Another FREE Raw Kale Salad Seminar at New Leaf

Local friends, mark your calendars. I will be teaching a free seminar at New Leaf Market Co-op November 18, 2014, 7:45pm to 8:45pm. I will teach you my recipe for a very life-giving kale salad. As I demonstrate it, I will describe the healing benefits of the various ingredients and share tips on peeling and chopping some of the vegetables which the less culinarily inclined might wonder how to prepare.

Breast Cancer Prevention

Here’s an article I wrote in 2006 on breast cancer prevention for my local health food store’s newsletter, giving an overview of prevention strategies:

As mammals we are lucky. When we give birth to a helpless infant, our bodies have the nourishment to feed the child, without even having to go to the kitchen. Our breasts create milk. They are incredible organs. But why are so many women getting breast cancer? What can we do to prevent it?

There’s a lot of talk about breast cancer awareness, mammograms, and self-exams, but the focus is on detection of lumps once they have formed. It seems there’s not enough information in the mainstream about how to avoid the cancer in the first place. In this article you’ll find some suggestions on what women (and men) can do to decrease their risk of breast cancer.

As a New Leaf shopper, you must already know that what you eat has an effect on your health. Diets high in whole foods, live foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables are best for your body. Such foods are higher in antioxidants; vitamins like E and C, which help your immune system in fighting not only viruses and bacteria but also help neutralize free radicals. Eating high fiber foods helps keep your digestion efficient so toxins can be removed and your body has more energy to spend on immunity and cancer fighting. Drink plenty of water, and be wary of drinking out of plastic bottles. Many contain chemicals that leach into the water. Phthalate chemicals mimic estrogen and may cause reproductive cancers, including breast cancer.

Cancer cells pop up in our bodies on a regular basis, but a healthy immune system’s white blood cells will recognize the cells as foreign and will swiftly destroy them. Laughter has been shown to increase white blood cells and therefore your immune health, so laugh every day. If you don’t find reasons to laugh every day, try incorporating a minute of the yogic belly laugh into your routine. It’s a fake laugh, a hearty “Ho ho ho!” which sometimes evolves into a real laugh. If you are shy, do it in your car or when you are the only one at home.

The breasts are linked closely with the lymph glands at your underarms. The lymphatic system removes the toxins from the interstitial fluid in your cells. Lymph has no pumps so we must move muscles in order to get it flowing. Massage is a great way to move lymph. Incorporate breast massage into your daily routine. Yogic teachings suggest placing the breasts in the flow of a cold shower and massaging them there. The cold water is good for circulation.

There is a debate about whether antiperspirants contribute to the risk of breast cancer. As a massage therapist of nine years with deep understanding of anatomy and physiology, I believe that clogging your sweat pores and preventing release of toxins is harmful. The toxins will stay in nearby tissue, including your breasts. Switch to a deodorant that is free of antiperspirants, to be on the safe side.

Exercise is another way to get circulation of blood and lymph going. Do some aerobic exercise like walking. Add stretching to your life as well. Include arm movement because our modern lifestyles with our arms at our sides at the computer or at the steering wheel do not allow sufficient range of motion. Yoga and dancing are good full body exercises.

Speaking of modern lifestyles, electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) coming from electronic and motorized equipment are known to be disruptive to our health and contribute to tumor growth. So put down the gadgets and go for a walk or read a book.

The breasts are part of the heart chakra, the Yogic energy center in our bodies that is about love, forgiveness, and connecting with other humans. Strive to keep your heart open. Traditional Chinese Medicine says cancer is caused by stagnant chi (energy), so let go of bottled up grief or grudges. Find outlets for your emotions, like art, poetry, music or dancing.

Studies show that women who breast-feed have a lower chance of getting breast cancer, so if you plan to have a baby, ignore the formula company propaganda and breast-feed your child. The World Health Organization recommends it. Take pride in your mammalian nature, feeding your child the best food available for her. In the end it will benefit your whole family, increasing your likelihood to be around longer to enjoy your loved ones.

This is just an overview of ideas to prevent breast cancer. There are books available on the subject such as Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way by Susan S. Weed. This National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, do more than the self-exam or the mammography; educate yourself and incorporate healthy habits into your life now.

Zinnia

Zinnia

Massage Your Boobies!

I have to be honest with you. When October comes, I don’t wear pink clothes or ribbons or even like to see the “pink-washing”, as some people call it today. I have doubts, huge doubts, that this pink campaign does anything to help prevent or cure breast cancer.

Yes, if you get a mammogram, or thermography, it can help you find cancer if you already have it. And perhaps the pink campaign gets some women to get checked when they hadn’t yet, or maybe weren’t planning on it.

But why isn’t there more emphasis on prevention????

I think one of the very biggest things you can do is increase circulation in and around your breast tissue. Massage your breasts, and massage them often. Massage will increase circulation of blood, which brings oxygen and nutrients to the area, and sweeps away toxins. You will also increase movement in your lymphatic system, which has no pump of its own. Lymph is moved mostly by muscle movement or massage. Our breasts have a lot of lymphatic tissue in them, and there are many lymph glands in the underarm and along the sternum (breastbone).

According to Eastern therapies like Acupuncture and Shiatsu, stagnant energy and stagnant circulation can definitely lead to dis-ease in the body.

Now, imagine what happens when we spend 8, 12, maybe even 18 hours with our breasts squeezed into the confines of our bras. How good can the circulation be? Not good at all. The pressure will compress the tissue, compress the blood vessels, compress the lymph, such that circulation is limited. Do you ever reach a point during your day when you suddenly must take your bra off? Your breasts demand it? They’ve had enough, and they need to breathe. Remember, your blood carries oxygen to your breast tissue. Cancer does not survive well in oxygen. It survives better in acidic, stagnant tissue.

So, if you must wear a bra, and I know many of our more buxom sisters do need the support, wear one, but please, please massage your breasts. Massage them through your bra, which I am sure is best done in private in our culture. So, do it in the car, do it in the bathroom while you pee, do it walking around your house, just please do it.

And then, at the end of the day, take your bra off. Let those precious orbs of love and nurturing get some fresh air, or at least breathing room in your shirt. And massage them from above, below, and from the sides. Knead, glide, lift, move. Work on the pectoral

Blue Footed Booby in the Galapagos Islands

Blue Footed Booby in the Galapagos Islands

muscles on your chest as well. Massage them in the bath, in the shower, in bed, waiting for the teapot to boil, or waiting for your computer to power on. Love and appreciate them. Get your sweetheart involved. He or she will love to massage them for you, maybe even with a natural massage oil like olive or coconut. And, this is an “everybody wins” activity. So come on ladies, massage your boobies!

A Year of Monthly Massage

Susie is a wife, a mother, and a hard working professional. Like many people, she believed she was too busy for massage. Then one day, her husband got a great idea. He called me up and asked if he could buy a year’s worth of monthly massages for her for her birthday. I was moved by this man’s love of his wife. He said he knew if she got it into her on-going schedule, like her hair appointments or pedicures, she would realize that she can fit it in.

At the midpoint in our year, during the intake part at the beginning of her appointment, I noted, “This is massage number six in your year of monthly massages.”

She quickly replied, “The best year ever!”

We both laughed, but it’s true!

Regularly scheduled massages make a difference in one’s life. As a recipient of massages, myself, I love it for stress reduction, a chance to surrender during my busy week. When I get a massage in the middle of a hectic day or time in my life, I treasure it. I often say something like, “Hooray, an appointment where I get to lay down and relax!”

Massage therapists manually treat our muscles via kneading, gliding, stretching and other modalities that increase our circulation, improving the health and tone of our muscles. A therapist can treat areas of chronic tension or pain, and even help correct postural distortions. But another important factor is the way the therapist communicates with a client’s nervous system. Beginning with simply placing hands on you and holding them stationary, for instance, the therapist lets your nervous system know, via a calm, gentle “Hello”, that this is safe touch, which calms the nerves further, encourages deeper breathing, and helps with the release of tension in the muscles. The therapist helps guide your body from a stressed state, even a “fight or flight” response (a function of the Sympathetic Nervous System) caused by deadlines, life changes, bosses, anxiety, etc., to your “resting and digesting mode” (a function of the Parasympathetic Nervous System).

Our bodies were not designed to be under stress constantly with our adrenal glands over-stimulated. The fight or flight response is really meant for extreme danger, but the many stresses people sometimes experience in the modern world can put our nervous system in that mode. Here’s where massage comes in handy, bringing us back to “resting and digesting”. It’s like a reset and a reminder of our calmer way of being.

Now it’s up to us to take that feeling of relaxation and renewal with us after an appointment, and maintain it with healthy choices for self-care such as stretching, exercise, hot baths, yoga, meditation, creative outlets and drinking plenty of water.

Try prioritizing self-care more, and see how it affects your life, busy as it may be. You might find you have more energy and more to give. Feel free to comment here and let me know about your experience.

Relax and Nurture with a Therapeutic Bath

I love baths because I find the water element so healing. In various healing traditions, astrology, tarot, and other symbolic contexts, the water element is often representative of the emotional realm.

I have noticed that visiting a large body of water, immersing myself in the ocean or a swimming hole, sitting by a powerful waterfall, or watching a river flow by, can all be therapeutic to me. In the case of swimming, and especially floating, there’s surrender in it. There’s something about the way water hugs us that is reassuring, maybe reminiscent of the womb. But if I can only be by the sea at night or during a storm, and can’t go swimming, it still soothes me. It’s vast and comforting, bigger and deeper than my deepest woes.

What’s a busy person to do when she or he needs the healing power of water but lives in a landlocked area and doesn’t have time for a beach or river trip? Take a bath.

There’s an art to bath taking. It’s way more than filling the tub and getting in (though it can be that simple). Below are some of my favorite elements to incorporate to personalize my therapeutic bath time.

I usually start by cleaning the tub before I run a bath for myself, or our children. It’s nice to start with a fresh tub, and worth the two minutes of scrubbing and rinsing the bathtub.

I usually run my baths pretty hot, but I lean more toward simply warm during the summer so I don’t overheat myself. While the water is running, it’s time to add bubbles, salts, or essential oils. I often add calming lavender essential oil to my bath water with a few drops of Earthy, grounding patchouli essential oil.

Music makes bath time more relaxing for me, and to be honest, a little less boring. If I am stressed, I don’t want to listen to worry and mind chatter. I’d rather hear classical music, or something melancholy or soulful on Pandora, like Elephant Revival or Madeline Peyroux.

I light candles, turn off the light, and crack the window open a little for fresh air and some nature sounds.

I gather various supplies for self-nurturing. I usually bring some cool drinking water, but may also bring hot tea, or even beer or wine. I might bring a washcloth, rose water spray, a bath brush or loofah, a nailbrush, and/or a pumice stone.

I often oil my skin with a mini-massage before a shower or bath, using olive or coconut oil. This helps with my circulation, and also protects my skin from being stripped of its oils by the hot water. I may massage myself more during the bath, or stretch, using the warmth of the bath to make my muscles suppler. A seated forward bend is easy to do in the tub, and it helps stretch hamstrings which are tight on many people. I have even stood facing the corner and basically did my famous “doorway stretch” in the tiled corner, opening my bath-warmed pectoral muscles, thus opening my posture. Got carpal tunnel syndrome? Do your forearm stretches in the bath. You’ve got time…

One of my favorite additions to bath time has been the honey facial. After I have washed my face gently with hot bath water, giving the pores some time to open in the steamy bathroom, I pat my face dry, and then I apply a little honey to my face and upper chest. The darker the honey is, the better, because it contains more antioxidants for my skin. It doesn’t take much more than about a spoonful. I leave the honey on for about 15 minutes, estimating time by the number of songs that have played on my laptop. Then I gently rinse. After the bath I moisturize, usually with coconut oil.

What else would make your bath just right? Padded bath pillows are nice for comfort, for instance. How about a friend? My fiancé sometimes visits me during bath time, and I think he also takes comfort in the water element and the soothing environment I create, even though he usually sits outside the tub and chats with me or holds my hand. I also have mother-daughter baths with my little girl, passing on the fine art of relaxing in the bath.

I feel truly blessed to have a home with a bathtub, and to have hot running water at the turn of a knob. This is one of the ways I heal and nurture myself, filling my own cup, so I can then give to my family and my clients and students.

Upcoming Seminars

I have so much health information to share, and I am so glad to have expanded my teaching to include workshops about healthy food! Already, I teach Kundalini Yoga, chair yoga for seniors, breathing workshops, introduction to meditation, yoga and wellness activities for office workers, private yoga sessions, chakra workshops and more. But recently I substituted for a friend who couldn’t teach her Sprouting and Layered Salads seminar at New Leaf. It was so fun, I agreed to help out when another teacher couldn’t teach his Raw Soups seminar. Now I’m all fired up and eager to share more of my nutritional knowledge. I have been a vegetarian and healthy eater for as long as I’ve been doing massage and yoga, about 16 years. Mark your calendars for these food themed events coming up in a few months at New Leaf Market in Tallahassee.
September 25th, 2013 7:45pm Raw Massaged Kale Salad –Learn my secret recipe!
October 8th, 2013 7:45pm Make Your Own Nut and Seed Milks.

Meditation Made Easy

The first time I tried meditation, back in college, I did not know exactly what it was. I attempted my idea of it, with no instruction whatsoever. I thought that when you meditated you were not supposed to think or feel anything. Boy was I disappointed when I couldn’t get away from the sounds of my breath, the soreness in my back, my constant stream of thoughts, and the frustration that meditation was not working for me.

Now it’s more than a decade later and I have had intensive training with yoga and meditation, and I laugh to think how my first experience was. But I also acknowledge that my original perception of meditation was a common one for beginners.

One of the tips I picked up along the way was to focus on the breath. Give your attention to your breath instead of trying not to be aware of it. When we meditate, we train our minds to be aware, not the other way around. And what better tool can we use than our constant companion, our breath?

To start, do a few stretches to help your body relax and be still more easily. Then come sitting on the floor cross-legged with a straight spine. If you are a beginner, you may want to lie flat on your back with a pillow under your knees, or sit up straight in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and notice your breath. Feel it entering your nostrils and passing down your throat. Observe the coolness or warmth of the air. Notice your lungs expanding and contracting. If your mind wanders, gently bring your awareness back to your breath.

You can count on your mind to wander. Yogis sometimes refer to it as “the monkey mind” because it is prone to getting into mischief. While meditating, your thoughts can wander to daydreaming, worrying if your checkbook will balance, planning dinner, wondering if that certain someone likes you, and more. You can get so caught up in the thoughts, and the emotions that go with them, that you may forget you’re meditating. When you realize your mind has wandered, don’t be hard on yourself. Just come back to your breath.

Be aware of your breath and at the same time, notice the sensations of your body, such as the pull of gravity on you, the feel of the surrounding air on your skin, and the sounds in the distance. Just observe these things and do not judge them as good or bad. All the while, keep in tune with your breath. If a thought comes to you, just notice it but don’t let your “monkey mind” wander off on a tangent. It’s actually funny to realize just how easily we can be distracted. Keep that sense of humor about yourself and return again and again to your breath.
We refer to meditation as a practice. It is practice at being conscious in the present moment. It quiets the mind, relieves stress, strengthens our nerves, and balances our emotions. The more you meditate, the more you can carry this clarity into your daily life.

Take on ten minutes a day to start with and gradually extend your practice to a half hour or more. You may even want to enrich your experience by seeking out and meditating with a local group. Whatever form your meditation practice takes, have fun watching your “monkey mind”.

Therapeutic Massage is Not a Luxury!

Are you too busy for a massage? Say it isn’t so! That means you are TOO busy. Slow down and take care of yourself, because if you won’t, who will? Massage therapy is an essential part of preventative health care. Sure, you can go get a massage when you’ve already hurt your back or when you’ve let yourself get so stressed out that your shoulders are hiked up to your ears with tension, but why wait? Why have that pain at all? Use massage therapy as it is intended, not as a luxury, not as a quick fix, but as an important part of your healthy lifestyle. If you are one of the folks that already does this for themselves, I sincerely congratulate you because I can tell you after over sixteen years experience in the massage field that it is a rare individual who will give herself the gift of regularly scheduled massages. Massage therapy has many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Put yourself in the hands of a licensed professional, and experience them.

Most people think of massage therapy as simply working with your muscles, but when your practitioner touches you, she is actually communicating with your nervous system. The therapist usually begins by gently laying hands on you so the primitive side of your nervous system can interpret this as a safe touch. The speed and pressure a massage therapist uses with her strokes activates the parasympathetic nervous system, your “resting and digesting” mode, and turns off your “fight or flight” mode known as the sympathetic nervous system. This is how massage therapy induces relaxation and reduces stress. At first an ancient protection against predators like bears, the human “fight or flight” response is often over-stimulated these days by the pressures of our world—-hectic schedules, deadlines, conflicts with other people, etc. Too much of this mode stresses your adrenal glands, causing exhaustion. Massage and other relaxation techniques are a great solution.

Massage helps you breathe more deeply, by activating the parasympathetic response and by decreasing tension in the muscles that may restrict your breathing. Deep breathing is good for whole-body health because it brings in healing oxygen, clears out toxins, and relaxes the mind. The action of the diaphragm gives all your internal organs a massage, which makes them function better. Massage is great for digestion because of this as well as the “resting and digesting” mode, which increases circulation to the organs. Sometimes your therapist will even work on your abdomen, massaging clockwise to encourage healthy movement in the colon.

Massage increases circulation to your muscles and throughout your body. Your arteries, which carry blood away from the heart, have a pumping action that mimics the heart and pushes the blood to your extremities, but your veins and your lymphatic vessels have no pumps. They rely on muscle movement or muscle manipulation to get the fluids moving back up toward the heart. Good circulation brings oxygen and nutrients to the cells and tissues of your body while sweeping away the toxins and byproducts of muscle contractions and cellular functions.

Massage therapy is also good for muscle tone. If your muscles are tense from overuse, or stiff from lack of use, manipulation by a trained professional will provide the circulation as discussed above and make your muscles healthy once again. Healthy muscle tissue feels firm yet elastic.

Sufferers of chronic pain find relief through massage. Relaxing a stressed nervous system helps calm down the nerve impulse firing the pain message toward the brain. The nerves sending the “tighten up” message to the muscle will be calmed as well. The increase in circulation induced by massage heals the muscles and connective tissue. Your therapist may also work on muscles that pull your posture off balance, and the resulting restoration of balance takes the strain off the troubled muscles so they can heal more easily. Some therapists also suggest stretches for you to do on your own, which will empower you in the healing process and give you more lasting results.

Remember to drink plenty of water, especially after you get a massage, to support your kidneys as they flush out the toxins your increased circulation has swept from your muscles. When you get treatment for chronic pain, you may need to apply ice to the affected area later that night, to control inflammation and facilitate healing. On the day of your massage, avoid taking anti-inflammatory drugs, which inhibit the increase in circulation and undo the hard work your therapist has done

How often should you get massage? I strive to get my treatments once per week, but at the very least once per month. If you are healing a chronic problem you will need massage more often to get a cumulative effect between treatments and get the desired results. Tight budget? Even a half hour treatment does wonders, so call one of your wonderful local massage therapists today!

Who knew getting walked on could feel so good?

Apparently the Japanese did. Barefoot Shiatsu is a form of massage that works with the flow of energy through your body along lines called meridians (the same ones as in Chinese acupuncture). The energy flows through your body, supporting the various systems. If the energy gets blocked (think of it like a kink in a hose), the body manifests illness or pain. Using hand, foot, or thumb pressure, or stretching, I unblock the flow for you, helping balance your body.

Barefoot Shiatsu is done on a padded mat on the floor. You wear loose comfortable clothing, like a t-shirt and sweat pants. The treatment is a combination of passive stretching and compression applied with hands, feet, or thumbs. It is relaxing and rejuvenating. Because it is designed to work with the flow of your energy meridians, it is usually more energizing afterward than a Swedish massage.

I use my feet to work on your back. Does it hurt? Not usually. I place a stool or chair nearby when I work on your back, and I am able to lean my weight on the chair to regulate how much weight I put on you. The first time I received a Barefoot Shiatsu treatment, the practitioner was a stout man, and when he walked on my back it didn’t even hurt. As in Swedish massage, a particularly sore or tight area may hurt a little when it is worked on.

Through years of experience, I have developed impressive palpation skills with my feet. In layman’s terms, that means that not only do I “see” with my hands when I work on people, but I can also “see” with my feet. It’s pretty cool what the human body can do!

Empowerment through the Doorway Stretch

Almost everyone who has ever had a massage by me has been taught the doorway stretch.  In my opinion, it is the number one most effective stretch that helps with almost every neck and shoulder problem.

We all slouch.  Our mothers and teachers may have told us to stand up straight, and some of us try to, but as soon as we stop thinking about it, our shoulders roll forward.  And it’s often all because of a muscle I like to call “sneaky little pec minor,” or more officially, pectoralis minor.  Pec minors are tiny muscles, made mostly of tendon, with small muscle bellies.  How can something so tiny cause so much trouble?  Tendonous tissue is fibrous with very little blood circulation, while muscle bellies have better circulation.  My understanding, with over 15 years experience, is that the pec minor muscle, once tight, doesn’t usually have enough good blood flow to bring in enough oxygen and nutrients to heal itself easily.  So how do we loosen pec minor?  Massage therapy and the doorway stretch.

The gentle s-like forward and backward curve of your spine is meant to support the weight of your head, but when pec minors are tight, they roll the shoulders in and forward, and the head and neck are drawn forward as well.  Once the head comes forward, it is not being supported so much by the curve of the spine, and your neck muscles, especially trapezius, are left holding your 10 to 12 pound head up all day.  This is not trapezius’s job, and it becomes fatigued and tight.  Also, when your shoulders roll forward, your shoulder joints are shaped differently and the shoulder muscles are now asked to operate in a way different than they were designed.  Their awkward incorrect position changes the leverage each muscle has as it pulls across the joint to lift or move your arm.  Injury is more likely, and injuries heal more slowly with these muscles always being under stress in their improper position.

Ideally when we stand straight, our arms should hang at the sides with our knuckles facing out to the sides, not forward.  Because pec minor tension is so common, most people’s arms hang with knuckles facing forward.  The doorway stretch will help fix this too.

Here’s how you do the doorway stretch:

Stand in a doorway, with your feet right on the threshold.  Hold your arms at right angles, like a football goalpost.  Face your palms forward.  Place your forearms and palms against the doorframe.  Put one foot forward (doesn’t matter which one), about the length of your foot.  Bend the knee of that front leg, and your body will come forward.  Your body’s weight will cause your pectoral muscles to be stretched.  You may feel it in the chest, or where the muscles attach to your upper arms.  Breathe deeply and be still as you stretch.

Stand in threshold, arms at 90 degrees, palms forward, one foot slightly forward, bend front knee slightly, and breathe deeply.

My teacher at massage school, Scott Coleman, taught me this stretch many years ago.  He said, “Every time you walk through a doorway is an opportunity to do the doorway stretch.”

I recommend you do this daily, for one minute, or at least five deep breaths.  Ideally, do it three times per day, especially if you’d like better posture or relief from neck, shoulder, and upper back stiffness.

I can do a lot for you in your massage session, but to get the most out of it, do your self-care homework.  Do your doorway stretch, because self-care can be done daily and it powerfully carries on the changes we are creating through your treatments.  You and I are a team.  That’s part of the beauty of natural healthcare and preventative maintenance.  You are empowered.

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