How does Reiki work?

There are different forms of energy in the universe, Reiki being one of them.

One way to categorize energy is by its frequency, and generally speaking, energies that are in a more physical form (like the energy forming your body) are considered to be vibrating at a lower frequency.

Lower is sometimes confused with “bad,” but this isn’t the case. When energy is vibrating at a lower frequency, the energetic particles are simply moving at a slower rate. This slowness allows these particles to get cozy with their neighbors, forming more solid-seeming structures.

You’re already well familiar with this concept. When you boil water, the water molecules move faster and faster as the temperature increases, eventually moving so fast that they travel away from their molecular neighbors in a cloud of steam. In contrast, water molecules sloooow down as they form ice, which allows the molecules to get up close and personal with each other, giving ice its solidity.

Good Vibrations

Reiki is said to vibrate at a very high frequency, and I believe this allows Reiki to enter our personal energy field and break up pockets of stagnant energy, along with causing other shifts (more on those in a minute).

One of my teachers uses this analogy: Picture a glass of water with some mud on the bottom. The water is your energy field, and the mud is the inevitable bits of ick we all pick up here and there as we’re going about our lives.

Now, imagine someone pouring a stream of clear, pure water into the glass from a pitcher. This is Reiki. As Reiki pours into the glass, it might stir up some mud, causing the water to become cloudy, but after a certain point all of the mud is flushed out and we’re left with a clean glass  of water.

In a similar fashion, a Reiki treatment can temporarily stir up a little energetic “mud” during the cleansing process, causing us to become more aware after our session of issues in need of TLC, but as the mud washes away, we find ourselves feeling clear and on track, something I talk about below under Reiki’s ability to heighten awareness.

What happens as Reiki enters our energy field?

Here are a few possible mechanisms that make sense to me:

1. Changing the location of energy.

Using the above analogy, while we don’t want mud in our water glass, that very same mud would be quite welcome on the forest floor, where it acts as a fertile substrate for life. It’s all about context. Energy that doesn’t serve in one location might be just what the doctor ordered when moved to another area, and Reiki seems to have the ability to shift our energy in this way.

For example, do you ever get that nervous, butterflies-in-the-stomach sensation? For me, if I’m able to take some deep breaths and gently move that energy a little lower, into what’s known as the tanden or hara, it no longer feels anxiety producing and instead feels energizing and motivating.

2. Reintroducing movement. 

Movement is a crucial ingredient for life. On a physical level, research has shown that our individual cells need to be moved, squished, stretched, and otherwise deformed on a regular basis in order to maintain health, and a lack of movement is being implicated in numerous health issues, including cancer. We’ve evolved to move, down to the smallest structures of our biology, so it would make sense that our energy, which is the very stuff that makes up our biology, follows similar principles.

Not all movement is created equal, either. If you routinely use your shoulder in a dysfunctional way, you can stress the joint and generate wear and tear on the tissues, so it’s not enough to simply move–we must move functionally. I believe that Reiki can a) reintroduce movement to stagnant areas and b) redirect current movement into more functional patterns.

3. Heightening awareness. 

Reiki also has the ability to draw our awareness to certain aspects of our energy field (and to parts of our life), and quantum physics shows us that by observing, or becoming aware of, particles, we change them. Why would this not be the case with our personal quantum particles?

This ties into something I’ve experienced in my own life and have witnessed with clients again and again: Over leaving a Reiki treatment 100% “cured,” we often find ourselves drawn to the next step that needs to be taken in our healing journey. You might find yourself repeatedly hearing about a particular supplement or “just happen” to meet an integrative physician who specializes in the condition you’re struggling with. In my own life, regularly using Reiki seems to increase these “chance” encounters and keep me in a state of flow.

I have no doubt that the full picture of Reiki’s underlying mechanisms is much richer than this tiny sliver, but hopefully these ideas give you a little Reiki food for thought!

Want to experience Reiki for yourself?

Want to be a bodywork guinea pig?

Do you suffer from chronic tension, aches or pains?

Do you wish you had better posture but maintaining it feels uncomfortable or exhausting?

Do you want to be more active but stiffness or pain is taking the fun out of moving?

Structural Integration (SI) is a form of advanced bodywork designed to help with these and other issues, and right now, I am looking for a small group of clients who are interested in experiencing SI first hand.

Between November 2018 and February 2019, I will be offering a three-series (more info below) to sixteen clients, as part of my Anatomy Trains Structural Integration certification. 

To apply for a three-series, please read the following post to make sure SI is a good fit for you, then fill out the brief form at the bottom of this page. Questions? Contact Melissa here. 

P.S. If you Google image search “Structural Integration” or “Rolfing” “before and after,” you can see all sorts of transformations, like these:

Is Structural Integration right for me?

Structural Integration is designed to give you a holistic view of your body’s postural and movement patterns rather than looking at your achy low back or “wonky” shoulder in isolation.

While standard massage often directs the work at the area(s) where you feel pain or discomfort, SI zooms out to see, for example, how your feet are creating an imbalance in your hips, which is creating pain in your low back.

Then, throughout a series of sessions, the larger pattern is addressed and unraveled.

This unraveling creates a window of opportunity where it will be easier for you to move into a new pattern, and you will be given tools to do precisely that. Long term results come from the one-two punch of the hands-on work and your efforts following the session.

Here’s an example:

Many of us go around wearing our shoulders as earrings. We might know that we need to drop our shoulders, but doing so takes constant mental and muscular effort, and we eventually give up.

Over time, having our shoulders in this elevated position leads to any number of issues, from rotator cuff tears, tension headaches, decreased shoulder mobility, impaired gait, etc.

SI can help release tension in the muscles and fascia that are holding your shoulders up, while also sending feedback to your nervous system to cue the shoulders to drop.

After the session, your efforts at shoulder dropping will be easier, because you won’t be fighting against so many signals to the contrary.

If you’re tired of battling symptoms without addressing the root cause, and you’re prepared to be an active participant in shifting the underlying patterns causing your aches and pains, Structural Integration can help.

How is Structural Integration different from regular massage?

In a nutshell, SI specifically targets what is known as your fascia, a type of connective tissue that permeates your entire body in one continuous web.

One of the key differences between fascia and muscle in terms of bodywork is that, generally speaking, fascia has the property of plasticity while muscle exhibits elasticity.

Say what, now?

The reason why this is so important is that muscle, with its elastic properties, will return to its normal resting state soon after your bodywork session. Think of the muscle like a rubber band. During the session we can shorten or lengthen the rubber band, but it won’t take long for it to return to the length it’s accustomed to.

Fascia, on the other hand, exhibits plasticity. Picture a plastic grocery bag: If you stretch it, the bag doesn’t snap back into place; it retains that stretch. Your fascia, when worked slowly and in the proper direction, will hold the work.

Yes, if you return to business as usual after the session, you can retrain your fascia to revert to the old pattern, but this process doesn’t happen as quickly or automatically as it does with muscle.

How a session works

Here’s a chart to give you a quick overview, and below I’ll explain the differences in more detail so you know what to expect at your session.

Intake Process

Before we do the hands-on work, we need to come up with a strategy that is tailor made to your unique body. Prior to getting on the table, we’ll take some time talking about your health history and how you feel in your body.

We’ll also do some visual assessments, both in static positions and with simple movements. This process is as much for me–so I know how to direct the treatment–as it is for you–to increase your awareness of your body’s unique patterns, because this self-awareness is, in and of itself, transformative.

What to Wear

Unlike a regular massage, where you undress and are under a drape, you’ll be asked to wear specific clothing for your SI session. This is largely because you’ll be moving around a bit more–either making small movements on the table as I do hands-on work, occasionally getting off the table to move around and see how something feels, or sitting on a bench for certain techniques.

A two-piece bathing suit, opaque undergarments, athletic shorts, or full-coverage boxers are all great options. The idea is for you to be comfortable while also allowing me to make skin contact for the hands-on techniques. Please avoid wearing really bulky clothing, like cargo shorts with tons of pockets, as it’s difficult to work through heavy fabric.

Depending on the session, we may be more focused on one area of the body, in which case you’re more than welcome to layer on more clothing in other areas. I’ll also have sheets and blankets available.

For the visual assessment, this is best done while wearing one of the clothing options listed above (sports bra and underwear, for example) so we can get a clear sense of your body’s unique patterns. All of this will be done in the privacy of the treatment room.

If you have any questions about particular items of clothing, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I certainly don’t want you to feel as if you have to buy a new wardrobe for your sessions, and it’s quite likely you already own things that will be just fine!

Some examples of what to wear (minus the shoes):

Where the Work is Done

I’ve already touched on this above, but unlike a regular massage that is entirely done on the massage table, SI work moves around a bit more.

The majority of the work will happen on the table, but you will be asked to change positions (face up, face down, side lying), and for most techniques you will be given a small movement to do, such as reaching down with your hand while I work on your arm or flexing/pointing the toes while I work the lower leg.

Sometimes you might be asked to stand up and move around to see how something feels, and a few techniques are done while you’re sitting on a bench.

Oils/Creams–PLEASE READ

SI is done without the use of oils or creams, and it’s important that you not apply lotions, oils, creams, etc. before your session. The techniques require that I maintain contact with a precise layer of tissue, and oils and lotions make this very tricky.

If you are wearing lotion, I might need to clean the area we’re working on with a bit of soap and water. I’ll use a nice, hot towel to make it feel more spa like! 😉

Your Experience

While SI work can certainly be relaxing, sometimes profoundly so, because you are being asked to create small movements through much of the session, it has a different feel than a regular massage.

SI sessions require that sufficient energy be available for us to do the work, because we’re shifting patterns that are often decades in the making, so if you’re feeling completely drained, it’s often best to practice some self-care, book a regular massage, or visit your healthcare provider first.

You don’t have to be bouncing off the walls to be ready, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re dragging yourself into my office with your last ounce of energy.

Frequency

SI is typically done in a series of 90-minute sessions. Currently, I am offering a three series (lower body, upper body/breath, and spine), and pending my certification in June, I’ll be offering a full twelve series.

In between series, you can also come in for occasional standalone “tune up” sessions.

While every body is unique, it’s best to give yourself some time, often months, between series to really allow yourself to embody the changes that we’ve made, including giving your nervous system time to adapt and rewire to the shifts in your body.

In the interim, you’re welcome to book regular massages for relaxation and tension relief, but it’s best not to overload your system by doing back-to-back SI series.

Ready to sign up?

Please fill out the following brief questionnaire, and I’ll be in touch within 72 hours.

By applying for a three-series, you agree to commit to three 90-minute sessions between November 11, 2018 and March 1, 2019 at $75 per session. SI sessions are typically $110-150 per session, and this discount will only be available during my training.

Don’t miss out…

From September 10 – 28, I’m away in Maine for an advanced bodywork training.

My schedule tends to fill up faster before and after I’m away. It’s best to book your October sessions now, so you can snag your preferred dates before they’re filled.

Book Now on MassageBook.com!

Curious? What I’m training in, and why…

I’m studying a method called Structural Integration (often referred to as Rolfing, after its founder, Dr. Ida Rolf) at a school called ATSI, led by one of my bodywork idols, Tom Myers.

This course is part one of three, and when I’m completely done I’ll be able to offer what’s known as a twelve-series. This is a carefully sequenced progression of sessions, tailored to your body and designed to release deeply held tension and postural patterns that are preventing you from moving, breathing, and feeling your best.

Currently, there are only three practitioners in the entire state (and none trained at this particular school), but because this method has profoundly transformed how I feel in my body, I’m eager to be able to offer it in my practice so you can feel the benefits, too.

Plus, it requires me to take my understanding of anatomy and physiology to a whole new level, and as a body nerd, that’s right in my wheelhouse.

When will I be offering these sessions?

Ideally, I’d like to complete the training next summer (it’s only offered once per year). That said, it depends on finances; this course is a pretty hefty commitment, but given how impactful this work can be, I know it will be more than worth it.

I’ll be taking part two this October (2018), after which I’ll need guinea pigs for an abbreviated version of the complete twelve-series, a three-series. Interested? Hop on my mailing list to be notified when the time comes.

Then, I’ll head back to Maine three times in March, April and June of 2019 for the third and final part, after which I can begin offering the twelve-series.

I’ll be learning so many things to help you relieve pain, unravel tension, and feel awesome in your body, but don’t take my word for it–book your next session now and feel it for yourself. See you soon!

Book Now on MassageBook.com!

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5 Lessons From the Forest

I could have easily made this 100 Lessons From the Forest because nature isn’t one to skimp, but I do realize ain’t nobody got time for all that, so I’ve limited myself to five. Without further ado…

1. Things change. Often faster than you think.

I can walk the same trail everyday for a month, and it will never be the same. Just this morning, I was walking on one of my regular trails, and I paused to take in what had become a favorite view over the past few months.

The view was gone.

Or, I should say, it was entirely different. Shrubs had exploded in height with seemingly preternatural speed, and what once was a grassy meadow outlook was now a grove twittering with birds.

Everything changes.

This is good to remember when you’re not exactly thrilled with your current situation (it’ll change), but it’s an equally good reminder when things are going along swimmingly (it’ll change).

Accepting this fact can inspire us to be more flexible, less controlling, and more appreciative, because whatever it is…it won’t last. Soak it up, then let it go.

2. Living on autopilot can lead to trouble.

During my last hike, I encountered four different types of snakes. None of them were venomous, but it sure was nice to confirm this before accidentally stepping on snake face. Plus, it was fascinating to watch them, something I would have missed had I been zoned out on my phone or lost in thought.

On hikes, as in life, it’s smart to pay attention lest we go sailing over a real or metaphorical cliff.

While few situations call for hypervigilance, thankfully, most of us could benefit by dialing up the care and attention paid to the life that’s unfolding in and around us.

Our choices create our life, but too often we’re so distracted that we’re unaware we’re actually choosing. Life feels like it’s happening to us, not through us, and then we wake up one day, look around, and wonder–how the hell did I get here?

Why is my health suffering? Why do I feel unsatisfied in my work? My relationships? Where did my spiritual practice go?

Pay attention. Your life is happening right here, right now. You don’t want to miss it.

3. Life (and truth) is complex.

On a forest hike, everywhere you look you see multilayered life and complex interactions that boggle the mind.

Our ego deals in certainties. It doesn’t care if its beliefs are certainly wrong. It just wants to be certain. It will strip away facts with impunity in service of whittling things down to more manageable size. 

Life, on the other hand, is much more complex, which means that, ten times out of ten, we need to take action without knowing the full story. We have to do our best with the information we have access to, and that information is always incomplete.

The good news is that, while the ego flounders in uncertain waters, the soul/higher self/whatever you like to call your inner wisdom, thrives in it.

 The soul understands through and through what Joseph Campbell meant when he said:

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

When we embrace this, we build the courage to take that next step, even when we don’t know where we’re headed.

And we’re less apt to judge our fellow travelers when we understand that truth is never as neat and tidy and as-we’d-like-it-to-be as the ego insists.

4. You are inherently creative.

Life is constantly creating. Flowers bloom, turtles mate right smack dab in the middle of the trail (just saw this today), birds incubate clutches of eggs, and on and on it goes.

You, my friend, are no less a part of this whirling circus of life than the flowers, turtles and birds. You are creative (whether you like it or not).

You create thoughts, which create actions, which lead to the moment-by-moment creation of your life.

I always cringe inwardly when I hear someone say, “Oh, I’m just not that creative.”

To me, this is to deny the very mechanism of existence.

When we begin to see how very creative we are, and we own this, we take responsibility for our life. We see our creative mark on everything we experience, and if the scene before our eyes isn’t quite the masterpiece we’d hoped for, we know it’s up to us to break out the palette of paints, roll back our sleeves, and get messy with the work of creating.

Like painting, practice makes progress, and the “mistakes” are often the most beautiful features of the landscape.

5. Discomfort isn’t the enemy.

We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to get–and stay–comfortable.

We go out of our way to avoid uncomfortable conversations, physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, foods, people, sounds, smells, places, temperatures, and on and on it goes.

In the woods, discomfort abounds. Biting insects seem to love me best of all, thorns scrape, sun bakes, and mud cakes.

But then, just when you’re brushing off the seventh tick and untangling your shirt from a snarl of thorns, you see it. The fawn tucked away in the undergrowth, snow-colored spots and jet-black eyes. The waterfall just ’round the bend that utterly takes your breath away. The owl dozing in a tall oak, lazily swirling its head to lock your gaze.

Life is uncomfortable. It just is. But it’s also absurdly beautiful and abundantly rich.

We can spend vast amounts of time and energy trying to make life less uncomfortable, but we’ll have little to show for it besides spent time and less energy.

And discomfort comes with a gift: The realization that we can be uncomfortable and happy.

We can say yes to that difficult conversation, that annoying physical sensation, that weird smell, and when we give our resilience some space to show up, we learn how to relax. To breathe a sigh of relief that can be heard two states away.

Maybe we’re not as fragile as we thought. Hallelujah! Happiness doesn’t depend on micromanaging the discomfort away.

It was there all along, just waiting for us to stop chasing away the discomfort long enough to notice.

The movement secret most people don’t know

Mind Shift is a blog series where I turn my fascination with body-nerd research into bite-sized info chunks, designed to help you shift the way you think about–and live in–your body.


In a previous post, I talked about the importance of varying up your movement and the fact that most exercise programs only tap into a small subset of the movements your body is capable of (yes, even yoga). You can catch up on that post here.

Moving Without Moving

Today, I want to illustrate how it’s possible to be moving your body as a whole–for example, running or doing yoga–and still have parts of your body that are stuck or otherwise immobile.

The easiest example to look at is your feet. If you’re like most people, you wear shoes. A lot. And unless you’ve sought out shoes specifically designed to allow for more natural movement (“minimalist” or “barefoot” shoes), chances are your feet are hanging out in those shoes, all day every day, barely moving.

To use the words of biomechanist Katy Bowman, your feet have been cast in your shoes, like a broken leg held immobile by a cast.

Your foot has 33 joints–33! That’s a lot of movable parts. And yet, if our shoes have rigid soles that essentially turn the bottom of our foot into a plank of wood whose movement is restricted to hinging at the ankle, and/or our shoes have constricting toe boxes that prevent our toes from moving, most of those 33 joints aren’t being used. We have sedentary feet. (And our ankles are getting seriously overused.)

Why does this matter? Well, for so many reasons that I can’t enumerate them all here, but let me choose three, starting with the most obvious.

1. If your current movement capabilities allow you to move your body from A to B, and you’d like to hang onto this ability, your feet are vital. Without functioning feet, you can’t move yourself around without some sort of added support–cane, walker, chair, etc. So if you’d like to continue moving, take care of your feet.

2. Your feet affect your entire body, so if they’re out of whack, you’re out of whack. Here’s just one example: When you walk, your body relies on sensory information from the feet (among other inputs) to send messages to other parts of the body to help make walking efficient and functional. For instance, when the joints of your metatarsals (the long foot bones connected to your toes) and the tissues between them make contact with the ground, sensory receptors send a message to the quadriceps (front of the thigh) muscles, triggering those muscles to help absorb the forces of walking.

This helps us move without putting undue stress on our joints and tissues, while also allowing us to move with more efficiency (i.e. without expending more energy than necessary and feeling pooped out even by minimal exertion). Here’s the key, though: This communication between feet and quads is limited (and even eliminated) when our shoes prevent our feet from being able to naturally spread out over the terrain. No spread, no communication, less functional walking, more wear and tear on the body.

3. Our cells require movement to stay healthy, starting from our time in the womb (here’s one study demonstrating that reduced movement in utero leads to improper skeletal formation). In an earlier post, I talked about current recent connecting a lack of cellular movement with a host of diseases. Clearly, movement is extremely important, and not merely from a “staying fit” perspective; without movement, our cells die or otherwise go awry. Returning to the feet, if you’re moving about in stiff shoes, there are loads of cells in your feet that are still starving for movement.

It’s Not Just the Shoes

This stuckness can occur in other ways, without a physical constraint like rigid shoes. If you sit for hours at a time, you are casting your body into a specific position. Then, when you stand up and head to yoga after work, parts of your body casted by sitting might have difficulty moving, even in those twisty, bendy poses. What typically happens is the more movable areas have to pick up the slack and move even more, causing undue wear and tear and leading to injury, while allowing the stuck spots to stay stuck.

Here’s a little exercise to see what I mean. If you’re like most people in this culture, you spend a lot of time at a screen or in a car. Your shoulders are likely rounded forward, either a little or a lot, and this limits your shoulder’s ability to move freely.

Reach toward the ceiling with one arm. Now, notice how much your ribcage had to come along for the ride. If you focus on keeping your ribcage down, how much is your shoulder motion limited?

While your body might be different, 99.9% of the clients I see have some degree of forward rounding shoulders limiting their shoulder mobility, and as we talked about above, when one part can’t move well, other parts have to make up for. In this case, that’s demonstrated by the rib cage being hoisted up to compensate for the shoulder’s limitations.

So, what’s a body to do? Well, the simple answer is: Move more, and move more of you when you move.

A more nuanced answer might look like this:

  1. Move more. Get away from seeing movement only as exercise (read this post for tips), as this opens up countless opportunities to move throughout the day, and not just during “exercise” time. Squat down to get pots from the cupboard. Sit on the floor in various positions while watching Netflix instead of adopting one couch pose. Reach up and grab the doorway above your head, etc.
  2. Gradually start to uncast your body so that more of you is actually moving when you move. Two fantastic resources are Move Your DNA and Whole Body Barefoot by Katy Bowman.

That last step contains two mini steps. To get more of you moving involves 1) transitioning away from things that are preventing you (or parts of you) from moving, such as poor footwear and hours sitting or standing in one position, and 2) using restorative exercises and bodywork to introduce movement back into areas that, even when freed from their constraints, don’t know how to move anymore.

Again, Bowman’s books mentioned above can help you on both counts (if you’re in CoMO, they’re available at our public library!), and her website is a fantastic resource as well.

Start where you are: What’s one way you can introduce movement to an under-moved part of you today?

Maybe you can slip off your shoes at work and wiggle your toes.

Place items that you reach for frequently behind you, introducing a rotation to the torso and shoulder movements that might not happen otherwise.

Pick one of the movements from this awesome list and work it into your day.

Have fun!

I can’t fix you.

Mind Shift is a blog series where I turn my fascination with body-nerd research into bite-sized info chunks, designed to help you shift the way you think about–and live in–your body.


One of my bodywork pet peeves is the concept of fixing someone. “Yep, I can fix your shoulder!” “Sure thing–lemme get in there and fix that knee.”

Nope. Not happening. Sorry, folks. 

Here’s why this concept drives me nuts: The way you feel in your body did not happen overnight. Yes, there are exceptions in the form of acute injuries, but even in many of those cases, the injury was made possible by overuse, weakness, or other patterns. The injury is often the straw on the camel’s back, but because it’s the event we’re most aware of, it takes the fall.

The idea of coming in for an hour of bodywork and fixing an issue that might be ten years (or more) in the making is…well, less than realistic.

In that case, what’s the use of bodywork?

I’m glad you asked.

I see bodywork as a powerful way to temporarily disrupt movement and postural patterns. Whether or not that disruption leads to lasting change and healing is up to you. 

While this disruption can happen in a number of ways, here’s a common example. Let’s say that you, like just about everyone else on the planet right now, has a forward-head posture:

Image Source: https://jivanchakra.com/2017/08/14/forward-head-posture/

I purposely chose this image because to most of us, the view on the left probably looks normal, while the one on the right might look forced and unnatural. That’s how common forward-head posture is these days–it’s the new “normal.”

The next image gives us a peek at just a few of the internal structures affected by this posture (in reality, it affects the entire body, head to toe).

Image source: https://learnmuscles.com/blog/2017/08/11/forward-head-posture/

The majority of my clients come in feeling at least some level of tension in the muscles shown above. I could work on those muscles for 90-minutes straight, but if the client hops off the table and goes back into forward-head posture, the tension won’t be far behind.

Any bodyworker who says they can “fix” this, without the active participation of the owner of the neck in question, is overly optimistic and/or misguided.

What bodywork can do is give you a powerful head start in changing patterns like the one above. If your head is constantly hanging out in front of your body, certain muscles (and fascia) are going to be chronically shortened, others will be chronically lengthened, muscles in either camp might be weak/inactive, and your brain/body holds these patterns as your default position.

Bodywork can help lengthen short muscles and stimulate the receptors of lengthened and/or inactive muscles, like a wake-up call to encourage those tissues to return to proper tone and action, all the while reeducating the brain/body that this new posture is safe to adopt (assuming the bodywork isn’t too deep, pushing too far, too fast).

Temporarily.

Bodywork creates a window of opportunity, but what happens in that window is up to you. Whether you return to former postural patterns or mindfully reinforce new ones is your choice.

Of course, massage also just feels great, and that’s a wonderful reason to receive it. This feel-good factor isn’t anything to scoff at, even from the perspective I’ve taken in this post. Being free from pain, even for a short while, is another way to create that window of opportunity. Allowing your nervous system to experience a different relationship to a chronically wonky muscle or to your body as a whole is a potential game changer, if you take advantage of it.

Use bodywork as the amazing tool that it is–and heck, just come in because you want to let go of a stressful week and feel awesome–but please, don’t give your power away to me or anyone else. The key to your health and well being is you.

Is your exercise program missing this important ingredient?

Mind Shift is a new blog series where I turn my fascination with body-nerd research into bite-sized info chunks, designed to help you shift the way you think about–and live in–your body.


In the previous Mind Shift post, we talked about shifting from an exercise mindset to a movement mindset, the first reason being time. Today, we’ll cover the second reason: variety.

An exercise mindset categorizes movement into things like yoga, running, or weight lifting, and within each of these categories exists a subset of movements.

For example, with running, your body experiences a series of movements that get you from Point A to Point B, and those movements are pretty much the same every time you run. Of course, we could get into the micro movements of running over lumpy grass versus running over flat, level pavement, but even taking all of those micro movements into account, we’re still left with a limited subset of movements, given the full range of movements a body is capable of.

You’ve likely seen the headlines, “Sitting Is the New Smoking.” In response, there’s been a big move toward standing work stations. And sure, there are benefits to standing more and sitting less, but the overall problem of being in a static position for hours on end remains; we’re just swapping the static sitting position for the static standing position, resulting in our bodies inhabiting a teeny subset of its potential movements and postures.

And this brings us back to running. Or yoga. Or [insert exercise program here]. These exercises aren’t bad—not at all. They’re just a small subset of the possible movements your body can–and needs to–make. Yes, even yoga with its bendy, twisty postures. If you were to break down various poses into movements like hip flexion, ankle dorsiflexion, etc., the average class consists of a subset of movements performed over and over.

Let me repeat: This doesn’t make these exercise programs bad. I love yoga; it feels amazing, and I don’t plan to stop doing it anytime soon, but I do recognize that only doing yoga (or running, or cycling, or…) is the movement equivalent of only eating kale. Kale’s awesome, but on its own it’s not enough for a healthy life.

Shifting from the exercise mindset to the movement mindset allows us to tap into the fuller range of our bodies’ capabilities. When we think outside of the exercise box, we can grab onto a doorway and hang. We can start with our hands on the doorway at hip level, up a bit higher, a little higher still, hands above our head–each position adding a new movement variation.

While we’re at our spiffy standing work station, we can extend our foot behind us, top of the foot on the floor, stretching our ankle and foot in a way that it probably doesn’t experience very often. While we’re watching Netflix, we can sit on the floor and shift our arms, legs, pelvis, and torso into different positions, instead of letting the couch cast us into one or two predictable configurations.

Again, when we’re stuck looking at “valuable movement” only as working up a sweat while exercising, these smaller movements might seem insignificant, but so many of the issues we experience in our bodies are caused or exacerbated because we’re only moving our body in a limited number of ways and in a repetitive fashion.

In the next Mind Shift post, we’ll look at why this variety is so important, down to the cellular level. We’ll also see how areas of your body can stay stuck and unmoving even while your body as a whole is moving (e.g. while you’re running or doing yoga), and what to do about it.

The (surprising) downside to exercise

Mind Shift is a new blog series where I turn my fascination with body-nerd research into bite-sized info chunks, designed to help you shift the way you think about–and live in–your body.


The start of a new year is a time when many of us dust off our workout gear and head to the gym, so it’s the perfect time to talk about a very important distinction: exercise versus movement.

They’re the same, right?

Nope. And the difference holds the key to creating a healthier life, so let’s get into it.

When we think of exercise, we’re typically referring to specific activities done for the purpose of improving our physical health—perhaps lifting weights to build more muscle mass or jogging to enhance cardiovascular fitness. This creates a distinction between the movements your body does, say, during a fitness run or a yoga class versus the movements your body does throughout the rest of the day.

Why should you care? In this post, we’ll cover Reason Number One: time. Unless you’re an athlete or fitness professional, exercise usually takes up a relatively small portion of your waking hours. Even if you exercise for one hour, seven days a week—something many of us would consider to be a high level of physical activity–that’s a small percentage of your life spent moving.

Let’s do the math: Assuming you sleep eight hours a night, that leaves you with 16 waking hours a day, or 112 hours in a week. If seven of those hours are spent exercising, that’s 6% of your waking time. Scientists have coined a term, “active sedentarism,” to describe this scenario that many of us are living in.

When we look at the numbers, I’m not sure many of us would consider moving 6% of our waking time to be sufficient for health, although we’re so embedded in our sedentary culture, it’s sometimes tricky to really see things for what they are, so compare it with this: If someone told you that they ate a healthy diet 6% of the time, and then ate McDonalds the other 94%, would you consider that to be a “healthy diet”? I doubt it.

When we equate “valuable movement” with “exercise,” we’re then in the position of trying to find more time in our already jam-packed days to get to the gym or go for a run, because we’ve decided that those are the only kinds of movement that “count” in terms of our health.

When we shift from trying to get more exercise to trying to get more movement, we begin to see all the different ways that we are—or are not—moving throughout the entire day, and we can make tiny changes that really add up, much more so than the 6% of time we’re able to make it to the gym.

Outside of our exercise time, we tend to think in terms of conserving our energy, and thus, minimizing movements. For example, our kitchens might be arranged to minimize how much stooping, bending, reaching, or squatting we have to do to prepare food, because how many of us consider squatting down to get something from a low cupboard important to our health?  And then when it’s time to eat, we reflexively sit down in a chair.

When we view exercise as the only means of getting valuable movement into the day, we mentally check out the other 94% of the time, missing numerous opportunities to move our bodies and increase our wellbeing.

Starting right now, how can you sneak more movement into your day by doing things that you’d be doing anyway, just a little differently?

Can you put your coffee grounds on the top shelf and your mugs on the bottom, creating opportunities for reaching and stretching and squatting? Free CrossFit in the comfort of your own kitchen!

Can you sit on the floor while eating breakfast, and let your body indicate when it’s time to shift positions, perhaps sitting cross legged, then legs out in front, knees bent underneath you, etc? And if sitting on the floor isn’t comfortable yet, can you sit on a cushion (or cushions) of a different height than your usual chair, changing the geometry of your sitting position slightly?

While you’re talking on the phone at work, can you roll the soles of your feet on a tennis ball, introducing different movements to the many joints and tissues in your foot?

All of these actions are movements, and they’re just as valuable to your health as hitting the gym.

Now, to be clear I’m not advocating that you ditch your exercise program. But I am suggesting that you see your exercise time as just one part of an entire day of movement opportunities.

In the next Mind Shift post, we’ll talk about a second reason for shifting our perspective from exercise to movement. In the meantime, happy moving!

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Can massage alter your genes?

Mind Shift is a new blog series where I turn my fascination with body-nerd research into bite-sized info chunks, designed to help you shift the way you think about–and live in–your body.


I offer a type of massage utilizing a technique known as myofascial release. “Myo” means muscle, but what the heck is fascia?

Fascia is a type of connective tissue in your body (other types include bone and, surprisingly, blood). If you’ve ever made chicken for dinner, the silvery white membrane covering the meat (muscle) is an example of fascia, but far from being just a covering for muscles, fascia is everywhere in your body. Fascia surrounds and interpenetrates all of your organs, your muscles, your bones, and even your nerves.

Let’s look more closely at fascia’s relationship with muscles to see just how amazing it is, and we’ll focus on one of your quadriceps muscles, the rectus femoris. For starters, fascia wraps around the entire  muscle like a wet suit, turning what would otherwise be just a pile of muscle fibers (aka muscles cells) into what we know as the rectus femoris. This “wet suit” is known as epimysium (“epi” = above, outer, over; “mysium” = muscle).

But the fascia doesn’t stop there: The muscle as a whole is organized into little bundles of muscle fibers, called fascicles, and each of these fascicles is wrapped up in–you guessed it–fascia. And then, like a Russian nesting doll, each of the muscle fibers (cells) contained within the fascicles is wrapped up in its own little fascial wet suit.

Source: Pearson Education

Check out the similarities between the above image and this diagram of a spinal nerve, which is also packaged in a series of fascial wet suits:

Unknown Source

Returning to the rectus femoris, this muscle is then anchored to your bones–specifically your pelvis (at a bony landmark called the AIIS) and one of your lower leg bones, the tibia–by tendons. The fascial wet suit surrounding your rectus femoris muscle extends beyond the ends of the muscle like the twisted ends of a Tootsie Roll wrapper and forms these tendons.

Source: orthopaedicsports.com

The key is that all of these fascial structures are continuous with each other. While science has divided them into separate structures and given them names, like tendons and epimysium, your entire bodywide network of fascia is continuous. The image above of a spinal nerve wrapped in fascia? That nerve fascia is connected, via this bodywide web, to the fascia forming your rectus femoris tendons, to the fascia surrounding your small intestines, and so on.

Even more interesting is recent research in the area of mechanotransduction. That’s quite a mouthful, but it refers to your cells’ ability to transform a mechanical input, like the pressure of the therapist’s hand during a massage, into electrical and chemical (electrochemical) signals within the cell. Hearing is another example of mechanotransduction, whereby the vibrational pressure of sound waves is relayed into signals that our brain interprets as sound.

What does this have to do with fascia? Well, more than we could cover in this post, but here’s one very cool example: Your cells have a special type of receptor called an integrin, and these integrins are anchored into the cell membrane. Think of the membrane as the little baggie containing all of the contents of the cell.

The integrins span across this cell membrane, and you can imagine them like a rubber band with one end dangling outside of the cell and the other end sticking into the inside of the cell. The end dangling outside of the cell is “plugged into” your fascia.

Let’s say you’re reaching to get a coffee mug from the cupboard, stretching your fascia as you move. As the fascia stretches, the “rubber band” of the integrin gets stretched, too, and it relays this mechanical information inside the cell, where it is then transformed into electrochemical signals. Why should you care? Well, these electrochemical signals have the ability to activate or deactivate your genes. 

This is huge, and it supports the growing field of research1 into the connections between faulty mechanotransduction and a host of diseases. It also begs the question: Is our sedentary culture leading to so many health issues, in part, because our cells aren’t getting the necessary stretching, squishing, vibration, and other movements that are vital to their–and our–health?

The next time you get a massage, think on this: So much more is happening than “just” the release of stress and muscle tension. You could be altering the very function of your genes.

Book Now on MassageBook.com!


1Ingber, D. E. (2003). Mechanobiology and diseases of mechanotransduction. Annals of Medicine, 564-577. Retrieved January 22, 2018.

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Life Lessons From My Sewing Machine

I try to stay open to wisdom from a variety of sources, but it isn’t often that I receive it from inanimate objects. Last weekend, I was working on a sewing project when–bingo! Lightning bolt of clarity.

In machine sewing, you use your hands to guide the fabric through the machine, and when I first started sewing I was what I would call an “overly agro sewer” (if your bro-speak is rusty, agro=aggressive). With my leading hand, I would actively tug the fabric forward, and with my guiding hand, I would push the fabric toward the needle. (Accomplished sewers are probably shaking their heads as they read this.)

What’s the big deal? Well, my stitches looked like crap, because most fabrics will feed into the machine just fine by themselves, thank you very much; they just need a little guidance to ensure that they don’t go veering off to the left or right.

In a similar fashion, when we’re overly pushy or pull-y in life, the seams and stitches of our days start to feel (and possibly look) like crap. For me, this manifests most often in one of two ways:

  1. “Pulling on the fabric” equates to trying to drag other people along on my plans, overriding their natural direction and rhythm. I can also drag myself along, overriding my natural direction and rhythm. (If you hear yourself using the word “should” a lot, pause and check for fabric pulling.)
  2. “Pushing on the fabric” happens when I’m trying to force situations to unfold in a way or at a pace that doesn’t feel natural.

Does this mean I need to just sit back and do nothing? Not at all, but my role is more about guiding the fabric of my life than it is about pulling or pushing it through. If I completely removed my hands from the fabric, the seam would likely start swerving and eventually get completely off track, but through the choices I make, I can guide the fabric along.

When I’m trying to decide the next step, I can be wary of options characterized by “pulling on the fabric:” trying to bring people along who either don’t want to come or who wish to travel at their own pace, as well as subjecting myself to rigid timetables or to-dos that trigger procrastination or resentment.

I can also be on the lookout for options characterized by “pushing on the fabric”: forcing events in non-organic ways. Pushing is sometimes more tricky to detect than pulling, so what do I mean by “non-organic ways”? If you’ve taken action and it’s met with continual resistance, a slow-as-molasses pace, or a rising tension in your body-mind-soul, that’s often a red flag that fabric-pushing territory is up ahead. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to throw in the towel (fabric pun!), but it could mean that:

  1. The timing is off. This could refer to “not right now–try again later” or that the pace is going to move slower than you anticipated and trying to speed things up will only create bunched seams, aka suffering.
  2. The method is off. Maybe you’ve got the right idea but you’re approaching it in a way that isn’t working. Experiment; try a different angle. Still meeting resistance? Refer back to Point 1.

Of course, there is the third possibility: This just ain’t the way to go. Not now, maybe not ever, and pushing the fabric through will only leave you with a bunched up seam (can we draw a parallel with bunched up, tense muscles?).

Guiding, as opposed to pulling or pushing, requires a flexible, responsive approach. We might set out with an idea, but as the fabric of our days moves along and we meet resistance, we have the choice to start yanking, start pushing…or adjust.

Resistance can be a very helpful reminder to pause, check in, and see if we’re forcing things, people, or ourselves to do things that don’t feel organic. When we notice this, we always have the option to return to guiding the fabric through and allowing the natural flow of life to provide the momentum, a momentum that we can then shape with our choices.

When we try to create the force of Universal Momentum on our own, it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed and exhausted. And more to the point, it isn’t necessary, nor does it help. It just leaves us with bunched seams.

So, leave the generation of Universal Momentum to, well, the Universe, and focus your precious energy on guiding that momentum with empowered choices–choices that don’t come from a place of pushing or pulling.