The Psoas: Muscle of The Soul

For me, swimming through layers of tissue with intention of Iliopsoas release never gets old. This is one of my most favorite education points to any and all clients because Psoas tension seems to affect so many of us. This article sums it up beautifully.

body divine yoga

psoasI was delighted when I first came across Liz Koch’s amazing work because it confirmed much of what I’d been intuiting on my own. I had begun to open and close my yoga practise with hip opening poses with the specific intention of releasing tension in my psoas and hip flexors. I’d breathe and imagine tension flowing out of constricted muscles to be released as energy into the torso.

It worked, I’d feel my body soften yet somehow grow stronger.

Reading Liz Koch I instantly realized what I was doing – by learning to relax my psoas I was literally energizing my deepest core by reconnecting with the powerful energy of the earth. According to Koch, the psoas is far more than a core stabilizing muscle; it is an organ of perception composed of bio-intelligent tissue and “literally embodies our deepest urge for survival, and more profoundly, our elemental desire…

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Detox and massage benefits

I believe that massage therapy can greatly benefit any detox or weight loss program. From personal experience on the receiving end and as a professional bodyworker, I’ve seen many overloaded bodies transform into more supple, aligned, flexible and happy bodies.  

As with any detox or weight loss program, big changes from massage do not come overnight. Although it is quite common for a person to feel immediate benefits such as decreased anxiety and stress, decreased pain, a feeling of lightness and looser overall, long lasting changes come from regular bodywork, breath work, and stretching.

Any change, no matter how slight, can add stress to our lives. When we have big expectations of self-transformation, (physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually) we should go above and beyond to show up for ourselves for optimal results. Self-care through being a receiver of massage is signaling to your body-mind that you deserve this nurturing touch, that it is okay to let go of old stuff that doesn’t belong there anymore (physical and emotional), and it is showing you a blueprint of yourself from the inside-out. With this increased body-awareness, it becomes easier to make healthful decisions for yourself. I bring up the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects here because it is my belief system that the physical is interrelated with all the rest and you can’t change the physical body without holding compassion for the rest.

From a purely anatomy and physiology point of view, massage stimulates our detox organs and primes them for release. You may have heard before that skin is actually our largest organ, though we don’t usually think of it as an essential organ. It is our protector, our barrier, our first line of defense from pathogens, and also how we engage with the outside world. Nerves fire and receive information constantly on this outer layer to report back to the central nervous system.

Of course there are also important nerves embedded deeper in our colon, small intestine, liver and gall bladder: our guts. To talk to these nerves reflexively can really help rewire the system on a profound level. There can be scar tissue from abdominal surgery, past pregnancies, or fascial constrictions around the diaphragm and organs: all forces that inhibit optimal breath and organ motility, Massage can help move stuck-ness along in the intestines by increasing peristalsis, which is the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscle lining, which creates wavelike movements that push the contents forward and out.

Have you had your belly massaged before? Many feel sensitive about having massage done there, so much so that our abdomens are totally ignored. Even if you’ve had regular massage for years, you might ask yourself, has my abdomen gotten the attention it deserves? I like to think about working on the abdominal muscles, fascia and underlying viscera, the vital organs, as lifting up the hood of the car. Our digestive health is a window into our overall health. Physical touch on our viscera is a sure fast way to support, stimulate and gain awareness of chronic and acute issues.

So whether it be from me or another massage therapist, please consider asking for abdominal massage during your next treatment to stimulate your overall well being.

 

The Art of Receiving

My job mandates deep thoughts, big feelings, great nutrition and receiving a lot of massage. (I know, poor me.)

I got two massages last week, though I don’t remember when the last one was before then. They were both trades I was cashing in on. One was a male colleague, one was a female. Both massages felt therapeutic, healing, and rejuvenating, though quite different in style and technique.

Receiving bodywork is really the only way for me to remember how good quality, nurturing, intuitive human touch is, and then, subsequently, to recall why the hell I’m doing this for a living.

Being receptive, staying open, learning passivity on the table are lessons that translate off the table as well. We find stillness in our bodies while we are vulnerable to a trained professional’s skilled hands. We listen to our inner workings. We ask our mind to take the back seat and put our body behind the wheel. What have our bodies been wanting to express and let go of? Being receptive to this with a massage therapist as witness…That is the essence of massage that I was missing these weeks.

As we are in the season of giving and receiving, I want to extend my gratitude to you for participating in the unique exchange of giving and receiving that is our one and only beloved massage therapy. There is nothing quite like it, and believe me, I’ve tried a few different alternative therapies. Massage requires the receiver to stop in her tracks, take a chill pill and listen to the unique expression of the giver’s translation of human touch as medicine. How cool is that? Pretty cool.

I think the translatable lesson off the table for me this week is to receive with honor and gratitude and see my giver in their unique human expression.

Oh, and by the way…I have gift cards for available for this season for all you givers!

Happy Holidays!!

Cheers and blessings,

jen

Striving for balance

The other day, I found myself ruminating over balance as I was elbow deep in a hamstring.

Massage aims to uphold balance within muscle tissue, connective tissue, (fascia) bones, energy, and lymph.  Humans are up against gravity, aging, postural holding patterns, activities of daily living, emotional storage, chemical inbalances, environmental challenges and who knows what else every day.  Tipping the health scales off balance in just part of life.

Lucky for us body workers, bodies are built with bi-lateral replicas almost nearly from head to toe, allowing for a gauge to measure up against when we attempt to bring you back to center.  For example, pain and scar tissue felt in an injured left hamstring is much easily understood in contrast to the health of the right one, for both client and massage therapist.

Our bodies crave balance. A sense of peace ensues when all systems are stable. This innate deep rooted mechanism: homeostasis.  Your body keeps its own self in check quite well as long as things are running smoothly.

So, how are you holding up? Literally, how is your head on your neck? How is your neck positioned on your shoulders? Where are your shoulders in relation to your rib cage? How does your rib cage talk to your pelvis? Does your pelvis know about your knees? Do your knees dance with your ankles? Does your big toe have distant memories of your skull or are the two close friends?

I’m nearing the end of my structural series with Pat O’Rourke. Last weekend we revisited some tried and true anterior neck massage techniques. The theory of tensegrity in the body came up again.

Tensegrity =  (ten)sion + inte(grity):

ten·seg·ri·ty
tenˈsegritē/
noun

ARCHITECTURE
  1. the characteristic property of a stable three-dimensional structure consisting of members under tension that are contiguous and members under compression that are not.

Pentakis_Icosahedron_50_in._by_Collins tensegrity087This was primarily an architecture term coined by Buckminster Fuller in the 60’s, but can also be applied to structural anatomy.

I like the visual that our bodies are like big top circus tents, with every corner and side flap equally pulled taut with anchored ropes. There will be no wrinkles in that canvas as long as each rope is doing its job. Same deal with our tissue.

So, what does this mean in the context of your next massage? 

I have found that the releasing the combination of the anterior side of the neck, jaw and the pteregoids (inside of the mouth) is a great way to lessen the commonly overstretched strain on the back side of your neck and shoulders.  Let go of the compression on your front side in order to pick up the slack on the back.

By the way, do you get headaches or migraines? A compressed shortened anterior neck is one way to perpetuate this problem. I would love to work with you to find optimal alignment for your neck and jaw.  Please ask me about Intraoral massage or read more about my perspective on it here… 

June is National Headache and Migraine Month! If you suffer from these despicable things, check out www.headaches.org. It’s a great website with plenty of support and resources. Personally, there’s nothing worse to me than a headache I can’t kick.  The cause can be sort of illusive, yet one thing I know is that by the time I get the type of headache that feels like an electrical drill bit is permanently lodged behind my left eye, things have been off kilter for a while. And so, one of my favorite things about my job is relieving headaches for clients through neck and jaw massage.

Also, in support of this month, my awesome chiropractor, Dr. Mychal Beebe of Health First Chiropractic is offering new patient consults and exams for the week of June 23-28 at a discount of $98. And, she will donate 1/2 of the money collected to the National Headache Foundation. This is a great deal with a fabulous doctor!  I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this if you’ve been looking for a good chiropractor.

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful June and landing comfortably in your own pendulum, whatever that may look like.  I’ll keep reminding you to periodically lay still on a table and let someone else worry about it for an hour…so that you can go get cattywampus again. Because life is just like that.

HAPPY (almost) SUMMERTIME!

~Jen

Appointments available here for Sliding Scale Thai Massage!

Appointments available here for Sliding Scale Thai Massage!

As you ease into Spring this March, let me invite you to unfurl your brow and uncurl your limbs with Thai Massage.  Let go of the winter blues with a deep breath and satisfying stretch. This month I am joining forces with three other amazing Thai Massage therapists to do our second Sliding Scale Thai massage clinic at Sutra Yoga in Wallingford, Seattle, March 23rd. There are still available time slots from 12:30-4pm. Sign up through Anahata Holistic by clicking on the link above.

Self-Love with Yoga

For me, writing about yoga has felt like a weighted topic because yoga is more than a fitness routine. For many it is a way of life, a practice, a religion. So at the risk of offending someone by coercing them into this modern day hybrid of fitness dogma, I do really want to share with you my love for yoga.

Top Ten Things I LOVE About YOGA:

10. I bow down to myself in the mirror over and over again in a Vinyasa flow class. It is the ultimate self-love.

9. No matter what mood I am in heading into a yoga class, I am always 100% more calm and centered upon leaving.

8. Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, spoken from the yoga instructor to guide us through the poses, sounds like a flowing river off of her tongue. Shavasana is the sweetest sound, and there is always a shavasana. Always. If you don’t know what that is, you must learn.

7. I love my breath-Finding it, feeling it, exploring different body parts with it and feeling the three-dimensionality of my bodyl. Oxygen and Carbon dioxide exchange is happening on a cellular level constantly throughout my day. I know those cells are working hard to stay alive. When I focus my breath and direct it toward the place I am stretching, its like sending those cells to the spa for the day.

6. Yoga is a solo mission, but I’m suspended there, floating, within the energy of everyone else’s solo mission. I can feel the strength of my neighbors’ challenges and successes which inspires me in my own practice.

 5. Like in the eye of a storm, I find stillness within the chaos. Over and over and over again.

 4. In Seattle, we love us some yoga. There seems to be a studio on every block. Most of them offer new student specials. This makes it fun to explore different styles, teachers, and neighborhoods at an affordable rate.

 3. Yoga tones. Yoga strengthens. Yoga increases flexibility. Yoga balances.  Not just muscles, but all systems simultaneously.  I do it all by myself and there is no doctor prescription necessary.

 2. I love how yoga teaches me self love and acceptance through showcasing my physical limitations. The temptation to compare myself to my neighbor in the mirror is always  there, but I find that the more that I avoid this in the yoga studio, the easier it is in daily life.  This comparison game is raw and real for us all, and doesn’t stop with our neighbors, but may be even harder to avoid within ourselves. Injuries, weight gain, too much to drink the night before, a bad mood can all affect my yoga practice, but we always have to accept where we are in the present moment. We work with what we’ve got.  As one of my teachers says, Goals are different than expectations.

 1. Yoga is cathartic. When your body moves in synchronicity, the brain eats it up. I wrote most of this post in my head throughout a couple different yoga classes.  Getting over writer’s block in itself is a cathartic accomplishment.  It’s been one year since my last blog post! Phew, happy anniversary to me.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love,
Jen

Love. Love. Love.

DSCN1745“This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.” –Wikipedia, “Love”

 

Yeah, it’s a doozy to explain. That’s why poets and songwriters have been able to corner the market on it for centuries. We, as audience, don’t seem to tire of hearing yet somebody else’s interpretation of love.  This week, I’m going with the “unconditional” interpretation. Of self and others.

Love yourself. Love your body. Get massage.

The Naked Tree

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Winter is near, and amongst other things it means a skyline of naked trees. I think there is something so beautiful about the vulnerability and sharpness of their branches reaching out toward the grey Pacific Northwest sky.

It reminds me of how our bodies go through a natural cycle of letting-go. At least seasonally (if not every month), we should shed our baggage with massage. We can’t carry all this stuff around all the time! I’m talking mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual leaves that NEED to fall down and get raked up, bagged up, and turned to mulch by a professional. The naked trees that leave my office are bright eyed, sharp, beautiful and tall (and clothed) naked trees. Do they feel more vulnerable too? Sometimes they do. Sometimes with the relief of pain, there is a quiet vulnerability. A long forgotten stillness that lies underneath layers of distraction. To talk with with this space feels vulnerable. But that is some good dank root system, I tell you my friend, and well worth the conversation. Before you leave my office and put suitcases back in your naked tree branches, try to feel what the naked tree is telling you.

15_01_74_prevLately I’ve been on a letting-go kick through cleansing–green smoothies, colonics, hot yoga, running, lemon water, taking my vitamins, weeding out the chemical-laden cleaning and body care products in my home and office, and as always, chiro, acup, and massage. I’ve been fighting the good fight for my body because I know with the holidays coming up, there is a lot of indulgence.  Usually what happens for me is my mind takes the driver seat and my body has to put on her helmet and safety glasses just to hang in there. Do you feel this way too?

I’d love to hear about how you experience the holiday indulgence in your body, or how you experience your inner naked tree any time of year. 🙂

Wishing you a safe and merry holiday season!!

Love,

Jen

Not your mother’s cold shower

What’s up seattle?! Has the temperature stayed above70 degrees for more than a day or so yet? Not in June anyway, but that’s ok. The 5th of July is right around the corner, and that means warmer days are on the horizon. I think its safe to introduce one of my favorite hydrotherapy tricks: Cold showers! If I had mentioned this back in February, I may be getting hate mail, but I think you’re ready for it now.

At the end of your shower, turn the knob to cold and hang on in there ‘til you can’t stand it no more. Go ahead and forward bend and touch those toes so you let the cold water really hit your back and shoulder muscles. Let it stream right into your face and sting into your jaw and forehead, let it patter on your pecs, forearms, and belly. Your muscles will feel more awake, alive and ready for the day. You’ll get out of that shower, look in the mirror, and see shinier eyes and feel a stronger heartbeat.

Last night I schvitzed at Banya 5 for the first time in about 4 months. It was such a refreshing way to end the day after a long day of massage. If you haven’t yet treated yourself to the relaxation station that is Banya 5, please do yourself a favor and hit it up soon.  Fortunately, unfortunately, they are closing up shop for ten days starting this friday for annual maintenance and repairs. Good to know that they appreciate a good deep cleaning like the rest of us, but I guarantee there will be some regulars in town that will experience hydrotherapy withdrawals.  It was so nice to see all the regular water dogs lounging around the place last night. I had missed my own hydrotherapy routine so much that I set an all time personal record of sitting in the cold pool for over 2 minutes! It is like taking every cell in your body on a zipline adventure into Niagra Falls, or something. You can create your own analogy, just GO!

Also, they do body scrubs, facials, and massage from a phenomenal team of therapists, including yours truly on a sub basis.

By the way, that cold pool is salty like puget sound at a balmy 46 degrees. So, if I can do two minutes in that sans wetsuit, you can do a minute in your cold shower.

Happy Summertime!

Jen

 

Learning Thai Massage in Thailand

This past April, I had the privilege to study  Traditional Thai massage in Thailand with a wonderful teacher, Homprang. She and her husband Christopher own and run the beautiful Baan Hom Samunphra retreat center just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. For ten days, I practiced, stretched, breathed, and was moved around alongside six others from 5 other countries. This intimate class size in a beautiful setting was fantastic! It was hard work though; class  was six hours per day and sometimes we continued practicing later after dinner. Homprang’s strict teaching style and the intensive hours paid off–I learned a lot! Here are some pictures taken by the fabulous Justine Webster, my dear friend and travel partner for my six weeks while away.  I’m thrilled to be back and share my new skills.  My clients seem to be enjoying it too 🙂

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