Pilates, ALS, and the RDC Marathon…Guest Post by Andrea Lytle Peet

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Andrea Peet (pre-ALS) with her husband

When I was diagnosed with ALS in May 2014 at the age of 33, my husband and I
were confronted by the same depressing facts that everyone with ALS learns:

  • The average life expectancy is 2-5 years
  • Before death, the person will become paralyzed, unable to talk, eat, or
    swallow, and eventually lose the ability to breathe
  • There is no treatment and no cure. The only approved drug extends life
    expectancy 2-3 MONTHS (*note: A second drug was approved in 2017, but it has issues that I won’t bother going into…)

So what do you do with that? I was young, an athlete (I’d done a half Ironman 8
months earlier), and we had just bought a house in order to start a family.
I was already walking with a cane and my speech was slurred, but I thought I was still strong enough to pull off a super sprint triathlon, Ramblin’ Rose Chapel Hill. Since I could no longer balance on two wheels, we bought a recumbent trike. I asked my friends to support me by donating to ALS research and they raised $10,000! My best friend, Julie, and I came in last and ended up with a story in Endurance
magazine.

That race transformed my perspective on the disease. I realized I could inspire
people to take on challenging races as a way to raise money for ALS – but more importantly, as a way to appreciate what their bodies can do. “Team Drea” started with 30 people, but has now grown to 150+ and raised $220,000 for ALS research. As for me, I kept riding my trike…and did a half marathon…then a marathon. Then I thought, “I’m tired of waiting around for this disease to kill me,” and signed up for 12 races in 2016 (half marathons, marathons, and triathlons), each dedicated to someone with ALS who has inspired me.

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Triking

I completed that challenge, crediting my success to exercise on the trike, swimming, and the dumb luck to have a slowly progressing form of ALS.

But it wasn’t until I started working with Mischa Decker at IOBT in January 2017 that I learned I could actually get STRONGER.

What started out as 4 weeks of “I’ll give this a try,” has turned into 11 months of weekly Pilates-based PT appointments with Mischa where we work on my weak areas: core, glutes, outer thighs – and stretching places that are tight: inner thighs, calves, and feet. Top it off with bi-weekly acupuncture appointments with Austin and ooooh weeeee honey, my body feels awesome these days!! 🙂

Mischa is amazing. She is laser focused throughout our session on my positioning, which muscles should be activated, sensitive areas, and those that need attention. I know I’m in trouble when she says, “I have a crazy idea…” because that means she knows I’ve built up the strength to push just a little bit further, do just a little bit more. Which, as we all know, is where the Pilates magic happens.

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On the CoreAlign during one of her Pilates sessions at InsideOut

The results have been incredible. I walk better (still with a walker, but who cares? I’M. STILL. WALKING). While I still fall occasionally, it’s not nearly as frequent now, thanks to my stronger core muscles. And I’m actually getting faster with swimming and triking. Such positive progress is almost unheard of in ALS.

This Sunday, November 12th, I will take on my 12th race of 2017 (27th with ALS) – the inaugural RDC Marathon in Durham. This race benefits my foundation and the proceeds will go to ALS research at Duke. My world-renown* neurologist, Dr.Richard Bedlack, is studying off-label treatments: supplements, bee pollen, fecal transplants, and other crazy things people with ALS try on their own in the absence of any effective treatment in mainstream medicine.

*His wardrobe is also world-renown, see for yourself

He is also studying cases of ALS reversal – that’s right, people whose ALS have gone away. So far he’s found 34…out of 30,000 people living with ALS in the U.S. at any one time.

Not good odds, but Dr. Bedlack’s research gives me hope in the same way that sessions with Mischa do. If I can just hang on a little longer, push just a little bit further, maybe there will be a treatment. Or my body will figure out how to repair itself.

Hey, stranger things have happened – ask the 34 people with ALS reversals…or the woman in the trike doing her 27th race.

Thank you IOBT for supporting ALS research. It means the world to me and everyone else with ALS!

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Team Drea at the Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon 2017

 

 

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The Energy of Fall- Guest Post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

austindixonGuest Post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

In Chinese Medicine the seasons play an important role in our health and well-being. Our body and mind are better when we eat seasonally appropriate food, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and follow sleeping patterns that correspond to the rising and setting of the sun. There are certain energies or emotions that are connected with the seasons that can often explain why people feel certain ways during a particular season or seem to experience a recurring issue at the same time each year. Since the temperature is finally starting to give us a break here in North Carolina and the leaves are changing, I am going to focus on Fall.

Fall is the season that is connected to the Metal element and Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. When the energy of Metal is strong you are able to let go of the things that no longer serve you and hold on to what does. Think about animals storing up for the winter. There is no space for unnecessary items. Fall is the perfect time to reflect on how the year has been progressing, recognize what is working for you and what isn’t, and to begin to let go of what you no longer need.

Sounds easy, right? Ha!

Letting go can feel so overwhelming and borderline impossible to many (most) people. Our new age friends might throw around the phrase “just let it go” as if this was a simple task equivalent to tossing an empty Kombucha bottle into the recycling bin at Whole Foods. Don’t let them fool you. Letting go is hard. Like, really hard. I am not one who shies away from change, but even typing about letting go has my palms sweating. So, let’s get real and talk about what this looks like for those of us who may want to hold on to our Kombucha bottle (I could totally use this for something!).

Now, I am not a therapist and can only speak to my personal experience with letting go of emotional baggage. Since everyone is different and may not identify with my personal struggles I won’t bore you with the details of my own emotional balancing. I will say that mindfulness practices go a long way. Finding the right one for you can be life changing. I also highly recommend therapy. I know some great therapists in Durham if anyone needs a recommendation.

Another technique I firmly believe helps nourish our Metal energy is cleaning out. I truly believe everyone can benefit from de-cluttering, both physically and mentally. Some folks have more clutter than others, but we all have something we can let go of. De-cluttering your home or work space is a great exercise in sorting and examining what you actually need. It can be hard to figure out what we need to let go of emotionally.  Learning to de-clutter and let go of physical things will give you more skills when it comes to doing the same with emotions and mental baggage.

When the energy of the Metal element is not on point it is hard for us to realize we have too much stuff and even harder for us to let go of any of it. So. Let’s start small.

Start with a drawer. Or a closet if you are feeling bold. Or a whole room if you are really ready to get your Metal element in good shape. No matter how much you are trying to tackle make four piles. The first three piles are easy-ish: Keep, Trash, Give Away. Pile four is a little harder. Every time we start going through old stuff we always find something that “Oh my god, I totally forgot about this and I love it so much and I will use it all the time now that I remember it.” These items get their own pile. Since the first three piles are pretty instructive when it comes to the next step (keep, trash, or give away) we will focus on pile four. It is best to keep this pile small. If these items are from a drawer they should fit into a ziplock bag. If these items are from a closet or room try to keep them limited to one box. Give yourself two months to use these items. Mark your calendar and go about your life. When your calendar lets you know that two months have passed, reflect on what you have actually used out of that box. If you have not used anything from your OMG-I-LOVE-THIS box, it is all packed up and ready to be donated. Easy-peasy. If you have used these items then you know that they are truly important to you.

I find it most helpful to do this every couple of months. Once you start cleaning out on the regular it might not be so overwhelming and you are giving your Metal energy a little tune up on the regular.

I hope this helps. Please remember that the energy of Fall is different than Summer. You are supposed to slow down, reflect, let go, sleep when you are tired (this means go to bed earlier) and eat warm, nourishing foods.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Austin Dixon is an acupuncturist at InsideOut.  Check out her full bio here and her website here. Call the studio to schedule an appointment with Austin!

Achieving Goals with Pilates…Guest post by Riki Shore

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Guest post by Riki Shore

On Sunday October 8th, IOBT client Anne-Claire Broughton will complete her first triathlon, the Ramblin’ Rose, in celebration of turning 50! A lover of challenge and a lifetime learner, Anne-Claire decided to celebrate her half-centennial by doing something active and enabling, and pushing herself to new physical frontiers.

AC bikes

Ever since she can remember, Anne-Claire said her spine looked “unusual”, but she was only recently diagnosed with scoliosis. “I was always flagged for it when we got checked in school,” she remembers, “but the back pain didn’t come until after my daughter was born, and it intensified later when I had abdominal surgery.” Indeed, when she first walked into IOBT she wasn’t standing straight and tall, and she told me immediately that her back hurt “almost all the time”. And like a lot of mothers, firing the low belly muscles was nearly impossible – those muscles just didn’t seem accessible. More than anything, she came to Pilates to strengthen her deep core.

As her instructor, I build sessions that help her achieve her goals while creating space and length in her spine, pushing her to an edge without ever increasing her pain. We start every session with Footwork on the Reformer (see image below), which wakes up her feet and stabilizes her pelvis while using the deep abdominal muscles that Anne-Claire wants to strengthen. Since she’s not primarily looking to build muscle mass, we keep the spring tension low in order to facilitate smooth, continuous movement and highlight the connection between the spring tension and her Pilates scoop (what is sometimes referred to as “holding the spring with your belly”).

AC Reformer

If asked her favorite exercise, Anne-Claire would say Leg Circles, which she credits with helping to straighten her spine and reduce lower back pain.  We also do this exercise every session using the leg springs on the Cadillac. When we first started, I asked Anne-Claire to “stand” into a block that was pushed against the short box from the Reformer, which I had placed at the end of the Cadillac. I wanted to her to feel a ground beneath her extended leg as a stabilizing force while she circled the other leg exploring both movement and restraint. After several months together, she no longer needs the stabilizing block and can hop onto the Cadillac and go right into the exercise.

We always finish the session with some time draped over the Spine Corrector (see image below), which allows her to explore flexion, extension, side bending and rotation in a safe and supportive way. While there have been ups and downs in her triathlon training as she learns what her spine can tolerate, I can honestly say that Anne-Claire is stronger, leaner, taller and more supple than when we first met.

AC Spine Corrector

Like any busy not-quite-50-year-old, she sometimes experiences stress, fatigue, muscle tightness and pain, but she remains undaunted and committed to what she calls her Body Project. “I love doing things that at first I’m afraid of or I think I can’t do. Then when I do them…that is the best feeling!” I have no doubt she’s going to be feeling that way when she crosses the finish line in Chapel Hill in a few short weeks – and I’m proud to have played a small part in her journey. Thank you, Anne-Claire, for brightening IOBT with your presence!

AC Congrats

Schedule a private session with Riki or any of our instructors:        

919-361-0104         info@insideoutbodytherapies.com

Moving through stress: Simple steps bring a sense of calm to your day… Guest post by RJ Lisander of Lotus Seed Meditations, LLC

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Not a single one of us is immune to the daily stressors in life.  We all wear many hats requiring us to move from situation to situation, decision to decision, circumstance to circumstance often without a breath in between.  Before we know it we can be flustered, moving too quickly and feeling like we are losing pace with each fleeting moment.

 

This time of year, as Summer starts to cool to Fall’s breeze we can feel especially unsettled.  Old routines are shifting to new routines and this transition of weather and routine can be especially turbulent.  Demands on our attention are heightened and time is at a premium.  We often find we have to put self-care off for another day or week.   

In these moments I try to remind myself this is all part of a cycle and these moments of stress are normal, and in some cases necessary to sustaining life, and as they pass we move back to a state of calm.  But, sometimes we stay in this heightened state and need a technique or two to help move us through them to a place of less stress and more calm. 

 

Not that the below list will solve all your problems, but the inclusion of a pause or multiple pauses throughout the day can help you find a little bit of balance between longer, larger resets. 

  1. Start the day before: Establishing and maintaining state of calm starts by taking a moment or two to organize your day the night before.  Review your calendar and do what you can to prepare for an easier start to the day. 

  1. Sleep: Try to get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep.  When we sleep well everything else seems easier to manage. 

  1. Pack healthy and nutritious snacks to eat throughout the day:  Having small, healthy snacks will help keep your blood sugar level stable and will make it easy to keep your energy levels up (especially if you have a lastminute event that prevents or delays a meal).  Also, having snacks on hand will make it easier to resist the vending machine or drive-through. 

  1. Drink water:  Water naturally fights fatigue and increases energy.  Water flushes out toxins, relieves headaches and boosts the immune system.  So, keep a container of fresh, filtered water handy and sip it throughout the day.  The benefits on mood, hydration, and overall health are truly amazing. 

  1. Take breaks throughout the day to just slow down:  Making a cup of tea, going for a 10-minute walk outside, counting out the beads of a mala, or finding a quiet spot to close your eyes and breath with intent will each do wonders for perspective.  Sometimes all we need to do is pause long enough to breathe.  This can do wonders for calming the mind and senses. 

  1. Focus:  Find an object or objects that bring you a sense of peace and joy and have them at your desk at work or in a space you frequent throughout your day.  Gaze on them for a moment drawing your awareness toward something outside of your momentary frazzle and back into an inner state of joy.   

  1. Music:  Play soothing and happy music as you are able throughout the day.  Relaxing music has been shown to increase levels of serotonin and other positive hormones in the bloodstream providing our bodies with better mood, sleep and learning capabilities. 

  1. Scent:  Scent has been studied and proven to improve mood, cognitive capabilities and behavior.  Go ahead and dab on a touch of your favorite perfume.  Start a diffuser scenting the room with lovely essential oils that bring calm, awareness, focus, whatever it is you need at that time.  (Just be mindful of those around you and any sensitivities they may have to certain scents.). If you are in a space where a diffuser or perfume is not recommended, try dabbing a touch of essential oil on a pressure point or two.  Pressure points can include the temples, the back of the neck by the base of the skull, the neck by the jaw line, the collar bone and the wrists. 

Here’s to hoping you have a day filled with manageable stress, breath and space to be.  

Building on a minute a day…Guest post by RJ Lisander

Mala

Last week was a bit of an overshare, but at the beginning of my attempts at a regular meditation practice it was so helpful for me to hear from those who made it look so easy. 

It takes time and practice to settle in and over time those words, to me, as they will to you, came to take on a newer more nuanced meaning.  It also took some work with different meditation techniques for me to settle in to what has now become a practice of about 60-minutes of silent meditation where I just “drop in” to my quiet mind.

After the visualization technique, which I explained last week, I experimented with a number of techniques until I found a really interesting style of meditation:  mantra meditation.

A mantra is defined as a word, a series of words, or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.  It can be something as simple as the traditional “om,” which is heard in yoga classes worldwide, or it can be a more personal affirmation.  Your local yoga or meditation guide can direct you to a mantra that is perfectly suited to you, your needs and beliefs if this phrase is not coming to you easily

As I settled in to try mantra meditation I selected “om” because, frankly, it was the Sanskrit (though you are not limited to Sanskrit mantras) I felt the most comfortable pronouncing and repeating.

Seated comfortably on my meditation pillow I took a couple of breaths to help me settle.  I then closed my eyes and started to repeat, in a very tentative and quiet whisper, Om.  Over and over, Om, Om, Om.  Before I realized it the om was longer, extending to the length of each exhale, Ooooooommmmmmm.  I relaxed a bit.  I could feel myself slowing down. 

Then the thinking mind crept in and I began to wonder what “Om” really meant.  Until that very moment I had just taken for granted that “Om” was an opening and closing chant stated in yoga classes to help raise the collective vibration, consciousness of the room.  And, while this sacred sound of Om is that, it is so much more.  (Here is an article to help explain om in more detail.)

As I settled into a regular practice I started to experience Om at the beginning of a breath as AH, the middle of a breath as OH, and the end of a breath as MM.  YES!!!  The illusive breath in meditation!  I had finally found it!  The answer was right in front of me the whole time.  But, the experience of it was just beginning to unfold for me.

The second piece of the meditation puzzle was revealed to me in this sound and the vibration that resonated through me.  I opened my eyes, my whole body … buzzing … is really the best way to explain it.  I could feel my whole body, alive and active, though I was simply sitting and breathing.  My mind was peaceful and I felt like I had just found the key that I could use to unlock all that was me that I had not ever been able to access before.

I sat for days after this experience trying to get back to this place.  But, I failed.  I was frustrated.  And, then I remembered something one of my wonderful first meditation guides recommended and I incorporated a mala to my mantra meditation.

A mala is a strand of 108 beads plus a “guru” bead traditionally used for meditation (and prayer).  Malas can be created with different intentions and different precious and semi-precious gem stones to allow for different intentions to be recognized in a practice. 

I happened to have a sandalwood mala nearby.  (Sandalwood is believed to help enhance meditation practices, among other things).  I took the guru bead (the largest bead on the mala and is typically near the mala’s tassel) and started chanting AH-OH-MM with my breath.  With each exhale, and the beginning of the chant, I moved my fingers along the strand to the next bead.  I did this the entire length of the mala, 108 beads, and rested.  I opened my eyes and, though I didn’t feel the buzz I described earlier, I felt the same heightened sense of my own physical being.

For over a month I repeated this every day.  It became second nature to me and I was able to focus the vibrations in different parts of my body.  The sensation of the breath and the vibrations were (and remain) especially strong in my spine, but this can vary by individual.  Anytime I am feeling anxious I repeat Om silently to myself and the vibrations return and help me calm.  My breath settles … and, for me, that was the greatest gift of mantra meditation.  (I often secretly joke to myself that this meditation became the seed of my practice.) 

To try mantra meditation follow these steps: 

  • Return to your meditation practice space 

  • Find a comfortable position  

  • Take a couple of breaths to settle 

  • Chant your chosen mantra  

  • Repeat the chant until you feel the vibration move through you and either continue to chant or sit in silence to enjoy the experience of the vibration from a place of internal peace 

As a side note, malas can also be used alone to help focus the mind and to settle the nerves in times of stress.  There are many styles of counting the beads.  I simply hold the mala in my hand and count off the beads, starting with the guru, until I have moved through all 108.  Typically, by the time I get about ¾ of the way through the strand I am feeling calmer and more focused.  (It is not recommended that you do this while driving, operating heavy machinery, etc.  And, please be careful if you are using malas around small children and animals. General common sense should be your guide here to make sure you and those around you are safe from the distraction of counting, long strings and broken strands!) 

For individualized pointers or resources lists for mantras, please send requests to rjlisander@gmail.com.  Of course, you are always invited to stop by InsideOut Body Therapies for a Sunday evening yin flow and meditation class where we experiment a bit with mantra meditations.  Additionally, check the schedule for upcoming meditation workshops. 

Lotus Seed Meditations, LLC 

Finding Calm in the Moment…Guest post by RJ Lisander

RJ blog

 

Just checking in on you … how is your practice of meditation going so far?  
 

If you are anything like me, it’s probably not really going well at all.  It is hard to sit in the distraction of the mind and find peace.  Not to mention sitting and feeling the dull ache in the back and the slowly growing tingling in the left toe that eventually overtakes the whole foot in a sea of ever moving pin pricks growing in intensity.  

No, it’s not hard to meditate.  It can be near impossible.  So, how did you get through it?  

I added a focal point.

The buildup: It had been a particularly long day at work where a meeting ended with me, a natural klutz, making a turn to leave the room too quickly and spilling half-dayold, cold cream and coffee all over a pile of documents ready to be priority shipped to a marketing conference.  To say there was a less than a pleased look on the face of my boss and the immediate knowledge that the intern, who had been excited about and looking forward to a date for weeks, would miss that date to help me reprint and reorganize everything, caused me to feel less like a human and more like the slog at the bottom of slog is an understatement.

It was a bad day.  (Not my worst day, but a bad day nonetheless.)   

Knowing we had no option other than to make it work, the intern and I got the job done.  The intern even had time to make it to her date.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, she was late, but she did make it.)  I, on the other hand, went to a quiet apartment with no one home but two aging cats more interested in their evening meal than comforting me.  No friends were available to vent to so I left messages asking for return calls. Then I made a dinner for one, which I barely ate, as I was generally feeling nothing but self-pity. 

Now, here is where the real story starts:  I made my way to the sink where I started to wash dishes as I contemplated how to start my letter of resignation … you know, beat them to the firing me punch.  And, then, without thinking about it, after 6-weeks of trying to meditate without even the slightest bit of success, the feel of the warm water washing over my hands, the bubbles of dish detergent soothing my air conditioned-dried fingers, the sound of the water, a steady streamleft me feeling focused.  As I focused on the water and how it felt on my skin became aware of my shoulders relaxing.  Then just as I believe I was about to feel my breath the phone rang and instantly the moment was gone. 

didn’t answer the phone.  Instead, I rolled out my yoga mat and laid down on it –  work suit and all.  I knew no matter what happened at work the next day I would know I found a moment of peace and I was confident I would find that peace again. 

 

The takeaway: Now, I’m pretty sure that while none of you has actually had this day, you can relate to days like this.  And, it is often in these moments where we are not sure what to do, how to move forward, or how those things we don’t have control over will affect and even change our lives, that we seek outside advice.  In my case, that evening, I wanted a friend to help me sort through how to “fix” the idea that I knew everyone had of me being incompetent.  

But, in that moment of mindful meditation I experienced and realized the issue was much deeper; I move too quickly and I needed to slow down.   

The focal point: The next time I decided to meditate I pulled up a picture of a river on my laptop. This picture was from a favorite hiking spot and I just looked at the picture.  I recalled the smells, the sounds, everything I could about that spot.  And, though it would take several more meditation sessions before I found my breath, I left that session with a clearer head and a general sense of calm (and, the personal realization that I have a tendency to over-react to less-than-perfect-deliveries at work).   

Here are a few tips on how to start meditating with a focal point:  

  • Go to that place you have decided is your meditation spot.  
  • Take a moment and a few breaths and think about a place or an object that brings you joy.  Then find the picture of the place or the object. 
  • Take this picture or object and go back to your meditation spot.  
  • Then, once comfortable, take a cleansing inhale and exhale.  
  • Finally, look at your picture or object and notice every detail the texture, the shadings of color, the lightness, the density, the movement, the scent, and the feelings that those observations bring.  
  • Sit here for as long as you are able to focus on the picture or object and the observations.   
  • If your mind wonders bring your attention back to the picture or object until you have completely experienced this moment.  
  • When you are ready to exit your meditation do so with a deep and complete inhale followed by a complete exhale.  
  • Return your picture or object to its place or carry it with you as a reminder to take a moment to sit and settle. 

Be kind to yourself and keep trying!  Finding even a few moments each day for your meditation practice can help you find calm in the moment of mental chaos and live more mindfully.

 

Give yourself one minute a day and it will change your life … slowly

RJ_Meditation

Guest post by….

RJ Lisander, Lotus Seed Meditations, LLC

Meditation is a practice that starts with small steps.  The first and most important step is to start. That means saying to yourself that you will dedicate a few moments each day to you.  

Once you’ve made this decision all you have to do is find a place tget comfortable and practice.  There is no right or wrong space.  There is no need to make it complicated. Just find a space where you naturally feel safe and secure.  For some this is looking out a window feeling the afternoon sun warm the skin.  For some, this space can be sitting by water or in the woods.  For others this space is a comfortable chair, listening to a favorite song, or sitting quietly at the kitchen table with the smell of a favorite meal or treat warming in the oven.  

 

Once you find your space, get comfortable.  Experiment with sitting, lying downand the use of props until you find the position that works best for you.

The second step is to just sit.  Sit for any amount of time, starting with just a minute or two and adding on steadily from there.  (Before you know it you will be sitting in stillness at your goal time.)

The third step, practice, which develops with each session.   By practicing here I am not referring to sitting in stillness with the absence of noises, the chatter of the mind, or the distraction of priorities that draw you away from your practice.  Rather, it means to sit with these things.  Sit with all of these things.  Let yourself become aware of and experience the noises surrounding you.  Let your mind speak until it has said all it needs and quiets.  Remind yourself that you will have plenty of time later in your day to attend to all of your priorities.  But, for the dedicated amount of time try to just sit.  With patience, the practice unfolds and the noises move to the background and the mind naturally quiets quicker and quicker.

Before you know it, you are finding your breath; awareness.  And, that is where the wonderful journey inward and the benefits of meditation start to take hold. 

 

Have questions on how to develop your practice?  Drop me a line at rjlisander@gmail.com or come to a class at InsideOut Body Therapies.  

Summer and The Yin Yang Balance: Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

austindixon

Am I the only one feeling like there is too much happening and too many places to be right now?

Probably not. This feeling is typical for this time of year. There is a lot going on and we want to do all of it. Our busy Spring/Summer schedule can make us feel excited, energized, yet completely overwhelmed and exhausted. You might find yourself overdoing it a bit and craving down time but struggling to find it. This kind of constant activity leaves us feeling burned out and resentful. Though we are responsible for knowing our own limits and not over-committing, we aren’t completely to blame for our packed schedules. Nature plays a role as well.

Chinese Medicine is based around the balance (yin and yang) in nature. We are a part of nature and very much influenced by its changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Changes in the seasons affect our physical and emotional balance.  In the Spring, Yin (calm, cooling, slow energy) is moving into Yang (energetic, hot, fast energy) preparing to peak at the height of summer.  It is only normal that as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer our bodies do, too. We start to crave more activity and movement. Plans get made, vacations are set, and the next thing we know we have no down time. We have completely lost our friend, Yin, that we got to know so well over the Winter. We can’t just ignore Yin during the summer months and hope that sleep will balance it all out.  We have to create our own Yin moments. When we balance our Yin and Yang we are at optimal health and all the systems in the body run properly and smoothly.

Here are some ideas for balancing your Yin during the summer….

Get acupuncture. Even if you “don’t have anything wrong”, acupuncture helps balance the body and improve the function of all the systems.

Get a massage. Massage not only feels good but also has many health benefits.

Meditate. You don’t have to sit for hours everyday to meditate. Start with 3 minutes of quiet everyday. And remember, meditating doesn’t mean you sit without having thoughts. That is practically impossible. Meditating is sitting quietly noticing your thoughts. That’s it. If that feels like too much to ask, try focusing on your breath by making the inhale and exhale equal. Three minutes will fly by.

Exercise in the morning. Exercising is a Yang activity. Our Yang energy is rising in the morning and peaking at noon. When we exercise in the morning we are working with natural energy of the day when neither Yin nor Yang are in full force. After noon Yin begins to increase. The later we get in the day the more present Yin is. Honor the flow and keep your evening activities relaxed and calming. If you want to be a Yin Yang Overachiever you can even plan a noon nap everyday. Countering the most Yang part of the day with the most Yin activity.

Do Tai Chi and/or Qi Gong. Both of these are forms of gentle exercises designed to bring body awareness and superior health and wellness. It is best to do at sunrise and sunset, but you will still get the benefits anytime of day.

Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is when our body replenishes itself. It is a Yin activity. Sleep is extremely important to keeping a good balance.

Limit coffee. Coffee gives us a false sense of energy all the while depleting the reserves we do have. I love my cup of coffee, but too much of it will have me running on empty.

Food! It is important to balance Yin and Yang foods with an extra emphasis on the Yin. Most veggies are Yin and cooling, especially the green, leafy ones. Fish and seafood are cooling as well as seaweed. There is a lot of information online about how to eat in alignment with the seasons and Chinese Medicine.

I hope you have found this helpful. It is hard to live a balanced life these days. Start small and feel proud of the small successes. Good luck everyone!

Austin Dixon is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) who enjoys working with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as women’s issues, immune support, and digestive issues. She believe that healing is best achieved when lifestyle changes occur in conjunction with acupuncture. Each of her patients will have an individually tailored treatment plan that may include dietary changes and finding creative ways to reduce negative stress. Every patient is different so every treatment plan will differ depending on the needs and goals of the individual. She states, “One of the most important things to me is that my patients feel ownership and are empowered by their healing process.”

InsideOut Body Therapies recently won Best Acupuncture in the Independent’s Best of the Triangle contest.

The “F” Words: Guest post by Lori Ginsberg, PT

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How can I “fix” my aches and pains? What can I do to avoid activities that cause these aches and pains? WHY am I plagued with these problems over and over again?! I had this issue years ago and it is BACK again…why?!

I get asked these types of questions on a regular basis and the answer is simple. The F words.  FIX, FOUNDATION and FUN. Three words that can change the way you approach fitness and function (more F words!) and avoid the chronic injury/re-injury cycle. Knowing how to balance your time among these three exercise stages will go a long way toward keeping you fit, strong and injury free.

FIX activities are appropriate when injury or dysfunction exists that causes pain and/or abnormal movement patterns. This stage focuses on restoring the most basic movement foundations, protecting the affected structures from further aggravation and allowing healing to take place.   This stage is best managed by experienced physical therapists or other highly trained and licensed movement specialists.

FOUNDATION activities continue to build on the fundamental movement patterns introduced during FIX (or are where to start if no injury exists). These activities focus on making conscious neuromuscular connections to fine tune and improve quality in movement patterns. When such activities are practiced regularly and in good form, the foundations become automatic and the body “upgrades” itself. A good example is the improved posture that results over time from practicing Pilates. Where at first holding yourself tall and straight felt unnatural, now slouching and rounding your shoulders is uncomfortable. It’s now easier to maintain your OPTIMAL alignment!

FUN activities range from CrossFit to gardening, playing beach volleyball to daily long walks with the dog. To perform FUN stage activities, without risking a return to FIX, it’s important to have an adequate FOUNDATION. You wouldn’t build a tree house on a tree with no roots and a flimsy trunk. Neither should you kick a soccer ball or swing a golf club without a strong foundation (aka “core”).

A solid, lifetime exercise program should include regular activities from both the FOUNDATION and FUN categories.

The result…better posture, increased awareness and connection to your body, and improved performance in all levels of activity… from climbing the stairs to reaching a new PR in a triathlon….and less visits to the FIX stage.

The Core Align is the newest tool here at IOBT and is an ideal one for moving through all of these stages. The exercises are fun, functional and challenge the neuromuscular system to perform at its optimal level. Check it out, along with our other Pilates equipment and floor classes at InsideOut Body Therapies.

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http://www.insideoutbodytherapies.com

To schedule a CoreAlign or Pilates private or register for classes at InsideOut, contact the studio. 919-361-0104  info@insideoutbodytherapies.com

Moving Through Pain: Guest post by Susan Rhea, DPT

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Pain. So many people deal with pain on a daily basis. While pain itself is a normal sensation in our body, meant to protect us and help us survive, in some cases it can persist, changing and limiting our daily activities.  That’s when it can become chronic- causing suffering and resulting in activity modification.  That is not normal.  This doesn’t happen with all pain, though.  So why do some people bounce back from injury while others do not?

As it turns out, the answer may lie in the brain. The nervous system is a huge contributor to chronic pain and can be the true cause of conditions such as chronic low back pain, chronic neck pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  As you might imagine, this is quite a complicated topic!

Pain is not an input. It’s an output.  

Contrary to what you might think, pain is not an input—it isn’t caused by outside sources. Yes, there are nerve fibers in our bodies, which are meant to sense pain, but the BRAIN is where pain is actually created.

For example, if you stub your toe, nerve endings in your toe sends signals to the spinal cord and up to the brain. The brain then determines how it will interpret that information. The brain doesn’t just process the physical sensation from your toe, but also all the other stimuli it is receiving, including information like what you are hearing, seeing, and feeling (emotionally and physically). That information is then sent out to other parts of the brain, including the parts of the brain that process emotion, problem solving, memory, and the motor cortex, which allows you to react to the “danger” at the root of the pain and then protect yourself.

For many people, the toe hurts for a little while but then feels better, and the stimulation to the brain returns to normal. In some cases, however, such as major trauma or when the brain can’t identify the source of the “danger,” the brain continues the pain output. The parts of the brain that became stimulated don’t shut off and neural pathways that were associated with the injury trigger the pain output even though there is no longer any true physical danger. This can result in increased sensitivity to other sensations, impaired movement patterns, and difficulty returning to normal activities of daily life. Emotional changes may also result, including feeling anxious about movement, fearful of re-injury and even depression.  All of this can cause a cycle of disuse, pain, and disability.

How can we break the cycle?

  1. Education – Understanding how pain works has shown to have major benefits in people with chronic pain. A great resource for patients/clients with pain is the book “Why do I Hurt?” by Adriaan Louw.  Many of these suggestions are from this book.
  2. Sleep  –  Good restorative sleep is so important. Tips for promoting healthy sleep habits include limiting TV/screen time in evening hours, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and exercising regularly.
  3. Walking – Walking is excellent for increasing circulation, increasing positive hormones, reducing stress, and reducing fatigue and muscle soreness.
  4. Slow and Steady – Often people return to their regular activities too quickly.  Instead, slowly increasing activities to tolerance and allowing for progressive desensitization will be helpful.

At InsideOut, we believe that Movement Heals and we are committed to helping you have a positive movement experience.  With our guidance and support we will work together with the whole body to break negative pain cycles.   Stay tuned for our next blog post in which we will discuss more specifics on how to work with pain to break the chronic injury/re-injury cycle.