Tag Archives: Massage

5 Ways to Look and Feel Better Than You Did in High School!

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort - MauritiusIt’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re in our teens we can get away with bad habits because we have that natural, youthful energy anyway. As we get older, we find that energy is a commodity that we prize and need to be more diligent in our self-care so that we have plenty of it!

Luckily for us, Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” has some easy guidelines we can follow to look and feel healthier, sexier, and more energetic than we did in high school!

Here are 5 tips from Ayurveda on how to look and feel better:

1. Know your body type.

THEN: In high school you probably coveted the body types of the women in Charlie’s Angels, or wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. Now we know better! YOU are the best you, don’t try to be someone else.

NOW: Know your body type – Are you Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. This way you know what “normal” is for you. That way you don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Every dosha is beautiful! Be your best self.

2. Eat for energy.

THEN: In high school you probably lived on pizza and leftovers, and ran through the drive-through after school.

NOW: Eat energizing foods. Fresh vegetables should constitute 40% of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fiber, so should be eaten often. Raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance purity, pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.

A date-milk energy shake is a nourishing way to end the day because it promotes sleep and calms both Pitta and Vata sleep imbalances.

Date-Milk Energy Shake

  • 4-5 whole dates
  • 1 cup whole organic milk (may substitute soy or rice or almond milk)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.

By the way, the warm frothy milk can also be used as a face mask – wonderfully hydrating and leaves the skin super soft!

Herbs and spices are your friends! Cumin helps digestion, freshly crushed black pepper helps you assimilate food better, cilantro cools and nutmeg soothes. There are spice blends, or CHURNAS, specifically to pacify each dosha – you can buy them ready made or make them at home.

Also, avoid energy-draining foods. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods, or foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives, are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content. They actually drain the body of energy. If you do have some of these foods and feel heavy afterwards, drink half a glass of warm water with ¼ of a lime squeezed into it.

3. Keep skincare simple.

THEN: In high school, you probably spent a ton of money on grooming products, soaps, perfumes, lotions, hairspray.

NOW: Keep it simple. Nourish the body with natural oils. Abhyanga is a daily self massage which is good for keeping all the doshas in balance. It helps moisturize the skin, helps to release toxins, helps to tone the muscles, and it soothes the nerves. Sesame oil is usually recommended in general and is very good for Vatas specifically. Almond oil is also good for Vata. Coconut and sunflower both work well for Pitta. Corn and olive oils are beneficial for balancing Kapha.

The massage can be done in the morning before your shower, or in the evening before bed. Start by warming the oil to skin temperature, and drizzle a small amount of oil into the palms of your hands. Massage the top of your scalp (on days when you wash your hair), pay particular attention to the circumference of your ears, and the soles of your feet. Massage with long strokes on your limbs, and round strokes on your joints. It’s best to leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes before washing it off in a warm shower or bath. This 20 minutes is a good time to do your morning meditation!

4. Maintain a regular routine.

THEN: In high school, you probably kept late nights studying and partying with friends, up early for school, activities – on the go all the time.

NOW: Regular routine can help prevent stress. Ayurveda says there are 3 types of fatigue. Mental fatigue is a Vata imbalance, emotional fatigue is a Pitta imbalance, and physical fatigue is a Kapha imbalance. For all three:

  • Meditation – Twice daily
  • Good sleep habits.
  • Regular meal times.
  • Regular exercise, morning walk in the sun, yoga.
  • Dosha balancing routines – and teas.

5. Support fertility naturally.

THEN: In high school, energy probably came easily. You were always ready for a date!

NOW: Some grains, such as quinoa, enhance estrogenic activity and support the hormonal activity of both men and women. Cook it with a little ghee, salt, and spices such as cumin. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also helpful in strengthening the ovum. Turmeric helps enhance the binding of estrogen and progesterone.

Take the Dosha Quiz to determine your Dosha and learn more about Ayurveda with my free 6 week e-course here.

 

Originally published April 2012

Maya Massage: A Healing Practice Every Woman Should Know

World Class Spa, Health Facilitates in Riviera NayaritMy first experience with Maya Abdominal Massage left me feeling rested, connected, and curious about the origins of this unique treatment.

Known today as Arvigo Maya Massage, after Rosita Arvigo, Rosita developed the technique in part from her 10-year apprenticeship with Don Elijo Panti, heralded by the New York Times as “The last Maya master healer in Belize.”

Don Elijo taught the abdominal massage to Rosita Arvigo, who carried it into the modern world as a complete package of healing. She brought to it over 30 years of training and experience in massage, naprapathy, herbology, and spiritual healing, creating a holistic approach to healing that addresses a host of physical, emotional, and spiritual illnesses.

In her book, “Rainforest Home Remedies: The Maya Way to Heal Your Body & Replenish Your Soul,” she details numerous Mayan remedies applicable to our modern day. The exhaustive list includes menopause, migraines, asthma, warts, toothaches, infertility, diarrhea, to name a few. Many are extremely simple teas that can be made from fresh plants or dried herbs. Contraindications are listed as well, so you know when not to use it. Herbal baths and homemade poultices are outlined, as well as her personal stories of treating people with unique complaints.

A little-known benefit of Maya abdominal massage is its ability to enhance fertility and correct a prolapsed or tipped uterus.

Even if you’re not trying to conceive or don’t have a problem with fertility, you quite possibly could be among the 75 percent of women who have a prolapsed uterus [1].

Here’s why:

The uterus is held in position by muscles and ligaments that connect it to the pelvis. These uterine ligaments are designed to stretch as a baby begins to grow or as our bladders/bowels become full.

When these ligaments and muscles become weak and loose, they can no longer hold up the uterus correctly. The result is a prolapsed or tipped uterus. The uterus can fall into any number of incorrect positions.

Many women are told that a tipped or prolapsed uterus is no big deal. In fact, it is a big deal.

When the uterus is incorrectly aligned, the normal flow of blood and lymph are constricted and can disrupt nerve connection. The circulation of blood to the uterus, ovaries, bladder, and bowel is blocked [1].

The Maya believe a woman’s center is her uterus. “If a woman’s uterus is out of balance, so is she,” says Don Elijo Panti.

Also called a “wandering womb,” a prolapsed or tipped uterus can be corrected by Maya abdominal massage. This external, noninvasive massage strengthens the ligaments and muscles that support the uterus and ovaries. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few months to get the uterus to slide back into place.

I was surprised to learn, not only that the majority of women are walking around with a prolapsed uterus and don’t even know it, but also that the causes of a prolapsed uterus are things modern women are doing all the time.

Here’s a list of just a few of the activities that can cause a prolapsed or tipped uterus:

  • falls
  • car accidents
  • overstretching during pregnancy/labor resulting in weakened ligaments
  • running on concrete
  • chronic constipation
  • high-impact activities like dancing, aerobics, horseback riding, or gymnastics
  • wearing heels

Maya massage is not just for fertility. It’s also beneficial to women who have had hysterectomies, men, and children. In men, the abdominal massage ensures a full blood supply to the prostate, preventing swelling and inflammation. It can help also help relieve premature ejaculation and the need to urinate frequently. It is a wonderful way to naturally regulate and improve painful periods.

That’s right. Periods are not supposed to be painful.

Maya massage also encourages self-care, which is a simple abdominal massage one performs at home to keep the muscles and ligaments in their new, healthy position. After years of being positioned incorrectly, muscles will naturally move back into their incorrect positions if not maintained.

The Mayans believe that many human emotions are stored in the abdomen. They aren’t alone in that belief, as many cultures focus on the abdomen as a source of healing and power. Thai massage and Chinese medicine have specific treatments for the abdomen. The abdomen is also home to three of the six main chakras in Kundalini Yoga; Mooladhara, Swadhisthana, and Manipura.

In addition to physically releasing deep tension and refreshing the blood flow to muscles and organs, Maya massage also reopens blocked energy paths and can release blocked chi, or life force, that has accumulated due to pent-up emotions.

The words of my Maya masseuse regarding a woman’s relationship to her uterus rang true to me:

“Love is made here. Life is made here.”

As women, and even as humans, we often reach outside of ourselves for fulfillment, connection, love, or contentment.

I’d suggest there is a powerhouse of energy stored in our abdomens, physically and emotionally. Reconnecting with the source of our being, of who we are, what we’re capable of, and the gift of being a woman can inform our lives on a grand scale.

When you go for your first Maya massage, you will likely receive a Vaginal Steam Bath. Unusual as this may sound, it’s noninvasive and involves merely sitting on a chair over a bowl of steaming herbs. The steam Grand Velas Ritualbath introduces healing heat to the uterus and is an effective treatment for many female complaints, as well as good preventative care.

Finding a local Maya masseuse will vary depending on your location. In my county there are only two. In other areas it’s a more popular treatment and is widely available.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit the website of Rosita Arvigo here or read one of her many books.

Please share any comments or questions below!

References: [1] Rainforest Home Remedies: The Maya Way to Heal Your Body & Replenish Your Soul, by Rosita Arvigo & Nadine Epstein

Surrendering to Healing…In the Arms of a Stranger

By Bristol Baughan

I spent most of my life thinking that being tough, requiring little sleep, working 24/7 and being unemotional were bad-ass signs of being evolved. Until, of course, that way of thinking stopped working and my will and ambition-flavored energy dried up. I have had to dig deep through a ton of layers of conditioning to re-frame the idea of nurturing as fundamental to thriving.

It is pretty incredible how “nurturing” ourselves as adults, as opposed to nurturing someone else or a child, is considered self-indulgent or selfish, as we grow older. Watsu massage was one of the first experiences I had on my healing journey that helped me experience the value of self-nurturing. The third episode of 30 DAYS OF INTENT, on The Chopra Well, surprises Natalie and Iman with their own Watsu sessions, and it was my hope that Natalie and Iman would have a similar experience as I did. All they were told was to bring a swimsuit, nothing more.

Watsu massage was created by Harold Dull in 1980 when he brought his Zen Shiatsu practice into warm water for the purpose of connecting to the breath, stretching the body, relieving pressure from the spine and moving energy through the body. Watsu practitioners describe it as an opportunity to experience a deep state of relaxation and weightlessness, a state where the mind quiets and one can experience the true nature of their soul. Whoa.

My first experience with Watsu Massage was in Ubud, Bali. I had never heard of it and this guy was recommended and totally hot. I was on a mission to heal my heart so why not give it a go? I set an appointment one afternoon and met him at his villa just outside of town. The place was simple and light, two stories and clean. The masseur led me inside and upstairs to a room with a mattress on the floor. Hmmm. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea? I’m sure this guy is a professional and all but you never know…

I tried to sniff out any funny business and was only met with a loving and openhearted smile. I remained fully clothed and lay on the mattress. Darshana told me this form of massage was more like a dance so to just lay back and relax. It took me a few minutes to stop making up stories about what could happen to me in this vulnerable position and slowly I started to relax, to surrender. Watsu Massage is like dancing; you are stretched and massaged both at the same time. We danced like this for 45 minutes and a heavy rain began to fall outside the window. I felt completely relaxed and in a total state of trust with this man who just a little while earlier I had deemed suspicious.

As the rain fell and he slowly whirled me around to finally rest my head on his shoulder, we were in the most precious and loving embrace, and my heart burst open. Tears fell down my face and he just held me, so lovingly, so presently. When I learned that there was a form of Watsu practiced underwater, I knew it could possibly have a deeply transformative effect not only for people with disabilities or physical challenges but for anyone! To be able to fully surrender and trust another human being and become as vulnerable as a child…what a gift.

A serious theme that keeps coming forward in all forms of healing and spiritual awakening work I’ve run into is returning to the innocence of being a child.  I have encountered a number of processes that have allowed me to get underneath all the layers of conditioning to experience, if just for a moment, a young place of wonder and trust. It is from this place, I find, I am able to be a little more gentle with myself and others and allow whatever healing that can be done to be done without my willing it so.

The looks on both Natalie and Iman’s faces at the end of this episode should say it all.  From my experience, healing is like dating, try to reserve judgment and just see what resonates for you and what doesn’t. And if something gets you all worked up, observe that too!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss Thursday’s episode where Natalie and Iman get a taste of healing horse therapy.

~

Bristol Baughan is the Supervising Producer and Director of The Chopra Well’s show, 30 DAYS OF INTENT. Her background is in documentary film and creating content that moves people to engage with the world. She spent the last four years traveling around the world learning from many spiritual teachers, from Tibetan Monks to Tantric Yoga teachers. While working on 30 DAYS OF INTENT Bristol also completed a master’s degree program in Spiritual Psychology.

Unlock the ‘seat of the soul’ through massage

This is unlike any massage I have ever seen. No muscles stretched and squeezed. No elbows or thumbs digging into flesh. No steaming rocks or salt scrubs. The masseur, instead, gently guides a trickle of warm oil onto the woman’s forehead, where it rushes over the crown of her head, saturating her hair and scalp.

This is where we find Julie Zwillich in episode four of The Chopra Well’s CHOPRA CENTERED. She is receiving marma point therapy and shirodhara – eyes closed, hair streaming over the side of the massage bed. “I feel my entire scalp getting saturated… It’s a really interesting sensation.” As relaxing as it seems, I can’t help thinking, “Where’s the massage? When is the masseur going to dig into those knotted muscles?” My doubts dispel, however, once the treatment is over, and Julie sits up. Her serene eyes gaze out from glowing skin; her voice is soft and conveys utter peace. How do marma points and shirodhara work? I decided to investigate.

Marma point therapy works much like acupuncture, by focusing on key pressure points in the body in order to facilitate healing. Marmas are critical points in the body that store pranic energy – vital, sustaining energy of life. Activating marmas through massage helps promote the healthy flow of prana in body and mind.

For Julie’s treatment, the masseur focuses on the sthapani marma point, or third eye. This is the point right between the eyes which many believe holds the power of insight and clairvoyance. He first applies pressure to the point with his fingers, before transitioning into shirodhara therapy. For this, warm oil pours in a continuous stream onto Julie’s third eye, coursing over her forehead and scalp. The oil is intended to stimulate the marma point, which can awaken intuition, relieve stress, and improve concentration. In traditional shirodhara therapy, the oil may be substituted by milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or plain water.

I’ve heard a lot about the third eye over the years and was fascinated to read about its connection to marma point therapy and shirodhara. Beliefs surrounding the third eye pop up in many disparate cultures and religions, including Taoism, Gnosticism, Hinduism, and New Age spirituality. It even has a place in mystical Christianity.

Anatomically, the third eye is associated to the pineal gland, which produces melatonin from its central location in the brain. Apart from melatonin production, very little is known about this little gland. Originally thought to be nothing more than a remnant of a larger organ, the pineal gland has since assumed almost mythic proportions. Descartes declared it the “principal seat of the soul,” and countless other mystics and philosophers have been similarly captivated.

Whether it is the association to the pineal gland, a convergence of pranic energy, or some unexplainable psychic phenomenon, that little point on center forehead, just above the eyes, proves to be the key to Julie’s complete and utter relaxation. Even after experiencing the treatment she has difficulty explaining exactly how and why it works. But the results are clear. “It’s something you have to feel.”

Do you think the third eye is the “seat of the soul?” Have you ever experienced marma point therapy or shirodhara? Let us know in the comments below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and watch more of Julie’s journey at the Chopra Center.

Rub Your Hoku, and 7 Other Surprising Ways to Calm Down

Want to stop stressing? Then start swearing, kissing, getting dirty, cluttered, and eating garlic instead!

Being “stressed” seems to be as trendy as being “on a diet.” Everyone’s doing it, throwing the terms around as if it’s an excuse for a bad mood or short fuse. Problem is: stress has some serious side-effects that can be detrimental to your health and happiness if it isn’t addressed. Of course there are lots of pills to help you ease off angst, but we prefer to do it naturally… naturally. Our favorite and the most fun by far: Kissing!

–Touching, kissing, hugging (or any other affectionate activities) stimulates the brain’s release of the hormone oxytocin. If you want to take it up a notch, get a room! Recent Studies reveal that the surge of oxytocin released during orgasm can lower blood pressure, calm nerves and tame tension. In fact, according to the British Medical Journal, sex is so good for your heart that it cuts your risk of heart attack and stroke in half when performed three times a week.

Swear it Off!  Swearing has been shown to minimize stress and increase workplace camaraderie. That’s according to scientists at East Anglia Norwich University in England.

–Eat Garlic.  The main ingredient in garlic when digested is organosulfur allicin, which triggers your body to produce hydrogen sulfide. The combo creates an internal reaction that relaxes blood vessels and encourages blood flow. Translation: garlic is good for your heart and your head. 

Succumb to Chocolate.  Balance isn’t just for yoga. In fact, a little bit of chocolate can go a long way when it comes to your diet. Dark chocolate has been shown to be filled with antioxidant flavonoids (which can minimize your risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure). Some scientists have gone so far as to claim that the sweet stuff has more flavonoids than any other food (including blueberries). According to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those said flavonoids help blood vessels relax, helping calm overall stress. Word to the wise, choose the lower fat dark chocolate to milk chocolate. It has a higher count of the good stuff.

Rub your Hoku.  Your “hoku” is that flap of skin on your palm that connects your pointer finger to your thumb. It’s also an acupressure spot related to upper body tension that, when squeezed, can minimize stress by up to 39%– that’s according to scientists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Watch YouTube.  Laughter is a proven way to ease stress. Even the mere anticipation of something funny has the ability to calm us down thanks to the release of stress hormones like dopac, cortisol and epinephrine. More than easing angst, short funny film clips have been proven to increase blood flow to the heart according to scientists at the University of Maryland. 

Get Dirty.  Research has shown that having plants and flowers in your presence can elicit a positive mood and reduce stress levels. Connecting with the Earth by sticking your hands in the dirt and tending to the plants yourself even further imbue you with an energy of calm.

Embrace Clutter.  For years, neat-freak moms have been insisting on orderly bedrooms for the sake of productivity, sanity, and just seemingly to pester. Not anymore! Eric Abrahamson (a Columbia School of Business Professor) and David H. Freedman (a journalist) have found that moderate messes can actually enrich creativity and minimize anxiety.

 

Read more Quickie Lifestyle tips at QuickieChick.com

Rub Your Hoku, and 7 Other Surprisingly Ways to Calm Down

Want to stop stressing? Then start swearing, kissing, getting dirty, cluttered and eating garlic instead!  

 

Being “stressed” seems to be as trendy as being “on a diet.” Everyone’s doing it, throwing the terms around as if it’s an excuse for a bad mood or short fuse. Problem is: stress has some serious side-effects that can be detrimental to your health and happiness if it isn’t addressed. Of course there are lots of pills to help you ease off angst, but we prefer to do it naturally… naturally. Our favorite and the most fun by far: Kissing!

 

–Touching, kissing, hugging (or any other affectionate activities) stimulates the brain’s release of the hormone oxytocin. If you want to take it up a notch, get a room! Recent Studies reveal that the surge of oxytocin released during orgasm can lower blood pressure, calm nerves and tame tension. In fact, according to the British Medical Journal, sex is so good for your heart that it cuts your risk of heart attack and stroke in half when performed three times a week.

 

Swear it Off!  Swearing has been shown to minimize stress and increase workplace camaraderie. That’s according to scientists at East Anglia Norwich University in England.

 

–Eat Garlic.  The main ingredient in garlic when digested is organosulfur allicin, which triggers your body to produce hydrogen sulfide. The combo creates an internal reaction that relaxes blood vessels and encourages blood flow. Translation: garlic is good for your heart and your head.

 

Succumb to Chocolate.  Balance isn’t just for yoga. In fact, a little bit of chocolate can go a long way when it comes to your diet. Dark chocolate has been shown to be filled with antioxidant flavonoids (which can minimize your risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure). Some scientists have gone so far as to claim that the sweet stuff has more flavonoids than any other food (including blueberries). According to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those said flavonoids help blood vessels relax, helping calm overall stress. Word to the wise, choose the lower fat dark chocolate to milk chocolate. It has a higher count of the good stuff.

 

Rub your Hoku.  Your “hoku” is that flap of skin on your palm that connects your pointer finger to your thumb. It’s also an (acupressure http://www.ehow.com/how_2031326_define-acupressure.html) spot related to upper body tension that, when squeezed, can minimize stress by up to 39%– that’s according to scientists at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

 

Watch YouTube.  Laughter is a proven way to ease stress. Even the mere anticipation of something funny has the ability to calm us down thanks to the release of stress hormones like dopac, cortisol and epinephrine. More than easing angst, short funny film clips have been proven to increase blood flow to the heart according to scientists at the University of Maryland.

 

Get Dirty.  Research has shown that having plants and flowers in your presence can elicit a positive mood and reduce stress levels. Connecting with the Earth by sticking your hands in the dirt and tending to the plants yourself even further imbue you with an energy of calm.

 

Embrace Clutter.  For years, neat-freak moms have been insisting on orderly bedrooms for the sake of productivity, sanity, and just seemingly to pester. Not anymore! Eric Abrahamson (a Columbia School of Business Professor) and David H. Freedman (a journalist) have found that moderate messes can actually enrich creativity and minimize anxiety.

 

 

Read more Quickie Lifestyle tips at QuickieChick.com

Weekly Health Tip: How To Ease Back Pain During Pregnancy


Visualization is the courtesy of TheVisualMD.com

 

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

"Oh my aching back!" is a complaint eight out of 10 adults will voice at some point in their lives (1). But for women who are pregnant, these words have special resonance. More than two thirds of women who are expecting experience lower back and pelvic pain during their pregnancy, usually in the second and third trimesters (2). For many, the pain is bad enough to interfere with sleep, work and other activities. In a 2004 study, one third of women reported that they had to stop at least one activity due to back pain (3).

It’s hardly surprising that pregnancy can deliver a wallop to the lower back. A woman who is pregnant carries an extra 20 to 40 pounds of weight (2). That changes the way she stands and walks, which puts a strain on her back. Add in hormonal changes that make the pelvic joints wobbly and you have the perfect recipe for back pain.

The good news is that for most women, back pain disappears after delivery, usually within six months. But you don’t have to wait until then to get some relief. Exercise, acupuncture and other remedies can relieve back pain — or at least make it manageable. And if you are planning on becoming pregnant, you can take steps now to try to avoid back pain. Stay active — or get active if you aren’t already. Studies show that women who have a sedentary lifestyle before they become pregnant have an increased risk of back pain (2, 4).

How Pregnancy Impacts Your Back What makes pregnancy such a pain in the back? It’s usually the result of several things. The new weight a pregnant woman carries in front shifts her body’s center of gravity, which puts more pressure on the lower spine. In order to balance the new load, many women change their posture to a swayback position, which adds even more pressure to the lower back. To make things worse, the stomach muscles stretch during pregnancy and can no longer support the torso. The muscles of the lower back pick up the slack, and they must work harder and harder as the torso gets heavier.

Hormonal changes may also contribute to back pain. In preparation for delivery, a hormone aptly named "relaxin" relaxes and softens the tissues of the pelvic joints. Normally, these joints help support the spine. When they loosen during pregnancy, it can cause pain and inflammation not just in the pelvis, but also across the lower back.

Another possible culprit is the expanding uterus. As the uterus grows, it presses on certain blood vessels, especially when a woman is lying down at night. One theory is that this pressure reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the pelvis and lower spine, causing pain (2).

6 Ways to Ease the Pain No matter what’s causing the back pain, there are steps you can take to get relief. Several studies show that the best results come from exercises that strengthen the abdomen and lower back, water aerobics, acupuncture and the use of support pillows at night (4). But those aren’t the only options. Try some or all of the remedies below until you find the ones that work best for you. Be sure to talk to your doctor if your back pain persists. Backache that doesn’t go away can be a sign of preterm labor, an infection or other serious problems.

1. Exercise: A strengthening exercise called the pelvic tilt is one of the best for relieving — and preventing — back pain. Here’s how to do it: Get down on your hands and knees. Bend your elbows slightly and make sure your back is flat, like a table, and your head in line with your back. Pull in your stomach by contracting your muscles, curving your back slightly. Hold for a few seconds and release. Gradually work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.

Ask your doctor about other exercises — such as lower back extensions and Kegel exercises — that can help strengthen your back and abdomen. Try taking a water aerobics class. And be sure to include gentle physical activities like walking and swimming in your daily routine.

2. Acupuncture and Massage: The nearly painless insertion of very thin needles in the skin has been a key component of Chinese medicine for centuries. Traditional practitioners say that it works by re-balancing the flow of energy — known as qi — through the body. Many Western practitioners believe that it works by boosting the body’s natural painkillers. However it works, acupuncture seems to help pregnant women. A 2007 study found that 60 percent of pregnant women who received acupuncture treatments reported a decrease in back pain (4). Prenatal back massage may also help relieve back pain.

3. Sleeping Position and Pillow Support: Sleep on your side instead of your back and try keeping one or both knees bent. Research shows that using a pillow to support your abdomen, especially during the last trimester, can make a real difference (4). A wedge-shaped pillow seems to work best, if you can find one. Also try placing a pillow between your knees at night.

4. Gear Up: Wear shoes with low heels and good arch support. Maternity support belts can relieve pain by making the pelvic joints more stable, and some women find maternity pants helpful. You can also try using a heating pad to apply heat to the problem area.

5. Perfect Your Posture: Take some pressure off your lower back muscles by standing up straight instead of leaning back. If you have to stand for a long time, try resting one foot on a low stool. It helps to sit up straight, too. Use a chair that supports your back and try putting a small pillow behind your lower back for extra support.

6. Don’t Overdo It: Ask for help when you need it, especially when lifting heavy objects or doing other chores that can strain your back. Have you found a way to relieve back pain during pregnancy? Share it in the comments.

Learn more about maintaining your health and well-being:

TheVisualMD.com

References

1. National Institutes of Health

2. Sabino J, Grauer J. Pregnancy and low back pain. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2008;1:137-141.

3. Wang SM, Dezinno P, Maranets I, et al. Low back pain during pregnancy: prevalence, risk factors, and outcomes. Obstet Gynecol. 2004;104:65-70.

4. Pennick V, Young G. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2007; 2:CD001139.doi:10.1002/14651858. CD001139.pub2

More Reasons To Schedule That Massage Appointment: Massage May Help Lower Depression

What’s not to love about a good back massage? There are few things more relaxing than lying down and doing absolutely nothing for an hour while somebody kneads at your back with massage oil to relaxing music. According to new research, it turns out that massage may possibly also help alleviate symptoms of depression, too.

Overall, the studies, which were of "moderate" quality, showed that massage therapy had "potentially significant effects" in alleviating symptoms of depression, the researchers report in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

It’s not clear from the analysis, they emphasize, whether a person would need to undergo regular massage therapy for benefits to persist.

There are a number of ways through which massage could help people with depression, the researchers note, for example, by reducing stress and inducing relaxation; building an "alliance" between the therapist and patient; and by causing the body to release the "trust hormone" oxytocin.

– Reuters.com

Certainly, more follow-up research is needed for more conclusive evidence. For most people struggling with depression, one massage session will not cure all of one individual’s sadness, insecurities and emotional issues. Still, any research that points towards a natural depression treatment option that does not require medication is pretty exciting stuff.

What would happen if weekly massage sessions happened in conjunction with cognitive therapy? Then we are giving some major healing to the mind and the body.

I would like to add one more possible way massage can help people with depression: in taking the initiative to call a massage therapist to set up an appointment, you are making a big step to take better care of yourself. More than that, it is a powerful expression of some major self-love.

Have you been giving yourself enough self-love lately or have you been taking your mind and body for granted with inadequate sleep, long work hours and constant self-criticism? If the latter rings more true to you, then consider it a sign to dial up your local massage therapist for a future date. How does Saturday afternoon sound to you? 

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / diamondduste

 

This Week’s Call For Content: Prevention and Treatment For Backache and Neck Pain

According to the American Chiropractic Association, one-half of all working Americans claim to have back-pain symptoms each year. If you are like most people with a sedentary office job, you have probably experienced some back discomfort or an uncomfortably stiff neck in the las week. Whether your back and neck pain comes from stress, poor posture or a bad bed mattress, one thing is for sure: it can get pretty unbearable when it’s really bad.

This week’s theme is Prevention and Treatment for Back Pain and Neck Pain. What can we do to prevent muscle soreness and stiffness–and when it does happen, what are some easy remedies and treatment options we can choose from? 

Do those self-massage plastic toys sold at health supermarkets actually work? How about guilt-tripping your significant spouse or other for a really good back massage? If you’ve never been to a massage therapist or chiropractor, what are some things you should research before you schedule an appointment? 

And raise your hands if you are past high school and you still slouch like a teenager: can somebody out there please give us some Good Posture 101? 

Like many people, I am unfortunately prone to a lot of back stiffness, and having an all-day internet job can sometimes take a toll on my back and neck muscles. Here are some of my personal tips for treating back pain: 

– Treat yourself to a hot bath. Sometimes hot water helps loosen stiff muscles. And nothing like a good luxurious bath to cure stress–both physically and mentally.

– Take frequent stand-up and stretch breaks. Sitting hunched in front of your computer screen is never a good thing for your back. A few times an hour you should stand up, stretch, take a mini-walk–anything to get you standing and moving around for a little bit. I drink lots of water–which means I’m really hydrated, and also I’m forced to get up to go to the bathroom a lot!

– A professional massage is totally worth it. Every two months or so I bite the bullet and treat myself to a professional massage. Having a professional knead into your tough knots for an entire hour = AWESOME.

– Heating pads. When a part of my back or neck is really acting up, a heating pad (sold at any drugstore) placed directly on my trouble spot helps relieve some of the pain.

Do you experience back pain or neck pain on a regular basis? What do you do when it happens? What are some of your favorite prevention tips?  Share your ideas with the Intent community by commenting below! 

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / wanhoff

 

With These “Vitamins,” There Is No Exercise Required

With these vitamins, No exercise required!

Exercise carries negative connotations for many people – its a have to, another item on the list, and it may feel uncomfortable or painful.

Conversely, if we aim to include my favorite vitamins (read more in Recipes for IBS or my blog)in the day we will get the benefits of exercise without having to use the "e" word:

Vitamin L- laughter – Jimmy Buffet says it best and its true – if we couldn’t laugh we’d all go insane! Laughter works our belly muscles, and brings in oxygen, it lowers our stress levels…and its pretty hard to eat or drink while laughing so it keeps our caloric intake lower. So catch some laughs.

Vitamin M – massage – Having one of those days and you don’t want to exercise – let someone do it for you…massage provides healing through touch but also the benefits of exercise like moving the lymphatic system and stretching, it even helps with digestion.

Vitamin N – nature – Sunlight provides powerful activity for our insides by making vitamin D. Nature also provides us tons of different routes and alleviates the potential boredom that a gym machine may induce.

And so on…make your way to Z (which by the way stands for Zzzzs as in get some sleep as its one of the best things we can do for our body.)

www.ashleykoffapproved.com

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