Energy, Nature and Reflexology

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy lately, how it is all around us, how it flows all through nature and how these ideas relate to Reflexology. This is a summary of what my brain has been picking apart lately!
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As living creatures on the Earth, we are reliant on the planet for our survival and are affected by its power; the sun, tide, weather – we know they all impact our moods. With this understanding of the Earth’s natural power and our reliance on what the Earth provides, it is obvious to me that by exposing ourselves more to nature in place of concrete and technlogy,  we can greatly improve the quality of our lives, without medication.

We are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons and are a mass of fluids, loosely held together with tissue while our atoms bounce around inside us doing their thing in specific systems. By being aware that these processes and systems inside our bodies can get muddled, sick or out of balance, we begin to realise that we have the ability to help ourselves to heal without medication. This has got to be basic physics.

Holistic Therapies has been used across many cultures for many centuries, and I believe it would be arrogant to ignore its benefits. Reflexology is the practice of massaging and manipulating the hands or feet in specific ways to encourage relaxation, the clearing of blockages, and stimulate the body’s energy & systems towards balance, thus enabling reduced stress and improved healing.

Obviously if you sit at your computer for 8hours prior to a treatment, eat a McDonalds on the way, dwell on something stressful during the treatment, and drink half a bottle of wine afterwards then your body and mind will have some difficulty dealing with the stagnation and toxins. However, with a little self-awareness and self-care alongside Reflexology, I know it works.

Reflexology is non-invasive and recognises the person as a whole, aware that overall well-being includes physical and emotional health. By providing relaxation the muscle tension will be released thus reducing pain, stress and enabling the circulatory system to work more effectively. Physically, by assisting the immune and lymphatic systems, the body is better able to fight infection, pollutants and enable detox. And lets face it, a wonderful foot massage in itself can help sooth us, encourage circulation to the feet and improve our mood.

The Human Body is a wonderfully complex machine full of interconnected systems, pathways and organisms working together. Lets celebrate our wonderful bodies and help them to help us by embracing our spiritual, physical and psychological well-being,

Being your own Parent

I’ve gone back to thinking recently about the idea of ‘being your own parent’. It’s an idea I came to a few years back when my life was totally out of balance and I realised that the only person who could regulate my behaviour – and therefore my constant ups and downs – was me! There are various articles around about managing your diet, sleep, approach to work etc, that as a growing child, a parent does for us and adopting these types of boundaries for ourselves is where it starts. There are other articles around learning to love yourself, and it’s kind of the same thing, just still using the ‘parenting’ analogy.

As I thought more about it all those years ago, I realised that the little voice in my head was not helpful, you know the one: “you should be working harder”, “you could have done that better” etc. I just ended up pushing myself too hard and being super-busy or being exhausted and feeling rubbish! I would never talk to a child that I loved like that, so why was I talking to myself like that?! I wrote down all the things that, in my head, a perfect parent would do for their child, and it looked something like this:

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I decided to try to be my own perfect parent. I cut down not the amount to chocolate and cake I ate, started going to bed when I’m tired rather than continuing to watch something I don’t even like on the TV! As the years have gone by,  I’ve learnt to say ‘No’ to things that I don’t want to do, I diarise time to rest and time to play, I encourage myself to work towards the bigger goal when things feel difficult, and when I make a mistake, I don’t instantly criticise myself. Obviously, I’m no-one’s perfect parent, but by pausing to consider whether my comments and attitude towards myself would be helpful or harmful to a small child, I’m learning to be healthier, be happier, and have a more confident approach to life.

Why a Reflexologist should never diagnose

As a Reflexologist, my main calling is to massage people’s feet in a particular way which helps improve overall health & wellbeing. Often, I have a client say to me “Oh, what’s that?”

My instinct is always to say, “Your foot!”

I know that’s not what is being asked of me, so unless I’m feeling particularly cheeky, I don’t say it. I explain how the area of the foot they’re asking about correlates to a particular part of their body which may be out of balance. As the client is supposed to be relaxing, I try to keep the answer simple, while still concentrating on what I’m doing.

However, I do think the full explanation is important.

My background in sport and physiology always prompts my brain to wonder if your foot just has an unusual quirk to itsbasic structure. After that, I wonder if you dropped something on your foot and forgot about it; perhaps you banged your toe; maybe you’ve worn poorly fitting shoes, or you could have stood on something. I look at your foot for indications of bruising, splinters, unhappy toenails or infections. The mechanics of your foot are of primary importance for your wellbeing.

Following that, my brain shifts into my Reflexology training. Reflexology works on energy zones whereby each part of the body is mapped to a particular point on the foot. Therefore a tightness, soreness, warm sensation, buzzing, tingling, or what feels like resistance or small crystals to me, can show where there is an energy blockage. And an energy blockage indicates that the correlating part of the body is overworked, tired, injured, holding negative energy, not functioning efficiently or is generally out of balance.

Because the body is such an interconnected network of systems, an imbalance in one part of the digestive system could show up on your foot as an energy blockage in a different part of that system from where the imbalance is, so I work through a systematic process. I also use caution as an unusual sensation in the area correlating to, say, your colon, is likely to be as simple as your immune system fighting off a virus you don’t know you’ve got, or you may be slightly dehydrated, so there is no value in anyone jumping to worst case scenario.

Again, due to parts of our bodies being so interdependent, if you have a problem with your left shoulder, you will be holding your right shoulder differently and your neck might be slightly out of alignment. Therefore, the energy blockage may show up in the reflex area correlating in one of those secondary areas. From this perspective, Reflexology gives an indication as to where your body needs help to rebalance, and the therapy offers it.

There are additional reasons why it is irresponsible to diagnose. And this is in part because there are several differing versions of foot maps. Some people say this is due to the maps being drawn up by different peoples, each culture having its own distinct energy flow around the body. Others say that once one was copy-written, everyone else’s had to be slightly different. What I know is that they are all drawn up based on a ‘normal’ body, and provide a guide to reflex points. For example, on some maps, the sinuses are on the toes, on others they are beneath the toes –I’ve had clients with blocked sinuses react to the toes, and others react to points beneath the toes. No-one’s body is the ‘norm’ and every client I treat is different. As I get to know your feet, I tune into your vibe and learn what is ‘normal’for you. If I know you have had an operation to move your gall bladder or a kidney, it’s reasonable to work on the principle that a) there will be scar tissue around that area and b) your digestive organs will all have shifted and adapted slightly, hence are unlikely to correlate directly to any foot map.

So next time you ask a Reflexologist “What’s that?”and they smile to themselves and take a deep breath before giving you a reply, you know what’s going through their mind. And sometimes, the answer really is “Your foot”!

A pretty good attempt of the points where internal organs correlate to, completed by a child at a recent event, and Reflexology image courtesy of Association of Reflexologists, of which I am a member.

 

 

I wish I had bruises…

pain-scaleHave you ever pulled a muscle? Had a twinge in your back? A really harsh knock that leaves a bruise in an inconvenient place? Experienced a nagging headache that won’t go for a couple of days?

Horrible isn’t it. You feel a bit vulnerable and wobbly and delicate until it gets better.

Now, imagine it never got better. Imagine that the next time you experience a pull, twinge, knock or headache that it will be there forever. It will also affect the joints and muscles around it so they will be a bit of an annoyance too sometimes. The fit, healthy you who could just go stand at a concert for several hours, carry three bags back from the shops, open the fridge or oven door without bracing yourself in a specific position… that you is gone. And it is never coming back. You will feel a bit vulnerable and wobbly and delicate forever. Welcome to the world of Chronic Pain. I’ve been living here for well over a decade… and the next person who says to me ‘but you’re so young, wait till you get to my age!’ will get a very un-holistic response.

I have yet to discover this thing they call ‘acceptance’. I have always been an active person, however, at age 30-something, I encountered various professionals who said things like I may never climb, ski, canoe, or run again. Several years later, I realise that I have defiantly, continually, and often inconveniently, charged head first into brick walls, body slammed boulders and fallen hard onto concrete floors. All metaphorical, but resulting in severe physical and psychological scarring, a process that has led to a gradual awareness: In order to live as full a life as possible, I need to maintain certain balances. And balance – physically or metaphorically – as it transpires, is not my strong point.  It is however, something I’m learning…

I’m living a life where all too often, I want to give up. Not die. Just lay in bed until a magic spell or pill makes it all better so I can have my life back. Some days I wake up and everything hurts. Think about that for a minute: I’m a 41 year old woman, waking up with a day of work and stuff planned, and my very first awareness, not even a thought, just a blurred awareness is “E v e r y t h i n g  h u r t s”. Its hard to specify which joint / muscle / tendon / finger / hair follicle is worst because it all feels heavy and tired and bruised. I have to work out what body parts can move where, and which bit of my body I need to move first. Sometimes I’m lucky and it’s just the usual spasms and numbness – I know what they are and I know how to work through those so they’re fine. The unusual and new pains can be daunting. I’m exhausted before I even get out of bed at least 2 days a week, sometimes 7 days a week. There are times that I resent, hate and fear my own body. But I keep on living for those times where I’m proud of it for not giving in, and even better are those times when after 6 months of emptiness and gruelling ups & downs at the gym, suddenly, part of me will feel a wee bit more flexible, more stable, or just a little bit stronger.

I wish that the pain showed up on my body as bruises, the centre of bad bits being darker then becoming lighter further from the epicentre. I wish it was visible so I could pinpoint exactly where the ‘trigger’ or worst points are, because if I could identify and solve those, then the rest would calm down, right? I guess I just wish for some sort of significant change that would enable me to feel a bit more in control. Some days I’m just so very sad as carrying my exhausted, heavy and tired body is the heaviest cloud imaginable. I resent it, I feel broken and part of me is still angry. I go to a classes to help mobilise, strengthen,  and stabilise my core. It’s all fine until someone says ‘the idea is to hold the pose dear’ or ‘stretch a little further, you can do it’. That’s when the rage of injustice boils inside me and it’s all I can do to stop myself flying at the poor well-meaning person and releasing all my years of anger and pain in their face. And then I cry.

I eat a healthy diet. I do pilates-based exercises most days. I walk a lot. I have a social life, a creative mind and I get 8 hours sleep a night (subject to pain interruptions and inconveniences obviously). My logical brain knows that there is no magic pill, or spell, or wand, or treatment. I don’t want sympathy, but I would like understanding. I do struggle sometimes, and unless you recognise the look in my eyes, the wobble in my legs or the way I hold myself when I’ve been standing for too long, you won’t know that I’m struggling, because my body looks just fine, no bruises here.

Be gone Headache! Joy of Myofascial Release

I recently discovered the wonder of myofascial release on my cranium, or my head, as it’s commonly known. Myofascial release is a very safe and effective hands-on treatment that involves applying gentle pressure to and around the soft tissues. I regularly have sports massage and know I carry a significant amount of tension in my jaw, neck and shoulders, so anything that could help ease the nagging aches and pains is always welcome. I had booked the appointment before Christmas, and coincidently, the right side of my neck had been particularly bad leading up to the day of the appointment. I suspected I was coming down with an ear / throat infection and while stretching has eased it off, the constant stiffness, headache and impact on my balance has proved distracting.

It’s an odd sensation when someone else has control of your head! Completely letting go is not an easy task, so while it is always useful to trust your therapist, in the case of soft tissue release of the cranium it is probably imperative! The process involved me laying down on my back, with the therapist holding my head, then very gently stretching, and moving it around. Once I’d relaxed into it – which involved me remembering to relax my face, shoulders and hands, I found it to be a comforting and pleasant experience. I came to notice that actually, my head really is quite heavy. It felt really good to have someone else stretching it into positions that it knows it should go into but due to gravity, stress or some other force, is often resistant to doing so.

I definitely dozed during the treatment. I love that fluffy place you go to during a treatment where everything feels light, safe, warm and tranquil. I believe it only happens when three things happen together: a good therapist, the client accepting the treatment, and a good client-therapist match, which is why you will always find such variation of opinion on therapists.

I learnt that my face is carrying tension too, particularly around my right cheek and eye. I’m going to research how to do facial massage on myself as I know my default facial expression is a slight frown. I was also informed today that frowning uses up a lot of energy, and quite frankly, I don’t have energy to waste.

After the treatment, my neck movement was freer than it has been in a long time. My headache had gone, I was fully relaxed and, I know this sounds strange, I felt taller. It was as if the vertebrae in my neck had been eased apart, no-longer cramped and fighting for space.

I maintained my fluffy head for a good couple of hours until it was time to return to reality, and the next morning I’m thrilled to say that I had a great night’s sleep, and I still felt the benefits a good few days later. The benefits probably wild have lasted longer had I remembered to stretch and exercise tum the tum…. Still, the headache has not returned, I have significantly better movement in my upper torso and neck, and as for the possible ear / throat infection, I think it’s safe to say it’s no more than a minor virus which was exasperated by muscle tension.

One of the huge benefits of this approach for the cranium is that is it completely non-invasive. You remain fully dressed and the therapist only touches your head, neck and shoulders. Like other therapies, there is a need for some ongoing self-care to get the best from the treatment, and I would expect to see an increased probability of long term improvement with further treatments at regular intervals. I will definitely book again.

I found myofascial release to be a truly relaxing and calming experience. It’s possible I was even wandering in fields with fairies while I dozed on the therapists table today, and that has never happened to me before!

Be sure to always check your therapist’s qualification and insurance. Be clear about what you would like and be aware that there can be significant differences in what often appear to be similar therapies (e.g. myofascial release / craniosacral therapy / cranial osteopathy / osteopathy). If you are at all uncomfortable with any aspect of your treatment please never hesitate to say so.

My therapist for this treatment was Sarah Vine: https://www.sarahvine.co.uk

Our internal battle: Trust Yourself or maintain the Status Quo…?

One of the hardest things to learn is that it’s ok to trust yourself. But it’s one of the most life affirming moments when you get there.

We grow up surrounded by verbal and non-verbal messages about what we ought to do, what we should be doing, the fact that it is ‘normal’ to be heterosexual, married and have 2 children by the age of 35 blah blah blah… Then there’s the constant sub-conscious cross-referencing with what we see in the media against whether what we want to do, wear, say, is socially acceptable or not. In addition to this, we have been left with childhood imprints of acceptable behaviour, not being seen to be selfish, being nice to people even if they are rude to us – because children always have to share their toys, be nice to that strange family friend, and not embarrass our parents in public. All these messages impact on our own internal gauge of what is right, as in, what is right for us, for our own base values and morals.

So there are times when what’s right for you to do is not what’s right for your best friend – or in fact, for any of your other friends to do. Your instinct, your gauge and your intuition are personal to you. You can have all the advice in the world, but if the thought of following that advice leaves you feeling anxious, unsettled or uncomfortable then its not right for you.

Perhaps learning to trust ourselves is the last remaining element of peer pressure that we must untie ourselves from in order to be completely free. Be brave, break the mould!

 

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Christmas, kindness and slowing down

Ever wondered why we have a ‘yule log’ chocolate cake at Christmas? The winter solstice is also known as Yule, traditionally a pagan festival of the shortest day & celebration of longer days to come. The yule log was the log that lit the fire which was to burn continually for 12 days and nights through the season. I love a good chocolate cake and you can’t beat a front room warmed by fire in winter, so what a great combination!

I don’t know if Christmas evolved from Pagans, if Hanukkah pre-dates Christianity, if Romans decided the date we still celebrate or if that debate really matters to be honest. For me, the point is that winter is natural a time of calmness and reflection, which means it s a good time to be thoughtful, kind and community minded.

I remember stories from my childhood of St Nicholas being a kind old man who visited children in the night leaving gifts for those who had good souls.  Candles may represent light, but they are also very pretty and incredibly practical on these dark days, as is decorating our houses with ever-green foliage to brighten things up.

I love the essence of Christmas Carols. Lots of lyrics about love and joy, the merriment of birth, the winter season, and mystical goings on. But most of all, I embrace the opportunity to smile at strangers without seeming like a mad lady, I welcome the season where I can engage in random acts of kindness without someone thinking I have an agenda. Most of all, I feel grounded as I reflect on the positives from the previous years, the lessons I’ve learnt, the kind relatives and unconditional love I’ve been blessed with.

I love Reflexology because not only does it have the ability to help a body to heal, but it is so deeply relaxing and encourages us to just stop for an hour or so – like winter, it encourages us to turn our brains off and slow down. How illogical that we spend the weeks leading up to Christmas running around like mad things, when what really matters is the quality of time we spend with others, the thought we put into sharing, and the recognition we give ourselves that we survived another year and we are doing alright.

Take care & enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to make myself Happy

I’ve come to the conclusion that when I’m stressed or down my body wants sugar. I CRAVE sugar. Chocolate, Cake, Biscuits… Repeat….and if I’m not careful, I will need to be buying a new wardrobe annually. I like food, but the sugar bit really bothers me. I want to learn how to say ‘No’ to the sugar cravings. I’ve long known that the refined sugars are a negative influence on stress, sleep, monthly cycles and moods.

Luckily, a quick Google and I came up with this: “…Sugar actually lights up the pleasure and reward centre of our brain, the same way if someone’s giving you a smile…, So, it makes perfect sense when we eat sugar, we want more of it.” Scritchfield says.

So basically, my brain is a sugar addict. Great!

“… Your initial craving for sugar, begins when you start to feel stressed. When we’re stressed out, we have a high level of a hormone called cortisol, we crave sugar because if we eat some sugar, we will get another hormone called serotonin, which is a calming and relaxing hormone. It’s just our body’s way of taking a chill pill.” (www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/20/why-you-crave-sugar-rebecca-scritchfield_n_5694675.html)

This means that the key to quitting my sugar addiction is to find something else that will release serotonin.

Research part 2…. Stuff that will make you feel good:

Sunlight – we evolved to be awake & outside during the day, our brain still needs this

Exercise – choosing exercise helps your body’s systems to work better and makes the brain happy (try thinking about happy things while you’re doing it!)

Massage – possibly partly linked to our need for human contact, it also aids relaxation

Remembering happy things – this helps our brains focus on positives so it reacts positively

So, another quick Google just told me that I already knew this stuff, and you do too. It’s just that getting out of bed and off the sofa thing. It’s telling my brain it’s not compulsory to follow the worry train, and keep doing it for several days in a row, to kick start that balance of hormones and get the positive vibes running through our bodies. (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201111/boosting-your-serotonin-activity)

Today I chuck out all the sugar in the house, go for a walk outside, book myself a massage and think about happy things. I’ll probably have to do the walking by the sea thing daily for 3 weeks until it becomes a routine, and some days I’ll just want to sit on the sofa with a cuppa tea and biscuits. And I need to remember to focus my mind on happy things rather than let it ponder on the worlds problems. But I can’t afford a new wardrobe and I don’t want to inflict my sugar highs and lows on my friends any longer. Today I start a plan to boost my serotonin naturally 🙂

Reflexology and The New Biology

For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I believe Reflexology works on three levels:

  1. A very relaxing foot massage 🙂
  2. Stimulates the cardio-vascular, lymphatic and nervous systems to aid your body’s healing
  3. Specific points on the feet correlate to specific points on your body and by manipulating and massaging these in a certain way, energy is encouraged to flow better. Blocked energy can be caused by injury, illness, stress, tension or trauma in joints or organs, and through Reflexology, that energy can disperse, thus enabling the body to better regulate, rebalance, and work to heal itself.

So, what is this energy I speak of?

We are energy: We are a complex mix of atoms made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Our energy continually vibrates within us and around us, as it does for all living things. In the world of science, a strand known as ‘The New Biology’, believes that not only are all of our systems interconnected and communicate with each other, but also the cells within us are all interconnected. The most recent thinking is that our whole body is imprinted on each sub-part of our body, so that as a macro organism, that map exists as a micro version all over our bodies, enabling it to communicate as a whole. This is what enables our bodies parts to communicate with all the other parts and for the Reflex points on hands and feet to work effectively.

New Biologists are starting to refer to this energy as a Biofield, our Basic Template, a Living Matrix or our Wireless Anatomy. They are finding increasing evidence to support the theory that all living things strive to achieve a state of homeostasis at all times, as Darwin would say, being the fittest and strongest you can be provides the optimum opportunity to survive and naturally, every living organism wants to survive! The New Biology believes that our bodies have an innate ability to create, seek and maintain balance as they strive for optimum function, which supports the Holistic Therapists view that in the right environment and with the right nurturing, we are able to self-heal.

As we are learning that our neurological system is much more complex and plays a key role in illness, pain and wellness, so it appears our energy system does too. Why do some people get a headache when they are constipated? Why do some people feel sick when they are nervous? I think that answer lies in the fact that our bodies are amazing, interconnected, complex and intricate. In the words of Baz Luhrmann… “Enjoy your body, Use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people Think of it, It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

 

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From ‘Avatar’: An indigenous people live an interconnected and harmonious life with their planet and every living thing on it, gaining strength and energy from nature around them. Image from james-camerons-avatar.wikia.com

 

Finding your Happiness

I’m currently reading ‘Frazzled’ by Ruby Wax. I’ve never been a fan of hers as I see her to be loud, crass and obnoxious. Reading this book, I see that she acts in those ways, and as I suspected, probably because she felt insecure and anxious and afraid. I understand that. She has lived with depression pretty much as long as she can remember, and while I’m sure that I will get a part of the book where I learn something new, so far, it is just mildly interesting.

That is no slight on Ruby, her book, or her writing in any way. It’s merely an observation that ‘I know this stuff’. I know that in order to be less anxious I have to calm my mind. I know that in order to feel more in control I have to let go of the things I cannot control. I know that in order to have more energy I need 9 hours sleep night and to stretch every day. And I know that in order to be happier, I have to stop doing things that make me unhappy.

And you know what works for you too. Maybe it’s lost beneath the load of things you ‘should’ be doing, or behind the sofa of ‘I’ve got to find the energy to keep going’, or even piled under the weight of the lessons you learnt in childhood… that no longer serve you. But your inner child is still there. Sit with her, be kind to her. Remember what you used to enjoy doing before the pressures of adulthood took over. Listen to that inner voice that says ‘I don’t want to’ and think about why you don’t want to – maybe you’re doing something that feels alien to your core beliefs, or you’re doing something purely because it makes someone else’s life easier – and those things are never going to make you happy.

Those things you used to enjoy doing – make a list and do at least one of them every week. Prioritise yourself and treat yourself like you would a small child – with kindness and time and respect. Once you’ve started doing thing that make YOU happy, you’ll start to notice the things you’re doing that do not make you happy. The things that are not good for your health and wellbeing will become more obvious as you shift the focus back to you, and in time, you’ll find the confidence to say ‘no thank you, that does’t work for me’.