Category Archives: Massage

Low Pressure Tactics

Victor With Lower Blood Pressure

Victor With Lower Blood Pressure

My father has high blood pressure. His parents had high blood pressure. My mother has high blood pressure. Her parents had high blood pressure. So, it came as no surprise when in a 2010 annual check-up I had blood pressure readings of as high as 140/95. Instead of immediately prescribing medication, mostly because I had no other major risk factors, my doctor suggested that I purchase a home blood pressure monitor and take my blood pressure in a particular way and on a regular basis. I bought an Omron electric sphygmomanometer at Target for under $60 and began measuring my blood pressure, taking 3 readings at a time, 3 times per day, morning, afternoon, and evening. The 3 readings at a time, 3 times per day, are a much more accurate picture of actual blood pressure, as any one reading might be abnormally high or low. I’m certain statisticians can agree that larger sample sizes often lead to more accurate results. I recorded the readings in a spreadsheet that allowed me to calculate average and see time of day and longitudinal patterns.

While I am certain that the doctor’s recommendation was more aimed at gathering data, it turned out to be a prescription for awareness. Simply taking my blood pressure regularly made me more aware of this phenomenon that was always present inside me, which in my case lead to some more mindful choices. I was already a runner, yoga practitioner, and vegan. I’ve been running since I was a teenager, doing yoga since college, and eating vegan since 1995, all studied interventions for blood pressure reduction. But just doing these things in general was not enough to impede the encroaching family induced high blood pressure. What more could I do lifestyle wise?

First, I scheduled a consult with a registered dietitian. She had me do another data collection/awareness exercise, a 72 hour food diary with extremely precise descriptions of each food and each meal. I measured amounts, listed brands, and counted everything I ate and drank for that 72 hour period. While she did give me some very specific ways to change the way that I eat, which I will enumerate, the exercise itself, taking 72 hours to mindfully observe (without judging or changing anything in that 72 hour period) everything I was eating and drinking, had a profound effect on my awareness of what I was specifically consuming.

After my diet diary was complete I had my consult with the dietitian. She suggested, based on the data I had collected, that, even though I was already eating a plant based diet, I was consuming too much sodium, a known culprit in elevating blood pressure. As a result during my next several grocery shopping trips I made note of the sodium levels in some of the foods I had been consuming. While I did do some elimination of a few processed items, I mostly just shifted from one brand to another, or the low-sodium version of a product. I know that many people would rather “just take a pill” than give up some of their “favorite foods.” Although I would have eventually acquiesced to taking medication if lifestyle interventions proved inadequate, I was determined not to end up on prescription blood pressure medication. I wanted to see if simply changing my choices could impact my physiology.

What I also learned from the diet changing process is that taste and food favorites are not fixed. Once I had reduced sodium levels for a couple of months, I no longer noticed the missing salt. In other words, my taste buds and brain had adapted to the new circumstance. Foods that I once found delicious (like certain frozen enchiladas and pizzas) now tasted too salty and foods that I had found bland now tasted just right. I am certain that some of you will attribute this to some kind of placebo effect, that I wanted the bland food to taste good, so it did. I don’t think so. I think my taste buds and brain chemistry changed. Even dishes that I have never eaten will now taste too salty to me while not salty enough to some of my friends. This cannot be explained by placebo alone.

Still, others, in defense of their own lifestyle choices will critique mine. They will exclaim that I am missing out, that I am deprived, that I don’t know what I am missing. In my place, they would make a different choice. They would risk the higher blood pressure for the convenience meal, or the social comfort of sharing in those foods with friends and family. That is their choice to make. While it is not my choice, I accept that others will make it. This exposition is not for them. It is for those of you who understand and connect with my desire to be in control of my own life, my own body, and who have the desire to do the same, but lack the tools and support to do so.

As I took more control over food choices, I also made changes to my running routine. The biggest and most profound change I made was to create and stick to an exercise schedule, no matter what. I did increase the intensity and duration of my runs, but not by much and not anything close to extreme. I run 2 times per week, between 2 and 4 miles each time. What has proved most effective is not how far or intensely I run, but simply that I show up for the routine regardless of circumstances. For example, if I am injured, or just run down, I do not “take a day off”. Instead, if it is my scheduled time to run, I go to the same place that I usually run and either walk for the same amount of time I would have run, or if I am so sick that I cannot or should not spend that much time exerting myself, then I show up at the usual place, at the usual time, and just stand and breathe in the fresh air for a few minutes. I have found that it is keeping the schedule that has been most effective in supporting not only my lowered blood pressure, but also my sense of wellbeing.

I also began scheduling consistent, but not necessarily frequent, acupuncture and massage, once per month each. Once a month I go to the acupuncturist to help keep my blood pressure in check. I have found that acupuncture can be a very powerful tool for affecting the nervous system. Similarly, I began scheduling 1 massage per month, with an emphasis on relaxation and blood pressure reduction (rather than deep tissue muscle release for example). During these sessions I begin with visualizing the release of tension from my body and end up very often (almost always) drifting off into a very restful sleep. Like with running, I have found that, as much as the acupuncture and massage practices are specifically helpful, it is the routine of keeping these appointments that has bolstered a consistent path of self care.

Like the changes I made to my running routine, I made similar changes to my practice of yoga. While I have had a practice for some time, there was a period when it was more haphazard and less consistent. Once I got the blood pressure warning, I started scheduling a more regular yoga practice. I have said for a long time that 80% of the benefit of doing yoga comes from just doing yoga, and that you can adjust the intensity and duration to tweak the other 20% of the benefit if you want. Philosophers, sages, thinkers and people of good common sense have had it right: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” So, I set a routine to do a little bit of yoga 5 days per week. The standard I started with was set around my family responsibilities. At that time I needed to start prepping breakfast and lunches at 7:30 a.m. So I decided that my practice would start at whatever time it could and always end at 7:30. Some mornings I would get up and start practicing by 6:30, but most morning I would start around 7:05. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to start until 7:26 and I would contemplate just scrapping it altogether, but then I realized that the routine mattered more than the duration. So I would practice for 3 or 4 minutes and then end at 7:30. Other times when I did end up scrapping the practice altogether for the day, I would be more irritable, moody, stressed, and inevitably my blood pressure readings would be elevated. In other words, even just 3 or 4 minutes made a dramatic impact in lowering my blood pressure! Don’t get me wrong, I am not starting a new fad “3 Minute Yoga!” There are times when a longer practice really helps and makes a bigger difference. I’m simply suggesting that an all or nothing attitude is ultimately destructive.

Having said that, I did make some changes to the type of postures I practice in order to positively impact my blood pressure. For example, I started prioritizing the inclusion of more inverted postures: headstand 1, headstand 2, handstand, forearm stand, and shoulder stand. People with excessively high blood pressure above 145/95 should avoid fully inverted postures. When one first goes upside down, cerebral blood pressure is increased. This increases the risk of stroke for those who already have extremely high blood pressure. However, after a few moments upside down, the body readjusts to the new circumstance and blood pressure lowers. This lowering effect is magnified as inverted postures are practiced longitudinally (over time). While there is a complex physiology as to why this happens, including baroreceptors and the autonomic nervous system, the main point is that by practicing inverted postures I was retraining my body to lower its own blood pressure. I also included some specific forward bends to have a similar blood pressure positive effect.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I made adjustments to my practices of breathing (pranayama) and meditation, like including them. While in the past sitting in meditation was an afterthought, I began front-loading a sitting practice before moving through yoga postures (asana). Meditation can be just an important a tool as physical exercise when reducing blood pressure. Sometimes I would sit with my sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) going and experiment with different ways of breathing to observe which breathing practices best lowered my blood pressure. Longer inhalation as compared to exhalation increased my blood pressure and longer exhalation as compared to inhalation decreased my blood pressure. As a result of these self experiments, I started engaging a breathing pattern of elongating the exhalation with relationship to the inhalation. I also experimented with different meditation foci. While many topics of meditation/contemplation had a positive effect on lowering my blood pressure, some that seemed to lower it most and most consistently are thinking of my loved ones and how I love them, broadening my view of nature and the natural world, and whatever makes me smile.

I suspect that comedy is like aerobic exercise or practicing inversions. In the short term it elevates blood pressure, because you are laughing and the breath is shortened, but in the long term it lowers blood pressure. I have just some scant evidence from my own blood pressure readings, but would love to see a study on this. Perhaps I could even participate!

Today, as I write this, my blood pressure reading is 113/74. It is my hope that my personal example of change and self determination will be of support and inspiration to those of you who are engaged in similar struggles. You can make change, big change, and it can be made without tremendous shifts in your life. Laugh. Meditate. Breathe. Do some yoga (any yoga). Get outside. Think about what you are eating before, during, and after you eat it. Make commitments. Be consistent. Be dedicated. Be mindfully aware.

All People Deserve Paid Sick and Vacation Time: Even Yoga Teachers and Massage Therapists

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Most, if not nearly all, yoga teachers and massage therapists only get paid when they work and even then only when you (the students/clients) show up. In other words, most, if not nearly all, yoga teachers and massage therapists do not have access to paid time off. Most, if not nearly all, yoga teachers and massage therapists have come to accept this system, a system that is not only economically disadvantageous to teachers of yoga and massage therapists, but also disruptive to consistent care, and morally indefensible.

There have been several articles written about the untenable economics of being a yoga teacher. You can read one of them here. While this is an important related issue, it is not the only pressing issue for the professional yoga world. The idea that yoga teachers must save a portion of the already little pay they receive in order to plan for unforeseen illness and injury, family emergencies, vacation time, and even holiday closures that nearly everyone else in the economic system takes for granted is shameful and irrational (based on the already paltry pay that most yoga teachers make).

Most often students have little to no knowledge that their yoga teachers are being burdened with low wages and lack of paid time off. Nor are students aware that this burden is a direct result of policies at their yoga studio or gym. Certainly, students are not directly to blame for this system and once they find out many will be likely to be concerned for the welfare of their teachers. However, yoga students, whether they are aware of it or not, indirectly support this system with their dollars.

In some cases, students find out this information and are either personally offended, but take no action to help create change, or even come up with cleverly cynical rationalizations like “Well, you get to do yoga for a living, so…you know.” I urge all yoga students to ask both their teachers and their studio managers/owners if this is the way teachers are being treated. If they find out that, yes in fact this is what is going on, then I encourage you to demand a change to yoga teacher pay that includes paid time off for illness, vacation, and holidays. I encourage you to follow up and make sure that changes are made, and if changes are not forthcoming to take your business to a studio that is responsive to the concerns of its members and the needs of its teachers.

This issue is so important to us that when we started NOURISH in 2009, we included paid time off for yoga teachers and massage therapists in our model. Teachers and therapists at NOURISH earn 4 or more weeks per year of paid sick and vacation time. One of the reasons we are able to do this is because NOURISH yoga teachers and massage therapists get paid their salary whether or not and regardless of how many of you (students/clients) show up. So the logistics of how much to pay for days off are straightforward.

Furthermore, when NOURISH chooses to close for a national holiday or any other reason, our yoga teachers and massage therapists get paid for their regular work, without losing any accrued sick or vacation days. For those of you who have always received your regular salary on Christmas, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and for others even more, this might be a bit of a privilege shock. Most, if not nearly all, yoga teachers and massage therapists do not get paid on those holidays, unless of course they work on those holidays which most people enjoy as a much needed break. So again, I challenge you to ask your teachers, massage therapists, and yoga studio/gym managers/owners, “What happens on holidays?” And if warranted, demand a change that is fair to the yoga teachers and massage therapists whose job it is to take care of you.

As a wellness center owner, a yoga teacher, and person of good will who believes in fairness and economic justice, I implore all gyms, yoga studios, spas, and wellness centers to reexamine your employment practices with regard to paid time off for yoga teachers and massage therapists. You’ll find that when you provide paid time off, your employees are healthier, happier, and more productive for the short and long term. But more importantly, you’ll find that we’re all in this together and that taking care of the people that take care of others will strengthen your moral bottom line.

Member Spotlight: Massage Client

A massage client who has been with us since we first began offering massage two and a half years ago offered a great glimpse into her experience on both Basic and Premium Massage programs, and our wonderful massage therapists:

“Historically getting a massage was reserved for special occasions for me.  Sometimes I would get a massage on my birthday trip up to wine country or in Santa Cruz on the weekend after we finished our fiscal year.  I enjoyed getting massages but the cost was prohibitive and scheduling was difficult.

When Nourish started the massage program I joined right away.  For about half the cost or less of a typical massage at a resort, I could get a minimum of one massage a month and often more than one a month, for the same low, fixed price.  Scheduling was easy with the friendly and helpful reception staff.  I particularly liked the way they emailed me a calendar invite that automatically blocked out the time on my sometimes crazy busy schedule.  The best part was how much better I felt, mentally and physically, by getting regular massages.

About a year ago I had hip surgery.  At this point I upgraded to the premier massage program so I could get a minimum of two massages a month (for a low fixed price that was lower than the cost of one massage at a resort).  At this point Nourish started making massage schedule changes/openings available on twitter.  Since I was on medical leave from work my schedule was flexible and I was easily able to get one massage a week, sometimes more.  Theses regular massages were instrumental in my healing process.  As I progressed from a walker, to crutches, to a cane, to walking again unaided, I could have the massage focused on whatever part of my body needed it most.  All the massage practitioners were so gentle when I need gentle and more intense when more intense was what my body needed.

Another benefit of the premier program is you can get a 2 hour massage.  There is nothing more relaxing and rejuvenating for me than a 2 hour massage.  I will warn you, after you experience a two hour massage, it’s hard to go back to one hour.  Then my schedule gets crazy again and I’m glad to be able get in a one hour massage on a regular basis.  I’m constantly amazed how much I benefit both mentally and physically from regular massages.  The very reasonable price is also an extremely nice bonus.  Thank you everyone at Nourish for taking such good care of me.”

Try our Basic Massage for only $65 a month or our Premium Massage for only $100 to see what regular massage can do for your health!

Cleansing

Cleansing…Ahhhhhhh…  All right…my cleansing diary begins.  Here we go!

I’m participating in Jocelyn’s spring cleanse.  It’s been over 5 years since I’ve been able to do something like this because I was breastfeeding up until last week!  Ha!  So I jumped on board Jocelyn’s program…knowing that if I let this train go I’d be unlikely to hop on another any time soon.  I am ever curious about nutrition and the workings of the body.  I am also a skeptic around ‘wellness lore’ that hasn’t been adequately studied, because I’m wary of the financial motivations of the wellness industry.  So I probably wouldn’t have done this kind of thing through anybody else.  Thanks Jocelyn!

I’ve made it through the weekend.  I have to say I’m making it sound a little more dramatic than it’s actually been.  My first day I ate too little, and drank too little of the 2 cups of black tea I’m extremely attached to.  I wound up with a throbbing headache and that nauseous feeling I get when I eat too little.  In the middle of the night I woke with the headache, and the realization that despite my careful listening, I had failed to follow Jocelyn’s instructions.

I usually eat 3 square meals and a snack (and sometimes dessert).  So even though I heard Jocelyn say we were to eat 4-5 small meals…she held up her hands in the shape of a small bowl…I somehow decided on that first day that she meant 3 small meals and 1-2 snacks.  So my calorie intake on day 1 must have been about 1/2 what I usually eat.  (And I’m an eater!)  I was expecting to feel bad, and I did. That night I asked myself, “why did I think this was a good idea, again?”

The second day was better.  I was more organized, ate as instructed, and allowed a little more caffeine into my tea cup.  Today (day 4) I am headache free and settling into the new rhythm easily.  I think I’m down to a little less than a full cup of tea, and headache free.  I’ll be done with caffeine by the end of our week.  In terms of food I feel satisfied, but I get hungry more often (because of smaller meal portions)…Then again, I get to eat more often.  So that’s not so bad!  I’m not really missing wheat and dairy.  I like soy milk, and I have a healthy habit of alternative grains to bread and pasta already.  I imagine those things might be harder for people who like sandwiches.

I usually drink about 20 ounces of green ‘smoothy’/ day.  I blend up greens, avacado, a little apple juice, and sometimes some fresh herbs like ginger or cilantro in my Vitamix.  Because I’m not sure where to fit that into a ‘meal’ and still keep it small-bowl-sized, I have not been getting in those extra helpings of veggies.  In that way I’m actually eating less vegetables/day than I usually do.  I’ve been feeling more secure with stick-to-the-ribs choices in my meals like beans and grains.  I’ll probably try to change that ratio some in the next weeks.

I purchased a selection of rice crackers, and gluten free breads…packaged foods I don’t usually like to buy, but going off wheat was feeling scary.  It turns out I eat a lot of grains, veggies, and legumes in my diet anyway, so I haven’t been dipping into that supply as much as I thought I would.

So far the cleanse has been (dare I say it) fun.  I’ve only been mildly uncomfortable a few times.  My energy is good, and it’s nice to focus some attention on  taking care of my body by feeding it consciously.  I mean, we eat every single day.  And though I think I’m pretty good at the internal housekeeping, I reach for food for plenty of reasons other than nutrition —reasons like boredom, addiction (to sugar and caffeine), and the ever popular stuffing of emotions!  It’s nice to give those impulses a rest for a while.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep cruising so comfortably…but I’ll keep you posted.

Please feel free to comment!  I’d love to answer any questions you might have about my experience as the days tick on…

Valerie Moselle

What do you value?

Last week one of our dedicated yoga students sent and email regarding the NOURISH Core Values that are listed on our website. Here is the text of that email:

“Dear Nourish Staff,

Thank you for the confirmation for my appointment with Jocelyn. Today I had the pleasure of having time to read all of Nourish’s information. It is great.

I would like to add a Core Value that I believe is missing, having been devoted to the Om/Nourish family now for years. That is the value of LISTENING. I would like to see the core value “WE LISTEN to and embrace suggestions, questions, concerns and joys of our clients, members, students, and customers.” As I read the list, I missed that important element [of the Dubin family(well, Dalia is still in training)(smile)].

Though I have not had many classes with Kate and Roxanne, I have found them, as well, always willing to listen to any question, or happy to share some tidbit of life experience I or anyone after class had to share with them. They listen. I also find both of those ladies so open and willing to share their lives with us, supporting and giving a foundation for a family of professionals who truly care about nourishing the health of anyone who is willing to give even the smallest amount of their time toward bettering their lives and walking through the doors of NOURISH. Thus, both Kate and Roxanne seem to me to be in concert with Victor and Jocelyn in the Core Value of Listening.

In our cultural climate, in our political atmosphere, in a world where the importance of individualism sometimes erodes, or shades the importance of social values, compassion and the development of camaraderie, listening is a skill often missed, yet yearned for. Victor and Jocelyn Dubin have always listened well to me, my friends and family. I have over the years, observed them continually take an interest in participants’ needs through active listening, a quality that is essential to NOURISH anyone’s mind, body and spirit.

Thank you, Namaste, and Aloha,

Kulani Kamaha’o

Devoted to Nourish”

Thanks Kulani. We are listening and you can expect the addition to our core values page soon.

Victor

Massage: preventive medicine vs. indulgence

Greetings,

Let me introduce myself — With a lifetime of experience (I started massaging around 2nd grade, giving my teacher neck and shoulder massages on rainy day recess), over 1000 hours of formal education, and nearly 8 years with a professional background; I can no longer call myself just a massage therapist. Trained in over 16 modalities, I am known to utilize massage, energy and breath work, and guided meditation in any of my sessions. I specialize in pain relief, injury recovery, stress reduction, emotional transformation, and relaxation. My interest is finding the deep seeded root of any issue within the body, the intention I bring is to HELP create sustainable results in every one of my clients. Here at NOURISH I consider myself a “Healing Facilitator,” I choose the term facilitator because I merely assist in the process of healing. It is up to each individual client to bring one’s self to the state of well-being.

More often than not, the common reason I hear people use to NOT have a massage is because they don’t have the time, money, or need to “pamper themselves” or “indulge in frivolous things”. I’m hear to tell EVERYONE…yes that means you too, please listen up…

Massage is much more than a simple luxury to be had when you have the time or enough extra cash laying around. It is an ideal way to keep your body/mind vehicle rejuvenated and nourished, which is helps with your overall well-being and maintaining a body free of dis-ease. The physical and emotional health benefits list is long and very detailed, but because it feels SOOOOOOO good, too many people don’t realize or even discredit the actual effects it has on the individual – body, mind, and spirit.

So I have decided to dedicate a blog series to the holistic health advantages of massage therapy…stay tuned to learn more!!!

Many blessings of health and vitality,
Yarah


Something New at NOURISH

I just wanted to take a moment to introduce a new item we got at NOURISH this morning.

Jim Gallas, one of our massage and yoga practitioners, has created his own Zen Tai Shiatsu DVD which illustrates and teaches the viewer some new and interesting massage techniques which he has developed throughout his career.

The DVD contains an easy to learn session that will leave your clients, friends and family deeply relaxed and revitalized.

Done on a standard massage table- zen tai integrates well with other forms of bodywork. It is ideal for on-site work, including corporate events, conferences and festivals. Proper body mechanics are emphasized for safety, strength and ease.

The DVD also boasts an appendix with user-friendly meridian charts, as well as Spanish and English language options.

Although this DVD seems to be geared towards practitioners, I think we call can benefit from learning a few basic massage techniques. Enjoy this video with a friend or loved one and practice the techniques together for a fun and relaxing time!

Jim is a highly practiced massage therapist who had trained other practitioners in Santa Cruz, CA. He is available for massage appointments by request only at NOURISH in downtown Santa Cruz. His DVD is currently for sale at NOURISH’s boutique.

Kate

Loving NOURISH

I am so loving being at NOURISH! Our central location in downtown Santa Cruz gives so many more people access to our full schedule of yoga classes. Better yet it’s only $50/month for unlimited classes! Since we’ve opened I’ve seen students who previously practiced yoga only once or twice per month now practicing yoga 3, 4, 5 times a week and some nearly every day!

How awesome is it that Jocelyn and I offer our services in the same place now?! Not only do we get to see a lot more of each other and collaborate professionally, but our clients and students are seeing the powerful combination of yoga and mindful eating.

Additionally, massage is an integral element of our menu of services, with 6 practitioners practicing more than 15 styles, our clients and students are stoked to be able to care for themselves all under one roof!

Victor