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

from the HaLe’ Team

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.

 

These tips courtesy of HaLe’ Body Care Specialists Erin Law, Adie MacKenzie, Will Ravenel, and Katherine Correa.

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.

Integrative Medicine & the Growing Edge of Health Care

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.   Duke Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine is patient-centered health care that takes the whole person into account. It is not alternative care, which is used in place of western medicine, and it is not complementary care, which is used to supplement western medicine. Instead, Integrative Medicine begins with the health of the patient and partners with them to address all the causes of an illness, not just the treatment of symptoms. There is a complex interplay between the biological, behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental influences on health, and so it is necessary to engage with the full range of these influences.

In order to take this full spectrum approach to health, Integrative Medicine uses all available healing sciences to best treat the patient’s unique circumstances. Through a willingness to use the healing modalities that will be the most effective and least invasive options, and to combine these treatments into personalized care, Integrative Medicine

neither rejects conventional medicine nor uncritically embraces alternative therapies; rather, integrative medicine can be described as a practice that “cherry picks” the best and scientifically supported therapies of both systems. The ultimate goal: to get the patient better, through the use of safe, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible.   UCLA, Explore Integrative Medicine

Integrative Medicine also focuses on prevention and the development of effective self-care for patients. According to the CDC, 70% of all deaths are due to chronic disease, and the cost of chronic care accounts for 75% of all medical expenses. Yet we spend very little on prevention and health promotion, which has been proven to dramatically reduce the burden of chronic disease. Our conventional medical system has a bias toward high-tech and invasive crisis intervention, which contributes to the dysfunction in our health care system. Integrative Medicine is a growing solution to these issues as it invests in the whole body health of patients and partners with them on their healing journey in order to empower their physical, mental, and spiritual health.

HaLe’ is Integrative Health Care. We use techniques with proven effectiveness to treat each patient under their own unique circumstances, and we partner with and empower the health of all our clients. Our offerings are rich with opportunities and support for continued health and healing.

 

Reasons Why You Need a Massage

from Erin Law

The first thing I want to say is, energetically, I feel lighter when I get bodywork and I want other people to feel that way. It’s like 10 pounds lifts off the body just from getting a massage. I think that setting that time aside for yourself is a testimony to self love and self care. It is preventative medicine really, it keeps us out of the doctor and out of the chiropractor. I also think that when you go and get bodywork and feel better, it is easier for you to give love. I really believe that it ripples out on the goodness quotient.

Massage also brings body awareness. I consider myself someone who is incredibly aware of my body, but I will get bodywork and think, wow, I didn’t know my body was experiencing tightness and constrictions there. It reminds me how interconnected the body is in general. I might have tension in my glute, but it could be coming from something in the front of the body. Also, a lot of us spend time looking down at our devices, which really rounds us down, and massage can help return us to a healthy home base. We use so much technology that it is easier and easier to forget about how the whole body is connected, and so it is good to develop the awareness of the relationships of our body.

Massage also allows for some deeper work to be done, and gives us a chance to sort of tune up the muscles that are doing all the supporting and the grunt work, if you will. Once that muscle tension has been alleviated, performance is automatically enhanced in whatever activity you are doing. Having that tension limits possibilities for range of motion, and so releasing it increases possibilities in the field of whatever you are doing.

If you are an athlete, getting massage is as important as brushing your teeth in the morning. You can’t expect that much out of your body if you don’t give it the care it deserves. Massage promotes longevity, because you can be active for longer, or be an athlete for longer. If you want to be active, you have to treat your body well.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

by Elmo Shade

  1. CONTACT- Breath, Body, Sounds, 5 Senses

The formal training of mindfulness takes place on the meditation cushion by re-directing the wandering attention. Breath and body awareness is the best place to start. By re-directing attention from the thinking mind to the breath or the felt sense of the body, we begin to condition our attention to be in the present moment.

ex: smelling the sweet aroma of chocolate in an ice cream shop

 

  1. FEELING TONES- Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral

Every single experience or event has a feeling tone to it, i.e. a categorization of “I like it” (pleasant); “I don’t like it” (unpleasant); “I am undecided or neutral about it” (neutral). By paying attention to the experience and its feeling tone, we can begin to examine our inner relationship to it, e.g. clinging to what is pleasant or pushing away and resisting what is unpleasant.

ex: I love the smell of chocolate 

 

  1. PERCEPTION- Mental Filters, Assumptions, Stories

Between stimulus and response, there is an approximate gap of .25 seconds. It is in this gap that we filter an event based upon past experiences. Our MAPS or “My Assumptions, Perceptions and Stories” become our reality and our reality is most often not in concert with what is factual or true. Perception then is NOT reality; it is only the ego misrepresenting the past in the present moment.

ex: chocolate reminds me of wonderful family experiences 

 

  1. CONSCIOUSNESS- Intention to act, e.g. reacting v responding

If we are not paying attention, our inclination will be to “do something”, i.e. to react with attachment (cling to it) or aversion (get rid of it) which lead to unhealthy and unproductive mental states like anger, blame, judgment/becoming. Paying attention to the truth of the present-time experience allows us to respond with curiosity and compassion instead of being stuck in a reactive pattern, e.g. indulging.

ex: I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I feel sick and emotionally drained

When to Get Cupping Therapy

by Chelsea Henry

Cupping Therapy improves muscle performance and moves fluids by using negative pressure (suction) to lift tissue. It is a powerful healing tool that can be customized and utilized effectively for a wide range of body issues.

Muscle Tension: The pull of the cups on contracted muscle tissue helps it to release and relax. This is especially effective when done as a complement to massage.

Chronic Muscle Pain: The connective tissue that wraps around muscles is called fascia, and it can adhere to the muscle in a way that prevents the muscle from fully releasing, causing chronic or recurring pain. Cupping can help release the fascia (also called myofascial release), especially when the cups are moved along the tissue.

Scar Tissue: Cupping can help break up scar tissue adhesions, allowing better flow of blood and lymph and freeing bound muscular tissue for improved range of motion and performance.

Swelling: Using cups around bruised or swollen tissue can help draw excess fluids away and stimulate healing.

Joint Pain: Cupping around an achy joint (knee, shoulder, etc.) can help draw blood and nutrient flow to the problem area to speed healing, as well as release myofascial issues and muscle tension that may be contributing to the discomfort.

Cold/Flu or Deep Cough: Cups applied to the back over the lungs can help break up lung congestion and stimulate healthy respiratory function. Facial cupping can also help relieve sinus pressure.

Digestive Issues: Abdominal cupping can help relieve digestive distress and stimulate healthy bowel function.

TMJ and Facial Dysfunction: Specially designed smaller cups will not leave marks on the face and can be used to address problems in the jaw and other facial issues, stimulating healing and restoring function.

Cellulite: The distinctive appearance of cellulite is caused by an underlying grid-like structure of the skin, which spreads to allow fat tissue to bulge through. Cupping with silicone cups can help reset this grid-like structure, closing gaps and smoothing the appearance of the cellulite.

Women’s Health: Regular abdominal cupping can decrease menstrual discomfort and address fibroids. It also helps draw back together the abdominal separation caused by pregnancy, and can help with scar tissue from breast reconstruction/augmentation.

Cupping Therapy Plays Well with Others

by Chelsea Henry

Cupping therapy is an important part of our integrative health practice because it supports the process of many of our treatments. I talked with several of our talented therapists about how it complements the work that they do and how they use it. This is what they said:

Erin Law, Therapeutic Sports Massage:

Cupping therapy helps to jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure of the suction combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Rocio Hernandez, Ashiatsu Massage:

Using cupping therapy after an Ashiatsu treatment really helps to bring the blood flow to the area, especially any area that is feeling stagnant, like the back or arm. The suction also helps to release the muscle when it is contracting, making for a faster release and bringing blood flow more quickly to the area. Afterward, people tend to feel either really energized or like they just ran a marathon.

Katherine Casey, Acupuncture:

Cupping facilitates better movement of blood and qi in an acupuncture treatment because of the openness of the tissue. The cups create negative pressure, as compared with massage, which uses positive pressure. This negative pressure opens up muscle and tissue, which works in concert with acupuncture needles to move qi.

Adie Grey MacKenzie, Lymphatic Massage:

Cupping can be very effective in helping to break up scar tissue that is impeding lymph flow, but it is not usually indicated for treating lymphadema or other lymphatic issues directly because it can be too aggressive for the lymph system. However, cupping works through the use of negative pressure, and a machine that uses very gentle negative pressure has recently been shown to be a successful lymphadema treatment. This is a growing edge conversation in the lymphatic massage community right now as we learn more about how to use cups and other negative pressure tools gently enough to support the lymphatic system.

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