Yin To My Yang

If you walked in my house you would probably guess that I like to keep things calm. The walls are different shades of cool muted blue complimented with taupe like accents. Very neutral and very calming for me. Some may even say its kind of Yin. The other day I woke up and decided to paint my bathroom. So I went to the store and bought some paint. I came home and painted away! When I was done I had anything but a Yin room! Bright yellow walls now warm the space where I take my hot baths! Maroon rugs and pictures accent the room while a blue shower curtain and table cool it down. I of course have lots of candles to add to the glow. I never in my life thought I would decorate with such primary colors but it works! This small space is becoming my favorite. It is the perfect Yang to my Yin. Then it dawned on me. You can’t have everything calm and neutral all the time. We need energy, we need vitality. This translates to my physical life as well. I can spa all the time if I want. I listen to calm music, lay in my hammock, get pedi’s, facials, massages. I do everything my heart can dream of to relax and sometimes it’s not enough. So what am I not doing? The one thing I’ve been putting off for almost a year now. Exercise. It’s the Yang I’ve been needing. Without it I am out of balance and all my energy drains out of me. Yes I know it has lots of health benefits but I am going to be honest for a moment. Telling me that it will keep my heart healthy, help me look trim, and increase my lung capacity is not the motivation I need to get it in gear. Knowing that it can help create a calm mind by increasing endorphins… that I like. You’ve heard me say that touch and massage can help combat depression, but exercise is an amazing way to get your mind where it needs to be. I am very mind and mood centered and fortunately for me what is good for my mind is good for my body. I’ve heard the whole ” your body is a temple” thing and I understand it. In fact I used to chant it ( not literally), while I was a Yoga instructor. But when you fall out of the habit and into the addiction of bad for you foods, motivators like that are not as effective. My entire journey on this earth has been about finding balance.. sometimes I lose site of that.

Upscale Spa’s and Small town Gems!

ahhhh!!! Spaaaaah!!!! I awoke this morning in a strange city. Fortunately I remember how I got there! My husband and I decided to take a mini vacation and we left town to visit the nearby metroplex. I scheduled a 90 minute facial at an upscale spa and arrived 20 minutes early ( I was super excited!) The experience was amazing and refreshing for my mind and body! I have found it difficult in the past to shut my mind off during a massage because I am constantly trying to find ways to improve my own massage. To make relaxation come more easily I opted for a service that I don’t normally get to indulge. The refreshing thing was that despite the price hike, I found that this spa was no more impressive than the “small town” spa where I work. There were a few touches that were a little extra but in the end I realized- a good esthetician / massage therapist is unreplaceable which means a poor one can’t be covered up by fluff. I was lucky enough to be assigned a well trained and talented esthetician that rocked my facial but there were moments where I longed for my regular estheticians touch. I will admit, I thought that by going to an upscale metroplex spa and paying 3x the normal amount I would receive a more than usually awesome facial. The lesson I learned was talented people are not defined by a price tag. It is a passion for their clients that makes them better than successful.  Also, the spa where I work (which by the way won Texoma’s Best Day Spa ( thank you Texoma) is home to some pretty amazing gems!  There were a few tips that I picked up and will be sharing with my colleagues and there were a few critiques that have served as reminders of spa etiquette that I will be keeping in the front of my mind. So if you think you have to go “upscale” to find a talented therapist, think again. Maybe drive a couple hours to a mid size town, do some research and get everything you want for 1/3 the price.  I think next time I need a mini vacation I will just spend the money at home and get 3 services for the price of one. And I know they will be amazing! A birdie told me so!

Help for Arthritis Sufferers

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is among the most common causes for disability. It is estimated to effect nearly 70 million people. Massage Therapy has been found to alleviate symptoms associated with arthritis. While it cannot cure arthritis, it can ease pain associated with it by easing compression on the joints that accompanies the disease. Several studies have found vast improvement in individuals receiving regular massage therapy versus those who did not receive treatment. Improvements include

  • Decrease in pain,
  • Decreased stiffness
  • Increased range of motion.

Massage therapy has been known to decrease levels of Cortisol, a stress hormone, while increasing endorphins. Endorphins are the bodies natural pain killers and mood enhancers. By increasing circulation and blood flow to the area around the joint, oxygen and nutrients are more easily delivered to the tissue. Massage loosens the connective tissue around the joints, easing muscle tightness and relieving pain. While I do not encourage foregoing medical treatment, I do encourage you to improve your quality of life by opting to try a supplementary treatment to be added to your daily pain management routine. A recommended regime for massage therapy would be once a week for one month, followed by a one time a month maintenance program.

How important is it?

Whew!!! Today was a long day. But fun none the less. At the spa the day before mother’s day is usually one of the busiest days of the year. This year was no exception. We have 3 new people on board, and this holiday can be quite overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. As a receptionist, it is very confusing. Between taking orders for gift certificates over the phone and checking people in and out as well as selling gift certificates to late comers ( including myself) it is hard to keep up with the other responsibilities of reception. But I must say our new receptionist AND our new manager did an amazing job! Our other new person is a very talented massage therapist that we are proud to have on our team. She has worked 14 years independently and now is coming over to the spa world. One might think that that would be an easy transition but the spa world comes with some whole new behind the scenes challenges. We have to know what room we will be in, if our client is a part of a package and who our client will be seeing next. We have to prepare the room accordingly with robes, slippers, baskets for clothes. We need to be able to time our massages accurately so that the client gets what they pay for and we have time to clean and prepare for the next one. This is usually about 3 minutes. While the client is getting dressed or undressed we must fold our laundry and sometimes we get to use the bathroom! We must know hours ahead of time whether or not the client will be getting a special service such as hot stone or raindrop technique. Their isn’t much time to do all of this but strangely enough there is room for error. You see, the spa world runs on what I call, “spa time.” This means that sometimes you run 5 to 10 minutes behind. Sometimes you forget to set up hot stones and have to compensate with something else. I usually do aromatherapy with heat compresses (not that this happens very often!) The point is that in the end it doesn’t really matter. Yes, I said it. It doesn’t really matter.

I secretly ( until just now) call myself a massage artist. Meaning I pride myself on being able to improv massage. Every massage is different. Being able to tune in and be creative is what makes each massage a unique experience. When a client goes to the spa they want to leave with an experience. And that’s what I create. I try to very techniques and mix and match modalities in order to make the experience exclusively theirs. As long as they leave happy, it doesn’t matter that you started 10 minutes late.

I often have clients who run in 5 minutes behind and apologize profusely. I just shrug my shoulders and tell them it’s no problem. If I end up having to stay 5 minutes longer today and you get to have a wonderful massage experience then I consider it a win. It’s no big deal. If my colleague is 10 minutes behind and I have the client next. Well, that’s just how it is. The whole point of the spa is to be easy going, stop stressing, and RELAX!!! Me being bothered by an occasional slip up is not going to benefit my clients and it certainly isn’t going to make my life any easier!- and let’s face it. I like life to be easy!

It is helpful however when clients do arrive on time or earlier is even better. It is ideal when we know ahead of time what kind of massage you want and it is beneficial to us if you use the restroom while you are waiting on us. But in the end. IT’S NO BIG DEAL!

Now if I can only transition “spa time” into the rest of my life! If all of us could just use the phrase “How Important Is It?” and apply it to every situation that stresses us out.. well you probably wouldn’t come see me as often! It’s important to keep the big picture in mind no matter what we are doing. If you compared your current stressor’s importance to the value of life as a whole, you’d probably just shrug your shoulders and say, ” It’s no big deal!”

Pantothe… what???

10 years ago I was in massage school. Everyday I went to school and received a massage for at least an hour, more if someone didn’t show up! The class was challenging but not overly so. I did spend a lot more time studying than I do now, but when you are learning Anatomy and Physiology there is a lot to memorize. But who can complain when you get a massage four times a week. Yet, with all that relaxation going on my body still took in the stress. I am sure my diet and otherwise “young” lifestyle did not help with my bodies ability to handle stress. Somewhere in the middle of the semester I began to complain of headaches. It felt like my jaw was constantly tense. There was an aching just on the inside of my ears all the way down to my teeth. I commented on this to my wise instructor and he suggested I go get Pantothenic Acid. He said to look for Vitamin B and read the label until I found Pantothenic Acid ( B5). The pain was so intense that I actually took his advice! I went directly to Wal-Greens and purchased a bottle. I began taking one a day and after about 3 weeks to a month my pain had disappeared. I have had to take it several times off and on over the years and it has worked every time.  So here’s why: 

Pantothenic Acid works to reduce stress levels among many things. It does this by affecting the Adrenal Cortex, which produces adrenaline, (think fight or flight.) I had found myself clinching my teeth not only during the day but at night as well. I just couldn’t relax.

I was never diagnosed with TMJ (Temporomandibular Syndrome) but I believe I had the beginnings of it. Luckily I never had to suffer like some of my clients. Not being able to chew without pain, clicking in the jaw, unable to fully open or close their mouths. – I may have had a problem not closing my mouth but I think that was entirely unrelated!

I often see clients who admit to having frequent headaches coupled with pain in their jaws. I can always hear the words of my instructor echoing in my ear. I try to pass this on to as many people as I can. It saved me a lot of sleepless nights and treacherous days.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, And Better For You.

Someone asked me the other day what they should eat after a massage. What a great question! I jokingly said, ” Gosh, I hope it’s sushi!” That is after all what I crave after massage. Turns out my stomach hasn’t led me afar. I did some research as to what kind of foods would benefit your muscles after a massage. Most everything I came up with was water, water, water!!! I am sure my clients get tired of me pushing the water on them but it is with good reason. Just like after a workout, your muscles are tired. They’ve been moved around and manipulated. They’ve been poked and prodded , stretched and rubbed. What happens is that now all of those toxins from your everyday life that have been building up and stuck in your constricted muscles are rushing out. There is also a residual build up of lactic acid that is dying to be released. The water helps your body flush these out. A bit of detoxing without the diet if you will. But there are foods that you can eat to help your body continue to detoxify as well as return protein and vitamin D to the muscles. It seemed everything else I looked at came back to fish as well as foods such as garlic and ginger. The fish is extremely high in protein. ( Sardines being one of the highest, but Tuna not far behind) I’ll take the tuna thank you! Eel happened to be very high as well. As far as detoxing goes it doesn’t get more natural than ginger and garlic. Ginger is also an anti inflammatory and can be very helpful ( if consumed on a regular basis) for arthritis. Garlic relaxes the blood vessels and can help your body deliver the nutrients it needs faster. So what do all these foods have in common? Sushi. I knew it the whole time. Not only does it have the ingredients that your body craves after a massage it is also light and won’t way you down with overly processed breads and meats. If you are in the area and looking for a great ( and peaceful) place to enjoy some sushi after your massage check out Sakura Sushi. And don’t forget to order some water! 

Love first

I learn so much from my clients. Today in particular. Today was one of those days that every client was a return clients ( I love those days!) One client in particular ( you know who you are) sauntered in today after working very hard for a number of months. She took the whole day ( or atleast most of it) and treated herself kindly. A pedicure here, the gym, tanning, all the things that make her feel good to be alive! I was inspired ( and a bit jealous 😉 ) I am always talking about taking a break but can I honestly say that I take one? Between school, work, and my spiritual activities it is hard to find time ( excuses excuses) … the truth is I have to force myself to be good to me. So tonight when my hubby left to visit a friend and I was alone in the house I decided to do what makes me feel alive! I brought out my foot spa, sat in my massaging chair , poured a glass of wine ( albeit cheap wine, because I wasn’t ready to break out the good wine from the Wine Festival on Saturday) and I began to write this. So thank you anonymous client for reminding me to heed my own words!

Today I also realized what I know is true. I can’t “fix” anything. As a therapist there is a lot of pressure to be clinical and to address physical ailments methodically. I think this is all fine and true. But there comes a point when I have done as much as I can. The rest is out of my hands. Before I go into any treatment I always pray that my higher power guide my hands and my words. When people tell me I have a “magic” touch or something similar I say thank you but really I am thanking my higher power who guides me. In my opinion, massage is a gift. It’s a gift that I enjoy giving to others but for the purpose of living I get paid for it. I understand the importance of loving touch and even what physiological effects it can have on a person. The touch of someone else raises the serotonin levels in your body. This creates a feel good feeling that can combat depression. It is reassuring and creates security in an often cruel and insecure world. As much as I love being able to treat an ailment, my first priority is a loving touch. There are a few clients who may contest that my touch is not always loving but please be assured there is love behind my elbow.

Serenity Savers

Yesterday I went into my massage sanctuary and I routinely went around the room, turning things on. The lamp by the door, the fountain in the corner…. I said the fountain in the corner. Why don’t I hear the water? What HAPPENED to my fountain!! The trickling of the water was my favorite aspect in the room. I received many compliments on it. I found it soothing and it really helped me get into the “zone.” Apparently, I forgot to turn off the fountain the night before and it burned out. I hadn’t had the fountain that long and so I doubt very many of my clients will even notice. I notice. I got to thinking about the importance of atmosphere in not only my massage sanctuary but in every aspect of my life. Adding elements to your life like  a fountain at the entrance of your home or some wind chimes outside the kitchen, maybe a plant or two ( if you have a green thumb,but if you are like me you might try fresh cut flowers!) A candle at your desk can help you stay calm. If you would like to get into the art of decorating for your sanity, try picking up a Feng Shui book. It becomes a great hobby and gives you something to direct your energy toward when everything else in your life feels out of control. If you are not the decorating type try contacting a professional. If you are looking for someone message me and I can find someone for you in the Wichita Falls Area. Until then remember, nothing is worth forsaking your serenity.

What About You? The Importance of Self Care

Sorry it’s been awhile guys! Spring time seems to bring about busyness and it is unfortunate because it is my favorite time of the year. Run, Run, Run. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. Eat. Run, Run, Sleep….. and on it goes. I remember as a child having so much free time. I spent most of my days following my mother around telling her how bored I was. What I wouldn’t give to be bored today! After awhile she would send me outside to play. I can recall finding solace in drawing in the dirt, or collecting strange leaves or rocks, picking flowers (usually weeds, but they were all flowers to me.) I would take my fishin pole down to the pond and catch fish or ride my bike through the park, discovering new trails. Today, even when I have some time, I find it hard to just simply enjoy doing something that has absolutely no purposeful outcome. You know, something fun.Oddly enough in this selfishly ego driven society we do not put much emphasis on self-care. Instead we are praised for putting our needs last and accomplishing more, usually for someone else. Self-care comes in many forms but what it boils down to is taking time to discover what brings you joy.

When we think of self care we often have a feeling of guilt and we often compensate that guilt with busying our lives up with tasks that do not bring us joy. Like somehow if we do something we hate for 8 hours it makes us a better person. Our doctors and healthcare professionals remind us to stop and relax. But what does that mean? And wouldn’t that mean that I don’t care about my family? and ironically the people who are preaching to us to relax are the very ones who need to de stress from taking care of people. ( myself included!)

I have many clients that I teach me about self care.They have committed to themselves to take 30 minutes a week or 1 hour every other week to get a massage. Contrary to popular belief, when they take that time they actually acquire more energy to take care of others.

Other ways to take care of yourself is to learn the word “No.” As a friend of mine says,” No is a complete sentence.” I don’t have to explain my reasons and I have a right to decide not to do something!

Exercise is another way to take care of yourself and if you can get over the initial dread of going to the gym or putting on your sneakers you will find that it raises your endorphins and will quickly become your stress reliever!

There are a million ways to take care of yourself. The important part is to stop feeling so guilty about it. Ideally, you would do this everyday but if you can manage to do it once a week then I call it a win! Even if it is just playing in the dirt!

Magic Potion

Lavandula Angustifolia- sounds like a spell from Harry Potter! Lavender. I can’t tell you how many times a week I use lavender for relaxation and for it’s healing benefits.

In the kitchen most people reach a band aid and Neosporin and for the tree huggers they reach for their aloe vera plant when they receive a burn or cut. But if you have a brown thumb like me you might try reaching for the Lavender oil. Your cursing and whining will cease almost immediately when the soothing oil touches your skin . Lavender is known to be used “neat” meaning without dilution. That is how I use it but other authorities on therapeutic oils would recommend it be diluted especially if you have sensitive skin.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of lavender tea before: reducing insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness. I usually start my day before a big test with a little lavender and peppermint tea. Some say that it can help with headaches including migraines. Conversely, I have experienced headaches caused by lavender in LARGE doses. Moderation is key.

I have been known to use lavender on the edge of the sheets on my bed and massage table. You can also add a few drops to your hot bath water before bed. If you are crafty, you can make sleeping masks out of a mixture of rice and dried lavender blooms. Just sew three sides of a rectangle, alternate rice and lavender blooms, then hand sew the final side.

Lavender in it’s pure form is naturally more beneficial than the synthetic forms. Buying household cleaners with the name Lavender in it may not necessarily mean you will experience any benefits. In fact synthetics are more likely to cause negative side effects. One household cleaner that I like is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products.

I have found one website for all you Texas lovers, called Texas Lavender. Check it out for unique gifts from Texas.

I haven’t tried cooking with lavender… yet. But I am open to any recipes you guys might have.