Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Yoga

A bad case of The Clench.

Hello There!  If you are in the Quad Cities today, you are experiencing probably the MOST beautiful day we’ve had this year.  Nature is a great reset for our minds and bodies, and as I am feeling very…sucked up inside myself (just breathe, Heather!), I am going to take massive advantage of it today.  So, today’s post will be short, so that all of us can go outside and play.  Also, I am going to be on vacation (South Dakota, here we come!) starting next weekend, so you will be newsletter-free. 😛
 
Since today I need to hear some advice on how to regulate a spun-up nervous system, that is precisely what I am going to share with you.
 
Side note:  Why am I wound up today?  WHO KNOWS?!  It could be hormones.  It could be what I ate and/or drank yesterday.  It could be dehydration.  It could be indecision about a decision.  It could be all the things I want to/need to get done before we leave for our trip.  Maybe it’s contemplating the cost of gas and food and fun whilst on vacation.  It could be the 60 to 80,000 thoughts, stories, and internal narratives assaulting me daily.  And it’s most likely a combination of all of the above.  But I guess The Why really isn’t the important thing. The Important thing is, I’ve noticed I’m feeling a bit tense, wound up, and fast.  So.  What next?

  1. Spend 90 seconds just sitting and noticing the sensations I feel in my body.  According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the vibrations associated with an emotion last just 90 seconds.
  2. Locate the sensations (I feel it in my throat and belly) and see what happens if I inhale and exhale through the area.
  3. Acknowledge that I am feeling anxiety.  Ask myself, “Is that a problem?”  What happens if I just allow it to be there instead of fighting it and pushing it away (which adds a layer of suffering on top of the layer of anxiety)?
  4. Lay on my back in Constructive Rest and take some long, slow smooth breaths.
  5. Write.  Get all the thoughts out of my head and on paper and look at them objectively.  Preferably this should be done in a Moleskine journal with a nice pen.  Just sayin.
  6. Take a walk, encourage the furrow between my brow to relax.  Open up my peripheral vision.  Notice all the shades of green.  Notice the sounds of the birds and the wind in the leaves. Notice the smell of the lilacs.
  7. Take an Epsom salt bath (FYI – my sister-in-law’s sister told me that taking a hot bath with ½ cup of Epsom salts, ½ cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of kosher salt can be a mind-opening experience.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to tonight!).
  8. Pet Huehuetenango Schneiderjohns.  Here is a picture of him playing with his new Chewbacca toy. 
  9. Roll my abdomen with the Coregeous ball (this would also help that pesky low back pain).
  10. Do something fun!  Tim and I plan to bike over the new I-74 bridge this afternoon.

There’s my top 10 list of self-advice.  Oh shoot. I just thought of another one.

11. If I’m forbidden to call what I am feeling “anxiety”, what would I call it?  Anxiety can be a “cover” emotion that hides something deeper going on. What emotion am I hiding from by saying I feel anxious?  (This also comes from the podcast linked in #1).

Ok.  Now I’m really done.  Hopefully if you struggle with that fast/spinny/unable to exhale sensation, this list will give you some ideas to experiment with.  And I’ll remind both of us that:  MAYBE FEELING ANXIETY IS NOT A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED.

Space to be Human Lab

  • The Lab will be closed 5/28 to 6/5.
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can purchase a 3 pack of 60 or 90 minute sessions and save $10 per session!  Link here (click on Products and Packages link at the top).

Happy Sunday!  I look forward to regaling you with stories from South Dakota when I write again on the 5th. 😛
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Habit Change, Mindset

I’m lazy, and you should be lazy too

When you want to make a change in your life, do you have a tendency to go balls-out? For example, going from not lifting weights at all to going to “I’m going to start lifting weights 4 days a week for an hour each day.”  Or “Starting this week I am going to plan, prep, and cook ALL of my meals at home!” (when you typically eat out 3-4 times per week).
 
I am one of the aforementioned humans.  I have a tendency to overestimate my motivation and drive, and as a result, I go like gang busters for a few days, or even maybe a few months, and then I peter out and return to my original set point.
 
My friend and teacher Dinneen Viggiano had a great newsletter about “MVA”  Minimum Viable Amount.  She verbalized something I have noticed but ignored when it comes to my own life – even though I know “X” is super good for me and will help me become the person I want to be, if “X” is hard, boring and/or time-consuming, I will do it for a bit and then give up.  And then I will feel bad about giving up. And that will make me even LESS motivated to do ANYTHING – even something small – to improve my wellbeing.  And thus begins a pity party that ends with me wondering who do I think I am and why do I think I am qualified to help ANYONE improve their life.  Things get dark pretty quickly in Heather-Head-Land.
 
Dineen offers a solution to this nip this negativity spiral in the bud:

  1. Start out doing something that you seriously think you would honestly really do.
  2. Do it regularly for a while and see how you feel (see how your pain responds).
  3. Start to pare it back a bit and see if you still feel benefits while doing the smaller amount.
  4. If you get to a tipping point where the pain starts to return, titrate back to the slightly higher dose.

Here is how I am implementing this advice in my own life:

  • I am working on getting my low back feeling better, and I know that working on my breathing would help.
  • I worked with an Athletic Trainer awhile back who gave me several breathing exercises to do.  I was supposed to do them 2-3 times a day, and they take about 15 minutes each time.  I kinda did them for a while, and then, well, you know.  I humaned and stopped.
  • SO, I am starting with doing 2 minutes of Constructive Rest whilst breathing from my diaphragm every night before I go to bed.  Two minutes is so easy that I have a hard time convincing myself that it’s a burden.
  • I’m finding that at the end of the 2 minutes, I often have started to relax and breathe more deeply and I want to go longer, but I’m not!  I’m just doing 2 minutes until I feel as if the habit is ingrained.

Now that I type it all out, I’m kind of following Dineen’s advice backwards.  I am using a “tiny little action step” to build the habit, and then assessing the effects, so I can potentially do more, but the overall gist is the same:


FIND THE DOSAGE THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO AND THAT ACTUALLY EFFECTS SOME CHANGE IN YOUR SYSTEM, AND DO IT CONSISTENTLY.


If you are overwhelmed, bored, or frustrated with your exercise plan, maybe you could experiment with doing a little less and see if a smaller dose will get you the same results.  I think it’s a universal truth that doing less and doing it mindfully and consistently is better for our mindbodies.

Lastly, I want to put in a little plug for a fundraiser for the QC Yoga Foundation.  This is a local non-profit organization that is trying to bring yoga to as many people in our community as possible.  They (or maybe I should say “we” because I’m on the Board) are hosting a super fun event on 7/9/22 called Fireflies and Flowers.  Music, tasty food, flowers, mid-summer vibes, picnic, and connection to your community – what more could you ask for??

If you are interested, you can “Buy a Blanket” of 8 tickets here or individual tickets here.  I would love to see you there!  I am trying to put together a group of 8, so we can get a blanket.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you have a family member, friend, or coworker who has been sidelined by pain or tension, I would be so grateful if you refer them to me, so we can see how massage, meditation, and movement can get them back to doing what they love.  For every Referral who books with me, you get a coupon for $10 off your next session!  Your friend can find more information about Space to be Human here.

I hope you are having a delightful Sunday and can find some space to do nothing and be okay with it.  🙂
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Uncategorized

A Break from routine

Good morning!  Perhaps you noticed that I didn’t send out a newsletter last week.  The Sunday got away from me, honestly, as Sundays have a tendency to do.  This Sunday, at 7:50AM, is already wriggling, slippery, and cunningly trying to bolt, so I’m going to try to catch it while I can.

I wanted to share with you a theme that’s been surfacing in the ether – that of the necessity of breaking from routine (um, maybe that’s why I skipped a week of newslettering last week…).

Having good routines and habits can be SO useful and beneficial.  When we can just follow the same path every day, we don’t have to expend precious energy on redeciding every moment.  We don’t have to decide to brush our teeth, we don’t have to decide which roads to take to work, we don’t have to stop and think, “what’s my password” when we unlock our phone.  We just run the program and effortlessly  and unconsciously do most of these things.

But, have you noticed how a whole day can go by, and you weren’t really there for it?  Your teeth are brushed, but did you notice how fresh and clean your mouth felt?  You arrived at work, but did you notice the magnolia tree on the corner that looks as if it popped right out of a Japanese woodblock print?  You’ve unlocked your phone a bazillion times, but did you ever once notice the ridiculous cuteness of your puppy pic on the lock screen?

Habits and routines, while saving us energy, do so by putting us in a well-worn rut.  And often times the secret to changing our pain experience lies in breaking out of that rut and TRYING SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

When we do something new, our brain wakes up and takes notice.  It comes online and starts to recalculate the massive amounts of input constantly streaming it.  Different inputs mean different outputs.  And guess what – PAIN is a an output from your brain.

I listened to a really interesting podcast Mindful Strength: Why Strength Training Helps this week.  Kathryn Bruni-Young and Nikki Naab-Levy are two cutting-edge fitness professionals who incorporate current biopsychosocial pain research into their fitness programming.  In this podcast they talk about how important strength training is, especially for people who are super mobile and stretchy.  They also talk about how important it is to break up the routine of strength training – the body is SUPER adaptable, so you need to constantly be throwing new stuff at it.  From a strength-training perspective this can look like:

  • Changing the tempo of your lifts.
  • Pausing at the top or bottom of your lifts.
  • Changing the number of reps and sets.
  • Taking rest days when your body is like, “NOPE.”
  • Changing the position in which you lift (e.g. instead of always doing pushups with your hands directly under shoulders, experiment with setting your hands super wide, or with one hand close to your shoulder and one hand really far away, or with your fingers pointing in different directions, etc.).

When you play and explore like this, not only are you sending some new and attention-grabbing stimulus to your ol’ brain pan, but you are building strength in a variety of positions – meaning that when you need to crouch down on all fours and reach waaaaay far under the dresser to grab your baby’s wubba, your shoulders and wrists will be like, “Hey. I gotchyou.  We’ve trained for this.”

A side benefit of breaking the routine is that you start to notice your days, you start to have more fun, life gets more interesting.  What could you do to nudge your way out of ruts that are no longer taking you where you want to go?  An easy thing to play with is to try to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.  Give it a go and watch your body be utterly confused about how to accomplish this simple task.  And notice how HARD it is to resist the urge to go back to using your dominant hand.  That urge to return to comfort is insanely strong and persuasive.

If you need help in figuring out how to add some novelty to your workouts, I really recommend the Mindful Strength Membership.  It’s $35/month (CAD), and you get a really interesting and fun assortment of classes – yoga, restorative yoga, strength training, crawling, etc.  The crawling classes are super fun and super challenging. The weird stuff is always more fun. J 

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you are in pain and are interested in exploring how some new inputs (organ massage, cranial mobilizations, movement, breath, cupping, etc.) could affect your output of pain come see me!
  • Hours:  Monday and Friday 2PM-5PM; Tuesday and Thursday 2PM-7PM.  Occasional Saturdays from 8AM-12PM.

I hope you are having a bonkers good Sunday and can do just ONE small thing that could shift your experience today.

<3


Hlo

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Mind Over Tension (aka Jedi Mind Tricks)

Hiya.  Care to get a little curious?

Where are you breathing right now?  Is the air coming in through your nose or your mouth?  What is the temperature of the air?  Where do you feel your body move with the inhale and the exhale – your shoulders, your ribcage, your shoulders, all of the above?  What happens if you just notice?  Just notice the breath coming in and going out, like ocean waves sliding up a sandy beach and slowly retreating back to the deep.  Perhaps you would like to start to slow down the breath, taking looooong sloooow sips of air.  What do you notice next?

I’m curious about your eyes. What happens if you take a pause from reading this, look up, and let your eyes gaze on something in the far distance – the furthest thing you can see without straining.  How does that feel?  If you invite your eyes to take in more of your surroundings – start to notice what arrives at your eyes from the periphery, how does that change your experience of your eyes?

And what about that belly?  I invite you to take a moment and just notice if you are holding your breath, holding your belly, bracing.  What shifts within you, if you allow yourself to soften in this area, maybe even inviting the breath to sink down low and expand the low belly?  How does that feel?

And the hands, and the fingers – are they clenched tightly around your phone as you read this, are they resting in little tight fists on your lap?  What if you tried to hold your phone with just the SKIN of your fingertips?  What would it be like to slowly uncurl each little bone of each long elegant finger and allow the fingers and palms to rest with ease on your thighs?  What is it like if you imagine bringing more space into the INSIDE of your hand, like inside the fingers and inside the palms?

How do you feel after a few minutes of exploring your inner world?  Did you notice a shift in your overall tension?  Your mood?  The pace of the hamster wheel of thought-generation?

We’ve been taught, since the time of Rene Descartes, that “I think, therefore I am,” insinuating that there is some sort of separateness between the mind and the rest of us.  We now know due to reams of research that the mind and body are not separate.  As human beings, we are a mindbody.  Our thoughts effect changes in our body, and our body effects changes in our thoughts.  Perhaps you noticed how your thoughts helped your body feel more calm, ease, and expansiveness?

Our minds have a documented “negativity bias” which means we are always scanning for the bad, what could go wrong, how things could fail.  This has kept humans alive so far, so it’s a vital predisposition, but it can make for a shitty lived experience!  We can consciously work with this negativity bias, by inviting in the opposite thought – give equal airtime (or maybe even MORE –  research recommends a 3:1 ratio) to scanning for the good, thinking about what could go right, how things could succeed.

How are your thoughts contributing to your tension?  How could they contribute to more ease, flow, and space instead?  Just some food for thought on this day of Rebirth.  Maybe we could give birth to a mindset that helps us find more Space to be Human.

Space to be Human Lab (where we invite in an attitude of exploration, experimentation, and curiosity)

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: The reviews are in “It’s so soft!”  “It’s so comfortable!” “My face isn’t smushed.”  Yay for the new cradle!
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that we are heading off to Armored Gardens for some lunchy poo.  Also, if you don’t currently get the Tap On It texts, I highly recommend it.  This week we got a coupon for BOGO draft beers at Armored Gardens.  I mean, I don’t drink beer (Hellllooo bloated belly), but that’s a really good coupon. J

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Uncategorized

On Getting a New Perspective

I’ve written before about Balance and how the theme of balance keeps surfacing in the ocean of my experience – the need for balance in thoughts and opinions, balance in work and fun, balance in movement practices. Eventually everything needs to wobble back to center – it’s just that we don’t know the timescale!

I took a manual therapy training class recently that is helping me embody more balance in how I think about manual therapy and in how I practice hands-on work.

I was trained in a school of thought that was very much posturally focused. We were taught how to analyze someone’s posture and note where the patient was twisting or shearing or in some other way moving out of “neutral.” These deviations from neutral provided clues to what muscles or organs or systems needed some attention.

It was/is a useful analysis, and many people WAY smarter than me are using it every day to literally change people’s lives. But, the more I read and learned about other modalities, the more I realized that posture is only part of the story. And in my own personal practice, I noted that many of my clients were feeling much better after seeing me, yet their posture remained essentially unchanged. How to reconcile this??

To further confound myself, I worked on an article for Tune Up Fitness on the importance of posture. I had the privilege of talking to several experts in the field of human performance and well-being, and most of them stated the same thing – posture is just a piece of the puzzle of pain. Oh. And the research says there really is no “perfect” posture. The really important thing is being able to move through a variety of postures depending on your need in the moment.

This whole exploration of the importance of posture helped me practice the skill of believing almost mutually exclusive things to be simultaneously true. Is posture important? Yes. And also No.

So to further develop the skill of becoming comfortable with uncertainty, I took Walt Fritz’s class, Foundations in Manual Therapy. Walt also comes from a therapy lineage that focuses on posture as a primary indicator of pain. However, after taking several classes in several different modalities (that all worked), he realized that while they all worked, their explanations were often not founded on scientific literature. YET THEY ALL WORK!! Why??

Essentially, his answer is, because of the Therapeutic Alliance – that connection between the client and the therapist – the exchange of energy and attention and intention – that communication between two nervous systems – that is really where the magic of therapy happens. It’s not that the therapist released a trigger point or freed up a restricted nerve, or unstuck some fascia. It’s that the therapist jibed with the client.

The core of his approach, “Rather than using a protocol or trusting your knowledge and experience, you’ll instead listen to your patient.”

I so love this.

I am ever grateful for what I learned at the Center for Neurosomatic Studies. But, man, the human body is all sorts of complex, and when my brain starts trying to follow the twists and turns and flexes and extensions found in a body, my insides start to get all wound up too, and my brain gears start overheating. And guess what happens then? I get all up in my brain instead of my in my body, present and accounted for with my client.

BUT

When I have scientific “permission” to focus instead on what the human being in front of me is telling me with their voice, their eyes, their body language, and I can focus on that instead of solving a puzzle, wow – then I can be present, aware, and open to possibilities that the client/therapist partnership can open up. And there is so much beauty and freedom in that.

So that is what I am experimenting with – taking all I know, all I don’t know (SO MUCH), all of what the client needs and wants and expects – and putting all that together into an experience for the client that helps them find more space, freedom, and ease. And, oh yeah, trying to have fun in the process. 🙂

Come join me on the exploration, if you want to see what opportunities for healing we can discover together!

Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy

I learned something new – Rock Pods!

Well, I’ve been practicing neurosomatic therapy for about 3 months now. I’ve learned a lot. And I have A LOT to still learn! One thing I’ve noticed is how important it is to be mindful of my body while treating patients. I’ve been using my thumbs too much, which is a habit I need to break ASAP.

So, in an effort to get some relief for my poor pollicis, I took a Rock Pods course yesterday! Rock Pods are a silicon cupping option offered by the company Rock Tape. On Instagram I saw a Rock Tape instructor demoing how to use the pods to mobilize a scar, and it immediately caught my interest. How handy to be able to essentially attach handles to the skin and pick it up and move it!!

The class was great – for the price of tuition I got 6 hours of education, a Rock Pod set, and a RockBand Flex (a stretching band). The pods are super easy to apply and have a variety of benefits and uses:

  1. They create space between the layers of the skin, superficial fascia, deep fascia, and muscle, allowing more room for fluid to move through the layers (creating more slide and glide between the layers).
  2. They decrease “corticol smudging” which means that they improve the sensory map in the brain, which decreases pain and improves motor control. Basically, using the pods helps the brain understand what is happening in the body more clearly, which can down-regulate pain.
  3. The feeling of touch (which can be provided by the pods) promotes the release of nerve growth factor, again improving proprioception and motor control.
  4. This one I need to study more – the pods encourage the body to release heme oxygenate, which is an enzyme that breaks down heme (described as “blood garbage” by our instructor). When heme is not broken down, it leads to oxidative stress and inflammation, tissue injury, fibrosis, and excessive scar formation. When the heme oxygenase breaks down the heme, it release carbon monoxide (among other things), which modulates pain in the spinal cord.
  5. Cupping can also stimulate the immune response and decrease inflammation.
  6. The cups can also be used as a visual and tactile (aka haptic) tool to cue movement.

I am excited to start using this option with patients! I’ll just need to remember to forewarn them about the visual effects of the pods (and prepare them for lots of questions from curious strangers). 🙂 As you can see below, the marks are VERY noticeable, at least on me.

This first picture was taken right after class:

This picture was taken today:

Hit me up if you want to play/experiment with these fun tools!

Hope you have a fabulous Sunday!!

Uncategorized

On Following Your Dreams (aka making uncommon decisions)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  Mostly that is because I think I utterly exhausted my brains and will in making the decision to move to Florida, cut back to part-time, and go to school for massage therapy.  All of that just plump wore me out.

But now the decision is made.  And I’m here. In Florida. I tried to be here last week, but Hurricane Irma had different plans for me.  Tim and I drove down here on the 4th, unpacked our stuff into our apartment and then promptly packed an overnight bag and drove right back to Iowa.  It was Tuesday. The storm was forecasted to hit Sunday. Yet all the stores were already out of water.  It scared the shit out of us, to be honest.  We are used to dealing with tornadoes, but huge storms in a state with like 3 roads that you can use to exit the state sounded like a nightmare.

So we chose the lesser nightmare and drove the 19 hours back to Iowa.

It was weird going back home again, especially after I already said goodbye to all my friends, family, and coworkers, only to return about 4 days later.  HEY!  Guess what! I’m baaaaack!

People were actually pretty understanding.  They often echoed a thought that was ricocheting around in my head a TON – “Um, maybe this is a sign?”

And, see, this is where I get utterly confused about this whole dharma/life purpose thing.  I thought I was watching signs and signals and felt as if this path was chosen for me.  But then, a category 5 hurricane started hurtling toward me.  Talk about mixed messages.

But, I guess, that just because you are following your dharma, does not mean you will not have tribulations.  In the Bible God was always sending his people on missions and quests that were horribly inconvenient and resulted in tons of annoyances and discomforts.  Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do because you gotta do it and because you know that by doing so, the world will become just a little bit better, and that makes all the difference.

So I decided, after a lot of internal tortuous dialogue, to not cancel all of my plans and aspirations.  I came back.  I’m here.  Now.

I haven’t had much time to reflect/absorb/adjust yet.  Granted, it’s only Day 1.  I was madly unpacking, buying groceries, getting an oil change, cleaning, cooking food, etc.  Maybe perhaps I was a little bit numbing with busyness.  But that’s OK.

To close, here are the things that are good about this decision so far:

  1.  The people I have encountered here so far are super friendly and helpful.  Had THE most helpful guy at the Take 5 Oil Change place today.
  2. We found a super cute breakfast joint on the super cutely named road, Sunset Point, and my breakfast was only 6.50.
  3. The St. Petes/Clearwater airport is only 15 minutes from our apartment.  From there you can, for a mere $60-$80, fly directly back to Moline, IL, which is 15 minutes from our house.
  4. I am becoming more resourceful.  No ladle?  Use a cup!  No lids for my pot?  Use tin foil!  No bed?  Sleeping bags and blankets on the floor!
  5. I saw a snake on the sidewalk in front of my apartment, and I only jumped 2 feet and did not scream.

So, that’s it for Day 1.  Hope you are having tons of interesting adventures, and thanks for reading!