Feel Better Now

Breathe

In many ancient cultures, the word for breath and spirit are the same, and use of the breath is an integral part of spiritual practice, as well as health and healing. Take a moment right now and pay attention to your own breathing. Does your belly swell with the in-breath and relax when you breathe out, or does your chest rise and fall instead? Does your breath flow in a steady rhythm, or is it choppy? Many adults can’t feel their belly moving. Instead, their chest rises and falls while the abdomen stays rigid. It may even seem like your breathing is backward and that the belly flattens as you breathe in, rather than expanding. That’s what happens when you use your chest muscles to expand your lungs rather than the diaphragm muscle.  Using the chest muscles is tiresome. They can’t inflate the lungs as well as the diaphragm, and you take in less oxygen than your body needs – so you breathe faster to compensate. Heart rate and blood pressure rise – and bingo! You’re anxious, tired and stressed.

Take a few minutes throughout each day to breathe gently, but deeply into your belly and low back.  Inhale and fill your belly, sides and back with breath. Exhale and release any holding or tension in your diaphragm.  Follow your breath into the width of your shoulders and chest, down your arms, into your hands and fingers, allowing your muscles to soften with your breath.  Breathe down your spine, into the width of your hips and glute muscles, down your legs, into your feet and toes.  Feel the breath fill the space in your shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle joints.  Imagine the space between you skin and muscle increasing with your breath.  Bring your breath to different organs and visualize that organ receiving healthy blood and oxygen with your inhales.  Breathing consciously into various parts of your body is a powerful tool for revitalizing yourself.  Connecting with your breath allows you to stay grounded, connected with your body so you can maintain your confidence and focus.  Practicing breathing into your belly will also allow your face, jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles to relax.  It will also stimulate your digestive system.  Soft belly breaths promote relaxation and parasympathetic (healing) activity rather than sympathetic (fight or flight) activity of the nervous system.  Belly breaths also produce a more alkaline environment, whereas chest and neck breathing create an acidic (cancer-friendly) environment.

Shake out the tension in your body

After long periods of typing, driving, gardening, chopping food, playing musical instruments, etc. interrupt the tension held in your hands, arms and fingers by shaking and jiggling these body parts. Beat on your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings with you fists – especially after long periods of sitting, standing, driving, running, hiking, etc. Shaking, jiggling, rocking, swaying, bouncing, striking, beating, pounding different parts of the body (hands, arms, wrists, glutes, hips, legs, ankles, feet) is excellent for opening joints; releasing tension, holding patterns and emotional holding; softening, opening and releasing tissues; loosening muscle attachments; strengthening, stimulating and sedating organs; activating, soothing and reprogramming the nervous system; dislodging and releasing blockages and congestion; and moving stagnant energy.  Make believe you are in a hula hoop and make circles with your bent knees and hips while brushing your teeth, folding laundry, etc.  Breathe into the spaces you are creating in your body.

Stretch and rotate your neck

You can turn your head softly to the left, then the right, one ear to one shoulder, the other ear to the other shoulder, at different angles while looking up and down, and then all around in circles gently and slowly to relax your face, jaw, throat and neck muscles, open the cervical spine and throat chakra area (communication/creativity/self-assertiveness), increase oxygen to the brain, and release pressure and energy build-up in the head.  There is no need to pull or force your neck muscles into a position; these muscles are way overworked and deserve gentle, nurturing stretches.  With your breath, allow your throat, neck, jaw, tongue and face muscles to soften on your exhales.  This is easy to do when sitting at a desk, standing in lines or even highway driving.  Try stretching your eyes in a similar fashion.  Much of the deterioration in eyesight we experience as we age has to do with lack of blood flow to tense, rigid eye muscles that don’t move much, are always looking forward or a bit downward.  Focusing our eyes for extended periods of time makes the eye muscles tighten and consequently restricts blood and lymphatic circulation to the whole eye area.

Shrug and rotate your shoulders

This is another form of shaking that will support the respiratory and circulatory systems, relax the chest, back and shoulder muscles, open the rib cage and breathing capacity, psychically soften nagging responsibilities and/or burdens held in the shoulder muscles, and will establish a connection between the heart and throat chakras.  Move your shoulders forward and backward, together and then independently, all the while breathing into the spaces.  Imagine your shoulder, back and chest muscles sliding over your rib cage.

Lie on your back with your legs up against a wall

This is an excellent passive exercise especially after standing for long periods, when your ankles or feet throb, ache and/or swell, when your back aches, when you’re anxious or restless, or while pregnant. It is great for balancing the endocrine system (glands and hormones), supporting the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and lymphatic systems, soothing the nervous system, and realigning the pelvis and spine. Don’t forget to breathe down your spine.

Lie on your back with your head back, neck extended and chin toward the ceiling

Lie on your back.  Bend your knees if you like or if you low back begins to ache.  You can also place a pillow under your shoulder blades for added comfort or a bigger stretch.  Bring your shoulder blades together underneath you and with your breath imagine your chest muscles relaxing and spreading away from your center across your ribs while your neck lengthens, your chin tips toward the ceiling and your shoulders move away from your ears.  Practice breathing all the way down your spine deep into your belly and low back.  This passive exercise is great for supporting the cervical spinal curve, correcting forward-leaning posture, relaxing facial muscles, releasing clenched jaws, decreasing carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms, opening the chest and heart chakra area (love/relationships/compassion/emotions), and supporting the respiratory and digestive systems.  Because you are adjusting the spinal column, start slow and stay in this position for only five to ten minutes to begin and gradually increase each time you do this.

Put 2 tennis balls in tube sock and place it under your cranial base

Simply lie on your back on the floor and bend your knees, especially if your low back aches. Place the Still Point Inducer (2 tennis balls in a tube sock) under your head, where your neck muscles attach to your skull, and in line with your ears, and allow the weight of your head to rest on the balls. Then, close your eyes, breathe gently and relax for 10 to 20 minutes. mAs you exhale, feel the tension in different body parts that come into your awareness dissipate.  Allow the muscles in the back of your head to soften and melt over the tennis balls.  The result is a therapeutic effect on the central nervous system and the entire body, in addition to increased blood flow to the brain.  Some other highly beneficial effects include headache and muscle pain relief, a reduced state of stress and ready response, a deep state of relaxation, and a general sense of well-being.  This is not advised in cases of internal bleeding in the head, acute stroke, acute head trauma or a brain stem tumor.  A Still Point facilitates the release of restrictions in the membranes around the brain and spinal cord.  It works quite simply.  A delicate interruption of fluid flow causes a momentary buildup of fluid in the system.  When the tissues are subsequently released and the fluid begins to flow again, it gently “flushes” the system, causing the membranes to stretch a bit and release tissue restrictions or adhesions.

Lie on your back and place a tennis ball underneath you on trigger points

Lie on your back with your knees bent and place a tennis ball under the sore, tender points along the side of your hip/glutes where there is sometimes a dimple, as well as along the edge of the sacrum and down toward the tailbone.  Using your breath, lower your body onto the tennis ball and imagine the sore/trigger points softening, releasing or gently opening like a flower as you exhale.  Bring your attention to other parts of your body that come into your awareness and let go of the tension being held in those muscles.  Stay with each point for a few minutes until you feel a good muscle release and the tennis ball sinks into the muscle. Releasing these trigger points is great for relieving low back pain, decreasing sciatica symptoms and leg swelling, supporting the circulatory, digestive, urinary and reproductive systems and encouraging healing in the lower limbs.  You can also place the tennis ball under your sore spots along the inner border of your shoulder blade, on top of your shoulder blade, or at the base of your neck.  Releasing these trigger points can relieve headaches, increase your breathing capacity and encourage healing in the upper limbs.  Finally, place the tennis ball along the sore spots on each side of the spine. This can release deep spinal muscle contractions, realign posture, support the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and urinary systems, assist spinal nerve impulses, and allow for greater bending and twisting movement.  It also will reflexively stimulate your organs and the flow of chi or life force energy throughout your entire body.

Balance (Pilates/Exercise) Ball

Just by sitting on this ball, your core pelvic muscles must engage and strengthen to keep you stable and supported.  Try sitting on the ball while using the computer, working at a desk or watching TV.  Bounce on it for fun, for a quick energy boost and to encourage respiration, circulation and digestion.  Stretch out and over the ball both forward and backward to open and create space in your body, to realign your posture and to relax your muscles and nervous system.

Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain

Placing heat on the body through the use of hot water bottles, heating pads, hot showers, or tube socks filled with rice and warmed in the microwave for 5 minutes, draws blood into the target tissues.  Increased blood flow delivers needed oxygen and nutrients, and removes cell wastes.  The warmth decreases muscle spasms, relaxes tense muscles, relieves pain, and can increase range of motion.  Placing cold on the body through the use of a bag of ice or frozen peas (always use a small towel to avoid putting ice directly on skin and risking an ice burn) slows circulation therefore reducing inflammation, muscle aches, and pain.  For an acute injury (due to a trauma occurring in the last 72 hours) use cold therapy.  Placing cold over the injured area for about 10 to 15 minutes will decrease the amount of swelling and inflammation.  Be sure to remove the ice or cold pack so that the blood and lymph will come back into the area in order to perform the necessary healing.  Alternate the hot and cold therapies when healing tissues from post-surgery, repetitive stress injuries and/or chronic pain.  Place heat on the target tissues for 3 to 5 minutes, then the cold for 30 seconds, repeat with the heat for another 3 to 5 minutes, cold for another 30 seconds, and continue going back and forth for about 20 minutes. The heat therapy draws in the healthy blood to nourish and heal the injured tissues while the cold therapy removes the toxins and wastes created through the healing process.  Alternating hot and cold therapies greatly accelerates and supports the body’s natural healing response.

Epsom Salt baths

Using Epsom Salt is a natural way to relax the nervous system, treat skin problems, and draw inflammation and toxins out of the body.  An Epsom Salt bath is known to relieve aching limbs, muscle strain and back pain.  In addition, it has been known to heal cuts, reduce soreness from childbirth and relieve colds and congestion.  Furthermore, Epsom Salt will flush toxins and heavy metals from the body.  Epsom Salt is a natural stress reliever.  Stress drains the body of magnesium.  An Epsom Salt bath absorbs magnesium into our body thus helping to relieve stress.  The magnesium helps to produce adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.

Nurture your mind using positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are used to retrain your unconsciousness and create change in your life and world.  Set aside time each day, when driving, walking the dog, doing dishes, laundry, etc. to repeat aloud short, positive statements about yourself and your life that you want to be true.  Get yourself to believe that these statements are already true and actually visualize the scenario you are working to make happen.  Write your affirmations down when you’re feeling resistant.  Tack your affirmations to your bathroom mirror, daily planner, car visor or carry them in your purse.  For example, “My relationships are harmonious and fulfilling.”, “I trust in the process of life.”, “I approve of myself.”, “Everyone has access to clean drinking water.”

Create a personal sanctuary

We all need space we can call our own; a private territory where we can express and cherish ourselves without fear of being censored.  Create a shrine or altar where you can honor the things you hold sacred and precious.  Use candles, houseplants, stones, shells, prayer beads, incense, picture of your god or guru or loved ones, book on meditation, postcard of a place you’d like to visit, etc.  As you place the objects in the positions you desire or are moved to, you can set an intention (such as “this candle is in honor my ancestors” or “these feathers are a reminder of my freedom and creativity”), or you can just remember to take a relaxing and rejuvenating breath each time your eyes gaze upon your special spot or object.  Since we spend 8 hrs at work and another 6-12 in our bedrooms, it is quite logical that these particular spaces should be as nurturing as possible.

Play

Consider looking at your daily routine to see where you might be able to include some time to be playful.  Our pets are just waiting to play and be silly with us.  You might find that joking with a coworker or friend makes the day pass more enjoyably.  If you see an opportunity to exercise your imagination, don’t hesitate to take it.  Play can represent a wonderful counterpoint to the stress you face in your day-to-day life.  With lightheartedness comes a sense of freedom because when you play your mind is not constrained by any boundaries or limits.  As you freely exercise your imagination, creativity, or physical prowess, any tension within you is diffused, and your focus transitions from outer world concerns to the joyful experience of the moment.  Play is a break that soothes the body, mind and spirit.  When you play, you can be anything you choose to be, as you step away from your everyday roles.  Letting your playful side loose will help you enjoy yourself while you let go of stress and tension.