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

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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It’s National Massage Awareness Week!

Get a massage! And tell your friends too!

I remember my first professional massage. It was after a car accident in 2004. I was receiving chiropractic for minor whiplash as well.  The massage therapist took me into this tiny room in the chiropractor’s clinic. She gave me the rundown on what was about to happen, what to expect to feel, what clothes to take off.  She made me feel very comfortable.

And then she started touching me, and it was like the velvet curtains parted to reveal the wizard. In that  first massage, my body began relaxing in a way I had never felt before.  Tension that I didn’t even know existed was lifted from me. I got regular massage for months after that car accident. It began to really make an impression on me–literally. Really, my whiplash was a scapegoat to get me in touch with other injuries from childhood. Over the course of 20 years I was active in a lot of sports–Soccer, basketball, volleyball, running, lacrosse and skiing had left a mark on body.  Not to mention emotional stress of which I had no idea how to deal.  The combination of chiropractic and massage started pulling on a string, and a slow unwinding began.

Fast forward to me at 32 (Today is my birthday actually. I thought it kind of fitting for this blog post that its falls on Massage Awareness Week…) and I’ve had countless professional massages from countless wonderful therapists.  I obviously think about massage a lot. Massage pays my bills, empowers me to own my own business, keeps my body healthy and free, and allows me to express myself more fully. That list applies to both giving and receiving it. I think its pretty cool.

I’d love to hear about how massage has made an impact in your life. Feel free to comment on this blog post!

And, more importantly, don’t forget to schedule your next massage appointment.

Thanks for reading!

Love,

jen

Tummy Time

Remember when you were 3 months-old and your parents put you on your tummy for you to attempt to roll over? Maybe you don’t remember it, but you and your tummy were building a connection that would last you a lifetime. There you were lying like a beached whale on your fuzzy little blanket, checking out some shiny primary-colored plastic toy, half cognizant of the audience of adults cheering you on, “Roll over! Go for it!”

My nephew Miller, 3 mos. contemplating tummy time

With every wriggle from side to side in attempt to get out of that mess, your core muscles were getting stronger, and your organs were getting a little massage. It probably helped relieve those gas pains that had kept you and your mom up at 4am.  Fast forward to your adulthood. Hopefully you and your tummy are on good terms. Maybe you wriggle around on the floor sometimes? Hopefully you do some self massage from time to time after Thanksgiving dinner? But when is the last time you really checked in with it? On either a physical or emotional level? You know the old adages:

“Trust your gut”,

“I can feel it in my gut” or

“I have butterflies in my stomach”?

These all go to show we have an innate intuition deep in our core about things. I would venture to say that when we keep an open conversation going between these gut feelings and the rest of us, those “things” go a lot smoother.  Smooth moves in the gut are a bonus as well!

I love doing belly massage. Sometimes people ask me what is my favorite part of the body to massage. It changes from time to time, but the belly is always a top fave.  I’ve come to see that many people would rather ignore their own bellies; they see them as a nuisance, something to get around, push out of the way, or cinch up.  But as one of my clients has put it whenever I work on his, “It feels like you are looking under the hood of the car.”  There is a lot of vital stuff in there! You may ask, “Why are you calling it the “tummy” and “belly” like you’re talking to a four year old?” This is the way my awesome visceral manipulation teachers talk about it, and so I do too. You can call it the abdomen, the guts, the tummy, or the belly, but try not to call all this stuff just your “stomach”. You stomach is just one organ nestled in there. So what else is in there?

Abdominal muscles

External and Internal Intercostals

Diaphragm

External and Internal Obliques

Transversus Abdominis

Rectus Abdominis

Quadratus Lumborum

Iliopsoas (Psoas Major,and Iliacus)

Psoas Minor—absent in about 40% of people

Underneath all that soft tissue of our abdominal muscles is our vital digestive system:

Abdominal Viscera

Lower Esophogeal sphincter

Stomach

Large Intestine

Small Intestine

Gall Bladder

Liver

Spleen

Pancreas

Kidneys

Bladder

Rectum

Our digestive health is interrelated to our nervous system in that sympathetic (fight or flight) vs parasympathetic states (rest and digest), are expressed through smooth muscle contraction at every stage of our digestive tract from the esophogus to the anus. When we are stressed, the smooth muscle is tight and constricted. All sphincters are in lock down mode because evolutionary speaking, we don’t need to go to the bathroom when we are running from that tiger.  When we are relaxed, the smooth muscle tissue relaxes and contracts and relaxes, creating a natural peristalsis (like a snake eating a mouse), and moving food through the system with optimal absorption and digestion.  Smooth muscle contraction is also stimulated by direct pressure, meaning we can manipulate the tissue into peristalsis even if the rest of us is still a little stressed.  And since the abdominal viscera is most innervated tissue in the body, we can flood the brain and spinal cord with good anti-stress hormones when we relax the belly, and thus we relax the rest of us. What a groovy relationship, right?

Belly massage

Why get belly massage?

Feel lighter and longer in the trunk

Move with a better sense of moving from your core

Feel more awareness of the entire breath cycle in whole abdominal cavity

Relieve gas, bloating pains, and indigestion

Relieve hidden stress

Increase Parasympathetic response—Rest and Digest Vs Sympathetic response—Fight or Flight.

I have been taking Visceral Manipulation classes from Marty Ryan. His seminars are called “Love Your Guts”. With his guidance and my own intuition, I’ve learned how to gently and effectively palpate the organs. If this is something you are interested in trying, please let me have a hand in it. HMM, Bellies! So juicy. I hope you think so too.


Intraoral Massage

One regular client of mine usually comes in with shoulder, neck and jaw pain. She especially feels chronic jaw tension which has been diagnosed as TMJ.  Unconsciously but relentlessly, she clenches and grinds her teeth.  She has chewed through two night guards. She has been to dentists, orthordontists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and naturopaths. It is a constant battle with the stress of a rigorous job for which she travels internationally, a marriage, an ill parent for whom she is the power of attorney, and she is trying to manage her own health. Fortunately she does factor in her own health. For this, I am proud.

Whenever I get to see her for a massage, I make sure to do intra oral massage. She is a great candidate because of the obvious clenching and grinding.

Many people clench and grind their teeth these days. It seems like an obvious place to beat up on ourselves actually. Our verbal communication has become more restricted as a society. The less we talk, the more stuck these jaw muscles become. Remember, a tight muscle isn’t always strong-tight like after pumping iron; it is often weak-tight. With lack of fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients, a stagnant muscle gets glued down to surrounding structures.  Picture a caterpillar larvae embedded in its caccoon before breaking out with its new wings.

Anyway, I read somewhere the other day, “Real communication is done over a phone conversation.” Hilarious! Probably this writer was taking a sardonic view on our communication culture.  Sure, phone communication is a step up from texting or emailing, but what happened to talking face to face, where you get to make eye contact, observe smiles and grimaces, and pick up on subtle facial expressions that really show a deeper story in this human being?

Nowadays we like to text, email, tweet, send newsletters and blog posts to keep up with the Jonses.  Do you ever think about the implications on our bodies? You are more than likely aware of the  effect on your neck and shoulders and arm muscles.  I know I have touched on it with an earlier post, “Computer-itis”.  The forward posture for long periods of time with such intense focus does numbers on our back and neck muscles.  But what about the lack of speaking, lack of verbal expression, lack of primal like communication that is also taking place? I think about these things. Maybe that just makes me weird. Maybe it’s also why I sing when I’m alone in my car.

I want to take you through the process of unwinding that happens with Intraoral massage.

The first step with doing Intraoral massage is to use latex gloves. I carefully put them on and am careful not to snap the glove on my wrist, to avoid conjuring images of other not so comfy healthcare workers. I ease into her mouth with one finger hooking the lip and gliding over the top teeth like I’ve caught myself the prettiest marlin in the sea.  I land on the upper gum line and surf slowly deeper and superior at an angle toward the ear.  I check in with her: “How’s that pressure so far?”

She gives me a slight nod or a thumbs up or an eyebrow raise in curiosity to let me know it’s fair game.  The tissue feels taut and angry up on the lateral pterygoids. This is a muscle that is chronically short and embedded by  surrounding fascia.  My job is to hook that fascia, stretch that fascia, bring blood to this area, and let that little butterfly of a muscle free! So I do just this, slowly, confidently, with intention, imagining the potential of a free pteregoid and a nice slack jaw bone. I spend about 2 to 3 minutes on this one spot. She breathes and breathes. Then, we both feel the release.  I slowly remove my finger. I notice that side of her face looks rosier and more supple.  I smile at her and ask how she feels.

“That was good,” she says with a deep sigh.  I could really feel it was tight. I could feel it up in my temples too. She gently rubs her cheek and temples. “It feels so much more open on this side already.”

“Good! Should we even out the other side?”

After the massage has ended and she’s dressed herself, she emerges from the massage room with a bright smile and fully flushed cheeks.

“Thank you so much. I feel so much better.”

“Look in the mirror. You got yourself a pretty big smile there.”

“Wow, I do!” She traces the perimeters of her now prominent rosy cheekbones. “I feel like its easier to smile!”

I hand her a glass of water. “Cheers to the cheapest facelift in town!”

Hydrotherapy 101: Inflammation and cold therapy

Hydrotherapy is a big topic.  I love water and I like using it as therapy. “What should I use, heat or ice?” clients love to ask.  My quick answer is “Use both but end with ice. Always end with ice.” Heat has numerous wonders. Everybody loves heat. It’s the favored team in the Superbowl, and ice is the underdog.  The underdog has the slow creeping win. Ice surprises you in the 4th quarter with guts and glory, zest and vigor.

I want to highlight some benefits of ice because I get the feeling that some of my clients think I have a touch of  sadomasticist behavior everytime I reach for it. In fact, ice massage is incredibly healing. Here’s why:

Ice has an abrupt stimulus, which kicks your body into action. Superficial blood vessels at first constrict, causing blood to be sent down to deeper tissues. Then as you thaw out these same superficial blood vessels dilate like crazy, trying to redistribute warm blood to the places that cooled down. Red blood cells and white blood cell counts increase 70-100% with this new supply of blood. Another benefit is that cold penetrates deeper and longer than heat.

It is important to recognize the signs of inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Redness is caused by the dilation of small blood vessels in the area of injury. Heat results from increased blood flow through the area and is experienced only in peripheral parts of the body such as the skin. Fever is brought about by chemical mediators of inflammation and contributes to the rise in temperature at the injury. Swelling, called edema is primarily caused by the accumulation of action.  All this action signals our trusty pain receptors to fire resulting in pain.

If you see feel these cardinal signs of inflammation you can probably guess what i’d recommend. Ice ice baby.

Your best friend

Ice a specific area for 20 minutes at a time with with one of these trusty gel packs which you can find at any Bartell’s or Walgreens. I always have a few in the freezer. They are great for headaches too.

Also very handy and even more specific is the ice cube-dixie cup.  Just fill up a few dixie cups with water and store them in your freezer.  The next time you have a kink in your neck or achy wrists and forearms, you’ll have a “cool” easy tool to ice down the area.

You'll want to marry it

The third icing tip I have is specifically for plantar fasciitis.  This is a pesky type of inflammation on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia extends from the heel bone to the five toes. It has been reported that two million Americans suffer from it often due to long periods of weight bearing, or with long periods of repetitive high impact, like in running. The symptoms are pain and numbness on the bottom of the foot, and are usually more severe in the morning with the first steps out of bed.  Stretching the foot before getting out of bed helps. Also icing before you go to sleep may decrease that inflammation and aid in healing faster over night.  Rolling  the foot over a frozen plastic water bottle is the best way (and cheapest way) to iron out the fibrotic tissue and cool down the inflammation.

Plantar Fasciitis "cold feet" massage

Pregnancy massage and mommy resources

I love massaging pregnant ladies! It is such a joy to have a “hand” in growing a precious little being.  Massage is hugely beneficial for the mom and baby during these potent months.

I have been lucky enough to massage my sister, Sarah, in her pregnancies and in the delivery room. She is currently eight months pregnant.  May 14 is the big day! I can’t believe in just one month we will see the fruit of her labor—literally.  She is such an amazing mother already to my nephew and I can’t wait to meet her baby girl!

Over the last 8 months, her body has swelled and made room for this little girl in quite a magnificent way. Every system in her body from endocrine to cardiovascular to digestive, respiratory, and musculoskeletal has all seen significant change.

You can imagine some of the biggest change happens in the abdomen. As the belly stretches and makes room for the growing uterus, Mom’s internal organs are pushed up into the diaphragm.  The breasts increase in weight (up to 2 lbs!) and the fascia around the ribcage, chest and sternum is all pulled down. The whole thoracic area can feel very constricted and put a ton of pressure on the sympathetic trunk. This kind of pressure increases stress hormones and adds anxiety.

Pregnancy massage is great for reducing stress, decreasing swelling in the arms and legs, and relieving aches and pains in muscles and joints. Also, when medication may not be an option during pregnancy, massage can be excellent for pain relief in chronic back and neck pain.

Not only can massage be physically beneficial, but human touch can be comforting and provide emotional support around the big changes, fears about labor and delivery, and becoming a new mother.

Come see me this Thursday April 15th from 11-4 at Birth and Beyond in Madison Valley.  I will be doing chair massage as a vendor at B & B’s Marketplace Event. This is a monthly event where local moms sell their homemade goods. Stop in for a quick 15 min chair massage and support local creative moms!