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.

 

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.

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.

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.


Fall Into a Health Routine

Happy October!

Around here it takes a couple weeks to really accept that it is in fact, Fall. Yes, it’s here. September’s gorgeous mountain views and golden 8pm sunsets are long gone. October brings a nice low hanging grey blanket of a sky. Perfect for warming up our introspective selves. Time to find a nice safe spot for those sun glasses. You’ll want them in June 2012.

This is why I love my calendar’s October picture of a spider web next to the word “Accept”.  I think the artist, Nikki McClure is local.  She is accepting of the turn of the season, apparently. I’ve decided to be too. I just decided. I think part of acceptance is preparation.

With the impending rain and cold and flu season upon us, how about falling into a new routine of taking better care of yourself? Maybe this means getting a gym membership and actually going, or going to a place like Banya 5 where you can sweat out the stressors and toxins of the week. Or maybe it means doing a seasonal cleanse where you can eliminate the foods from your regular diet which aren’t serving you anymore. OR, maybe, just maybe, you can come for regular massages with me!  If you ask any of my regular clients, (which you can’t, but I’ll ask them for you) I’m sure they would tell you that regular massage therapy has changed their lives. They would say it has saved them from many sick days and from kinks in their neck from sleeping wrong (which by the way is hardly ever just from sleeping wrong–it is often a cumulative effect). They have dodged sprained ankles, torn knee ligaments, low back pain, strained upper back muscles, carpal tunnel, and the list goes on.  When the body gets regular TLC from a trained professional, the risk of tissue injury goes way down. And injury prevention is only one benefit of massage….Wow, amazing!

Cheers to you and your health!

Jen

Saturn Returns

Oh My!

It was one of those exceptional Seattle summer days that stretches far into the evening. Noah’s sister Abbie and I walked up to Volunteer Park to see some stars. As we entered the park, a couple stopped us excitedly, saying: “There is a guy up there at the donut with a HUGE telescope. You can see Saturn!”

My friend Noah had recently taken an interest in Astronomy. A few weeks before he had called the UW Astronomy department for a recommendation of a good telescope to buy to get the best views. Well, the nice scientists at UW ended up giving Noah an expensive, high resolution, 120 pound telescope for FREE!! It has a broken tracking motor so they can’t use it for classes, but it works well enough for stargazing. They were actually happy to get this beast off their hands, and obviously Noah was thrilled to acquire such a thing. Ahh, sweet serendipity. One person’s trash is always another person’s treasure.

On clear nights he sets up the scope next to Black Hole Sun overlooking the reservoir at Volunteer Park. He knew that Saturn was returning into view the Friday night we joined him, still in the dog days of summer. Through the eyepiece, we could see Saturn, an almost full moon, and later some people out on the observation deck of the Space Needle.

Saturn is between 84 and 68 light-minutes from Earth, depending on where each planet is in their orbits. When you gaze at something in the sky that really existed roughly an hour ago, your mind starts spinning. I know we’ve all had that summer camp star gazing experience when you start to realize how small you relative to what is out there. Saturn really does have that icy, debris filled ring, just as shown in my Sixth grade text book! The moon really has those mammoth looking craters and a deep grayish- blue hue that makes you shiver.

The telescope attracts people who cannot help but stop and take a peek at our vast universe. One night Noah had upwards of 75 people stop by and look. To me, it is beautiful that perfect strangers can get excited together about seeing something that is 100 million light years away. I love how the telescope has spawned spontaneous community.

Do you need a tune-up?

One of my favorite parts of my job is watching the metamorphosis of a really stressed out client turn into a shiny happy person. She shuffles in tired, frazzled, and burnt out like an old VW bus that has been chugging up Denny Street in traffic.   She cruises out re-charged, re-fueled, and polished like a Porshe.  And she always says without fail, “Why don’t I do this more often?”

I’m well aware that taking care of ourselves can feel like an uphill battle.  Our fast paced society puts quite a load of pressure on us to keep going, going going…and go well! Do it right and do it quick or else somebody might do it better or quicker. Where is the time to rest and re-fuel? But if we go go go and never stop to re-charge, we will spontaneously combust (aka get sick).

Getting a massage is a simple and fantastic way to give back to your body. In just 60 or 90 minutes, a massage increases blood and lymph flow, increases energy flow, sedates your nervous system, helps balance stress hormones, and gives you a sense of well-being.  Of course, the emotional and physiological benefits are exponential when you get massage on a regular basis.

Next time you change your oil in your car, remember to schedule your next massage. You deserve to feel like a Porshe!

Happy Springtime!

Hugs,

Jen

Out with the aughts, in with the new

Wowza!  A brand new year. A whole new decade. So much newness in the air!  ‘Tis the season to do that thing you’ve been meaning to do, right?  One of my resolutions is to create a blog and stick with it, so here it goes!

I want  to use this blog as a forum for information and an place for conversation around massage and wellness topics.  As an LMP, I’m continually exposed to information helpful in improving our health and quality of living. I’ve found applying some of these wellness tips to be monumental in my own life.  Whether its a tip on ways to improve daily hydration, a simple daily stretch to start and end the day to relieve neck of lowerback pain, or a breathing excersie that rejuvinates you before a important meeting at work, the goal is to share with you some simple, proactive measures that can help you optimize your body vitality.

Happy New Year!

Jen