Archive for August, 2011

Get More from your Massage: Breathing

How would you like to learn a simple technique that will take your experience of your massage up a notch – inducing greater relaxation, stress-relief and pain relief? Breathing is the key. It’s one of the simplest things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your massage, and can be used at any time during the day to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind.

In any given moment it’s highly likely that you’re breathing shallow. Think about your breathing right now. Without changing how you’re breathing this moment, evaluate your breath. Are you breathing shallow, pulling air only a little into the lungs? Do you primarily feel your rib cage expanding and collapsing with each breath or do you feel your abdomen expand each time you breathe?

The deeper you breathe into your lungs, the more relaxation you’ll feel. Deep breathing lowers heart rate and blood pressure and elicits a relaxation response in the body. It stretches out the diaphragm, the muscle beneath your lungs that pulls down on the lungs, increasing their size and drawing air down into them.  Relaxed, deep breathing can calm the mind, center your thoughts and help you focus as well.

Deep breathing, like yawning, is contagious. While you’re sitting next to a child, a spouse or loved one, take a deep breath. Take a long time to inhale and exhale out in a very relaxed manner. Chances are the person you’re next to will take a deep breath. If it doesn’t work with one deep breath, try three or four. I use this in sessions all the time.  I don’t often verbally encourage my clients to breath. Instead, I take a deep breath while I’m working on a client, and usually, that elicits a deep breath from the client.

Deep breathing suggestions:

  1. During the inhale, try to pull the air down into the lowest part of the lungs. Expand your belly and push it out as your lungs fill with air. If it helps, place your hand on your belly and try to push it out with your breath.
  2. Pause for a few moments before you start your exhale.
  3. To exhale, open your mouth and breathe out. During the exhale, try to push all of the air out of your lungs. Bring the belly back in and keep exhaling until your lungs are empty.
  4. Wait a moment, then repeat.

If you start feeling light-headed take a break for a few minutes. If you’re in a massage, take 5-10 deep breaths several times during the session. I do this every time the therapist starts to work on a new part of the body. When she starts work on the back, I take 5 deep breaths. As she starts work on each arm, I breathe deeply again, and so on.  If you do better watching videos, I found a short, easy video on webmd:

Deep, relaxed breathing doesn’t just slow down the body, it has the potential to slow down your mind and keep you focused and centered. Most meditation and spiritual practices include focus on the breath. The power of conscious breathing – full of awareness for the present moment – can be both relaxing and refreshing.

“Advanced Breathing”

To take yourself deeper into relaxation/meditation with this exercise that combines breathing and body awareness.

  1. Take a deep breath in as before, pulling the air down into the bottom of your lungs. Check in with the muscles of your scalp, head and face. See if any feel tight, restricted or tense.
  2. Pause for a moment.
  3. On the exhale, let your muscles in your scalp and face relax. Feel the tension of your forehead, your eyes, your cheeks, your jaw all go out of your body with the exhale.
  4. Take another deep breath, this time let the tension fall away from your scalp, head, face and now the shoulders. Continue the deep breaths, slowly releasing tension as your work your way down the body. Let your arms relax, your chest, your abdomen, your pelvis, your back, your lower back, your hips, your legs and even your feet relax as you work down the body.

Deep breathing is an easy way to talk the body into relaxing. Even when you’re in the middle of a huge rush or stressful issues, a few deep breaths will make all the difference. It makes an amazing difference when used to melt into the table while getting a massage. The results can make your next massage your best one yet.

Photo credit – CCL User: AlicePopkorn

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Lessons from the Table: Do-Overs Exist

Starting Blocks at Vacant Starting Line Before Event

You can start over at 40, or 50, or 60, or even 70. You’ve taught me that we can begin again at any age. We can begin better relationships, better families, better careers, better play time. It’s not always easy, but there is more possibility than we like to admit.

It takes breaking out of habits, forming new relationships, dealing with the fear of doing things you’ve never done before. Until you try, you will have that sense of regret – of the one thing you didn’t try. Starting over sometimes means ending painful relationships, setting strict boundaries or starting a climb up the ladder from the bottom rung. It’s frightening, stressful, and above all nerve-wracking.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from you is that you can begin again. You can reinvent yourself at any age. Even if you have to start over, you can create a life you’d prefer if you take a risk, step into the fear and start something new.  In fact, it is in looking back to those moments when we initiated a “do-over” that we understand what we overcame to step into something new and begin again.


Massage Yourself: Self Lymphatic Drainage for the Legs

When I walk in crowds, or people watch at a concert, I inevitably find myself watching the way people move and what their bodies look like. In summer, when it’s hot and everyone wears shorts or skirts, I notice swelling in the legs/ankles and foot. This time of year, in the heat, many people have swollen ankles and feet, especially.

Swelling and edema in the legs can be incredibly uncomfortable and I’ve had a lot of requests for a lymphatic drainage routine for the legs. I’ve put together a video that demonstrates how to work on the legs, but there’s an important piece of information you’ll need to understand. In order to move fluid in the body, you must make space for that fluid further up the line. Because the lymphatic system is a dynamic fluid system, you need to open up areas close to the drains so that fluid can siphon up higher in the system toward the main drains. For legs, that means you must get movement in the neck and throughout the abdomen.

So, to perform this drainage technique on yourself, you’ll need to work on the neck first, then the lymphatic breathing, then abdomen/torso, and finally this leg routine. If you have severe edema, lipodema, or long-standing swelling issues from an unknown cause, you’ll want to work with your physician before trying this on yourself. Keep in mind that you will be using extremely light pressure, and very slow movements. This is light massage, but can make powerful changes throughout the body.

There are important contraindications to lymphatic drainage massage:

As with all lymphatic drainage massage, there are contraindications. While it is a light form of massage, it is very powerful and can have a broad effect on the body. Note that if you are pregnant, you can safely perform the lymphatic breathing routine, but should not perform the routine in the second abdominal video where there is manipulation of and pressing down on the abdomen.

While it doesn’t feel invasive or deep, LDM can have a profound effect on the body because of its function within the immune system and its use of the circulatory system. If you have any of these conditions or problems, consult your physician before performing this on yourself:

  1. Fever, acute infection, early onset inlammatory disease. You need to wait until the acute phase is over and the fever is broken.
  2. Circulatory system problems, especially thrombosis. If there is any risk of embolism of phlebitis, do not use LDM and see your physician immediately
  3. Cardiac issues such as heart disease, acute angina pectoris or coronary thrombosis (heart attack). Using LDM increases the fluid load on the heart, and compromised cardiac systems should not be subjected to LDM.
  4. Active bleeding, internal or external.
  5. Active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps, or tumors whose origins have not been determined by your physician.
  6. High risk pregnancy or late term pregnancy with complications

Contraindications specific to the abdominal and leg routine are abdominal aneurism or thrombosis/phlebitis.

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Self-Massage for the Calf and Lower Leg

All you basketball players, tennis players, runners, cyclists, and skaters had better bookmark this one. I’ve put together a quick self-massage routine for the lower leg that’s great for all kinds of athletes, and also people who are on their feet all day. Teachers, nurses, (ahem) massage therapists, doctors and anyone standing for long portions of the day will love how this makes your legs feet. And, if you’re in heels all day, or have to wear heels on a concrete floor (ouch), this can do wonders for your tired and aching feet and legs.

There is a critical contraindication: Do not use these techniques if you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis, blood clot) or have been diagnosed with vericose veins.

As always, check out the other videos on my site if you’d like to learn some self massage or couples massage tips.  Anyone looking for a Louisville massage can book at my website:

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Lessons: Family Members Cut Deepest

hand with tissue

There is something in the power of the immediate family. Children know exactly what words to say to bring parents to tears, and a single glance or comment from a parent can break a child’s heart. You have taught me through your stories the power of family, not just to love, but to wound. I didn’t understand the power children have – especially in their teens and twenties – to completely stymie, anger or upset their parents. A casual comment denigrating a choice or belief or an offhand comment about relationships can leave the parent scrambling for composure.

And parents, even the parents of seniors still wield tremendous power over their children. In the same way as young children do, they can make tiny comments that cut to the quick. All the worse is the change in relationship as the aging parent loses functions and mental clarity.  There is grief and sorrow in watching a parent’s decline.

I have learned to appreciate family and to navigate carefully to keep my own defenses up and to keep from inadvertently hurting anyone. Your stories of your own families have taught me both appreciation and care are necessary.

Photo Credit: CCL – user: yatzz


“Look Ma, No Hands” Massage

The unfortunate thing about self-massage is that you have to use your hands and fingers to work on yourself. When the problem area is your forearms or hands, it can be tricky to figure out a way to relieve the tension in the area without further compromising your hands and arms. But I recently started working on my own forearms in a way that minimizes the use of the hands and fingers and still feels fabulous.

I call it the “Look Ma, No Hands” Massage. I’ve been doing a lot of painting and home improvement projects lately, and use this technique to relieve pain and discomfort from the forearms. This is great for pain/tension/soreness from gardening, weeding, home improvement, painting – anything that requires fine motor movements of the hands. Because the primary muscles that move the hands and fingers reside in the forearm, work on the forearm is the easiest way to relieve pressure.

So take a peek at my latest YouTube video here and try it out. All you need is a flat surface and you can perform this technique on  yourself.


And if you still need more massage after working on yourself, come see me in Louisville for massage!

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