Monthly Archives: February 2012

De-stressing your commute – turning road rage into road sage

Today, a client arrived a few minutes late for her appointment. She got stuck in traffic due to the tremendous amount of construction that’s going on all over the greater Washington DC metro area. She was able to calm down after a few minutes, and once her session began, she was able to let go of the stress of her commute. But, it got me to thinking about how difficult commuting can be, and how much stress it causes in our daily life.

The average American commuter spends an hour a day driving to and from work. During this stressful, stop-and-go time, it’s likely that blood pressure increases, adrenaline begins pumping, and muscles constrict and tighten. By the time you get home, you’re wiped out and grumpy, and you have less to offer to those you come home to. If this sounds familiar, recognize that you have the power to reduce commuter stress.

Here are a few tips to make your commuter time contribute to — rather than detract from — your life.

Employ adjustable back cushions, pillows, wedges, and lumbar supports for a more comfortable commute. For more information, check out

To successfully sidestep the late-afternoon slump often caused by the stress hormone cortisol, keep some healthy snacks within arms reach. Celery, string cheese, water, and nuts — especially almonds — are good options for the drive home.

Borrow books-on-tape/CD from the library. Consider purely entertaining novels to ease the intensity of your drive.

Learn a foreign language. Libraries also loan out these types of tapes and CD, too.

Use your commute as an opportunity for spiritual or emotional growth. When stressing about a traffic jam, remind yourself that it’s completely out of your control. Remember, attitude is everything.

Practice breathing. When stress occurs, breathing becomes shallow and constricted. Taking full, deep breaths gives the body more oxygen, helping to regulate physical and mental function. Exhaling fully releases tension and built up toxins.

For more ideas on achieving calm in a busy world, consider reading Serenity to Go: Calming Techniques for Your Hectic Life (New Harbinger Publications, 2001) by Mina Hamilton.

Of course regular massage therapy and bodywork can definitely help you to manage the stress of your daily commute. So, invest in yourself and in your health, and book a massage today.

Expecting Moms Embrace Massage – Pregnancy Massage Contributes to Nine Healthy Months

This morning, one of my clients went into labor. This is one of the happiest times for me, as my client had been seeing me regularly throughout her pregnancy. Massage during and after pregnancy has so many benefits. Today we are joined by a colleague of mine, Hope Bentley from the ABMP. Hope has put together a short article on the benefits of prenatal, or pregnancy massage.

During pregnancy physical and emotional changes cascade throughout the body. Nausea, fatigue, swelling, heartburn, headache, and emotional turbulence are just some of the symptoms that come with the territory. Fortunately, massage can help ease these issues, so that the mom-to-be can focus on what’s most important: her baby.

The First Trimester
In the first trimester I see a lot of cases of nerves,” says Megan O’Connor, a New York-based certified prenatal massage therapist. “Massage can give reassurance.” This is largely because newly pregnant women may experience a range of emotions–elation, anxiety, contentment, and even fear–made more poignant by the hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy. Fortunately, massage therapy can help ground an expecting mother and ease the emotional roller coaster that comes with pregnancy.

But is massage safe in the first trimester? According to Susanrachel Condon, founder of Niara Healing Arts Massage Therapy and Perinatal Support Systems, “It is absolutely safe and can be very beneficial for an expecting mother.”

Having said that, there are some precautions to take when considering prenatal massage. If it is a high-risk pregnancy or there’s a history of complications–diabetes, high blood pressure, miscarriages, placenta previa, preeclampsia, or any other medical condition–a midwife or doctor should be consulted before scheduling a massage. In addition, it is very important for pregnant clients to speak openly with their massage therapist about any concerns or issues.

On the other hand, bodywork techniques like shiatsu access the meridians used in acupuncture, including trigger points that can relieve nausea. According to O’Connor, a good therapist will also teach a mother-to-be how to activate the trigger points herself, as most nausea treatments are more effective when applied at least three times a day. Techniques such as this can be a great relief to a woman navigating the early days of pregnancy.

The Second Trimester
A woman in her second trimester may begin to have trouble with circulation, sometimes because the baby’s weight begins to pinch the major veins in the mother’s legs. Poor circulation can cause swelling of the extremities, headaches, and exacerbated carpal tunnel syndrome. Massage will increase circulation and help create space in the body to relieve the pressure from the baby’s weight. Condon explains that weight gain and joint laxity can cause women to feel off balance and clumsy. Massage can relax the muscles around the joints and ground and balance a pregnant woman.

The Third Trimester
As the baby grows heavy in the final trimester of pregnancy, major changes are likely to occur in the musculoskeletal system, and massage can become even more essential.

“A lot of women feel discomfort in their lower backs because the womb is moored to the sacrum, which is that triangle of area at the base of the spine,” O’Connor says. “The weight of the womb pulls on that mooring and can be very uncomfortable.”

Women may also experience discomfort in their abdomen. As the baby grows, the mother’s muscles are stretched, her organs are compacted, and her lungs are compressed. Massage can minimize or prevent abdominal muscle tear, a complication that happens with some women. A practitioner can also help reposition the baby to alleviate discomfort and ease breathing.

And when labor finally begins, massage can help facilitate the birth, perhaps especially appealing for women considering natural childbirth.

On the Table
But how exactly does a pregnant woman–complete with enormous tummy and tender chest–receive a massage? Many prenatal massages are given with the pregnant woman on her side, semi-reclined, briefly on her back, or on a specially designed pregnancy massage table, and often with a network of pillows for support.

Condon explains that prenatal massage is not simply a regular massage except in a different position. A qualified prenatal massage therapist will know the changing physiognomy of a pregnant woman and will tailor the massage to the needs of the client.

Postpartum Massage
Now that baby is here, mom needs a massage more than ever. Says O’Connor, “I think postpartum massage is extremely underrated.”

After baby arrives, bodywork can help a new mother ease back into her body again, relax sore muscles, address any abdominal muscle strains or tears that occurred during pregnancy, and cope with the life changes and lack of sleep that come with a new baby. In addition, the uterus will sometimes linger low in the abdomen instead of returning to its proper place. A Maya abdominal massage therapist can help restore the uterus to its proper position.

Nursing moms may feel reluctant to book a massage due to leaking breasts, but O’Connor says not to worry. “Women shouldn’t be concerned about massage while they’re nursing, even if they feel like an uncapped fire hydrant!” she says. Practitioners will accommodate nursing women, with proper draping and towels.

Pregnancy is an important time that needs to be honored, and prenatal massage plays an important role. As the body goes through miraculous changes, bodywork facilitates pregnancy and helps the expectant mother stay comfortable, connected, and healthy.

Nature’s Nutritional Wonder – Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are powerful foods that can help prevent many forms of cancer, reduce existing cancer tumors, and aid in the prevention of heart disease. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, kale, and Brussels sprouts all contain isothiocyanates–a group of chemicals that break down carcinogens in the body, helping to metabolize toxins. Studies show that people who eat two to three servings of cruciferous vegetables each week lower their risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer. A National Cancer Institute study found that eating three helpings of crucifers a week dropped prostate cancer risk by 50 percent. The powerful chemicals in these veggies also reduce homocysteine levels, a known precursor to heart disease.

Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber and the chromium found in these foods helps regulate blood sugar and insulin function, key factors in keeping diabetes at bay. Even with all the benefits that crucifers provide, many people refuse to eat them because of their strong taste. But a little creativity can go a long way in making these wonderful foods palatable: try cream of broccoli soup, cauliflower au gratin, stuffed cabbage, or the recipe below–the possibilities are endless.

Brussels Sprouts For the Meat-and-Potatoes Eater

• 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, and outer leaves removed
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper, to taste

Thinly slice Brussels sprouts, either in a food processor fitted with a slicing blade, or by hand. Heat a heavy, nonstick skillet. Add olive oil and butter, swirling the pan so that the butter melts. Sautee sliced Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes. Add cider vinegar and grated Parmesan, stirring briefly to incorporate. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serves four–who will all be healthier for it!

Want to avoid colds and flu? Wash your hands!

My clients often say to me, “You rarely ever get sick! What do you do to stay healthy all of the time?”

The answer is actually pretty simple. I wash my hands. A lot! Of course, I always wash them before and after working on clients. But, I wash them throughout the day when I am not seeing clients too. Hare are some of the benefits of keeping your hands clean!

How to do it and why it helps
You know that washing your hands is important, but studies suggest that washing frequently and thoroughly can help keep you, and the people you come in contact with, healthier.

Clean and Healthy
Researchers in Denmark instructed students to wash their hands three times a day. According to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Infection Control (August 2011), the children that learned new habits significantly reduced their amount of absences due to illness.

Sanitizers or Soap?
A study by the American College of Preventive Medicine showed that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are less effective than soap at preventing outbreaks of norovirus in long-term care facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using these sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol. Here is some more hand-washing advice from the CDC:

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

- Before, during, and after preparing food and before eating
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut
- After using the toilet or changing diapers
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After touching garbageo or taking out the trash

What Is the Right Way to Wash Your Hands?

Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.

- Rub your hands together to make lather, then scrub the entire hand.
- Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.