Dropping the can’ts, a love letter to a dog.

If you have ever skinned your knee or torn your ACL or woken up with a crick in your neck – that is, if you are human – you know pain. But something funny happens on the way to our brains. Instead of punctuation, pain can begin to feel like a sentence: something we will always have, a nagging reminder of ways we can’t.

I see this in my clients (as well as myself and everyone I know) – how body discomfort narrows the horizon of possibility, and spins us into an irrefutable list of broken: We’re injured, out of shape, pushing 40 (30, 70), we don’t move this or that particular way, our bank account is low. For very good reasons, we feel circumscribed by what we see as the limitations of our bodies.

And then, I take my dog for a walk in the woods, and the whole lie is revealed.

More accurately, I take him on a little cross country ski expedition on the trails behind the dump in our small town and watch him transform into a fluid, joyful form.

Charlie is not a small dog. Or a young dog. He is a long-nosed, constantly shedding, 90 pound, Shepherd Collie mix. Nearly a decade into his life, his muzzle is graying, and when he lumbers across the yard, you can almost hear his joints creaking. Like most of us, he has spent the last few months curled up in a ball by the wood stove, waiting for spring.noname

But once in the woods, there is no lumbering. Charlie careens like a puppy.  He is a streaking blur of movement and limbs. We encounter two other skiers, each with their own off leash dogs. One exclaims, “He’s so big but…so playful!”

We marvel at him together.

He has a beautiful disregard for his size, his age, for mortality or limitation. He is himself – skimming along – a wordless, embodied creature.

… but not a linear one. At night, Charlie circles a million times before he comes to a flop in a big, graceless exhale. He isn’t consistent either – barking wildly at the plastic bag that has blown across the lawn, but oblivious to the scratch scratch scratching of the mouse that wakes me in the night the one time I would like him to bark, to make some kind of exhortation and startle this vermin away and he… sleeps on.

When my daughter was 3 we ended up in the emergency room to treat her small, dislocated elbow. It was an excruciating experience, not being able to take away the pain she felt. But the doctor performed a quick osteopathic maneuver and – within minutes – she was laughing and playing with toys in the waiting room. Over it. The doctor said to me, “Children and animals aren’t stupid like grown ups. They hurt when they hurt and then they don’t when they don’t. None of this trying to be better business, none of this worrying or pretending.”

I remember this as I watch Charlie fly through the woods. There is something in that unpredictable, take-it-as-it comes careen that is a revelation. Given the chance to be outside, to be moving, to be with his people – the dog almost visibly hums with the joy of it all. True, the other 98% of the time he’s laid out on his side by the fire, showing age in the way he moves. But he seems to say something else: Yes, I am achey and older, but also resilient. Perhaps this is the trick to health: to drop so fully into the present that the can’t stories fall away.

Now if I could just get him to scare off that mouse.

Vacationland…for Non-Vacationers

photo 1In Maine, we wait about 10 months of the year for just this spot: The zenith of summer, the beach days and campfire nights, the sweetness of porch sitting without a jacket (or at least not for warmth – mosquitoes, though, that’s another story). The truth is, most people come here for just this sweet time. All those Vacationland license plates don’t lie. What this means for many of us is visitors. People we love. People we wait all year to see. People we take to the beach, and to the ice cream stand and down to the lobster shack. We talk late into the night, cook giant meals, we wash sheets and pick flowers. This is – as I’ve written about elsewhere – the season of yang. Active and abundant, and sometimes so much so that we can forget about that most fundamental of rhythms: our own.  photo 2 I was thinking about this the other day, relishing time spent with friends from far away, when I realized I needed to do an almost-nothing-something, just for myself. And it was surprisingly simple. I made chicken noodle soup. I picked and dried calendula (with a cup of bulletproof coffee on the side). I worked on a sewing project with my four-year-old. I went to bed early. With that – order restored, inner-animal fed. So long as we truly include ourselves, we can find beauty and nourishment in most anything. Even the dishes.

I’m looking forward to the next batch of visitors. photo (29)

3 Health Trends for the Trend-Averse

 

Favorite spa... the back garden.

Favorite spa… the back garden.

My sisters could vouch that I am many things, but trendy isn’t really one of them. In the third grade, I found what I thought was the perfect shirt – blue, with a wide red stripe in the middle – and wore it for the entire year.  In high school, during the grunge-rich 90s, I honestly listened to Bulgarian folk music and questionable 70s bands that included Steve Winwood (yes… I did). I would generally rather talk physics than fashion, will happily read tomes on soil science, and can laugh at the same dumb joke, regardless of how many times you tell it. I am, as many can attest, a nerd.

So when it comes to trends, I’m more of a bringing-up-the-rear sort than an early adopter. Still, lately I’ve come across a few newish notions that – despite by natural skepticism – actually seem compelling. Friends, I give you Three Health Trends for the Trend-Averse:

  • Low-FODMAPS Diet – An acronym for (get ready!) Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols, FODMAPS describe a group of short chain carbohydrates that even healthy people have difficulty digesting. For those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Disease, symptoms of these unabsorbed sugars can run from uncomfortable to debilitating. The good news: Many of my clients say they feel dramatically better when they reduce FODMAP intake. The bad news: It requires commitment! And limiting fructose is…limiting. A recommended food list is here  (and this is what to avoid).
  • Yamuna Body Rolling – Developed by Yamuna Zake, the technique uses rubber balls to stretch the fascia, helping free joints and loosen muscle tightness. It’s a lovely self-care tool for bringing mobility into the tissue, and there are some great classes in and around Portland to get you started.
  • Bulletproof Coffee – I’m not sure if I’d consider this a health trend, but… when clients ask about coffee, I confess this is my preferred style. The concoction involves blending butter, coconut oil and coffee (and maple syrup, if you like), and while there is some debate about the actual health benefits… it’s low-FODMAP and tasty!

Feel free to try any of these this summer – or not! Above all, I’d encourage you to listen to your body, the one true expert on what is best for you.

Accessorizing 2014: Lupines.

2014 Accessorizing Trends: Lupines.

 

 

Heart Openers: 3 Techniques

photo (18)

Coming out of winter, many of us have been sitting for months with our chest sunk behind our shoulders.  We’re cold! We’ve been watching House of Cards. We just feel a little tired, okay?

Totally okay.

But pause for a moment as you’re reading this and notice where your chin is in relation to your throat. Notice how your shoulders are sitting in relation to your sternum.  On the table, we can work into the congestion that sometimes gathers beneath the clavicles and help you open the spaces between your ribs. It’s remarkable how this helps clients bring their heart forward and shoulders down; they literally breathe easier.

Thankfully this is work you can do on on your own, too. Here are three techniques for opening up your heart and chest:

1. Things you like to smell. Really! Flowers, sauteed garlic, pine boughs, babies: Scent gets into the limbic system – that deepest realm of brain – and is one of the most direct sensory pathways to our nervous system. So, inhale…over a delicious pot of soup.

2. Find your people. You know those friends around whom you relax into just who you are? The ones who listen well and know how funny and smart and beautiful you are? Call them. Go for a walk. Commit to talking about how you actually are, in real time (not, cough cough, over social media).

3. Supported heart-opening poses. Yoga is a *great* tool for opening the chest and heart (and hips and shoulders and…). I’m a big fan of restorative-style yoga, particularly this pose, supta-bada konasana:

supta-bada-konasana

And this sequence of poses (confess I loved the line drawings – no fancy-ness required!).

newsletter_poses3

Images thanks to thingswelove2.blogspot.com.

 

 

Why Root Therapy

IMG_2319Someone recently asked me about the abundance of plant photos on my Facebook feed – how does all this plant stuff have to do with massage? It was one of those wonderful underhanded pitch questions – oh, let me tell you! – that are fun to dive into. And so, I give you my top 5 connections between body work and organic growth (a.k.a. Why Root Therapy):

1. There is no fixing. With plants and people, my role is to help create the conditions for new expansiveness, not to diagnose or impose.

2. What is more amazing than watching someone/thing embody her/his/its full self?

3. Courage. I witness so many acts of bravery in my clients, both at the level of sinew and of story. I see that in those dahlias (courtesy of Broadturn Farm), don’t you?

4. Joy. I can find as much unhindered, easy, new movement in my three-year-old as those dandelion seeds (ahem) she’s so happily letting fly across the yard.

5. Beauty. In all forms.  At all levels.

Please note also!  I’m offering an introductory pay-it-forward special: Book a massage and receive a $15 off certificate to pass on to someone else.  Feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment or use the Schedulicity link.