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.

 

 

Yin Time

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A few years ago, I went through a period of waking up every morning at 3 a.m. I was overextended and desperately  needed the rest, but lay there, awake and lucid, unable to fall asleep again until about 5 a.m. Has this happened to you? No amount of cajoling or chamomile tea or daily exercise convinces your internal rhythm to let you sleep through the night, and – if we’re maybe a little bit alike – leaves you feeling cranky and irritable the next day.

I was utterly frustrated: Didn’t my body know this was a very stressful time and what I needed was not insomnia but actual REST?

In fact, that’s precisely (and paradoxically!) what my body knew.

When I told an acupuncturist friend about this habit, she suggested something I never would have considered. My body, she said, was claiming its yin time.  Yin time? Was that even a thing? Yes, she said, and evidence of a foundational principle in traditional Chinese medicine.

She explained that when we are busy, stressed, filling every moment – operating in the yang, you might say – our body feels the absence of time spent not doing. Whether we are daydreaming or walking without destination, those “unproductive” spaces where time lies fallow also feed us.  Yin is quiet, heavy and dark. It is a balancing force to all that heat and movement.  In waking hours, my body was so busy that it never had time to experience stillness. And so, at 3 a.m., I was forced to.

Yin is the winter to yang’s summer, so it might seem a little funny to bring up this phenomenon at just the moment when we see spring bursting forth. The thing is, we still need pauses.  Out breaths follow in breaths, music beats wait until the next – even when the sun comes back and we are outside and moving, our bodies crave yin time. It may even help us sleep.
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Heart Openers: 3 Techniques

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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:

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

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Images thanks to thingswelove2.blogspot.com.

 

 

Make time for tea

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I confess to something of a gardening magazine habit. Some people like People (I’m not saying I’m not one of them…), but in March, give me glossy pages of Moroccan succulents and English roses. Riots of garden color feel like a salve and a promise of the possible.

I don’t usually thumb through these magazines expecting to find revelation or reflection. Pretty pictures are just fine. But then, reading an interview with a South African gardener, I stumbled on this, the “three most worthwhile tips for every gardener:”

Make time for tea – to sit, to look and appreciate. Weed selectively and encourage self-seeders. Mulch and look after your best friend – your soil.  
— Gardener Julia Wylie

And really, is there more to it? There is, of course, but this is why Root Therapy is called what it is: The metaphors for growth translate so beautifully to the body. We all need time to savor and enjoy, to weed out what hinders us and let what nourishes multiply. And our soil – our foundation and roots – truly is a best friend, one that deserves tending.

I think I should probably subscribe to this magazine too, no?

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From the Oaxacan Botanical Gardens (a.k.a. far, far, away)

 

Increments of Change: Trying Something Different

photo 5There are days – particularly when the thermometer in the kitchen says three degrees, as it does today – when the idea of movement and change feels like just too much. Take your yoga class, we think, your trips, your enlightenment – I’ll be here under the ugly red blanket watching The Bachelor.

It isn’t only that the effort feels demanding, but the stakes feel high. What if, we wonder, change jeopardizes all this? What if the battleship of the small manageable now gets sunk by opening, by unwinding? No, thank you. Pass the popcorn.

The thing is, there may be something between the small curled up ball on the couch and the running-through-the-field fantasy of freedom. The increments of change we invite can fan out over time – that tiny angle of difference becoming (in hindsight) a wide ray of change.photo 2

One of the reasons this work is endlessly interesting to me is that I get to witness this kind of change at the level of tissue. As muscles release I see how my clients’ shoulders open, how they breathe more deeply. It takes courage to allow movement back in, but the return is bountiful: They get more information from their own bodies.  That is, they get more of themselves and their own aliveness.

A question I often hear from clients at the end of the session is, “How do I stay open when I’m off the table? How do I stop from tightening up all over again?” And my usual answer is, try something a little different. Stretching is good. Water too. But small things that move us out of habit and into attention – that’s movement too. You can still watch bad shows and eat popcorn, but becoming aware of patterns – places where we’ve forgotten choice – is a lovely way to stay open.

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Here are 5 Ways to Step Out Of Habit – but I bet you could come up with 11 more:

1. Do you habitually cross one leg over the other? Switch it up.

2. Take a different route home.

3. Eat / make / order  a food that surprises you – one that you normally overlook

4. Introduce pauses in your day. A few minutes in your car before you head into the grocery store? Totally okay.

5. Slow your gait. Just a little. Notice how your arms swing, your feet fall, where your eyes are.

Habit can take so many forms – movement, talking (to ourselves and others), silence, belief. And it can become so much like that old crack in the ceiling: We stop seeing it. Friends, you are so brave with your selves – why not change things up a bit, just to notice how far you’ve come?

Self care / care care

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Norway maples behind Root Therapy studio

As I sat down to write this, I thought of the many (many!) ways that we can invite self care into our lives.

But then I hit a snag.

Because I’ve always had a hard time with the concept of “self care” and “pampering” and “extreme self care” and any number of phrases that connote taking care of ourselves.  Call it a semantic hang up, but each of these  sounds too… special.  Because what I actually want to cultivate is a supremely ordinary, everyday habit of attending to that which brings us joy. Care care? Ordinary care? Pamper normal?

Let’s make cultivating abundance and laughter just part of what we do.  Are you with me? Slow walks with toddlers. Music enjoyed with friends. Spontaneous dance parties. Regular massage (you knew that would make the list, right?). Art-making. Star gazing.  Add your own ordinary, extraordinary favorites.