Peace at Hand's Healing Blog

Entries tagged "advice"

Smile while you work. You'll feel better.

Posted on May 10, 2010 in: Advice - Tags: advice, athletics

This is not wisdom that I can take any sort of credit for.  Its actually an idea that my yoga teacher shared a few weeks ago.  She was talking about how common it was to see students putting on their "game face" as they tried to hold a challenging or uncomfortable pose, and how counter-productive that was.  "The advanced form of any asana," she tells us, "is doing it with a smile."

Its true.  Mentally, its harder to smile when we are uncomfortable or under pressure, but physically, smiling can make the activity easier. 

I've started trying to keep that in mind when I'm out jogging, and it turns out that it doesn't just sound good--its actually true.  When I'm running and I'm starting to feel worn out and I'm trying to get up another hill (If you don't believe that the DC area is hilly, go spend some time running or biking around the city.  Its ridiculous.) the first thing that happens is that my head drops and my shoudlers slump and my face gets  tense with effort and concentration.  The only thing that posture serves to do is make my breathing even more labored, and make fatigued muscles work harder.

Try it.  Rest your hands on the front of your neck, or even on your chest, just below your collar bone.  Now tense your jaw.  Tighten your mouth.  Frown a little.  Look like your concentrating, and feel what happens to the issue under your hand.  Maybe try to take a deep breath.  Not so nice, huh? 

Now smile.  Lift your chin a little.  Doesn't that feel better?  Didn't everything under your hands just get a little softer?  Does your breath feel more relaxed? 

The next time you're doing something challenging, whether its athletic or whether you're desk-bound, be mindful of your expression and see if you can do it with a smile.  Or, at least without a frown.  It really might make the task go down a little easier.

Homework: Drink Your Water

Posted on January 30, 2010 in: Homework - Tags: water, advice, contest

There are three questions that I find myself asking my clients more than any others.  They are, in no particular order:

  • How much time do you spend in front of a computer? 
  • Do you stretch after you work out? 
  • How much water do you drink?

The answer to the first question, one hundred percent of the time, is: "Too much."  The answer to the second two questions, more often than not?  "Not enough."

I'll come back to the first two questions another day.  Today, I'm interested in water because I haven't been drinking enough of it.  Just as importantly, an arresting number of my clients don't have the first idea why their water consumption, or lack thereof, water might have anything to do with their tight shoulders, stiff joints, or even their headache or chronically dry skin.

Let's talk about that for a minute. 

Try to think back and remember the grade school statistic.  The human body is something like 60% water.  (Full disclosure: That number might be a little off.  I didn't look it up.  Its reasonably accurate, though.)  That's more than half.  Not only are we full of the stuff, but water powers everything we do, begining on a cellular leve.

Basic metabolism requires water in order to happen.  Our body takes in nutrients and our bodies use water to dissolve them and turn them in to something we can use.  Most of our organs are saturated in it.  The brain?  Close to 70% water.  The lungs are more like 90.  Most of our blood is water.  You can't argue that those things aren't all critical.

In the past few years, I've come across some articles arguing the fact that we need our 8 glasses of water a day.  They've claimed that just a few glasses is fine, that any beverage is fine, that if we eat well, we'll get plenty of hydration from the foods that we eat.  Some of my clients who find water particularly distasteful are quick to remind me of those articles.  Maybe they're right, but I just can't get behind the idea.

To me, its science.  Surely we can agree that different things have a different chemical structure.  Water's is unique, and when we drink something that isn't water, we process it differently and to a different effect.  The question of getting water from vegetables or soup or other areas of our diet is similar.  Sure, our bodies are getting water, but they are also using water to process the Other Stuff that its trying to get water out of.  Maybe drinking tea all day long is better for you than drinking nothing at all, and I would never argue that vegetables don't have a laundry-list of benefits, but I still think that water is key.

Obviously, I'm over simplifying here, but I think it helps to look at this on an extremely elementary level: Our bodies need water to function.  They need a lot of water to function optimally.  And most of us don't drink enough.  And when I say "enough," I mean at least 64 ounces a day.

If you're not a water-drinker, that sounds like a lot.  You're going to complain that its boring, that you don't like the taste, or that you'll be in the bathroom all day.  All that I can say to that is that I'm sorry, and that you and your body will learn to get used to it.  After awhile, you'll feel better.  You might have more energy or better skin or lose weight or get fewer headaches.

My goal for February is going to be to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and I'd like to try an experiment.  Will you help me out, and do your bodies a favor in the process?

Email me before February 14th and tell me that you're going to try drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  Also tell me how your body typically feels.  Really think about it.  Stiff?  Lethargic?  Dry? Headachey?  Drink your water for at least two weeks.  All your water--eight glasses a day.  Email me again at the end of the two weeks, and tell me whether or not you feel different.  At the end of the month, I'll randomly select one person and send them a gift certificate for a drink at Starbucks.  After two weeks of water, you'll deserve a caffeinated reward.

Where Do I Begin?

Posted on December 18, 2009 in: FAQ - Tags: advice, FAQ, massage

It seems to be the question of the week.  As I've been trying to decide on a topic for a first post, I have also had several new clients contact me to ask the same question: Where do I start?  They know that they're interested in massage for themselves or a loved one, but have no idea how to go about making it happen. What sort of bodywork do they need?  How do they choose a therapist?  Is it safe to give as a gift, without knowing what sort of massage the giftee might want?

One of the problems with answering questions about massage is that very often, the only honest answer is, "it depends."  The best advice I can offer is to poke around on line or make a few phone calls, and find a massage therapist who resonates with you.  As with any health care practitioner, what makes a MT "right" is highyly personal.

There are a few things you can look for, though.  First, check their credentials.  You'll want someone who is licensed in their state and who has completed a 500-600 hour training program, preferably at a COMTA accredited school.  Second, make sure that they are comfortable talking about their work.  If they don't sound confident when they speak to you, its a pretty good indication that they won't be confident when they actually perform massage. 

If you are booking a session for yourself, getting what you want shouldn't require any buzzwords.  Ideally, you should have a clear idea regarding your goals for the session.  Maybe you're just looking to relax and unwind, or maybe you are hoping to help with chronic shoulder tension.  Whatever it is that you want, be sure to articulate that to your MT, and expect them to have a conversation with you about it, to make sure you are both on the same page. 

If your massage session is a gift for someone else, you should be looking for a practitioner who is willing to speak with the new client and determine what they want.  It will be important for a bodywork practitioner to be aware of any major medical conditions up front, but a good MT will have received  well-rounded training and should be able to customize their session based on what the client tells them at the begining of the appointment.  If a therapist insists on knowing whether the massage is Swedish or deep tissue or any other industry-specific term, or (in my opinion) if they expect to charge more for deep tissue work, that should send up red flags for you.

The bottom line is that you should trust your judgment--if, after speaking to a therapist or reading through their website, you feel comfortable with them, give their massage a shot.  If their work isn't what you want, you always have the opportunity to dialogue with them about it until you work it out, or to find another therapist.  As with anything else in life--organizing your closet or working through your to-do list or writing the first post for a new blog--all you can do it pick a place that feels right and jump in.