18 Mar 2016

Golden Milk - A Recipe For Reducing Inflammation

Turmeric has been famous as a powerful anti-inflammatory herb for at least 3 millennia in Chinese and Indian healing systems. It has recently surfaced again in natural healing discussions and research. There are loads of proven health benefits in this herb and it's efficacy is even greater when combined with a couple of other ingredients.


The following trifecta of ingredients create a powerhouse concoction that will have a more powerful effect than taking any of them on their own. The components to this Ayurvedic recipe that work synergistically to create the best results are: 
  1. Curcumin - in turmeric
  2. Piperine - in black pepper
  3. Good Lipid - in coconut oil


Curcumin is the constituent in turmeric that contains all the health benefits - particularly anti-inflammatory properties. And it's widely known that inflammation is at the root of most bodily dysfunction and illness. The following recipe's ingredients also act as antioxidants, thereby reducing the likeliness of inflammatory conditions wreaking havoc in the body.
Loads of research has been done on the many ways this substance supports the body's health. Some of the most commonly known benefits of turmeric are for treating the following conditions:
  • Inflammation 
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Treating and preventing cancer
This is a great article on increasing the bioavailability of curcumin - the active ingredient in turmeric. Have a read if you are interested in the science behind it all.

Okay, let's get started!

Step 1: Make Turmeric Paste:
Turmeric paste will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.


  • 1/4 cup of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of filtered water

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a small a small sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly for about 5-8 minutes and the the mixture becomes a thick paste. Use a spoon or whisk you don't mind being stained bright yellow; aside form it's health benefits, turmeric is a known natural dye. This boiling step is a fast process so don’t walk away from the pan. You may need to add a tad more water if the paste becomes thick too quickly. Boiling* the herbs is an important process, making the medicinal properties of the turmeric and pepper bioavailable, so don't skimp on the time of this step. 
Let this mixture cool and then keep it in a small glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. This paste can also be used in other cooking concoctions. Try it in scrambled eggs or add some to curries and soups. 

Step 2: Make Golden Milk


  • 1 cup of 2% milk (almond, soy, hemp or coconut are also good options)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional, add if using a milk substitute that has little to no fats)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric paste
  • Unpasteurized raw honey to taste

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients, except honey** in a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium. While heating make sure to stir constantly and do not allow the mixture to boil. Add honey to taste. 

Dosage:

Start by drinking 1 cup of Golden Milk once or twice a day. You should feel the results - less pain and stagnation - within 3 to 4 days. 

Footnotes:

* Boiling a root to extract it's medicinal properties is called making a decoction. This process makes the herb's constituents soluble in the boiling water. FYI: I feel somewhat entitled to claim knowledge on this topic because before I was a massage therapist and life coach, I obtained a Chartered Herbalist Diploma from Dominion Herbal College back in 2004. This was during the hippy days of my past life when I lived closely with the earth on a small gulf island in the coast of British Columbia.
** Try to seek sources of local unpasteurized honey and be sure to never boil it! The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and other magical qualities that are naturally inherent in honey are lost when heated. Don't un-do all the hard work the bees have done for you. 
Happy concocting!
~ Dana

29 Jun 2015

Walk the Talk

Renewing my commitment to foot health looks like this.
I've had persistent foot pain over the past year and I am fed up with it. It started as plantar fasciitis last February as I adopted the new habit of running, which stopped that practice quickly in its steps. As with all chronic injuries, symptoms began to manifest in areas distant from the original source of pain due to my body's need to compensate for altered movement patterns. So what was once heel pain, became hip and low back pain and more recently, audible cracking in my ankle and knee joints.

Unfortunately, just understanding about orthopedic injuries doesn't protect one from them. I am however developing a deep understanding and empathy for the frustrations of seemingly minor injuries and the effects of not being able to move how I'd like to. 

So in light of this I would like to publicly declare my new commitment to healthy footwear and therefore one day healthier feet. I have a decent collection of semi-practical shoes in my closet, but very few of them are a perfect fit. The fashion-minded part of me who cares about my appearances has been struggling with finding the perfect pair of shoes. Apparently it's a tall order to find shoes that are a hybrid of practicality, class, and  quality. I walk a lot, work on my feet all day, and then usually play in some way during my time off that involves my feet. Given all they do for me, they deserve to be treated like royalty. 

Here's the good news: I actually found said shoes! I bought a pair of black leather Eccos and went back two weeks later to buy another pair in a similar model but different colour because they instantly brought joy to my tootsies. Buttery soft leather, a flexible sole that is as light as air, built with craftsmanship for durability, and I'd say that they look pretty darn classy too - in a casual high quality sorta way.  Dreams can come true.

Now it's time to make some space in my closet. I suspect it'll be an emotional event, taking my sub-par shoe collection to the consignment store. I'll be sure to pack tissues for potential the tear shedding that might occur from letting go of this part of my previous identity. 

Integrity is an important value to me, so walking my talk about putting my health first is a powerful motivator for this act. Thank you for making me accountable to you for the benefit of my health.
What are you willing to commit to for the sake of your health?

See you in the clinic,
Dana

22 Mar 2015

Grounded

Holding Space

People have told me that I'm grounded and that they benefit from the safe and courageous healing space I create and hold for them during massage therapy treatments. When I hear this I'm so pleased, not only because it's beautiful to know that they feel supported in my clinic space but also because I've had to work at it. I understand the vulnerability that is required to enter a healing mindset and I consider it a sacred act to offer an environment where people can enter this state. I don't consider myself a magical mystical healer, but I do see myself as a person who has the ability to help people access their own innate healing abilities with tools that I have learned. In order to provide this for people it is incredibly important for me to operate from a deeply rooted and grounded place.

But How Do I Do That? 

Forget skinny, I train to be bad-ass.
For me - one who has the tendency to be a bit flighty - grounding myself involves operating from a solid routine. It involves practicing my values daily to ensure that I am living from the heart and fulfilling my callings. I practice yoga,  I eat nutritious food, I connect and engage with other passionate people, I observe, indulge, and celebrate in the beauty of the world around me, I play in nature, I find stillness, and I lift heavy things. Yup, I pump iron. 

I gain strength and empowerment by pushing away from the pull of gravity. And sometimes I pretend to be a superhero while I'm at it, taking down the bad guys for the benefit of all mankind. This often leads to interesting sound effects and dramatic displays of strength and agility. Good thing my trainer has a sense of humour.
Could it be more blatant how gravity affects me - grounds me - than with 25 pounds of iron in each hand doing inclined presses? That's a pretty serious connection to the Earth I'd say.

Weight training reinforces the trust I have in myself to sustain and thrive beneath life's pressures. I know - and can feel it in my body - that that under the weight and responsibility of a load, I gain strength and resilience. And what a powerful metaphor to overlay onto my life. Who woulda thunk that weight training would be a spiritual experience? But that's just it. When you are attuned to the greater forces, using intention to sculpt how you see the world, everything can be spiritual. It's just a matter of looking for it.

No Gravity = Weak Bones

And aside from my spiritual musings, there are immense physical benefits to lifting weights. As a woman in her thirties, I need to consider my bone density. Our bodies typically reach their peak bone density in the beginning of the third decade, and without effort to maintain it, this bone strength will steadily decrease with age.

Are you familiar with Wolf's Law? This theory asserts that bones - which let me remind you, are a living tissue - will respond to the demands placed upon them by increasing osteoblast activity - build more bone - where lines of pressure exist. Depending on your activity, your skeletal system will increase bone density in regions where more force has been repeatedly applied. For example, the density of the bones in a runner's lower extremity would be greater than those of the bones swimmer, cyclist, or astronaut. Simply walking on this planet against the pull of gravity helps to maintain lower body bone density, so moving heavy things will only increase the effects of this force upon our bodies. Surely you've heard of osteoporosis by now. No gravity means weak bones, and that hardly seems like a good thing. 

The simplistic act of a weight training regime, pushing and pulling in response to gravity's pull, keeps me in touch with the greater forces of life. In this act of mindfulness, as I strengthen my body's muscles, bones, nervous and circulatory systems, I also reinforce that I am a strong woman. Believing that I am strong permeates how I conduct myself in the world, allowing me to act with bravery, trust, and confidence. Leading from those places makes me a bad-ass, which helps me embody some of my values, making certain that I am able to stay grounded for my patients.

See you in the clinic,
Dana

19 Feb 2015

How About Live Better Instead of Longer?

Have you noticed how longevity is such a buzz word these days?

I have and I don't like it. And the funny thing is that I didn't realize this until I was in conversation with a very dear friend of mine yesterday. We are developing some very exciting new ideas - which you will be filled in on eventually - and happened to be brainstorming about health and wellness topics.
"What about nutrition? Gratitude? Longevity?..."
"No! Not longevity, I despise that trend."
"What do you mean?" she asked, truly confused why I would be against living a long life.
"I don't like this idea of living longer lives when so many aren't even living high quality lives. I want nothing to do with longevity if it means my quality of life is diminished."

But this view and comfort with the ending of life, I'm starting to realize, isn't one that most others share.

I don't fear death, I never have.

I'm not certain how I gained this outlook. Perhaps my open-minded upbringing, where discussions of mortality would be a perfectly normal dinner conversation. Or witnessing the comfort my own mother exemplified while helping and caring for her family members pass to the next place. Or recently being with my own father as he took his last breaths and heart beats.

It all seems so simple to me: you are here in this body and then you are not. But the atoms and energetic spark of a person are interconnected with a greater force that we are all part of. So when a person dies, their body is gone but the magic that made them exist and emotionally connect with us is forever present. That whole "we are one" concept really works for me. This perspective allows me feel confident that those who don't share this incarnation any longer are still with me. I can still feel how they made me feel, remember how they conducted themselves, and how they left their mark in the world. This comforts me and gives me the confidence to trust the natural process of life and death.

We die and are reborn over and over in our lifetimes. We practice this when falling asleep at night and then rising in the morning, observing the dark drawing in of the Earth as she settles into autumn then spring forth when the days grow longer again, or finishing one phase in our lives and moving to the next. The recognition of this repeated process prepares us for facing the actual death of ourselves.

It seems to me that this desire for a long life and this hot topic of longevity in health and wellness pop culture stems from the fear of death. I think the distinction that needs to be made is that a long life is only worth living if you can actually live it. I'd rather live an active, healthy, and happy existence for the time that I have than strive and stress for more time to live a not entirely fulfilling life. Quality over quantity as the old adage goes.

On that note, my weekend plans involve receiving acupuncture, practicing yoga, and eating my greens all to better enjoy my life, connect with those I love, and ultimately influence the world in a positive manner. I invite you find what makes you feel alive and actually do it, because striving for better is immediately more awesome than longer.

See you in the clinic,

Dana

22 Jan 2015

The App for Optimism

It's been an eventful several months with my clinical practice, personal growth, and conception of new and diverse business directions.

The fall is always notoriously busy for massage therapists, as our patients scramble to use up the remainder of their extended health benefit allotments, and this certainly was the case for me. Then came the winter holiday season, bustling with its own sort of busyness and merriment. January landed softly in my lap wrapped in a two week vacation and therapeutic yoga learning intensive on the island of Maui. Not a bad reward for a full-on fall and early winter.

Nonetheless, I've let this blog take a back seat  - not for lack of want - but for preservation of my creative energies. There's only so much output this person is capable of at any given time. It is my preference to dive into my projects fully, as opposed to thinning my attention into too many streams, losing potency in the end product. Hence this deliberate stepping back from writing here. 

I have however, found a daily outlet for blog-like sentiments in the form of photographic observations of my world. Yes, Instagram has become my very good friend. It's exciting connecting with people, building communities, and sharing insights and perspectives. Oh, and the photos! Communicating through visuals has always been a strength for me

Please follow, like, and comment on my Instagram profile @sparkwellness.ca to help me build an empire of optimism, health, and wellbeing. I've been compiling some fun collections of sunrises from my balcony, scenic headstands, smiling inanimate objects, and loads of examples of positivity sprouting around me as I wander through this life. Join me!




See you in the clinic and online,

Dana

27 Oct 2014

Learning To Love

There's nothing like getting up close and personal
with the things that make you uncomfortable in
order to befriend them. Parsvottanasna
helped me learn to love my feet.

Understanding

I used to be self conscious of my feet, dreading sandal season and barefoot encounters of all types. I was hyper aware of all the pretty feet that traipsed care-free through the world around me. It wasn't until I started practicing yoga back in 2000 that I began the journey of appreciating my feet. Maybe it was the required staring at them in their unadulterated bareness while in uttanasana and parsvottanasna poses, or all the cues my yoga teachers gave me to 'engage'  different parts of them through the practice that made me appreciate how much they do for me. Overcoming this self conscious mindset came only after gaining a deep body awareness of how they worked and contribute to my movements. From there I began to love them.

Three things I love about my feet:
1. They take me places & allow me to do things I love doing,
2. They don't have fungus or other yucky conditions,
3. They connect me to the Earth.
I joke with myself that my toes look like ET's neck, all wrinkled, knobby, and alien. I've wasted time wishing they weren't so veiny, so lumpy, or plump. But why bother thinking about myself in this way? Why not take the advice I give to my 13 year old daughter who is in the throws of adolescent self-judgements? Your body is an amazing composite of matter in the form of a gorgeous human being. Celebrate your health, your ability to move and express yourself, and the simple and profound fact that you are here at all. Don't get hung up on the details that nobody else sees but you, their opinions of you never matter as much as how you see yourself.

I've never had major self-confidence issues, and by speaking to this topic I don't mean to sound like I'm talking down to anyone with my all mighty wisdom. But I have made some observations that have helped me get over some things that have slowed me from fully loving myself. 


Respect

Lack of self confidence can be debilitating, and germinating it within yourself can start by simply acknowledging and appreciating your existence. In my experience, knowledge leads to empowerment. So if you can't at first find the soft skills to love yourself - including those "flaws" - start with objective observation of what exists. Do this without judgement or comparison, only observation. This approach might just be enough to break the habit of developing self-depreciating opinions of yourself. From this observational approach, you might eventually begin to move into an appreciative mode. And with this shift in how you think about yourself, you might accidentally find yourself simply loving yourself. Pure love doesn't want to change anything.

Surely we all have certain bodily features that aren't our favourites, but by shifting your focus from your insecurities to appreciating what intricacies are required to simply exist in this human incarnation, the net result might just be joy. The practice of gratitude can work magic like that.

Notice any similarities between this guy and my little piggies? 
In my work I sometimes get a glimpse at how people see themselves. For some, bearing their skin and surrendering themselves to the hands of another in the form of a massage - even if it's in a pleasant, safe, and healing environment - can be an incredibly challenging act to do. The thought of doing just that, might cause more pain than the aching muscles in their body. I appreciate that. And I congratulate anyone who shows the bravery to overcome their fears in order to gain deeper healing. You have my deepest respect.


Love

I've acted as a sounding board, a listener, and an empathetic ear, since sometimes people choose to share deeply personal things about themselves with me during their massage treatment. Physical therapies can elicit a connection between the mind and body, and I have witnessed how releasing areas of bodily tension can also release pent up emotions.  
I am thankful that I have managed to create an environment where my patients feel safe to share themselves in. When people express concern with their body's flaws I want them to see the beauty and wonder of their body that I see. The more I learn about human anatomy and physiology the more I realize how outstanding it is that our bodies function at all; simply put, it's a bloody miracle. With all the coordination of multiple systems required to simply be alive, shouldn't we celebrate the very fact that we are alive? Is it not a bit selfish to think that our negative view of ourselves is more important than celebrating the miracle that is our body? 

Empathy runs deeply in my veins and I can't help but feel a bit of the pain my patients feel. I wish I knew what to say when someone confides that they don't like some part of themselves. I want them to know that I consider them a miracle and am privileged to facilitate them in experiencing their body in the best possible way.

For me, my insecurities faded when I began to understand the purpose and function of the parts of me that I didn't care for. From there I developed respect, which eventually matured into love. I still don't think my feet are "pretty", but I love them. We have been on some breathtaking adventures together and for this I am so incredibly grateful.

With deepest respect,
Dana

 

29 Sep 2014

That Card Costs Me - Support Local Small Business By Choosing Payment Method Mindfully

Paying with a card might be free for you, but it costs the merchant.
Do you know how much using your card costs me?
I accept payment for massage treatments at the clinic in a variety of forms: cash, cheque, debit, MasterCard, and Visa. Some of these methods cost me to deposit into my account, others don't. 


Do you know how your payment choice affects local small business owners? 

For my micro business the breakdown is like this:
  • Cash = Remember that stuff? Those bills are free for me to accept/deposit.
  • Cheque = A bit old school, but works like cash.
  • Debit = 10 cents, no matter the size of the transaction.
  • Credit = 2.8% of transaction total. The amount I pay our credit card payment provider is approximately $2.80 for every one hour massage treatment. Part of this percentage is charged on top of the tax I collect. Sneaky, aren't they?
 

So, what?

I operate a tiny little business. When you function at this scale, every dime of revenue and expense is accounted for. Although it can be helpful to have business expenses for tax purposes, there comes a point when you have enough expenses accumulated and just want to see income simply coming in. Last year I paid nearly $600 in point of sale fees; that same amount could have flown me to Maui for a continuing education course to further my professional skills. Receiving payment by cash, cheque, and debit keeps more money in my pocket, so I can invest it into growing my business.

I am grateful for all paying customers, and will accept any form of payment that they provide, but if it doesn't matter to you whether you pay by credit, debit, or cash, then I invite you to consider how your choice of payment method affects me. When supporting small businesses in your community, why not ask if they have a preferred payment method? You might just be helping them actually put more money directly in their pocket, and that is a very sweet thing indeed.

See you in the clinic,
Dana




22 Sep 2014

Magic Honey Facial Mask

Really, I'm not kidding. This is magic, and possibly the simplest face mask imaginable.
Okay, ready?

Here's the secret recipe:

  • One teaspoon of unpasteurized honey, smeared evenly over your face.
  • Let sit for several minutes.
  • Rinse off. 

It's understandably quite sticky, so using this mask before a shower might be best. I've found that I don't require a cleanser after rinsing the mask, it takes care of this, too.

Honey will firm up your visage, shrink your pores, and fine lines will fade. All this thanks to magical workings of bees.

Give it a try! You don't have much to lose - except maybe a few laugh lines. Let me know if you notice a difference in your skin with repeated use.


- Dana

19 Sep 2014

The Pain Gate Theory Explains How Massage Reduces Pain

Sorry Pain, you cannot pass through the gate. Pleasure gets priority.
Have you ever stumbled through your living room in the night to have the corner of the coffee table come in direct full-swing contact with your shin? I have many times - gee, maybe I should move the table - and I often find myself instinctively reaching for the injured area to briskly rub it.

Why is that?

One theory is that our brains don't want to feel pain and have mechanisms in place to reduce our perception of it. The ascending nerve pathways (sensation information going to the brain) have a preference for input that brings pleasure. That's right, we are all wired to feel pleasure before pain. So when we injure ourselves our instincts make us rub the sore spot to intercept the pain signals also trying to reach the brain.

Imagine that there is a gate keeper on the road to the brain, and a pain signal and a pleasure signal arrive at the gate at the same time. If the signal for pain isn't that important, ie: not life threatening, the pleasure signal will be allowed to pass through first and will arrive at the brain faster. The brain will receive the signal of pleasure before the signal of pain and therefore down-regulate the pain's message.

How does this relate to massage therapy?

With this theory in mind one can apply the concept of pain management through positive touch. If you suffer from chronic pain such as arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia, et cetra you might perceive less discomfort from these ailments by experiencing pleasant cutaneous sensations in other areas of your body. To clarify: by receiving a soothing massage your brain may "turn-down" the pain signals it has been receiving in order to give preference to the pleasure signals.

Ronald Melzack, a Canadian researcher, with Patrick Wall introduced their "gate control" theory of pain in 1965. This theory changed how we look at pain perception and is still relevant to how pain management is approached. These researchers also validated the role of psychology in pain management by examining how mental state influences perception of pain.

One big piece to the psychological component of pain perception is how you think about pain when it is occurring to you. Your mood, personal experiences, environment, and context of stimulation can all alter how the brain experiences pain. People who live with chronic pain syndromes can learn to down-regulate or choose not to perceive as much pain by controlling their thoughts about pain. But this is a whole other discussion in itself.

Who can benefit from massage in this way?

A little positive touch can go a long way.
People suffering from these common conditions could benefit from regular massage therapy to reduce pain:
  • Osteoprosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fracture
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • AIDS
No, I'm not promising that massage therapy will solve your health concern or disease, but it can improve your quality of life by reducing the amount of pain that your brain perceives.

Massage therapy has an incredible breadth of application and can be useful for anyone looking to improve their quality of life by making their body as functional and pain-free as possible.

In wellness,
Dana


P.S.   If you feel like getting a bit nerdy and learning about neuoranatomy and chronic pain management, I've included some links that have been helpful to me.

Resources:
  • Dr Ronald Melzack discusses human pain perception and the development of his Pain Gate Theory(5:25 Pain Gate Theory introduced):   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRFanGInvlc
 

  •  Dr John Campbell explains The Ascending Gating Mechanism (Pain Gate Theory description starts at approx 1:20 mins):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9qbXKIAeNo
  •  Graceful Agony blog post about the Pain Gate Theory: 
    http://gracefulagony.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/gate-control-theory-of-pain/

18 Aug 2014

My Apologies

It's harder to keep centered when life gets turned upside-down.
I dropped off the blogging charts and in the world of blogging this is a serious no-no but I needed to simplify my life and obligations, so this writing project was set to the back burner for a time.

I would have liked to notify my readers that I was taking a break but until now I haven't even been able to open my blog to muster up the words to say that I can't be here. Really, in the scale of bad things to happen, the fall-out from my blogging absenteeism is small.

Sometimes life calls for simplification, and in my time of requiring recuperation I fortunately had the ability and choice to weed out some of the less essential activities that I participate in in order to create some ease in my life.

We all experience times in our lives when stress levels soar, sometimes due to self-inflicted sources, other times due to unforeseen circumstances. Being able to take an objective look at your life,  to pick and choose what things are modifiable sources of stress-load is an important ability. I would like to think of my decision to take time-out as an example of me modelling the behavior I hope to see in our society.

I hope that the take-home from this post is that it is okay to let go for a while. If you feel like you need permission, here it is: go ahead, take a break. If you can, be forthcoming and let people affected by your choices know what's up, but give yourself some slack. Sometimes we all need time to just turn off.

I needed this time to myself to refill my coffers with ideas and energy. Contemplation, time with my loved ones, and some time away helped me regain my strength. And oh, how the ideas are bountiful once again! If you noticed my absence, thank you for your patience.

In my work, I see a lot of people with high stress levels who seek massage therapy as one of the tools to help them manage. Stress manifests in many levels as dysfunction in the body, and massage can aid your ability to manage this thanks to your body's release of endorphins during and after a treatment. On that note, I think it's time for me to book myself a massage.

Keepin' it real,
Dana