Pathway to Stillness

CIMG2892

The Opening Circle for the Pathway to Stillness Immersion will take place this Sunday the 27th of April at Samyama Yoga Center from 1:30 to 3:30 pm.

I am extremely honored that I was asked to join in this beautiful program. For four weeks participants will dive into an experience that will burnish the hard edges and soften the soul. We’ll be introduced to new ideas about meditation and how we can live our meditation moment to moment. We’ll enjoy sound and energetic healing. We’ll deepen our practice through pure yin and yin flow. Breath work, yoga nidra and journaling exercises will open our hearts and minds.

But I’m just a very small part of Pathway to Stillness. Leading our journey is John Berg, founder and director of Samyama Yoga Center. Also guiding us are teachers Natalie Donofrio and Lindsay Amrein, sound healer Devin Begley and vibrational healer Joanne Brohmer.

It’s not too late to enroll. If you would like to know more visit the Samyama website or stop by the studio at 2995 Middlefield Road.

Samyama Open House

To celebrate the beginning of our second Pathway immersion Samyama is hosting a Therapeutic Open House. Massage practitioner Paul Crowl, Sound Healer Devin Begley, Cranio-Sacral and Reiki specialist Joanne Brohmer and little ol’ me, the house reflexologist, are providing free (yes, FREE) sample treatments from 10:30 to 3:30 on Saturday 26th April and from 10:30 to 12:30 on Sunday 27th April.

Spaces are limited and appointments are filling up fast. Visit the website or stop by Samyama to book your time. Each treatment is twenty minutes long.


Class Update and Exciting News

I’m headed to Norfolk, Virginia at the end of the week. Please note the following changes to my teaching schedule:

Thursday, 29 August

  • Palo Alto Community Child Care: My 6:30 class is canceled this week. I will see you in September 5th.

Friday, 30 August

  • California Yoga Center: The incandescent Lisa will be teaching our 9:00 AM class.
  • Avenidas: The 10:30 class is canceled this week but we will have a make-up class on September 6th.
  • Samyama Yoga Center: Warm and wonderful Carla will teach our 1:30 Yin class.

Saturday, 31 August

  • Samyama Yoga Center: Vinyasa-loving Bethany will teach at 4:00. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled slow flow on September 7th.

Monday, 2 September (Labor Day)

  • California Yoga Center: Our 7:30 Yin Class will be canceled on Labor Day. We’ll meet again on the 9th.

IMG_0156More Great News From Samyama Yoga Center….

A few posts back I introduced Devin Begley and Joanne Brohmer as Samyama Yoga Center’s new body therapists. We have two more to add to the team: Paul Crowl and….drum roll please….ME!

If you attend classes at Samyama then you’ll recognize Paul as the male energy behind the front desk. He provided this brief bio:

Paul Crowl is a certified massage therapist with more than twenty year’s experience. He was formally trained at Cypress Health Institute in Santa Cruz in Swedish massage and reflexology. He later studied the are of deep tissue bodywork with Michael DiBenedetto. His dedication to refining his craft and background in yoga and the healing arts lead him to being one of the more notable therapists in the Bay Area. With an intuitive touch and ability to read your breath, Paul will help you melt away tension and relieve unnecessary stress.

In addition to the classes I teach at Samyama, I now offer foot reflexology:

Mimm brings the ‘sole-ful’ healing of foot reflexology to Samyama. Her work – a combination of massage, warm stones, Reiki energy and modern reflexology techniques creates an unparalleled sense of balanced calm that supports health and wellness.

Mimm’s initial training was in sports massage and neuromuscular therapy from the National Institute in Dublin, Ireland. Although she enjoyed the intellectual challenge of clinical massage Mimm felt something lacking. She decided to explore body-energy modalities that not only soothed the body but settled the spirit.

“Reflexology has a quality to it that is soft and subtle. That’s why I love it. A profound change can take place in the most quiet of moments.”

In addition to her work in reflexology and the yoga classes she teaches at Samyama, Mimm is an artist and writer. She is currently completing her master’s degree in transpersonal psychology and will begin work toward her certificate in yoga therapy at Niroga Institute in Berkeley early next year.


Reflexology – A Treat for the Feet

Português:

I’ve been an ITEC Certified Reflexologist for ten years.  The modality is a treat for anyone but especially perfect if you are in recovery from illness or surgery or simply have difficulty navigating the climb onto a massage table.  Reflexology can be done in your home from the comfort of your favorite chair.  A version of this article was published in Yoga Living Magazine in 2010.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been delighted to accept new Reflexology clients and for them I happily re-post this article.

My Feet Are Killing Me!

Really?  Maybe it’s the other way around.  Let’s face it.  Our feet are underappreciated.  They carry the weight of our bodies with nary a complaint.  We smoosh them into poorly fitted shoes that force our little phalanges into unnatural shapes. And then we stand on them for hours. We depend on our feet to keep us moving from home to work and then, at the end of the day, we increase the massive force of each footfall by slipping on a pair of running shoes and going for a jog on hard concrete.

And what thanks do they get?

Nada.

If they’re lucky we’ll give our toes a wee wiggle before bed.  Our feet deserve more.  Pedicures are pretty, but I’m talking about deep healing.  I’m talking about maintaining the health of our feet while supporting health and healing throughout the entire body.  I’m talking Reflexology.

Reflexology to the Rescue

Reflexology is a massage and pressure point technique applied to the sole of the foot similar in theory to acupressure massage and acupuncture.

I know – I bet you think you’re too ticklish. Who hasn’t suffered under the hands of an older sibling who, at some point during our childhood, took cruel delight in torturing us by tickling our toes, home to thousands of nerve endings?

But stimulating these nerve endings – with a firm and not ticklish touch – sends messages to corresponding areas of the body.  Reflexology calms the nervous system and supports our body in a way that restores equilibrium by stimulating sluggish energetic pathways while settling pathways that are overactive, thus providing an opportunity for the body to begin the healing process. Reflexology builds and sustains our reserves and enables us to cope with day-to-day stress triggers.  Regular reflexology treatments may also shorten our recovery time from major life upsets or illness.

A Brief History

Eastern cultures noticed the link between the health of our feet and general wellness thousands of years ago.  They didn’t call their work reflexology, and they hadn’t mapped out the foot reflexes, but they knew that regular massage and an appreciation for the feet supported overall vitality.

Reflexology as we know it today arrived more recently in the West – during the early part of the twentieth century – when Eunice Ingham developed the reflex ‘maps’ therapists are familiar with today.

The popularity of reflexology is on the rise as therapists and clients discover the intense effects working on the soles of the feet have on the rest of the body.  Reflexology is a gentle way for clients who are not comfortable disrobing for a full-body massage to receive the stress relieving benefits of touch therapy.

In the Zone

Reflexology divides the foot into ten vertical zones and three horizontal zones.  The zones act like a guide for the reflexologist – a ‘foot map’ of sorts.  In theory a blockage in one part of a zone correlates to a particular organ but also influences everything else in that zone.  Working the appropriate and specific foot reflex within the zone will stimulate subtle muscular contraction or release throughout the zone.

The zones of the feet are similar to the meridians used in acupuncture and acupressure.

As with acupuncture and acupressure, reflexology is a therapy that demonstrates the interrelationship between the different physiological systems as well as the mind, body and spirit.

Tell Me More…

A reflexology treatment lasts between forty-five minutes and an hour.  Unlike a full-body massage you’ll remain – except for your feet of course – fully clothed.  The therapist will begin by ‘greeting’ both feet, looking for any abnormalities, calluses or injuries.  It’s better to skip the toenail polish on the day of your treatment – your therapist will want to note any discoloration in the nail bed.  Finally, she’ll take a whiff.  An odor coming from the feet may point to a kidney or liver imbalance – but remember, reflexology is not a diagnostic tool.  An imbalance could indicate a temporary increase in life stress, an immune response to a virus or bacterium, or even a simple lack of attention to the diet.

So Far So Good – Then What Happens?

After several minutes of warming up, when you’re therapist has you floating in that wonderful place between sleep and bliss the real work begins.

Most reflexologists work one foot at a time, beginning with the right, although techniques will vary.  Some therapists have a light touch; others work more deeply. Both techniques are effective.

The reflexologist divides the foot into regions and systematically ‘thumb walks’ over each section.   The technique, where the outer edge of the thumb pad presses on the surface of the foot, allows the therapist to feel one small area at a time. The therapist can be very specific with her touch, stimulating reflex points with precision.

During this time she may feel a change in texture.  Sometimes areas that need work are indicated by small nodules beneath the skin that feel a little bit like grains of sand.  These are not harbingers of doom – they simply reflect a possible weakness. Your therapist will note these areas and either work on them immediately or go back to them toward the end of the treatment.

For example, if your immune system is compromised – if you’re coming down with a cold – your spleen reflex may feel a bit spongy or rough. She may work the area with more pressure or press additional ‘helper’ reflexes in order to soften or break up the nodule before moving on to another area of the foot.  She might also suggest aftercare – possibly including yoga asana – to strengthen a depleted immune system.

What Does it Feel Like?

The opening sequence of a treatment will feel very much like a typical foot massage. Your therapist may incorporate a few gentle stretches and joint manipulations that are beneficial to the circulatory system and conducive to relaxation. When the more specific aspects of the reflexology treatment begin you’ll feel the light pressure of thumb walking along a specific pathway on the foot. When your therapist finds an area of imbalance you may experience tenderness or irritation at that reflex point.

Some therapists will prefer to keep your head elevated.  This allows them to watch for the subtle changes in your expression as you respond to the treatment.  It’s important to communicate with your therapist – to tell her if something hurts, or if her touch is too strong – but sometimes during the treatment you’ll be too relaxed to speak.  Keeping your head elevated is the therapist’s way of keeping the lines of communication open.

General Aftercare

You will be encouraged to rest and relax following your treatment.  Find a quiet, still environment and sip water or herbal tea.  Allow the transition between your treatment and the return to ‘real’ life to be as gentle and easy as possible.

Reflexology is profoundly relaxing.  It soothes the nervous system and relieves stress.  While it does not offer a cure or a diagnosis, you can consider reflexology a conduit for greater healing.

While most treatments support general well being, a good therapist will be able to design a program that addresses specific concerns and conditions.  For instance, reflexology is excellent for digestive issues and sleep disturbances. It can also be of benefit for anyone suffering from chronic headaches and has been shown to provide relief from fibromyalgia. The truth is, reflexology has a positive effect on many chronic problems.  And while it isn’t a substitute for medical treatment, it is a powerful complement to an allopathic approach to illness.

A Home Treatment for Feet:

Use a golf ball to stimulate meridians and reflex points in the soles of the feet.  Soaking the feet in warm, scented water only adds to the treatment.

  • Place the golf ball on a folded towel (this will help keep it from rolling away from you).
  • Begin by resting the right foot on the ball at your diaphragm/solar plexus reflex.  This point is just below the ball of the foot, close to the midline.
  • Curling the toes down will stretch the top of the foot.
  • Hold this position for a few breaths.
  • When that feels complete, begin running the ball slowly up and down the foot, from the inside to the out.  Use firm but not painful pressure. Linger at any areas that may feel sensitive.  You can repeat this pattern as often as you like.
  • And then run the ball from side to side, working from the toes to the heel.  Again, stop and linger at any sensitive areas.
  • Repeat with the left foot.

Relieving Stress on the Road: 

A simple trick for calming down when stress attacks is finding the diaphragm/solar plexus point on the palm of your hand and applying a light pressure.  To find the point:

  • Relax the hand
  • Allow your left hand to fold gently and observe the creases in the palm.
  • They become well-defined and move towards one another.
  • The point where they are closest – just above the pad of the thumb and just below the space between the index and middle finger – that’s the general area of the solar plexus/diaphragm point.
  • Press into that spot gently with the pad of your right thumb.
  • Breathe in as you press.  Breathe out as you release.
  • Repeat several times, slowly and with self-awareness.
  • Repeat on the right side.

For more information about reflexology, or to find a reflexologist in your area visit these websites:

Reflexology Association of America: http://www.reflexology-usa.org/

American Reflexology Certification Board: www.arcb.net


Thai Me Up

Thaimassage2

Image via Wikipedia

I was reminded of my love for Thai Massage during Yin Teacher Training last August when Paul Grilley taught us The Stiff White Guy Routine – or what I prefer to call (after I stop laughing) “Assisted Yin.”

Assisted Yin is exactly that: one individual receives the Yin Yoga and the other provides it.  The receiver remains relaxed while the provider folds and holds the receiver’s body in classic Yin positions for up to five minutes.  This eliminates effort for the receiver and facilitates a deeper level of physical and emotional release.

Last Sunday I attended a workshop taught by Terri van de Sande from Esprit-de-Core, a lovely Pilates Studio in Los Altos (for locals it’s just behind Chef Chu’s).  Terri is a Pilates instructor and Thai Massage expert.  During the afternoon workshop we worked in teams while Terri introduced to us basic Thai Massage techniques.  I was looking for a few appropriate moves to add to the Assisted Yin treatment I offer clients.

Terri is a very generous therapist, and when she learned who I was and my reasons for being at the workshop (most of the other attendees appeared to be couples) she asked me to be her “demo body”.  Who was I to refuse a request like that?  By the end of the workshop and my stint on her futon I knew what I needed:  some non-clinical, hands-on, deep stretching, relaxing beyond belief bodywork.  Sooner rather than later.

And so, last night, I met Terri at Esprit-de-Core.  She set up her mat, asked me to lie down and put a pillow under my head.  I closed my eyes and handed my body over to her capable hands.

Thai Massage is practiced fully clothed.  More fluid than Assisted Yin, Terri pulled, held and dragged my body from one position to another for ninety minutes.  She drew me into backbends, forward bends and twists.   If Assisted Yin gives Yin Yoga to the receiver then Thai Massage, in its own way, offers a nuanced classic Yoga experience.   Most of the time I had my eyes closed and allowed the work to happen to me rather than feeling I had to actively help.

Any massage is, of course, physically therapeutic, but Terri’s energy tuned into my need to clear a little emotional baggage.  It wasn’t long before I released a few sighs and then a few silent tears.

I love Thai Massage.  Of all the massage techniques I’ve experienced, it remains a favorite.  But if you’re new to bodywork, or have never tried Thai, these tips may help:

  • Wear very loose, very comfortable clothes.
  • While the technique is practiced fully clothed, in many ways the work feels more intimate than classic massage in that the practitioner may need to place her hands and feet in unusual locations. For instance, to help stretch my shoulder, Terri put the heel of her foot in my armpit.  To work my hamstring, she “walked” her feet on the back of my thigh.
  • Be prepared to hand yourself over.  It’s important that you trust your therapist.  If you try to help while she positions your body you’ll lose some of the therapeutic benefits of the treatment.
  • Avoid eating a few hours prior to your Thai Massage.  You’ll feel better receiving the treatment on an empty stomach.
  • Drink plenty of water afterwards.



To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Good Question…

I was introducing a group of Spanish-speaking clients at the pain clinic where I teach yoga to the power of Yin.  A young man dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball jacket gingerly attempted to find a twist that challenged him yet did not aggravate the injury to his lower back.  He positioned a small bolster under his left thigh, relaxed and closed his eyes.  A moment later, through his interpreter, he asked me,

“Where is the mind supposed to go in these poses?”

The question, considering his lifetime practice of yoga amounted to approximately sixty-two minutes, was remarkable.

How was I going to answer without delving too deep, too soon, into all the possibilities?

I told him that in some practices we focus on the breath, or gaze toward a particular point, but in Yin we can close our eyes and free the mind to travel, and that each new position might bring up a different set of emotions or memories.

And then I confessed that there have been times during my Yin practice when I’ve entered the trance state I like to call “napping”.  Seriously.  While Yin’s startlingly challenging stretches are percolating into my connective tissue, I’m dozing.  Sometimes I can even fit in a thirty-second dream.

Speaking of Dreams…

Shortly before I woke this morning I had one of those weird “what does it all mean” sort of dreams.  Listening to someone tell the story of a dream is a bit like having to sit through four hundred photographs of Uncle Mort’s week in the Poconos.  But stick with me.  This gets good.

It was the sort of dream our subconscious constructs to help us find answers.

I’m teaching yoga to a group of people dressed for Carnivale. Every one is wearing a mask.  I can only identify one or two people and even then only based on their ‘energy’.  The scene is disordered and chaotic but not upsetting.

I am told I’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness.  To be healed, I must take the medicine handed to me in an ornate bottle. But I don’t want anyone to discover that I am ill so I hide the bottle.  Meanwhile, we’re all going on a journey and all my students are packing suitcases and gathering tickets and it’s happy mayhem.  In the excitement, the medicine gets lost in my baggage.

And then Max, one of the felines I’m currently taking care of, jumped on my chest, woke me up and I never discover if I take the medicine or if I’m able to leave on the journey.  The last thing I remember in the dream is accidentally handing over a fifty-dollar bill as a tip, realizing my mistake, taking it back and replacing it with ten dollars.  Odd.  I’m usually more generous.

That dream is going to settle over me for the rest of the day like a satisfying film.  I can still feel the mood of the dream – the tiny moments and the colors – all dark shimmering blues and silver.

I’m open to your interpretations, but I think the one thing that can heal me becoming lost in my baggage is pretty telling…

On that note, just to tie some loose ends from previous posts and to take a few tentative steps into the future:

  • No, I still haven’t canceled my cable.  Yet.  I will.
  • I’m no longer vibrating.  My beating heart has stilled. I feel more grounded than I have in months (although you might disagree when you read further).
  • I enjoyed my last day with the critique group.  I read a personal essay about how difficult it has been to process the reunion I had with my mother in September and how, when my heart was finally open to needing a mother, she wanted to talk about the weather.  Pete cried.  Terry and Henry said, “That’s the best thing you’ve ever written.” Terry added, “Submit it.  Now.”   I came home, cleaned up the formatting, wished it well and sent it off to a few magazines.  Fingers crossed.
  • I’m looking forward to the Thai Massage I’ve scheduled for Friday.  Thai Massage is a bit like having yoga given to you.  I’m pretty desperate for some bodywork.  Can’t wait.
  • And now, for the  You’re Doing WHAT? moment.  In the pursuit of new experiences, to satisfy my curiosity and to venture outside my normal comfort zone, I’m having my Tarot Cards read today.  Yep. It’s all right.  Go ahead.  Even I’m rolling my eyes.

Adventures in Rolfing

Time to man up.  Today is the day. Two hours from now I’ll be in Michael Murphy’s Los Altos office for my date with destiny. I based my thoughts on Rolfing in the post Healing Trauma on reports I’d read and anecdotal evidence.  Is that any way to write an informed blog?  Until today the closest I’ve come to being Rolfed has been watching this man play this instrument on television.

Kidding aside, I don’t know what to expect, and I’m more than a little nervous.

Twelve Hours Later

Here’s what I now know about Rolfing.

  • Each therapist is different.  Some keep the traditional “you must have ten treatments to be fully integrated” and some, like Michael, take the “two visits or ten, it’s done when it’s done” organic approach.  Veering from tradition does not concern me.  The Reiki technique I use no longer follows the traditional hand positions of my Usui lineage.  And my yoga teaching has certainly moved away from the strict alignment model I once adhered to.
  • It is not painful unless you want it to be.  We focused today’s treatment on two issues – the discomfort in my arms due to compressed nerves in my neck and a recent knee injury.  Sure, sometimes Michael manipulated areas with a firm pressure that was less than pleasant, but neither was it painful.  Strong, sharp or tender?  Maybe.  But not painful.
  • Rolfing may not be for the modest.  The session began with a postural assessment.  This involved a visual analysis of my spine and pelvis while I stood in my underwear. But Rolfers see plenty of bodies – I felt completely comfortable – this was no big deal.  It was made clear that I was the boss.  Besides, an experienced practitioner can make an assessment quickly.  In the future, though, I may try to get away with a sports bra and shorts.

What Does Rolfing Feel Like?

Michael did not use oils or creams.   There are no long, sweeping strokes.  Rolfing is more an intense and precise manipulation of the connective tissue.  There was pressing, squeezing, pushing and pulling, but no effleurage or petrissage.

How Did I Feel After the Treatment?

Alive.  I was surprised to feel a post-massage glow that is typical of more mellow treatments.  Rolfing is meant to structurally integrate the body and the spirit.  I’ll be the first to confess there is a gaping disconnect between my spiritual self and the Mimm I present to the world.  I’m guessing my spiritual side was happy to be out in the sunshine for a few hours.

How Do I Feel Now?

Tired.  Maybe a little achy.  It’s early on a Saturday night – not even half past nine – and yet I’ll be in bed as soon as this is posted.

Will I Do it Again?

Yes.  Absolutely.  Rolfing has a remarkable effect on the body.  And maybe – just maybe – it will have a remarkable effect on my spirit, too.  I’m off to bed – it’s been a big day.  A new day.


Paying it Forward and Other News

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be teaching an evening Yin class at the California Yoga Center beginning Monday, January 3rd.

What makes me even more excited is that from January 3rd through February 21st the class will be donation basedThat means you – yes, you – pay what you can afford. The normal drop-in fee is $17, but if that is out of reach for you then you are welcome to contribute what you can, when you can.  Seriously.  No questions asked.

I have always wanted to teach a donation based class and I am grateful to California Yoga Center for allowing me to do so.  I’m also grateful to them for adding this Yin class to their solid Iyengar schedule.

If you’re unfamiliar with Yin you can out more about it here and here.

If you’ve never been to the California Yoga Center studio in downtown Palo Alto you can find out more about it here.

I hope to see you in January.

In Other News:

In between yoga classes, blog posts and weekly word count goals I still have a thriving massage practice.  My training is in Sports Massage, Holistic Massage and Reflexology.  I am also a Level III Reiki practitioner.  I combine these techniques to offer strong yet soothing work that calms the nervous system and facilitates deep relaxation.

I’m happy to announce that I am now offering Assisted Yin as part of my massage work.  Think of Assisted Yin as one part Thai massage, one part Shiatsu, two parts facilitated stretching. We work on the floor and you remain fully clothed.  While you relax I take your body through a series of deep stretches held for three to five minutes.  The treatment lasts between 45 minutes to an hour.  The technique moves through muscle fiber to stretch deeply into our connective tissue.  The effect is profoundly relaxing.  If you’re interested and are in the Palo Alto area, contact me at mimmp@mac.com.

And that’s all the news fit to print!