Hey friend,

I’m not sure how you feel about Valentine’s Day, but I think we should talk about it.

I mean, sure, it’s a woefully commercialized “holiday” that comes loaded with cheap candy and cheesy greeting cards.  And the pressure to get a date or give the perfect gift … ugh! It’s a celebration that provokes such loneliness for some, and feelings of inadequacy and disappointment for others.  I get headaches from rolling my eyes at all the jewelry commercials. Seriously, nothing says “I love you” like sparkly stones mined by child slaves in exploited third-world countries. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jaded and bitter about love.  On the contrary, I’m a huge fan of love, and that is what I really want to talk about. And, since I’m fond of bullet points, and not great at segues, I’m just going to jump right into the 11 things I have to say about Valentine’s Day and love.

Number one:

Number two: When I was six, some missionary friends of my wonderful grandparents visited for a week. I spent a lot of time with them. I can’t remember their faces, but I can distinctly recall the wind up musical teddy bear they gave me as they departed, and the tune it played. Years later I heard the same tune on the radio, this time with full vocals and melodies. The irony wasn’t lost on me that my grandparents’ elderly friends, who devoted their lives to spreading what they deeply believed was love (the Word of God), gave me a toy with this message: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”  And it’s still true! We need more love in this world. A lot more! Click here to hear Jackie DeShannon’s original recording of this gem!

Number three: I just learned that in Ancient Greek there are 8 different words for love.  I love this! (See what I did there? Two “loves,” two different meanings.)  Why do we have just one word for love? I mean, our word is so contextually dependent.  How many of us have ended a phone call or a brief encounter and casually said, “OK, bye. I love you!”?  How many of us have stood in front of a romantic partner and trembled nervously as we looked into their eyes and said “I love you” for the first time?  How many of us have sat with a dying loved one and, holding their hand, said “I love you. It’s OK”? How many of us have held a newborn, our hearts nearly bursting, knowing that “I love you” barely scratched the surface of our feelings?  There are so many different kinds of and ways to love, but sometimes it gets confusing, awkward and difficult to convey which one we mean. I wish we had more words for love. A lot more!

The scene from my kitchen Wednesday night . . . so much pink and purple!

Number four: I still make homemade Valentines with my kids.  None of us are particularly crafty, but to me there’s something so heartfelt about homemade Christmas ornaments and Valentines.  Plus, I want them to grow up thinking in terms of what they can make and do for others, not just what they can buy. I have no doubt that to some folks our homemade treasures seem embarrassingly simple and unpolished, but I bet many others can feel that when we sit down together and make these things, it is an act of love which they now hold.

Number five: Who you love is your business, not mine or anyone else’s.  We should never feel ashamed of who we love, whatever their gender, race, sexual orientation, age, religion, or social-economic status.  Love is a gift, never a curse, and we should all find a way to be happy for anyone lucky enough to share that gift with someone else.  

This is a great time for me to let you know that I am an Ally, and my studio is a safe space for everyone in the LGBTQ community.

Number six: And if we change our minds about who we love, that’s OK, too. It is possible, and may even be necessary, to disengage from romantic love to form another version of love; maybe the kind of love that’s built on respect and compassion for the other humans we share ourselves with. I’m not saying “let’s just be friends” is going to work (although sometimes it does – I actually am living proof), I’m just saying that love can change forms just as water turns from a vapor, to a liquid, to the solid we see a lot of these days (you know… snow and ice… cause it’s wicked cold out!)

Number seven: Let’s not forget about self love! Have you thought about what that means? What it REALLY means?  I’ve heard the term forever, and to be honest, I thought it was B.S. I imagined my job in life was to find a partner to love, have children to love and continue to love my friends and family.  They, in return, would love me and I’d feel really great about it all. I wouldn’t need self love, I’d “barter” my love for theirs and everything would be fine. So I thought, until one day in a massage school, a guest teacher/massage therapist mentioned purchasing a new piece of equipment. She said, “This will reduce wear and tear on my body. It was expensive, but I love myself and I want to do this work when I’m 70.”  Wait, I thought, making good choices about your career and future counts as self love? My mind was blown, and I suddenly started to see all kinds of choices and behaviors as acts of self love, or its opposite. This has led me on an odyssey: sometimes dark and scary, sometimes bright and beautiful, trying to look at my past and present behavior through the lens of self love. The hardest part, by far, has been realizing that it is not enough to simply give love to others so that you can live off the love they give back to you. You have to love yourself first because then you can give love to others with no expectation of an exchange. No bartering here. This is the freedom that leads to unconditional love, which is pretty much what we all need to give.

Number 8: I’m kind of a sucker for emo music. . . there’s this one song that I like, with these lines: “Slow down.  Look up. Stop acting so tough. Say I love you way too much. And if it kills you, so what?”  Maybe you’re not zooming through life, trying not to show your weakness, but I sure as heck am, and I like being given permission to chill out a bit . . . and to say “I love you”. Because as we’re dying, will we we regret letting someone know they are loved? Probably not. I think my 7 year old took these lyrics to heart because most days he tells me he loves me several times an hour. It seriously never gets old.

Number nine: Do you like Ted Talks? Me too! This one was so good, I just had to share. He echos a lot of my feelings on the topic of love, and has a great breakdown of the different kinds of loves we have in our lives. The Sun, the Lighthouse and the Disco Ball . . . So great!

Number ten: In my early 20s I was celebrating Valentine’s Day with a new boyfriend.  I had told him I liked chocolate covered caramels, so he gave me a box of turtles, pecans covered in caramel, dipped in chocolate. What did I do? I ate the chocolate and caramel off the pecans and threw the nuts out the car window as we drove down the road.  What a brat!! And now that you know what a disaster I am at romance, maybe you can lighten up about this holiday too?

Number eleven: You guessed it. I love you! So sue me!

OK, that’s what I have to say about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t forget that I’m also a massage therapist and if you want to gift yourself or someone else you love with a massage, I can make that happen.

Finally . . . my take on spiritual health

Sunrise from Bald Top Mountain on my 40th birthday.

It didn’t come easily, but I’ve finally made good on the spirituality post I promised back in August and again in October.  

Spirituality vs. Religion

The first thing I want to point out is that when I talk about spirituality I’m not referring to religion.  There’s a huge difference between the two. People way more articulate than I have explained it in books, periodicals and online, so you may already have your own thoughts on the difference. In my opinion spiritually is what you get when you take religion and remove ego and dogma.  Spirituality provides grounding and connection while religion adds structure and answers. Spirituality rests in the intuitive sense that there is something beyond ourselves; something big and good and powerful.  Meanwhile, religion seeks to define and categorize the good (and evil) and wield the power. Spirituality can exist within or outside an organized religion because it is the foundation upon which religions are built.  You can be spiritual without being religious. 

Some people would look at this photo and think of heaven. My six-year-old calls it “cotton candy sky”.

Why are we talking about this?

I guess this topic is relevant to me because I’m in the business of taking care of people, but most of us are still trying to figure out exactly what kind of care we need. Physical health seems the most straight-forward; something on your body hurts or doesn’t work so you see someone with some kind of training in medicine or healing modalities for help. Mental health falls way behind in that you can feel pretty out of sorts with all kinds of emotional AND physical symptoms, but because of the frustrating stigma around mental health treatment, you can ignore your symptoms and avoid seeking help. Furthermore, access to quality mental health services is woefully inadequate, particularly when it comes to treating trauma (in my opinion trauma is the biggest root of most mental health challenges). When it comes to spiritual health, not only is this sometimes the third leg of the wellness tripod, it’s often the least understood or valued. I’d like to help change that!

Sometimes words written by people much wiser than me will find and hit me like a ton of bricks. These did that not so long ago.

I guess another reason I’m interested in talking about spiritual health is because of the stage of life I’m in.  When I look around at folks my age it seems like a lot of us are coming up for air as our children are a bit older and it’s no longer all-hands-on-deck to keep the home/family running.  Things are starting to pay off career-wise and that car or that vacation we always wanted is finally within reach. We are starting to think about what self-care means for us; going to the gym or yoga class more regularly and giving a bit more attention to our diet, sleep and hopefully our mental health.  But a lot of us are also feeling a little flat. I’m not going to go into how it manifests because we all know how “flat” feels, or maybe how it looks when we see that friend who, in spite of “having it all” (on paper at least), just doesn’t seem to be thriving. That flatness, I think, means something is missing, and lately I’ve come to think maybe someone’s spiritual health needs a check up.

But what does “spiritual health” even mean?  

When I think of my own spiritual health, I guess what I mean is: how is my life aligning with my personal values?  Do I even know what my values are? Do I feel grounded or am I scattered? Do I feel connected or do I feel alone, even within my social circle?  Do I have a place, a practice or a group within which I can find guidance and refuge when things get hard?  Do I have a sense of purpose and place in this world? Our answers to these questions can reveal a lot about our spiritual health.

By talking about the importance of maintaining physical, mental and spiritual health, I mean to encourage folks to check in to see where they may feel flat. If it feels like there’s something deeper within them that needs attention, maybe it’s time to explore and attend to that.  As a massage therapist, I respect a person’s spiritual health because I understand that if someone is grappling with hard life stuff such as sickness, death, birth, money matters, career woes, changes in living arrangements, relationship challenges, this is the hard shit that defines being human.  I honor it, and I respect however you’re processing it, and, finally, I encourage you to tap into a spirituality practice to help you through it.  

So, what’s your spiritual practice, Abby?

*Gulp* I know you want to ask, so here’s my big, scary, vulnerable revelation. . .

The pillars of my own spirituality practice are gratitude and generosity. When I can access gratitude (I notice positive things around me and feel grateful for them) and when I am able to give to others (a smile, a prayer, a ride, a meal, a hug, a flower), I feel spiritually healthy.  When I get away from these foundations, because I get caught up in self-pity, overwork, too much socializing or other distractions, I start to feel ungrounded; I feel adrift.  (As an aside and absolutely zero judgment if you’re into it, but social media like SnapChat, Facebook and Instagram were a terrible suck hole for me, and getting off them has been so gratifying.  For me, SM is antithetical to spiritual health.)  

“This is a picture of perseverance.”

My holy place is nature.  Spirituality finds me when I stand and embrace a loved one in a cemetery while 10,000 “whirligigs” (the helicopter seed-pod thingies off of maple trees) descend around us.  It finds me on a granite ridge, 4000 feet up in the White Mountains, when a lone crow lands on a nearby rock and pauses a long while before taking flight again.  It finds me when I smell my sons’ hair as I greet them off the bus. It finds me in the sunrise on my 40th birthday next to my sister and father. It finds me as my children and I collect monarch caterpillars; watching them transition into chrysalis and then again into the distinguishable orange and black butterflies. It finds me in the volunteer petunia growing and even blooming from a crack in the asphalt on Main Street.

I sat down to stretch on the grass at soccer practice in October to find this fortune just under my nose.

But spirituality also finds me in music; those songs that seem to come on at just the right time to remind me what’s true.  It finds me in the objects or people that seem to appear just when I’m beginning to despair; the piece of lichen that makes me laugh, the pen that reminds me of my old friend who always told me to go easy on myself, the twig that looks like a crow’s foot (yes, I do have a thing for crows), the acquaintance on my walk to the post office who always has a cheerful greeting in spite of their own life struggles.  It finds me in the words, numbers and animals that grab my attention just when I’m starting to drift into overthinking. It finds me in the musisings and revelations of my clients who, without knowing it, shed light onto heavy topics I’m grappling with internally. These things appear to me far too consistently to be coincidences, and while it may seem woo-woo and out there to some, I’m comforted by them. 

How to?

You know what else I’m comforted by?  Kittens, puppies, wood stoves on cold nights, friends who check in on each other, my work, rice cakes, natural cleaning products that actually work, good snow tires, hot baths, great haircuts, really long hugs (from people I know and like – strangers, step off!), solitude, cast iron cookware and ridiculously robust houseplants.  

My boys and I hatched 7 of these beauties this fall!

Why the hell did I just list all that random stuff?  Remember how I told you that the pillars of my spirituality are gratitude and generosity?  Well, one way I practice is with a daily gratitude journal in which I list anything I can think of to be grateful for.  The above happens to be an excerpt of one such journal entry. If you’re interested in exploring the role of gratitude and how it can seriously shift your outlook and your entire life experience, I encourage you to keep a gratitude journal for a bit.  Start out with a three minute write every day for a month, and notice how it changes your outlook.

Regarding generosity, I don’t mean to project my values onto you, but I do think there’s something profoundly enriching about giving to others, and I’d like to gently encourage everyone to try it out.  I’m not talking about giving money or stuff to other people (although that’s certainly one very effective way to practice generosity). I’m more talking about paying careful attention to how you can “give” to others with your interactions. Can you give patience to the cashier who’s moving slower than you want them to?  Can you give grace to the child who’s melting down about not having the right sweatshirt to wear this morning? Can you give forgiveness to your partner for not holding up their end of the bargain? Can you give your presence to a friend who’s struggling with something so big that there’s absolutely nothing else you can possibly offer them?  When all else fails, can you just give a high five to a stranger you pass on the street? And can you do these “just because”, not as part of an exchange wherein you expect something from them first, or in return? 

Usually my clients don’t know it when something they say moves me. After all, the session is about them and what they may be moved to share. Recently, however, a client shared a parable that relates to the concept of giving. I loved it so much I asked him to repeat it. Here you go:

A young man and his father were walking along a street…and as they passed a homeless person, the father put some money into their cup.

The son said to his father, “why did you give that person money? They might just buy alcohol with it” 

The Father looked at his son and said “then that would be a reflection on their character, not my mine”

A precious summer evening in VT . . . so much to be thankful for in one little photograph.

See what I mean?! I’ve been working on writing about generosity and what it means to me (not to be judgy but to me it is a character thing) and then BAM! I client delivers this parable on a silver platter. I love how the universe works like this, and for me it confirms that there’s something cool, inexplicable and important beyond us.

So, there you have it.  Hope you made it through and that it inspired some reflection or conversation on your own spiritual health.  Or, if you’re not into that sort of thing, I hope I at least inspired you to get a darn massage. ‘Cause this blogging thing don’t pay the bills. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please drop me a line or post in the comments.  

Love you!

A

October Greetings & Housekeeping

Pale ferns

Good afternoon, my friends.  As I watch October unfold before me I am reminded of the incredible transition our landscape is under.  How quickly the lush greens from those early days of September have faded into muted, earthy yellows and browns.  Even the occasional pops of crimson or amber are fewer and further between.  Gone are the roadside wildflower hold outs – the asters and Queen Anne’s lace – taken by hard frosts and heavy rains. The canopy above is brighter; more sparse.  Shadows are longer and days are shorter. My friends have cut back their perennials and harvested the last of their springtime promises.  The grass is still green but the earth is cold under my feet. I hear owls and coyotes at night, blue jays and crows by day. As I walk through the forest the musky aroma of mushrooms and fallen leaves is occasionally punctuated by the perky, sweet smell of a hemlock stand.  Things feel quieter than just a few weeks ago; life around us is slowing down.

How does the saying go? “As within, also without”  I think the inverse is true, too.

Dragonflies are said to symbolize change, transformation, adaptability, joy and lightness. This beauty visited on a sunny September afternoon as I enjoyed birthday tea with a dear old friend.

As I reflect on the transitions of our natural world, I also realize that transitions are afoot in my own life and business.  Wanna hear them? Thought so!

Transition #1 – I’m taking a few months off from my out-call service.  In order to be more efficient and structured with my time, I’m no longer seeing clients in their homes.  If you have never had this service, luckily you don’t know what you’re missing.  To my amazing and wonderful clients who did, “Ho’oponopono “ (a Hawaiian prayer of reconciliation which translates to; “Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry”,  cause I know it was the bomb).

Transition #2 – My hours are changing.  This is going to be a bit of a moving target as I fiddle around, trying to create a schedule that can meet your needs and also provide a healthy work-life balance for me.  I want to try to offer as many hours as I can, at times that work for normal people. (Wait a minute, what are “normal” people?) I’ll be tweaking things here and there, so please check my scheduler often, book when you see something that works and reach out if you don’t see something you want (because sometimes I can move stuff around for you).

Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until June 2020 to get a massage! I just liked this particular photo from the Bradford Conservation Commission’s fundraiser calendar. Want one of these for yourself? Ask me where to get them!

Oh, and on the topic of scheduling, I highly recommend getting on a regular schedule for massage (shocking, I know).  Whether it’s every week, every month or every 6 weeks, I find that my clients are happiest with their massages when they anticipate them on a regular basis.  Scheduling a few sessions in advance means you will engage in at least some self care in the future, which I find usually leads people to engage in even more self care in between massages.  It’s also a great way to ensure that you can get the slot you want (those evening and weekend slots fill up fast!).  

No matter what you do, be aware that I’m usually booking about a week out.  Some last-minute appointments are available, but not as many as there once were; yay for me, not-so-yay for you.

Transition #3 – “Back up!  Did she say something about weekends?!”  Yup, that’s right, I’m going to start keeping weekend hours!  This is going to be a bit of a moving target as well because, you know what? . . . If I am given tickets to see the Lumineers one weekend and my kid has a ski race the following weekend . . .  I’m going to the concert and then to the mountain and I’ll massage everyone another time.  We can still work together to create a regular-ish schedule for your massages, and I’m hoping this helps out those of you who have a tough time making it in during the week.  

Where do those socks all go?!

Transition #4 – No more PayPal.  You know how you’ll buy your family two dozen socks and then over the next six months, you end up with a laundry room full of “survivor” socks without mates?  Where do those missing socks end up? Is there a colony of single socks living in the attic with my purple glitter covered Converse All Stars that I wore to prom in 10th grade? (No,  because those sweet kicks are not in the attic – I STUPIDLY got rid of them when I was in college. Besides if I hadn’t, I clearly wouldn’t keep them in the attic; I’d be wearing them ALL the dang time.)  Anyway, every time someone pays me with PayPal there’s a sock that goes missing. Rather, a small fee which, while nominal, adds up to at least a pair of Darn Tough socks every couple months.  It’s annoying; I’m not into it. “How about paying you with a credit card?” you ask:  My friends, if you haven’t tried Venmo, I urge you to give it a spin.  So easy, so feeless. Let me know if you want my handle. I still accept checks, I love getting paid in cash and I occasionally like to barter. . . more on that in a bit.

Transition #5 – Hot stones anyone?  OK, OK, , this is a bit of a teaser because I am not offering hot stone massage just yet . . . but I’m gonna!  Be on the lookout for this on my menu of services.  In the meantime, I’m looking for a handful of existing clients to be my hot stone practice peeps.  If you meet the following criteria, let me know!

  • Are you one of my wonderful existing clients? – sorry no newbies for this offer.  I love you, but we’re just not there yet.  
  • Have you received hot stone massages from another massage therapist at least 3 (preferably more) times?
  • Are you comfortable giving me honest feedback? (I really dig honesty, even if it’s tough on my ego). 
Before I perform hot stone massage I require clients to recreate this exact sculpture. . . J.K.! That’d be absurd!

In exchange for your patience and feedback I’m offering a limited number of 90 minute sessions for $75 each (that’s $15 off the normal 90 minute rate).  Once I brush up on my protocol, I’ll offer the service to everyone else and let the warmth and relaxation begin!  

Not transitions, but important nonetheless:

Bartering
I’m not here to start a conversation about the merits or evils of eating meat, but as a conscientious meat-eater myself, it occurs to me that in this season of hunting and slaughtering, some folks may have more in their freezers than they need. I happen to have the opposite situation, so if you have humanely-raised (or hunted) pork, beef, chicken, turkey or venison and you like massage, let’s chat.

A rather bold young dear outside my kitchen window on a recent frosty morning. Perhaps too little to be freezer-bound, but maybe she has a friend?

Likewise, I’m looking for someone to plow my driveway. Know anyone who might like massage in exchange for this service? The person receiving massage doesn’t even have to be the person doing the plowing (but it’s not a bad idea as those long nights/days behind the wheel, turning around to see behind you, are rough on the back and neck). Bartering credits are certainly transferable to friends and family, so let me know if you’re interested or pass along word to your favorite plow person.

Timing
Sometimes people ask me how often they should come in for a massage, or how long of a massage to book. The simple answer I give is this; come as often as you like, for as long as you like. But that’s a pretty annoying answer, so I elaborate . . . The deal is that it really depends on what’s going on.

If you have an acute issue (muscle strain, ligament sprain, intense headaches or pretty much anything that came on suddenly and/or is unusual) I recommend coming a couple times within a week or two so that I can attend to the damaged tissue before it gets into bad habits or creates a cascade effect elsewhere in the body. Even if this means just a couple 1/2 hour sessions over 5 – 7 days, it’ll really help aid recovery and reduce pain.

If you have a more chronic issue going on (something that has been around weeks/months/years, or something that tends to come and go, isn’t causing a ton of pain but is annoying) it can make more sense to spread out your sessions to every other week or so.

If you’re using massage to manage stress, elevate your well being, help with sleep or just keep the aches and pains at bay, it’s completely up to you how often you come. A lot of my clients in this category come once a month.

As far as duration, I’ve had several clients opt for 90 minutes lately, and here’s why: If you have an area of concern (ie. an acute or chronic issue) it’s best if I can dedicate 20-30 minutes to that one area. In a 60-minute full-body massage this doesn’t leave as much time for all the other parts that deserve attention. If you have a couple issues going on, say, chronic lower back stuff and an acute calf strain, we really need a full 90 minutes to address everything and then tie it all together. Sure, I can totally get right down to business on the problem areas and then send you on your way, and sometimes that’s all people have time or money for. But when resources allow, 90 is better if there are “issues in your tissues” (as my massage teacher says). Pro tip: 5 and 10 session prepaid massage packages offer significant savings and are available for purchase on my website. Click here to purchase or book!

Regarding my relaxation clients (those who generally feel alright but like to get a tune up now and then), I think anything you can manage is great! Even a little bit of TLC will make a big impact. That said, if you’ve never been melted by a 90 minute massage, you should probably treat yourself at least once! Fun story: Long before I ever considered becoming a massage therapist I wished I could stay on the table and snooze a bit before I had to get up and function again. Now that I am one, I made it an actual thing! You can add an extra 10 minutes of hands-off, room-to-yourself time to any duration massage for just $5. The clients who take advantage of this love it!

Friendly reminder about Free Massage Fridays!
Don’t forget that I offer free 30 minute massages on Fridays! My clients often tip me (totally unnecessary, but much appreciated) which means I can offer a limited number of free massages each week. Folks can book these as stand-alone sessions or they can book them consecutively with other paid sessions to create a longer duration massage at a reduced rate. If you or anyone you know would like to take advantage of this, please pass on the word and reach out soon! Offering affordable massage is an important part of my mission; use this resource!

OK, I think that’s it for the housekeeping stuff. . . .  
In my last blog post, I brought up the importance of maintaining physical, mental AND spiritual health and eluded to a future post in which I would discuss the latter.  It’s no coincidence that it’s been a really long time since then.  Talk about putting my foot in my mouth; a teaser for a post I was wholly unprepared to write.  After all, I’m still trying to sort out what spirituality means to me and I’m pretty private when it comes to the topic anyway.  I didn’t really want to write it, but when I have resistance to something it usually means that’s where I should shine some light, soooooo. . .  I promise, next time I post it’ll be about spiritual health! 

Back to School

I picked you a late-August bouquet – sunflower, bee balm, bachelor button, cosmos, black-eyed Susan, golden rod and hosta.

Well hello there!

I just got back from the annual flag ceremony at my kids’ elementary school.  It’s a really sweet tradition where each class lines up in front of the school while the parents snap photos of their kiddos with all their buddies.  Sometimes a kindergartener or two cries (at least 10 parents of kindergarteners always do). Meanwhile, the sixth graders try to avoid their parents’ cameras.  It was fun.

Anyway . . . here comes the obligatory “how was your summer?” question.  So . . . . how was your summer? 

I actually do want to know, though.  And not just the typical superficial stuff about the weather, the yard work, the trips to the beach or the campground.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing about all the fun stuff you did, but if I ask you about your summer, your day or even your decade, please understand that what I’m really asking is:  “What’s this life been like for you?” However you want to answer my inquiry – I’m into it. 

I tell you this because when and if you end up in my office, there’s an open invitation to share what’s going on in your world.  In fact, processing the inner workings of your mind while having the outer workings of your body tended to is a great way to integrate these two important but too-often separated aspects of ourselves. And I’m intensely committed to practicing non-judgment when it comes to relating to others, which means I accept you for who you are and respect your humanity (unless you hate puppies – if you hate puppies we’re gonna have trouble).  More on the mind-body connection and healing the whole person (let’s not forget about the spirit) another time. . .  if you dig that stuff, stay tuned for a future blog post..

Fun Fact:  Are you kind of a private person?  Me too! But don’t worry, I take your privacy very seriously.  In fact just like your doctor, I’m bound by HIPPA. This means I NEVER share with anyone who has been on my massage table or what is said in my office without your written permission.  In short, I know how to keep a secret.  

80 degrees and colored leaves – late August in VT

Anyway, that was a long intro for what I intended to be a post about back-to-school time.  If you have kids, I know this can be a bittersweet transition. It’ll be nice to have your life return to more of a routine, but the days get hectic with earlier mornings, practice/games, homework and exhausted kids.  If you don’t have kids, I’m certain this time of year represents a shift nonetheless.  

Do you see the color creeping into the leaves?  The deeper blue of the sky by day, and the brighter stars by night?  Can you smell the fermenting apples as you drive past a craggy roadside apple tree; a tree that was no doubt inadvertently planted there long ago by a passing deer or partridge?  None of us can ignore the earlier sunsets or the chill that sets in just afterwards. I hope that no matter where you are, you get to witness a sunrise over a mountain, and then descend into a blanket of fog that covers the valley below.   

When I’m not massaging someone these days, you’re likely to find me on the sidewalk below. Sipping on a “chaider”, avoiding the laundry in that green bag. If you see me come sit a spell and let’s chat!

Professionally-speaking, my kids heading back to school represents a bit more time for me to see clients and to ramble in this blog.  If you dig it, let me know. I have turned off the comment option because I’m not yet brave enough to deal with the inevitable trolls that pass their time by criticizing even the, once-a-quarter bloggers like me, but I do like to hear feedback and I’m always looking for suggestions on what folks want to read about.  If you want to book a massage, click here.

However this late-August/early September lands for you – whether as a relief, a stress, a delight or a combination of all of these, I hope you’re able to notice the subtle shifts that are happening.  For me and some people I know, these are more than just visual cues that the seasons are changing; they are rich, sensory experiences of the rhythm that keeps time in a song we collectively call “Life in Vermont.”  

Yours in wellness,

Abby

Body Hair? Don’t Care!

Body fat?  Don’t sweat that!

Body fit?  Don’t give a  . . . you get the idea.

Today I want to talk about an important topic; body image (I will use the term “beauty” and body image almost interchangeably).  Specifically, I want to talk about your body as it relates to massage.  At least once a week I hear something like this:

“I’m sorry you have to touch my hairy legs, I forgot to shave today.”

or

“Oh hey Abby!  I really want to get a massage from you someday, I just want to lose a couple pounds first.”

Body Image ≠ Massage Worthiness

Boys and Girls, I’m here to tell you that your body hair and your body composition have nothing. . . like, zero to do with your worthiness of receiving or enjoying a massage!  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that your job, relationship status, whether you’re a good parent, if you paid your taxes, if you smoke or drink too much, your exercise regimen (or lack thereof), your bank account, your water intake, how many chicken wings you ate last night, your age, your sexual orientation . . . NONE of it has anything to do with whether you deserve a massage!  Why? Because massage is self care, and we all deserve self care . . . it’s actually super important for maintaining our emotional and physical health. If everyone deprived themselves of massage because of their body fat, body hair or any other superficial B.S. like that, let me tell you, I’d still be slinging egg sandwiches and mocha lattes! I, and many other massage therapists, have seen it all and we aren’t going to even notice or care.  We’re not in the business of judging people, we’re in the business of helping them!

I doubt this guy worries much about his back hair, and neither should you!

I mean seriously, most of my male clients have leg hair, so why on earth would I care if my female clients had full leg hair, much less a week’s worth of stubble?  I have clients who are so proud of the 70 pounds they lost to get under 250, why would I care about the extra 10 someone’s been carrying since the holidays? So please, don’t not (double negative – roll with it!) get a massage because you’re self conscious about these things.  Your health and well-being are far too important!

‘Tis the Season for Body Positivity

  Because we’re heading into that season where everyone starts to question their body image, I am here to tell you that all of the stuff I just listed above, that has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve to wear and do whatever the heck you want this summer.  Want to wear a bikini but have stretch marks? Wear that damn bikini; those are powerful reminders of the incredible thing your body did! Dude’s got a hairy back, so what? Rock that sweater vest at the beach! Are you fatter than a supermodel? Perfect! Most of us are. Let’s have a pool party!

Look at this Goddess! I don’t even know her and I’m so proud of her!

I’m so tired of hearing people trash on themselves for not being perfect!  We all have a friend who comments on her belly fat or stretch marks . . . I get it, she’s thinking about herself and not the other 3 of us she’s talking to, but the second she does that, we’re all thinking “Oh shoot, right.  We’re supposed to be more perfect than this. I hate my (insert body part here) and I feel self-conscious about that.” The whole self-flagellation thing is really destructive to ourselves and those we speak this nonsense to and it serves no purpose.

I’m even more pissed when people trash on other people.  Who gave any of us the right to comment on another person’s body?  That’s their effing body!  So what if it’s not perfect, it’s doing pretty much what it’s supposed to (breathing, moving blood around, taking care of stuff) leave it the eff alone!  And if you say crap about your or anyone else’s body around kids, I might have to pinch you (that’s as violent as I get).

Do it for the Kids!

Listen, kids don’t know anything about beauty or body image.  You know why? We’re not born judgemental. We’re hardwired to think our caregivers and loved ones are the most beautiful beings on the planet because babies still remember that beauty actually comes from within.  We get programmed by society to think ABC are beautiful and XYZ are not. True story; up until I was 11 I believed that my 5’1” mama with a belly covered in stretch marks and a funky foot that turned out to one side was the most beautiful woman in the world.  Then I learned about Seventeen Magazine (blegh) and Cindy Crawford edged her out. (For what it’s worth, 30 years down the road, I changed my mind again. Love you Mom, you’re beautiful!) When we pass judgment on our own or other people’s bodies in front of kids we are setting an example of judgment and body shaming, and you know what comes next?  They start doing it to themselves and each other. What is sadder than a nine year old child coming home from school, having been teased about their weight? Oh wait, I know, an eight year old child saying to their mom “I hate that picture of me, I look fat!” We have to change this!

Last summer my 10 year old niece asked me, “Why do you have long armpit hair?”  My response; “Because I reject the conventional standards of beauty established by the patriarchy that say the hair on my head should be long and the hair on my body should be non-existent.  If Grandpa/Uncle/Dad can have shaved heads and armpit hair, so can we!” Did you know that in 1915, during World War I in 1915, the Gillette Safety Razor Company introduced the first safety razor for women: the Milady Decolletée, as a means to increase razor sales?  They marketed it heavily to women who, up until that point, mostly went au natural. It seems a little silly that a couple generations later we are so programmed to believe being attractive means a woman must do something a man does not. Moreover, if a man DID shave his legs or pits, I’d wager that someone would take issue with that as well.  In my opinion, it’s especially important to offer girls different concepts of what is beautiful, and actually, to stop placing so much emphasis on a person’s physical attributes at all. When a little girl is told from a young age that she’s beautiful/pretty, instead of bright, powerful, whitty, interesting, imaginative, capable, a good athlete, creative or talented, she is conditioned to believe her identity and value lay in her physical appearance, when what we really want to do is empower our girls to be strong, independent and engaged in the world around them.

Recognize these beauties? They don’t have to shave their pits to be beautiful, and neither do you!

I want to live in a world where girls and boys are encouraged to find their own expression of beauty; to buck trends and dare to be different.  Because really, what’s more beautiful than confidence, individuality and open-mindedness? One of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known would not be found on a magazine cover, but they are so generous, kind, loving, engaging, honest, funny, genuine, open-minded and pleasant to be around that they light up every room they walk into.  I want my – strike that – ALL kids to care about that kind of beauty, not what someone’s belly or armpits look like!  

I feel like this is an important time for me to make a couple points:

  1. We are all insecure, each and every one of us, about some aspect of our physical appearance.  One person’s insecurities are no more or less valid than another’s and we don’t get to decide who’s allowed to have theirs and who’s not.  It’s totally ok to be insecure, and totally necessary to battle those demons that tell us our flaws mean anything about our character.
  2. Character is everything.  Your beautiful hair, toned body, white teeth and perfect eye lashes mean nothing if you’re a crummy person.
  3. I’m not saying that you should feel bad if you care about your appearance.  I’m not saying you should stop shaving if you’re a woman or stop working out if you’re a man.  A person’s grooming choices and exercise regimen are none of my (or anyone else’s) business. The entire point is, you do you, leave other people alone.  Better yet, you love you, and encourage other people to love themselves!
Repeat after me:

So, tell me, are you ready to be a little more positive about your body?  If you need me to remind you, I will; you’re beautiful! And . . . you should get a massage if you want a massage.

The concept of body positivity has been around for a while, so if you’re interested in exploring it more, here are a few great resources:

https://www.thebodypositive.org/model – a great organization that provides training and resources on inclusion and body positivity

http://www.kaarelong.com/body-positive-is-easy-to-say-much-harder-to-do/ – this is a great blog, and this post in particular talks about walking the difficult walk of body positivity.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/norawhelan/body-positivity-101 a great article about the basics of body positivity

Oh, and because it’s almost Father’s Day, skip the tie or BBQ utensils and get him a massage gift certificate!  10% off now until Sunday! Use code ILOVEDAD at checkout.

My Take on Essential Oils

Hey friend!  

Let’s face it, you knew this was coming; a blog post about essential oils and aromatherapy.  After all, are there any wellness-related blogs in the blogosphere that don’t cover it at some point?  Doubtful! I will NOT, however, try to sell you essential oils! Multi-level marketing companies are not my thing, so you can sit back, relax and read along knowing there will be no pitch to buy/sell more essential oils – promise!  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

What is aromatherapy?

Essential Oil Distillation Apparatus

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to improve a person’s physical, emotional or spiritual health. Essential oils are the oils extracted from massive quantities of plant material (leaves, stems, flowers, rindes etc) through a variety of different, complex distillation processes that I have neither the ambition nor time to explain today.  (If you like to geek out on this stuff, here’s a great post by someone more patient than me).   These days it seems like every other Pinterest board or Facebook post is touting the benefits of certain oils or combinations thereof, but don’t be fooled!  Aromatherapy is an ancient and effective practice that’s been around for over 5000 years. Those oils they used to embalm and mummify the Pharaohs? You guessed it, essential oils.

Why aromatherapy?

If you are interested in natural remedies but don’t know where to start, aromatherapy and essential oils are a great way to make a shift in your health, wellness and cleaning regimens.  You can diffuse the oils into the air using an inexpensive ionic diffuser. This works double-time to scent the air (eliminating those chemical-laden room sprays or artificially-scented candles) and impart the therapeutic effects of the oils onto the people in your space.  Since there are dozens of oils that have antimicrobial properties, you can make your own simple cleaning products using essential oils instead of spraying sketchy, artificially-scented, petroleum-derived conventional cleaning products. For more advanced users, essential oils can be applied topically to enhance their health benefits, although you should certainly do plenty of research regarding the safety and contraindications of any essential oils you plan to put on your skin.  

Speaking of Skin

Aromatherapy massage is one way you can receive the benefits of both practices, and it just so happens that I know a thing or two about this!  I studied aromatherapy in massage school and I’ve been using essential oils in my massage practice since I opened almost two years ago. I find that my clients enjoy having a few options of lovely-smelling massage oils to choose from, and it’s a great way for me to increase the healing potential of the hands-on work I’m doing.  Here’s a quick list of some of the essential oils I’ve worked and had success with (hyperlinks redirect to an informational site where you can learn about the properties of each oil):

Lavender Lemon Neroli Black PepperPetitgrain Rose Lemon BalmClary SageGinger Lemongrass Ylang ylangClove Cinnamon Rosemary Peppermint Frankincense Rose GeraniumVetiver

Some of the above are especially great for reducing pain and inflammation when used topically, but most are actually said to improve emotional well-being and/or mental health.  In my opinion, creating a positive sensory experience for my clients is pretty much what it’s all about. I’m not just providing therapeutic touch or addressing structural problems in the muscles, ligaments and fascia, I’m also creating an atmosphere that looks, sounds and smells lovely to help people get into the parasympathetic mode of healing.  When our minds are less stressed, our bodies can repair – it’s that simple.

Where do I get my oils?

I thought you’d never ask!  There are lots of options for sourcing essential oils including chain supermarkets, health food stores, online retailers and a couple very successful network marketing companies.  Where you buy your oils doesn’t matter as much as how they are made. Because tons and tons of plant material are used to distill the oils, there’s an immense opportunity for pesticides, herbicides and other gunk to be concentrated in the final product.  Harsh solvents used in the extraction process can also be found in inferior essential oil products. Because the skin is the largest organ in our bodies it’s kind of important to be careful with what you put on your skin. For this reason I only use organic essential oils diluted in fractionated coconut oil in my massage practice.  There’s no way in H.E-Double-hockey-sticks that I’m going to rub concentrated toxic chemicals all over people all day. Not good for them. Not good for me.

I buy my oils from a wonderful Vermont-grown company called Lunaroma.  They’re located in Burlington, but have a fantastic website featuring their entire (vast) product line.  The reasons I work with Lunaroma are:

  1. It’s a woman-run company with a strong commitment to helping other female entrepreneurs.  I dig this.
  2. They have great sourcing transparency.
  3. Knowledgeable and trained aromatherapists create their formulas  . . . and if you go there, you can actually speak to them!
  4. There is an amazing brick and mortar store, in VT, that employs actual people with real faces.  I like faces . . . and brick and mortar stores!

Most of the time I purchase single essentials oils from Lunaroma and blend them myself into seasonally-inspired or condition-specific massage oils.  Once in awhile I purchase tried and true essential oil blends (my personal favorites are Protection, Allure and Sunburst) and make my massage oils using those.  Recently, however, I went a little wild and got a few pre-made massage oils . . .  now I need to get rid of them!

Don’t stop reading!  You’re almost there!

From now until the end of May book a massage of any duration and click the “Add-on” for “Aromatherapy Special”.  When you come to your appointment you can choose between Ginger Snap, Northern Comfort, Fresh and Insight massage oils*, and after your massage, the remainder of the bottle is yours to keep!   I only have about 16 bottles, so book soon!

Take your pick of Lunaroma Massage Oils while supplies last!

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all! Don’t think I forgot what’s coming up next weekend!!!  For this Mother’s Day, skip the outdoor accessories or corny jewelry and get her something that will improve her wellbeing – a gift certificate for a 60 or 90 minute massage!  Use coupon code MAMA at checkout and get 10% off. And give her a big hug, because moms are the best! Moms, don’t be ashamed to share this little blog with your kids – they’ll get the hint!

* supplies are limited so depending upon when your appointment is, not all options may be available.

What’s New Around Here?

Sunrise on a race day near Mt. Washington.

Ok, so I’ve been a little M.I.A. this winter. But let’s be honest, there is enough web content out there, from celebrity hijinx to political drama to global crises to self-help master classes . . . we’re all over-stimulated and nature deprived; I’m sure you survived just fine during my hibernation.

But in case you are in the .2% that likes my ramblings, here’s what has been going on in the massage therapy epicenter of the galactic universe;

I had a crazy fun time skiing this winter with my two boys! We went every Friday afternoon with the elementary school and I got to pretend that I know how to teach kids to ski. It’s fun because my own children are somehow really great skiers, and since I taught them to ski, everyone thinks I must know something. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone . . . I know almost nothing. At this point my 11 year old is teaching me and my 6 year old (and pretty much anyone else around him) how to “carve”. Look it up, I didn’t know either.

Apres ski at my house. I had a LOT of kids that day!

I also had the great privilege of taking my older boy and his 3 fabulous gal pal/teammates to ski practice every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at a ski area about an hour away. We built a killer playlist and rocked out the whole way down. On my rides back (thank GOD there are other parents in our carpool who do pick up!) I blissed out to the silence that only a sleeping kindergartener can make when he’s resting up for a ridiculously late bedtime, and often wetting his car seat for some extra fun. As a bonus, I was able to increase the number of miles on my new-to-me car (my Mother’s Day present to myself last year – yay self-employment!) by approximately 2200 in about a month and a half!

I spent most weekends at various ski mountains throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, watching my kid race and marveling at the variety of weather conditions that fall under the category of “Winter” in New England.

Requisite sugaring selfie.

The boys and I tapped our trees and our family is in the process of boiling! It’s been so fun to be able to just send them out to collect sap in the afternoons while I tend to things inside. I like to unplug my router and light an oil lamp and pretend we’re homesteaders for a while. (Just kidding, I don’t do either of those things!) But I do enjoy the process of converting wood to flame, sap to syrup. The smell of hardwood smoke and sweet steam filling our garage is one of the loveliest sensory experiences of the year, and I hope they remember this when I’m old and weird and ask them things like “why don’t they make manual transmissions on cars anymore?” (seriously though, why?).

Sometimes this winter, I also worked. Some of you may have even been able to catch me on a few of these occasions, while I suspect others of you had all but given up ever being able to find an opening in my schedule. Ahhhh, the struggles of striking that perfect work-life balance! If you fall into the latter category, you’ll be happy to learn that I’ve expanded my hours!

New Hours!

I now have hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, plus mid-day hours the rest of the week! Click here to check out my scheduler and find a nice little slot that works for you!

Happy Birthday!

Are you one of those people that have a birthday every year? If so, I’ve got something you’re gonna love! I’m approximately 6 months shy of a pretty big milestone . . . the big 4-0, and when I was thinking about all the things I’d like for my birthday, I realized that if everything I liked and wanted could just be a little cheaper in my honor, that would be swell. Soooooo, I created a BIRTHDAY discount code for my site. So, whether you already had a birthday in 2019 or you’re going to, please use code “BIRTHDAY2019” when you book yourself a massage. I’m not going to tell you you have to use it on or around your birthday, you do you. But I will tell you it’ll only work once . . . choose your redemption time wisely!

I think there might have been something else I wanted to share, but it’s 10:00 p.m. and it’s tax season (should probably get started on those) and it’s snowing and I’m not so great at the remembering game, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for my next burst of inspiration. I promise it’ll be sooner than 6 months from now, and I promise it’ll smell good. (That was foreshadowing, because maybe I actually do know what I’m gonna write about!)

Golden Milk for Gray Days

Happy Monday, friends!  

Quick post here, to talk about another little thing we can do to help improve our health; Golden Milk.  Read through for a FREE offer at the end!

 

Per usual, this post is inspired by what I’m observing in my massage therapy practice as well as in my own personal experience.  In the past few weeks it seems like everyone is presenting with general achiness and/or a re-appearance of old pain patterns that had more or less gone dormant over the summer.  I don’t have a medical explanation for this, but my personal theory is that the adjustment to cold and dark, and less outside/exercise time is a little stressful, and when we’re stressed, we become more inflamed.  Even if it’s not the mental stress that causes us to “freak out”, there’s a subtle adjustment that our bodies are making to restore equilibrium. And it doesn’t feel good.

 

For my part, although my diet has remained relatively consistent, the joint pain I sometimes experience (and can typically manage through diet and lifestyle) has flared.  In addition to feeling a little more tired and chilly, my body aches. This resurgence of symptoms had me reaching to the back of my fridge for the jar of turmeric paste I thought was there (it was not, but I found some yummy little pickles so, SCORE).  I went a whipped up a new batch and have been consuming Golden Milk daily, with positive results. BUT . . . I made way too much. . . hence the FREE offer (if you’re still reading this, you’re my favorite).

 

If you haven’t heard about Golden Milk yet, here’s the quick and dirty:  Golden Milk is an ancient Ayurvedic (that’s the thousands-year-old healing tradition of much of present-day India.) tonic meant to nourish the body and soothe the soul.  It’s made from turmeric paste and milk (please note, “milk” can be whatever kind works with your diet – doesn’t have to be dairy), served warm and consumed as one might a cup of decaf tea or hot cocoa.  The health benefits of Golden Milk are almost innumerable, and they are almost entirely due to the turmeric.

 

What’s the deal with Turmeric?

Turmeric has many positive benefits: it supports detoxification for the liver; promotes a healthy response to allergens and a healthy immune response; assists digestion; helps purify the blood; and promotes health of the lungs, circulation and nervous system. Turmeric contains curcumin, a flavonoid which supports a healthy inflammatory response, thereby promoting general well-being.  This anti-inflammatory business is what I think is most beneficial right now, but honestly, it’s warm and delicious, so what do we have to lose?!

 

So, about that “free” offer . . .

If you schedule a massage between now and January 31st, and bring a mug, I’m going to bring some nice, warm golden milk for you to try, for FREE.  Just use the code GOLDEN when you book, so I know you’re into it. Of course, you don’t have to try it if you hate being warm or feeling good (weirdo).  Because I don’t keep dairy on hand, I’ll be making your golden milk with organic coconut milk (which, unlike dairy, is also anti-inflammatory).

Click here to schedule.

In the meantime, just take good care of yourself.  We’re heading to the season of stress and excess, but try to maintain a little bit of self care, whatever that looks like for you.

 

Love,

A

 

P.S. Shameless self-promotion ahead: massage gift certificates and packages make lovely little gifts (more care is better than more stuff, in my humble opinion).  Head over here to check out your options! The packages can be split and shared, so if you buy one, I can make you separate certificates for each recipient!

Cold Weather >>> Shoulder & Neck Pain

Hey friends!  

Sooooo, it’s October 27th and there’s snow on my lawn, deck and pumpkins.  It’s been here for days. Uhhhh, not ok, Mother Nature! #toosoon

My poor, frozen jack-o-lanterns.

Let me tell you something about me; I can handle the winter with all the sub zero temps, short, dark days and spazzy weather patterns.  After all, I appreciate the quiet and the stillness that comes when the snow tucks us in. I intentionally cultivated an outdoor winter activity (alpine skiing)  with my kids so that we would have something to get us out into the fresh air. Most of all, I absolutely adore the feeling I get when it’s 40 and sunny in March and I know I made it; that soon April will unfold into May and everything will get greener, warmer and alive again.

 

But this fall business . . . it’s hard on a sun lover.  My system can’t seem to integrate the cold and lack of light.  I feel uncomfortably cold and I don’t easily warm up. I huddle near the woodstove, pile on layers, shiver and frankly, I whine.  Whether other people like this change in weather or not, I think lots of bodies are a little shocked lately . . . here’s why:

 

In the past week I have seen 16 clients, 12 of whom complained of shoulder and neck pain.  It goes something like this,

Me: How’s it going?  How is your body feeling these days?

Client:  Man, I don’t know if I slept weird, or I’ve been sitting at my computer too much or if it’s stress, but my shoulders and neck hurt right here (points to between the scapulae, to the upper traps and to the back of the neck).

 

With the first four of these clients I thought it was just a coincidence.  Then, as often is the case, I started to notice the same patterns in myself.  And I happen to know that I am not working at a computer more (if I touch a computer 5 times in a week that’s a lot), I’m not sleeping in weird positions (I’m strictly a back sleeper – maybe we’ll get into the posture stuff in another post) and I’m not more stressed than usual (can I get a “whoop whoop”!?!).  Meanwhile, more clients showed up with the same pain patterns. So, what do I have in common with my clients (aside from a strong appreciation for warm massage tables, scented oils and taking good care of myself)? I’m FREAKING cold, and so is everyone else, even the cold lovers.

 

Here’s what’s going on-

source: https://lumiere-a.akamaihd.net/v1/images/open-uri20150608-27674-1urgahh_eb98a547.jpeg?region=0%2C0%2C1920%2C1080

Just look at Luke’s posture on the ice planet Hoth; forward head position and shruggy shoulders. I bet there was a massage droid back in the med bay!

If we want to change our body temperature, one of the easiest ways to do this is by applying heat or cold to our neck. When the temperatures drop, without realising it, we often adjust our posture to try to protect our neck from the cold, which usually means lowering our head further forward and lifting up our shoulders, placing additional strain on our neck and shoulder muscles, which are already a little unhappy because of the way we work, train and sleep

Illustration of superficial back muscles courtesy of https://www.earthslab.com/anatomy/trapezius/.

 

Our trapezius and levator scapula muscles work extra hard to maintain this position, and end up sore, tired and hard while our rhomboids become stretched and weakend.  See illustration.

What do we do about this pattern?  

  1. Notice when you’re dipping your chin and pulling your shoulders up, take a deep breath and try to bring your posture back to whatever “normal” is for you.  We’re not going for perfect here, just less shruggy (yes, I just made up the word “shruggy”).
  2. Move.  Do some stretches, go to a yoga class (I have several to recommend.  If you want info, message me!), dance around your living room, hit the treadmill or head outside.  Movement helps improve circulation and brings blood to your cold places.
  3. Try a sauna.  I know several people around here who have their own backyard saunas and if you don’t have a friend with one, I strongly recommend making new friends.  If that’s too daunting, there’s great infrared sauna at Images Salon in Orford. I just tried it this week and it was heavenly. Super convenient and affordable, too!

 

AND . . . (shameless self promotion ahead)

One lucky client getting my elbow into a knot in their upper traps. Photo courtesy of Hunter Paye.

 

     4. Book a massage!  I can help release some of the sore tense muscles, talk to you about postural patterns and stretches you can do for them and the warm table and relaxation will do you some good.

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading my stuff!  It’s          a fun creative outlet for me.  As always, if you have              topics you would like me to cover, shoot me a                      message and I’ll dive in!  Until then, be well, drink              plenty of water, hug your people and go easy on                  yourself!

 

 

What I learned This Summer, Part 1; Rhomboids vs. Pectoralis Major

It’s back to school day here at my house, which went relatively smooth.  Not that I’m surprised. My kids seem to like school. You see, their primary caregivers all summer were their grandmas, a handful of camp counselors and yours truly (in between clients).  I make them do things like chores and outside play and reading, and they get very minimal screen time. So, school seems like a pretty fun change of pace; they get to see friends, there’s a predictable schedule of snacks and screens are incorporated in their learning time (don’t get me started).  So, it’s a win-win all around! Now that we have a routine again, I can extend my business hours to include more client sessions AND more admin time (yay, bookkeeping and blogging). But I don’t want to give the impression that learning wasn’t still happening during summer vacation because, I for one, learned a LOT.  

 

I’ve decided that my next few blog posts will be about things I learned over the summer.  They will be delivered in the order in which I remember them, not in which I learned them (sorry chronology nerds, my brain doesn’t work that way).  They will span the categories of massage techniques, business development, trivia, personal growth and of course, healthy lifestyle stuff, cause that’s kinda my jam.

 

What I learned this summer; The Dual – Rhomboids vs. Pecs

 

When the upper back hurts between the shoulder blades, I used to think the rhomboids (muscles that connect the shoulder blades to the spine- see illustration below) needed to be worked (kneaded, stripped, frictioned, whatever).  And indeed, doing this felt “good” to most of my clients who complained of upper back pain of this sort. However, no matter how often I saw them and did this work, they would always present with the same complaint when I saw them the following week/month.  So what the heck, right!?

Rhomboids in red – red cause they’re ANGRY!

 

Enter the concept of antagonist muscles.  Most (maybe just many, I don’t know, I’m not a physiologist) major movement muscles have an antagonist – a muscle that does the opposite movement.  The most familiar example of this is the quadriceps/hamstrings relationship. When you straighten your knee, your quadriceps engage (hammies relax), when you bend your knee, your hamstrings engage and your quads relax.  They can both engage at the same time (if you hang out like that you will look awkward, but I’m not judging) and they can both relax at the same time (which is how I prefer to spend my time at the lake). When it comes to rhomboids, their job is to retract (pull together) the scapulae (shoulder blades).  But I noticed on lots of my clients with upper back pain, their scapulae were spread pretty far apart while resting, in other words, stretched.  And you know what happens when you stretch a muscle for a long time?  

 

Back to the quads for a moment: Imagine pulling your heel up to your butt all day, every day . . . how would your quad feel?  It’d freaking BURN like a whole milk half caf latte with extra foam and a shot of CBD oil on a bumpy commute to work (shoutout to my barista friends and fam!).  So what the heck was pulling at all these rhomboids to the point that they were stretching and making my clients hate their backs? I needed to figure out what muscle pulls the shoulder blades apart . . . enter; Pectoralis Major.

 

Me: “Oh hey, pectoralis major, why you tuggin’ on the rhomboids?”

Pecs:  “Well, my people work at computers a lot, then they get on their phones and stoop over them with their shoulders rolled forward, then they get in their cars and drive forever with their seats away from the steering wheel, and sometimes they cut hair, or massage, or fix sutff, craft or tinker, and do a bunch of housework/cooking . . . they’re always using me to get their arms in front of them, and then I get short and instead of going back to neutral, I just kind of stay that way.”

Me:  “Yikes!  Well, here’s a bunch of massage techniques and stretching.  Go back how you’re supposed to because you’re a causin’ problems!” 

 

You see, when we allow our shoulders to roll forward (which we kinda have to in order to use our hands/arms out in front of us) we engage our pecs and stretch our rhomboids.  Our pecs get shorter, our rhomboids get longer. Over time this postural change makes a for noisey upper back.

She looks happy and she’s got pizza, but don’t be fooled. All that time at her computer and her shoulders have rolled forward. Bet her pecs are short too!

Luckily, by releasing the pec major through trigger point therapy, mayofascial techniques and gentle stretching, my clients and I have been able to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, upper back pain.  It doesn’t usually take many sessions to start feeling a lot of relief, and for my clients who do their at-home stretches, their rhomboids and pecs are getting along very nicely these days.

If you are modest about your chest and wondering how I work into the pecs while maintaining privacy, here’s a great video demonstrating some of the draping and massage techniques that I use.  Note: the video is not exclusively addressing the upper back pain that I have discussed here, but some of that is covered.  I absolutely LOVE Rebel Massage!

Want to learn more about this kind of stuff or book a session to address your upper back pain?  Maybe you want to see if I can figure out what’s going on with your noisy areas? Give me a call, shoot me an email, fill out the contact form, or heck, just book a session and treat yo’self because massage feels so.dang.good!

 

Also, if you have specific questions you would like me to look into or answer on my blog, please let me know!  I’m always eager for inspiration!  Also, please share my blog and my contact information so that I can keep building up this little dream of mine!