for Urban Professionals & Other Skeptics in a Rush
March 23, 2013 in Inspiration
“Lose your mind and come to your senses.” – Fritz Perls
Dr. John Sarno’s book, Healing Back Pain, is an excellent account of and explanation for the instant dissipation of chronic pain through emotional release. Dr. Sarno, a professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, describes Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) as medical “disorder” associated with pain in the neck, back, shoulders, buttocks and limbs. (The term “disorder” is one I wholeheartedly disagree with, because when your body is showing signs of dis-ease, it’s conveying a perfectly healthy and clear message about an imbalance that needs attention. Your body is not working against you!) His book describes clinical evidence and scientific studies that support the mind creating TMS– and any – physical process.
When I read this book on the advice of a brilliant New York-based acupuncturist, Lara Rosenthal, I thought I was reading about my own body. I also found it incredibly frustrating, because for a long time, nothing changed. I could read and re-read that book until I was blue in the face – my back still hurt. Dr. Sarno provides numerous case studies, and indeed a whole treatment program, based on his observation that emotional release can and does yield a substantial reduction or even elimination of TMS symptoms.
The protocol seems to be: Realize you’re pissed off or hurt and didn’t know it, stop being in physical pain.
Your low back is associated with your second chakra, the passion house of the body, home of creative energy, desire, pleasure, and anger. In her legendary book, Eastern Body, Western Mind, renound energy healer Judith Anodea, PhD, describes how experiences from childhood as far-ranging as growing up in an alcoholic family, to sexual or emotional abuse, to denial of a child’s feeling states can manifest as physical symptoms in this region of the body.
What I love most about this work is that it supports my belief that personal expression is elemental to good health. We are physical and emotional beings, at the cellular level. I witnessed and experienced this first-hand as a teenager (and ever since) at the Haven, studying with founders Ben Wong and Jock McKeen, and instructors David Raithby, Sandey McCartney, Maria Gomori and Linda Nichols (I name them all because they are each brilliant enough that you should look them up, take a course with them, and read what they write). A psychiatrist and physician, respectively, Wong and McKeen work with the way the body holds unexpressed emotions, and the impact that holding has on mental and physical health. I have seen more profound healing and growth on the grounds of their campus than anywhere I have ever been.
In our culture, this is the toughest of all prescriptions: genuine, authentic, unguarded, introspection. It’s hard to believe in if you’ve never seen it or experienced it, and hard to create if you are a believer, because chances are high that the very thing causing you pain is in your blind spot (one reason why good doctors, therapists and coaches are invaluable to holistic healing).
It may seem easier to just take a pill, or have surgery, or get someone else – someone professional – to “cure” you. But your body is so wise – and so it continues to carry what you won’t put down elsewhere, encouraging you to find it, and through finding it, to grow into the magnificent being that you always already are.
So….your back pain. What might yours be about? Be brave enough to explore, and release the ties that bind you. It is never what we think, it’s always something better.
Healing, by D.H. Lawrence
I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly,
that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul,
to the deep emotional self and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time,
and only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.
(found in The New Manual for Life)
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March 22, 2013 in Physical Health
There are powerful anti-inflammatories on the market, and I hope you never have to take any of them. You may be able to decrease inflammation by changing your diet.
Now you’ll notice if you look at just about any diet around (with the exception of Atkins), that they all suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and even less processed carbohydrates and refined sugars. That’s because these are excellent guidelines, whatever name the diet is given! If you remember nothing else, start there.
An “anti-inflammatory” diet adds on a few more specific recommendations:
As ever, the only way to know if this will work for you is to try it. Here’s a sample daily menu to give you some ideas about how to try on this anti-inflammatory way of eating.
None other than my favorite “brown” smoothie, which if you are not hooked on yet, you will be soon. Swirl in some lemon fish oil (I know that sounds awful, but if your back really hurts, why not try it for a week and see how you feel?).
Hearty salad with roasted root vegetables (diced, tossed in olive oil and sea salt, and roasted the night before, or even a few days before, at 375 for 45 minutes), your favorite raw greens, whole cooked spelt or quinoa, walnuts, and an olive-oil based dressing (olive oil, lemon and a little dijon make a great home made dressing).
Mediterranean lentil soup, wild salmon or black cod with maple miso and oranges, love my greens salad with hempseeds and olive oil-flax oil dressing. This menu calls for some recipes…
Excellent Lentil soup
Ingredients: 1 onion, 1 shallot, 1 cup red lentils, ½ cup short grain brown rice, 4tbsp olive oil, 6 cups vegetable stock, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 lemon. I think the shallot takes this one over the top.
Maple-miso glazed fish
Ingredients: fatty fish filet of your choice, 1/3 cup miso, 1 tbsp maple syrup, ½ shallot, 1 inch piece of ginger, 1 orange.
Love me and my greens salad
Ingredients: your favorite salad greens, microgreens, sprouts, avocado, baby cucumber, hemp seeds, flax oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, fresh cilantro, fresh mint.
If you’re paying attention, you know that this is installment number 3 of 5 on back pain. I’ve got two more practices that I hope will have a positive impact on your back, your mood, and your life. In that order.
March 20, 2013 in Physical Health
#2 Sit on an exercise ball at your desk.
Wait! Before you succumb to the picture in your mind of your colleagues laughing hysterically as they walk by your office (or cubicle), consider this. I was that woman at a large financial institution in New York City. My colleagues had come to expect this type of health voodoo thing from me, so it was just a matter of degree. I shamelessly sat on my exercise ball, enjoying tremendous relief from back pain, strengthening my core, and doing what only the strong do best: starting a little health revolution by example.
When it’s obvious that you’re feeling good, people become curious about how and why – they want to feel good too! I ended up running their health and wellness program, and you can read some testimonials on my website about how that changed lives and organizational spirit where I worked. So…read on and get ready to work with healthier, happier people (and be one too).
Spending long stints at your desk is a primary cause of low back pain, however good your posture is, or expensive your chair is. We tend to slouch at our desks, relaxing core muscles, collapsing into the hips and low back, arching our shoulders and neck forward, and keeping hip flexors compressed for extended periods of time. While a post-it style reminder to yourself to maintain good posture may help a little, sitting on an exercise ball provides a physical reminder so that you can focus on your work, and not on a clutter of post-its. It’s also better for your body.
No matter how much counter-stretching and counter-strengthening you do at the gym or in yoga, you spend a lot more time at your desk. Spend it well. Sitting on an exercise ball forces you to keep your core engaged instead of collapsed, and encourages constant gentle movement (since the ball rolls) so that hip flexors, low back, hips, and thighs stay mobile throughout the day. Some people even find that their nervous snacking habit turns into a subtle movement one, meaning that mindless desk-snacking is replaced with a core-strengthening and hip-liberating movement practice.
It’s also pretty fun, and having fun generally leads to being more creative. You may find yourself rocking out from time to time, taking a sponteanous movement moment.
I don’t recommend abandoning your desk chair entirely right away, because it takes time to build up the endurance to be able to sit up straight all day. As often as you can, slide that desk chair over and sit on your shiny new exercise ball. When you need to slouch, switch back and take a rest. Eventually you’ll be sitting up straight for longer, standing taller, and noticing that your abdominal muscles are more toned.
Go for basics. Do not get the exercise ball with a chair attachment, but a firm exercise ball that is free to roll, without a lumbar support, at the height recommended for your height (all the websites that sell exercise balls have height guidelines). I suggest getting an “anti-burst” one, not because of burst rates for regular exercise balls, but because they are only marginally more expensive, and it seems worth the extra few dollars to not embarrass yourself at the office (or in front of yourself if you work from home).
Finally, if you’re in a private office or particularly collegial work environment, enjoy the ultimate desk-stretch of walking your feet forward and arching your back over the ball (see photo). This is the opposite of how you position your body at a desk and should feel excellent – just in case you can’t make it to yoga or the gym that day.
Did this tip help you? Please let me know! I would love to hear from you by email: rachel[at]rachelschipper[dot]com.
Could this information help someone you know? Please pass it on.
This is part 2 of a 5-part series on back pain relief, offering one practice a day for 5 days.
March 19, 2013 in Physical Health
Unpleasant as it may be, back pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t working. Figuring out what that something is, though, is a lot easier said than done. No one likes to hear this about physical sensation or illness, but the idea that you can tune into your body and live with greater harmony and ease is incredibly empowering.
I struggled with back pain for a decade, and it started to creep into other muscles in my body. It was scary. It was also kind of embarrassing, because here I was an early embracer of “new age” wellness practices, teaching and practicing a vigorous style of vinyasa yoga, and committed to the idea of the emotional body – meaning that unexpressed feelings create blockage or sensation in the body, needing expression to restore a fluid flow of energy in the body. So those days when I woke up, in my late twenties, and felt too stiff to elegantly get out of bed, hurt both my ego and my sense of wellbeing. I also felt helpless, as I know those struggling with chronic pain often do.
I tried everything. More yoga. Less yoga. Regular massage. Epsom salts baths. Acupuncture. Working through emotional issues I thought might be manifesting in low back spasm. Free movement to let my body decide how to move itself to heal. High heels. Flats. Orthotics. Dietary changes. Sleeping positions with multiple pillows as supports (very sexy). Ointments and oils. Heat and cold packs. Back-pain guru books. Taking short regular walks at work, limiting my sitting time to 30-minute increments. An orthopedic chair cover. Painkillers.
Sometimes I’d have relief, but I was always flirting with the resurgence of such incredible discomfort that it might put me in a bad mood or make it difficult for me to concentrate, or even send shooting pain up my spine one day when I just wanted to get up from my desk. There were some days when it wasn’t just my back – my whole body felt stiff and brittle. I didn’t want to go though one day this way, never mind the rest of my life!
I now have no back pain or muscle stiffness. Not monthly, not after or during exercise, not when I wake up. Every body is different, and the only way to know if something will work for yours is to try it.
I’m so excited to share this series of practices to alleviate back pain with you. In this mini-series I’ll be focusing on five practices that had the biggest impact on my back pain and muscle stiffness. Tune in daily to learn about the next practice, or sign up for Curated Enlightenment to get it delivered to your inbox.
#1: Heading the list is taking magnesium glycinate, twice a day, every day.
(A side note about vitamins: They don’t work if you buy them and don’t take them. They also don’t work if you only take them some of the time. You need to take them daily to see and feel the results.)
We associate magnesium with old age and bowel regularity, but this key supplement, brought to my attention by the absolutely brilliant biochemist, immunologist and cell biologist Aileen Burford-Mason, contributes to much more than your morning bathroom routine. Among its many essential roles in your body, magnesium relaxes your muscles, countering calcium, which causes muscles to contract. Magnesium is also a key player in the production of collagen, in metabolism, and contributes to improved sleep quality. In her excellent book, Eat Well Age Better, Burford-Mason calls this mineral an “energetic multi-tasker…the most important mineral in the body.”
Magnesium is also quite difficult to get enough of in your diet, and is generally not in the ideal proportion for your body in calcium-magnesium supplements or in multivitamins, making pure magnesium supplements essential. About 65% of Canadians are magnesium deficient, with symptoms ranging from muscle soreness or cramping, to constipation, to high blood pressure.
To find your base dose, Burford-Mason suggests “titrating to bowel tolerance”. This involves starting with 100mg of magnesium glycinate (not citrate) in the morning, and then increasing your dose by 50mg every three days, alternating adding the extra 50mg morning and night every three days. For example, days 1-3 take 100mg in the morning; days 4-6 take 100mg in the morning and 50mg at night; days 7-9 take 150mg in the morning at 50 mg at night…and so on.
Continue until you have two to three healthy bowel movements per day (you read that right!). That is your base dose. It’s not the same for everyone, and it’s not the same for you all the time. Your body leaches more magnesium when you’re stressed (measurable in your urine), so you might need to increase your dose if you have a big project or meeting, or other heightened stress in your life. However, seeing the impact that magnesium has on many body functions, from metabolism, to stress, sleep and muscle spasm at your base dose will give you a great base line from which to read your body to know if you need more or less in special circumstances.
Consult your doctor for concerns about any interaction with other medications or specific questions about magneiusm and your body.
If you think this might help someone you know, pass it on!
March 5, 2013 in Inspiration
Hello wellness warrior.
If you missed my guest post on the Glossy pages, here it is for your enjoyment!
I’d love to know how these tips work for you.
More to come….
Have a beautiful day!
What would it take for you to take care of yourself? I really want to know.
In Japan, Karoshi is a term coined to reference instant death attributed to overwork. It’s frequently associated with stroke or cardiac arrest, but not always. Workers as young as their twenties have become just that – workers and not people – and their bodies give out. These aren’t people laboring in factories day and night. These are people who have desk jobs like so many of us do, and who push themselves because of externally influenced goals that are internalized to the point that they override a body screaming out in stress.
Stress that the person can no longer even hear.
Stress that has become a new normal state of being.
Stress that has a detrimental impact on health and spirit.
I generally don’t employ fear tactics. I trust your timing to make decisions about your body and your life, because you know you better than I ever will. But it baffles me that so many people appear to be waiting for their wake up call, kind of half-assed hiding out from knowing about it.
This is not a secret, and it’s not news. The wake up call does come. For some it’s a devastating illness that causes them to revisit their priorities, for others, symptoms like chronic headaches, low energy, or depression gnaw away until the Tylenol, coffee or anti-depressants seem more and more to be essential ingredients in daily life.
It’s not natural to feel exhausted, or unhappy, or in chronic pain, or to have constant sugar cravings. Your natural state is shining and content.
I ask again: What is the holdup, exactly? When will be a better time? What will be enough? What are you waiting for?
Hitting reset or pause on the way you do life does not have to be dramatic if you don’t want it to be. A great way to start is to just slow down. Easy, but scary, I know. For a free and easy meditation to do just that, email me at Rachel@rachelschipper.com, and be sure to put “MEDITATION” in the subject line.
Know someone who needs to hear this? Pass it along. I offer a ton of free information in my newsletter.
Ready to make some positive changes in your life? Connect with me at Rachel@rachelschipper.com for a free consultation. Please put “I’M READY” in the subject line.
The best is yet to come.
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