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.

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.

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 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.