Auntie Pamela’s Vacation Self-Care Package

So often I see clients completely wiped out after their heavily-scheduled “vacations”. They show up fatigued, aching, and dehydrated or overloaded with toxins and it takes a few weeks to get back on track. I’m aiming to avoid a necessary recovery period from my vacation this summer.

Here’s my plan.

Visiting family is a wonderful joy, and also brings up loads of deeply buried triggers and mismatched lifestyle choices. Now that I have nephews and a niece that I long to spend time with, my former plan of very short visits isn’t working any more.

Instead I’ve found a way to have my own space and have occasional visitors or drop in on them for a few hours now and then. As someone who needs A LOT of downtime, this is essential. I’ve claimed mornings as “me” time, making space for sunrise yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, and sipping tea while gazing through the trees at the lake.

I’m attempting to balance activities such as kayaking and swimming, which aren’t available in my normal life, with rest and restoration by making time for naps and a massage. I’m definitely eating more sugar than I recognize is good for me, but counteracting it somewhat with loads of fresh veggies and filtered water.

I’d forgotten how rough these little ones can be and was completely unaware of how much muscular effort is required on a peddle boat, so I was unprepared for aches and bruises. I’ll stop at the local co-op today for Epsom salts and arnica for my poor legs. Luckily I’ve not been head butted or had any teeth chipped on this trip!

I’m still working a bit while I’m here. Books need keeping and invoices need sending or else I’ll be swamped when I return. I’m doing several long-distance Reiki treatments for clients with urgent needs. AND I’m capping working hours at two per day. A pretty good ratio, I must say!

The foundation for my plan is balance. The goal is rest, play, work- in that order. While I won’t hit the mark every single hour, overall I am succeeding and enjoying the tremendous physiological benefits of relaxation. And hopefully when I return to my normal ratio of work, rest, play; I’ll be completely revitalized and ready to go.

Now if you please excuse me, a novel is waiting for me out on the deck.

Massage for Chronic Pain

“This is the first time I really understood what it means to be kind to my body.”

A client said this to me after a massage. We might have been sitting, but I was totally jumping for joy on the inside. Also the Hallelujah Chorus was playing in my head.

sunset beach people sunrise

Before the session, we had discussed my kinder, gentler approach to bodywork. I had explained how my goal is to activate the physiological relaxation response that triggers all the feel-good body chemistry and can help break the pain cycle. She understood that I planned to use a moderate pressure to coax the muscles into releasing tension while stimulating circulation, detoxification, and dare I say? Pleasure.

She knew that was the plan, but had no idea how very healing this approach could be. “But you didn’t even attack the knots!” No, I certainly did not! There is no benefit from attacking. Those knots are a symptom of imbalance. I’m much more interested in relieving the root cause of the imbalance, which so very often is… stress. Treating the stress lessens tension and often knots evaporate on their own.

Relaxation is a remedy for stress and pain. Creating more pain through aggressive massage is not a recipe for relaxation. Even intense work that falls just short of pain can stimulate the fight, flight, or freeze response which then triggers… muscle tension. Just like you can’t get carrots by planting cucumber seeds, you cannot cultivate relaxation through pain.

She left feeling considerable relief from the chronic pain that had been plaguing her almost constantly. The next week she reported that she’d had much less discomfort following her treatment, and that it was the first time massage had ever had any noticeable effect. What a victory! I have a feeling this new perspective on being kind to her body will continue to have helpful results as well.

I could have brushed off my hands right there and then and retired happily.

But of course I didn’t because I love my work and there’s so much more of it to be done.

Onwards!

 

 

Solstice Yoga & Reiki

Release into the Summer Solstice with Yoga Restoratives and Reiki!

 

magical trees

 

When my friend and colleague invited me to join her in offering a summer solstice event, I did my happy dance. What a delightful way to honor the rhythms of nature while inviting balance into our own systems. Restorative yoga is one of my favorite practices as it is deeply calming and soothing to my often frazzled nervous system. Adding Reiki into the mix is like the icing on the cake!

Esther will guide the class through a series of asanas, or yoga postures, while I provide deeply nurturing and healing energy for each participant. This will be our second collaboration like this; last year was a huge success and everyone left feeling super-relaxed and at peace. It was a great joy to watch as stress visibly melted away and smiles began to emerge organically.

I hope you’ll consider joining us on the evening of June 20 if you’re near the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. I hope you’ll find a meaningful and healthful way to celebrate the solstice wherever you are, and perhaps include these practices in your own way.

Register here and we look forward to seeing you then!

 

You’re Teaching Me to be Kind to Myself

“You’re Teaching Me to be Kind to Myself.”

A client said this to me during a massage treatment a few weeks ago. The concept of treating our bodies with kindness is somewhat uncommon in our culture of harder/ faster/ deeper/ push-through it mentality. In this particular case, I was working on an inflamed tendon that had been causing quite a bit of pain for over a month and interfering with her quality of life. I was using gentle pressure to soothe and comfort the entire area to encourage circulation and the release of muscular tension.

She had been braced for a painful session and was quite surprised at the results she experienced from my gentle approach. During the treatment she noticed how various body parts connected to one another and then began to see a bigger picture. While it is true that one particular tendon was inflamed due to overwork and a moment of excess strain place on it, all the surrounding muscle groups had been recruited to assist and protect the injury. Tension spread out from the source and had enveloped the entire quadrant. As relaxation settled in and muscles began to release, she could feel the internal structure settle into a more neutral position and breathed a sigh of relief.

When she returned two weeks later for a follow up treatment, she reported much less pain, more ease of movement, and a greater sense of harmony in her body. The persistent pain had been downgraded to a dull ache and the surrounding muscles were no longer locked in defensive contraction. Again I worked gently; this time spending a greater portion of the session integrating the limb with the torso while explaining how the whole body works as a team. She became intrigued with the idea of this one small tendon affecting distant areas and realized how she had adapted posture as well as movement to accommodate the injury.

She left that day encouraged to be more aware of her body mechanics and overall attitude towards her body. Introducing clients to the transformative belief that treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness produces lasting and deep effects is perhaps the most helpful input I have to offer as a bodyworker. I could explain this in terms of the nervous system triggering the fight-or-flight reflex vs the relaxation response and get into the biological effects of an aggressive approach vs a more gentle on; yet I think that deep down we can all intuitively grasp this concept. Be kind to your body; and it will respond by letting go of stress and pain.

Radical Self-Care, Downtime

Launching a new business while working two part time jobs feels a lot like rafting down the rapids without a paddle. The current takes me along for the ride and I do my best to hold on. I just keep doing the task that shows up in front of me and steadily moving forward. There’s really no point in struggling or trying to push the river, as that is just exhausting and rather pointless. I’m reminded of my hero, Louise Hay, saying that she started her now-international publishing company simply by opening the mail and answering the phones. Meaning: do the work at hand.

Well, it just so happens that there’s loads of work at hand! My to-do list keeps growing and yet there are still the same number of hours in each day. Inspiration comes and goes, sometimes at inconvenient times, and interrupts my plans. Yet I’m committed to taking good care of myself; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that I may remain healthy and happy and have a full life. It has become apparent that protecting my downtime a necessary step in this discovery process.

I’ve been failing at guarding my personal time. It’s somewhat scarce these days and all the more precious for that. Carving out time for self-care practices each morning and evening has become second nature to me: I have blocked out an entire morning each week for pajama time , I make an effort to connect with my friends, and I’m clear about which hours are reserved for work. The spaces that remain I consider to be recreational: reading a novel, watching Netflix, listening to music, going for a walk, or puttering around my home are some examples of how I fill my personal time.

The challenge lies in that it’s easy to be distracted by another task on my to-do list. One more email, another revision to my website, updating my calendar, folding the laundry are all important items that can interrupt me and before I know it, the small window of opportunity to play has slipped away. I now recognize the importance of having unstructured downtime in my self-care regime, and the need to create boundaries to protect it. So I’m silencing my phone and resisting the urge to check messages or the weather or my schedule or… whatever  when I’m reading or watching a show. I’m learning how to overlook my unmade bed and piles of unopened mail. I’m allowing emails to accumulate until it’s time to clock into business mode.

Basically I’m choosing to focus on the activity that I’m doing in each moment and get every morsel of pleasure that I can out of my brief and priceless downtime. I’m generating awareness that while my work is indeed very important, it is not the only, or even the most important thing. I’m creating a rich and full life for myself that includes balance between work and play and that means unplugging every day, if only for 20 minutes, to enjoy myself and be free. Downtime. It makes uptime more productive!

Radical Self-Care, Pajama Day

First of all, I’m psyched to celebrate the completion of my first week of radical self-care. I gave my maximum amount of massages over the past four days and rather than feeling depleted and sore, I am rather energized. That’s great news because today is my only day off and I’d be bummed if I was couch-ridden or immobilized. Clearly my increased emphasis on taking good care of myself (body, mind, heart, and soul) is paying off!

Today’s realization is that it’s important for me to have one morning each week without any plans. Even better if I could get a whole day, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I’m claiming one morning AND one evening. I call this pajama time. Not having to focus on leaving the house at a specific time creates a sense of leisure that I find to be incredibly restorative.

PJ

Pajama time may or may not coincide with a day off. This week is does not, and that’s what sparked the awareness that I need to carve out another morning and reserve it to stay at home. Today is my day off, meaning I will not see any clients or do marketing or accounting or website updates. However, I am planning to go to a yoga class and get a facial afterwards. Which means a 6:00 am wakeup, body brushing , meditation, spiritual practice , breakfast and plenty of time to get to class at a leisurely pace. It is most definitely not a less is more, or a pajama day.

So I actually just blocked off time in my schedule tomorrow morning to remain at home. It is a work day, but the work I need to do is computer tasks, and it can be done easily from the comfort of my room, with messy hair, while wearing my favorite Oscar the Grouch T-shirt. I’m not joking; I take this so seriously that I entered “pajama time” into my iPhone as a repeating event for Wednesdays. I might move it around from week to week, but having a digital record of this commitment will help me to reschedule it if something comes up.

Making time to rest in this fast-paced world requires some ingenuity and a great deal of devotion. How do you reserve space for restoration in your busy schedule?

 

 

Radical Self-Care, Get to Class

Already I’m feeling the benefits of enhancing my self-care practices. Taking on a part-time job to enable me to pursue my dream of operating a Reiki practice has turned up the pressure, making it necessary for me to optimize my wellness routine. After exploring the rewards of doing less  and of  daily meditation, today I am renewing my devotion to yoga classes.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of attending classes regularly after moving to a new neighborhood. Traveling to my favorite classes has suddenly become incredibly inconvenient and I adjusted by finding some great videos online and stepping up my home practice. Yet I have been missing the magic that happens when practicing with others, the individual attention of an experienced teacher, and the personal growth that is possible in a class environment.

Yesterday I tried a class at a studio near my home that sounded just right for my particular needs: convenience, hands-on adjustments, knowledgeable instructor, and good timing. I was so delighted by the results that I have decided to block that time off on a weekly basis to continue my exploration. This commitment seems to be the most important part of self-care; intention without action is meaningless. So I’m devoted to getting there every Thursday, and if for any reason I’m unavailable at that time, I’ll choose another class as a substitute.

If you happen to live in the Philly area, I’m delighted to wholeheartedly recommend Alex at Magu Yoga in Mount Airy. She’s a true yogini and a wonderful teacher. If you’re not in the Philly area, I encourage you to do some research and find a class that is both convenient and inspiring. Without those two elements, it’s easy to flake. The rewards of attending a class regularly are priceless and the feeling of bliss after each yoga experience is a tremendous motivator to keep coming back.