A quick guide that explains when to ice, when to heat, when not to, and why

By Paul Ingraham
From PainScience.Com
May 2015

There is sooooo much confusion about this issue. It’s a shame because icing and heating — cryotherapy and thermotherapy — are rational, cheap self-treatment options with minimal risks. This article gives you a concise, bird’s eye view of the issues, and links to other articles with as much detail as you could possibly want, especially the main icing article, the main heating article, and the please-beware-of-icing-back-pain article.

What ice and heat are for

Ice is for injuries, and heat is for muscles. Roughly.

Ice is for injuries — calming down damaged tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process … that also happens to be incredibly painful and more biologically stubborn than it needs to be. Icing is mostly just a mild, drugless way of dulling the pain of inflammation. Examples: a new case of IT band syndrome or a freshly pulled muscle.

Heat is for muscles, chronic pain, and stress — taking the edge off the pain of whole muscle spasms and trigger points, or conditions that are often dominated by them, like back and neck pain), for soothing the nervous system and the mind (stress and fear are major factors in many chronic pain problems, of course).

What ice and heat are not for

Heat can make inflammation worse, and ice can make muscle tension and spasms worse, so they have the potential to do some mild harm when mixed up.

Both ice and heat are pointless or worse when unwanted: icing when you’re already shivering, or heating when you’re already sweating. The brain may interpret an excess of either one as a threat — and when brains think there’s a threat, they may also amp up the pain.

But heat and inflammation are a particularly bad combination. If you add heat to an fresh injury, watch out: it’s going to get worse! A physician once told my father to heat a freshly injured knee, and wow — it swelled up like a balloon, three times bigger than it had been before. And three times more painful. (That is a rare example of a particularly severe negative reaction to heat. Most cases are not going to be that bad!)

The lesser known threat is from icing at the wrong time, or when it’s unwanted.

If you ice painful muscles, watch out: it’s probably going to get worse! Ice can aggravate muscle spasms and trigger points, which are often present in low back and neck pain — the very condition people often try to treat with ice. Severe spasm and trigger points can be spectacularly painful, like knife wounds, and are easily mistaken for “iceable” injury and inflammation. But if you ice these tissues, woe is you — the muscles are likely to contract even harder, and the trigger points burn and ache even more acutely. This mistake is made particularly often with low back pain and neck pain. If in doubt, please see below in the “More information” section.

What about injured muscle?

If you’re supposed to ice injuries, but not muscles, what do you with injured muscles (a muscle tear or muscle strain)?

That can be a tough call, but ice usually wins — but only for the first few days at most, and only if it really is a true muscle injury. A true muscle injury almost always involves severe, sudden pain. If the muscle is truly torn, then use ice to bring down the inflammation. Once the worst is over, switch to heat.

Which is better?

Ice packs and heating pads are not especially powerful medicine: experiments have shown that both have only mild benefits, and those benefits are roughly equal.1

The bottom line

The bottom line is: use whatever feels best to you!

Your own preference is the tie-breaker and probably the most important consideration. For instance, heat cannot help if you already feel unpleasantly flushed and don’t want to be heated. And ice is unlikely to be effective if you have a chill and hate the idea of being iced!

If you start to use one and you don’t like the feel of it … just switch to the other.


By Shakti Rowan

April 2015

As the season change, we can support our well-being by gently cleansing and detoxifying the energetic pathways of the body. In the same way that we give our bikes and cars  maintenance at the end of the winter so that they last longer and run better, we too need a tune-up! This body is our vehicle for our entire life, and we don’t have the luxury of trading it in if it breaks down. Given the proper care and maintenance of regular tune-ups, our bodies can run well for a lifetime. 

When we give our body and organs a break from processing certain foods, we allow them to recover and renew themselves. Our organs are resilient and will become stronger when we take time to cleanse and detox, giving them a much needed break. In turn we strengthen our immune system, feel more alive and perhaps even shed a few pounds in the process! Bonus!! 

As city dwellers working in a fast paced environment who need to take care of our daily tasks, we can benefit most from a cleanse that keeps us feeling strong and nourished. I prefer to follow an elimination diet that removes certain hard to digest foods and toxins while still maintaining a range of whole-foods for vitality. 

Here is an example of what to expect during an elimination diet:
  • 14 Days that can change the way you think, feel and look at yourself and the world!!
  • Taking cleansing supplements, Maintaining healthy digestive flora, Cleansing the liver, kidneys, colon and blood
  • Drinking smoothies loaded with berries, ginger, lemon and a variety of greens in the morning for energy and vitality
  • Learning how to prepare meals with organically-grown fruits and veggies… Berries (blueberry, strawberry, cranberry, blackberries red raspberries), grapefruit, lots of green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, swiss chard, beet greens, dandelion, mustard greens) , beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods
  • Supplementing meals with nuts, seeds and dried fruit for snacking
  • Practicing mindfulness when eating animal proteins and only eating a small lean cut from organically raised free range animals
  • Drinking plenty of water while adding lemon or limes for proper PH balance. Hydrating and flushing your system with herbal and green teas
  • Dry-brushing your skin to remove toxins through your pores. Eliminating wastes through perspiration by taking a sauna or a sea salt bath
  • Getting a detoxifying massage 
  • Light stretching or exercise 
  • Giving your body time to restore and renew itself, sleeping more, meditate and rest when you can
  • Giving your nervous system much needed rest from media
  • Supporting one another in our group to make healthy choices when addressing cravings 
  • Finding pleasure in eating well and gaining confidence as you receive the benefits of self renewal
Cleansing has been practiced for centuries by cultures around the world ~ including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems. Detoxification is about resting, cleaning and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health.

Consult your doctor before cleansing and detoxing if you have any medical conditions. The information presented here is for educational purposes and is not intended as substitute for medical counseling.

By Shakti Rowan
May 2014

The trapezius sometimes gets a bad reputation for being a superficial muscle that causes shoulder and neck pain. In truth it is an amazing superhero muscle that takes on a big job with it’s multiple actions and heavy reputation. The trapezius sometimes called the “Traps” is a diamond-shaped quadrilateral muscle that blankets the shoulders looking like a mini superhero cape or a sting ray laying on your upper back.

The trapezius has three functional regions: the upper region, which supports the neck in flexing side to side, extending, and rotating left or right on a horizontal plane. The upper fibers also help raise the scapula upwards. The middle region assists in lateral upward rotation of the scapula, elevation and retraction, moving toward the midline of the body. And the lower region which extend the thoracic spine, depresses and retracts the scapula, as well as assists in raising the scapula upward, while rotating the inferior angle of the scapula to the outside (laterally). 

The mighty trapezius has several origins beginning on the external occipital protuberance, medial portion of the superior nuchal line of the occiput, ligamentum nuchae and spinous processes of C-7 through T-12. It inserts on the lateral one third of the clavicle, acromion and spine of the scapula. Altogether, the trapezius actions are depression, retraction, elevation, and upward rotation of the scapula, as well as extending and rotating the head and neck. A lot of responsibilities! 

If you are like most of us, you spend many hours a day in front of a computer screen or using your smartphone in a head-forward position or shoulder-to-ear position that wreaks havoc on your trapezius and shoulders. Even for a superhero it is exhausting! This repetitive movement will create a hunched over back and shoulders that shrug up into your ears and will lead to tension and pain.   

One reasonable question to ask is, what is happening to our superhero muscle on a biological level when we are seated in a fixed position for an extended period of time? 
After doing all it can to help support the situation, the muscle calls for back up from a group of cells called myofibroblasts who march in and hook their cellular structure into the surrounding connective tissue matrix, exerting a slow contraction into the fibrous webbing.  One could say that it is the body’s call for back up scaffolding to help reinforce the shlumpy muscular structure into which we are molding our tissue. It can actually take hours for those contractions to completely let go once they have been engaged. Eventually, we stand up and move around, maybe heading out for a lunch break or a snack. However, we often fail to entirely release the contractions and end up adding layer upon layer of tension as days and weeks go by in the same position. 

For a moment, consider a dog or cat after it has taken a nap on the floor. As soon as it stands up, it stretches and shakes out the entire body often with a yawn or deep sigh. It is freeing itself of the fibrous webbing that began settling in the tissue as it was napping.

When did we lose this simple intelligence? More importantly, what can we do to help ourselves find our way back to freedom of movement? What if it became common place to stand up from your desk after sitting for a while and start jumping up and down shaking, yawning and stretching? That would be a great day for the human race!

Until then, Yoga has a few amazing poses that will help strengthen, stretch and relax those traps! Try the Plank pose for strength, the Eagle pose for stretching, and the Dolphin pose for cooling down those traps!! 


March 2014

Posture Is Huge
When we think of posture, we often think of standing in “perfect” balance, with ears aligned over shoulders, over hips, over knees, over ankles. But really, posture is more a study of how we hold ourselves as we go through our daily lives. This includes standing, sitting, walking, swinging a golf club, shooting hoops, carrying the kids, and any other form we might take, whether static or moving. The closer we are to a healthy balance of tension side to side, front to back and top to bottom, the more easily we are able to move, feel less pain, and…..breathe better… Yes, Breathe Better!

Posture and breathing are inextricably linked. When one is affected, the other can not help but also be affected. This discussion focuses on 3 main areas of the body that are central to both breathing and posture.

Respiratory Diaphragm
 A dome shaped muscular structure
About the thickness of a dime
Curves up into the chest
Separates the chest from the abdomen
Supports the heart and lungs
Attaches at the back of the sternum (breast bone), inside surfaces of the lowest 6 ribs and the front of the lumbar spine

It has tendons (called crura), which pull down on the dome. This pulling down creates a vacuum in the opening above, drawing oxygen into the lungs, which are prepared to receive it. Its connective tissue is continuous with that of the heart and lungs above, and of the viscera below. The tendons further connect the diaphragm with its surroundings, making it both a carrier and source of information for structures around and distant to it.

Pelvic Floor
A combination of muscles and connective tissue
Makes up a sling that supports the internal organs
Maintains stability in the core
Supports the fetus during pregnancy
Controls passing of waste out of the body
Controls intra-abdominal pressure

This bone makes up the base and back of the skull
Contains the “foramen magnum”, an opening where the spinal cord and associated tissues, nerve and arteries pass through to the rest of the body
Supports the brain
Musculature at the base of the occiput (back of head) is associated with head positioning (POSTURE), breathing, circulation to brain, eye movement, and emotional state

Points of Interest
These 3 structures form horizontal partitions in the body
They separate the head from the chest, the chest from the abdominal region, and the abdominal space from the lower extremities
They “talk” to each other constantly, conveying information throughout the body, adjusting pressure, blood flow, chemical balance
Breathing is an important interconnection between the 3
Breathing is one of the body’s only functions that easily and naturally switches between conscious and unconscious control

A Brief Exercise
If you would, please indulge me with this simple exercise. Take a breath, then let it go. Did you notice how simple it was to transition from an unconscious to a conscious activity? Was there a difference between the breath before and after thinking about it?

Now, think about your “best” posture. Maybe sit on the edge of your chair with feet firmly on the ground. Open up a bit in front of your body; bring the head and shoulders back just a little, not enough to strain. Put one hand on the belly, and another on the chest. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Fill the belly, feel the air move into the chest. Really fill the chest, all the way to the collarbones. Hold it a couple of seconds. Let it out in reverse, from collarbones to chest to belly, and push all the way out. Notice how this feels compared to the previous breath. Can you feel the increase in oxygen in your body? Try it again, and see if you can feel movement in the back of your head and pelvic base.

If you want to go a step further, try standing. Place your hands on the belly and chest, similar to where they were when you were sitting. Take another deep breath, filling the belly, then the chest up to the collarbones. Hold it, then release.

Did you notice a difference between sitting versus standing? Possibly less restricted in the diaphragm? In the pelvis? The back of the head is a little harder to feel, but it also becomes more restricted when sitting, especially if our posture is less than optimal.

Breathing Happens
Whether we are paying attention or not. It is such a basic need that we usually don’t think about it, nor do we need to. When we are physically active, more of our lung capacity is needed to provide the oxygen our bodies use. This just happens.

The more sedentary we are, the more likely we are to use a fraction of that capacity. A basic rule of physiology is “use it or lose it”. Lung capacity, muscle strength and elasticity, bone/ joint strength and mobility, heart health, brain and even immune capacity are all impacted by this simple rule. Activities that focus on breathing, such as yoga, meditation, and martial arts, can help strengthen our ability to breathe more effectively. And of course, we can apply conscious breathing to almost any activity, and gain some benefit. If, in doing this exercise, you felt resistance or achiness in your body, you may well have breathing restrictions that could afford to be addressed.

As mentioned, there are numerous connective tissue links, particularly between the diaphragm and the internal organs. In addition, the nervous system has its own set of connections, the main one being through the phrenic nerve. Not only does this nerve have a huge role in breathing, a primary function being to innervate the diaphragm, it also controls vocalization, swallowing, expectoration and other actions related to the mouth and throat. The phrenic nerve interacts with the nerves of the neck and shoulders, as well as the vagus nerve, which links to several cranial nerves, including the greater occipital nerve. This nerve supplies and receives information from the suboccipital muscles (the muscles in the back of the head that control fine movement of the head). Further connections in the brain coordinate action with the diaphragm and muscles of the pelvic floor. When one moves up or down, the other moves in coordination.

Breathing plays an important role in cardiovascular and lymph circulation. The pumping action of the diaphragm assists in bringing blood and lymph back to the heart.

Breathing Challenges
As you can see, healthy breathing is important to support most, if not All, of the other systems in the body. While there are health challenges that are beyond our control; for example cancer, COPD, hernias; there are at least as many that are related to habit. Postural deviations, shallow breathing, holding the breath, use of upper back, neck and shoulder muscles to activate breath rather than those that are much better positioned for it, are all within our ability to improve with some effort. All of these patterns are part of normal stress response. Whether brought on by ongoing stress or by other means, they feed the cycle which is so common today.

Postural Challenges
Any number of postural patterns can lead to restrictions in breathing. I mentioned before that sitting, in and of itself, challenges the core areas involved with healthy breathing. Add to this that the objects we sit in and on more often than not contribute to slumping, deviations in head and shoulder position and weakening of the core muscles. One of the most common results of this that I see daily is what is commonly referred to as....

Forward Head Posture
Computer users, people who spend a lot of time driving, those who regularly carry loads that are heavier than their core can support, are all highly susceptible to this. I have even worked with some who have such overly developed 6-pack muscles that they are pulled into this posture from below.
Telltale signs are:
        • The shoulders round forward and are pulled down
        • The upper back hunches forward
        • The chin juts out in front
The head shifts out in front of the shoulders, causing compression in the back of the neck and increased stress on the muscles. The chest closes in, restricting movement and breathing. Along with breathing issues, headache, sleep apnea, as well as pain in the neck and shoulders are all common complaints associated with this condition.

How Can Massage Help?
As anyone who has received a half decent massage can attest, relaxation is often integral to the process. Even with deeper, therapeutic, and more challenging work, when areas of continued tension begin to release, the body tends to go into a more calm state. This aspect, by itself, can assist in reducing the fight-or-flight cycle that often contributes to postural challenges. Specific attention to the diaphragm, head and neck, and pelvic floor (which I typically refer out to physical therapists with training in this area) do a fantastic job of freeing up the breathing process and improving posture. In conjunction with self care exercises to increase awareness about breathing, movement and posture, many of my clients have found significant improvement in these areas, as well as overall wellbeing. As always, I would love to hear feedback about the content provided here, or personal experiences with this important topic.


Fascia may be the missing piece for your lingering injury 

By Julia Lucas
From, June 2011

You've got this injury you just can't shake.You take time off. You ice and stretch and do all the right things but you're still limping home. You spend too much time trying to articulate your particular brand of hurt to those loved ones who still put up with you. You follow referrals to physical therapists and massage therapists and you'd
go to an aromatherapist if it'd help you run again, but nothing does. You diagnose yourself on WebMD: You're a structurally flawed human being for whom recovery is impossible.

Don't Give Up Yet
The answer may be right under your fingertips. About 2mm under your fingertips, to be precise. Under your skin, encasing your body and webbing its way through your insides like spider webs, is fascia. Fascia is made up primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that create a full body system of sheets, chords and bags that wrap, divide and permeate every one of your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Every bit of you is encased in it. You're protected by fascia, connected by fascia and kept in taut human shape by fascia.

Why didn't anyone mention fascia earlier? Because not many people know that much about it. Fascia's messy stuff. It's hard to study. It's so expansive and intertwined it resists the medical standard of being cut up and named for textbook illustrations. Besides that, its function is tricky, more subtle than that of the other systems. For the majority of medical history it's been assumed that bones were our frame, muscles the motor, and fascia just packaging.

In fact, the convention in med-school dissections has been to remove as much of the fascia as possible in order to see what was underneath, the important stuff. That framed Illustration hanging in your doctor's office of the red-muscled, wide-eyed human body is a body with its fascia cut away; it's not what you look like inside, but it's a lot neater and easier to study and it's the way doctors have long been taught to look at you. Until recently, that is.

In 2007 the first international Fascia Research Congress, held at Harvard Medical School, brought about a new demand for attention to the fascial system. Since then fascia has been repeatedly referred to as the "Cinderella Story" of the anatomy world, speaking both to its intrigue and the geekiness of those who study it. While you may not share the medical and bodywork communities' excitement over mechanotransduction and the contractile properties of myofibroblasts, think of it this way: Fascia is a major player in every movement you make and every injury you've ever had, but until five years ago nobody paid it any attention. And now they're making up for lost time.

Fascia Fundamentals
What exactly does it do? It wraps around each of your individual internal parts, keeping them separate and allowing them to slide easily with your movements. It's strong, slippery and wet. It creates a sheath around each muscle; because it's stiffer, it resists over-stretching and acts like an anatomical emergency break. It connects your organs to your ribs to your muscles and all your bones to each other. It structures your insides in a feat of engineering, balancing stressors and counter-stressors to create a mobile, flexible and resilient body unit. It generally keeps you from being a big, bone-filled blob.

"Fascia is the missing element in the movement/stability equation," says Tom Myers, author of the acclaimed book Anatomy Trains. Myers was among the first medical professionals to challenge the field's ignorance of fascia in the human body. He has long argued for a more holistic treatment, with a focus on the fascia as an unappreciated overseer. "While every anatomy lists around 600 separate muscles, it is more accurate to say that there is one muscle poured into six hundred pockets of the fascial webbing. The 'illusion' of separate muscles is created by the anatomist's scalpel, dividing tissues along the planes of fascia. This reductive process should not blind us to the reality of the unifying whole."

But, That's The Old News
What rocked the medical community's world was this: Fascia isn't just plastic wrap. Fascia can contract and feel and impact the way you move. It's our richest sense organ, it possess the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds and it responds to stress without your conscious command. That's a big deal. It means that fascia is impacting your movements, for better or worse. It means that this stuff massage therapists and physical therapists and orthopedists have right at their fingertips is the missing variable, the one they've been looking for.

What Does This Have To Do With You?
Grab hold of the collar of your shirt and give it a little tug. Your whole shirt responds, right? Your collar pulls into the back of your neck. The tail of your shirt inches up the small of your back. Your sleeves move up your forearms. Then it falls back into place. That's a bit like fascia. It fits like a giant, body-hugging T-shirt over your whole body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and crisscrossing back and forth and through and back again. You can't move just one piece of it, and you can't make a move without bringing it along.

Now, pull the collar of your shirt again, only this time, hold onto it for eight hours. That's about the time you spend leaning forward over a desk or computer or steering wheel, right? Now, pull it 2,500 times. That's about how many steps you'd take on a half-hour run. Your shirt probably isn't looking too good at this point.

Fortunately, your fascia is tougher than your shirt is, and it has infinitely more self-healing properties. In its healthy state it's smooth and supple and slides easily, allowing you to move and stretch to your full length in any direction, always returning back to its normal state. Unfortunately, it's very unlikely that your fascia maintains its optimal flexibility, shape or texture. Lack of activity will cement the once-supple fibers into place. Chronic stress causes the fibers to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture and lack of flexibility and repetitive movements pull the fascia into ingrained patterns. Adhesions form within the stuck and damaged fibers like snags in a sweater, and once they've formed they're hard to get rid of.

And, remember, it's everywhere. This webbing is so continuous that If your doctor's office were to add a poster of your true human anatomy, including its fascia, fascia is all you'd see. Thick and white in places like your IT bandand plantar fascia, less than 1mm and nearly transparent on your eyelids. And within all that fascia you have adhesions and areas of rigidity. You likely have lots of them.

But, this isn't bad news. Every bit of the damage you've caused your fascia is reversible, and every one of the problems it's caused you were avoidable. You take care of your muscles with stretching and foam rolling and massage. You take care of your bones with diet and restraint. You never knew that you needed to take care of your fascia, but now you do. You may just shake that nagging injury after all.

How To Care For Your Fascia
  • MOVE IT OR LOSE IT: Sticky adhesions form between fascial surfaces that aren't regularly moved, and over time these adhesions get strong enough to inhibit range of motion. Take a few minutes first thing in the morning to roll around in bed and really stretch out, head to toe, just like a cat after a nap.
  • STAY LUBRICATED: Just like every other tissue in your body, your fascia is made of water. It works better, moves better and feels better when it's wet. So, drink!
  • STRETCH YOUR MUSCLES: When your muscles are chronically tight the surrounding fascia tightens along with them. Over time the fascia becomes rigid, compressing the muscles and the nerves.
  • STRETCH YOUR FASCIA: Once your fascia has tightened up, it doesn't want to let go. Because the fascia can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, you're not going to force your way through, so stretch gently. Fascia also works in slower cycles than muscles do, both contracting and stretching more slowly. To stretch the fascia, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes, relaxing into a hold.
  • RELAX! If you spend all day tense and tight at a desk, ice baths may not be the best thing for you. Fifteen to 20 minutes in a warm Epsom salt bath can coax tight fascia to loosen up, releasing your muscles from their stranglehold. Make sure to follow it up with 10 minutes of light activity to keep blood from pooling in your muscles.
  • USE A FOAM ROLLER: Like stretching, using a foam roller on your fascia is different than on your muscles. Be gentle and slow in your movements, and when you find an area of tension hold sustained pressure for three to five minutes. You may practice self-massage with the same rules.
  • RESPECT YOUR BODY: If you're attempting to run through an injury, or returning from one with a limp, beware: Your fascia will respond to your new mechanics and, eventually, even after your injury is gone, you may maintain that same movement pattern. That's a recipe for an injury cycle. It's better to take some extra time than to set yourself up for long-term trouble.
  • SEE A FASCIAL SPECIALIST: If you have a nagging injury, or just don't feel right lately, see if your area has a fascial or myofascial therapy specialist. There are different philosophies and methods, ranging from Rolfing, which is very aggressive, to fascial unwinding, which is very gentle. Some methods are similar to massage, while others concentrate on long assisted stretches. Talk to the therapist to see what you need and want. Some osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists are beginning to embrace fascial therapies, so ask around.
  • SEE A MOVEMENT EDUCATION THERAPIST: The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method are the two best known of this sort of therapy, long embraced by dancers and gymnasts. They use verbal cues, light touch and simple exercises to lessen unconscious destructive movement patterns that may be irritating your fascia.


From Life Is a Stretch: Easy Yoga, Anytime, Anywhere

By Elise Browning Miller and Carol Blackman

Side Stretch: This is a great stretch to relieve computer-related tension in your wrists and to stretch your sides. It will also help relieve lower back tightness. 
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Inhale and stretch your arms out to the sides and then over your head with your palms facing each other. Exhale as you take hold of your left wrist with your right hand. With an inhalation, stretch the fingers of your left hand to the ceiling. Exhale as you gently stretch to the right, drawing out your left arm and wrist with the right hand, and move your hips to the left simultaneously. Keep your head and left arm in alignment with the torso. Don't drop your left arm in front of your face. Feel this stretch on the entire left side of your body, from your hips to your fingertips. Keep your feet solidly planted on the floor by pressing firmly down with your outer left heel. Continue to breathe softly as you stretch to the right, particularly noticing the deep stretch in the left rib cage as the breath enters your left lung. Inhale as you come back to center. Exhale and switch hands. Holding your right wrist with your left arm, inhale as you reach up through the fingers of your right hand. Exhale as you stretch to the left. Continue to breathe as you stretch to the left side. Inhale and return to the center. Repeat this sequence on each side.

Shoulder Rolls: Movement is one of the best things you can do for your back if you've been sitting in the same position for awhile. This particular movement helps relieve tension in the upper back and shoulders where the trapezius muscle is located. 
Sitting upright, inhale as you lift your right shoulder to your ear. Exhale as you slowly roll your shoulder around and back, dropping it away from your ear. Continue these shoulder rolls three more times, alternating right and left. Now, inhale as you lift both shoulders up to the ears. Exhale as you release them. Repeat five times and then relax your shoulders.

Neck Stretch: This stretch is particularly good for a stiff or compressed neck. You can really feel how it lengthens and stretches the neck, creating space between each of the vertebrae in the cervical spine. 
Sit upright without letting your back touch the back of the chair. Align your head directly over your spine and feel the crown of your head lifting. You may want to hold on to the side of your chair seat with your left hand. Breathe in, and on the exhalation, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder without lifting your right shoulder or turning your head. Take several breaths in and out, feeling the stretch on the left side of your neck. To create a deeper stretch, reach over your head and place your right hand on the left side of your head to gently pull your neck away from your shoulders. At the same time, you can hold firmly onto the chair with your left hand to draw your left shoulder away from your neck. Visualize your neck lengthening and the muscles along your vertebrae relaxing. Hold the pose for at least five more breaths, then release your left hand from the chair and gently massage your neck and shoulders with your left hand. Slowly lift the head and switch sides to repeat the sequence.

Open Chest Stretch: This pose opens the chest, decreasing rounded shoulders and releasing tightness in the middle back. In addition, it helps decrease kyphosis, extreme forward curvature of the thoracic spine. 
Sit near the edge of a chair and interlace your fingers behind you, with your palms facing your back. Leaning slightly forward, lift your arms and rest them on the back of the chair. Inhale and lift your chest. Exhale and relax your shoulders away from your ears. If your hands do not reach the top of the chair, clasp the sides of the chair back and pull your chest forward, relaxing your shoulders and opening your upper chest. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, feeling lightness in your heart. With an exhalation, slowly release your hands and bring them down by your sides.

Chair Twist: Twists are the antidote to sitting for long periods of time. After twisting, you will feel the release of all the muscles in your back (particularly in the middle back) that have been locked into position from sitting a long time. 
Sit toward the front of a chair, then swivel your thighs toward the right side of the chair so you are sitting diagonally on the seat. If you have an arm rest on the side of the chair, bring your thighs as close to it as possible. Inhale and lift your right arm up to the ceiling. With an exhalation, move your arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side, taking hold of the chair back. Bring the left hand to the right knee or chair handle. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and twist to the right, pressing your right hand against the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Visualize the shoulder blades dropping down as if they were hanging from weights. Breathe into your rib cage. Consciously relax the muscles in your back and gently twist a little farther. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 breaths. Return to your center with an exhalation and repeat on the opposite side.

Back and Shoulder Release
Part One: Sit on the edge of a chair and place your feet about two and a half feet apart, parallel to each other. Lean forward and place your forearms on your inner thighs. Press your inner thighs out with your forearms. Breathe deeply in and out, feeling the stretch in your inner thighs.
Part Two: Make sure your knees are directly over your heels and your feet are parallel to each other. Slowly stretch your arms down towards the floor, resting your ribs on your thighs and your armpits towards your knees. Cross your arms, placing your hands at the opposite elbows. Continue to breathe deeply.
Part Three: For a deeper stretch of the back, stretch your arms forward toward your desk or the floor, reaching through the fingertips and feeling your spine lengthening. Round your back and slowly roll up, returning to a sitting position.


The Benefits Of Massage
What exactly are the benefits of receiving massage or bodywork treatments? Useful for all of the conditions listed below and more, massage can:
  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers and shorten maternity hospital stays.
  • Ease medication dependence.
  • Enhance immunity by stimulating lymph flow—the body's natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
  • Help athletes of any level prepare for, and recover from, strenuous workouts.
  • Improve the condition of the body's largest organ—the skin.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Promote tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Pump oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, improving circulation.
  • Reduce postsurgery adhesions and swelling.
  • Reduce spasms and cramping.
  • Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles.
  • Release endorphins—amino acids that work as the body's natural painkiller.
  • Relieve migraine pain.

A Powerful Ally
There's no denying the power of bodywork. Regardless of the adjectives we assign to it (pampering, rejuvenating, therapeutic) or the reasons we seek it out (a luxurious treat, stress relief, pain management), massage therapy can be a powerful ally in your healthcare regimen.

Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. While eliminating anxiety and pressure altogether in this fast-paced world may be idealistic, massage can, without a doubt, help manage stress. This translates into:
  • Decreased anxiety.
  • Enhanced sleep quality.
  • Greater energy.
  • Improved concentration.
  • Increased circulation.
  • Reduced fatigue.
Furthermore, clients often report a sense of perspective and clarity after receiving a massage. The emotional balance bodywork provides can often be just as vital and valuable as the more tangible physical benefits.

Profound Effects
In response to massage, specific physiological and chemical changes cascade throughout the body, with profound effects. Research shows that with massage:
  • Arthritis sufferers note fewer aches and less stiffness and pain.
  • Asthmatic children show better pulmonary function and increased peak air flow.
  • Burn injury patients report reduced pain, itching, and anxiety.
  • High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones.
  • Premenstrual syndrome sufferers have decreased water retention and cramping.
  • Preterm infants have improved weight gain.
Research continues to show the enormous benefits of touch—which range from treating chronic diseases, neurological disorders, and injuries, to alleviating the tensions of modern lifestyles. Consequently, the medical community is actively embracing bodywork, and massage is becoming an integral part of hospice care and neonatal intensive care units. Many hospitals are also incorporating on-site massage practitioners and even spas to treat postsurgery or pain patients as part of the recovery process.

Increase the Benefits with Frequent Visits
Getting a massage can do you a world of good. And getting massage frequently can do even more. This is the beauty of bodywork. Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you'll be and how youthful you'll remain with each passing year. Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health. And remember: just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn't mean it is any less therapeutic. Consider massage appointments a necessary piece of your health and wellness plan, and work with your practitioner to establish a treatment schedule that best meets your needs.


By Amy Ratto

From Climbing Magazine

March 1999

"I am a believer!" said Michelle Hurni, hard sport climber and president of the America Sport Climbing Federation, about her massage experience. "I had elbow tendinitis once and got rid of it by myself, just by massaging." When she told a friend at the climbing gym of her cure, he said it would never work on his four-year-old case of tendinitis. "I showed him how to do it and when I saw him a month later he wanted to kiss my feet!"

Most people don't realize the role massage can play in the prevention and healing of injuries. "I feel like one of the reasons I haven't been injured more is because I take care of it ahead of time," says Hurni. She gets a professional, full-body massage at least once a month, but massages her hands every night, and sometimes several times a day.

You might think that tweaked fingers and elbow tendinitis are a sad part of every climber's life, but they don't need to be. Most climbing injuries develop over a period of time, and massaging regularly helps alert you to red flags for future injuries. "Sometimes your hands don't feel painful when you climb," she says, "but if something hurts when you touch it- then you know you had better massage it before it gets bad."

Massage is one of the most basic forms of therapy around. It's been used since the Greeks and Romans hung out in public baths, and its popularity is on the rise. Some therapy programs have had such consistent results that some insurance companies are willing to pay for them. Besides, self-massage is cheap, it's easy, and it feels good.

The exercises in this article focus on injury prevention. If you are already injured, consult a professional therapist for a massage plan. If an injury is not massaged correctly it can actually be made worse for all your effort.

Massage Moves Blood
Massage involves any manipulation of the skin and muscular tissues. It helps blood flow and can cause changes in the content of the blood. According to Elliot Greene, former president of the American Massage Therapy Association, the oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10 to 15 percent after massage; muscle efficiency increases with more oxygen in the blood. Massage helps relax irritated, contracted muscles, and when combined with rest, is known to speed muscle recovery by 25 to 100 percent. It also flushes out toxins such as lactic or carbonic acids, which can cause adhesions in the muscle fibers that limit flexibility and range of motion.

Breaking The Tendinitis Cycle
Tendinitis is a chronic condition cause by overuse. It can cause mild to intense pain, and, if untreated, can ground you for a long time. Most climbers suffer tendinitis in their fingers and elbows because the tendons there are so small and easily irritated. But it doesn't happen overnight. Says Melynda Candee, a certified massage therapist in Colorado who has worked with many climbers. "The key to preventing tendinitis is to stop the tension at the beginning."

Muscles attach to tendons and tendons attach to bones at connectors. As you climb, muscles and tendons work together to move your fingers, wrists, and elbows. After a day of climbing, these tendons and muscles are fatigued. Without stretching or massage, the muscles remain tight and flexed, even when relaxed (remember the saying "Don't make that face or it will get stuck?" Your muscles really can freeze over a long period of specific use). This tension in the belly (or thickest part) of the muscle creates a pull at the connector of the tendon; for climbers, tension in the biceps, triceps and forearms result in irritation of the connectors in the elbow. This pull causes the irritation and inflammation that may eventually build into tendonitis (for more information about tendonitis, see Climbing No. 169, "A Sore Subject).

When you stretch and massage your muscles and tendons after climbing, the connectors are relaxed at the end of each day and the tension doesn't have a chance to build.

How It Works
Massage is more than finding the sore spots and rubbing hard. The purpose and effects of massage will differ, but the most important thing about pre-climbing massage is simply that you do it. Getting on the rock cold is the worst thing you can do for you muscles and tendons. Massaging prior to exercise invigorates the muscles and prepares them to work. Says Candee, "The massage should be gentle and quick. Focus on warming general areas and never use deep pressure." (for pre-climbing massage use on light version of techniques 1 and 6-10 below).

Massaging after climbing helps release the accumulated muscle wastes that later cause cramping and sore muscles. The rush of blood from massage also feeds the tissues and encourages even the smallest injuries to heal at a faster rate. But right after coming down from a climb it is more important to stretch the muscles than it is to massage them. Stretching everything from your fingers to your back loosens the flexed muscles while the blood is still pumping through them, and gives you a jump on the recovery process. Only after you are competely cooled down will you want to begin the real massage.

Basic Principles
"No pain, no gain" does not apply. Says Candee, "On a scale from 1 to 10, you should try to keep yourself in the five or six zone at all times." This is the "pleasure-pain" threshhold, where it will hurt, but your muscles will not clench protectively.
Begin gently and warm up the area before you begin. Aggressive massage right away can injure even healthy muscles and tendons.
Relax the arm to be massaged (hereafter referred to as the "passive" arm, while the massaging hand is the "active" hand). If the muscles are not relaxed you might as well not waste your time.
Find a good pace. Your active hand is likely to get tired. Although it is very important to do the techniques in the given order, rotate from arm to arm as often as you like.
Do some of everything; don't leave out your hand because your elbow hurts. The tendons that connect at the elbow meet the muscle, then continue across your wrist, all the way down to your finger tips. Tension in any part of the system puts a straing on the connector, so the whole tendon has to be treated, not just the place where you feel pain.

Ahh There's The Rub
* Friction Rub: With an open palm, rub lightly and quickly along the inside of your forearm. Your skin will begin to turn pink when it has been heated up. (1 minute)
* Wrists: Hold your passive hand in front of you and turn your palm up toward you. Place your active hand underneath it, also palm facing you, index finger just above the knuckles, your thumb at the base or center of your palm. Use your active thumb as a stationary pivot point, while you begin to curl your passive fingers and wrist, until your fingers are wrapped around your thumb (figure 1). At the same time, use active fingers to rub down the back of your hand, clear past the wrist. It will feel as though you are pulling on skin more than anything. (2 minutes)

Figure 1. 

* Knuckle Friction: Similar to the Friction Rub, this technique works the muscles more deeply. Press the knuckles of your active hand into the underside of your passive wrist. Move slowly and deeply up the length of your forearm. (2 minute)
* Thumb Press: Move the ball of your thumb very slowly up the length of your arm toward the elbow. Feel for painful places in the tendons. Follow a number of different lines in the forearm until you have covered the whole width of your arm. (3 minutes)
* Cross-fiber Frictioning: The deepest and most injury specific technique of all. Locate a painful or rough place in the muscle. With your fingertips, begin a slow downward pressure and the push the tendon to one side. You will feel a small pop as you move across the tendon. Important: only friction in one direction. Popping the tendon back and forth can create an injury. (4 minutes)
* Finger-tip Circles: Pinch a passive-hand finger tip between your active thumb and index finger. Rub the underside of the finger in a circular motion. Remember your thumbs. (30 seconds)
* Finger Pinches: With the side of your active index finger and the ball of your active thumb, pinch the soft skin on the underside of the finger and move it side to side; at the tip, which has less padding, pinch the sides. (1 minute)
* Spreaders: Place your active index finger in between the first and second knuckles on the top of your hand, pointing toward your elbow. With your thumb firmly planted in the palm of your hand, very slowly and gently press down on the space between the knuckles, as if your were trying to separate the bones in your hand (figure 2). Work toward your wrist and stop there. Work between each pair (second and third, third and fourth) of knuckles the same way. (1 minute)

Figure 2. Spreaders

* Pinky Pinch: Grab the muscle directly below your pinky finger between your thumb and side of your bent index finger. Pull and pinch gently as you move up and down the muscle. (1 minute)
* Thumb Sweep: Start by placing your active thumb at the base of your palm, directly below the middle finger and pointing at your elbow. Your active fingers should be against the back of your passive hand (figure 3). Using the ball of your thumb, begin to apply pressure while slowly sweeping your active thumb across the passive thumb muscle in a clockwise direction, all the way up the passive thumb. (1 minute)

Figure 3. Thumb Sweep

* Cool Down: Finally, work backward to cool down. You don't need to reverse the whole cycle, but do some lighter techniques to help the muscle retreat to a resting state.

All together the entire post-climbing massage should only take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how long you focus on certain areas, but it can save your hands and elbows for routes and routes to come.


by Carol Osborne Sheets
July 2013

Throughout history and across cultures, new mothers have always experienced the power of touch and nurturing with their newborn babies. What could be more natural for a mother-to-be than to benefit from that nurturing touch while expecting her child?

During her nine months of pregnancy, a woman’s body is challenged, changed and stressed in many ways – she must adjust to her altered physiologic functioning, a different body shape, and new feelings and emotions (joy, love mixed with anxiety, worry, etc.). Massage therapy can help the mother’s physical and emotional well-being; it also gives her that special attention, which in turn nurtures the new life that grows within her.

Benefits of prenatal massage
In addition to the fact that massage during pregnancy feels good, there are many other benefits for the mom-to-be and her baby. A study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that pregnant women who received massage therapy experienced reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain by the last day of the 5-week study.

Relaxation and stress reduction – Healthcare professionals agree on the positive results of relaxation during pregnancy – increased well-being for the mother and baby, and increased chances for a positive birth experience. Through emotional support and physical nurturing prenatal massage reduces stress and promotes relaxation, creating a balance in the body, decreasing fear and anxiety and enhancing the immune system.

Reduce pain and strains – As pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows, the pelvis tends to rotate forward, increasing the lower back curve and stretching the abdominal muscles. Postural adjustments and weight gain both strain the muscles, ligaments and joints, creating fatigue, tightness and pain. Massage therapy techniques are helpful in providing relief on weight-bearing joints – alleviating tightness and pain in areas such as the lower back, hips, pelvis and ankles. Sciatica in the buttocks or legs as well as calf cramps are also commonly associated with pregnancy. Massage techniques and gentle stretching will also help decrease the pain in these areas.

Improve blood circulation – During the pregnancy all blood components are elevated to provide for fetal needs; by weeks 24 to 34, the plasma volume alone has increased by 40%. Resulting discomfort such as swelling, varicose veins and high blood pressure are common. The greatest change women notice is swollen legs and ankles. Swedish and lymphatic massage support circulatory function, thus reducing swelling. Massage therapy helps provide regular blood flow to the uterus, placenta and fetus, promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and accelerates the removal of waste products, improving both mother’s and baby’s tissue health.

Prepare for labor – In order to give birth with less effort, the musculature of a woman’s back, abdomen and pelvic floor must remain relaxed to allow the uterus to labor without resistance. Massage therapy methods used to release pain are also effective to increase muscle and joint flexibility, particularly in the pelvis and legs, which is useful for childbirth. Receiving bodywork during pregnancy also contributes to self-awareness and relaxation that are necessary to actively participate in the birth process.

Improve respiratory and GI functions – Most expectant women tend to feel short of breath and hyperventilate, a result of the growing uterus restricting the diaphragm area. Common gastrointestinal system discomforts include indigestion, heartburn, nausea and vomiting. Swedish massage, acupressure and reiki can help alleviate those symptoms.
In summary, benefits of prenatal massage includes:

* emotional support and nurturing touch
* relaxation and self-awareness
* pain relief on weight-bearing joints, pelvis and lower back
* back, hip and neck pain relief
* preparation of the muscles and joints used during childbirth
* reduced swelling in hands and feet
* lessened sciatic pain
* fewer calf cramps
* headache and sinus congestion relief

And baby?
Through their moms, babies will benefit from an improved blood circulation, healthy tissue, flexible joints and muscles during the pregnancy and labor. With hands-on healing energy techniques, it is also possible to establish a deep connection with the baby in utero, providing him/her with a feeling of love and nourishment.

Is prenatal massage for you?
Women can begin massage therapy at any point in their pregnancy – during the first, second, or third trimester. Mothers-to-be with certain conditions, such as high-risk pregnancy, preeclampsia, high blood pressure or diabetes may not be able to receive massage therapy. Always ask your Primary Care Physician or Ob/GYN before proceeding with any bodywork.

Both Shakti and Lauren are Certified to offer Pregnancy Massage at CIC!!

By Nicholas Balaker
From The New York Times
June 2013

A massage after vigorous exercise unquestionably feels good, and it seems to reduce pain and help muscles recover. Many people — both athletes and health professionals – have long contended it eases inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces muscle tightness. But until now no one has understood why massage has this apparently beneficial effect.

Now researchers have found what happens to muscles when a masseur goes to work on them.

Their experiment required having people exercise to exhaustion and undergo five incisions in their legs in order to obtain muscle tissue for analysis. Despite the hurdles, the scientists still managed to find 11 brave young male volunteers. The study was published in the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

On a first visit, they biopsied one leg of each subject at rest. At a second session, they had them vigorously exercise on a stationary bicycle for more than an hour until they could go no further. Then they massaged one thigh of each subject for 10 minutes, leaving the other to recover on its own. Immediately after the massage, they biopsied the thigh muscle in each leg again. After allowing another two-and-a-half hours of rest, they did a third biopsy to track the process of muscle injury and repair.

Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction — inflammation — as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. So the researchers screened the tissue from the massaged and unmassaged legs to compare their repair processes, and find out what difference massage would make.

They found that massage the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.

Dr. Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said that massage works quite differently from Nsaids and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce inflammation and pain but may actually retard healing. Many people, for instance, pop an aspirin or Aleve at the first sign of muscle soreness. “There’s some theoretical concern that there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs,” he said. “With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too—massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.”

“This is important research, because it is the first to show that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. She was not involved in the study. “We have known from many studies that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.” she said.

Getting a massage from a professional masseur is obviously more expensive than taking an aspirin. But, as Dr. Field points out, massage techniques can be taught. “People within families can learn to massage each other,” she said. “If you can teach parents to massage kids, couples to massage each other. This can be cost effective.”

Dr. Tarnopolsky suggests that, in the long run, a professional massage may even be a better bargain than a pill. “If someone says “This is free and it might make you feel better, but it may slow down your recovery, do you still want it?” he asked. “Or would you rather spend the 50 bucks for a post-exercise massage that also might enhance your recovery?”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified where mitochondria are found; they are inside of cells, but in the cytoplasm, not the nuclei.


By Shakti Rowan 

May 2013

When is the last time you have been touched in such a way that causes your entire being to relax and let go? Do you remember the peaceful feeling you have after a really great massage? Your muscles feel freed up, the tension is released and your movements are more fluid. Do you find that you walk away breathing easier, feeling lighter and more in line with your bodies natural rhythm? When we take the time to receive a massage and really restore ourselves, our daily lives become more easeful, more focused on what is important in our world.

The energy it takes to hold tension and stress in our body is actually exhausting and depleting. The high demands in today’s lifestyle may be so great that it is difficult to slow down and take a deep breath. Decisions are rushed and often times there are unnecessary mistakes made, causing more anxiety and stress. This forces us to operate in a panic mode, exhausting our nervous system.

You aren’t alone, if you feel that stress has at times taken over your life -- it happens to the best of us. In fact, if you're lying awake at night feeling angry, fearful or fatigued because of stress you're in the majority according to a nationwide report recently released by the American Psychological Association. 

Massage therapy is a proven, non-invasive way to reduce chronic stress levels in the body. Dozens of studies have shown the effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing stress. In fact, there are many studies that have proven the effectiveness of massage in reducing stress in various situations:
  • In October 2008 the journal Psycho-Oncology published a study entitled, "Massage in patients undergoing intensive chemotherapy reduces serum cortisol and prolactin." The conclusion of the study stated that "a significant reduction in cortisol (stress hormone) could be safely achieved through massage, with associated improvement in psychological well-being."
  • NIH's study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and aggression in a young adults found that "there was a significant reduction in self-reported anxiety, resting heart rate and cortisol levels immediately following the massage therapy sessions." Significant improvements in hostility and depression scores were also seen.
  • According to The Franklin Institute website on the human brain and stress, "massage releases endorphins that calm the peripheral nervous system."
  • The Mayo Clinic website identifies massage as "part of complementary and alternative medicine. It's increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations."

Professional therapeutic massage is not a cure-all for every type of stress. But adding massage into your life can make a big difference in the way you feel and live day to day.

There is an old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."  Preventing stress related illness by being proactive in your choices for good health is what we all strive to do. Adding regular massage to your personal health care routine will provide restoration, but more importantly, it will reduce stress and give you more energy in your daily life.


By Our Massage Team

April 2013

The ancient healing modality of Thai Yoga Bodywork (TYB), or nuad boran, began to evolve around 2,000 years ago in Thailand. TYB uses assisted yoga poses, acupressure, passive stretching, joint movements, and rhythmic pressure along the body's natural energy lines to clear physical and emotional blockages, alleviate stress, and reduce muscle tension. TYB also improves one's flexibility and range of motion, enhances circulation and lymphatic drainage, fosters deep relaxation, and calms the mind. The person receiving TYB lies on a futon mat on the floor, wearing loose comfortable clothing and is gently guided, stretched and massaged by the practitioner. Suggested "take-home" yoga poses can be offered by request at the end of the treatment to enhance and support wellness and self-care.


By Shakti Rowan

February 2013

In these times of hectic schedules and multiple activities for families, it can be hard to find time to be fully present and simply comfort our children and spouses. Children are stressed by being overly scheduled, having too much homework and after school activities. Both parents are often working and tired when they get home. Head & scalp massage is a technique that can be easily shared and only takes a few minutes to do. Even children can learn to massage their parents giving them a sense of interconnectedness and comfort.

For thousands of years in India, families have shared the simple act of head & scalp massage with their children as a way of staying connected, bonding, and de-stressing together. Children by the age of six are taught scalp massage to share with other family members. This act supports a sense well being and healthy bonding within the family dynamic. Head & scalp massage can be carried out anywhere, which makes it ideal for families, and is done with the receiver seated and fully clothed, so you can offer it anytime and anyplace.

* What happens physiologically with head & scalp massage?  And why does it help relax the whole body creating an overall sense of well-being?

The scalp is a mecca of nerves with each hair follicle being wrapped with a nerve ending. With more than 70% of our nervous system located in our head, head & scalp massage becomes an important factor in activating neural pathways within the brain. At the base of hair follicles are sensory nerve fibers that wrap around each hair bulb. Bending the hair stimulates the nerve endings allowing a person to feel that the hair has been moved. One of the main functions of hair is to act as a sensitive touch receptor. Sebaceous glands are also associated with each hair follicle that produce an oily secretion to help condition the hair and surrounding skin.

Gentle but firm massaging of the hair/scalp causes a release of tension in the micro muscles surrounding each hair follicle. This can restore pliability to the scalp and trigger the biological relaxation response in your entire body. Engaging the parasympathetic nervous system allows for ‘rest and digest’ response to occur more easily. The relaxation response lowers blood pressure, reduces the heart rate, calms the respiration and neutralizes stress chemicals. It also directly counteracts the instinctive 'fight or flight' response rendering the recipient into a quieted, peaceful, more relaxed state, a perfect antidote to the busyness of family’s daily lives.

* Below I've included a few guidelines for a simple head & scalp massage. This can last anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes.

Before beginning the massage, keep in mind that the receiver should be seated or lying down comfortably. And you (the giver) should be also be comfortable and breathing with consciousness and depth. You should position yourself such that you can easily move your fingers around the person’s head.  

1. First, take a few breaths together, synchronizing your energy and encouraging a state of relaxation by your example.

2. Gently run your fingertips in a circular motion along the scalp from the forehead to the back of the head. Gently scratch the nape of the neck in a circular motion.
Then run your fingertips from the back of the head to the top of the head, gentling scratching as you move along. Repeat this movement a few times.

3. Brace your thumbs near the back of the head. Rotate your fingertips in small circles on the scalp along the sides of the head for a few moments. Repeat a few times.

4. Take a moment to check in with your receiver, asking if the pressure feels comfortable or if they would like more or less pressure. Also check in with your own body posture, staying both present and comfortable in your own body and breath.

5. Brace your thumbs on the sides of the head. Rotate your fingertips in small circles on the top of the head and scalp. Repeat a few times.

6. Massage the hairline, using fingertips or thumbs, around the ears and across the back of the neck. Repeat a few times.

7. Take a few minutes to massage over the entire head and shoulders using a squeezing motion as if your were working with massaging clay.

8. At the end of this mini session, cradle the head in your hands breathing gently and offering a moment of stillness and peace together.

Remember, these are just guidelines to practice with, as you get more comfortable you can add your own style and even use oil for dry hair if you feel inspired.

These simple techniques are sure to support your children's healthy sense and touch as well as encourage relaxation and peace together as a family.

10 Tips For Prioritizing Your Self-Care

By Ashley Sitkin

December 2012

As December rolls around, with it comes colder weather, shorter days, more time inside, holiday busyness and increased end-of-the-year work demands. The frenetic pace of our lives is exacerbated in December, and every time this year, it seems that the majority of us are “running ragged.” Moreover, living and working in an urban environment like Boston privileges a fast-paced lifestyle, one in which we’re constantly “plugged in” and bouncing from one commitment to the next.

Do you ever take time to slow down and notice the impact that this level of “plugged in-ness” is having on you? Are you someone who feels the effects that work and life stress have on your mind and body? Is chronic stress a familiar visitor in your life?

Being intentional, taking time to slow down and make space for your own self-care helps mitigate the ongoing impact that chronic stress and tension have on your nervous and immune systems. When stress becomes the norm, your sympathetic nervous system (which manages the body’s stress response) goes into overdrive and interferes with the body’s ability to feel rested and able to return to a state of homeostasis. Subsequently, your immune system gets compromised, your health can become depleted, and somatic and psychological symptoms can arise. An ongoing commitment to one’s self-care, can help combat theses effects, restore balance in one’s life, and contribute to an increased ability to manage life’s challenges with ease and equanimity.

The concept of self-care is quite simple--finding ways to care for oneself in an effort to feel restored and replenished--yet the actual implementation of self-care is more difficult in practice because there are so many things that get in the way. Life “busyness” and work obligations are common obstacles. Given that these barriers likely aren’t going to disappear any time soon, what would it mean for you to make a real commitment towards prioritizing your self-care more often? What do you think would shift in your life?

If you’ve decided that your self-care matters and acknowledge that it could use more TLC, here are some helpful tips to consider in creating a sustainable, personalized self-care practice:

1.) Choose an enjoyable or relaxing activity that can become the vehicle for supporting your self-care. Make it come personally alive in a way that resonates for you, brings you pleasure, and feels rejuvenating when you do it. Examples of self-care practices include: yoga, meditation, prayer, dance, massage, exercise, breathing with intention, taking a long bath or shower, sitting quietly, writing in a journal or notebook, spending time in nature, reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music, watching the sun rise, drinking tea mindfully, cooking with intention, playing an instrument, mindfully washing the dishes, practicing gratitude, chanting/singing, etc.

2.) Do it regularly with intention. Consider engaging in some type of daily practice (referred to as “sadhana” in Sanskrit). Carving out time for a daily practice helps you slow down, turn inward more frequently, and invites opportunities to reflect on what matters in your life. Beginning or ending your day with some kind of self-care ritual can be a valuable way to mark or bookend the start and end of each day.

3.) Be committed. Treat your self-care practice like a discipline as you would with brushing your teeth or walking the dog. There will be days where busyness gets in the way. Hold yourself accountable to your self-care practice. If you have to set the alarm a few minutes earlier each morning, do it. Or perhaps you can give up a few minutes on the internet each night.

4.) Keep your practice simple and manageable. As it becomes consistent, your practice can expand and evolve to include more time or additional activities.

5.) Acknowledge your efforts towards making these changes and allow yourself to feel good about taking time for yourself. Get acquainted with the idea that “being” is just as relevant as “doing.”

6.) Notice experiences or situations that contribute to increased stress, worry, or tension. Be discerning in how you choose to expend your time and energy. Maybe you are someone who could benefit from saying “no” more often.

7.) During the work day take breaks to breath with intention, move around the office, stretch your body, and stay hydrated.

8.) Be mindful of the stories that you tell yourself and your inner dialogue. Your thoughts influence your words, actions, and relationships.

9.) Occasionally, try taking a “mini-retreat” from the technology world and consciously choose to unplug or turn off electronic devices.

10.) Be compassionate with yourself and others during the holiday season. Experiment with letting the small stuff go.

Now is the perfect time to make a commitment to yourself and work with some of these tips in ways that resonate for you. Start by planting the seeds. As you think ahead to 2013, perhaps you could consider putting your self-care at the top of your New Year’s Resolution list. What would it be like to decide this year that your wellness truly matters? As you work to bring more attention and awareness to your self-care practice, you will begin to see the benefits grow and flourish over time in ways that support and nurture your wellness. Go ahead and get planting. You are worth it :)