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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Family Spa Day

This year marks my 18th year as a therapeutic massage therapist, and throughout this time I have had the distinct honor and pleasure of working with thousands of clients in many different environments:  spas, corporate board rooms, in-home, and in private offices.

Certainly one of the best things about my work is the feedback I often get that I "make people feel better".  Hearing that is a wonderful bonus but what my clients may not realize is that, quite often, the energetic exchange is mutual.  In other words, when I have a client who is very receptive to my work, takes it in, and allows it to change her somehow, there is something similar happening for me within my own internal world.

While I am helping another person to unwind their tension, the tension within my own system begins to unwind as well!  It is a delightful part of the work that only other therapists can really understand.

There has never been a better example of this mutually healing dynamic than I have with a mother-daughter team who have been bringing me into their home now for over a year on a monthly basis for what has become known as, "Family Spa Day".

On Saturday, I showed up at their house and everything was set up just the way we like it:  a couple of extra blankets on the couch in case it gets chilly, two cups of water set out with a candle lit, and a great station playing on internet radio.

The mom was first to receive yesterday, and it was so much fun to work with her as she had a terrible break in her wrist last winter, and it is healing so well!!!  I am very proud of her progress.  There is really nothing more satisfying to me as a massage therapist than for someone with a severe injury to trust me enough to work with it.   It is the greatest privilege of all!!!  She went into a deep, quiet place throughout our two-hour massage.

Working with her daughter has always been very special, and our session yesterday was no exception.  She is one of the rare people who see colors and auras, and during our sessions she often has multi-dimensional information showing up.  Something about her deep receptivity always seems to allow for me to witness or transform something within my own physical/energetic dimensions.

I feel like I grow as a person just spending time with these two ladies, and after our sessions yesterday, they booked Family Spa Day for the next 4 months!!!  I left their house feeling so blessed and full and rich and beyond grateful.

The truth is I burst into tears as I drove away.  It is just so rewarding when you see your skills, experience, training, and heart-work met with so much enthusiasm and gratitude, and to be compensated well and to be asked back again and again.

I cried out of gratitude, out of sheer heart-opening and love for these two women, and for the beauty of the path I have walked now for 18 years, the path of providing therapeutic touch to human beings, and some non-human animals as well including horses, dogs, cats, (and one very lucky coyote -- a story for another time).

Happy Valentine's Day all!  May you receive the best massage of your lives (your therapist will thank you for it!!)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Where do you feel it? School shootings

I don't know if anyone's noticed.....but it seems like we might have an epidemic of violence breaking out in schools throughout the country.

The phenomenon is deeply disturbing and one that deserves a great deal of attention in our national discourse.

I have a lot of ideas about what I think is helping to create the conditions for these acts of terror.

But what I'm interested in right now is this:

Where does this live in your body?

Where does it live in mine?

All of us are having to process the information, digest the information if you will, to absorb the information into our brains.  But where does it go from there?

Unfortunately I don't believe that it just disappears into thin air.

I believe that this information that is part of our collective consciousness is being interwoven into our very cells!  It is irrefutably a part of our collective and our personal experiences, and yet, where can we go to discuss the impact of this information on our systems?  Where can we go to release the shock of these reports?

Make no mistake:  school shootings are causing a shock to our systems on some level, certainly some people are more sensitive to it than others.

For example, one thing it is doing to our systems is making us numb.  It's a great way to deal with shock!  Very clever design.  Of course when intense things happen, it's a survival instinct to go numb, to go into automatic, to "get busy".

But when events of this nature begin to become common occurrence, is it a good sign we don't feel it as intensely as the first one, or the second one......or the third?

How can we pay attention to the news these days and not go either numb or completely crazy?

Reflections for our times.  There are no easy answers.

But I encourage us to look for ways to support each other to stay more present, to stay more embodied, through these types of events, in which we are all collectively unwitting participants.

Therapeutic touch is a great way to manage this type of stress and I would particularly seek out a Cranio-sacral therapist (I am not certified although I know some of the theory and points).  Cranio-sacral works directly on the nervous system and has a very calming effect on the body over-all.

How do you manage these types of events in your life?  Do you talk about it with people?  Do you feel like you hold this type of stress shock in a particular part of your body?  I look forward to reading your comments below.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Parkinson's and therapeutic touch

Today I am seeing a woman for the second time at my new office in El Cerrito.  (Ojas yoga Studio, 707 El Cerrito Plaza -- above Trader Joe's).  

She's in her mid-50's and she's in great shape.  She has a solid community around her and it seems like she has decent insurance and a good relationship with her doctor.  I was one of the first people in her life that she told: she had just been diagnosed with Parkinson's.

I've worked with one other person with Parkinson's before.  That person had pretty advanced tremors at the time that we started our session.  But when we finished the session, the tremors had completely calmed down.

The effect of therapeutic touch on the nervous system cannot be emphasized enough.

People so often come in and think that they need "deep work".  They assume that if their muscles are sore then they need someone to "dig in".

The truth is, a lot of muscular tension is related to anxiety, stress, and emotional holding patterns.  These issues can often times be better served by addressing the nervous system, not the muscles.....

During my first session with the client I will be seeing later today, she had only very slight tremors to begin with, but they did seem to calm down during our session as well.   I hope to see that they have not gotten any worse!

Based on my research at, I will be recommending that she make sure she is taking plenty of B12, which helps maintain a good and healthy nervous system, I will make sure she is taking digestive enzymes or a good probiotic, to strengthen digestion, and finally, I am going to recommend that she take as many antioxidants as possible, as they are proven to fight free radicals and keep cells healthy longer.

Do you or any one you know have Parkinson's?  I would be interested to hear their story and whether they have found therapeutic touch to be a beneficial part of their treatment program.

Motor function -- you forget that it's there until the moment it's gone.........

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Foot Pain: A Window into the Soul

The foot is a miracle of architecture” ~ Leonardo DaVinci

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop over at Loka Yoga in Oakland, run by the wonderful Alice Jouneau.  The workshop focused entirely on the foot, primarily how to move through life without pain in the feet.

Often times it is assumed that getting older must be accompanied by a tendency toward stiffness and achiness in the joints.  But with Alice’s assistance, I feel pretty excited about the future of life with my feet.  

I’ll be honest with you:  they’ve been really hurting me lately.

That’s why I begged her to let me into the workshop after it had already been closed.  My feet have been very sore, and particularly when i get up from having been sitting, for a few years now, and usually alternating locations from one foot to the other or from one part of the foot to another.

For me I have pain around the lateral metatarsals alternating on both feet.  Someone jumped on my left foot one time while dancing, both of us were barefoot, and this person jumped on me while skipping around a room -- quite accidentally of course!  But it left a lasting impression on my nervous system, on my muscles, and on my bones there.

I had it x-rayed, and no visible breakage had occurred, so that’s good.  But it just sometimes aches a great deal and so what I’ve come to realize is that -- these injuries, these incidents, these moments in time in which our bodies are demanded to respond to  pain - to recover - to heal -- these “moments” in the body, if you will, become lasting teachers on how to make a come-back!  They become the intersections of time, history, and awareness, and they seem to know a great deal about us.

Pain points in the body are chalk-full of information about how we respond to pain, how we can choose to ignore pain, how we exacerbate pain, how we manage pain, how we adapt.  

I find it to be the case often times in my work that people will say to me, “Oh my right shoulder is killing me”, but then when we get into working together we find that actually the LEFT side was the one that was holding more tension.   In those times I wonder if the pain signals are meant to be some sort of an echo calling to the other side of the body to wake up, across the canyon of bone and nerve and blood and memory all the way over to the other side of a person’s torso where everything is trained in the opposite direction, and calling, “wake up! wake up!”

The pain sings the song of imbalance.  It tells the story of  discord, it harkens the way.  It tells us exactly what is happening.  We just need to understand how to respond!

A lot of pain in the body is caused exclusively from imbalance in the habits of posture and use.  When we can correct the habits the pain almost always goes away.  

To learn how to feel better, how to allow the pain to guide us into healthier habits of usage, we must pay attention.  We must adhere to the message we are being given, that there is an imbalance somewhere that must be addressed.  Whatever it is, just trust that it can be corrected.   Get interested in that area.  Go to a yoga class, to a physical therapist, to a massage therapist, and get input on how to respond to the pain.  Do what they tell you, trial and error, find the ones that work best for you, start feeling less pain, celebrate the joy of proper movement with alignment and balance, and move forward through time without the hindrance of pain!!!!  

In Alice Juneau’s workshop, I finally got the kind of information that has this kind of lasting impact.  How to properly walk and bear weight on one’s feet is surely one of the most basic ways to avoid pain in the body.

The feet are carrying us through time and they really do have the miraculous architecture Leonardo DaVinci proclaimed!!!

Understanding the flexibility inherent to the structure of the foot, how much movement is available within the body of the foot that most people have lost over years and years of inactivity.  

Try this exercise:  close your eyes and slowly begin to pick up and put down each of your toes one by one without moving any other toes.

There are a few people out there who can do this right away and bravo!!!  if you’re one of them.  

MOST PEOPLE won’t be able to do this and that’s ok.  It’s just a wonderful thing to know that your feet have as much dexterity as your hands do, and when you begin articulating more of their capacity, and when you activate their potential, they start to feel better.  The workshop was 2 days ago and I’m already having more success with this exercise......just think after 50 more years!

The beauty of the workshop was that I felt an awakening within the many, many joints within the foot, I felt the space returning, and since then have also been practicing conscious walking, applying the lessons I learned from the workshop, and giving more attention to the way in which I am using my feet.

Also, as always happens, whenever I have a new awakening of awareness within my own body, it shows up in my work as a massage therapist where suddenly I have more insights into how to help other folks with their bodies!  So now I’m extra interested in working with people’s feet .

Amazing!  Feet are just simply amazing.  There are 26 bones in there!!  Get interested in them.  They will thank you for it......

Thursday, September 5, 2013

the sky is falling!

Back in January, 2010, there was a huge earthquake which shook the city of Port au Prince, Haiti, in such a violent fashion that hundreds of poorly-constructed concrete buildings crumbled in an instant, crushing people, trapping others, injuring more, and sending the country into deeper chaos.

This is not news to anyone, but for me, it seemed like that earthquake shook my very soul.

At that time I had traveled twice to Haiti and had many friends living and working there.  That morning I had spent time on a phone call with a very close friend who was struggling with some work concerns, and so my mind was already in Haiti.

When I heard about the earthquake, it seemed like time stood still.  And, for me, here in my body, in my mind, and in my spirit, it took about a year before everything started to flow again.

I was beside myself.  I could not think about anything else.  Literally, I could not think about anything else besides the country of Haiti, my friends in Haiti, the disaster relief that was not getting to people, a country already on its knees getting hit over the head by this earthquake.

I was holding my breath all the time, I felt confused by my priorities.  Breathe for myself, or worry about Haiti seemed like my only choices.

It was a terribly unhealthy response and I learned a great deal about myself through the process.

I know it is cliche, but they say to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping any children when flying on an airplane.  I know that in order to be present to "help" anyone or to be of any use at all, I need to be of sound mind, I need to be relatively healthy and strong, I need to be vibrant and capable.

The earthquake of Haiti helped me to see that I am quick to set aside my own needs when faced with disaster, and slowly now more than 3 years later I am learning to allow myself to prioritize my own health over everything else there is to worry about in the world -- if only so that I can be more prepared to respond to it!

Currently our country is on the verge of bombing Syria.  I don't have a close personal friend living in Syria right now, but that doesn't diminish the reality that millions of people do.

When things happen that seem out of our control, what is the best way to take care of ourselves?

I learned that it was ok to have a nice hot bath, even though *most people in the world* will never be offered that privilege.  I learned that it is ok for me to enjoy a good laugh and a home-cooked meal, even though *most people in the world* struggle to feed their families on a daily basis.

These insights might seem elementary to some of my readers, but for me, it has been a big turning point in my self-care.  Many of my friends and colleagues are on the front-lines of resistance against the war machine, are putting their time, money, and resources toward environmental recovery, are giving their life-force toward making the world a safer place for people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientations.

How can we best care for ourselves in the midst of these huge global concerns?  

I know many folks don't pay attention for exactly this reason -- it's too exhausting to pay attention!  It's too depressing.  It's too overwhelming.

To pay attention and to stay healthy at the same time is my objective and my desire, and why I am launching my new business, Expand Community Wellness.

Stay tuned for more and let me know how you take care of yourself when the world throws you a curve ball in the comments below.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Therapeutic Touch

Yesterday I had a client pull me aside after her 50-minute massage and ask me, "Can you explain to me what it is that you are doing?"

She had come to see me 2 weeks prior, and had been very anxious going into the massage, because she had a spasm and didn't want it to be aggravated by the session.   I completely understand that, as this very thing has happened to me!  I understood that she was feeling guarded -- a bit nervous that she would get re-injured.

But I actually really love working with traumatized tissue, parts of the body that are upset, injured, angry, hurting.   There is a way that I believe the tissue wants to be acknowledged.  It wants to be seen and heard, just like the rest of us.  I guess you could say my work essentially affects the nervous system as well as the breath and the body mind.  But I do not do cranio-sacral, nor do I officially do Reiki, nor do I do trigger-point, nor do I do any particular tradition exclusively.  I do my own unique blend of these and many other types of work -- as do all of my colleagues in the biz!   It's a great line of work for creative folks, as there a gazillion different ways to approach working with the human body.

I actually call my work, "nurturing deep-tissue" (and by "deep" I don't necessarily mean working deeply into the body of the muscle.  In some situations very light touch can have a very deep impact!), and the session worked great for my client, as she came back two weeks later and pulled me aside to ask where my work is coming from.  She has received a lot of massages, and was just genuinely curious about my work. 

I work very, very slowly.  It is not for everyone.  The way I look at it, there is so much information in every little tiny "moment" in the body.  Every single part of us knows our story, knows our history, knows our fears, and knows our lessons.  The last joint on my right index finger is going to have a unique set of information as compared to - say -- my jaw or the top of the trapesius or my left ankle.  If I move too fast, I don't get to find out what that joint on the right index finger might have to say!  It can help me understand what's going on with the elbow, and with the shoulder -- with my client.

For me, therapeutic touch is a huge privilege.  My very first teacher, Johanna Putnoi, taught me to hold a space of unconditional regard for my clients.  Coming to the table for me is a humbling experience.   No matter what, living in a body is complicated!  We have sooooo many choices about how to hold ourselves, what to do with our heads, our hips, our feet.  We are constantly straining our bodies -- most of us -- all the time -- just walking around!  We have developed terrible habits based on many different factors cultural, familial, injury-related, etc.    Now add to that the normal stresses of life, job loss, birth, death, financial pressures, depression, disease.   Hopefully my clients come away feeling a little more ready to face it all..........

I'd be curious of my readers who receives regular bodywork and if you find it to be supportive of your healing process!  Comment below.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vitamin D

This past spring I had the pleasure of working the USANA booth at the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament in Palm Springs.  It was hot and humid and the tennis was awesome.  It was fun to get to see the game close up and to meet and talk to the sports fans in person about their health.

USANA is the official supplier of vitamins for the tennis players, as professional athletes have to be extra careful what supplements they take.  Athletes were testing positive for banned substances just from taking their over-the-counter vitamins!!  Pro athletes have lost their trophies and their ability to compete from taking these vitamins.

What this means is that most vitamins are full of fillers and banned substances.  The companies can get away with it because nobody is testing them.

This sad reality became abundantly clear when I started talking to a woman who is dealing with breast cancer.  Her doctor has told her she is deficient in Vitamin D, as most folks are, but every time she tried a vitamin D supplement, she would have a terrible break out.

Understandably she assumed it was a reaction to the vitamin D itself, but we suggested that she may actually be having a reaction to the fillers instead!  She agreed to try USANA's Vitamin D to test our theory.

Sure enough, after a couple of weeks i followed up with her and to her amazement, she was not having the breakouts!!  She was surprised but I was not. I hear stories like this *all the time*.

Do you know if you are getting enough Vitamin D?  Do you know if you can trust your vitamins?

If there is no "potency guarantee" on the label, or if your vitamins are from a regular store or even a health food store, there is an almost guarantee that what is on the label is not in each pill inside.

But don't take my word for it!  Check out the Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, put out by the Canadian government.  It is a comprehensive analysis done every few years and provides a rating from 0-5, 0 being lowest of the low, 5 being highest.

The vitamins that get a zero rating are just a waste of your money.  If you love to flush money down the toilet, then keep taking them!   There are 4 companies that have gotten the highest rating every year since this guide has come out.