Let it be…

… Sorry, guys. I have been loafing on the writing, but I’m not really apologizing.

It’s spring. I have been working too hard. There are lots of activities this time of year. Without sufficient air conditioning, I wasn’t been sleeping. And maybe it was the powerful full moon… but last week it all hit critical shutdown. Lights out. Done!

I spent most of last week either staring blankly or pushing myself through what had to be done. I had been running on fumes.

… As a massage therapist, I went to a continuing education class called medical massage. And even though the teacher was nationally known, they rambled and were unorganized, and I wasn’t getting a lot out of the class.

(I have learned that there are content/skill classes, and then there are those I come home with an overall thought that grows and gives my practice a whole new light on things.)

That weekend the thought I came away with was that the primary focus for massage should be so the client can rest, because sleep is where the body heals itself.

All the critical catching up in the body happens while we are not pouring all our energy into “being brilliant” as one of my Theatre professors used to say, going at “Mach 1”.

The downshifting of gears allows for the body to clean up the crazy mess left from going all day. There are metabolic waste garbage routes that need to be cleared, nerves need to reboot, and the blood “train” moves things around, bringing supplies where they need to be for the next day.

I have heard a well-known fitness trainer say that the most ignored part of physical fitness is insufficient recovery time.

When the body is facing a health crisis, it is even more imperative for this slower speed, and better nutrition. But many people reach for things to keep them going when they think they can’t stop, and sometimes life does demand this of us. … You probably aren’t going to ignore the 2 a.m. babies cries, even though you have to go to work in the morning. But 2 years of this will be a problem! – And you will be a wreck…

I think that life should have ebbs and flows, even though I am still working on it!

Take a moment to chill just to enjoy the sun and not going. You might feel even better when you get back into the thick of things. : – )

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Breathing…

Breathing… Even though it keeps you alive for 5 more minutes there is so much more to it! 

As a massage therapist, I was trained to scan a clients’ torso to see if they are breathing (or not) for a couple of reasons. 

One is, that if the pressure is too hard, they are flinching, which is counter-productive to easing muscle tension.  Two, the act of breathing (or not) is a reflection of whether the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system is still on high alert with stressors, or whether they are starting to relax and gear down. 

If I notice that someone is not breathing, I ask about the pressure.  And if the answer is “fine”, I might move into a little guided imagery for body awareness.  One that I suggest is relaxing in a certain area, like the front of the throat, the “belly”, the lap, the armpits, the face, the feet. Sometimes we slowly walk awareness through the body together from feet to head, “turning out the lights”. 

Then I will move on to asking them to breathe in spots that seem constricted, even if they are not directly related to the diaphragm.  You can breathe in your face, lap or feet, didn’t you know?

I like to give the analogy of breathing from the lap to the chin.  Think about your torso as an air mattress.  Before you start to fill an air mattress, it is flat and folded.  As air is pumped in, it starts to expand, filling out the shape of the rectangle and push out the corners.  By the time it is filled up, the air pressure has made the mattress firm.

Our hips and shoulders are “the corners” of this internal air mattress of our lungs.  Without sufficient pressure the whole torso is weak, just like an air mattress that goes flat by the morning.  No wonder our shoulders and legs bother us!  We don’t have sufficient air pressure to keep us afloat! 

Breathe!  –  Because you get to!”  (You are still living, right?)

Fill up your air mattress!

The Five Principles of Reiki

Just for today, I will live the attitude of gratitude.

Just for today, I will not worry.

Just for today, I will not be angry.

Just for today, I will do my work honestly.

Just for today, I will show love and respect for every living thing.

Tian Di Massage

So… I took a continuing education course in Tian Di Bamboo Massage last fall.  I had figured that I would sit through a weekend of Frou-frou spa massage techniques and collect my mandatory continuing education credits and be on my way.  But, I learned a lot and have really come to love working with my bamboo sticks and Chinese therapeutic cups!

The first thing anyone says when I mention bamboo massage is, “ Are you going to beat me with the sticks of bamboo?”  My response?  -Only with the tapotement reed bundles!  …And then ensues a long explanation of what Tian Di massage is… Tian Di means “Heaven and Earth”.  It is a massage combination of massage with bamboo sticks and Chinese medical cupping techniques, based on watching monkeys working on each other with sticks in the wild.

A 90-minute Tian Di Massage that goes through progressive sizes of bamboo sticks, with strokes running the length of the entire body, which are then followed with cupping the length of the body, the client rolls over and we repeat everything on the other side. The session works out the tight spots, leaving you calm and relaxed like a bowl of Jello.

Here’s what you need to know about bamboo massage and Chinese cupping:

Bamboo massage

I learned quickly how to maneuver the muscles around the bones, and that I could “feel” my way through the sticks… I also learned how much both bamboo and cupping could really help with fascia issues.

Fascia is the connective tissue that connects everything together in the body, like the skin to the next layer below.  This tissue weaves through the body cradling organs and wrapping muscles to bones.  Wherever there are sore muscles, or “problems”, usually the fascia had gotten all wadded up, and some sort of manual therapy in needed to smooth it out again.  Most people who get myofascial release are expecting some serious, “deep”, sometimes painful, therapeutic work to relieve pain or serious tension.

The bamboo sticks are great for getting a lot of pressure and relief without “digging in”.  In Bamboo massage there is usually no “pinching” like myofascial release techniques can have, though they could be used for “poking” like in trigger point and acupressure.

The broad rolling surface of the bamboo spreads out the pressure and kneads the layers of skin, much like rolling out bread dough. The attached tissue progressively relaxes, getting more and more relaxed with each successive pass.  For deeper and deeper effects, there are progressively smaller circumference sticks.

Bamboo rolling can be so relaxing.  It can even have a strong sedating effect on the body, even with heavy pressure. (An occupational therapist has told me she used rolling pins, rolled up and down the back to calm children with behavior problems.)  There must be something about firm, but gentle pressure that can calm the nerves.

Chinese Cupping

The other part of the Tian Di Massage is Chinese cupping.  Cupping is one of the tools of acupuncture and can be used in patterns for assorted health issues, much like acupuncture needles.

Cupping actually pulls the skin, fascia and tissues instead of the push pressure in regular massage, and has lots of applications. The skin (and everything attached to it) unwinds gently, depending on how much vacuum pressure is in the cups.  (The more pressure the more you feel it.)  Cupping can really benefit someone who is too tender for a lot of pressure, like with Fibromyalgia.

The cups I use are hard plastic suction cups and I use a pump to pull out the air and the result is a vacuum.  Some acupuncturist’s use glass jars and makes a vacuum with fire to deplete the oxygen in the cup, thereby causing a vacuum. …For all you chemistry buffs out there! I like the plastic cups because I can control the pressure, and there is no risk of burns.

Cups can be left in one place for a specific pain treatment or slid across the skin to have a more general effect.  I don’t pretend to know everything with Chinese medicine, but I do like the effects in what I have seen using cups!

Sliding the cups along the muscles acts much like the bamboo, kneading the body.  The sliding technique is great for treating fibromyalgia.  Ladies, it can also help to smooth out those dimples of cellulite!

For most people who are seeking relief from pain, they don’t care how it’s done; they just want the pain gone.  Cupping is really great for relieving serious and recurring pain from sports injuries or previous traumas.  It gets the circulation going in areas that have ischemia (low blood circulation).

(I have seen from working in an acupuncturist’s office that therapeutically, if the cups are left in one spot with lots of pressure, they can cause bruising. The bruises are superficial and can turn any number of colors: from dark bluish purple to maroon, to bright red, and even grey.  Sometimes condensation appears inside the cups.  It just depends on what in going on deep inside the body according to Chinese medicine.  The bruise markings are usually gone within a week at the most, and the relief is worth the temporary octopus attack markings.   Anyone conscious of the markings can always have the cup sliding instead.)

Because of the benefits, I now incorporate the cups into any massage if I see a need for them, and the client wants them.  Some cups can be used for sinus pressure and skin blemishes, but I leave most of this to estheticians.

Gua sha tools are sometimes used to smooth and scrape the impurities out of the superficial layers of the skin and loosen more fascia tissue as a finishing technique.

All in all, I just love the benefits of Tian Di massage!  Try it out!