Is there any time of year more obsessed with health habits than the New Year? Even spring bikini season panic doesn’t reach this level of hype. Everywhere you go, someone is trying to get you to try a class, a supplement, a shake, a piece of equipment, a diet, a lifestyle… and it can be exhausting trying to figure out what’s real and what’s a load of hooey. It’s perfectly normal to look forward to a fresh start in January (or not!), but here’s a little guidance on whether to put money down on that hot new habit after the holidays.
Does it promise quick fixes?
If whatever you’re thinking of trying *SWEARS* you’ll get the desired result in no time at all—you can be pretty sure you’re entering into scam territory. The human body is based on homeostasis. It can change, and it does, but most of those changes occur over time. There’s a reason why most things that cause fast changes in the body (like surgery and drugs) require a physician to administer them; they can be dangerous if not used carefully. If you’ve been out of shape for five years, don’t expect to get back in shape in five weeks. That’s just not how the body works.
Does it promise a panacea?
There are diets that can help you lose weight. There are exercise routines that can help you gain muscle and strength. There are massages that can help you relax and manage your stress levels. (Might want to get on that one soon!) But if someone is selling One Amazing Thing that will evaporate your fat, increase your happiness, straighten your posture, whiten your teeth, cure your cancer, and send your sex drive through the roof? You can be pretty sure it’s not worth your money. Don’t pay a Magical Thinking Tax for exaggerated claims.
Does it rely on conspiracy theories for marketing?
Conspiracies can be fun to read about, but if the main selling point is that “doctors hate it” or “Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about this,” it’s probably not the best addition to your life. Why? Because you and your physician (and your dentist, your massage therapist, your counselor, your personal trainer, your nutritionist…) are part of your health and wellness team. If any one of them refuses to be a team player, they’re not doing what’s best for you. When the Magic Cure’s only big selling point is how much someone else hates it… definitely not cool. If you haven’t heard much else about said Magic Cure, it’s probably not because your health team is trying desperately to hide it from you. It’s much more likely that it just doesn’t work at all. I recommend researching it further, or asking those members of your wellness team what their thoughts on it REALLY are.
Does it fit your life, your budget, your goals, and your understanding of reality?
If yes, then this is something worth looking into, whether it’s a gym membership, a cookbook of heart-healthy meals, or a habit tracking app. Ultimately, we try things out and see how they work for us over the long haul. Not everything will be a perfect fit, but at least we can weed out some of the resolutionist marketing malarkey and move forward with our best efforts into the new year.
Reiki has been steadily growing in public awareness in recent years. Chances are, you’ve at least heard the term, or seen it and wondered how to pronounce it (Ray-Key). In a nutshell, Reiki is a simple, safe method of natural healing and self-care that anyone can learn to use.
Where Did Reiki Come From?
While some form Reiki or energy healing itself has been practiced for centuries, this particular method of “laying on hands” for stress reduction, relaxation, and promoting healing was discovered by Mikao Usui after a spiritual experience on Mt. Kurama in Japan in 1922. He first practiced this healing method on family and friends, eventually developing into a system that became known as “Usui Reiki Healing Method”. A decade later, Reiki made its way to the West via Hawaii with the help of Mrs. Hawayo Takata.
What Does Reiki Mean?
The name Reiki comes from two Japanese Kanji, Rei and Ki. Rei is generally defined as meaning “universal” and representing body, mind and spirit. Ki is life energy, and you’ll find similar concepts throughout the world, such as chi, prana, qi, or ti. It is the non-physical energy that animates all living things. Therefore, Reiki can be generally translated to “universal life force”.
How Does Reiki Work?
Individuals who use Reiki are channeling, or provides a conduit for, this universal life force. Unlike most types of energy healing, Reiki is considered to be an energy that can only be channeled by someone who has been attuned to it. In the simplest sense, an attunement means that adjustments are made on a spiritual consciousness (Rei) level that enable the student to channel Reiki. Once you have received an attunement, it’s as simple as placing your hands on yourself or others with the intention of healing. Life energy (Ki) flows through the body in energy pathways, through organs, and around us in an energy field (aura). When this energy flow is slowed or blocked, it can cause a decreased functioning in the organs or systems of the body and lead to illness. During a Reiki session, the universal consciousness (Rei) assesses where the energy flow is slowed or blocked, and the energy is directed to where it is needed, breaking up blockages, clearing the energy pathways, and allowing Ki to flow naturally.
How is Reiki Used?
Reiki is a powerful, yet gentle healing method. Because its source is that of spiritual or universal consciousness, it is believed that this spiritual consciousness always knows what a person needs and will adjust the healing for each individual person. As a result, it can be complementary to other forms of treatment, including medical and psychological care. Reiki is offered to patients in hospitals across the country as part of hospital or clinic sponsored programs, or as part of hospice care. This includes the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where it is offered to both inpatient and outpatient oncology patients as part of their whole patient integrative care process. Locally, our own Eastern Maine Medical Center has a volunteer Reiki program that is available to patients in all of their inpatient departments and the outpatient Cancer Care of Maine location. Studies have shown that Reiki can decrease recovery time from surgery, improve patient attitude, and reduce unwanted medication side effects. A research study in 2000 at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut indicated that Reiki improved sleep, reduced pain, and reduced nausea, as well as reducing anxiety during pregnancy. It has been used to aid in healing everything from colds to cancer.
Who Can Learn Reiki?
Anyone can learn Reiki. You don’t need any particular education level or spiritual belief system to use it. It doesn’t even take years of practice to be able to use it successfully. Once a student receives the attunement, they have Reiki and can use it. Many massage therapists are introduced to Reiki as part of their massage licensing training, and elect to continue providing Reiki as part of their massage practice. Nurses, healthcare aides, and hospice care volunteers often learn Reiki to help their patients during the course of their regular care. Everyday people can learn to use it to benefit aging parents, family members suffering from illness, or just as part of their regular self-care routine.
Want to Learn More?
I’m offering a special for the month of July! “Try Reiki” – You can try a half an hour Reiki healing session for $20. Just contact me to schedule your appointment or book online at MassageBook and choose “Try Reiki”. If you would like to learn even more and receive your Reiki attunement, stay tuned for Reiki I and II classes coming soon. You can receive information about when Reiki classes will be held by following Birch Tree Wellness on Facebook or signing up for the monthly newsletter. If you would just like to ask some questions about Reiki, you’re always welcome to contact me.
Sometimes maybe you feel a little bit off, and you’re not quite sure if massage is what you need, or Reiki, or something completely different. During an Intuitive Bodywork session, I will combine elements of massage, stretches, aromatherapy, Reiki, and other energy work, depending upon what it feels like you need intuitively.
How Does It Work?
At the beginning of your appointment, we’ll talk a little bit about what trouble you’re having. It can be mind, body, or spirit. Then you’ll hop on the massage table, undressed to your level of comfort, and covered with a sheet and/or blanket. During your session, I’ll start with Reiki at your head and move down your body, using my intuition to determine if you need some energy in a particular area, or maybe your neck needs to stretch, or you need some massage work on your shoulders and back, or foot reflexology. Once the session is finished, I’ll leave the room and give you a few minutes to collect yourself and get off the table. Before you leave, we can talk a bit about what I did, what things I might have picked up intuitively, and how you’re feeling.
What’s Intuitive About It?
I define intuition as that “knowing” or “gut feeling” when you perceive or know something without necessarily having a rational reason for it. Examples might be when your phone rings and you know who is calling without looking at caller ID; or you might have the urge to call someone and you find out they are having a bad day. Intuition can be practiced and developed, used to help guide yourself and others in day to day life. I’ve spent many years helping people on an intuitive level, with energy work and spiritual guidance, as well as helping people learn to recognize and use their intuition. I feel that mixing intuition in with benefits of massage, reiki and bodywork is a natural progression into helping people heal themselves on a body, mind, and spirit level. If you would like to give Intuitive Bodywork a try, just contact me or schedule an appointment online today! ~Tricia
As people’s lives become more and more hectic, stress becomes an increasing presence and increasing risk to our health. Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades. According to one study, 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their co-workers need such help.
How Does Stress Affect Us?
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health without you even realizing it. When the body is stressed, muscles tense up reflexively, the body’s way of guarding against injury or pain, part of the fight or flight response. During sudden stress, muscles tense, then relax as soon as the stress has passed. During chronic stress, the muscles are in a nearly constant state of guardedness. Over time, with chronic stress, the body can fail to return to pre-stress conditions and cause long term strain and health problems. When tense for long periods of time, this can lead to other stress reactions or stress related disorders. For example, tension and migraine headaches can be associated with chronic muscle tension in the head, neck and shoulders. Some research theorizes that chronic muscle tension and the related buildup of lactic acid may be a contributing factor to fibromyalgia. Stress and anxiety can affect sleep patterns and increase the risk of health problems associated with not enough sleep, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
It’s not necessarily what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other body systems that becomes the problem. Stress triggers the nervous system’s fight or flight response. The body shifts all of its resources towards fending off the threat or fleeing it. The adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, respiratory rate, decrease blood flow to the arms and legs, change digestion, increase blood sugar levels, and increase the heart rate, raising blood pressure. When our bodies don’t get the chance to recover from stress, we continue to wear down our systems with the continuous production and effects of these hormones. Physically, chronic stress and anxiety have a tendency to cause us to hunch our shoulders or roll them forward in a protective posture, leading to continually tight/shortened muscles of the neck and shoulders. Frowning, clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth causes more muscles in your face, neck and jaw to become tight and painful. Muscles that do the opposite action of these muscles, antagonists, then tend to get overly stretched/lengthened and develop “knots”/adhesions, leading to more neck, back and shoulder pain.
Massage can help!
Massage can counter the effects of stress in a number of ways. The primary type of massage I provide is called Swedish Massage. This is a relaxing style of massage with long, flowing strokes that helps to relieve pain and muscle tension. It also increases the circulation of blood and lymph and aids in the removal of metabolic wastes from your body, including the byproducts of the nervous system’s stress response. Physically, massage helps by lengthening and relaxing those tense, irritable muscles. Relieving tension in the muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and face can reduce the occurrence of headaches and migraines. Relaxing and lengthening those shortened muscles in turn relieves the overstretching and knotting of those antagonist muscles, reducing back, neck and shoulder pain. Decreased buildup of lactic acid may also contribute to a decrease in chronic pain and related disorders. It increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can help reduce anxiety and depression and improve overall mood. Decreased anxiety and stress, along with less pain, improves your sleep. In addition, one hour of massage has a similar effect on your body as three hours of restorative sleep, and stopping the the cycle of chronic stress stops the flood of stress hormones, lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and improving circulation and digestion.
Other things help!
Another service that makes a great addition or alternative to massage is Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction, relaxation, and healing based on the idea that a life force energy flows through us. If this energy is low or blocked, then we are more likely to feel stressed or ill. When the energy flow is increased and the blockages removed, we feel more positive and healthy. A Reiki treatment helps to identify and remove the blockages and improve our energy flow. A treatment is given fully clothed, most often while laying on a massage table. It can also be given while seated, or sent from a distance. Even if you do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of life force energy, the act of receiving a Reiki treatment can be very comforting and soothing – if for no other reason than you’re actually taking time to be still and receive positive intent and attention.
To enhance the benefits of a massage or reiki session, aromatherapy may also be included. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants. These oils have been used for centuries for therapeutic purposes, as well as for cosmetic, spiritual, and hygienic uses. Researchers are not entirely certain how aromatherapy works, but some believe that when the smell receptors in the nose communicate with the amygdala and hippocampus, the molecules of the essential oils stimulate these parts of the brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, scientists believe that lavender stimulates activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way of some sedative medications.
Some essential oils that can help with stress and anxiety:
Lavender: Antidepressant, calming, rejuvenating, good for stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, increased immunity Rosemary: Good for headaches, mental fatigue, memory, antispasmodic. Rosemary is great for having in a diffuser while studying, to help you retain what you’re learning! Clary Sage: Antidepressant, anti-anxiety, uplifting. Sandalwood: Antidepressant, good for nervous tension, stress, anxiety, depression. Sandalwood trees have been over harvested and the oil is expensive, but you don’t need to use much more than a drop at a time to experience it. Ylang-Ylang: Antidepressant, sedative, euphoric, calming, hypotensive (reduce blood pressure), (also believed to be an aphrodisiac, if you’re interested) You can keep a bottle of your favorite oil or blend of oils on hand to just take a sniff whenever you need a pick me up. You can put a few drops into an aromatherapy diffuser, or wear it in a specially designed necklace. They can be added to carrier oils such as grapeseed, almond, or olive oil or natural lotions to apply to the skin. When I use essential oils during a massage, I will either use them in a diffuser to lightly scent the room, or put them into your massage lotion, depending on the desired effect. So, this is all to say, ideally we should do what we can to avoid stress in the first place, but chances are everyone here has experienced stress more than they should. I am here to help, whether you want a good old fashioned relaxation massage, a more therapeutic massage to work out particular problem areas, or you would like to try adding reiki or essential oils to your stress therapy.