Spring Equinox and your body…

In an era where most of us work behind a computer and indoor, the contact with nature seems to be more and more needed.

We often dismiss how the body respond to seasons. In fact each season has a purpose for the earth but also for us and it has a rhythm.

The rhythm of Spring is New Growth. If you think about it for a second: it makes sense. Nature is slowly coming back from 3 months of hibernation and we finally sees the grass getting back to a nice green color. The Trees and flowers are starting to bloom. And like them, we are starting to blossom.

The energy of spring or wood-element is reminiscent of the seedling you might see bursting forth through a rock in the springtime. It is solid within its space. Spring’s rhythm embodies the power and insistence of new life. Earth becomes warm, and the hours of light begin to outnumber the hours of darkness.

Energetically spring is a good time for cleansing not only your body but your house :). Some Chinese therapists recommend a period of semi-fasts with only fruit and vegetable juices at this time of year.

Eating is season is always a good thing. It is not a coincidence that different type of foods are growing at different time. The fruits and vegetables available for each season are here to provide us the nutrients we are needing during the season they grow in.

In Spring the weather tends to be changeable and so food needs to be neutral (rather than overly heating or cooling) to help the body cope with the sudden changes in climate. As well as seasonal foods, meals at this time of year can also be included:

  • beans: lentils, kidney beans, peas
  • grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye
  • season fruit and vegetables: carrots, celery, potatoes, early salad greens, asparagus and young vegetables, citrus fruits, sprouted seeds
  • if you eat meat: chicken, pork, duck and beef.

As for your house, decluttering and opening all the windows to let the fresh air is a good way to bring new and positive energy to your house. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself. Take the time to be in contact with nature, ride a bike, do a nice walk in a park or enjoy a nice break at a restaurant or coffee/tea shop’s patio. Enjoy Life!

The Prescription for Anti-Aging is Sweat

So…you walk into a doctor’s office and politely ask him to make you FEEL and LOOK younger. His first reply to your request is  — go and SWEAT! You are thinking this is either a joke or it had to be taken from the pages of Mad Magazine’s snappy answers to stupid questions. Quite the contrary, the anti-aging benefits of sweating is no joke; in fact sweating therapies have been used for centuries to purify the body.  Unfortunately, the majority of our modern western culture does not see it this way; we often see sweating as disgusting and dirty…even embarrassing.

We now live primarily in an air-conditioned country, where we have conditioned ourselves to stop perspiration even before it begins. Take for example walking outside in the city on a nice warm afternoon in the summer. You are dressed accordingly with shorts a tank top and sandals…what a blessing to feel the heat on your body. In fact, you welcome a little perspiration, especially after being on lockdown inside for months hoping to survive the Midwest winter. You decide to enter a nearby boutique, suddenly you are hit with an artic blast! Yes often it is upwards of 85 degrees outside but can be 30 degrees cooler inside an air-conditioned building. Our bodies and minds are creatures of habit and begin to see sweating as abnormal, which can have a direct adverse affect on our immune system.

Sweating actually has numerous health and beauty-related benefits. It is true that everyone would like to have radiant and young looking skin. In fact, spending on anti-aging products is expected to reach $291.9 billion by 2015 according to a Global Industry Analysts report. I can assure you that you can look younger without wasting money on unnecessary and unnatural products. But first we need to understand and demystify the relation between the body, the skin and sweat.

One myth is that sweat stinks. Sweat itself is essentially odorless. The source of any smell is the bacteria that cover our bodies. This bacteria breaks down as protein and lipids in the form of moisture in our apocrine glands found in our armpits. One thing to consider is the more we sweat, the more this bacteria is removed and what we have left is completely odorless. Sweating is not only important for maintaining proper body temperature but is also important for cleansing.  When we sweat our bodies release various toxins, and some of these toxins can only be eliminated through the skin (which by the way is your single largest organ). When those toxins exit our pores, healthy skin makes its entrance. Some other benefits of sweating include:

  • Kills viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in temperatures above 98.6 ºF
  • Cleans pores on the skin, which help to eliminate blackheads and acne
  • Expels toxins, which support the immune system and help prevent diseases related to toxic overload

I see many patients in my practice that along with their abdominal, digestive or reproductive issues have also developed abnormal places on the body where the skin is irritated. Of course, this would make anyone more anxious and alarmed if they saw their skin looking sickly. In fact that is just what it is happening, the skin is trying to tell them it is overloaded with toxins. This happens for a few reasons.

First, the liver is our major internal detoxification organ (emotion that is associated with it is anger or frustration). When we have congestion in our abdomen it blocks vital circulation and waste removal, thus the liver becomes overloaded and cannot perform its job efficiently (just another reason we also need to let go of our daily stress and frustrations). The liver then passes its excess toxins to the next available organ, the skin. Now pathologies begins to show up, as nature never intended to put such a heavy burden on either organ. In addition, is the need to induce a sweat through the use of a sauna; this restores the skin to its health, youth and vitality. Although my practice is primarily based on Maya Abdominal Therapy, I see the skin as a way to read the overall health of a patient and use Infrared Sauna Therapy in conjunction with many treatments.

For many cultures around the world the ritual of sauna therapy is seen as sacred and is used for curing many illnesses, revitalizing the body, relieving sore muscles and dispersing unneeded emotions.  Cultures such as, the Romans, Scandinavian, Germans, and Russians have traditional sauna therapies. Closer to us in the Americas we may be more familiar with the sweat lodge of Native Americans, but I would like to introduce you to another type of ancient sauna therapy used in Mexico, the Temazcal.  A Temazcal is a type of sweat lodge, which originated with pre-Hispanic Indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica. The word Temazcal comes from the Nahuatl word temāzcalli (“house of heat”) also from the Aztec words teme (to bathe) and calli (house). It is best described as a round igloo shape made of brick and covered in stucco. The size can vary but an average one would fit 8-10 people. Volcanic rocks are heated at one end and tea is placed on the rocks to create steam and induce the body to sweat. Medicinal plants like eucalyptus (for the respiratory system) are often placed on the floor on the Temazcal and the heat from the vapor releases the medicinal properties of the plants.

During the past four years I have had the privilege to learn and see firsthand the healing benefits of the temazcals while working with Rita Navarrete Perez of Mexico City and Toñita Gonzales of New Mexico. These are some of the best Temazcaleras (Master of the Temazcal) you will ever find and they work to regulate a comfortable warm temperature inside the Temazcal, but never using extreme heat to stress the body. Benefits of the Temazcal include:

  • Cleanses the respiratory system and sinuses; eliminates toxins
  • Excellent for rheumatism and relieves muscle and joint aches
  • Reduces emotional stress and calms the nervous system
  • Improves circulation and eliminates chronic fatigue
  • Skin purification and rejuvenation

o   Tip: place raw honey on your face after any sauna therapy. Honey is full of antioxidants, which are good for wrinkles and aging skin. It is antibacterial, which helps with acne treatments and prevention. It clarifies skin by opening up and unclogging pores. It’s also a great moisturizer that soothes irritation and blemishes, and it leaves a lovely afterglow.

I know everyone cannot make it to Mexico to experience a Temazcal firsthand, but I believe strongly in the medicinal properties of this traditional sauna therapy, that is why I plan to construct a Temazcal in Kansas City in the next year. Until then you can get many of the same benefits of a Temazcal with an Infrared Sauna, which I use every day at my practice for my patients. Having an Infrared Sauna in my practice has been invaluable…patients love it; they see their chronic health conditions heal faster. Who would have thought sweat could make you look and feel so good…I guess that doctor was right!

by Alex Jackson, LMT, NCTMB

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Awareness is Healing

The past 13 years I have dedicated my practice, Centered Spirit, to helping people achieve optimal health through their abdomen. I have discovered what the Taoist, Maya, Japanese and other cultures and philosophies have spoken of for centuries…harmony in our center, core, or hara is our vital life source and it’s health will have a direct effect all other parts of the body.

Every belly has a different story to tell; a hidden message which once unlocked will allow healing to take place. This message, a mantra of sorts, has been consistent and loud during the past year…or maybe I am just listening with a new clarity. The mantra is three words, “Awareness is Healing™.

A simple phrase, yet many people spend a lifetime searching for the meaning without ever realizing that this mantra can cure any illness.
All that is required to experience the healing power of awareness is to feel. Not to think with the mind but feel with the body. The fastest way to access feelings is through the abdomen.

Why there? Let’s examine a few functions of the internal abdominal organs: small intestine = absorption of nutrients (life experiences), liver/gall bladder = detoxify/storage (process or store feelings), colon = elimination (awareness or healing). If Awareness is Healing, how do we get stuck along the way? The problem is we spend most of our lives in a state of protection, unaware of why?

Unawareness of guarding from past relationships and hidden feelings does not permit healthy growth. This always starts with the first relationship we have, our parents. As a child we have basic needs: to be loved – unconditionally, to have shelter and security, and to be allowed to be ourselves – free of expectations and judgments. When these needs are not met, feelings occur: hurt, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, and abandonment – to name a few.

If these emotions are not truly felt or processed they are stored in the body and manifest into a physical illness or a pattern of behavior. Chronic tension in the upper abdomen just below the sternum can lead to depression, acid reflux, breathing difficulties, and loss of circulation in upper extremities. This area of the body is also known as the Solar Plexus or third chakra.

Energetically it represents how we are seen in the world…our ideal of life. It is the storage facility for all expectations. Manifesting in the lower abdomen are cysts, fibroids, constipation, colitis, and sexual dysfunction. The pelvic energy of the first and second chakra has to do with survival, security, and sexual expression.

Do any of these conditions sound familiar? Can you relate? Yes, you even may be thinking of whom or what made you depressed or angry – but have you ever allowed your body to feel the raw emotion? Which feeling was the catalyst or base to all future experiences and relationships? Was it the unattainable love, unachievable expectation, or sexual repression placed on you by a parent, sibling, lover, or friend?

Awareness is in the actual feeling. Once the body is allowed to feel the stored emotion, it is no longer needed, and healing occurs. Awareness is healing, and by accessing the true emotion that triggered certain life outcomes – good or bad, you will not repeat unhealthy patterns and free yourself from illness.

In Traditional Medicine, bodyworkers, and psychologists have always said that “our issues are in our tissues.” No one understood this better than psychologist Dr. Wilhelm Reich. A pioneer for research in somatic therapies, Dr. Reich believed talk therapy was a waste of time. According to Reich, talking to a patient is like asking a person that is drowning to describe the temperature of the water. To not drown is to let the person feel.

You see…we can sensor thoughts but not our feelings. Just as when we were children we did not believe it to be true that we would be burned or hurt by a hot pan, although we were told not to touch it. Awareness did not come until we actually felt the pain for ourselves in our body, ensuring we would learn and not repeat it.

This is why Dr. Reich disagreed with traditional Freudian psychology. During his sessions with patients, Reich always knew where the bottom of the ocean was, carefully guiding patients until they could feel it as well. Reich also understood the importance of the abdominal bodywork to unlock tension in the body. My mentor, Dr. Rosita Arvigo, was the first to expose me to the Reichian theory. Dr Arvigo, developer of the Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage, said “this was the missing link to her treatments.” She shared with me that Reichian theory was invaluable to her practice and provided a complete healing. 

We have all chosen to be on this planet at this time, to live life through experiences and relationships. Most important of all is to feel, whether it is joy or pain as long as it stimulates our senses. We must remove guards that prevent awareness in our bodies and allow feelings to occur naturally; this opens us up to clarity. When we are clear and aware we make better decisions, with better outcomes. Instincts are not clouded and we can truly navigate through life as we should and become who we always wanted to be. Our mind will always try to protect us from life’s experiences. What good is a life that is censored or without feeling?

My life’s passion is to allow people to feel through touch, in hopes that everyone will live (feel) the life they wish. I love knowing that everyday, through abdominal massage, another person has begun to feel, to breathe, and to live again…continuing their growth as a human being. I know now that the message of the past year for me is not to be taken lightly.

The mantra holds a lifelong meaning that I will honorably pass on to others daily “Awareness is Healing™.”

by Alex Jackson, LMT, NCTMB

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