Does this topic seem out of place to you? I find that the average person who does not work in bodywork associates grief healing massagemassage with a range of things from treating oneself for a special occasion, to working on a chronic pain problem to achieve results, to providing therapeutic maintenance to the muscles we use daily for years and years. Many of you have probably experienced massage in one or more of these capacities, but not all of you might know the benefits of massage during grief.

Grief is broader than dealing with loss from death; it can be experienced from any significant change in which you are losing something that has been a part of you or your life, even it if is moving onward and forward to something that is “better” in your mind. This can be a change of jobs, change of residence, shifting relationships as people grow and change, move, or have children and become less available. It can be giving up certain foods once you find your body doesn’t respond well to them. And of course, the most painful of all forms of grief is losing a loved one due to death. All of us experience grief as a natural process of life; it is vitally important that we acknowledge and feel our grief, in all its painful and shameless glory, to fully let go, heal, and move forward. Pent up grief manifests itself in many ways in the body, mind and spirit, and often gets expressed with anger when bottled up for too long. Grief demands that we let it have its say one way or another; best to let it have its due as you are experiencing your loss. This will not be easy nor will it be pleasant, but it is necessary for your overall health and well being.

grief healing massage abandoned sadNow that we are experiencing grief, what next? Many people have trouble balancing life responsibilities while allowing grief to take its course. Sometimes it’s small outbursts of emotions when you can sneak them in during your own private moments – crying in the car is a great emotional outlet; I’ve used this many times after significant losses, and didn’t mind so much when I had a long commute. Allowing yourself these expressions of emotions whenever you can will help you fully feel, experience, and ultimately move through your grief.

Massage is one of those outlets too, particularly when grief or trauma is fresh. Massage teams are often in place as part ofgrief massage healing emergency response after a tragedy such as a plane crash. After the Oklahoma City bombing, the state medical examiner observed that the massage therapists were “accomplishing more in 15 minutes than psychologists could in an hour or two” (Life, Aug. 8, 1997). How can that be? The need for touch is powerful, and it is often the most immediate need that we have after tragedy or loss. It allows us to take a break from life’s responsibilities and just feel for however long we are in session. We might even cry on the table or massage chair, and that’s not only okay, it’s good; it’s healing. The space of massage is always a safe place. You can be who you are, wherever your emotional state might be that day, that hour, that minute.

Massage is still beneficial when grief is not as fresh. As you have no doubt experienced, grief takes a long time to finally be on its way, waving goodbye to you from afar and wishing you well. Grief can feel like a long winter that just doesn’t want to let go, but Spring does eventually come. As you move through grief in all its stages that seem like forever, massage is always that safe space for you to just feel and be whoever and wherever you are at the moment. It helps you feel supported so that you can continue to move forward and survive. It answers that vital need for support through touch, while at the same time allowing you to be with your emotions, your mind, and your body.

massage therapist certified cupping therapistHeidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, BCTMB, and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork specializing in Asian bodywork therapies and the Eastern healing arts. Heidi and her team of bodywork therapists, a Reiki master, and a Certified Personal Trainer, all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies and have all been trained in Eastern healing techniques and cupping therapy. Renu also offers an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas for deeper healing and detoxification after your session. For more information or to contact Heidi, please visit


facial cupping therapyCupping therapy is by far my favorite modality to work with because it is so effective and has so many applications.  If you are already familiar with cupping therapy, it is important to note that the facial cupping techniques described here will not leave discoloration on the face, because of the techniques used in this protocol.  It should also be noted that facial cupping may be done therapeutically for TMJD, Bell’s Palsy or other more significant restrictions in the fascia of the face, and these therapeutic techniques might produce the discoloration that many have experienced with cupping therapy on other parts of the body.  Our focus today is on facial cupping for rejuvenation and to reduce wrinkles and puffiness – very much like getting a facial, but with cups instead!

Facial cupping uses negative pressure with small cups to eliminate the build up of wastes and fluids in the face and neck.  With cups specifically designed for the face, the facial tissue experiences a vacuum and lifting effect, resulting in lymphatic drainage, which reduces chronic puffiness to a great degree.  Once one side of the face is completed, there is a visible difference from just one treatment – the completed side looks more lifted and has that healthy glow.  It’s a wonderfully relaxing treatment that leaves you looking and feeling great at the end of the session!

Not only are you looking and feeling great, but you are also increasing circulation, which enhances both nutrient absorption as well as absorption of any topical treatments such as essential oils.  The muscles of the face often have quite a bit of tension – how many of you have had TMJ pain or a popping jaw?  Facial cupping reduces that tension and tightness, softening those muscles and any scar tissue, and filling out lines and wrinkles as well.  Facial cupping treatments are cumulative, especially when treatments are done once or twice per week, which is recommended to achieve lasting visible results.  And beyond the health benefits, the treatment simply feels great, whether you’ve ever had any noticeable tension in your facial muscles or not.  Everybody’s skin needs a little rejuvenation from time to time.  When was the last time you treated your face to some TLC? 

Another great result is the drainage of the sinuses during facial cupping.  Anyone who experiences any inflammation, infections, or other sinus congestion would also benefit from facial cupping, while simultaneously receiving the other aesthetic and health benefits mentioned above.  Combine that with some essential oil for the sinuses at the end of the treatment, and your sinuses will thank you!  Once again, it will likely take a series of treatments to see lasting results for sinus drainage, especially if the source of the recurring sinus infections or congestion is not addressed. 

Facial cupping requires specific training and should be performed by a Certified Cupping Therapist (CCT) who has been trained in this protocol.  There is an extensive network of nerves in the face, and care must be taken when performing this service.  There are several therapists at Renu who are both trained and certified to provide this service, and we’d love to work with you to achieve your facial rejuvenation!

Heidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, BCTMB, and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork, Heidi massage bodyworker cupping therapistspecializing in Eastern bodywork therapies and the Eastern healing arts. Heidi and her team of therapists all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies and have all been trained in Eastern healing techniques and cupping therapy.  Renu offers an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas for deeper healing and detoxification after your session. For more information on cupping therapy in general, please visit

migraine treatmentBy Magdalena Shemayev, LMBT, CPT

Too much sleep, not enough sleep. Extra cup of coffee, or you skipped your second cup today. You could be in the middle of finals at school, or maybe you just finally got a break after a long week at work. Yet, no matter what, it seems like it’s time for a migraine. The neck pain starts to creep in, maybe you yawn, and maybe you start craving sugar. You get nauseous, the pain creeps behind one eye, and all you can think about is crawling to a dark room and trying to sleep it off.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to stop pain once it begins than it is to prevent it. A better approach lies in identifying as many migraine triggers as possible, and controlling the ones you can.

Migraine triggers are highly individual, but there are common themes. According to a large study, the most common trigger is weather, followed closely by stress and not enough sleep. For those who have dealt with migraines — many of us for our whole lives — some triggers are obvious and predictable (no, thanks, I’ll pass on the white wine!), while others are elusive and fickle. Maybe some days you can handle that extra cup of coffee, and other days, a few sips and you can feel the throbbing start. What gives?

This is where the concept of a trigger threshold is useful. A tool used to describe how and why certain combinations lead to that telltale pain, being able to identify and whittle away at your own trigger threshold is an invaluable tool for the migraineur.

Imagine a cup that, when filled, means you get a migraine. Some things add a few drops, like spending too many hours at your computer or forgetting your sunglasses on a long walk. Some things fill the cup halfway, like a glass of white wine or sleeping on your neck wrong.

What matters most is how full the cup already is. Say you skipped a meal — that’s a third of your glass. Unfortunately, you skipped that meal because you slept badly (another quarter, let’s say), and you tossed and turned so much you wrenched your neck (another quarter). Now your glass is five sixths full, so while your coworker wearing cologne isn’t usually an issue, BAM, the glass is full and now it’s migraine time.

Some triggers are controllable. Avoiding certain foods, for example, is a relatively easy solution, or sticking to two cups of coffee a day. Other triggers are completely outside our control, like the weather or whether a coworker piles on the cologne for a hot date. A lot of triggers can be controlled to an extent with regular massage to reduce stress, eating regularly and not skipping meals, stretching for muscle tension, etc. In particular, stress and physical tension reduction can go a long way toward preventing a migraine, or if one has already started, making the pain and symptoms more bearable.

One of the most common symptoms of migraines — more common even than nausea or the migraine aura itself in some studies — is neck pain. For many, neck pain is the final drop in their migraine cup, or perhaps the first symptom of the migraine itself. Many common prescription migraine medications, such as the triptans (Imitrex, Amerge, etc.) can cause muscle cramps and tension, which don’t feel great even if your head starts to feel better. Massage can help relieve the tension before and during a migraine, and regular bodywork can help reduce your overall stress levels and prevent the physical tension patterns from taking hold as easily.

Most importantly, find what combination works for you. The key is to control as many triggers and symptoms as possible so that when the uncontrollable happens, your cup isn’t already full. Many find it hard to tell what facets of their migraines are triggers and precede the migraine, or make up the migraine itself. By regularly emptying your migraine cup, or keeping the amount in it low, you can reduce your levels of pain and help prevent a migraine before it starts.

massage bodywork therapist certified personal trainer

Magdalena Shemayev is a licensed massage therapist and certified personal trainer at Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork. She specializes in working with clients with chronic pain conditions, such as migraines or TMJ. Her goal in any session is to give the body and mind a safe space to find itself again, in order to facilitate relaxation and healing. You can contact her through her business Facebook ( or schedule an appointment with her through Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork

References: “Common Triggers.”

“Neck Pain.”

Kathy Reiki Master crystal bowl therapy SedonaTime to stock up on that zinc and a tree! Wait, WHAT? Cold season is just around the corner whether we want it or not and, according to Dr. Oz, larch can help in the prevention of them. “A new study found that larch can help reduce the number of colds by 23%,” he writes. A separate study by the National Institute of Health backed up the findings. And, while the manner in which you take it wasn’t explicit, the fact that taking it reduces your chances, was.

There are a number of other steps one can take to strengthen your immunity. Some of those include the use of nettle, meditation and regular Reiki sessions. Why Stinging Nettle? Nettle and nettle seeds and their properties are curative acting as a tonic, astringent and antiseptic among other benefits. Its seeds, when soaked in wine overnight (see recipe below), can reduce fever and flus, and tone and strengthen capillary tissues to name a few rewards. It also helps support the adrenals, reduces hypertension and helps prevent the common cold. A simple recipe of nettle tea, infused for approximately 10-15 minutes will assist you on your way to health and healing.

Once you’ve settled down with a hot cup of nettle tea, try some meditation. Om’ing your way into blissfulness has been proven to reduce stress, which helps to strengthen your immune system. But you don’t need to sit on a pillow with crossed legs to meditate. Simply finding a quiet place and listening to white noise or, meditation music will help boost antibodies. “A recent study,” Deepak Chopra, M.D., writes, “…confirmed that, after being given weekly meditation training for 8 weeks, 48 biotech workers had significantly higher levels of antibodies than the control group (coworkers who didn’t meditate) as well as higher levels than before the study.”

You can also try a walking meditation: Head out on your favorite trail; walk in cadence with the chant: “Sa-ta-na-ma” as you swing your arms and touch your thumbs on both hands to each of the four fingers (you can chant silently if there are people around. Or not!) This multiple activity may balance out the brain allowing one to take the focus off of Self and find an inner connection with something greater. 

Meditation also stimulates immune functions within the brain. When you meditate, your brain “lights up” in the prefrontal cortex, the right hippocampus and, the right anterior insula. All three of these areas directly correlate to the command center for your immune system allowing it function more effectively.

Adding Reiki treatments, whether on yourself or receiving from another person, can only assist in further strengthening your body’s immune system functions. Reiki gets to the “root” of physical illnesses by clearing out energetic blockages created within the body. These areas, if unchecked overtime, begin to build-up, which in turn creates physical warning signs: a sore neck, an irritated throat, twitching in the foot. The state of relaxation one can attain while receiving Reiki is similar to that of mediation. While in this state, the practitioner can then work on those areas of the body that contain this stuck energy. This allows those energy blocks to loosen and release.

Overtime, your whole body begins to function like the well-oiled machine it is supposed to be – keeping you healthy and free from illnesses.  As with any type of bodywork, drinking plenty of water before and after will assist in the release of toxins and blockages. These suggestions, along with advice from your doctor and a regular exercise routine, can bring a body back into tip-top health.  So, drink, zen and Reiki your way back to health before cold season sets in!

Nettle Wine

From Wise Woman Herbal by Susun Weed.

1 Tablespoon/15mil nettle seeds

1 glass wine

Soak seeds in the wine overnight. Strain seeds then warm and sweeten if desired and sip throughout the day. Note: If you are taking any medications, please check with your doctor first before taking herbal remedies or drinking alcohol as these can interfere with medications effectiveness.

Kathy Bryant owns and operates White Lotus Healing, a Reiki centered wholistic healing business based in Madison. She ensures whole-body focus as part of her practice and incorporates herbology and acupressure into the client sessions as appropriate or, upon request. To set up a session go to her website at  or, contact her through Renu Massage, Energy and Bodywork at .



Weed, Susun. Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise. 1989. Ash Tree Publishing. Woodstock, NY

Oz, Ahmet. Dr. Oz’s 14 Natural Immunity Boosters. Oct. 2013. 

Riede. L., et al. Larch arabinogalactan effects on reducing incidence of upper respiratory infections. Epub Jan 2013.  National Institute of Health; US National Library of Medicine. 

Sarich, Christina. 29 Nettle Tea Benefits: Sipping On Nettle Tea For Better Health.  July 29, 2013.  

Reiki AcupressureAcupressure for Insomnia

By Kathy Bryant

As a long time advocate for cures to insomnia (read: the positive side of “suffering from”), I have tried a lot of different sleep remedies. White pills, yellow pills, blue pills (they’ll really put you in LaLa Land), exercising before bed, positive imaging, mantras, different sleep positions, going to bed and waking up at the same time, etc. All of them had their benefits and drawbacks, but I was not able to stick with any until now. Applying a few simple and quick acupressure points before bed has me knocked out until my alarm goes off — a sweet and welcome respite from many, many sleepless nights.

Acupressure, for those of you who haven’t tried it, is an ancient Chinese healing method where you place pressure on certain points of your body to release the qi, or energy, that has been built up or blocked. It provides a wonderfully easy and simple way to relieve many ailments like stress, pain, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and lowered immunity among others. Here you will learn a few points for insomnia and some other techniques to help you relax into a deep and restful sleep.

There are several points to focus on for insomnia. The first two we will be looking at are called, “Joyful Sleep” and “Calm Sleep.” The point for joyful sleep is located on the inside of your leg just below the ankle (about a pinky finger’s width). Find the dip and place light to moderate pressure there with your thumb. An alternative to holding this point is to press three times then draw tiny circles three times, repeat two more times (total of three). Do whatever feels best to you.

“Calm Sleep” is found on the outside of the leg also just below the ankle. To find this one, rest your shin on top of your opposite knee, then reach down with your hand and rest your thumb on the joyful sleep point. Wrap your hand around the back of your heel. Next, let your other fingers fall naturally on the outside ankle. Your middle or pointer finger should fall exactly where the calm sleep point is (whichever falls “naturally” just below your ankle). Don’t worry about getting this exactly right. Just have the intent that it will work. Hold these two points for about two minutes.

Another important pressure point is the one that is in the corner of each eye to the side of the nose. This point is called “Eyes Bright.” Lightly place a finger there on each side of your nose and press up toward your brow. Hold this point for a minute. The last point we will focus on is called, “Mastoid Process,” located in the hollow behind the ear. If you take your hand and lay it on your head with your palm covering your cheek/touching your nose, then let your pointer finger naturally fall just under the lobe and behind the ear. It will lay about where the dip is. This point is especially good for insomnia created by stress and tension. Hold for a minute, then relax.

After you’ve held these four points, take a deep breath. Imagine yourself getting tired, open your mouth up and yawn, take another deep breath, and fake another yawn. Stretch your arms, your legs, roll your eyes in circles and then crisscross to the left and right (eye “stretches”), fake another yawn (are you starting to feel sleepy?). Doing these few points and steps is a great way to put you into relaxation mode.

Still don’t feel sleepy after trying this? You may need to look at other things you are doing. Things like eating habits, how you handle stress, your thought patterns and whether or not you’re taking medications can all affect how sensitive you are to acupressure and energy changes in your body in general. Practicing these tips will help change that and provide you with many benefits, the least of which are a good night’s sleep!

Kathy Bryant practices acupressure and is a Reiki Master Teacher. She owns and operates White Lotus Healing, a whole body-based healing business, out of her home and contracts with Renu Massage, Energy and Body Work part time. 

References: AcuTouch Facial course. Cheri Haines.

“Insomnia and Sleep Disorders Acupressure Points and Tips.” Michael Gach Reed, Ph.D.

Heidi massage bodyworker cupping therapistI am a person who likes an organized schedule. Not that I don’t love my free time, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always been really good at coordinating my many activities so that I get to actually both have and enjoy that free time. In high school I was the only one I knew who was going to movies during finals week since I had already prepped for my exams in advance. I have an aptitude for coordinating employee schedules at work and really love that feeling when everything fits together and just works. But life doesn’t always go that way! The best laid plans don’t always pan out. And sometimes a lot of curve balls come at the same time.

There has been a recurring theme in my life of learning to live with uncertainty and even some chaos. I’ve always been one to have a lot of balls up in the air and for the most part, they do their part and stay their course. Then at one point, the universe had something completely different in mind for the direction my life was to take; all at once my life was turned upside down. Pretty much everything close to me was about to change, and I had to learn how to be OK. And man, was becoming OK a long journey. But I eventually got there and was not only OK, but actually grateful for the events that prompted my new direction, which I would have missed out on if my path hadn’t been completely reshaped. And I was feeling really proud of myself for having come out on the other side.

It’s as if I thought I was done learning this lesson (even though I really do know better), so recently as I’ve been in another set of several uncertain circumstances all at the same time, it really threw me for a loop — again!  And these circumstances really pale in comparison to the life-altering ones that happened over a decade ago. It’s so interesting to me how complacent and comfortable that I can get in feeling so secure with how things have been that I completely miss the bigger messages that it might be time to make some changes. And thus changes get made for me.

So here I go out of my comfort zone again. And though I know in my heart that all will work out fine and will very likely be better than now, it’s still just a rough emotional road for me when these times resurface. And there seems to be no shortcutting the process that my mind and spirit need to go through to get to that point where I am actually comfortable with the uncertainty, and eventually that comfort comes. And instead of feeling the satisfaction of having my planning and organization come together, I have a deeper satisfaction of both knowing that nothing is truly set in stone or secure, and yet I am still better than OK with whatever may present itself along this wonderfully interesting journey of life.

Heidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, NCBMTB, and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork specializing in Eastern bodywork therapies and the Eastern healing arts. Heidi and her team of bodywork therapists, a Reiki master, and a Certified Personal Trainer, all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies and have all been trained in Eastern healing techniques and cupping therapy. Renu also offers an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas for deeper healing and detoxification after your session. 

Massage bodyworkI meet a fair amount of people who think of massage and bodywork as a luxury, something to treat oneself to on special occasions. While it is a true massage, feels wonderful and is a great way to celebrate, it seems these people are missing out on a huge opportunity to improve their overall daily health. When people like this come into my practice, I can usually see lots of benefits to regular bodywork that they would experience if they allowed themselves to take care of their bodies. And even if they agree it’s a good idea to do it more often, we won’t see them again for months.

Self-care is important — it is not a luxury at all! We all know to put on our own oxygen mask first in the very unlikely event that our airplane loses cabin pressure, but not all of us know how to take care of our own body, mind and soul. Massage and bodywork address all three of those, and it feels good too! Granted, sometimes bodywork doesn’t feel great if we have super tight or knotted areas, or areas that have been causing pain in the body for some time. Sometimes it does need to feel worse before it feels better. But that doesn’t mean that massage feels wonderful but has no benefits; it absolutely does. We depend on and expect our bodies to carry us from one activity to the next, and we often have such expectations without giving it the appropriate care. It’s no wonder so many people have aches and pains, since bodies are contracting during exercise and fast-paced living, yet not very often getting stretched, soothed, or returned to their elongated state filled with wonderful oxygen. So even an average Jane or Joe who has no complaints can benefit greatly from massage.

Some physical issues can be resolved quickly and efficiently with bodywork, but others are more complex and deeper within. Those in this category often know they need bodywork to address an issue, and they expect if they just keep showing up to regular massage appointments then their issues will magically be resolved without any effort on their part. While massage or other bodywork is a great and appropriate thing to do for a great many chronic conditions, it is only part of the equation and only goes so far. The recipient bears the responsibility to fill that gap and to partner with the therapist to really see some fantastic results. Filling the gap can be done with emotional or spiritual healing, or even by changing some regular habits that are creating the pattern we are trying to change. The bodyworker gets an hour with someone every few weeks, and those habits get a significant more amount of time.

Personally, I have found that true healing is multilayered. Pain in the body can be as simple as surface level, but chronic issues usually have an emotional, energetic and spiritual component. Each person on the journey of healing needs to seek healing on all these layers. And very importantly, communicate with the therapist before, during and after sessions about what is working and not working, what is being felt and experienced, or anything else that feels relevant. A therapist can often read signals the body gives, but a therapist can never know what a client is thinking, feeling or wanting without being told. The more input a therapist receives, the more efficient that therapy session will be.

Whether you are looking to massage and bodywork for relaxation, to heal an old injury or provide relief from chronic pain that affects your daily activities, it is vital that you see your relationship with your therapist as a partnership. Your therapist needs your input to get to the core of the issues that you want to resolve. Together, you can journey through the path of healing to the other side.

Reiki Acupressure CranialAs a bodyworker and certified cupping therapist, I am familiar with chronic pain. I’ve also experienced a significant amount of chronic pain personally over the years, which has led me to the work I do. Since becoming a therapist, I’ve been slowly unraveling what has built up in me all these years, including injuries, internalized stress, and the resulting emotional connections to those things. I learned in studying the body that emotions stay in our tissues, associated with the originating event that caused trauma or stress, until it is released through various forms of bodywork that I have been trained in. What I didn’t fully realize was how helpful Reiki can be in moving that process along and clearing up energetic blockages that keep the body in its same patterns of chronic pain.

I’ve worked with multiple chiropractors and physical therapists over the years, and I’ve had regular massage for the last decade both to keep my back pain in check and also because I can see the positive changes it has made for the rest of my body. After a herniated disc and all the melodrama associated with that for a good portion of a year, I have worked diligently and consistently to get my movement back so I can do the activities I so enjoy. Yet that chronic stiffness and pain still linger — even after my sacrum is back where it’s supposed to be, and the surrounding low back tissue feels soft and movable like it’s supposed to. There doesn’t seem to be any physical cause for the pain and stiffness that lingers and resurfaces from time to time. My current chiropractor suggested Reiki or another type of energy work as the next step. I had not considered this! I have two Reiki practitioners at my business, and my acupuncturist also does Reiki along with other energetic and spiritual work. It was high time I gave it a try.

I’ve been seeing one of the practitioners who works with me, and I was amazed how much I felt during the first session. Reiki works with your chakras and your energetic forces to help bring balance and healing on an energetic and spiritual level. I could literally feel energy move through my body, and my practitioner could see and feel various things happening on an energetic level as well. (Some practitioners are gifted with that, and I am fortunate to be working with one!) I have felt like I am purging deep emotions that have been buried a long time, and I am feeling lighter, more energetic, and yes, my back pain and stiffness are improving. I am going to stick with this a while. Stay tuned for another article after I feel the journey is complete! I knew several of my chakras needed work, but I am pleasantly surprised to find yet another layer of healing that can happen with the types of chronic pain issues I see so frequently with massage clients.

The body is a wondrous and complex system; we truly need to heal not just the body, but also the mind and the spirit if we want to experience complete and full healing. If there has been any physical or emotional trauma that has resulted in any kind of chronic pain over the years and you are ready to let it go, perhaps Reiki is something that can help. I’ve been very much enjoying the beginning of my journey and am so happy I was directed that way.

chakra stonesWe live in a world where being connected via texts, email, and social media is not just common but expected.  We have to set boundaries and limits from our phones if we want some true alone time.  “Disconnecting” is now something we yearn for just to have a little respite, even for the extraverts out there who thrive on social activity.  How do we find balance for ourselves?

Yin and yang are two fundamentally opposite energies, yang representing the energetic and ethereal, and yin the restful and solidified.  Many of us live our lives responding to so many inputs that we have too much yang and are neglecting the balance of yin, which ends up depleting our reserves.  Sleep is the most obvious casualty, but we also need to cultivate more yin time in our waking hours. 

Being so easily connected is a double-edged sword. I, for one, was very hesitant to start getting emails on my phone when I got my first Blackberry (back in the day when I worked as a CPA).  But I found it did actually help me take care of things more efficiently and timely, and emails didn’t pile up so much, which was quite nice.  The problem was the boundary setting, and recognizing that it’s not only ok, but it’s important and necessary to have some true “off time” every day.  We are in an “always on” mode far too often, and it’s taking a toll on us.  Many of us don’t realize how sleep deprived we actually are, and even our vacations can be high paced and energized, with not much rest time before jumping back into work. 

Does this resonate?  I love my technology, and I love the freedom it gives me.  It’s been a slow road for me to learn how to use that technology to set boundaries and limits so I can have some regular yin time in my daily life.  Using the do not disturb or sleep time is a great tool, and disconnecting work email accounts during times you are “off” is also very important.  Emails can be checked when you are back “on” again; there is no need to see them as soon as they arrive in your inbox.  It’s all about balance. 

Keeping technology at bay is only one part of the solution.  We also need better self care habits to truly sustain a good balance of yin and yang in our lives.  Especially in winter, when we tend to go into hibernation mode, we need to let our bodies get extra sleep and rest if it wants that, whether that be in the form of naps, going to bed earlier, or allowing ourselves the freedom to sleep late if we can. 

But just more sleep and turning off email is still not enough; we also need to incorporate regular activities that allow our minds and bodies to relax during waking hours – they need nurturing too.  This can be done with exercise, yoga, meditation, massage & bodywork, taking time to enjoy nature or animals, or any combination of these.  I love my Dance Mixx classes that I teach, but that’s also a high energy activity which needs some yin balance.  My personal favorite yin activity is getting massage and energy work, which is also so important for your muscles and fascia.  I had incorporated regular massage into my life long before I decided to make bodywork a career choice, because I saw the direct benefits to my body.  Now I also see the benefits to my mind. 

We recently entered into a new Chinese year, going from one that was particularly frenetic to one that is more nurturing and yin-based.  It’s been an active goal of mine to be more balanced in life and work, rest and play, and this year is the perfect time to fully implement this goal.  I think we can all use more yin in our daily routines, and I think balance is achievable, using the technology tools we all have at our disposal.  We just have to choose to let ourselves rest, believing that rest is just as important as our productive times.

manual medical massage - releasing the fascia

manual medical massage – releasing the fascia

Chronic pain seems to be so prevalent these days. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Sometimes the pain goes away on its own, other times it lingers and becomes a chronic condition (defined as persisting for 12 weeks or longer), and many people have to deal with chronic pain for years (the author included!).

While there are many potential causes of the initial pain, it often can become a chronic condition because of the fascial restrictions that result from the injury. What is fascia? Fascia is the connective tissue in your body beneath the skin that attaches and stabilizes muscles and internal organs. There are several layers of fascia, which include your muscular and visceral tissues. It looks like a spider’s web or a sweater, and it is a continuous structure throughout your body, so everything is connected! 

Restrictions can occur in fascia from every day activities and the regular stressors we all experience, which usually are easily worked out with exercise, stretching, yoga and regular bodywork. All of these provide a very healthy maintenance system for your musculoskeletal system, and we all probably need to take better care of our bodies. Restrictions will definitely occur after any kind of trauma or injury, and these are the kinds of restrictions that your fascial system tends to hold on to in an effort to guard against repeated injury. This is especially common with low back pain — there could be nothing structurally wrong in a low back, but tightness in the surrounding muscles or fascia will result in chronic pain anyway. It takes time to retrain the fascial system to not behave defensively and let the body return to its normal activities; it’s as if your fascia has a memory of the injuring trauma and goes into protective mode. Then it likes to stay in that mode. Protective mode tends to mean tightness and being “on guard,” which then promotes more adhesions or other restrictions in the tissue, which limits blood flow and oxygen, which results in pain.

What can help? Our muscles and most of our fascia are retrainable, which is great news! For chronic pain, it is important to work through the muscles and other fascia to release the adhesions and retrain those tissues. Exercises and stretching can be very helpful too, if you consult with a physical therapist or a personal trainer with experience in the issues you are experiencing. And of course if anything structural is a problem, then a chiropractor visit would be in order. But before seeing all kinds of specialists, often it’s enough to just get some regular massage and bodywork from a licensed massage or bodyworker therapist. This can be enough to alleviate the restrictions and let the muscles both get to know and also embrace a new normal. Sometimes the fascial restrictions can also contribute to a structural misalignment because the muscles are so used to being in an incorrect position, and they prefer to stay how they are. So before you see that chiropractor, do your body a favor and get a massage first!