Massage in the Time of Covid-19 cont’d

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I have made the decision to close the Stairway Healing Arts studio until further notice.

While this is clearly the right thing to do, it breaks my heart. With stress levels ratcheting up daily, I want to be of continued support to all of you.

With that in mind, please know that I am continuing to offer Distance Energy Healing sessions. As you know, in addition to being a NYS licensed Massage Therapist I am also a Reiki Master and Therapeutic Touch practitioner. A Distance Energy Healing session is a beautiful and effective way to receive the support and healing you love about massage while honoring the current necessity of social distancing. You might think of it as the Massage Therapist’s form of on-line therapy. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to switch your next massage or energy healing session to a distance session, please contact me. You can also read more about it on my website under “Distance Energy Healing.”  

I’m sending love to each of you. I can’t wait to be back in the studio together. Please take good care of yourselves. 

Massage in the Time of Covid-19

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Massage Therapy and Energy Healing support good health. That’s why I love my work. It’s an honor to support your wellness and healthy lifestyle. I, too, am committed to personal wellness and enjoy robust health which has equipped me to do this work for the past twenty-five years. 

With Covid-19 on the move, I am practicing sanitation and cleansing with diligence and vigilance before, during, and after each session at Stairway Healing Arts Center. As always, I aim to thoroughly support you as we navigate this trying time, and keep us both healthy and safe. I welcome your thoughts and concerns- we will explore them together when you come for your session, or via phone, text, or email before your session if you prefer.

I love being part of your healthy lifestyle- thank you. And thank you for taking good care of yourself.  

A Little Energy Healing

 

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Photo compliment of Pinterest. 

 

Kate and I were talking a few hours after her Energy Session.

“I was drawn to your feet,” I told her, “it was unusual. I spent a lot of time holding them, and I just saw and felt this while light pulsing up through the soles of your feet and up through your body. It was beautiful and felt really powerful. I don’t know what it meant, but I’m glad I remembered to tell you about it.”

I heard her take in her breath and there were several seconds of silence.

I waited.

“That’s so cool!” she finally exclaimed. “I hurt my feet last week in tango class with my husband. They’ve been so sore ever since. I haven’t been able to dance and it even hurts to walk or just stand on them. I don’t know why I forgot to mention it to you before the session. But Mandy, since the session they haven’t hurt at all and I feel great!”

We were both pretty incredulous. Perhaps me more than her. I am constantly amazed that this work really can have that kind of concrete result; that kind of simple healing. And I just love it when it does.

Energy Healing is about moving stagnant energy within the body to facilitate health and healing-  emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health and healing. As an Energy Worker, I’m holding my hands on or just above the body. I frequently sense the energy physically- heat or tingling in my hands, a fullness in my palms perhaps, a lightening or thickening of the density of the space around an area of my client’s body. Sometimes I see things in my mind’s eye- colors, images, people, creatures, sometimes even pieces of a story. Occasionally I’ll detect an odor or scent. Other times I’ll hear something, usually a directive of sorts, gently but firmly guiding me towards what to do next. I might also feel something within my own body, usually a sense of pain or discomfort which generally indicates what’s happening in my client’s body.

Sometimes the changes and shifts are subtle, quiet, a gentle sense of release, relief, relaxation. Other times more concrete, like the easing of pain in Kate’s feet. I love this work, and I love the impact it has on people’s lives.

Body World

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There it was, standing before me, still and lifeless yet pulsing and glowing with the life energy that it once embodied. Brain, spinal cord, brachial branches spreading out across the shoulder girdle, reaching down the arms into hands. The nerves of the torso reaching and spreading across the chest, the back and abdomen.

And then Sciatic Nerve, branching off the spinal cord where it would have passed the sacrum. It was thick and strong and vital-looking, a twin on each side branching into rivulets and streams down both legs and into the feet where it touched and met with the ground.

“Hello,” I said, and the tears pulsed down my cheeks.

“Hello,” Sciatic Nerve pulsed back. Old, intimate friends meeting face to face for the first time.

We’d encountered each other many times a day for the past 20 years. Me prodding and coaxing. Sciatic Nerve sometimes yielding, allowing itself to be soothed and relieved. Sometimes not. Always there for me, waiting in its bed of muscle, blood, and bone beneath the skin’s surface.

You see, I’m a massage therapist. Working with the unseeable pains of the body is what I do. Sometimes the pain is emotional. Sometimes it’s physical. Either way, Sciatic Nerve is the source of much of it.

We have a regular conversation, Sciatic Nerve and I. Silently, in my head, and led by my hands, forearms, and fingers. We talk, cajole, and coax. An ongoing conversation. A friendship. Life-long companions.

My daughters, Marleigh and Delaney, and I had flown to Amsterdam for this experience. To experience the Body World’s Happiness Project exhibit. A six story museum in the heart of Amsterdam, my favorite city, exhibiting, well, real dead bodies. I know, it sounds weird. Crazy. Maybe gross. But these bodies, pristinely preserved and dissected into various organ systems and posed in motion and action are a work of genius and an absolute beauty to behold. To see the body from the inside out was, for me, magic.

An absolute joy.

When I see a person, I see the form of the their muscle and tissues through their clothing and through their skin. It’s not something I talk about because, not surprisingly, it tends to make people self-conscious. I also wonder at the function of their heart, their lungs, (and my own as well) as I see their chests and stomachs rise and fall with their breaths.

I am amazed each day by the wonders of our bodies: the growth of hair and nails, the blossoming of a bruise through its rainbow of colors, the healing and re-sealing of damaged skin, the coordinated movement of torso and limbs to stand, walk, run, dance; our ability to reach and grasp, to touch and feel the roughness of sandpaper, the coolness of water, the gentle warmth of a lover; I wonder at the formation of words on our tongues, our incomprehensible ability to create, comprehend and interpret language, conversation, the written word, art…

I am awed by our form and by what lies beneath our surfaces- the raw, pulsing dynamism that coordinates our existence, our movements, our thoughts, our emotions, our survival, our growth. Scientists can break this down into atoms and formulas.

But to me it’s magic and art. Beauty and wonder. Balance and harmony. When the balance is off there’s dysfunction, pain, illness, disease.

These are things I think about each day. These are the things I imagine, beneath the surface as my hands coax muscles and emotions into a healthier, relaxed place. These are the things I finally saw before my eyes in the Happiness Exhibit.

We were here as a family, celebrating our last summer together before Marleigh’s senior year of high school. It was Marleigh and Delaney’s first trip to Europe in the friendliest of towns- Amsterdam, with its shining canals, its curving cobbled streets and gingerbread architecture. Each day we wandered these lovely streets in search of an exotic lunch, the perfect pastry, Anne Frank, street musicians, a good tattoo shop, a great photo. Perpetually smiling, laughing, and loving each others’ company.

Our family of three. The pride and love I feel when I look at these two amazing young women (my daughters!) overwhelms me. And here we all were together, sharing this experience. They were as excited as I was.

I’d have loved to send a snapshot of us into the distant past. To myself when I first embarked on the trek into single-parenting. I was so scared, terrified even, alone in foreign terrain. Solely responsible for these two brilliant little girls. Could I do them justice? Could I care for them well? The snapshot would have assured me, “Yes, you can do this. Your family will flourish.”

I’ve been pulled to Amsterdam all my life, but it was this exhibit that really yanked us across the ocean and back to this wonderful town for our summer holiday.

So here I was, standing in front of the first exhibit of the Happiness Project in Amsterdam, weeping and conversing with Sciatic Nerve. I felt like Harry Potter chatting with the snake at the zoo then looking around and realizing no one else could hear the snake’s words. It was like that.

“Hello,” I said, “It’s so good to finally see you!”

“Hello,” Sciatic replied.

“Hello, hello, hello,” it echoed and pulsed.

I was filled with its vibrancy, its vitality and its life. I was awed and in love. I stood there weeping with joy simply to be in its visual presence.

I caught up with Marleigh and Delaney a little later.

“Girls,” I said, still wiping at my tears “this is going to take me a really long time. You can head back to the apartment whenever you want. I’m gong to be here a long time I think.”

“We know Mom!” they said. “We love it too. Take your time. We’ll wait for you.”

My two beauties.

They understood. They got it. I hoped for a minute that I was this patient and understanding with them when they were little. Worried that I hadn’t been. Then brushed that away and hugged them. Held them for a minute.

We took our time wandering through the six stories of the exhibit wondering at the beauty and glory and gore of our bodies, in sickness and in health. We each went at our own pace and met-up from time to time to smile, to marvel at something, to share a thought, to nod. We lingered at the gift shop, bought another book on anatomy, and took some pictures.

But before leaving the exhibit, we stole back up the stairs to revisit Sciatic Nerve and say goodbye. And then, of course, we each took our own two home with us.

I’d been back home for a couple of months and shared the story of meeting Sciatic Nerve with many friends. One friend pointed out that in a city of so many Old Masters I was gaga over an anatomy exhibit. And it’s true. Meeting Sciatic Nerve was, for me, greater even than experiencing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Then one Friday night, sitting on my couch watching a documentary on the guru Yoganandya I realized a little more deeply what my experience had been about. Yoganandya said something about our brain and spinal cord being where and how God or the Divine enter our body. And I thought, “Yes. This I know.”

Looking at Sciatic Nerve and the nervous system in Amsterdam, looking at all the exhibits of the body in fact, was for me like looking at the face of God.

How strange it feels to write that. But how simple and true and real. To me the Divine lives in our flesh and bones and echoes in and out of us through our energy. I feel it strongly. Revel in it. Wonder at it. And on that joyful afternoon in Amsterdam, I saw it for the first time. Face to Face.

Radar Hands

I received a really neat compliment the other day from Jim*, a long-term client and competitive athlete.   Every two weeks he brings a variety of  issues to the massage table for me tend to.  And because he’s a true North Eastern Man, he switches sports with the seasons, bringing a new variety of treatment issues with each season.  We joke that he likes to keep me on my toes and give me a good work out.  It’s true though.  Sometimes it’s a matter of tending to the tension and (over)use issues he mentioned in our pre-session discussion, sometimes it’s something I come across that he wasn’t even aware of yet.

On his last visit when I asked what his needs were, he took a breath to tell me then stopped and grinned.  “I’m not gonna tell you,”  he said.  “Those Radar Hands of yours will find everything.  They always do.”  And a few minutes into the session he said, “See!  I was right.  Radar Hands.  You zeroed right in on the pain.”

We had a good laugh about that.  But I liked the image.  Clients are always asking how I seem to know exactly where they’re hurting.  Like it’s some kind of magic or esoteric “knowing”.  I kind of wish that were so.  But it’s nothing nearly so romantic.  It’s really  just about having a through understanding of the musculo-skeletal system, and knowing the pathways and patterns of healthy muscle fibers.  By following those patterns, my hands can discover the inconsistencies in the system.  That’s were the problems lie that cause you pain and discomfort.  Once my hands zero in on those places of insurrection within the muscle fibers, they do the work of coaxing those fibers back into healthy alignment.  And that’s what make you feel so much better.  Radar Hands.

 

*My client anecdotes are true, but I change the name and other characteristics of my clients to ensure their privacy.

To Wear, or Not to Wear? The Undies Delimma

Yellow Heart Art via Etsy

Yellow Heart Art via Etsy

When you come in for your first therapeutic massage session, we’ll discuss many things, and you may have lots of questions for me.  One of them will likely be, “How far down do I undress?  Do I leave my underwear on?”.

My first answer is “Please undress to your level of personal comfort.”

Before I can continue, some of you will say, “Okay.  I’m good with that.”

But for some of you this is a more complicated question, so here’s the rest of the answer:

1.  Your comfort is essential.  Whether it’s the pressure I’m using, the temperature of the room, the volume of the music, or anything else, it’s vital that you feel comfortable and safe at all times.  When you feel comfortable and safe, you can relax into the work and receive the massage to your best advantage.  If keeping undies on helps you feel comfy, safe, secure, and it just feels right to you, then it’s the right thing for you to do.

2.  That said, please know that your modesty will be respected at all times thanks to proper draping techniques.  “Draping” is my use of the sheet and blankets that cover you. Proper draping enables me to respect and protect your modesty, while at the same time allowing me to access the major muscle groups of your body so that you can receive a great therapeutic massage.

3.  A quick anatomy lesson:  Our buttocks are home to lots of muscles.  You’ve probably heard of the gluteals (maximus, medius, and minimus), but there are many others.  These muscles help to keep us upright, and they help keep us moving.  So they’re key to mobility and range-of-motion issues.  They’re also key in causing and treating lower back pain.  If you’re coming in with any of these issues, it will be really helpful to have these muscles tended to.  I address them as part of your leg, because they are.  No undies helps me access these muscle groups adequately and appropriately, again and as always with the use of proper draping.

If the “undies dilemma” is a biggie for you, this information should help you make your decision more easily.  But if you have any more questions around it,  please ask me and we’ll discuss them.  The important thing is that you always feel comfortable, safe, and respected during the session so that you can receive a great therapeutic massage and that you feel better.

 

What Stands Us Up

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via Pinterest
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So on yesterday’s Anatomy Quiz I asked you to tell me how many bones are in your spine. Perhaps more importantly, I asked you to take  some time through out your day to notice your spine:  how it moves, how it feels, any discomfort, what it looks like…  I’d really like to hear your observations.  Seriously.  Please.

So the question was a bit of a tricky one, mainly because I didn’t specify an age.  A-ha!

Are you intrigued even the slightest now?  Well, in case you actually are, I’m going to tell you that when you were born you had 32-34 vertebrae (bones) in your spine.  As an adult you have 26.  Does that sound odd?  I imagine so.  Let me back up a bit.  We were all born with 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  You may have heard of them referred to as C1-7.  You have 12 thoracic (chest) vertebrae:  T1-12, and 5 lumbar (lower back) vertebrae: L1-5.  These numbers are set.  The 7 cervicals connect your torso to your cranium, the 12 thoracics each articulate with a rib (or at least the cartilage  which attaches to a rib) and literally form the backbone of the structure that houses and protects your heart and lungs, and the 5 sturdy lumbar vertebrae form the foundational base of your spine.  All those vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, curving their way up the back of your torso, with a nice disc between each one for cushioning.  Your spinal cord runs from your amazing brain and down through the center of this curvy stack of strength, and your peripheral nervous system passes through these bones and feed their way to every aspect of your body, making everything you do in life possible.

But I haven’t mentioned all the vertebrae yet.  Here are the tricky two.  I mean 10.  I mean

8…  Your sacrum and your coccyx.  When you were born, your sacrum consisted of 5 bones.   Your sacrum is that inverted triangle that articulates with your lowest lumbar vertebra (L5) and your pelvis.  You may have heard of your sacroiliac joint?  Bingo.  That’s the place where your sacrum and ilium (the upper portion of your pelvis) meet.  Sometime between age 7 and puberty these 5 lumbar vertebrae fused into one.  Same thing happened with your coccyx, also frequently referred to as your “tail bone”.  This skinny little guy started out as 3, 4, or 5 separate bones.  The number differs from person to person, though 5 is the most common number.  Like the coccyx, it fused into one as your body matured.

So as an adult, you have a curvy stack of 26 bones forming your spine.  Because of the way it’s positioned with your pelvis and your cranium, it’s what keeps you upright.  Well, that and a great number of muscles all working together.  Taking care of your spine and your back is crucial to your healthy longevity.  So please, drink plenty of water.  Why?  Because your spinal discs (those cushions between each vertebra) actually absorb water each night while you rest, and that’s really important.  Good sleep and rest each night is also important, of course.  So is getting healthy nutrients from the food you eat.  Try counting nutrients, not calories and fat in the food you eat.  Stretching is also vitally healthy for your spine.  Stretching eases and prevents tension in the musculature that supports your spine.  Range of motion is key in your spine and in all the joints of your body.  So go ahead and sign up for that yoga class.  And GO to it too.  Please.  Chiropractic care and acupuncture are healthy interventions to keep your body and your back strong and healthy.  And of course my personal favorite, (drum roll please) Massage Therapy. It’s not a luxury, it’s good health care.

Your spine is a wonderful apparatus.  At least I think so.  Maybe you know a little more about it now.  Please, take good care of it.

Anatomy Quiz #2

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Pinterest

Good Morning!  Thought we’d start the week with another Anatomy Quiz.  So here goes:

  • How many bones are in your spine?
  • Bonus:  Can you name the different regions of the spine and corresponding vertebra?  (Yes, Deb, I’m talking to you.)

If you haven’t a clue, that’s fine.  But why not just tune-in to your back today.  Notice how it moves.  Notice your back’s mobility and fluidity, or lack-there-of.  Do you have any tension or discomfort anywhere along your spine?  Where exactly?  What does it feel like?  Look at your spine in the mirror (using the double mirror thing to see behind you) or look at your partner’s spine.  What do you observe?  I’m not asking you to be critical. I just want you to get some sense of this wondrous part of your body.  I encourage you to investigate and experience your spine today.  Have fun!

And the Answer Is…

Occiput  via Pinterest en.wikipedia.org

Occiput
via Pinterest
en.wikipedia.org

For those of you who were absent for yesterday’s pop Anatomy Quiz, here’s the question:

The Occiput:  What is it? and Where does it live in your body?  Discuss.   Extra Credit for naming any muscles associated with it.

The Occiput (aka Occipital Bone) is the bone at the base of your cranium.

  • It articulates with the temporal and parietal bones of your cranium and serves to cradle, support, and protect your Amazing Brain.
  • It also articulates with your first cervical vertebra (aka C1, the Atlas Bone).
  • There’s a circular hole in the bottom of your Occiput called the Foramen Magnum (Great Hole).  Your spinal cord leaves your brain and passes through this space, then begins its journey down your spinal column.
  • Like Deb pointed out in her comment yesterday, some important muscles attach at your occiput:  Your suboccipitals, splenii, and upper trapezius are among them.  (You will not be quizzed on those names.)
  •  If you’d like a more scholarly description of the Occiput, please read Deb’s comment from yesterday.  But don’t let her scare you, she has a graduate degree in this stuff.

During your massage session, when you’re lying on your back, I’ll hold your cranium in my hands and my fingers will wrap around your occiput.   You might be surprised at the tension and discomfort you hold in this region.  But when you think about it, it makes sense.  These muscles help hold your heavy head (brain and all) up on top of your spine.  They work hard all the time stabilizing and balancing that mighty head of yours.  Muscular tension in the occipital region can be the source of (chronic) headaches.  Massage, of course, can resolve this tension and be a source of tremendous relief.

Many thanks and great job to those of you who participated in the quiz.  I LOVED your answers, both the text book and the creative.  Join me again next Monday for the next Pop Anatomy Quiz.  Don’t be shy, ALL answers are appreciated.  And there’s no right or wrong.

Your Sacred Garment

 Pinterest tinatattlez.tumbler.com

Pinterest
tinatattlez.tumbler.com

 

“The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” —Martha Graham

 

Your Body is a Sacred Garment.

It’s Your First and Last Garment;

It is What You Enter Life In

And What You Depart Life With,

And It Should Be Treated With Honor.

 

Taking care of yourself/your body is not a luxury.  It is not decadence.  It is not something you need to apologize for.  Or make excuses for.  Or put off doing.  It is completely essential.  Vital.  Treat your body with honor.  It is your sacred garment.

What will you do today to honor and take care of your sacred garment?