What to Expect in a Hot Stone Massage

As the temperatures outside get cooler you may find that your body is craving warmth. Why not try out a hot stone massage? If you’ve never had one, and you’re not quite sure what to expect, well you’re reading the perfect thing.

A hot stone massage is very similar to most standard massages, with one major exception. Well obviously it’s even more amazing, but the reason for that is In a hot stone massage your therapist will use smooth heated stones to perform the massage techniques, not just their hands and forearms. It’s kind of like being massaged by someone with intensely warm hands. But the great thing about the use of these stones, is that they allow the heat to penetrate much deeper into the muscle. This not only feels amazing, but also gives you the added benefit of a much deeper sense of relaxation and tension relief, both physically and emotionally.

It’s important to note that while hot stone massage can be very appealing to a variety of people, this technique isn’t for everyone. There are some additional contraindications specific to hot stone massage, including systemic inflammatory conditions, neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and any other condition or medication that inhibits your senses. The ability to give proper feedback on temperature is crucial, and any impairment in that ability makes a hot stone massage ill-advised.

While communication is always important in any massage, it’s especially important during a hot stone massage because of the heat factor. Let your therapist know if the stones are too hot or if you would like them to be a bit warmer. Oftentimes, if they feel a bit too warm to you, your therapist can either set them aside to cool for a minute, or they may simply move them slightly faster during the massage strokes so the temperature feels better to you. As the stones cool, leaving enough warmth to still feel wonderful, but cool enough to stay in one place for a while without burning, your therapist may choose to place them in strategic places, like in your hands, on your low back, under your neck, or on your stomach. The heat along with the slight weight of the stone can often provide an intense feeling of relief for the area.

While it may be cold outside, you can find one of the best ways to warm up and feel great at the same time with a hot stone massage. Book yours today!

5 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

It’s that time of year again. A time of celebration, family gatherings, holiday parties, gifting, traveling, and most of all, excitement. While many of us are thrilled and looking forward to the holiday season, that excitement is generally accompanied by STRESS. Stress to pick out the perfect dish, give the perfect gift, maintain a spotless house, show up to every party, and decorate our homes like Martha Stewart. So here’s a few tips to help you keep your holiday stress under control, so you can enjoy what the holidays are truly about.

1) Acknowledge what’s got you stressed: While there is a plethora of things that can be feeding into our high stress levels during this time of year, take the time to really focus in on the main cause of your stress. This will help you to pinpoint the problem and face it head on and hopefully early on. This may take a few moments of quiet time away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. What does your mind continuously go back to? What is preventing you from being able to focus? Chances are that may be one of the main causes of your stress. This is where you will need to make the decision whether to take it on, cut back, or step away. Is it that you know family will be visiting in just a few weeks, and you haven’t had time to tackle your family room for deep cleaning? Is it an outdoor project you’ve been working on for most of the year and you can’t muster up an answer for when Uncle Jim asks why you still haven’t finished it? Take it on. Make a specific goal for yourself with time frames and arrange for the project to be finished. Or realize that other people’s opinions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Is it that you have spread yourself too thin, and you have no idea how you are going to be able to keep up your weekly volunteer session at the local food bank along with your other commitments? Cut back on your hours or those other commitments. People will understand. Is it that every year you take the time to make individual place settings unique to each family member, but there is no way you will be able to complete the settings along with all your other commitments? Step away, and realize that not everything needs to be perfect. This time of year is about the joy of family and friends, giving back, and gathering together. Don’t let perfectionism ruin this wonderful season.

2) Plan ahead/ Start Early: Generally, you know the likes and dislikes of family members in advance. As you are going throughout the year, if you come across something that makes you think of someone on your list grab it! You may even find it on sale depending on the item and the time of year. If you are stumped on what to get someone, listen to clues in your time with one another. I have an ongoing note on my phone so that when someone gives me clues, I can punch it in and look back at it when I’m out shopping. Make a list early on, and slowly begin to check items off as you go.

3)Stay on budget: Yes, the holidays are fun, and getting gifts is even more enjoyable, but let’s not forget what we are truly celebrating. Family, fellowship, and friends. You show your love through daily actions, not just monetarily. Some of the best gifts have more sentimental value than anything. After making your list, shop around looking and comparing the prices. Look for online ordering that involves free shipping. Search for coupons. If you see yourself reaching for that gift that is over your budget remind yourself that it’s not about the amount that you spend on the gift, it’s about the thought behind the gift.

4)Don’t abandon your healthy habits: It is so easy with all of the holiday gatherings you are being invited to with overindulgent treats at your fingertips to allow yourself to lose sight of any healthy lifestyle you have been following. Life is all about balance. It is okay to treat yourself, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Pick and choose your favorites that you generally don’t get to enjoy and use moderation. It’s easy to overindulge on an item you don’t frequently eat. If you are traveling and used to exercising, look for hotels that have gyms, or ask your family where the nearest park is. Keeping your body in its normal routine as much as possible will allow yourself to maintain a close-to-normal state and prevent stressors.

5)Take extra “you” time: It is so easy to lose sight of ourselves when we are focusing on everyone else. Make sure you take extra time to keep in tune with what you need. Take the long way home and drive in silence. Go for a walk with the dog. Take yourself out for your favorite holiday beverage. Take advantage of gift promotions when buying gifts to reward yourself and give yourself a boost. Get a massage. You must take care of you before you can do anything that comes along with the holiday season.

While the holidays can be stressful, they can also be so enjoyable. A time to gather with our loved ones and make memories that last a lifetime. Make sure you are managing your holiday stress so that you can embrace those special moments.

How Stress Affects Your Body

We all wear many hats in our busy lives. Whether you work or stay home, have children or don’t, own a business or work for someone else, if you’re human, you have stress. Period. It’s an unavoidable part of lifeAnd while you may feel the emotional weight of all that stress, the anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts most often associated with it, stress can also take a huge toll on your body.  

When you’re stressed, your central nervous system (CNS) goes into what is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, your eyes dilate, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure increases, your muscles tense and your digestion stops to allow blood to be redistributed to those muscles needed to fight or run for your life. When the perceived threat is gone the CNS will usually act to ease the mind and body, a state often referred to as “rest and digest” because the body calms and functions return to normal. However, chronic, or long-term stress means that signal may not be sent for quite some time, so your body is staying in that state of stress for far too long.  

Maybe you really don’t like your job, and the minute you wake up in the morning you’re already dreading the work day. As you get yourself ready and out the door, the impending day is hanging over you like a dark cloud. Then traffic is rough and you’re on high alert to avoid an accident. Then your day is spent dealing with difficult coworkers, bosses, or customers. When the work day finally ends, you’re exhausted. Not just because of a long day, but because your body has been in this hyper-attentive, stressed state since you opened your eyes.  

Whatever your stress looks like, the physiological toll of it can be immense. The associated muscular tension can lead to widespread pain, headaches, and even make you more prone to injury. The regular increases in blood pressure can put strain on your heart and blood vessels leading to an increased risk of hypertension and even heart attack and stroke. The changes in digestion that occur during this fight or flight response can lead to nausea, constipation, acid reflux, and even increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. 

Clearly the affects stress has on your body go deeper than the eyes can see. If you truly want to tackle this worthy opponent, you need to take it one step at a time and realize different techniques work for different people, so take the time to figure out what works best for youHere’s a few tips to get you started: 

Exercise & Movement – When your body gets moving and your blood gets pumping, it releases all kinds of feel-good hormones that ease mental and physiological stress. You don’t have to hit the gym for two hours to get the benefit. Even just a brief walk or a few minutes of stretching can make a big difference for your mind and body. 

Yoga – Don’t worry, you don’t have to have the perfect poses to get the benefits of yogaThe slow, controlled movements and breathing exercises will help you to relax and focus your mind which will help reduce stress levels.  

Meditation – You don’t need to be a master of mindfulness to meditate or to see the benefits of it. Whether you take just 2 minutes or an entire hour is up to you. Regardless, taking the time to close your eyes, breathe slowly, and allow your mind to focus on something other than the things you usually stress about, will ease a lot of that mental and physical stress. 

Journal – Journaling has been shown over and over again to be highly beneficial in combatting stress. Whether you’re unable to speak your mind, or you just feel overwhelmed, getting it all out in a journal of some sort can allow you to take control of those stressful thoughts and move forward. 

Do something for you – As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself, not just others. That may be 10 minutes a day or an hour or two every week. Whatever you can fit into your schedule, start taking some time to devote solely to something you enjoy. Go for a walk, read a book, dance around to your favorite music, or get a massage! 

While life is inevitably stressful, you don’t have to let that stress take control of your life or lead you to some mental or physical issues. You only get one body in this life. Take care of it! 

Meditation for pain relief

While massage can do wonders for many types of pain, self-care is just as important, and meditation has been proven time and again to be one of the most effective forms of self-care to treat pain. In fact, just like massage therapy, studies have shown meditation to work better than pain killers specifically for low back pain.

Some people may scoff at the idea that you can just think away your pain, but that’s not what you’re doing with meditation at all. While some people prefer a visualization based meditation, many find it even more helpful to not to ignore the pain, but rather to focus so intently on specific sensations of the body that the brain can begin to recognize pain sensations differently.

Pain is a very complex subject, with much research and debate currently going on in the medical field; but what we do know is that a large amount of what we perceive as pain may be due to wiring within the brain more so than a physical cause. Nerve signals can sometimes be misinterpreted by the brain, giving different or exaggerated sensations than are physically relatable. An obvious example of this is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), but many forms of pain may have a minor form of this same misinterpretation. Obviously, this isn’t to say that the pain you’re feeling isn’t real, but that sometimes the brain makes it seem far worse than the injury or condition really is from a purely physical standpoint.
Don’t worry; you don’t need to spend an hour deep breathing and visualizing to feel the positive effects of meditation. You have to do what works for you, and even just 5-10 minutes a day can help.

Here’s a basic walkthrough to get you started…

STEP #1: Find a quiet place you can sit or lie down comfortably. Don’t force yourself to sit in a lotus position or in any other way that’s painful. The entire point is to relax and feel the minor sensations you often aren’t conscious of, not to focus on how uncomfortable your leg/butt/back feel because you’re sitting in a way that you think you’re “supposed” to.

STEP #2: Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths. Don’t make it forceful, but be sure you’re breathing all the way down, until you feel your stomach push out. This is what’s called diaphragmatic breathing, meaning you’re engaging the diaphragm, which calms the nervous system. Focus on these breaths and the full sensation as you take in the breath and release it.

STEP #3: Starting with the top of your head and slowly moving down, focus on each and every sensation you’re feeling. Recognize how your hair may pull at the scalp, if your forehead is tense, feel the air flow in through your nose, sense any tension in your jaw. Work your way down all the way through the body, pausing to focus on each area; especially those that feel tense or painful and devote your entire attention to calming that sensation and relaxing as much as possible.

If you find that this body scan and focused attention isn’t lessening your pain or is even making it worse, try instead focusing on a mantra or visualization. You may focus on naming each thing you’re grateful for with every inhale and exhale. You may repeat a mantra, such as “I change my thoughts, I change my world” (Norman Vincent Peale), or “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better” (Laura Silva). Some people choose to focus on a visualization; so imagine yourself sitting on a beach, on the front porch of a cabin in the woods, or anywhere else you would find immense peace. Visualize everything, down to the smallest detail and stay there for a while enjoying it.

STEP #4: Now it’s time to come back to focus on the whole body sensation. Do your legs feel heavy? Are you feeling relaxed? Do you find it easier to perform that deep diaphragmatic breathing than when you started? Recognize even the smallest improvements and changes within your body.

STEP #5: Slowly bring yourself back to the present and begin to recognize your surroundings. Keep your eyes closed, but take in any noises you hear and anything else around you. Begin to move your fingers and toes, stretch if you want to, and slowly open your eyes.

Remember, this is only a basic guide. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Regardless of whether you spend 5 minutes or an hour meditating, the key is to fully immerse yourself in it every time, and practice consistently. For you, that may be an hour every day or even just 2 or 3 minutes on your lunch break and another 2 or 3 minutes as you lay down in the evening. However you decide to meditate, getting started and being consistent is what makes the biggest difference in your pain.

3 Stretches to Loosen Your Hips in aless Than 5 Minutes

Many people struggle with tight hips, sometimes resulting in low back and leg pain, whether we make that connection or not. It may happen for you only occasionally or very frequently. You may think that it takes 30 minutes of stretching to loosen them up, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here are 3 stretches you can do in 5 minutes to loosen those tight hips up when you are in a pinch. Remember, you should feel a slight pull and stretch within the muscles you’re focused on, but it shouldn’t feel painful.

1. Pigeon Pose (With Modified Pigeon Pose)- Sit with your left knee bent and your right leg stretched out behind you. Bring your left heel in toward your right hip. If your hips are more open, inch your right foot farther across your body and away from you. You’ll want to be sure your right hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins to open up toward the ceiling, draw your left foot back in toward your body.

Hold this pose for 30 seconds with your hands resting on the ground or on your left thigh.

If the stretch feels comfortable, like you can take it a bit farther without strain, you can lower your upper body towards the floor to get a deeper stretch. If it doesn’t quite feel ready, continue to hold the stretch wherever you feel most comfortable.

Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds. Switch to the other leg with your right knee bent and left leg out behind you, and repeat.

2. Hamstring Stretch: Stand with your legs extended a foot or so past shoulder width apart, with toes facing out. Slowly extend your hands toward your left leg leaning into the stretch. Try to keep your back straight if possible. While you may feel a slight stretching in the low back, you want to be sure you’re feeling the stretch primarily in the back of the thigh and in the buttock.

Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat.

3. Quadriceps stretch: Stretching your quads while in a prone position helps to stabilize your pelvis, minimizing rocking and maximizing the stretch. Lay flat on your stomach, pull your body up on your hands and knees with your back aligned with your thighs in a position like a modified push up. Bend your knee as far as you are able using your hand to hold your foot in place, and if comfortable, pull the foot closer to the buttock. This opening of the abdomen, chest, and shoulder, along with the resistance and bending of the knee, helps to stretch the entirety of the quadriceps, from top to bottom.

Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds, Switch to the other leg and repeat.
These quick stretches can give you some instant relief when you’re feeling that tightness in your hips and low back, but remember, it’s not a quick permanent fix. You’ll need to do these at least a few times a day during periods of excessive tightness, as well as consider what daily activities are leading you to remain tight in these areas and modifying that behavior to prevent that feeling.

Tips To Ease Neck Pain

Neck pain is common and there’s a variety of things that can cause it. You may have just slept wrong and tried to turn your head a certain way only to feel some pretty sharp pain; then you’re stuck walking around all day barely able to turn to the side. You may have been hunched over at your desk all day, or done some exercise that didn’t quite agree with you. Whatever the cause, it’s no fun. Of course, a massage session here will help, but there are some things you can do in the meantime to ease that pain.

Neck pain is frequently the result of tension within the muscles. When the muscles are tight, they bear down on blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to areas, resulting in even more pain, like those nasty tension headaches that can come along for a ride. Stretching can help loosen that tension and improve blood flow, overall decreasing your pain levels. Slowly tilt your head forward, back, and side to side, until you feel a good stretch in each position. Hold it for several seconds and breathe deep. Release and keep moving through the motions and stretching. Listen to your body and find the places where the stretch really seems to be the most effective.

Heat & Cold Therapy
Heat can help to improve blood flow and relax the muscles, while applying cold can decrease inflammation. You can use whatever feels right, but alternating between the two will often help even more. Apply your heating pad for 5 minutes, then a cold pack for 2 or 3 minutes. One round may be all you need for very mild symptoms, but if the pain is persistent, keep alternating between the two for up to 20 minutes, ending with cold to make sure any inflammation is taken care of.

You can use your fingertips, knuckles, self-massage tools like a Thera Cane, or even just a tennis or golf ball; anything that will provide direct pressure into the muscles. Start gently working throughout the neck and shoulders to warm up the tissues, and slowly work into deeper pressure as it feels right. Don’t be afraid of slight discomfort, but stop if you experience any sharp pains.

Get a different pillow
If you’re experiencing neck pain frequently, try switching up your pillow to see if it may be the cause. No one size fits all here. You need to find what works best for your body. And don’t forget that those pillows need fluffed and replaced on a regular basis to keep the proper support.

Of course, you can always come get a massage when you’ve got any sort of pain like this, but I know that’s not always possible and I still want you to feel amazing as much as you can. So, use these tips the next time your neck starts bothering you, and book your next massage to keep you feeling great too!

How Your Lower Back Pain & Hip Pain May Be Connected

The body is intricately designed with nerve endings and connective tissues that intertwine to form a beautiful structure capable of everything from minute movements, to birthing a child, to surviving in some of the harshest conditions on earth. But with these capabilities comes vulnerability, so it’s no surprise that we experience pain from time to time at the very least. What you may not realize is that sometimes the pain you feel isn’t necessarily caused by something in the area you feel it. For example, when you have an injury to your hips or pelvis, it can often cause back pain. Due to the proximity of the complex joints of the pelvis to your spine, your body can also interpret your hip/pelvis problem as back pain and your back problem as hip/pelvic pain.

The lumbar region of the spine (lower back) houses all of the nerves that supply feeling and motor control to the entire lower body; from the low back itself to the hips, knees, and down to the tips of your toes. While this area can sustain a lot of abuse, due to the immense amount of movement it is capable of and the stress that our daily lives can put on it, it is also the most susceptible to injury. Here’s a few reasons you may have this hip/back pain connection.

A pinched nerve root at the lumbar spine due to a bulging or herniated disc may result in significant sharp pain along a nerve like the sciatic nerve which runs from the middle of the low back all the way down the back and side of the leg to the foot. Sometimes this pain stops at the buttock and at other times it may shoot all the way down to the toes.

Your posture may also have an effect. This isn’t to say that you need to immediately “fix” your posture as that may not be necessary. What I’m referencing is more so when you begin to exhibit an abnormal-to-you posture, like suddenly sitting all day when you’re used to walking, or crossing your legs a lot when you haven’t before. These seemingly subtle changes may actually result in some significant shifts in the joints of the pelvis and spine, causing pain. If you haven’t had a major shift in how you sit, stand, or walk throughout your day, it may be that your posture has changed due to your pain rather than the other way around. The new posture you’ve adapted may be your body’s way of compensating for an injury or otherwise protecting itself from further damage.

While there is much to this connection between the low back and hips, far more than I can include in this single post, just know that there is an intricate balance between the many structures of this area. Depending on the real problem, you may need massage, exercise, rest, stretching, or it may be best to see your physician. To help you determine what’s really going on and how to move forward, make an appointment and let’s figure it out together so you can get back to doing what you enjoy.

5 Ways To Turn Your Halloween Party Into A Spa Party

It’s that time of year. Fall, family gatherings, fellowship, and food are all things that make the last few months of the year a favorite for so many. Halloween parties are always super fun, but you can always guess what to expect at them. Here are 5 tips to make your Halloween party into a spa party and stand out, while giving yourself some extra TLC in the process.

1) Creepy foot baths:
Call your friends over for foot soaks and scary movies. Then surprise them by adding some creepy fake eyeballs into their foot bath. This is fun, relaxing, and allows you to catch up on some well needed time with friends. Make sure you have yourselves a snack station set up before you begin, it’ll help you to relax during the festivities without interrupting your foot soak.

2) Pumpkin hand treatment:
Something as simple as making an easy DIY sugar scrub while having friends over can help make your party unique. There are hundreds of different recipes to choose from across the internet, but since it’s Halloween, we can’t help but love this pumpkin spice sugar scrub recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub

Follow your sugar scrub up with a vanilla scented lotion, and not only will your hands be smooth and soft, but they will smell divine! If you want to go a step beyond that, you can make extra sugar scrub to send home with your guests along with a recipe that they can recreate.

3) Ghoulish Masks:
Everyone loves downtime that they can use to recharge from a busy month or prepare for a busy season. Face masks can be so relaxing and leave you feeling completely renewed. Invite your friends over for seaweed facials. Not only will this cleanse your skin and relax you, but it’s fun to slather your face with rejuvenating products while enjoying times with friends. Take your Ghoulish face masks party to the next level and buy or make some photo booth signs, letting everyone take pictures to remember the night.

4) Red Wine and Foods:
What would Halloween be without Red Wine (or should we say ‘blood’), and your favorite finger foods. Pinterest is of course one of the best ways to search for new recipes that you wouldn’t normally come across. We’ve searched Pinterest for you to find some easy, fun, and creative recipes you can enjoy at your Halloween Party.

100 Best Halloween Party Foods

5) Nail Station with Decals:
How often is it that you go to a Halloween party that has a nail bar with decals? Go to Walmart or the nearest pharmacy and, stock up on Halloween colors. Orange, black, green, and white will give you plenty of variety. Add in some creepy spider webs, blood drops, or witch hat decals for extra fun and creepiness.

Massage & Depression

Depression is an all-too-common struggle for people all over the globe. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that 350 million people suffer from depression. While there are many treatment options, one you may not have thought of is massage therapy. Massage can decrease muscle tension and ease some of the daily physical stress you may put on your body, but it can also go beyond just making you feel good.
A study from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine¹ found that massage decreases the stress hormone cortisol by an average of 31%. There has been a long-standing association between high cortisol or impaired regulation of cortisol levels and anxiety and depression. Decreasing cortisol and aiding the continued regulation of this hormone can potentially ease some of the symptoms of depression.
This same study also concluded that massage increases the levels of two very important feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, by 28% and 31% respectively. Both of these neurotransmitters play an important role in mood regulation.
Along with these measurable changes within the body, there are also benefits that aren’t so measurable. One of the biggest is the mind-body connection that is enhanced when massage therapy becomes a regular part of your self-care routine. When the brain and nervous system can take the time to calm down, receive plenty of oxygen during the deep breathing a massage can induce, and relish in the sensations associated with the massage – the way the pressure feels as the hands move from one muscle group to another; the pull of a good stretch; the release as a muscle finally lets go – all of these stimulate the brain to perceive the sensations of the body differently, and in a more positive way.
Massage therapy also creates a safe space for positive touch. Touch is a necessary part of being the social creatures we are as humans. A lack of touch can actually have very harsh effects on us, physically and emotionally, but many people have experienced touch in a very negative way, and avoid it as much as possible. However, taking 60 or 90 minutes once a week or once a month to allow yourself to receive positive, safe touch that you may otherwise not receive, can help ease those feelings of discomfort, loneliness, and depression. One study² found that massage therapy supported significant improvement of the psychological and physical well-being of sexual abuse survivors.
So while massage may not be a cure for depression, and it’s not a substitute for medications or therapy, it can play a major role as part of a holistic approach to the treatment of depression.
¹ Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.
Field T1, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C.
² Body-oriented therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: an efficacy study.
Price C1.