"Stand up straight and tall!" Who didn't hear this as a child? What was never explained was why.
Posture, next to stress, is one of the main reasons clients come in to see me. Though I'm not sure they realize that. Posture while standing, Posture while walking, Posture while sitting at a desk and computer, Posture during screen time... Good posture, or lack thereof, makes a difference to more than your muscles.
During May and June I'm placing a focus on Spinal Touch Therapy as it is probably the most effective tool in my skill set for good posture and encouraging your body to return to that, and hold it. Spinal Touch looks at where your posture is distorted, which muscles are pulling it into that position, and applies a gentle technique that encourages better alignment and posture.
I will be honest here though, while the technique is gentle, you often feel as though you've been hit by a truck afterwards. Here's why...
When we are stooped over with shoulders rounded and chin drawn down or forward our muscles will begin to hold us in that distorted shape. That posture pulls on the muscles through the spine from lower back to skull. The muscles in the front of the chest and neck begin to shorten (because the body, in it's wisdom, views that we're not using or needing them to move better so sends the energy elsewhere to the cells that are using it). In that hunched over shape our digestive organs and circulation are compressed and we tend not to breath as deeply.
A Spinal Touch session encourages a posture where, from a side view, a straight line could run from your ankle, through your mid knee, mid hip, mid shoulder and mid ear. Looking from the back both ears, shoulders and hips are in line.( That's the optimum)
Imagine for a moment how your muscles would feel as they are pulled back into a more open and balanced position, as you stand straighter, how your organs when they are no longer compressed. It's not a comfortable feeling at first. The muscle hurt as they fight to go back to the old posture they've been holding and the organs often release and cleanse as they're meant to. The hit by a truck feeling doesn't last long though (24 to 48 hours) and the results are worth it.!
I encourage you to take some time to check in on your posture each day and where you might stretch or move to improve it. If you would like to experience Spinal Touch Therapy you can book here.
Unlike Massage and Myofascia Release, Craniosacral causes a more subtle "unwinding" effect on Fascia and in that provides muscles more room to move. The movements are light, almost unnoticeable. The effects are amazing.
The first time Craniosacral Therapy crossed my path I was a busy single parent of a 10 year old. While he was really bright and could articulate all kinds of information that he took in, dissect and discuss it, my son always had trouble with writing it down. Any kind of paragraphs, essays, stories...were a struggle. Over a coffee discussion with a therapist who specialized in Craniosacral Therapy for children, my son ended up with an appointment. He felt comfortable right away and fell soundly asleep on her table. She asked me at the end of his session if he had ever hit is forehead and she pointed to the centre.
At 18 months old in his attempt to climb a big rock, my son had fallen and smacked the centre of his forehead quite hard, just beneath his forehead curl. He had a bruise and lump about the size of a walnut come up almost right away. But like most busy toddlers he cried a little and then carried on to again try to climb the rock. I never really thought about it again until the therapist mentioned it.
She said he may notice some changes in the following weeks.
Three or four weeks later was when I was stopped to really think about the impact of this therapy. His grade 6 teacher asked me what Jeff was doing at home that was different. I said nothing I could think of. Apparently he had begun writing essays, really good essays, nothing the teacher had seen from him before. That's when it dawned on me that perhaps the Craniosacral therapy had shifted something. It was the only different activity he had experienced.
Two years later...
The month my second year in Massage Therapy training was to begin I was rear ended in a car accident. I was stopped and the driver behind was traveling at 50+. I remember my head swinging forwards and backwards a couple of times and that I felt quite dizzy and spaced out. Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and being used as the model in school for how to treat whiplash, my neck and shoulders received a lot of therapy.
Part of the curriculum in our training was to complete our first level of Craniosacral Therapy. I was excited about it after the impact it had for my son. Part of training is students practicing on each other under instructor supervision. When the person practicing on me started to work around my shoulders and neck, I noticed a lot of emotion coming up and had the physical sensation of my head moving forwards and back with force. It felt real, as though it was happening, but in actual fact my head wasn't moving at all. My fascia though was busily unwinding from the final effects of whiplash and that allowed the fear and emotion from the car accident to surface as well.
Over the next few weeks the headaches I had been experiencing since the car accident stopped and the flashback sounds of metal crunching on metal eased. I had less neck pain and was sleeping better.
As a Craniosacral Therapist
I really enjoy sharing Craniosacral Therapy with clients. While I've grown accustomed to clients experiencing benefits I am always encouraged by the results they have and how it uniquely impacts them. I've pulled it out of the skill set at times when nothing else has been working and Craniosacral Therapy has usually triggered a change that other therapies I practice haven't been able to. I believe it's because of the subtle effect on the Fascia. As it loosens and gains flexibility it seems to begin a deep healing process that perhaps I didn't feel or the client wasn't aware of. Definitely one of those ongoing journeys in learning!
Gentle, slow unwinding of Fascia while also opening up any restrictions in the movement of cerebral spinal fluid, are the goals of a Craniosacral Therapy session. I often find that if a muscle is not letting go with traditional Massage Therapy, that a gentle Craniosacral hold to the area will do the trick. Sometimes muscles require a lighter touch to respond.
In our day to day physical activities our fascia can become tight and congested if we are not taking regular approaches to keeping it loose, hydrated and flexible. Emotional and mental stress play a part as well. Hunched shoulders, turtling, digestive issues... can all cause the fascia to wind tighter. When tight and congested the muscles and organs don't have as much room to move and flow normally.
Craniosacral Therapy is a beneficial and gentle approach to encouraging the Fascia to unwind subtly. When we open up the Fascia around our muscles and joints they move more freely. Fascia loosened and flexible around our rib cage makes that deep breath that stress often needs, increasingly possible. And some of the old trauma and stress that can keep mental and physical trauma in a holding pattern can begin to unwind as the Fascia does. Concussion symptoms are often relieved with Craniosacral Therapy.
While clients often go with Massage Therapy or Myofascia Release, because they are more familiar to them, I do find that many clients have better results with the slower approach of Craniosacral Therapy. It does not have to hurt to work and Craniosacral Therapy demonstrates that. In the next blog I'm going to share a couple of personal stories where I have found this treatment beneficial to myself and my family.
Chronic pain (especially in the low back, shoulders and neck), limited range of movement and flexibility, pain from old injuries or surgical sites, anxiety from recent and/or long ago traumatic events... all of these point to an unfitness in your Fascia. Holistic therapies can help!
What is Fascia
Fascia is a spider web-like, loose connective tissue found throughout the body, that wraps around muscles, joints, organs and the body as a whole. Fascia also connects all parts of the body. It has varying consistency depending on where it is located. When your Fascia is open, hydrated and loose it facilitates movement, allows good muscle function and allows all cells to communicate and function at their best. Your Fascia fitness is optimal!
When Fascia becomes congested, dehydrated and tough it causes us to lose our flexibility, limits movement and often causes pain. Physical, psychological and environmental stressors can all cause Fascia to become "stuck". Physical stress can include poor posture, lack of exercise and movement, accident, surgery... Emotional stress, often associated with muscle tension, can cause Fascia to thicken and stick. It can build up over years, and Fascia can remain tight and hard even when muscle fibres have relaxed.
It always makes me smile a little when I'm a few movements into a Massage Therapy session and I hear "You can go deeper" from the client, face down on the table. Yes, I can go deeper, but are your muscles at a point where they are ready for that? Is your Fascia ready?
Movements are lighter at the beginning of a Massage Therapy session for a few reasons. Firstly, with my hands I'm feeling for temperature changes in the areas that I'm treating, usually checking for heated areas that may be signaling inflammation. If I start getting deep into the tissues right away, increasing circulation, I'm not going to be able to check for inflammation as easily.
Clients will find their Massage Therapy session more beneficial if muscles are "calm" and part of the slower, lighter movements is to encourage the nervous system to relax and the muscles to open, allowing my hands to move in more deeply. Muscles are more likely to be "on guard" if I am trying to dig deep right from the start, and that can cause them to spasm. If you are hurting and clenching because the Massage is too deep or feels uncomfortable I will cause more damage than good. Massage Therapy does not have to be deep or painful in order to be effective.
We've been walking on some icy surfaces in Calgary for a couple of weeks at least, and I can feel it in the muscles of your legs and hips! Apparently there is more to come through the weeks ahead...ugh.
What are your muscles telling me?
To avoid falling or slipping we tend to walk differently on icy surfaces. The shoes we wear hopefully have a better grip, but they also tend to be heavier and clumsier than our usual footwear.
Our stance, or centre of gravity should change to feet wider apart and slightly bending forward over our feet to shift body weight where we need it to maintain balance. Hands out of pockets to balance and holding handrails to catch our fall if we go down, shifts our balance as well.
We may hit an icy step and jerk or twist our body to keep from falling. Your muscles tell me all about it.
Yes, I do hear you.
We're all more than a little burned out by all that goes with the COVID19 pandemic and the changes it has brought to our lives. I myself would give just about anything to give and receive a hug right now. And while there seems some light at the end of the tunnel we are still a ways off from being able to relax and return to a more normal life.
Some clients have expressed their unhappiness about the new infection control protocols that I initiated on January 4th of this year, and I want you to know that I do hear you and I do understand. That being said, I do have to follow them, while still providing you with an optimal, therapeutic session. (If you're not aware of them click here)
Happy New Year! While not much has changed in the move to 2021, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with regards to Covid19. A big thankyou to all of you for navigating all of the changes that 2021 brought to your sessions due to COVID19, I have really appreciated your understanding. My association has updated the infection control protocols that I must follow, effective January 4th 2021.
It's really reassuring to know that in Alberta there have not been any COVID cases related to clients having Massage Therapy. This indicates the infection control protocols we have been using have been working and now a few additions can only be of benefit.
Click here to read about the new protocols for my Calgary clients.
Click here to read about the current provincial mandates for health sessions with me.
The New Year kicks off for me with additional continuing education in Holistic Nutrition followed by specific holistic nutrition that benefits muscle and joint issues, and then on to Yin and Restorative Yoga teacher's program and also a course in Assisted Stretching. If you don't already, subscribe to my enewsletter for updates and how these courses will be added to the services I offer.
I wish for you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Years!
Nature spirals in and out through the seasons … so do we. Have you noticed the whorls and circles in the trunk of a cut tree, how a cat will curl up and around itself to sleep within a tucked up ball, the spirals of sea shells, plant leaves, wave patterns in the sand left by the ocean’s waves…
It may seem in Autumn and Winter that nature doesn't continue the spiraling process but it does. The leaves on a tree begin to dry and curl until a wind blows through the branches and the tree opens and releases the leaves to the ground. Snowflakes have circular patterns as they fall to the ground. Cats spend more time curled up to stay warm but they do get up to stretch luxuriously. Nature spirals in but also opens up and releases.
The human body spirals….our dna spirals within, we have linings (fascia) around our cells, muscles, our organs, even our skin acts as a lining that holds us together. Our mind spirals with emotions that wind us up or loosen and relax us. During the Fall and Winter months we are more likely to curve inwards to protect against the colder breezes, we're more likely to cocoon indoors and wrap ourselves up, curl our posture around that hot cup of cocoa.
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