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.

5 Ways to Cleanse with the Changing Seasons

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

What is Therapeutic Yoga?

by Chelsea Henry

Therapeutic Yoga uses yoga as a specific, individualized treatment that draws on a deep expertise and understanding of the body. All yoga can have therapeutic benefits, bringing healing and balance to the body, mind, and spirit. Therapeutic Yoga, however, is designed specifically around encouraging these therapeutic benefits and comes from a place of expert anatomical and physiological training.

One great benefit of Therapeutic Yoga is that it opens up yoga practice to a much larger population than would otherwise try yoga. An important goal of classes is that students leave feeling better than when they came in, and that they feel successful at having done yoga, regardless of the injury, disease, or illness they might be working with.

A Therapeutic Yoga class meets the students where they are, so that they are not struggling and can really find inner rest. It is not just a gentle approach, but also very precisely meets their body with support at the exact right angle for their needs, using blankets and other props as well as hands-on adjustments.

As an example, in our Neck and Back Care Yoga class, blanket support and other adjustments are used to really specialize and create the right angle to access the spine specifically. Every pose begins with pranayama breathing practice, and then the sequences begin by opening up the tailbone, and then the sacrum area, lumbar spine, and ribcage. People often come in with neck and shoulder issues and find that just the breathing itself begins to open up their range of motion, changing the neck by opening the spine, and then they feel an improvement in their neck and shoulders.

Therapeutic Yoga is a powerful healing method, accessible to every body. Students don’t have to be advanced practitioners, or even flexible. This is a reasonable self-care tool that meets students exactly where they are, at the intersection of their mind and their body. It is like finding a sliding door, rather than pushing or pulling the door to get in, and it accesses the amazing healing power of our bodies.

Ryoko Suzuki contributed to this article.

5 Things You Should Always Do at Your Desk

Sitting at a desk is hard on the body. Here are several ways to easily reduce the knots and tension:

1. Start with Right Angles. Adjust your workspace so that your feet, hips, and arms are at right angles to the floor. Your screen should be directly in front of your eyes so that your neck remains neutral, neither craned up or hunched down. Your keyboard should be in easy reach with your arms parallel to the floor. No need to strain to keep a straight back; use a pillow to bring the chair back closer to you. You can also use a small stool to bring the floor up to your feet and stacks of books to adjust the height of the computer and keyboard.

2. Engage the Core. A lot of pain that comes from sitting is caused by a weak core, since sitting allows the belly to soften. Try a sneaky seated crunch: Put both hands on your thighs, then try to curl your chest down toward your legs while resisting the movement with the arms. Hold this for 10 seconds and then release. This can especially help with low back pain and sometimes neck pain as well.

3. Rest the Eyes. Cup your palms over your eyes, with the heels of your hands resting on the cheekbones. It is hard on our eyes to stay at one focal distance for an extended period of time, like staring at a computer screen, and palming the eyes every so often helps to change that distance. The eyes affect our entire nervous system, and so releasing eye strain helps our entire body relax.

4. Stretch the Pecs. Use a door frame or clasp your hands behind your back to stretch your pecs every time you get up. The pecs are the root of a lot of upper back and shoulder tension, and even some neck tension. The shoulders roll forward and inward when sitting at a computer, which tightens the pecs and stretches the upper back beyond what it can support for prolonged periods of time. Stretching the pecs regularly during your workday helps offset this process.

5. Stand Up Every 30 min. Stand up and maybe walk around a little every 30 minutes, and it will do wonders for how you feel at the end of your workday. Our bodies are designed to be hunter gatherers and stay active throughout the day, so getting out of that sitting and concentrating position really makes a difference. Just standing up for a moment helps, but try to walk a little, take three deep belly breaths where you blow all the air out each time, twist your trunk back forth, and do some stretches like 8 Ways to Do Yoga at Your Desk.

Therapy Balls Get Those Tough Spots

by Chelsea Henry

Therapy Balls are a great tool for self-care because they work with the body in ways that usually require a massage therapist. Using them to their full potential requires a certain understanding of the relevant anatomy that comes from a teacher or bodyworker, but it can also be fun just to listen to the body and play with what feels good.

The therapy balls themselves come in many shapes and sizes, though most are pliant, rubbery balls 6-10″ in diameter. The texture of the balls is grippy, which allows you to hook into the superficial fascia and work with the body’s connective tissue. This is especially useful when addressing dysfunction and injury.

The softness of the ball is important because it is less likely to impinge nerves, and because of how it interacts with the bone. A pliant ball is able to yield at bony prominences, which is just more comfortable in general, but it is also able to nestle in around the bone. This allows it to better address attachment and insertion sites, and to stimulate the bone itself from multiple angles, which may improve bone strength.

Therapy Ball self-treatments work specific muscles to release tension and increase performance. A  foam roller treats the body as one large muscle. In contrast, Therapy Balls address the complexity of tissues under the skin, stretching in multiple directions. Conventional stretching lengthens muscles longitudinally, whereas balls can also provide transverse and diagonal expansion. This reduces the risk of injury and avoids circulatory compression.

Using the muscles as a road map to the body, Therapy Ball self-treatments feel wonderful. Many students say they feel like they just received a great massage by the time they are done with class. They have released tightness and improved range of motion, as well as addressing structural issues that can lead to chronic conditions.

8 Ways to Do Yoga at Your Desk

When we sit in a chair all day, it throws our bodies out of balance. We are designed for movement, and the stillness of the position can cause muscles to tighten, shorten, or disengage in ways that do not support our on going health and comfort.

Here are a few simple ways to help counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time, courtesy of the HaLe’ team of yoga instructors:

  1. Forward Fold: Sit on the edge of the chair with feet on the floor and fold forward to release the back. Then come back up and take the arms overhead to energize the body.
  2. eagle-arms-by-julieEagle Arms: Bring one bent elbow under the other and wrap the arms around each other. Settle the shoulders away from the ears. Hinge forward at the waist, and then come up and raise the bind toward the ceiling for a huge release in the shoulders. Can be done seated.
  1. Seated Warrior: Slide hips to one side of the chair seat and lower one knee into a lunge position to stretch the hip reflexors and quads. Switch sides. This is like doing Warrior 1 but while sitting on the hip of the bent leg.

img_33134. Arm Binds: Wrap one arm around your back at the waist and then sit back against the chair to help with hunching. Alternate arms.

5. Twist: Sit tall in your chair, inhale, and lengthen up the spine. Start the twist from your belly first, then the ribs, chest, neck, and head. Exhale and stay tall as you unwind back around.

6. Seated Backbend: Interlace your fingers at the base of your skull and move the spine forward in img_3316the body as you lift the upper chest. Soften the shoulders down as elbows move outward. Release the head back, keeping space at the back of your neck, or just keep your chin level.

7. Seated Cat-Cow: Similar to the Seated Backbend, sit tall in your chair and alternate arching and rounding the spine. Works well with hands interlaced at the occipital ridge at the base of the skull.

img_3321 8. Neck and Arm Stretch: Sit tall in your seat and drop one ear down toward your shoulder. Place your hand on your head above the ear to gently add stretch. Extend opposite arm and alternate flexing the wrist and stretching through the wrist.

9. Take deep breaths and come to yoga before or after work! (Of course)


These tips courtesy of HaLe’ Yoga Instructors Jane House, Julie Eliserio, Cameron Clark, Nancy Kirkland, and Katie Noss.

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.

Central Sensitization & Pain That Gets Worse

by Chelsea Henry

Pain can modify the way the nervous system works, making the body more sensitive to less stimulation, in a process called Central Sensitization. This happens mostly through changes in the brain and spinal cord, and means that little things hurt worse than they should, and that it takes longer for the pain to fade. We found this wonderful article, Central Sensitization in Chronic Pain by Paul Ingraham, which is a jargon-to-English translation of rock star pain researcher Clifford Woolf’s published paper.

As explained in the article, it is hard to know when a person is feeling more pain than they should, because we do not yet have a test we can run to show how much pain someone is feeling. That means that we only have our own experiences to go by, and without a defined “normal”, it is easy to not know that we are in more pain than we should be.

Central Sensitization is very well-documented and easy to create in lab settings. It also shows up so often as a complication of painful problems that some researchers think it might be a common denominator. It could be what puts the “chronic” in chronic pain.

Though we know that Central Sensitization exists, we do not yet know why it happens to some people and not others, and we do not have a good way to diagnose it. It could be a part of any case of chronic pain, but it is not clear how to separate the pain that comes from a problem in the tissue from the pain that comes from Central Sensitization.

When a person has Central Sensitization, it basically means they have a hyper-active warning system and the body is no longer giving useful, sensible pain signals. On a fundamental level, pain is about your brain’s assessment of safety: unsafe things hurt. Therefore we can treat Central Sensitization by being kind to our central nervous system. We can decrease stress and increase a feeling of safety and ease. Yoga, yoga therapy, massage, meditation, and mindfulness can all help create the felt experience of wellness the body needs in order to start turning off the alarms. Feeling safe and good, and having therapeutic experiences that are pleasant, easy, and reassuring, can go a long way in calming the nervous system and bringing the body back out of excessive pain.

The Magic Muscle: the Psoas

The psoas (pronounced so-az) is the one muscle that attaches the upper body to the lower body. It allows locomotion by allowing you to lift your legs to actually walk. It is the filet mignon of the body, the tenderloin, and is actually very delicate. It needs to be treated with sensitivity, so that it becomes juicy and full and soft. When it is juicy, you walk like a dancer, with legs that just swing from your body.

It is also the emotional core of the body, holding massive amounts of emotional information. It is where we hold birth and childhood trauma, or any other trauma, because it is directly a part of our flight or fight response. This makes sense because you are either running or curling into a ball, which are both primarily psoas reactions. When you’ve been traumatized and just want to curl up, that is the psoas acting as a protector, and when you release that, you can stand up straight, face the world, and approach it with ease.  It can also hold good stuff if you create that. A relaxed and juicy psoas leads to full body orgasms that flow through your whole body.

One of the best things you can do for your psoas is Constructive Rest Pose, where you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet parallel to each other at the width of your hip sockets, about 12-16″ away from your buttocks. You can also put your feet up on a chair. This pose allows the psoas to drop and lengthen. A fetal curl also allows it to soften and relax. These simple relaxations are so important. They not only change the body physically, but you can feel yourself moving more deeply into the floor. Your sympathetic nervous system gets a break and the body gets soft, bringing us a treasure trove for the body, mind, and spirit.

You can also work with balls to soften and hydrate the feet, standing up and pressing and releasing the foot onto a ball. This hydrates the tissues all the way up to the psoas, which is why we do a lot of it in class.

The psoas is fascinating because everything lands there, all your emotional issues, everything, and it works best when it is soft and relaxed. We can play with it, approaching it with a childlike curiosity of how things move. And when the psoas is juicy, we will all walk like dancers, with an easy flow.

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