Reflexology and the Respiratory System: Take a deep breath!

Did I leave you hypothetically sleep deprived and headachy last month? Bear with me.

Breathing seems like such a simple activity – moving air into and out of our lungs. Did you know we do it about 15,000 times per day? It is so important to our survival it’s only partly under our control. The brain automatically causes our respiratory muscles (diaphragm) to contract. Think of a child threatening to hold its breath!

How we breathe plays a vital role in our well-being. It’s a gas exchange! Oxygen and carbon dioxide switch between the air, lungs, and the blood. Oxygen allows the body to change glucose (a sugar molecule) into carbon dioxide and water. One of the by-products of that reaction is energy. And, our respiratory system has other functions: smelling, vocalization, and cleaning and warming the air we breathe.

One of the first things I notice during a reflexology treatment, is the client’s breathing rhythm changes. The person may take a deep breath and sigh, as these reflexes are being stimulated.

The nervous, endocrine, muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems are intimately involved with the respiratory system whenever we take a breath.

The Parts:

The nose is for both inhalation and filtration of air. It filters using nose hair and mucous secreted by its lining to trap dust and other harmful particles. The nose warms the air and mucous membranes also moisturize the air before it goes to the lungs. Our nasal cavities make olfaction (smelling) possible. I’m concerned by the prevalence of removing nose hair for aesthetics. It’s there for a reason!

The pharynx is basically a connector to the larynx.

The larynx leads to the trachea, sometimes called the windpipe; the air comes down the trachea, splits into two bronchial tubes, which then split into bronchioles, like an upside-down tree root system, which expand into the lungs. This is where the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange take place.

The lungs are made up of tiny sacs called alveoli. Millions of these make up the lungs. The lungs are a spongy organ with a rich blood supply. The expanding and contracting action of the lungs is important for lymphatic drainage. This expansion and contraction acts like a bellows and pumps the lymph. We have a high surface area for the blood to make its gas exchange with the inside air in the surface area within the lungs.

The diaphragm is actually a muscle, but is included in the respiratory system to understand how it works. Located beneath the lungs and above the stomach, it is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest area from the abdominal area and tightens and releases to act as an accelerating pump for breathing.

The hypothetical sleep-deprived, headachy scenario:

You’re not sleeping, so the nervous system is immediately out of whack. Stress and chronic pain are two culprits that often keep us awake at night. Our emotions affect our nervous system. Many people find soothing music, meditation, or journaling helpful.

Amongst the tossing and turning, or lying staring at the ceiling, the endocrine system is trying to release hormones to balance things, but the nervous system isn’t cooperating. Physiologically, the body is stuck in a fight or flight response rather than a rest and repair state.

Chronic pain and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand. Muscles tense and our brain wills them to relax, we get into a vicious circle. I don’t want to get into the use of pain medications here, but soothing soaking baths or foot soaks often help relax tight muscles.

And, I imagine the respiratory system is acting up. In all likelihood, you’re shallow-breathing, rather than taking nice deep, calming breaths, so you might be interested in trying out a breathing exercise.

We haven’t got to them yet, but chances are our Digestive System and Cardiovascular systems aren’t happy either – further contributors to the headache.

Can you see how the body systems relate to and impact each other? Though we’d like to think so, overcoming illness, particularly chronic illness, is never a simple, quick fix.

Next month, take a look at the Cardiovascular system with me.

Warmly,

Brin

 

Reflexology and the Endocrine System: One amazing orchestra!

Hypothetical scenario: You didn’t get enough sleep and wake up with a headache. A glance at the alarm clock tells you you’re already late.

How many of us start the day this way?

This month is about the Endocrine system, a system made up of groups of cells called endocrine glands. These glands secrete chemicals (hormones) directly into the bloodstream.

Hormones influence almost every cell in our body, but different types of cells respond to different hormones.

Hormones regulate mood, growth, physical maturation, mental skills, tissue function, and metabolism. They affect sexual function, reproductive processes, and can cause serious health problems – even death, when the endocrine glands aren’t working properly. Eek, not good!

The pituitary, hypothalamus and pineal glands are located in the centre of the head, located quite close together. The pituitary is often called the master gland and is connected to the brain by an intermediary piece of tissue, like an interlink, called the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is part of the nervous and endocrine systems because it sends out nervous impulses and manufactures hormones. It connects to the pituitary gland and is like the conductor of an orchestra. It regulates and controls the other endocrine glands as if they are the orchestra. It is essential in coordinating the balance and flow of the entire endocrine system.

The pituitary gland produces critical hormones that control various bodily functions. It sends signals to other endocrine glands to stimulate or inhibit their own hormone production. For example, the pituitary gland will release a hormone (adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)) to stimulate cortisol production in the adrenal glands when you’re stressed.

The pineal gland regulates light and dark and seasonal rhythm. Did you know the optic nerve controls the pineal gland? It releases melatonin (think: sleep) and is related to other functions such as calcium metabolism. SAD and depression are connected to the pineal gland. Sufferers often find using a *full spectrum light box helps during low-light winter months.

The thyroid gland is shaped like a large bow-tie at the base of the throat. It governs general metabolic rate. Like the idle in your car, a hyperthyroid you’re burning up a lot of gas; a hypothyroid and you’re in danger of stalling. Along with thyroxin, the thyroid gland also secretes calcitonin. This hormone lowers calcium levels in the blood. The parathyroid glands are embedded like four polka-dots just behind the thyroid gland. They produce a hormone called parathyroid hormone which has the opposite effect of calcitonin. It increases the calcium levels in the blood. These glands also help blood clotting time.

The thymus gland is a dual-function gland. It sits right behind your breastbone and is part of the endocrine and immune systems. It produces thyroxin, triggers and produces t-cells.  It is critical in childhood to build a strong immune response.

The pancreas is another dual-function system. It is an endocrine and digestive organ. As an endocrine gland, it secretes the hormone insulin and glucagon. These are functional in the regulation of blood sugar. Blood sugar in the blood, is like gas in a car. This is the energy source which gives the body its get up and go. If the thyroid gland sets the pace of the idle, this would be like the gas line regulating how much gas is coming in at any given time. We know diabetes and hypoglycemia are two conditions based on imbalances in the pancreas. Diabetes is too little insulin – therefore too high a blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is too much insulin – therefore too low a blood sugar.

The adrenal glands (there are two) sit like little caps on top of the kidneys. They release the hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are important hormones for the fight or fight response. This is what regulates our back-up system in relationship to stress or threat. It’s really an emergency system, and of course in today’s high-paced life, I find many people have a lot of sensitivity on the adrenal gland reflex. Cortisol helps to balance the adrenaline. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory. The adrenals also function in water balance, by having trophic hormones along with the kidneys.

The ovaries and testes are dual function endocrine and reproductive organs. The ovaries and the testes are what secrete the majority of estrogen and progesterone in the female and testosterone in the male.

As the second of nine body systems, I imagine it’s become clear — we’re complicated beings!

It’s not uncommon when receiving a reflexology treatment to find the Endocrine System reflexes are tender.

Here’s a great exercise if you’re feeling anxious? Stressed? Try thymus tapping – it’s easy and you can do this anytime, anywhere! Tap the middle of your chest with your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th fingers or thump with your fist – think Tarzan! Do this for about twenty seconds and breathe deeply in and out. You may feel a little tingling or a subtle settled feeling.

One system can’t work without the others. Next month we look at the Respiratory System.

Warmly,

Brin

* Full spectrum light box link goes to the Mayo Clinic – Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box.

Stressed out? Reflexology and the Nervous System. Why it works.

The human body is a remarkable thing. I think we take the magic of it for granted. We wouldn’t function at all if it weren’t for the Nervous System.

Composed of the Central Nervous System and Peripheral Nervous System, the nervous system runs the body. There are also the special senses: the eyes, ears, and skin. They give us messages from the outside.

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain is protected by the skull; the spinal cord is protected by the spine. We know the brain controls: speech, hearing, sight, and emotion. The hypothalamus – located in the brain, is an interlink between the nervous and endocrine systems. It connects to the pituitary gland and plays a key role in maintaining body homeostasis – balance. I believe our body always tries to return to a state of balance.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is both voluntary and autonomic: made up of nerves and their branches that start in the brain or spinal cord, leave them and go to other parts of the body. Vertebrae protect the spinal cord. The vertebrae get larger as they move down the spine, this makes sense as there’s more of us to support. Between each vertebra is a disc. Pairs of nerves exit each vertebrae. The voluntary part of the peripheral nervous system is all the nerves that go to and from the muscles that you have some control over. The autonomic part of the peripheral nervous system is all the nerves that travel to your organs and glands. We have little conscious control over these nerves.

The peripheral nervous system contains 12 pairs of nerves starting in the brain going to structures of the head and neck and 31 pairs of spinal nerves starting in the spinal cord travelling to the rest of the body. The peripheral nerves exit the spinal cord and run around the body, like veins and arteries. There are motor and sensory nerves. Sensory nerves move in the direction of the brain, motor nerves move away from the brain.

Most of us experience a pinched sciatic nerve from time-to-time. The biggest nerve; the size of a man’s thumb at its largest point, it carries a major portion of signals from the sacral plexus to the legs, exits the spinal column and feeds the legs and branches off. Where it leaves the spinal column it is prone to compression and this is often the sciatic pain people experience. In a reflexology treatment we work four reflexes specific to the sciatic nerve.

A plexus is a bundle of nerves. There are many of them throughout the body. The solar plexus, in the middle of the diaphragm, is one most of us are familiar with. We’ve all felt, in a moment of shock, a little punch in the gut. This is the solar plexus firing as it sets off the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.

Imagine you are reading a book in your favourite chair and suddenly a door slams shut.

The sympathetic nervous system revs the system up — moves us into fight or flight (state of stress), increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and moves blood to the extremities. It stops the digestive process. This is a basic response to threat.

I think a major problem with our culture is we are stuck in sympathetic nervous system overload. We don’t go into this state as an occasional thing, but are rather living in this state 24 hours a day, and are showing stress-related disease. As an example: We wake in the morning, haven’t even got out of bed and we are already going through our to do list for the day. This isn’t natural.

The parasympathetic nervous system slows the system down. A state of rest and repair, this system lowers our heart rate and blood pressure. This is the optimum time for us to efficiently digest our food. It should be clear to us — in this hectic world, our digestive systems aren’t working properly. It’s no wonder many people have digestive issues.

During a reflexology treatment, the practitioner focuses on the brain, head, hypothalamus, eyes, ears, inner ear, solar plexus, and sciatic nerve reflexes.

The beauty of a reflexology treatment is it immediately switches a person’s nervous system from sympathetic mode (fight or flight), to parasympathetic mode (rest and repair). This occurs during each reflexology session.

As a reflexologist, I notice the person’s breathing slow down, they may sigh, feel sleepy, their mood may change from one of agitation to one of peacefulness. This should be normal. The body wants to be in a state of homeostasis – balance. Unfortunately, this delicious calm feeling is rare.

If you are unable to have a reflexology treatment, a few other ways you can support your nervous system and reduce stress, are: laugh, smile, exercise, meditate, breathing exercises, and walking in nature.

Throughout my life experiences; broken leg, multiple surgeries, recent wrist trauma, stress — of all these things, what fills me with awe, is the resilience of the human body.

The nervous system is intimately linked to the endocrine system which I will talk about next time.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences and hope you’ll share with me in the comments section.

Warmly,

Brin

New series!

I’m beginning a new series: The Nine Body Systems & Reflexology.

We have nine body systems:

  1. Nervous System
  2. Endocrine System
  3. Respiratory System
  4. Cardiovascular System
  5. Digestive System
  6. Urinary or Renal System
  7. Immune/Lymphatic System
  8. Reproductive System
  9. Musculoskeletal System

Each month I’ll explain a system and how reflexology can facilitate positive change.

Stay tuned!

Warmly,

Brin

Fall. A time for introspection.

A first time client often inquires why specific reflexes are tender. My response: in and of itself, this tender reflex today doesn’t mean anything. One hour ago it might not have been tender, and one hour from now, it might not be tender. Our bodies are changing, moment by moment. It’s over a number of treatments we often see tender reflexes consistently show up. Then we can become curious and wonder if there might be more going on.

If I apply my words to the recent experience with my broken wrist, I understand firsthand, no pun intended, how we are constantly changing and evolving in our understanding of ourselves and the world.

I am a doer. People who know me might laugh and amend it to say I am driven, but the truth is I have always been busy on a project of some sort. June 1 changed that. I came to an utter and complete full stop.

It was necessary for me to learn to do everything using one hand. This opened my understanding and compassion for people with disabilities in a new way – my previous experience being my recovery from my motorcycle accident. Unable to do the simplest task, I learned to fold my laundry using my teeth and one hand, hang clothes on the clothesline, put in my hearing aids – basically learning to do everything anew. Things took forever to get done. The saving grace was my surgeon allowed me to have a moulded removable wrist brace rather than a cast. I firmly believe I wouldn’t have my current mobility if I had a standard cast.

The first weeks I was frustrated. Tired, cranky, and in pain. I was unable to live my usual life. This served to be the foundation for profound self-analysis. I learned to adapt. I used my elbow to hold things down so I could chop or peel vegetables. I used my knees to hold jars so I could open them. And I discovered healing is exhausting. I learned to ask for help.

By July I found myself in a well-worn routine of lounging on the porch doing my wrist exercises, massaging my hand, fingers and thumb, giving myself mini-treatments – for hours on end. Roo, Shar-Pei, at my side and Harold, tuxedo cat, in my lap. My world narrowed. I reveled in the delicious summer heat, bird song, smells from the flowers in the garden. All doing their thing without me. I distinctly remember saying out loud, “I give up. I surrender.” I stopped fighting the need, that inner drive that fires us up and makes us push ourselves to do things and achieve things. The societal voice that says we must always be busy to be worthwhile members of society. I shifted from a view of lack to one of opportunity.

On August 24, the surgeon gave me the go ahead to resume light duties. That day I gave a treatment to a friend. Over the next several weeks my strength returned, and my loving and joy of giving reflexology treatments re-affirmed that I am doing what I am meant to be doing.

I knew however, I needed to find a balance of quiet restful, healing time, and the times when I need to be busy and working. I made the decision to focus on giving quality treatments to my clients and to give up teaching. At least for the time being. I didn’t make that decision lightly.

You might wonder why I have shared this with you, and the truth is, I’ve watched the traffic on my website over the years and which pages are viewed the most. I strive to be open and honest. The Health Series has been a fun and enlightening year-long project which I believe you have enjoyed.

Supporting our health and well-being should always be our number one priority.

My question to you is: How do you balance your life and support you health?

I appreciate, you – my clients and students, and your emails.

With loving and warmth,

Brin

The Health Series: #9 – The Yoga of Mind (Part 1): How The 5 Elements Affect Our Mind & Emotions

The Health Series: #9
THE YOGA OF MIND (PART 1):
HOW THE 5 ELEMENTS EFFECT OUR MIND & EMOTIONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Amanda Ings, International Tantra Yoga & Meditation teacher based on the west coast of Canada.

Amanda’s been leading classes, workshops, retreats & online courses for over 10 years, and “teaches with a true passion and a great authenticity. As a student, she is bound to inspire you!” Amanda’s offerings are rich in the philosophy and experiential practice of non-duality, delivered with a teaching style that is grounded, deeply somatic, spontaneous, & organic. She has a soft, gentle, maternal & welcoming nature, yet her presence summons an immediate embodiment of your own presence, power, and wisdom. “Her compassionate and peaceful presence are a deep embodiment of the tantric teachings she shares so beautifully,” says a past student. When she’s not studying with her teacher, Yogini adept Maa Parvathi Nanda Nath, or teaching, you’ll find her communing with one of her other 3 main loves in life: being with children, frolicking in the forest, and spending time with her two gentle giant dogs!

THE YOGA OF MIND (PART 1): HOW THE 5 ELEMENTS EFFECT OUR MIND & EMOTIONS

I could sit here and speak to you for days about the physical benefits of Yoga – but, that’s certainly been (over)done already, right? Yes. In the western world, in all our preoccupation with looking good & feeling great, we have surreptitiously exploited a 7000+ year old spiritual path to moksha (liberation) and conveniently packaged it into a handy-dandy prescription of yoga postures for the physical body. Now… while I am all for looking good and feeling great… this is just the very tip of the iceberg in the conversation about the deeper benefits of Yoga – mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

Today, I am going to focus on one aspect of Yoga, the ‘yoga of mind’ (mind – you know, that thing you think you are?) Mind, with all its thoughts, mental formations and emotions. For the purpose of this article, let us define the word “emotion”.

What are emotions?

  1. a) emotions are, simply put, thoughts that we feel
  2. b) e-motions = energy-in-motion, meaning that emotions are not part of a spectrum swinging from positive to negative. They are neither good nor bad. They are merely forces of energy in motion. (It’s our personal identification with them that gives them connotations of being ‘desirable or undesirable’ expressions of our experience.)

What are thoughts, and where do they come from?

If you’ve ever attended a mainstream meditation class, or even your local yoga class, you’ve likely heard this before: “Let your thoughts pass by like clouds passing through the sky.” (And you’ve probably thought, “Yeah, right. Like that’s so easy.”) The thing is – it actually is that easy! In the sense that if I can actually catch the moment of a thought as it arises, and trace it back to where it came from, I find that it came from nowhere – or, from ‘the sky of your mind’. Moreso, if I watch that same thought disappear, rather than ‘jumping on that thought train and running with it’ (into a whole stream of thoughts connected to it), I will find that it goes back where it came from, which is, seemingly, nowhere. All of this is a very quick synopsis to point us in the direction of a very fundamental and important truth: our thoughts arise from space, and dissolve back into space (if we let them.) This is revealing of an underlying intrinsic quality to the mind – it is comprised completely of space. It is the sky. From this space, thoughts arise, and thoughts dissolve. If you were to sit long enough, or simply remain in a meditative state while engaged in whatever activity you are doing at the time, eventually, there would be some experience that points you to this implicit spacious nature of your mind and its consequent thoughts or ‘weather patterns’.

Now, while I’m an advocate in the modern health industry and current spiritual environment that we are not broken (thus, there is nothing here to ‘fix’) – if we were to point to some of the basic occupational hazards that come with having a mind, the main one is the mind’s capacity to trick us into thinking that we are it. It does so by building up thought structures and belief systems so sturdy that we eventually come to ‘live in’ them. These thoughts and beliefs become our house – they are the walls we look at each day, and the windows we peer out of as we view the world around us. Because we spend so much time in this little inner house we’ve built, we naturally start to identify with our thoughts. This perpetuates them, of course. What began as one thought (stimulated from our 5 senses interacting with the peripheral world) then gets propagated as true, and is used as a reference point for our experience of our ‘self’, and it goes on and on from there; each thought propagating the next in a never ending stream of thinking, thinking, thinking. Each thought telling us in some way or another that we exist in the ways we think we do, and that we are the mental constructs we make up. Without concentrated effort and mindful enquiry, we miss the little moments of space inside ourselves. We miss the little gaps, the spacious bridges between the thoughts; the moments that point us back to our intrinsic nature. This ‘house’ is really just sheltering a pure and empty space of consciousness itself, or a basic underlying formlessness, which is a very alive field of consciousness that gets covered up with thoughts, ideas, and concepts.

What is emptiness?

This is where all the zen, tao, Tibetan buddhism, Tantra and other non-dual traditions come in with their impressive body of teachings on ‘emptiness’. Let us for now define ‘emptiness’ not as nothing, but as no-thing – unidentified, void of subject and object; vast, and full of potential; formless, yet ever-ready to manifest into some form or another, into some expression of its potentiality. So, from here, we could say that our cardinal nature is one of emptiness (and if this isn’t your everyday experience of yourself: firstly, you aren’t alone! And secondly, bear with me… we’re getting to that.) So now, our groundwork has been laid.

However, if you’re anything like me (and you’re a human, so I’m assuming you are), this basic ground of my being, this ‘emptiness’, is not always how I experience myself. More accurate would be to include the sensational array of experiences through which I gather and integrate my sense of self: through experiences of great loss and great joy, times of deep loneliness and profound connection, moments of spectacular rage to sharp crystal clarity, passageways of great arrogance and pride to deep humility and generosity, to moments of debilitating ignorance, wakefulness, and absolute love. All of these brilliant displays of our emotional range give shape, form, definition and volition to the rudimentary emptiness at lies the core of our character.

Yoga falls under a wider branch of ancient study and practice called Tantra. And from a ‘tantric psychology’ point of view, the vast array of emotional experiences we have the capacity to feel arises from the play of the 5 elements (earth, water, air, fire, & space), at the level of the mind. Each of these elements co-arises from one most primary element: space. So, just as the thoughts arise from the ‘sky’ or fundamental spaciousness of the mind, so too do the 5 elements spontaneously and simultaneously co-arise from the space element. Each of these elements serves to bring forth the empty field of potentiality of our minds into the manifest realm through our life experiences. Through each splendid display of emotion, we are somehow wonderfully and mysteriously pointed back to the space of free energy and vastness from which the display arose from. Remember, emotions are just energy in motion, so re-cognizing what our emotions are made of and where they are coming from also means the pathway back to accessing our endless well of free energy. However, this isn’t the only possibility. If we do not consciously work hand-in-hand with our mental and emotional bodies, that source of free energy gets blocked – like a kink in an otherwise very powerfully flowing garden hose. Pressure builds up while perspective breaks down. It is so easy to get lost in our emotions; over-identifying with them, perpetuating them, building stories around them, and then crafting tall towers to protect those stories that protect the identities we have that are based upon our emotional experiences… rather than seeing them for what they truly are – movements of pure energy!

How do the 5 elements show up mentally and emotionally in the body-mind?

So, let’s now dive into the psycho-emotional qualities and expressions that each element gives rise to in the mind…

The earth element gives the mind its stability. In its wisdom aspects, when the energy of the earth element is unobstructed and unimpeded within us, it expresses as equanimity and generosity. We know we have enough, and there is an inner orientation of feeling supported. We are grounded, nourished and sustained, and from this place, we are able to give freely to others. When the earth energy is obstructed (think like an earthquake, having ‘the ground pulled out from beneath you’), this energy comes out as arrogance and pride, being competitive and judgmental, or as greed, materialism, neediness, and fears of not having enough and not being enough; feeling unworthy.

The air element gives the mind its definition and movement. It tells us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, when its energy is moving freely. When this internal energy becomes obstructed, it moves much like the physical aspect of the air element in its most obstructive force; like a hurricane, blowing and spiralling around the same terrain over and over and over. We know this experience emotionally as feelings of jealously, paranoia, extreme busy-ness, perfectionism, and having to do everything ourselves all the time so that ‘it gets done right’ and so we can be ‘in control’. By contrast, if the air element energy is healthily functioning in the mind, we are able to trust the free and spontaneous flow of life and our actions within it. Feelings of joy, spontaneity, creativity, accomplishment and self-confidence become accessible to us because the mind isn’t busy trying to validate itself with its cyclical thought processes, making us doubt our own and others’ actions and intents.

The water element gives the mind its permeability and penetrative qualities. It’s what gives us our ability to see or not see our realities clearly; it gives us clear-seeing, mirror-like awareness, or blinding rage and fear. One raindrop upon a calm surface of water completely distorts the reflection of the sky above – in this way, so too do I have a tendency to see reality as a reflection of how I am rather than how it is. And much like the actual physical qualities of the water element, when the waters of the mind are calm, we can peer down into them and see with depth, vision and clarity. We receive insights and intuitions. Similarly, we are able to be soft and fluid in ourselves, and vulnerable with others – we can reveal to ourselves and others’ the depths of our being and inner experiences. There is an intrinsic stillness that we can touch inside ourselves. If the energy of the water element obstructs, however, our emotional energy either ‘goes under’ (i.e. diving to the bottom, gets pushed down, avoidance techniques), ‘rages’ (i.e. like a tsunami), or freezes (i.e. giving silent treatment, ignoring, not seeing/not looking in order to ‘get to the bottom of things’). This results in emotional expressions of pervasive sadness, depression, unhealthy (unboundary-ed) anger or rage, hate towards self or other, defensiveness & hardened boundaries, avoidance techniques, and fears of always being attacked or having to be on the attack; fears around not being safe.

The fire element inside gives us our liveliness, radiance, and magnetizing qualities. When this element burns brightly and is healthily sustained in the body-mind, we hold the wisdom principles of compassion, passion and connection – belongingness. We are able to burn in such a way that our inner fires remain ‘tended to’ and provide a warm, steady source of light, warmth and comfort for ourselves and others. Our fires create a warm embrace for others to take refuge in. We are inclusive of others, have healthy attachments and appropriate boundaries in relationship (to anything). On the other hand, if this energy force goes unregulated in us, it begins to burn, burn, burn, and consume everything in its sight. This manifests in our emotional realm as addiction, seduction, lust, endless need for stimulation, distraction, fantasy or drama, or, feelings of loneliness, rejection, isolation and disconnect. If the inner fires aren’t maintained with healthy boundaries, we simply get burned out. Fears of abandonment, being alone, or being rejected may arise from here.

The space element, being the element that all the other elemental expressions co-arise from (and dissolve back into), holds the wisdom of unity, absolute consciousness & of vast, impersonal love; feelings of being an intrinsic, irremovable part of a whole. When this element functions freely and its energy is unobstructed, we are awake, aware, connected and integrated in ourselves. We can hold the dynamism of life without becoming overwhelmed by its many respective individually functioning parts, and we can assimilate the greater mystery of life with wonder, relevancy and absorption. There is a prevailing quality of omniscience to our being-ness; not that we ‘know’ everything, but an inner state of knowing that we will know what we need to know, when we need to know it. There’s a deeply subtle yet central connection to the greater web of life, and feeling our place within it. When this element ‘goes out’, and its energy becomes impeded, interrupted, stuck or blocked, our fundamental ‘knowing-ness’ or remembrance also gets blocked; and there is a fundamental denial or ignorance, a lack of willingness to ‘see the greater picture’. Or, perhaps more commonly experienced expressions of this basic desire to remain ignorant, ‘not to see’, can be: overwhelm, complete emotional shut down, feeling fragmented, disassociated, disembodied, extreme paranoia, numbness, or the inability to feel and hold all the parts – i.e. ‘it’s all just too much’, or, feeling spaced out, unlocalized and disoriented, or experiencing extreme confusion.

The path of the Yoga of mind…

The path of the yoga of mind is to follow our emotional patterns back to their source, to trust them as a path all on their own, rather than see them as something we must avoid, nullify, dampen, change, or be rid of all together. The 5 elements together create the impeccably perfect range of this human experience. Each element holds a primary wisdom that reflects us back to our innate state of unity within. Earth gives rise to equanimity; water gives rise to stillness. Air gives rise to joy, while fire illuminates our capacity for deep compassion. Space gives rise to wisdom itself – of which the equanimity, stillness, joy, and compassion are all a reflection of.

Following our emotional patterns along this Tantric Yogic system with the 5 elements helps us to map out ‘the weather patterns’ of our mind at any given moment. Is there an inner tsunami about to happen, with fear and anger crashing in in waves, or are the waters still and calm, giving rise to clear-seeing? Is the inner ground trembling and shaking, giving way to feelings of insecurity, grasping and poverty-mentalities, or is the inner ground steady and solid, giving stamina, support, and ease? Is the inner fire burning in a balanced way, giving radiancy, warmth and an interestedness in all of life, or is it burning so low that there is no warmth, no comfort, and no connection to be found here? Or, is it burning so out of control that it consumes everything in its periphery with its bottomless needs and desires?

We can follow our emotions to trace the dance of the mind, and how our inner landscape – that which is ultimately formless – is brought into form through this play of the elements. This teaching would tell us that this ‘play’ between the formless and the form is merely about experience and being in relationship. The open field of consciousness that is spacious, timeless, empty, formless and full of potential, wishes to experience itself. And so it gives rise to the 5 elements, which give the us our solidity (earth), our fluidity (water), our definition (air), and our radiancy (fire).

Ultimately, this understanding can heal a fundamental riff, the one that thought perpetuates. Entering and absorbing fully into the free energy of our emotions helps point us back to our spaciousness; our inner presence and vastness. As these experiences increase, the experiences of feeling small, limited and separate from the whole decrease. The thoughts are needed less and less as references points to remind myself I exist, and what remains is a beautiful play between space and its devoted allies, the elements. They dance together in a grace-filled dance that reminds us that in fact, we have come here to dance! We arise from a field of unified consciousness, and we dissolve back into that field. This is the yoga of mind – to foster the growth in ourselves of an experiential-knowing (knowing that is grounded by actual experience) that the boundaries of self the mind creates do not actually exist. Over time, this allows the mind to rest, by virtue of its very nature, while enjoying the magnificent play and display of the 5 elements as they ‘dance in the space’.

If you are interested in learning more about this the path of the Yoga of Mind, the author, Amanda Ings, is offering her 7-month intensive online program for a 3rd year, beginning on Jan 1, 2018: “The Yoga of Mind: 5 Elements & Emotions Mandala.” Go to amandaings.com to find out more, book a private Skype consult with Amanda, or email her at belight@amandaings.com to discuss if the program is a good fit for you!

Thank you, Amanda!

You can reach Amanda the following ways:

Website: www.amandaings.com
Email: belight@amandaings.com
Facebook: Amanda Lynne Ings / Amanda Ings: Yoga, Meditation, Tantra
Instagram: Amanda Ings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Health Series: #8 Reflexology Therapy During the Childbearing Year

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Linda Baril, RCRT/Instructor/Teacher Trainer (RAC), Childbirth Educator/Doula, to you this month.

Linda was both my Foot Reflexology Instructor and my Foot Reflexology Teacher Trainer. She has been a practicing reflexologist since 1992, a teacher of foot reflexology and a childbirth educator since 1996. Linda has been a practicing Doula for over thirty years. You can reach her at: (250) 726-5300 or casita.linda@hotmail.com.

Reflexology Therapy during the Childbearing Year

I can’t think of anything more calming and supportive during pregnancy than receiving a professional reflexology treatment! Pregnancy is a time of profound transformation, both in body and in spirit. Many emotions will be experienced during this time; joy, excitement, fear, trepidation and, perhaps, stress. Along with the joy of welcoming a baby into the family there may be financial or relationship challenges. If you have an opportunity to work with a childbearing woman, you could bring a great deal of comfort and support to her.

I am often asked if there are contraindications to working with a woman during her pregnancy. I would like to offer you some guidelines that will be helpful to you and to your client.

First, I would suggest that you do not give treatment to a woman during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a tenuous time …. typically, if there is a problem with the pregnancy this is the time period in which a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) could occur. There has been a great deal of discussion over whether or not reflexology could trigger a miscarriage without a definitive conclusion. There is, however, a very real risk of it being perceived as having contributed to a miscarriage. I don’t wish to put myself or the pregnant woman in the very difficult position of questioning whether or not something I did may have caused this very sad event. I always inform my pregnant clients that I will begin their treatments once they have passed 12 weeks of gestation.

As therapists, we never work on a client with suspected DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). The danger is that a thrombus (clot) could dislodge and travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. This is a life-threatening condition. DVT is painful and the woman will likely have a diagnosis from her doctor. If you encounter swelling, redness and deep pain in the lower leg, send her to her caregiver immediately. Do not work on her.

With the growing number of women undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization) it is likely you will encounter this issue in one of your clients. While undergoing IVF treatment, the woman will be under a strict hormone-altering protocol that is necessary to ‘prime’ the uterus for receiving the implanted embryo. As we know, reflexology is an excellent therapy to restore hormonal balance… this is one situation where this is NOT the goal. I don’t work on IVF patients as I don’t want to disrupt the very delicate artificially induced balance that has been created by the medical personnel.

Finally, when giving reflexology therapy to a pregnant woman, avoid working the pituitary and reproductive reflexes. It is acceptable to gently pass over these reflexes but avoid focused pressure on these areas. The pituitary is responsible for releasing the hormone oxytocin which may cause uterine contractions. This will become appropriate as she reaches full term but not prior to that.

These guidelines are meant to encourage you to work with pregnant women under most circumstances. The relaxation and hormonal balancing that are the result of a treatment can make a great difference in her experience of pregnancy and better prepare her for the transformation into motherhood.

If you wish to learn more about assisting women through the childbearing year, please consider attending my 18-hour workshop Assisting Women Through the Childbearing Year. We look at techniques (reflex and acupressure point plus much more) that are beneficial to women during pregnancy, labour & delivery and postpartum.

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.

Linda Baril
Ecobirthing – Bringing it Back to Natural

May, 2017

 

 

 

The Health Series: #7 Gardening Your Life

Welcome Verna Gregson, a part-time and temporary resident of planet earth, to this month’s Health Series!

Gardening Your Life

We all love to garden. We enjoy seeing the plants grow and flourish, the flowers bloom in their radiant glory and the foliage become healthy, vigorous and lush. We cherish the renewal and rejuvenation of life as our garden moves from one season to another, regularly revitalizing itself and its purpose. To assist our garden in this transformative process, we cut away the dead areas that have not survived the rigors of winter’s cold or summer’s heat.   We carefully inspect the foliage to ensure it is strong and healthy and, when we find shoots that have struggled too long or too far from their center, we lovingly cut them back and allow the plant’s energy to return to its core and foster growth closer to its own heart. We assess the shape of the plant and the pattern of its growth to ensure it is moving in a direction that is safe, strong and appropriate for its own wellbeing. When we see areas of deviation or misdirection, we gently reorient our garden’s growth to a more positive path.

Perhaps we should apply this same gardening philosophy to our own lives. Regularly we should examine our own life process and remove old elements that are no longer vibrant and have lost their purpose for us. We should check for items or behaviours in our personal journey that have ceased to be important or have moved away from our primary focus. They may be draining energy or sapping our vitality and, by removing them, we can concentrate more vigorously on those items that foster and encourage positive growth. Also, through quiet contemplation and reflection, we might allow ourselves to observe the shape and direction our lives have taken, thereby determining if we are moving on a course that is safe, strong and appropriate for our own wellbeing. If not, we can make changes. Think of your life and its journey as a garden and tend it with loving care.

Verna Gregson
April, 2017

Reflexology as pain management

If you’ve read my bio you know reflexology is part of my monthly pain management program. For those who haven’t read my bio, you can click Here.

I experience reflexology as a modality which immediately drops me into the parasympathetic, or rest and repair, mode. This is the opposite of the sympathetic mode; known as the fight or flight response. Due to our hectic lifestyles, I believe most of us reside in the fight or flight mode.

During a reflexology treatment, my breathing slows, I become calmer, I experience my muscles soften and relax, particularly my neck and shoulder muscles. Tension causing pain and worries drop away. I’m filled with a sense of peace and well-being.

I am allowing my body to do what comes naturally. That is: return to a state of homeostasis, or balance.

Reflexology is more than a simple foot massage.

A reflexology treatment is a specific sequence performed on reflexes corresponding to every organ, part, and gland of the body. A treatment improves circulation, assists the lymphatic/immune system, reduces inflammation, and promotes a deep sense of well-being doubly fostered by a sense of trust and connection via touch with the practitioner.

My friend, and fellow practitioner, Suzanne, gives me my monthly treatment. We usually go for lunch afterward. She delights watching me fade. A term I use when my body is saying, “Enough! I need to go lie down for a while – now!” Harold Tuxedo Cat and Rupert Sharpei love my reflexology treatment days. We all have a delicious restorative afternoon nap. This downtime further enhances the reflexology treatment.

What monthly pain management program(s) do you have? What does downtime mean to you, and how do you experience downtime? You can post your remarks on the Comments/Q&A/Videos page.

I await Friday with anticipation. It’s my monthly reflexology treatment; an integral part of my health regime. Whoop!

Warmly,

Brin