The Relaxation Response and Vibrational Sound Therapy

I truly love giving Vibrational Sound Therapy. It offers instant gratification in the best way.

It brings me the immediate satisfaction of having sincerely helped another being. It brings my clients the immediate benefits of deep relaxation of their body and mind.

When the 1 hour session is completed, my clients tell me and I can literally see and feel that they have released their anxiety, stress and tension. In some cases if they had pain due to muscular tension, their pain is relieved as well.

How does this happen?

It has to do with the Relaxation Response. The Relaxation Response is defined as your personal ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. 

The Relaxation Response is the opposite of the ‘fight or flight’ response. Vibrational Sound Therapy helps you get to your personal ‘relaxation place’.

You may be thinking “Well, I relax when I sit down to watch TV or scroll through Facebook.”

Nope, not the same kind of relaxation. Not at all.

The Relaxation Response is a physical state of deep relaxation which engages the opposite part of our nervous system from the fight or flight system—the parasympathetic nervous system.  Research has shown that regular use of the Relaxation Response can help any health problem that is caused or exacerbated by chronic stress such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal ailments, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety disorders, and others.

There are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, energy healing, acupuncture, massage, float therapy, breathing techniques, prayer, tai chi, and of course yoga. True relaxation can also be achieved by removing yourself from everyday thought and by choosing a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or by focusing on your breathing – in other words: meditation.

As beneficial as all these methods of deep relaxation are, most require time, patience, and discipline to learn and practice. Hence, a modality to help one easily and quickly achieve the Relaxation Response can be extremely beneficial in our busy lives.

With Vibrational Sound Therapy, I use specially crafted Himalayan singing bowls placed directly on your body to induce vibrating sound waves with rhythmic strikes to the bowls. These vibrations, along with the soothing ambient tones from the bowls, are such a strong treatment that most clients report falling into a place of deep relaxation and meditative state, usually very quickly.

Thus, they enjoy the instant gratification of the benefits of the Relaxation Response.

For more information about Vibrational Sound Therapy and to book a session Click Here

There are quotes and references in this blog post from a blog post from the web site Psychology Today by Marilyn Mitchell, M.D. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201303/dr-herbert-benson-s-relaxation-response) and the book The Relaxation Response (c. 1975, 2000) by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, cardiologist, author and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute.

Buti Yoga – Get Curious

Stepping out of the comfort zone is scary.

Most of us have dreamt about it though.

Daydreaming about the what if’s is not enough. We should all step out and experience the unknown.

Buti Yoga was that for me a few years back.

I came across Buti Yoga through Pinterest. It was a short 11 minute workout. It was challenging, different, and fun.

I loved it so much I even daydreamed about what it would take to teach the format. However, I didn’t stick with Buti at the time, I was intimidated and had doubts.

Actually, 3 years later I went back to it. By then I was ready to let go of the what was stopping me from doing Buti.

As I continued my Buti practice, I noticed my dedication to getting on my mat. I also started to change physically and mentally.

I again started to daydream about the opportunity to share Buti Yoga with my community. Through the help of some friends’ encouragement, I took the leap and decided to sign up for certification.

I have attended live Buti classes a handful of times and have completed many online classes. I have led 25 classes of my own.

My most favorite and consistent thing about Buti is the welcoming and acceptance of the collective energy that shows up.

Although challenging, Buti Yoga is for EVERYONE! The practice is about showing up where you are – no judgement of yourself or anyone else in the room.

You may be scared and that’s okay.

Be curious too. Let your curiosity push you past your comfort zone. When the music starts pumping, you and your fellow classmates are in it together.

You will push your body, sweat, moan…you will be present.

The practice will challenge you to breakdown personal walls. You will find you are not alone and you will break down those self-imposed walls with the support in the room.

Without a doubt, if only for a brief moment in time, you will become part of a community with strangers. A community of people with different backgrounds, different perspectives, different goals and different reasons for showing up.

Yet in that time on your mat no matter your personal intention, you are in it together. I have experienced and witnessed the courage and sense of community in every Buti Yoga class I’ve attended or led.

I write this to say in conclusion:

Be curious, step in to the unknown, and let go of the reasons not to try something new. Be courageous and explore. You might find something great.

 

 

Desiring Wanted Connection in an Obligatory Season

As the first snow began to fall outside our small-town home outside Bloomington, I thought to myself “how lovely it was to see everything so delicately blanketed in white” and simultaneously though, “here it comes”. The 6-month season Midwesterners know as winter was once again tapping at the door.

It would seem that connecting with others and the winter months are synonymous at first. After all, no matter what you celebrate, it is often a time for folks to get together, usually around a table of tasty food, and to be in community with one and other.

However, the connection with others that I often feel sapped of in the winter months is outside of the confines of what many folks consider the obligatory appearances of the holidays.

The connection I yearn for this time of year, I think requires more stillness, less anxious anticipation, and a quieter sense of being with those who we are living life beside and ourselves.

Winter feels like this time where I may have gotten the chance to see every aunt and cousin that I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with in some time…but somewhere along the way I feel like I missed out on holding hands with my spouse or taking in seeing my kiddos frolic in the snow.

So how do we do it? How do we connect more during a season that calls us to stillness, reflection, and the warmth of affection?

I think first we need to give serious pause and reflection when we feel that gnawing pang in our stomach before a gathering that makes getting ourselves out the door akin to pulling teeth.

If you are dreading an event or gathering because of the toxicity of the environment, one or more of the people there, or just because you haven’t had a moment of breath in a day, a week, or a year yourself…don’t go.

I know that is potentially WAY easier said than done, but at the end of the day IF you can make peace with the fact that someone might have negative feelings or comments about your lack of attendance and that those feelings and comments mean nothing about you as a person, you truly don’t have to go anywhere that isn’t life giving.

I adore my family, immediate and extended, but there have been seasons where I intentionally didn’t go to certain events and it gave me more energy to enjoy the ones I did attend.

Second, I think we need to carve out intentional time for connection during these months that isn’t obligatory, if anything to highlight the obligatory things that are weighing down our happiness.

Maybe you decide to attend a yoga class, maybe you go to dinner and a movie by yourself, maybe you take your partner or spouse back to a spot where you had one of your earliest dates together and reflect on how far you’ve come. There are so many ways to connect because you want to, not because you have to.

I find that in Savasana at the end of my personal practice or if I’m in a class, my truest desires about what I want for the season I’m in and what I definitely don’t want become shockingly clear.

It takes practice to get deeply quiet and listen to your heart. But once you’ve breathed true breath into those spaces within, it becomes easier to see what’s serving you deeply and what’s taking something away from how you experience each moment day to day.

Finally, I think we need to be daring when it comes to those obligatory events about how we approach them. When I say daring, I don’t mean showing up to the company holiday party with a face tattoo (though kudos to you if that’s your style!).

I mean daring to do things like set healthy boundaries around conversation topics, inquiries, and unsolicited advice. I find it helpful to write these sorts of things down or share them with my partner or a trusted friend.

For instance, if you have a family member who tends to like to ask you why you’re not coupled up with someone yet and providing your family 100 babies to love on, set a boundary before that you think is reasonable. Perhaps, “When Aunt Ethel prods me about my relationship status, I’m going to start talking about all the wonderful progress I’ve made at work this year”…or even more daring, “When Aunt Ethel prods me about my relationship status, I’m going to thank her for her charming curiosity but let her know that it’s not really a topic I have a desire to discuss and smoothly make my way to the table where all the cheese and pie is. Once I’ve reached that table, I’m going to take three deep breaths and remind myself what an utter badass I am”.

It’s my firm belief that when we set healthy boundaries for ourselves and seek out means of connection that our hearts crave, the winter doesn’t have to feel so incredibly long. It can be a season of rest, reflection, and rejuvenation.

It’s okay to give yourself permission to be exactly who you are and connect and love exactly in the ways that feel right and healthy.

Whether yoga, a good book, or a long cuddle with the ones you love fireside…I hope you find something comforting and exciting this winter to help you connect more deeply to yourself and the ones you love.

The Most Effective and Accessible Yoga Pose for ALL YOGIS

One of the most common things I’m asked as both a yogi and yoga teacher is my favorite pose or ‘what pose will fix xyz’.  Much like when I’m asked which of my 4 cats is my favorite, I just can’t do it (or for yoga poses, just 4!).

My go to pose, my duct tape pose if you will, is legs up the wall.  This pose can be practiced anywhere, at any time, in any clothes.  I’ve practiced this at work and home, at airports or outdoors, in a dress or cutoffs, with friends or by myself.

For me, this pose slows down my mind and heart, grounds and calms me, and helps reset my mind/body/heart/spirit. I do practice this pose every day before I head into my corporate day job; sometimes dressed for work, other days in my robe before getting ready.  I also try to spend time in this pose before teaching restorative yoga, as it helps me get into the mindset I’m trying to share with my students.

I hope you enjoy this pose as much as I do, I’d love to hear your feedback on it!

Namaste – m.

Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall

What is it?  Simple as it sounds – you lay with your back on the floor (or a mat), get your sit-bone (aka tush) as close to the wall as possible, and extend the legs up the wall, letting them rest on the wall.

Variations –

  • Block or bolster under the hips
  • Can place a blanket on the bolster for extra cushioning
  • Strap your legs together to ease the stress out of trying to keep them together
  • Legs over a chair or couch
  • Blanket under the back or head for extra cushioning
  • Can roll the blanket to place under the neck

Why should I do it?

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Your back and head are grounded on the earth, helping bring on a calming sense to your flight or fight stress response.
  • Quiets the mind
  • You are fully supported – nothing is ‘hanging’ or ‘dangling’ – between the floor and wall, your body is completely supported, invoking a sense we don’t often get in our daily lives (walking, sitting, driving – all take effort to hold the position)
  • Its an accessible inversion for all folks, without the effort.
  • Inversion – another way of saying your turning your body ‘upside down’
  • Inversion helps regulate blood pressure, moves stuck fluids, improves digestion, and assists to reverse the effects of gravity on the entire body system
  • It is an active pose – even while you are relaxing and releasing
  • You are able to focus on your breath all the while not trying to hold a pose (think down dog, headstand, handstand, etc)
  • Relieves tired leg muscles
  • Drains tension from the feet and legs – reversing all the pressure we put on daily with walking, sitting, and other movements
  • Reduces edema in the legs and feet
  • Let gravity help move built up fluid in your legs and feet while you relax

Ok – I’m sold.. but what do I do?

  • Find space in a quiet spot of your home or office
  • Set a timer – I suggest at least 10 minutes, but even 5 minutes works
  • How do I find this time????
  • Put down your phone – spend time doing this instead of texting or on social media
  • Make an appt with your self daily
  • Lock the door of the room you are in
  • Invite kids/spouse/partner/coworkers to join you!
  • Sit down next to the space you will practice in.
  • Place a hip against the wall.
  • Gently turn your body to lie your back on the floor as you move you legs up the wall
  • Close your eyes
  • Start to breath in/out through your nose (if nose is blocked, mouth is ok to use – most important is to just simply breathe)
  • Fill up the belly, expand the side ribs for the inhale
  • Slowly release the belly and side ribs for the exhale
  • When your time is up
  • Take a minute or two to open the eyes
  • Slowly bring movement back to the fingers and toes
  • Getting release the legs from the wall, usually by reversing how you got into the pose

Take a moment to thank yourself – you practiced yoga!

 

 

The Power of a Subtle Smile

If you ever come to one of my yoga classes, be warned, I am probably going to ask you to smile. It’s a simple gesture, and most likely it’s probably something you’ve done before, but it’s also a gesture most of us don’t exercise often enough.

Why smile? Researchers tell us that smiling, even when we aren’t feeling like it, can actually make us feel happier. That is the ultimate goal for most of us, isn’t it? …to be happy. So, what the heck, why not? What’s the harm in smiling? Some people might complain that smiling causes wrinkles. But, those are smile wrinkles. We should all be working towards more smile wrinkles, not fewer. People with wrinkle smiles are statistically speaking happier than the rest of us. If you don’t believe me, Google it. 😉

But to return to a serious face for a moment, if bragging about our happiness with our smile wrinkles and statistically significant happiness aren’t enough, why else should we smile?

A smile communicates a benevolent message to the smiler and to the receiver of the smile. In western culture, a smile on a person’s face can mean, “Oh hello, isn’t it a beautiful day?” “I’m one of the good ones; I’m safe;” “You can trust me;” and, “I’m full of joy.”

I want to be clear for a moment here about the kind of smile I’m describing. It’s a simple, subtle smile. While I find supreme value in deep belly laughs and LOL’s and even LMAO’s, those aren’t the smiles I’m talking about here. I’m referring to that smile that sometimes appears on your face when you’re appreciating something or someone that just fills you up with bliss. And in this moment, your conscious mind might not even register your body’s response until someone else points out to you what your face is doing in that moment (“hey, you’re smiling!”). And maybe you suddenly feel your face cramping a little because your mind has registered what your face is doing. I believe we’d all be happier and better people to ourselves and to one another if we lived more of these kinds of spontaneously subtle smile moments.

This is the kind of smile I invite my students to purposefully put onto their faces, particularly when their bodies are forcing some other unconscious facial expression (like a grimace directed at their yoga teacher). Maybe we’re moving through a challenging asana (physical) posture, or maybe my student stopped listening to my voice and is marinating on unpleasant thoughts that have crept up in her mind. And then my voice interjects with an invitation to smile. I think something changes physically and mentally when we smile in these moments. I think smiling allows us to let go.

A smile signals benevolence, an act of do-no-harm, non-violence. In Hindu philosophy this concept is captured in the word, ahimsa. Ahimsa falls under the yama category, meaning it’s also a restraint. As we oscillate in life between suffering and pleasure on our way to blissful balance, this moral concept invites us to restrain from doing ourselves and all other beings harm. Ultimately, practicing this and other yamas and niyamas will lead towards the alleviation of suffering. I believe that ahimsa begins with a smile. Sometimes this smile is an outward reflection of that pure, blissful light we each hold delicately within our bodies when we are experiencing a peaceful moment, and sometimes we need to remind our bodies what peace feels like. Both kinds of smiles accomplish similar effects internally and externally. So, I invite you now to join me in the act of adorning a simple smile.

10 steps to achieving a simple smile.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Take a deep breath in, and take a deep breath out.
  3. Drop your shoulders out of your ears.
  4. Engage the muscles on both sides of your cheeks.
  5. Begin to feel the gentle curve taking hold on your lips, as they begin to extend outward and broaden across your face.
  6. Keep breathing.
  7. Are you clenching your teeth? Let them go.
  8. Let your eyes relax.
  9. Let your face relax but hold the gentle curve across your lips.
  10. There you go; you are now smiling.