Blog of a Massage Therapist
Information For Wellness and Natural Healing
An Introduction to Reiki
Mr. Usui is the founder of the Usui style of Reiki, commonly practiced in the United States. Mrs. Takata brought Reiki from Japan to the West in 1938. The word Reiki comes from the words “Rei” meaning higher power and “Ki” which is life force energy. A person’s life force can often be seen as their aura, a certain color or force field surrounding a person. Inside of this aura are energy pathways or meridians (used in acupuncture) and chakras, energy wheels. When I think of the word Reiki, I think of spiritually guided life force energy. This modality treats the whole person including their spiritual, emotional, and physical beings and is extremely relaxing to receive. While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma and anyone can benefit from it, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs.
So what does a typical Reiki treatment consist of? First, the client will fill out a brief questionnaire, outlining any medical conditions to be aware of and explaining his or her goals for the treatment. Next, the client lays on top of the table fully clothed in comfortable clothing. The practitioner may or may not do an opening meditation or breathing exercise. Then the practitioner places his or her hands above or on top of different areas of the body for a few minutes at a time, sending positive healing energy to that location. Symbols that the Reiki Master may use, drawn above the body, help to enhance the benefits of Reiki and relieve the symptoms you might be experiencing. Reiki has been known to help people align their chakras, feel more grounded, help to heal virtually any illness, and to help a person feel an overall sense of calm and wellbeing. Crystals, gems, or stones may also be placed on different energy centers of the body to help further cleanse and energize the body. The effects are truly amazing.
Reiki and Massage Therapy can be used together with powerful results. But there are several differences between the two forms of healing. Reiki is performed with the person fully clothed, while massage is typically (but not always) performed with a person unclothed under the sheets. Massage Therapy focuses on the manipulation of soft tissue structures in the body while Reiki does not--the therapist instead uses various holds on different parts of the body for the purpose of energy healing. Another difference between the two modalities is that with massage, certain health situations require a doctor’s note or are not suitable for receiving a massage. However, with Reiki, no doctor’s notes are needed and it is safe for virtually any condition. Reiki is starting to gain acceptance in hospitals and clinics across America and more and more people are looking towards this modality for healing purposes.
The Benefits of Lymphatic Massage
Fuel Wellness with a Healthy Lymph System
by Cathy Ulrich, taken from abmp.com
Six months after hip replacement surgery, Larry was learning to walk again and life was returning to normal. But one thing still puzzled him. When he stood for any length of time, his left ankle would swell, and when the inflammation was at its worst, his right ankle would also swell.”I can understand why my left leg is swollen,” he says. “But why would my right leg swell? I didn’t have surgery there. And why am I getting swelling six months after the surgery? Shouldn’t it be better by now?” The answer is that although Larry’s surgery had occurred on the opposite side, the right leg would swell when the inflammation became too much for the left side to handle.
Fortunately, lymphatic massage can help address Larry’s problems. This special type of bodywork, while very gentle and seemingly superficial, helps to restore function to the lymph system and balance the body.
The Lymph System
Most people are familiar with the body’s vessel system that carries blood to and from the tissues, but few understand there is another equally vital system of vessels that removes cell wastes, proteins, excess fluid, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph system picks up fluids and waste products from the spaces between the cells and then filters and cleans them.Like the roots of a tree, the lymph system starts as tiny vessels–only a single-cell wide–that eventually branch into larger and larger tubes that carry these fluids back to the blood stream. This network of delicate vessels and lymph nodes is the primary structure of the immune system. The lymph nodes act as check points along the pathways of the vessels. They filter the fluid (called lymph) and serve as the home for lymphocytes–little Pac Man-like cells that attack and destroy foreign bacteria and viruses and even abnormal cells, like cancer cells.
When the lymph system works well, we feel healthy and have a strong defense against illness. When it’s sluggish or blocked–say after surgery or an injury–we can have swelling, feel tired, and be more susceptible to colds and infections.
Lymphatic MassageA customized form of bodywork, lymphatic massage may help the lymph system do its job better. By understanding the anatomy and function of this delicate system, your massage therapist can assist your body in clearing sluggish tissues of waste and swelling.
Though lymph vessels are found throughout the body, most of them–about 70 percent–are located just below the skin. These fragile vessels work to pick up fluids between the cell spaces when gentle pressure is applied to them from increased fluid build-up, muscle contractions, or the pressure of a therapist’s hands. By using very light pressures in a rhythmic, circular motion, a massage therapist can stimulate the lymph system to work more efficiently and help it move the lymph fluids back to the heart.
Furthermore, by freeing vessel pathways, lymphatic massage can help retrain the lymph system to work better for more long-term health benefits.
Massage therapists versed in lymphatic drainage therapy, an advanced form of lymphatic massage, can identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow and remap drainage pathways.
Who Should Get It?
Lymph massage can benefit just about everyone. If you’re feeling tired and low on energy, or if you’ve been sick and feeling like your body is fighting to get back on track, lymph massage would likely serve you well.In addition, athletes, surgical patients, fibromyaliga and chronic fatigue sufferers, as well as those wanting a fresh look may want to consider lymphatic massage. Here’s why.
After a sports injury or surgery, lymph vessels can become overwhelmed with the demand placed on them. When tissues are swollen, deep tissue techniques may actually cause damage to the lymph vessels and surrounding structures. Lymphatic massage is often the treatment of choice, because it helps the body remove proteins and waste products from the affected area and reduce the swelling. This helps reduce pressure on cells and allows them to reproduce faster to heal the body.
Surgical procedures involving lymph node removal–such as breast cancer surgery–can cause limbs to swell. Severe limb swelling needs the attention of a medical team, but in milder cases, lymphatic massage alone may be enough to prevent or even treat the swelling. It’s important that your doctor be involved in your care. Let your doctor know you’d like to see a massage therapist and make sure you have medical approval.
Lymph massage can also be part of a care program for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Because it’s so gentle, it is well tolerated by these patients, who are often experiencing sore trigger points throughout the body. And by encouraging lymph flow and removing waste products, this gentle form of bodywork can help restore immune function and improve vitality.
So, if you’re feeling a bit sluggish, experiencing mild to moderate swelling, recovering from a sports injury, or interested in optimizing your lymph system for stronger immunity, ask your massage therapist about lymphatic massage. It can have a powerful impact on your body’s ability to heal.
August 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm (Uncategorized) · Edit
YOGA & AYURVEDA HEALING RETREAT WITH ALLAIRE TIMBERS INN AND AMBIKA THERAPIES, OCT. 6, 7, 8 2012
Healing Retreat to Detoxify and Rejuvenate
Ayurvedic retreats utilize the principles of Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, to promote wellness and longevity. Ambika Therapies offers Ayurvedic treatments to assist in your self-healing, by supporting detoxification and rejuvenation on a deep cellular level. The treatments are customized for your dosha, or mind-body type, and include handmade massage oils and aromatherapy blends using pure essential oils and herbs.
Daily Yoga sessions are included, as well as two nights lodging at $139/night, breakfast daily and healthy delicious afternoon snacks.
Lodging at Allaire Timbers
Allaire Timbers offers the perfect setting to support you in a peaceful retreat, and Ambika Therapies is within walking distance from the inn. To book the weekend retreat, call Jennifer at Allaire Timbers Inn to reserve your room at 970-453-7530 and contact Erica at Ambika Therapies in Breckenridge, CO to book your treatments at 970-368-3270.
Discounted Ayurvedic Bliss Treatments
Udvartana is the Ayurvedic body scrub that uses specific herbs for cleansing and exfoliation.
There are 3 packages to choose from:
- Ayurvedic detoxification package: $195 for 2 treatments (1 per day); $100 for 1 treatment. Includes swedana (Ayurvedic steam treatment) and/or udvartana (Ayurvedic exfoliation treatment) that are performed to promote detoxification from the inside out.
- Ayurvedic rejuvenation package: $230 for 2 treatments (1 per day); $115 for 1 treatment. Includes shirodhara (Ayurvedic crown ritual) and/or abhyanaga (Ayurvedic oil massage) which are traditional rejuvenation therapies.
- Head and feet package: $160 for 2 treatments (1 per day); $75 for 1 treatment. Includes Indian head massage to relax the muscles of the head, and neck, and/or foot reflexology using our chai spice foot scrub to balance the entire body.
Swedana is the Ayurvedic steam treatment that includes an herbalized steam with a detoxifying clay mineral mask.
Visit http://www.ambika.massagetherapy.com for more information about treatments and packages.
DIY Green Beauty Workshop
Take personal care into your own hands with assistance by Erica Ragusa of Ambika Massage Therapy, who will offer a workshop
on making your own beauty and personal care products Thursday at the Fuqua
Livery Stable in Breckenridge.Participants will use aromatic essential oils, pure herbs and natural ingredients to make a cellulite-reducing sea salt body scrub, a skin
-firming body oil, a moisturizing facial oil and an anti-inflammatory facial toner. The workshop is offered through the Breckenridge Arts District. Here's what Ragusa had to say about the event:
What does the workshop entail?
We set up tables and I demonstrate the actual product making at the front of the room and pass different ingredients around for students to smell, touch and see. I talk about the uses of the ingredients and how they come together to create the finished product. For many of the formulations, students get to pick out their ingredients and make their own product.
How is it ‘green'and why is that important?
“Green” is a term that describes the manufacturing, composition and ultimately the disposal of the products made in this workshop. We manufacture them in a green way because we are doing it ourselves and that lessens our environmental impact. The ingredients are green because the chemical constituents of the ingredients are not synthetic, and a lot of times that is where allergic sensitivities arise. Often when people relate that they are allergic to a certain scent or fragrance, it is a synthetic version that is the culprit and not the real essence. Also the products are free of petroleum, which is ubiquitous in mainstream personal care products and has no healing benefit to the skin but is really an unhealthy filler ingredient. Petroleum is not biodegradable and is not able to be absorbed by our skin. It really just forms a layer over the skin — think of an oil spill —blocking pores and not allowing the skin to absorb moisture or detoxify. Finally, we think of the packaging of our products and only use those materials that are easy to recycle or reuse.
How does the workshop benefit people?
People become acquainted with natural ingredients that can be used in so many different applications to benefit them on both a medicinal and cosmetic level. People also gain an appreciation for personal care products that do not contain synthetic ingredients and become more informed about what they may be putting on their bodies every day.
What has been the reception so far?
One of my students has gone on to create her own soybean wax candle company, Breckenridge Candle Cabin, as an alternative to the synthetic chemicals found in paraffin-wax candles. I think this is a testament to the sense of personal responsibility and responsibility for the environment that is strengthened among those who attend this class.
Tell us about Ambika Therapies.
Ambika Therapies is the company I started a year-and-a-half ago. It has an office on S. Ridge Street in Breckenridge, right next to the seafood grill. It is a cozy place where we offer Ayurvedic treatments, medical massage therapy, one-on-one yoga and of course, our handmade products. All of the products are featured in our treatments, like our arnica massage oil or our rosemary-peppermint foot salve. You can learn more atwww.ambika.massagetherapy.com.
How long have you been making your own beauty & personal care products?
It has been a full-fledged part of my brand since I started the company; however it is something I have experimented with for years before creating my line. My handmade body care products are listed on my website or can be bought in my office. I also welcome special orders.
Where do you get the ingredients?
I am choosy! I like Mountain Rose Herbs and Elizabeth Van Buren Essential Oils, which are special-order companies. However, many of the ingredients can be found at Natural Grocers.
Interview by Erica Marciniec of the Summit Daily.
Yoga for Runners, Cyclists, and Anyone Who Uses Their Legs!
I recently came up with a sequence for a client who requested a one-on-one yoga session. He is an athletic individual, participating in both hockey and soccer and like many people, taking more time to exercise than to stretch. I always say in my group yoga classes that yoga is a "work-in," not a "work-out." What this means is that yoga is an individual effort and one should always pay attention to his/her own experience. Think of yoga as the yin, and traditional physical exercise (weight-lifting, sports), as the yang. There has been research showing that yoga is more beneficial when pranayama (breath control) is incorporated (JM Harrigan, 1991). Without it, yoga is just aerobics on a mat!
Here are the sequence of postures recommended to stretch the legs after a workout or sport, and remember to consult your physician before beginning a new physical practice. Try to hold each pose for 1-3 minutes, increasing as you become more flexible.
1. Start in savasana, corpse pose, and visually go over the entire body to relax any tension or holding patterns.
2. Bring the legs up into ananda balasana, happy baby pose, and gently rock low back from side to side.
3. Move comfortably into a seated position and try paschimothanasana, seated forward bend, with each leg individually and then double legs.
4. Bring one leg up at a time into rock the baby pose.
5. Bring the legs down and try baddha konasana, cobbler's or bound-ankle pose. Focus on relaxing the hips rather than on pushing down the knees.
6. Come to the hands and knees and transition into eka pada rajakapotasana, pigeon pose, then move into a downward facing dog. Come back onto your hands and knees and then repeat pigeon pose with the other leg, followed by a downward dog.
7. Walk the legs forward between the hands for uttanasana, standing forward bend. As you inhale try to stretch the spine out through the crown of the head and as you exhale try to squeeze the belly in moving the torso closer to the thighs.
8. Step one leg back so you are facing the long side of the mat, and placing a block under the midline of the body, open the legs into prasarita padothanasana, a wide leg forward bend.
9. Angle one foot out and one foot in, and using the block to rest your hands, come into parsvothanasana, pyramid pose.
10. Transition onto the mat so that it is against the wall and move into viparita karani, legs up wall pose. Place a blanket underneath your low back to support the natural curve in the spine.
11. Bring the legs back down and rest in savasana, corpse pose.
Indian Head Massage for TMJ, Headaches, and More
RELAX THE MUSCLES OF YOUR FACE AND HEAD WITH MASSAGE THERAPY
Lately several of my clients have complained of tension emanating through their neck, jaw, and scalp. They have presented with tightness through the sub-occipital region (where the neck muscles attach to the base of the skull) and also throughout the occipitofrontalis (the broad muscle that covers the scalp), and the face. There are between 30-40 muscles in the human face, depending on whether you count the muscles of mastication (chewing), and it includes in the jaw, throat, tongue, cheeks, around the mouth, around the nose, eyelids, forehead, and scalp. Facial muscles are part of the striated muscle group, just like skeletal muscles in the arms and legs, and are controlled through voluntary movement. Facial muscles are innervated by Cranial Nerve V, while muscles of mastication are innervated by Cranial Nerve VII.
Why all this discussion on facial muscles? Being that we have voluntary control over them, and they are involved in our form of expression and thus our emotion, we humans tend to hold a lot of stress in these muscles. Often without realizing it, you may be clenching your jaw or furrowing your forehead throughout the day, and over time these muscle contractions start to set in so that a tense state becomes the norm. Here is a good exercise to see if you are clenching your facial muscles right now:
Sitting or lying down comfortably, keep your breath smooth and release any gripping in your shoulders and neck. Look straight ahead. After a few seconds, imagine that you have eyes on your temples that can see out to the sides. As you breathe, try to perceive what those eyes would be seeing. Don’t pull the images toward you, just let them passively seep in. If you feel a wave of relaxation come over you with this exercise it’s likely you’re holding tension in your eyes and facial muscles all day long (Dr. Timothy McCall, Yoga as Medicine).
Constantly “gripping” or tensing your facial muscles can lead to tension headaches, temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, dizziness, and blurred vision. I have seen in my own practice that neck tension can correlate to eye tension and that tension in the shoulders often travels to the neck, jaw, head, face, and eye muscles. The most common cause of TMJ disorder is myofascial pain syndrome, and an effective treatment for it is manual therapy applications. A therapist can perform intra-oral massage, where the ligaments of the TMJ as well as trigger points in the masseter can be released. A gentle massage, involving release of the fascia (the sheath of connective tissue surrounding all structures in the body) can be effective in relaxing the muscles of the face and head. Soft tissue mobilization is effective for reducing tension in some of the larger muscles of the face, including the buccinator (trumpeter’s muscle), orbicularis orbis (puckering muscle), corrugator (frowning muscle), orbicularis oculi (muscle around the eye socket), frontalis (forehead), and temporalis (temple). Often overlooked are the muscles of the anterior neck and throat, whose hypertonicity play a role in forward head posture and can be treated through neuromuscular and deep frictioning techniques.
In my practice, I offer a treatment called “Indian Head Massage” that includes manual therapy to pressure points of the face and scalp, myofascial release for the connective tissue, soft tissue mobilization for the larger muscles, and application of simple herbs, oils, and clays to restore luster to the skin. It works on the many muscles in the face and head, and is helpful for people with tension headaches, TMJ disorder, or forward head posture.
Exercise and Recovery
Driving along the Northway on my way to the Adirondacks, my radio dial landed on NPR’s Fresh Air. We were en route to the Adirondacks to endure some 15-mile day hikes, so it was appropriate that the host was interviewing New York Times Phys Ed columnist and author of The First Twenty Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, and Live Longer, Gretchen Reynolds. What she reveals in her book may surprise you. For example, running will actually increase cartilage that your body produces, so running is actually healthy for your knees (and hips). Arthritis is no more prevalent among runners than among those who do not run. However, injuries are common among athletes, and if you have suffered an injury to your knee or hip, running will irritate the ligaments and that can lead to osteoarthritis. And what about those barefoot running shoes? Yes, running barefoot is more natural to the body, but if you have been running in heavy shoes for the past 20 years, don’t expect to start doing long-distance running in your new shoes right off the bat. That can cause an injury, because the muscles and ligaments of your leg will be used to doing one thing, while this new barefoot shoe will expect something different from them. To prevent injury, the best compromise seems to be a lighter-weight running shoe. Something that is not bulky or heavy, because that completely takes away your foot’s ability to stabilize the body. A light-weight shoe with a little support will help your feet and legs take on a more natural stride.
Can a massage help relieve muscle soreness after a workout? The jury is still out on that one; without enough conclusive evidence, we can’t say either way. However, we all know that it does feel good and there are few risks involved so there are definitely worse things you can do. Such as, taking an ibuprofen before you work out. Science shows that taking ibuprofen before exercise actually makes it harder for your muscles to adapt post-work out. Says Reynolds, “If you take ibuprofen to keep yourself from getting sore, what you are ultimately doing is increasing the chances you will get sore because your muscles are not as strong and not as well adapted.” What about stretching post-exercise? Overwhelmingly, yes! Stretching is beneficial because many injuries are caused by hypertonic (tightened) muscles. For example, plantar fasciitis is caused by the soft tissue underneath your foot, called the plantar fascia, becoming tight and shortened. This tissue is connected to the Achilles tendon, which in turn is connected to the muscles of the calf. To treat plantar fasciitis, the best thing you can do is stretch the posterior leg and the sole of the foot (as in a lunge position with your hands pressed against a wall). And getting back to massage therapy, there is conclusive evidence that massage lessens pain and prevents injury (Annals of Internal Medicine 2003 Jun 3; 138(11):898-906), because it loosens soft tissue and breaks up adhesions (aka knots), so I also recommend that clients roll a golf ball or an avocado pit under the foot to loosen the plantar fascia, or you can have a massage therapist treat the muscles of the calf and foot to prevent injury due to hypertonicity.
Swedana: Ayurvedic Steam Treatment
Swedana is one of the treatments used for purification in Ayurvedic medicine. It is popular during cleanses and is a supportive treatment to promote detoxification. In Swedana, moist heat is applied to the body through one of several means. At Ambika Healing Massage, I use a tent that encloses over a client and connects to a vent from where the steam arises. The benefits of steam therapy come from both the moisture and the heat. The heat to the body promotes sweat, which is your body’s own detoxification system. The skin is sometimes called the third kidney because of the important detoxification function it performs through the eccrine glands, which produce perspiration containing metabolic and other waste products.
In Swedana, the temperature inside the steam tent will be between 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit depending upon the client’s tolerance to heat. The heat encourages the client to sweat and release toxins, and it also brings extra blood flow to the skin and subcutaneous tissue. The increased blood supply is beneficial because it carries oxygen and nutrients, allowing skin and subcutaneous tissue to heal and regenerate. It can be helpful for skin conditions because the moisture allows pores to open and reduce built-up sebum and impurities while softening dead skin cells. The blood flow to superficial layers of the body will increase collagen production which can have an anti-aging effect and even reduce wrinkles.
As the treatment progresses, the heat will penetrate into the client’s muscles. When this happens, the muscle tissue becomes more vascular and sore muscles receive an increased flow of oxygen. The heat makes muscle tissue more pliable and relaxed, helping to increase mobility and reduce stiffness. Steam therapy is a good treatment option for people with fibromyalgia, as the heat will not cause the muscle soreness common from manual therapy but can be just as effective in reducing pain. Heat is also an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, and menstrual pain. Swedana also increases flow of lymphatic fluid which assists in relieving inflammation and edema from joints and limbs. For this reason it can be an appropriate treatment after an injury to the musculo-skeletal system to promote lymphatic drainage and cellular regeneration.
Many cultural healing traditions include steam therapy in the treatment of disease and the promotion of health and wellness. Hippocrates, called the father of modern medicine, wrote that he could cure many illnesses through creating an artificial fever in the patient. In modern medicine, it has been found that white blood cells, which are vital to the immune system, increase during an artificially induced fever. It has also been found that the moist heat benefits those who suffer from allergies or asthma. Steam therapy improves respiration by combating dryness in the respiratory system and relaxing muscles involved in breathing. In addition, I add herbs to the steam to amplify these benefits. Eucalyptus leaf and bay leaf are herbs traditionally used for their anti-viral and anti-spasmodic effects that I include in the steam therapy.
Introduction to Ayurvedic Treatments for a Spring Cleanse
In Ayurvedic medicine, there are therapeutic goals for receiving body treatments and massages. Ayurvedic treatments are considered as either tonifying or purifying to the body. In a tonification treatment, the goal is to support and strengthen the body. In a purification treatment, the goal is to reduce toxins or stagnation (ama) from the body. For the spring, I recommend purifying treatments to support a dietary cleanse or detoxification program. The spring is a natural time in our bodily rhythms for detoxification. In a detoxification program, we eat lighter and healthier foods so that our bodies do not use as much energy for digestion and assimilation. Herbs are taken to initiate a purification response from our various organs and improve their functionality. Even if you are not participating in a cleanse, you can still take advantage of the purifying treatments available today at Ambika Healing Massage.
Ayurvedic body treatments are beneficial when you are engaged in a cleanse because they induce your body to eliminate stored-up toxins. Scientific research in alternative health indicates that Ayurvedic detoxification treatments reduce levels of toxins by 50% (Source: Sept/Oct 2002 Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Vol. 8, No. 5 pp. 93-103). Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old healing system from India. The foundation of traditional Ayurveda is the belief that everything in the universe is composed of five elements: air, fire, earth, water, and ether, which intermix to form three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha that govern a person's body type, mental and emotional characteristics, and personality. In Ayurveda, we look at the human body as a unique expression of the elements found in nature. In this context, we pay attention to the seasons and subtle influences of the outside world, and by doing so, we remain in harmony with nature. Here is a brief introduction to a couple of the Ayurvedic treatments available at Ambika Healing Massage:
Udvartana is an herbal exfoliation massage that begins with skin brushing. The skin brush moves along the surface of the skin and carries lymphatic fluid towards the heart and lymph nodes, where it is purified by the body. Lymphatic fluid is a major part of your immune system and carries your white-blood cells. After the skin brushing, the body is scrubbed with a hand-made herbal paste that is appropriate for your dosha, or mind-body constitution. If you are vata-aggravated, we will use herbs that are warming and grounding. If you are pitta-aggravated, we will use herbs that are cooling. If you are kapha-aggravated, we will use herbs that are stimulating. This invigorating style of massage promotes circulation, stimulates weight loss, supports detoxification, and cleanses, exfoliates, and tones the skin. A thermal blanket is wrapped over you to allow the herbs to steep deeper into your body and be carried into the bloodstream. If coupled with Swedana, a steam tent will be lowered over your body to encourage the same effect.
Swedana is an herbal steam bath that enables you to comfortably repose on your back while a tent encloses you, leaving your head and neck out to keep cool. In this hour-long treatment, I again begin with skin brushing and then add a bentonite clay mask over the skin, which comes from naturally occurring volcanic ash sediments here in the United States. Bentonite is very unusual in the fact that once it becomes hydrated, the electrical and molecular components of the clay rapidly change and produce an "electrical charge." Its highest power lies in the ability to absorb toxins, impurities, heavy metals and other internal contaminants. Bentonite clay's structure assists it in attracting and soaking up poisons on its exterior wall and then slowly drawing them into the interior center of the clay where it is held in a sort of repository. The steam tent is then lowered over your and your body is immersed in an herbalized steam bath, while your head remains comfortably cool outside. I will add herbs that are appropriate for your dosha, such as bay leaf and eucalyptus for kapha-types, rose and peppermint for pitta-types, or ginger and cardamom for vata-types. Swedana raises your body temperature and increases the circulation of the superficial peripheral arteries and veins, bringing blood towards the skin to eliminate toxins through sweat. Because you are reclining, the moist heat is even more beneficial to your digestive organs than a normal steam sauna.
Medical Massage Therapy
This article will look at medical massage as a treatment choice for recovering from an injury, repetitive motion stress, or chronic pain. “Soft tissue pain is caused by the chemicals released from an injury; from mechanical irritation caused by cumulative stress, which causes tissue damage and a microinflammatory environment; or from emotional or psychological stress which causes hypertonic muscles, creating low oxygen and increased acids” (Thomas Hendrickson, Massage for Orthopedic Conditions). Medical massage is directed by a physician, meaning the prescribing doctor gives a diagnosis and an area in which the massage therapist must work. In this sense medical massage is not a holistic practice but rather focuses on the area of the body where the injury is present. The amount of time that may be spent on the specified area is limited to thirty minutes according to customary insurance reimbursement procedures. The prescribing health care provider will outline a treatment plan for the therapist to follow that includes the frequency of visits for the patient. Common circumstances that would warrant a prescription for massage therapy would be an auto accident or an injury sustained while on the job. Auto insurance and workers' compensation both pay for massage therapy once a prescription is obtained from a physician.
Massage therapy can be the first choice for treating a soft tissue injury after a diagnosis is made by a physician. The treatment of injuries does warrant special considerations. Within the first 24-48 hours, no manual therapy should be done except for the RICE technique to the affected area: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. After 48 hours and up until 3 weeks from the injury, gentle massage therapy and stretching may be done to prevent loss of mobility and loss of function. In this stage, connective tissue is forming so it is important to have massage done to the affected area to prevent the formation of scar tissue and to make sure the muscle fibers are aligning correctly. After 3 weeks, the muscle tissues are being remodeled after the injury and deeper pressure may be applied. Deep massage techniques help to break up any scar tissue that has developed and keep the area mobilized and healthy.
Massage therapy is specifically beneficial in restoring range of motion and preventing adhesions and scar tissue from developing. Adhesions are areas of soft tissue that are tight and constricted caused by injuries and trauma. In functional tissue the fibers are arranged in an orderly and streamlined fashion to facilitate a healthy range of motion. An adhesion is composed of fibers that are chaotic and knotted together, resulting in restricted mobility, trigger points, localized and referred pain, nerve entrapment, and postural disorders.
Medical massage utilizes manual therapy techniques including myofascial release, muscle energy technique, neuromuscular therapy, and rehabilitative stretching, all of which help to break up adhesions, promote blood and lymphatic circulation to the soft tissue, and stimulate metabolic waste removal. Myofascia is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and interconnects other muscles. Myofascial release is a type of manual therapy that effectively stretches, loosens, and unwinds the fascia so that the muscles within are restored. Muscle energy technique is a type of manual therapy that involves the patient’s voluntary contraction of the affected muscle against the resistance of the therapist. The contraction creates a pulling force that increases production of new connective tissue. Neuromuscular therapy was discussed in the previous month’s article, and involves ischemic pressure to trigger points to release adhesions in the muscle, creating a twitch response in the muscle and treating pain in the surrounding areas. Passive stretching within a patient’s limits is also beneficial for keeping a healthy range of motion. Your therapist has the discretion to choose which techniques are best for your treatment.
Medical massage can help address postural problems which are often the underlying cause of an injury; sitting for long periods of time, driving, or sleeping in a fetal position can all cause postural problems which in turn lead to muscle spasms, bulging discs, nerve impingements and other conditions. Massage therapy offers many benefits for cumulative stress injuries including improved circulation, improved sleep, less stress and anxiety, release of tight muscles, release of nerve compression or entrapment, better posture and muscle awareness, and increased flexibility. The mechanical nature of massage stimulates cellular activity and repair within connective tissue. The heat produced by massage therapy relaxes the muscle and improves lubrication of the muscle fibers and joints.
Yoga and Disability
The benefits of yoga and massage therapy are far-reaching. Yoga helps us connect our mind to what is happening in our body, through focusing on and moving with the breath. Massage therapy also promotes awareness of our body; it provides us with an opportunity to relax and release tension we may be holding. I have been fortunate to have volunteered with the BOEC, teaching adaptive yoga and giving massage therapy to clients who are living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). There are several factors to consider as a yoga instructor and massage therapist when working with individuals from these groups. Their motor functions and range of motion will be limited; there may be reduced sensation, and spasticity or rigidness in the body; there may be learning and cognitive difficulties, or emotional volatility. In my experience so far, the clients who are staying at the Griffin Lodge carry a positive outlook and have been optimistic about their yoga or massage sessions.
The adaptive yoga I teach has been done in a group setting, with clients and counselors joining in together. The counselors have been invaluable as they are able to assist clients in performing a stretch. The group environment encourages social interaction among the clients and a feeling of camaraderie. Many of them are testing their limits in the yoga class and it is helpful to have the sense of togetherness. Some clients, who are experiencing rigidity and spasticity, utilize the counselors to fully move them into a posture when they cannot do it on their own. Others, who have limited range of motion and mobility, also benefit from the counselors’ gentle support in moving deeper into a pose.
The yoga is adaptive in that the class is done while sitting in a chair or wheelchair, as is often the case. We start with the pranayama portion, which means “breath work,” and emphasize deep breathing techniques. Starting in a relaxing, mindful way sets the pace for a peaceful class rather than a vigorous one that may cause pain and strain. It is important to have bodily awareness so that we perform within our limits, while still receiving the rejuvenating benefits of yoga. We then move into a series of asanas, or “poses,” which is the stretching portion of class. We stretch the neck, the shoulders, the arms, forearms, wrists and hands in different ways. For many, this is doable albeit with some limited range of motion: straps are used to help clients get deeper into a pose. Next we stretch the muscles of the back, moving into forward bends, chest opening exercises, and spinal twists to promote movement and lubrication of the vertebrae. We stretch the legs as much as possible, doing leg lifts, hamstring stretches, and ankle rotations. If it is not possible for the clients to move their lower body on their own, we simply massage the leg, knee, and calf area. This self-massage improves blood circulation and is important in preventing complications such as decubitous ulcers. We end the class with a final relaxation, which allows the clients to rest after their exercise and gives their bodies a chance to integrate the stretching. Clients often feel calmer after a yoga class.
At the Griffin Lodge, I have given massage therapy to clients who are living with a TBI, MS, or ALS and to their partners, who are also affected by the circumstances. Giving massage therapy has been a joyful experience. These practices are restorative for the body and healing for the psyche and allow us ways to find pleasure in our selves, improving quality of life.
Massage therapy is performed for patients and their spouses, which is a healthy way for all to relieve the stress associated with living with a chronic illness. Massage therapy can be performed in a wheel chair if necessary, or clients can be helped onto a table using a body board. For clients with ALS, the heat produced by the mechanical nature of massage is therapeutic for controlling muscle spasms. For clients who have had a TBI, massage helps to maintain healthy muscle and connective tissue, as it brings blood supply and oxygen to the tissue and carries away metabolic waste, and it can be an integral part of rehabilitation. Only light effleurage or nerve stroking, which are gentle, low-pressure techniques, are done to areas where there is limited sensation. For clients with MS, massage is wonderful as a stress-management technique that can promote wellness and prolong remissions, as stress has been shown to exacerbate symptoms among some patients. Massage is indicated during subacute stages to maintain the health and mobility of tissues. Light massage, energy work, and nerve stroking are more appropriate during acute stages.
Erica Ragusa is a certified massage therapist, yoga instructor, and Ayurvedic specialist with over 1,200 hours of education. Visit her Breckenridge Massage Therapy website or contact her at 970-368-3270
Relaxing Hatha Yoga in Breckenridge
Living Breckenridge, there is a high level of athleticism displayed by its inhabitants. The mountains afford opportunities to participate in myriad of activities like mountain biking, trail running, and white-water rafting in the summer; and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. While it is healthy to be active and fit, the importance of proper relaxation cannot be overlooked. Think of relaxation as the yin to the yang of activity. Yoga teaches us that there are five points to a healthy lifestyle: proper diet, proper excercise, proper breathing, positive thinking and meditation, and proper relaxation.
The hatha yoga classes taught by Breckenridge massage therapist and yoga instructor Erica Ragusa are designed to give us the proper levels of movement, breathing, and relaxation to contribute to our health and well-being. The classes are one-hour long and start out in savasana, or corpse pose, to bring the participant into the present moment and leave behind the stresses of the day. Then, there is instruction in pranayama, or breathing techniques to increase our vitality. It is said that when we breathe deep, we live deeply; when we breathe shallow, we live shallow. Deep breathing techniques are taught along with exercises to improve lung capacity. Then, the part of the practice that is most associated with “yoga,” the asana practice, is started. We move into a series of poses while keeping an awareness of our breath, trying to synchronize our movements with our breath.
The pace of the class is slow, giving us time to really feel the movements and deepen our stretches. Participants have said that the class has allowed them the opportunity to really stretch, lengthen, and open their joints. The class concludes with a guided relaxation to facilitate total calmness and comfort. The savasana at the end is important, as it allows our bodies time to process the asanas and integrate them into our structure. Erica teaches yoga Wednesdays at 5:45pm at Carter Park, Saturdays at 9:45pm at the Rec Center, and volunteers with the BOEC as a gentle yoga instructor and massage therapist for MS, ALS, and TBI groups. Visit her Breckenridge Massage Therapy website for more information.
Green Beauty Workshop
Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body and it absorbs everything that you place on it? Did you know that mainstream beauty products are filled with industrial chemicals, like parabens and petroleum? According to the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), common beauty and body care items contain many chemicals, both natural and synthetic. The manufacturers, by and large, do not test their products for health and safety, so we do not know how much of their chemicals get into our bodies or what their risks are to us or to our environment once they get tossed. Yet the EWG estimates that consumers use about 10 personal care products containing 126 ingredients every day.
A couple of weeks ago, I held a green beauty workshop in the Breckenridge Arts District at the Fuqua stable to teach our community how they can make beauty and body care items at home, without the use of synthetic ingredients. Every item we made contained five ingredients or less, and with no preservatives.
The first item we made was a body oil in which we learned how to infuse herbs into oils. We chose to infuse our oil with dried comfrey leaf, because it is therapeutic when applied to bruises, sprains, broken bones and injuries. In one European study, an ointment made with comfrey root proved to be effective at treating both pain and swelling in 142 patients with sprained ankles. Research done in the United States has shown that one of the natural chemical constituents in comfrey, allantoin, proliferates cell growth so that wounds to connective tissue like bones, cartilage, and muscle can heal more rapidly. The body oil is effective for application over strains, sprains, bruises and muscle aches, but is not recommended for application over open wounds because the rapid cell proliferation may pose the risk of trapping microbes and toxins beneath the surface of the skin.
The second item we made was a healing first aid salve using calendula-infused oil. We learned how to turn an oil into a solid salve by adding wax. Calendula is therapeutic for cuts, abrasions, burns, minor infections to the skin, skin inflammations, and bruises. It is stimulating to the immune system so that it is effective at treating slow-healing wounds, and it is stimulating to the production of collagen at wound sites to minimize scarring. We also added tea tree oil and lavender essential oil because of their therapeutic properties. We added tea tree oil to the salve because it is anti-microbial and fungicidal. We added lavender essential oil because of its skin healing properties, its effectiveness against toxins, and its relaxing qualities. The salve makes a great addition to your first aid kit or medicine cabinet.
The third item we made was one for pampering: an aromatic foot scrub. We blended Epsom salts with a carrier oil and learned how to work with essential oils. We made the scrub using Epsom salts, but it can also be made using sea salts. Epsom salts are composed of magnesium sulfate. Magnesium may be helpful in improving blood circulation to muscles and flushing out lactic acid. Sulfates are also used by the body to flush out toxins, and can help with joint pain and headaches. The skin readily absorbs magnesium sulfate, which is why soaking in Epsom salts is a great way to receive the benefits. Sea salts contain many minerals in addition to magnesium such as iron, iodine, bromine, potassium, sodium, and calcium, and can aid the body in relieving pain from joints, inflammation, fevers, and flus. We added essential oils of rosemary and peppermint to our scrub. Rosemary promotes blood circulation and so can relieve pain from sore muscles, and peppermint has analgesic, antispasmodic, and anesthetic properties.
I will be offering another workshop through the Breckenridge Arts District on February 10th. These and other handcrafted body care products are available within my boutique. You may call me to register or to inquire about any of the natural products available in my boutique.
Understanding the Doshas for Complete Health
“In the practice of Ayuveda we try to bring people back into balance and at the same time let their true nature shine through. The two processes are really the same.”–Deepak Chopra. Ayurvedic practitioners look at each client as a unique composition of the doshas, which are distinct mind-body types. In Ayurveda, there is no separation between the two. The first dosha is vata, and it is usually the first to become imbalanced and over time will take the others with it. It is governed by air and ether and is linked to the intestines, circulation, and the heart. Characteristics of vata are coolness, movement, speed, dryness, and roughness. The second dosha is pitta. It is governed by fire and water and is linked to digestion, metabolism, and perspiration. Characteristics of pitta are heat, sweat, sharpness, and sour odors. The third dosha is kapha. It is governed by water and earth and is linked to the mucous membranes. Characteristics of kapha are heaviness, sweetness, steadiness, softness, and slowness. Everyone is a combination of the three doshas, and at the time of our birth, we are composed of a harmonious balance of all three—not necessarily an equal balance, but a combination that forms our perfect mental and physical constitution, our prakriti. Over the course of one’s life, we will shift from our prakriti, our harmonious balance of the doshas, into a disharmonious vikriti, which literally means a deviation from nature. Our doshas become imbalanced over a period of time due to some lifestyle choices: eating the wrong foods, not getting enough rest, harboring negative emotions, and enduring physical and mental strain. On the other hand, our doshas can be balanced through diet, exercise, daily routine, and seasonal routine. The Ayurvedic bliss therapies that I practice are rituals that are intended to balance a person’s vikriti and to restore harmony among the doshas.
Daily habits are the best way to keep the doshas balanced. Eating properly and getting adequate rest are good habits to maintain. When we go for long periods of time without practicing good physical, mental, and emotional habits, we accumulate toxic residue in the body that Ayurvedic practitioners call ama. The Ayurvedic bliss therapies are designed to remove the body of ama and restore the healthy flow of energy throughout the body. Abhyanga is a full-body massage done with herbalized oil according to one’s dosha that helps to flush out toxins through the lymphatic system and is good for all mind-body types. Swedana is a steam treatment that encourages the body to sweat and is good for vata-types. Shirodhara is a warm oil treatment that calms the nervous system and is good for pitta-types. Udvartana is a dry herbal scrub that stimulates circulation and is good for kapha-types. All of these treatments are used to encourage the body’s own healing process by moving toxins out through natural channels of elimination.
Health and happiness lie within balanced doshas that represent our natural mind-body state, our prakriti. It is up to us to keep our doshas balanced through our daily habits. Signs of vata imbalance include worry, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, arthritis, chapped skin, muscle spasms, IBS, menstrual pain, and lower back pain. To balance vata dosha, keep regular habits, cover up to keep your body warm, seek quiet environments, eat regular meals, get ample rest, and do a self-massage or receive abhyanga to ward off dryness. Signs of pitta imbalance include anger, hostility, irritability, criticism of yourself or others, argumentative behavior, skin inflammations and rashes, acne, heartburn, ulcers, hot flashes, and excessive thirst. To balance pitta, practice eating and drinking in moderation, seek coolness (apply cool compresses to forehead, or drink cool but not iced water), pay attention to leisure and downtime, seek exposure to natural beauty (it is traditionally recommended that pittas watch the sunset, look at the full moon, and walk beside lakes and running water—easy to do here in Summit County), decrease your intake of caffeine, and receive shirodhara with cooling coconut oil to promote relaxation. Signs of kapha imbalance include mental dullness, over-attachment, depression, physical weariness, procrastination, inability to accept change, possessiveness, oversleeping, excess mucous or phlegm, allergies, asthma, aching joints, bloating, sinus congestion, cysts and other growths. To balance kapha, seek stimulation, seek variety in life, reduce sweet foods, stay warm, avoid damp weather, exercise daily, drink warm fluids during the day, and perform a dry skin brushing (garshana) or receive udvartana to promote circulation.
Handmade in Breckenridge Bodycare Items Available at Ambika Healing Massage
New items are available for purchase at Ambika Healing Massage! I have selected what I consider to be the best in retail for medicinal herbs and tools to help you along your path. I buy from reputable suppliers, including Organic India herbal supplements, Taos Herb Company smudge sticks, and Elizabeth Van Buren Essential Oils. I offer products for immune support, detoxification, muscle healing, and much more! Please come in and check out m
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