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Jet lag, uncomfortable hotel beds, hauling around luggage…these are just some of the things we deal with when traveling. Here are some tips for wellness on the road. We’ll cover these and others in the next wellness class, “Travel Better with Acupressure” at Elephant Pharmacy.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that air on airplanes is dryer than the desert? To improve your experience during and after your flight, drink water before, during and after; one glass per hour. Also, soak in water–a bath, pool, the ocean–as soon as you can after the flight. I took a nice hot bath after a 16-hour journey; I think it helped since I didn’t experience jet lag! Read more tips here.

Acu Point: Inner Gate

This point can help quell a queasy stomach on a turbulent flight or taxi-ride, as well as help relieve insomnia that might be related to feelings of anxiousness. It’s on the inner forearm and easy to hold wherever you are. Read on to learn more about the point.

Grounding Through Routine

When we travel, by definition we are away from home. This can be fun and exciting, but it can also be disconcerting to be away from the grounding foundation of home-base. In Chinese Medicine, routine is associated with the Earth element and the idea of “home”. So next time you travel, consider if there’s part of your home routine that you might take with you–whether it’s your daily morning walk, afternoon coffee break, or bedtime reading.

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I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City and went to see the National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The former home of Andrew Carnegie (actually a mansion that’s worth the visit) was full of cool design items and ideas. I loved learning about sustainability-minded products/projects from Christopher Douglas (collapsible table) and Natalie Jeremijenko (feral robotic dog project).

Most interesting from a “coping with pain” perspective was the work on a 3D virtual reality “game” to help burn patients cope better with their extremely painful treatments. This work by Hunter Hoffman and his University of Washington colleagues lures patients into a virtual environment. Hoffman says:

“Pain requires conscious attention, so by taking the user’s attention away from the pain…there is less attention available for the person to process the pain signals. The more the patient feels like he or she is in SnowWorld, the greater the pain reduction.”

Hopefully, most of us will not have to deal with such deep pain, but we can consider how applying this principle of deflecting attention might help with the headache or back ache.

What mental image/visualization can help you deal with discomfort? Think about colors and cues from nature that will help. It’s no coincidence that the “coolness” of an icy environment and animals and people associated with a snowy world was created for burn victims.

For example, for a headache where so much attention is at the top of you body, in your head, a visualization like this might help cool and diffuse the tension down:

  • Imagine standing in a cool green forest, surrounded by tall majestic trees that are firmly rooted in the ground; then imagine you are the tree, with your feet firmly in the ground.

There are many people who are far more skilled in guided imagery and visualization than I. I will research some good sources, and welcome recommendations. In the meantime, try it out yourself. One way to start is to pull out some old photos or search online for pictures of places that make you feel good.  Look at them, then close your eyes and imagine them.  Practice conjuring up those images.

After dinner last night, my friend asked for some advice for her insomnia. She has the kind where it’s hard to get to sleep. (The other kind is where you wake up during the night, and have difficulty falling back asleep. And of course there’s the combination of those two.)

There can be any number of reasons for insomnia, so I did what I always do, which is to learn more about that sleeplessness.

  • Do you have physical discomfort in bed, that could affect your ability to fall asleep?
  • Is you mind busy? Are you thinking lots of thoughts?
  • Are you feeling stressed? Do you have deadlines or other worries?
  • Does this happen every night? When is it not such a problem? When it is worse?
  • What do you typically do before you go to sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine?

My friend said that she thinks her mind is busy with thoughts. So I suggested she try soaking in a bath before going to bed. When our energy is up in our head–with thoughts and worries–the body sometimes gets left out. A hot bath covers your skin all the way down to your toes, and reminds our heads that it’s not all about our minds. The toes want some attention, too. Some of that energy in the head can relax down into the body, helping in overall relaxation.

It turns out that my friend does take a bath. Every night!

She thought a little more, then asked, “What about reading before bed?”

It turns out that my friend reads a variety of material–magazines, novels, non-fiction–in the bathtub.

So her nightly bath ritual may relax her body, but the reading might be stimulating her mind. My suggestion to her was to leave the reading material outside. See what it’s like to let the bath be a blissful bath on its own. And to pay attention to her ability to sleep. I’ll check in with her later.

Bathtime Tools: Even though there’s a wonderul soaking tub in my home, it’s whoafully under-used. So I bought myself a jar of Ahhh…Bath Soak because I love how the aromatherapy helps to calm me, and also gives each bath a specialness boost. I’m not suggesting that you have to buy anything to make your baths more fragrant. But to pay attention to what makes it relaxing and appealing to you.

Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed with shopping or hosting/travel preparations? Or worried about finishing up a project at work? Or maybe you just want to take a break from the buy-buy-buy atmosphere.

Meditation can be a powerful source of health and wellness, for both body and spirit. Even when we don’t have the time or inclination for a full meditation “practice,” a few moments of deep breath and holding acupressure points can be calming and relaxing.

The Self-Acu Mini Meditation takes just a few minutes, and can be done anywhere. At your desk, sitting in your car, or at bed-time. It’s easy to do, and gives you a chance to hold two important acupressure points: the Third Eye (between your eyebrows) and the Hara (below your bellybutton.)

Give yourself this gift, now or anytime.

Self-Acu Mini Meditation

For a moment of relaxation during a busy day, try this mini-meditation.

Stand or sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Gently place a finger on your Third Eye-between your eyebrows-and place the palm of your other hand on your Hara-below your bellybutton.

Take five … deep … slow … breaths.

Smile. You’ve just given yourself a wonderful gift.

Get a printer-friendly version, or check out beautiful cards printed with this meditation.

We’re on the homestretch before Christmas. Even if you’re not actively participating in the shopping/party rush, as my friend told me today, “it’s in the air.”

So for the rest of the week, I want to share some natural wellness tips that are easy and simple, but also very effective.

We’ll start with yoga. I am not a yoga teacher, but I study Anusara Yoga and apply my learnings with my clients and students. I like the Yoga Journal for its articles and online resources. The following description of “legs-up-the-wall” pose and the photo are from The Yoga Journal. legsupthewall

Viparita Karani: Legs-up-the-wall pose (click for detailed directions)

This pose is very calming, and I recommend it to my wellness clients who are suffering from insomnia, often from a “busy mind” that has a difficult time slowing down. Even if you don’t have the props suggested in the Yoga Journal article, five minutes with your legs up as part of your nightly before-sleep ritual can help your sleep. (Please read contraindications below.)

A modification to the pose, if your hamstrings are tight or it’s uncomfortable to keep your legs up, is to bend your knees and put your rest lower legs on the seat of a chair, or on your bed. The goal is to relax and quiet the mind; not to stretch the hamstrings.

Contraindications for this pose from the Yoga Journal:

“Many teachers maintain that Viparita Karani is an inversion, and as such should be avoided during menstruation. Others though recommend the pose even during menstruation. Check with your teacher before performing this pose during menstruation. As with any inversion Viparita Karani should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. With serious neck or back problems only perform this pose with the supervision of an experienced teacher. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis”