Be Savvy with your Self-Care

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. 

 

Cultivating Healthy Posture

Posture is one of the foundations of our overall health, and cultivating healthy posture is particularly important for our sense of wellbeing. The body’s ability to heal comes through movement, and every movement informs our posture, even as our posture informs our movement. The building blocks of healthy posture include ease and economy of motion, coordination, body-mind integration, and a balance between stability and mobility.

Postural issues can get locked into chronic holding patterns in the muscles of the body, causing ongoing muscle tension and discomfort. However, there is always a need for a certain baseline of healthy muscle tension to hold us upright and stable against the pull of gravity. This means that cultivating healthy posture is a complex process of supporting the tonic “anti-gravity” muscles even as we work to ease and release the dysfunctional chronic tension.

When we have pain, it signifies that we have dryness in the tissue, which means that the fibers have become rigid. We need to shift it back to being supple and juicy. One way is to learn to control those core and intrinsic muscles that help hold you upright. You can learn to engage the right muscles in the right order for certain movements, and to then relax any extra muscles that your body is trying to use instead of using its core. You can also use something called sensorimotor awareness, where you pay attention to certain parts of the body and how they move, and then adjust them as needed. Imagery can help you find the right alignments.

Working on healthy posture is progressive. The more you can learn to engage the right muscles and relax the extra ones who are trying to “help”, the better your posture will be. It is fundamentally a process of cultivating awareness, and can have tremendous benefits for overall health and wellbeing.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is foot pain, often in the form of a stabbing pain at the heel, and can be worst in the mornings. The pain comes from the plantar fascia, which is a band of connective tissue that connects the heel to the toes along the bottom of the foot. The arch of the foot is an important part of how the foot absorbs the force of the body against the ground (which can be 3-4 times your body weight with each step while running), and the plantar fascia is an important part of maintaining the right tension in the arch, so that it is neither too loose nor too tight.

The pain of Plantar Fasciitis usually comes from biomechanical issues like imbalanced posture, how you walk, or the shoes you wear. Though plantar fasciitis has traditionally been treated as an inflammatory problem, recent research indicates that it is not inflammation so much as collagen degeneration in the fascia. Treatment, then, needs to focus on the biomechanical dysfunction of the foot and how it relates to the rest of the body.

Bodywork like massage and myofascial release are especially effective at addressing these kinds of issues. There are fascial connections that run all the way from the bottom of the foot, along the back of the calf and thigh, and continue up the back and neck to the head. Tightness anywhere along these connections can then tighten the plantar fascia and cause pain. This means that releasing tight back muscles can relieve foot pain! Working with the body as an interconnected system helps address the dysfunction that is causing the plantar fasciitis in the first place.

The other key to addressing plantar fasciitis is blood and fluid flow. Fascia needs to be hydrated in order to stay healthy, and many shoes constrict circulation in the feet, even as they misalign or stress natural foot structures through raised heels, raised toes, and/or narrowing the toes in a pointed shape. Changing shoes and stimulating the nourishing flow of blood and fluid in the feet can help the fascia repair and rebuild its collagen. Massage, therapy balls, and gua sha are all effective for this kind of stimulation.
Plantar Fasciitis is a symptom, indicating a larger problem in how the body is standing, walking,  and/or running in general. Effective treatment needs to address much more of the body than just the feet and should be customized to the specific needs of each client. Bodywork and massage is especially effective at addressing the body in this way, and at HaLe’, we know how to treat the whole person in order to ease the pain and address the dysfunction of plantar fasciitis.

PreNatal Massage for All 3 Trimesters

Pregnancy involves dramatic physical changes, and Prenatal massage is a form of therapeutic bodywork designed to support and ease the pregnant body through those changes. It provides a wide range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits, and is careful to use special bolsters, pillows, and positions to keep you as comfortable and safe as possible.

Prenatal massage assists with many of the common discomforts of pregnancy, including aches and pains in joints and muscles, headaches, leg cramps, swelling, and constipation. The pregnant body is transitioning to add weight, change the center of gravity, and squish internal organs out of the way. Massage is able to support these transitions by easing muscular discomfort and other distress.

Circulation is also key to pregnancy, and prenatal massage helps to stimulate blood and lymph flow, which nourishes both mother and fetus and helps to remove toxins and increase immunity. It also eases the load on the heart and helps to keep blood pressure in normal ranges. During pregnancy, blood volume may increase up to 60%, and massage is a good way to support blood flow back to the heart.

Also, prenatal massage helps to stabilize hormone levels and the depression or anxiety that hormonal changes can cause, as well as soothing the nervous system into better relaxation and healthier sleep. It also offers drug-free pain relief, and the deep emotional support of nurturing touch.

Prenatal massage is recommended as often as every 2 weeks throughout the pregnancy, increasing to once a week in the third trimester. As your body changes, the specific focus of the sessions will adjust, but the overall goal of every session is to provide healthy support and ease through this time of dramatic change.

 

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.

Yes, HSAs and FSAs cover massage and acupuncture

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can be used to pay for massage and acupuncture treatments, as long as your physician recommends it with a written prescription. At HaLe’, we deeply believe in the effectiveness of our treatments, and are very excited to see bodywork, massage, and acupuncture covered as the health care it is.

To get a written prescription from your medical provider, you will need to talk with them about receiving treatment for a specific medical ailment. Some examples of qualifying issues are: stress, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.  Explain to them that you have an HSA or FSA that you would like to use to pay for bodywork, massage, or acupuncture to address your ailment. If you are already receiving these kinds of treatments, tell your doctor about how much they are helping you and how effective you find them.

To support this conversation, HaLe’ is happy write a letter to bring with you, detailing our suggested treatment plan for that ailment. Your doctor may choose to write the prescription to match that plan or may make adjustments based on their expertise. Either way, the prescription needs to include these 3 pieces of information:

  • Medical necessity: what condition you are treating
  • Frequency: how many sessions per month
  • Duration: how many months

Once you have your prescription, let us know what it says and then file it away with your records in case you are ever asked to back up your expense. You can pay for your sessions at HaLe’ directly with the card or check associated with your health spending account, if you have them. Please note that gratuity is not considered part of the cost and so does not qualify as a qualifying expense. Also, for some people, our classes might also be effective treatments for their ailments, and prescriptions for those could also be appropriate.

At HaLe’, we want you to feel good about what you are doing for your health. These HSA and FSA payment options make our treatments more accessible, which means we can be effective health care for more people, so you can get better and feel good!

What is Ayurvedic & Nutritional Counseling?

Ayurveda is an ancient system of health that begins with an in depth study of your own constitution. To begin, an Ayurvedic practitioner will spend a couple of hours asking a lot of questions, including what vitamins you take, what you eat, childhood illnesses and accidents, your sleep, and your digestion. They really take the time to get clear on how your body works and responds to the world.

This kind of session both identifies your constitution, and gives you the tools to feel secure about what you need to be doing. Ayurveda focuses on one issue at a time, and so the consult will include a plan to address your chief complaint. Because everyone digests things differently, two people with the same complaint but different constitutions will have very different treatments. There is no one pill that fits all.

There are so many factors to consider that it seems very complex, and yet once you know your constitution, it makes things so much easier. It creates a sense of awareness, like falling awake. The different constitutions (doshas) have different innate responses to life and food, and how they respond to imbalance is also very different. Knowing what is normal and what is a sign of imbalance in your constitution helps you know when your body needs support.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a manual medicine and self-care practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Balls and Rollers

Therapy balls and rollers offer many of the benefits of bodywork, but with the accessibility of a self-care practice and classes. Bodywork and massage therapy has a long list of benefits for overall health, pain management, athletic performance, and immune function. Sessions are one on one and highly individualized to each client’s body and what will best support their health.

Not everyone is able to receive bodywork or massage as often as their body needs it, though. A reasonable health maintenance schedule for bodywork is once every 2 or 4 weeks, and busy schedules and finances can make that difficult for everyone to access. That’s where the balls and rollers come in! With a grippy texture and firm (but not hard) to the touch, they can support health in many of the same ways bodywork does.

The ball or roller is able to mimic what the therapist does with their hands and feet, using slow, firm pressure to create length and hydration. They can address pressure points, lengthen fascia, relax muscle tension, and rehydrate tissues. Classes can get anyone started with these tools, as a trained teacher leads students through proper techniques and teaches them what to notice. Each student needs to learn the difference between sensations that create health, and pain that does damage.

Once a student has learned the basics in class, they can begin to integrate balls and rollers into their own self-care practice at home. Self treatments like releasing the IT band after each long run, or addressing pressure points on the hands to relax head and neck tension after a day on the computer, can go a long way to maintaining a daily sense of ease and vitality. This also allows bodywork and massage sessions to become more effective as they can spend more time addressing root causes of discomfort.

At HaLe’, discovering the therapeutic use of balls and rollers was an Aha! moment for us. We had tried for years to figure out a way for clients to continue their treatments off the massage table. Yoga is a great complement to bodywork, but it does not work with the body in the same way. Now we can encourage clients to come to class, learn the techniques, and then use them as often as they need to in order to support and maintain the specialized bodywork they receive on the table.

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.

Page 2 of 912345...Last »