mode, where it can focus on healing damage instead of protecting against it.
At Ha.Lé, our classes are accessible to students at all levels and with a wide variety of health concerns. We see firsthand the benefits of regular practice for increasing range of motion, reducing pain, and lowering stress levels, and the sometimes profound improvements in health that can bring.
The fundamentals of taking care of yourself are sleeping, eating, and practicing self care. Getting enough sleep is crucial for vitality, mental sharpness, and emotional regulation. Eating well fuels the body for activity, supports healthy organ function, and also helps with emotional regulation. Self-care is just as important as sleeping and eating well. It is how we cultivate health, by listening to the body’s needs and responding appropriately.
What are your self-care mechanisms and are they working for you? These might include meditation or mindfulness practice, exercise routine and activity level, quiet time, quality time with loved ones, receiving bodywork and massage, and any of the other hundreds of things we do to support our mental, emotional, and physical health.
Being savvy with your self-care includes regularly checking in with yourself, and then being proactive about taking action. This means that when you need bodywork and massage, or acupuncture, or a class, you know where to go. You are able to tell when you need it, you know how often you need it, and you probably already have it scheduled, maybe with a standing appointment every 2 or 4 weeks.
What do you need from your self-care? You might need to cultivate a clear, calm mind, or more time to relax and recharge. You might also need a higher activity level, or bodywork to support the activity level you already maintain. Perhaps you need acupuncture to manage pain or reduce stress. Begin with how you feel and how you would like to feel, and then figure out how to make that transition.
Savvy self-care does not wait until we are so uncomfortable that we have to stop our lives to make a change, but instead listens to the smaller discomforts and takes care of them in order to maintain a sense of vitality. It’s about being daring enough to put your self-care first and foremost, in order to be more comfortable in your body.
Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain, usually caused by worn cartilage that no longer keeps enough of a cushion between the bones of the joint. This in turn causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Treatment for arthritis either supports the health of the joint and/or helps to manage the pain.
At Ha.Lé, we have a variety of effective treatments for arthritis pain. Our first recommendation is to come to class. Physical movement in general helps to relieve stiffness and improve circulation. Yoga classes also help realign the joint and strengthen the muscles around it, which can reduce the amount of pressure that contributes to the pain. MELT Method classes focus on hydration of tissues, and dry tissues in the joint can be a big contributing factor for discomfort. By using MELT techniques, those dry tissues can rehydrate, reducing inflammation and providing more cushion between the bones. Finally, Somatics and Feldenkrais classes can help the body learn to move more effortlessly, taking some of the strain off of painful joints and restoring a sense of vitality.
In addition to classes, we recommend bodywork and acupuncture. Bodywork is able to address multiple layers of tissue around the affected joints, easing strain and restoring blood and nutrient flow to the tissues. By addressing issues with muscle tension and adhered fascia, the joint is freed to move more easily, releasing pressure from spaces that don’t have enough cushioning and making movement more sustainable and less painful.
Acupuncture is also helpful for arthritis. It works to regulate pain signals in general, turning down the volume on the body’s alarms. This is especially helpful when pain has become chronic, which means that the pain signals can begin to build on each other, sending louder and louder alarms. Acupuncture is able to help reset this response. It also helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints themselves, which eases discomfort.
Arthritis pain is common and treatable. There are many ways to address the discomfort and reduce the impact of arthritis on daily life, through movement classes, bodywork, and acupuncture. All of these approaches are very safe with few side effects, and have the added effect of increasing your sense of vitality and general well-being.
Restorative Yoga is about relaxing into each pose, allowing the earth to hold you completely. Using props like blankets, bolsters, and blocks, the body is fully supported so that you can release layer after layer of tension. This resets the nervous system toward rest and digest mode, which creates space for healing and thriving.
Restorative yoga is also a form of mindfulness practice. It invites the mind to become more and more aware of where the body is holding tension. This helps to connect the body with mind, and uses neuroplasticity to cultivate stronger paths to relaxation in the nervous system. As we bring awareness to tension and then release it, we create ease and find room to change the habits of unnecessary tension that we hold in our daily lives.
Conscious relaxation creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. Heart rate slows, breathing deepens, and blood pressure lowers. Tension begins to drain out of the diaphragm, the pelvis, and the neck and shoulders. Muscles relax, allowing nutrients, oxygen, and blood to nourish and repair the tissue. As tension releases along the spine, vertebra make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system begins to turn down the volume on pain signals and various complex systems of the body better regulate themselves, like the digestive system, circulatory system, and sleep patterns.
In many ways, gentle is the new advanced. Restorative yoga is a gentle, subtle practice that creates profound results. Using the pull of gravity instead of muscular effort, it speaks to the healing processes of the body in a different, and very effective, way. It may be gentle, but it is not always easy to cultivate mindful relaxation.
Yoga, at its heart, is therapeutic. It is an ancient system of connecting the mind and body so that they move together and support health and vitality. Though it is popular to use yoga as a means to fitness goals, that is a narrow interpretation of a comprehensive system of health and treatment.
Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice, cultivating awareness from within the body. By bringing attention to the breath and alignment, it trains and conditions the mind. This has been shown to help improve cognitive function, boost memory, and reduce baseline stress levels.
In many ways, gentle yoga is the most advanced yoga. Without fast pacing or high physical challenge to occupy the mind, your attention is able to turn to the wealth of information percolating up from within the body: the exact angle of knee bend that begins to make an old injury ache; a perpetual knot in your shoulders that brings certain memories to the surface; the joy that comes from releasing tension in the low back. By tuning in to this body wisdom, we are able to better engage with our health and support ourselves.
Slower, more deliberate yoga is therefore able to treat imbalances and address discomfort, often before they become a bigger issue. It supports flexibility, lubricates joints, develops strength, increases balance, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical stress levels. Also, because it does use slower and gentler poses, it is accessible to a wider range of practitioners. Do not mistake it for easy, but know that it creates space for a wide range of bodies, ages, and levels of experience.
At Ha.Lé, our yoga classes are based in mindfulness practice. They are designed as treatments to support health and to continue the care we offer in our appointments. Therapeutic yoga is an effective way to support the whole self, bringing body and mind together to create health.
Our bodies are made to move, and specifically, to walk. We are fundamentally designed to use our feet to move from one place to another. This means that, on a biological level, walking activates important physical processes and balances our bodies in important and sometimes profound ways.
The power of walking comes through the movement. Our circulation increases, which allows our tissues to be nourished by more blood and oxygen. This nourishment allows them to repair and heal minor stresses, often before we notice them. Walking also allows us to enter into a naturally rhythmic state, which helps our minds shift into light meditation and stress reduction mode with ease.
The motion of putting one foot in front of the other coordinates complex interactions between muscles, bones, and connective tissues. It is an ongoing conversation that keeps each part healthy and connected to the whole. Increasing regular walks allows the body to adjust muscles and movements back toward healthy alignment and engagement, correcting some gait issues caused by too much sitting and not enough moving.
The corrective power of walking is well documented. Studies have shown that walking eases joint pain and arthritis by lubricating the joints and strengthening the muscles that support them. It also boosts immune function, reducing sick days by 43%. It can improve posture by reestablishing natural movement patterns, and it provides all the benefits of weight-bearing exercise. Because walking requires your body to stand upright against gravity, it increases bone density and muscle tone.
Walking is a powerful way to increase whole body health, and is especially effective when you go for walks outdoors. This brings you connection with nature, fresh air, and sunshine, helping to reduce stress levels and relax the body and mind. Walk more to increase your overall sense of well being.
Yamuna® Body Rolling is a self-care and self-conditioning technique that uses specialized therapy balls to treat specific body parts. It is able to address multiple layers of tissue, including skin, fascia, muscle, and bone, as well as work with connective tissues, internal organs, and the nervous system.
Yamuna routines involve rolling the body on a therapy ball in specific ways. Using a ball and controlled body weight, the entire muscle is stimulated from origin to insertion and all the tendons and tissue in between. As the body rolls, deep breathing brings a relaxation response, allowing tension to release and the weight of the body to sink into the ball.
Using Yamuna therapy balls offers the most complete form of stretching, by directly and evenly stimulating tendons and muscle fibers. Conventional stretching lengthens fibers mainly in one direction only and potentially creates microtears in the muscle. Therapy balls, however, are able to stretch fibers lengthwise, crosswise, and diagonally without the risk of microtears. This supports the overall health of the tissue, increases movement throughout the entire muscle, and allows the body to move more dynamically overall.
Therapy balls are able to access tissues that are not easy to target with conventional stretching, like internal organs, abdominal muscles, hip rotators, and the spine. They can stimulate bone health from all sides, unlike most weight bearing activities that only load bone in one direction. And they are able to safely address joint injuries and increase range of motion without distressing sensitized tissues.
Yamuna Body Rolling is an effective and empowering treatment. By using the unique properties of therapy balls, Yamuna routines are able to give people comprehensive methods to treat their aches, pains, and injuries, and to maintain performance and health.