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.

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.

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.

Check In With Your Pen

You might be thinking, what does journaling have to do with massage? I feel like from the perspective of self improvement that they go hand in hand. Or pen in hand if you will. Most , if not every, massage practitioner will emphasize the importance of the mind body connection. We understand that achieving a high quality of life means balancing the physical, mental , and the emotional. Sometimes getting a massage can help you release your mental chatter so that you can  gather your thoughts and write with purpose.

So you’re thinking, “I don’t have time.” or “I don’t want to write about my feelings, that’s for pansies.” Well, Pansies have to go through a lot of dirt before they can bloom. So let’s get dirty. Writing about your current thoughts and reflections about the past can be helpful in processing events, painful or not. When you put something into writing, we immediately feel like it’s permanent. Like we can’t erase it. So use a pencil. You have a right to change your mind about any perception or idea that you have. You can always revise your journal. I personally keep mine for reflection to see how much I’ve grown or to see where I might be making the same mistakes. Other’s destroy their writing. This can be a significant symbol of being free from the past and can help you to let go of old ideas that are no longer useful. My friend recently posted on her blog a beautiful picture with a captivating caption about this very same idea, take a look.

So you don’t want to journal about the past. You have self actualized and no longer need to stare backwards. That’s great! Journaling can be even more beneficial when you write about the future! I often write about goals that I have as if they have all ready happened. This helps me to visualize what it would feel like to succeed! It is a great inspiration.

Journaling about the present can also help you keep life in perspective. You might think that nothing in your life is exciting enough to write about. I dare  you to try to find something funny or bazaar everyday and just write that down. I used to practice this in place of a Gratitude List ( also a helpful journaling subject). My favorite funny moment, I was waiting for the bus and there was a man having a sneezing fit. There was also a train in the distance and every time he sneezed the whistle on the train would blow loudly.  The vision of this man’s sneeze was for some reason hilarious to me.  This may seem like a simple memory but finding humor in everyday life will bring you joy. It does me!

Maybe you’re into a different kind of journal. One that combines the physical with the mental and emotional. Try a food or exercise journal. Write down what foods you eat and then record how they make you feel. Or you may try writing how many reps you’ve done who how far you’ve run, then record how you feel as compared to the day before.

The importance of documenting our life and our thoughts is almost a way for us to validate that we exist and the events we’ve experienced really happened. It’ s a way to check in and make sure we are on the right path.

Many people have given me beautiful journals over the years, but I always come back to the same kind. A spiral notebook. As Paul Simon would say, “find a quiet place, use a humble pen. ”