The Magic Muscle: the Psoas

from Kaaren Engel

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.

Health Tips for Jet Lag and Travel

The keys to taking care of your body while traveling are hydration, combating insomnia, and body comfort. We’ve asked some of our expert team how to best support the body through travel. Here is what they said:

Acupuncture AppleKatherine Casey, Acupuncturist: These three acupressure points will help support your body through jet lag and travel weariness:

Stomach 36: Stretch legs out in front of you and place a pillow under your knees. Place the fingers of your right hand directly under the left kneecap. Just under the little finger, about a thumb’s distance from the shin bone you will find a little hollow place. That is S 36. Apply gentle even pressure for about a couple minutes and repeat on the other side.

Xin Bao 6: Find the wrist crease on the palm side of the left hand. Measure 2 thumb widths from the crease. The point is located between the tendons. Apply gentle pressure with the tip of the thumb for a minute or so. Repeat on the other side.

Ren 6: Lie comfortably on your back. Place the first 3 fingers of your left hand directly below your navel. With your right hand, place your index finger directly below your navel right next to your 3rd finger. Massage this point for a couple of minutes.

 

Woman On Yoga BolsterJane House, Yoga Teacher:  When you come back from a trip, remember that there are 2 parts to a really good yoga practice: the physical, and what I call telling the truth. Physically, prioritize getting sleep, listen to your body, and allow a couple of days on either side of the trip to settle back in and recalibrate before you go back to your usual schedule.

A yoga posture that is especially helpful is a gentle forward fold, where you stand with your sitting bones on the wall, walk your feet forward 12-18 inches from the wall, and then bend forward. This has elements of child’s pose as you lay along your thighs, allowing you to breathe into your back a bit. Also helpful are gentle twists, inversions, downward dog, and cat-cow for spinal releasing.

For the second part, Telling the Truth, find a person that can hear you and is present for you where you are. Have a conversation about your trip and anything that shifted, or realizations, or experiences. Trips can often rearrange us a little and it is very grounding to connect with your people when you come back.

 

Various spices and herbsLiz Workman Mead, Ayurvedic & Nutritional Counselor:

Take Ashwaganda, which is a rejuvenate and helps with the way travel throws off the body’s biochemistry. Take it the night before and then while traveling, especially to help sleep. (available at HaLe’)

Take Triphala, which helps fix constipation, assists with detoxification, and regulates the bowels. (available at HaLe’)

Drink lots of water, and in summer, put things in the water like cucumber or mint to help cool your body.

Do dry massage: take a dry washcloth before you get in the bath and start at your ankles, brushing up toward the heart to get circulation going. This is especially good for when you’ve been sitting a long time.

 

zen stones jy wooden banch on the beach near sea. OutdoorJanice Cathey, Bodyworker: Biochemical processes don’t move as fast as we can travel, so the body needs support in catching up.

Help reset your sleep cycle with exposure to natural sun for at least 20 min. Using a natural sleep aid such as melatonin can also help.

Balance the hips and release the neck and shoulders because those can get compacted during travel.

We need to stay more hydrated than usual. Coconut water and bottled spring water are especially good. 

Diet-wise, eat bananas and maybe some nuts. Avoid fatty foods, spicy foods, dairy, and caffeine.

Take an epsom salt bath with a little lavender or something in it that rejuvenates to help with travel weariness. 

Now about those needles…

by Katherine Casey, LAc

If you have never had any experience with acupuncture before, you are probably concerned about the needles. This is understandable, because the only needles we are familiar with are hypodermic needles, which are hollow-bodied, and designed to either take something out of us (blood), or put something in us (medication). Neither experience is ever very pleasant!

Acupuncture needles are completely different from hypodermic needles. They are very thin, solid body (meaning, they aren’t hollow like hypodermic needles are), and they serve the purpose of delivering a message. They direct qi (that animating force that keeps us alive, pronounced “chi”) to do something, like “go over here and nourish the lungs because this body has a bad cold.”

Another concern people often have about acupuncture needles is whether or not they are reused. And the answer to this is an unequivocal and emphatic NO. Acupuncture needles arrive from the supplier in sterile packaging, and they are single use only, just like hypodermic needles. They are disposed of in a sharps container just like the ones found in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Acupuncture needles are never, ever reused.

What is Cupping Therapy?

by Katherine Casey, LAc

The history of cupping is documented in the medical histories of many parts of the world, including countries of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, as well as Asian countries. Cupping is the practice of applying specially designed cups to the skin using suction for the purpose of relieving muscle pain, reducing swelling, and increasing the circulation of blood and qi to an injured area. It can be used to assist in lymphatic drainage and in reducing cellulite. Cupping can also aid in alleviating digestive issues, such as constipation. Facial cupping can aid in the reduction of fine lines and facial puffiness.

Historically all kinds of items were used for cupping– animal horns, bamboo, stone, and sea shells are some of the materials used for cupping. Nowadays, in the modern clinic setting specially designed glass cups are used, as well as cups made of polycarbonate plastic or silicone, all of which can be easily cleaned after use.

How does it work? In order to answer this question let’s compare massage therapy and cupping. Massage therapy creates “positive pressure” by compressing tissue to relieve muscle tension. In constrast, cupping uses suction to create “negative pressure.” The suction action of cupping expands and opens up the layers of body tissue, allowing better circulation of blood and qi.

Cupping will often leave round marks, commonly referred to as bruises, though the marks are not true bruises, like those that occur from a compression injury. The marks gradually disappear a few days after treatment.

Cooling, Receptive, Restorative Yoga

from Katie Noss

Restorative Yoga is a really great practice, especially in this day and age when most of us live with a lot of time pressure and stress. We all need to take a break, and in this yoga class, that’s what we do. We deeply relax and rest, fully supported with props, to create healing in the body.

Dedicate time for yourself to destress. Dedicate an hour. Dedicate more than hour. A lot of us feel like we don’t have the time, but this is a practice, and you just have to suit up and go. It is hard, so hard, to dedicate that hour for yourself, but you’ll see a lot of benefits. You will be glad you did it. If you are just running, hyper stressed, and super fast paced, if you don’t stop to relax, it can break down your physical body.

The benefits of Restorative Yoga far outweighs downtime at home. A lot of us can’t rest in our own home. So come to a beautiful space that is totally dedicated to healing, where there is nothing else going on except that. I have worked with people in class who had Parkinson’s and MS and other issues, and injuries are highly unlikely in Restorative Yoga because it is so gentle and supported. It can help take the edge off high blood pressure and really deepen the healing for other health issues, especially anything that is about too much heat (inflammation, pressure, etc) in the body. I personally had a sacrum injury and couldn’t lay flat on the floor. I just felt like I was stuck and I couldn’t move because I hurt so badly. That’s been gone ever since I started practicing 12, 13 years ago. Yoga offers these tools and you never stop learning. You never graduate from yoga; the benefits just continue to build.

Starting with Restorative Yoga, starting with my class, is a great place to start with yoga. A lot of us don’t even realize we aren’t relaxing until we come and do it. For some people they have to learn and practice. If you have a really fast paced high stress kind of life, this is a great yoga to start with because it is very gentle and soothing, not competitive at all. This is your own personal practice, and it is just about you, just you, showing up. There is nothing hard or forced, no pretzel poses. This is the opposite of that. It lays the foundations for more yoga practice, and all of us can use it; no matter what age or shape your body is in, injuries or surgeries, Restorative Yoga meets you wherever you’re at. Restorative Yoga is a cooling, receptive practice. It is not about doing, but about being.

Behavioral Health for Mind, Body, and Spirit Care

from Janice Glasscock, LCSW

Behavioral health care and mental health care focus on thought processes and emotions, on personal narrative, and helping the mind communicate with the brain. This allows us to better understand our own stories and feelings so that we can make better decisions and act towards healing.

Behavioral and mental health care is especially useful for people in situations that feel stuck, full of loss or fear, and/or during large transitions. These situations can include an unhealthy pattern in a relationship, moving into new parenthood, and launching children from home. They can also be about dealing with a life threatening health condition or diagnosis, stage of life transitions like aging or health concerns, work place or work relationship concerns, or the loss of a significant relationship.

Approximately 67% of people with behavioral or mental health concerns do not receive treatment, and these concerns account for about half of disability days from work. Depression is the #1 condition currently affecting health care costs right now, and it has a global and pervasive impact on health issues and conditions.

We can improve our overall sense of well-being, health, and quality of life by paying attention to our behavioral and mental health as a part of our mind, body, and spirit interplay. This means paying attention to our thinking and cognitive processes, and to our decisions and actions. Strong behavioral and mental health helps with:

  • positive, effective work and personal relationships
  • good life choices and lifestyle development
  • physical health/well-being
  • handling natural ups and downs of life, and coping during life crises
  • self-discovery and personal growth

Psychotherapy as treatment for behavioral and mental health concerns is an evidence-based way to reduce depression and anxiety and more effectively cope and problem solve. It has long-lasting benefits, and helps to address chronic low and high levels of stress that are on-going contributors to compromised health and well-being.

Within a positive, safe, and constructive relationship with a professional, psychotherapy helps identify and better understand cognitive sources of unease, and to change/broaden thinking about both the problems of daily living and the catastrophic, all-consuming psychological and emotional crises from which we need recovery. It is a great modality to help us take action on the paths of healing.

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.

Voice Release Therapy: Be Heard Again

from Adie Grey MacKenzie

Voice Release Therapy is a combination of bodywork and self care techniques that has been seen in many cases to improve vocalization. The specific technique was developed by a physical therapist at Vanderbilt at the request of The Voice Center. It is based on a variety of techniques and uses a lot of myofascial release.

This therapy is helpful for people who feel it takes a lot of effort to produce volume or to be able to get through a performance or lecture. Sometimes teachers can’t project or get volume and end up with very tired voices, and singers can feel like a performance or recording session is too much and they struggle to get through it. Sometimes people have a change in their voice where it doesn’t work as well as it once did. Even abdominal surgery can cause deviations in function that eventually effect the structures that allow the voice to function. Our voices are susceptible to many kinds of emotional and physical changes, even when those changes seem like they should be unrelated, or are on distant parts of the body.

The technical term for these changes is called muscle tension dysphonia, which is a diagnosis only a doctor can make, but what it means is that muscle tension is affecting the function of the voice. This tension can come from postural habits, overuse, and/or emotional stresses, and Voice Release Therapy has been seen to be extremely effective at returning normal or near normal function of the voice; in some people their voice got better than it had ever been!

Treatments work best if people plan to come about once a week consistently for 6-8 weeks. We recommend coming to one session first to see if it is something you want to pursue, and then continuing from there. Each session is 1 hour, and includes hands on work, exercise, and education. We can achieve everything we need to achieve in the visits, whether it takes five or ten or however many your body needs, but there is a tendency for any fascial release to return to a tight state and so maintenance is important. This can happen through self care using exercises you learn and other techniques, or you can come back for regular maintenance sessions with the therapist.

Yoga, especially the kind of yoga taught at HaLe’, is also a great way to maintain results gained in Voice Release Therapy because it works on core stability, anterior stretching, and connecting with the breath in a way that is different from voice lessons. Most of us do so much in our lives that bring our torsos forward into a flexed position, and 99% of the time these vocal problems are caused by postural deviations that end up damaging the capacity of space around the vocal chords. Yoga helps people learn to relax the body into postures that enhance the fascial release done in therapy sessions.

Breathing is also hugely important, since most of us don’t breathe properly. Yoga helps with breath training and reinforces the breath training done in therapy sessions. Some people are good and know how to breathe and that is not the issue, but a lot of people don’t know how to connect to the diaphragm. A lot of us use our neck muscles that attach to the scalenes to breathe, using the neck muscles to lift our upper rib cage. We can learn this through emotional stress, trouble breathing, or any number of places, but when we keep doing it, those neck muscles tighten up drastically which then means the vocal folds (they are more folds than chords) don’t have room to vibrate easily.

Voice Release Therapy is a very effective treatment for many voice issues, and it is also pretty pleasant to receive. It can sometimes get uncomfortable, but most people look forward to their sessions. They find it enjoyable, enlightening, and the results feel good.

Testimonial for Voice Release Therapy

Dear Janice and Adie,

I just wanted to thank you both for your time and dedication to healing so many people and for helping me.  I feel so fortunate to be the recipient of your loving care and concern.

My name is Randi, I’m 56 years old and I’ve had a chronic cough for most of my life. Diagnosed and treated by many doctors as having various maladies  including severe acid reflux, asthma, allergies and now a cyst on my vocal cords, I had finally run out of doctors, ideas and hope.

One day, while chatting with a friend in my East Nashville boutique, a lovely woman overheard my complaints and gently approached me. She told me she owned a healing center called HaLe’ Mind and Body in Hillsboro Village, and suggested that I might want to try a session with one of her therapists. I booked an appointment with Adie Grey MacKenzie, who coincidentally I had previously met several times through mutual friends and had always loved her energy.

The first session with her was wonderful. She was highly intuitive, compassionate, knowledgeable, gentle and a great listener. She taught me exercises and gave me homework. I immediately knew I was in the right place. My second session with her was amazing. She did myofascial release on my head and neck, recommended restorative yoga classes and gave me more exercises.

That night, I slept without waking up from coughing for the first time in over a year. I’m now taking the restorative yoga classes at HaLe’ Mind and Body and feel better than I have in months! I am so grateful to Janice, Adie and Katie and highly recommend all of their services!

Recovery Yoga

from Andy Coppola

It is surprising how much people are recovering from stuff, and not just AA, not just addicts and alcoholics, but more people are given prescription drugs because of a car accident or an injury at work or something like that, and then they slip into a way of living that they are not used to, and it comes with strange behaviors. I have been in AA for 17 or 18 years, and I used to think alcoholics and addicts are different, but the more I interact with people in recovery, the more I see people being susceptible to addiction because of the way the medical practice uses prescription drugs.

 

One of the big things in Recovery and in Yoga, particularly the yoga tradition I work with, is the idea of relationship, and that’s what’s been interrupted. Often the doctors that prescribe these drugs don’t have enough time to spend with people and so instead of getting help, people just get medicine, and that breaks down the relationship. It is through relationship with people that we understand ourselves better.

 

The basis of our yoga is what is my mind doing, what is my heart doing, what is my breath doing. This is not the basis of most yoga, which is more about stretching and getting farther along in some capacity. Instead of trying to get toward a goal, we develop relationship with the body and with the teacher, and then the body begins to trust itself a little bit more, letting go of what holds you back and removing obstacles in your body, in your mind, and in your heart. This approach can be hard for people who haven’t been in a really difficult place to comprehend, because it goes against the norm to say, “I’m not going to push my body too far, I’m not going to work overly hard, I am just going to take care of myself.”

 

It is counterintuitive, but my body responds better to starting with slow, simple movements, simple breathing, and mental focus on things that are not complex. These are small steps that help your body trust your decisions again. You have broken your body’s judgment when you think you have to turn to a pill or some kind of chemical. Those chemicals work so that they change your body so that your body needs that chemical, so it’s a downward spiral, chaining the body, so that it is no longer addressing what it was originally addressing, and it is just this chemical relationship. When you get to a very difficult place in life and experience and you say this is no longer working, then you are willing to say, “I’m looking at what’s going on, and it’s hard to come out of it.” But simple practice, simple breathing, simple movements all build this idea of trust so that your body starts to respond to your judgment again.

 

Rebuilding this trust doesn’t happen over a week or a month, but over time, which is why the relationship is so important. Start with a teacher for guidance, and then work with yourself so that when you sit still with your mind, breath, and body, you can inquire, “What does my body need at this moment?” Rather than provide the solution, you are just constantly asking, and through that process of asking, the answers come; you don’t have to seek them. The body instinctively knows I shouldn’t move this far or hard in this pose because it is causing strain in my back or in my shoulder. Over time, as I become more sensitive to that, my body starts to open up its physical capacity. I’m not trying to do more, but because I am listening to what my body says, my body will open up and allow more to happen because it knows I am listening. I can do more now in my 40s than I could in my 20s.

 

The difficulty with this practice is that it is a process. We are used to paying for something, getting it, and leaving. We are not used to someone saying, “Just be here, stay here for a few minutes and be at peace.” But this is how we rebuild these broken relationships, especially the trust we have broken with our bodies.

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