• Cleanse the Body: Lymph Drainage for Detoxification

    Cathleen McCauley L.M.T.

    By Cathleen McCauley, LMT

    At Pulling Down the Moon, we often advise clients on ways to clear the body of toxicity. Detoxification helps eliminate harmful substances in your body, boosts your body’s systems to function properly and optimally, and enhances your body’s ability to handle the toxins of every day life.

    Pulling Down the Moon’s Cleanse the Body massage session is one way to assist you in detoxification. The session incorporates lymph drainage massage to stimulate the lymphatic system, purify the body and build immunity. It helps prepare your body before attempting pregnancy or beginning fertility treatments. And in between treatments or after a miscarriage, lymph massage helps to clear your body of old medications and hormones.

    The Lymphatic System

    I like to describe the lymphatic system as your body’s garbage collector and filtration system. A network of organs, nodes, ducts, and vessels, the lymphatic system produces a substance called lymph and transports it from tissues to the bloodstream. As lymph circulates the body, it absorbs fluid, waste products, dead cells, bacteria, viruses, fats, and proteins and promotes the production of immune cells. Working closely with the circulatory system, it delivers nutrients, oxygen and hormones to the body’s tissue.

    When a client experiences poor health or stress, eats a poor diet, takes medications or is surrounded by chemicals, pollution or free radicals, the lymph system may become overtaxed, sluggish or stagnant. As toxic buildup occurs in your body, it may become difficult for your body to balance hormones, build immunity and create energy.

    Lymphatic Drainage Technique

    Unlike the circulatory system, which uses the heart to pump blood through the arteries and veins, the lymph system does not have a central pump. It does, however, have minor contractile ability with a “pulse” of one to 30 beats per minute.  Muscle contraction─ through movement like exercise-and diaphragmatic or belly breathing are the key methods for pushing lymph through the body; light massage techniques also acts as a pump to stimulate the lymphatic system.

    During the Cleanse the Body massage session, a series of light, repetitive movements are used to encourage lymph fluid to flow through the system. The technique kick-starts the removal of waste and toxicity and delivers nutritive substances and hormones to your body. By promoting lymph flow to the nodes, filtration and purification occurs enhancing liver function, building the immune system and increasing fluid movement to and from organs and tissues.

    The Client Experience

    Often, clients say they feel very little happening when they receive a lymphatic drainage, especially those clients who typically receive deep massage treatments.  But shortly after the session begins, clients are lulled into a deep state of relaxation by the light and rhythmic nature of the work.

    Each client’s response to lymphatic drainage differs depending on the body’s individual toxicity levels. Some clients feel a deep sense of relaxation; others experience a burst of energy; and a handful of clients may experience fatigue or mild flu-like symptoms. These are normal responses that may last up to two days. Drinking extra water can help to eliminate toxins and flush the system.

    For more information about the Cleanse the Body massage session or the benefits of lymph drainage, please contact me at cathleen@pullingdownthemoon.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

    References

    Osborn, K. (2005). Lymph Massage, Armoring the Immune System. Retrieved May 30, 2011 from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/937/Lymph-Massage

    Rattray, F; Ludwig, L. (2000). Clinical Massage Therapy: Understanding, Assessing and Treating Over 70 Conditions. Toronto, Talus Incorporated.

    Shier, D.; Butler, J; Lewis R. (2007). Hole’s Human Anatomy and Physiology, 11th Ed. New York, McGraw-Hill.

    West, Z. (2011). Massage, Manual Lymphatic Drainage. Retrieved May 30, 2011 from http://www.zitawest.com/area.php?section=14&item=88

  • It Takes a Village

    My husband and I started trying to conceive right away after our July 2009 wedding due to my severe case of uterine fibroids. We jumped right into fertility treatments after an initial surgery to remove the fibroids. It has now been almost two years. I have undergone two more surgeries and we have had 4 failed IVF cycles. Upon the recommendation of our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Angie Beltsos, of Fertility Centers of Illinois(FCI), we decided to pursue gestational surrogacy as a way to bring our biological child into our family.

    This was not a decision that we took lightly. I still remember the time period between our third and fourth IVF cycle when we started to look into surrogacy in case it became our “plan B”. We met with an Infertility Consultant named Mindy Berkson, of Lotus Blossom Consulting. I will never forget that day. As we rode down the elevator from her office, my husband said that there was no way we could ever afford this. I remember crying the entire drive home. I knew it would be an expensive process. It can range between $60,000-$100,000, but I wanted and needed to find a way to make it work. Throughout the course of our fourth and final IVF cycle, my husband and I grew closer than ever and talked a lot about “plan B” We came to the agreement that we would figure out a way to pay for the surrogacy process.

    When our final IVF cycle was not successful, I immediately began researching financial assistance for family building. In all of my Internet searching, I found that there are some varying options for couples without insurance or those that choose adoption, but nothing for couples that choose to build their family through surrogacy. I did, however; come across an event called Birdies for Babies that FCI had sponsored the previous year. Birdies for Babies is an annual golf outing that was started by Todd and Melissa Trader to raise money for a couple that has to pay out-of-pocket for fertility treatments. I immediately contacted the Traders to find out if this event might be able to help us raise money for the surrogacy process.

    One thing that I have come to learn throughout this journey is that the infertility community is very inclusive and supportive to all. The Traders were no exception. After several emails back and forth sharing our fertility journeys, we realized that we did not qualify for the annual outing. However, the Traders said that they would be happy to help us plan our own golf outing. Since both of them are in the golf business, they would be able to guide us and give us the tools necessary to plan a successful event. And so the July Charity Birdies for Babies Golf Outing was born.

    The past two months have been occupied by sending out fliers, sponsorship letters and donation requests. My husband and I have been truly overwhelmed by the amount of support and positive feedback we have received thus far. So many people (family, friends and complete strangers) have stepped up to the plate to help us gain support and spread the word. Throughout the course of our fundraising efforts, I have made some wonderful new connections with the doctors at FCI. Dr. Beltsos has been supportive from the moment she found out that we were going to have our own golf outing. She is helping us with the planning and promoting of our event. Another doctor at FCI, Eve Feinberg, who I have recently gotten to know is running a half marathon in June and has offered to dedicate her run to us and use her race to fundraise for our cause. You can visit her fundraising site at http://evefeinberg.chipin.com/katie-and-greg-obrien.

    It is amazing to see the support that those around you are able to give when they are called upon. It truly will take a village to bring our child into the world.

  • Moving Meditation Practice for Fertility – The Dance of Shiva

    by Beth Heller, MS RYT

    The first time I experienced Shiva Nata, or the Dance of Shiva (DOS), was in 2002 when Andrey Lappa, a visiting yoga master from the Ukraine, introduced this practice to the Chicago yoga scene.  At the time I thought it was very interesting and exotic, but with Andrey leaving town there was not much opportunity to study the system so I never continued with practice.

    Flash forward to 2011.   Out of the blue, our friend Neil Keleher sent a message from Taiwan where he practices and teaches DOS to ask whether Tami and I had considered sharing the Dance of Shiva with our students at Pulling Down the Moon.  Neil had studied Shiva Nata extensively with Andre in Chicago back in the day, and had continued to work with it in his personal practice these many years.  Neil was finding that this practice repeatedly helped his students move past stuck points into more positive life situations that aligned with their heart’s purpose.  In essence, Neil suggested, the Dance of Shiva was helping to “birth” his students’ intentions.  Needless to say  I was intrigued.

    Symbolically this practice is spot on for fertility.  In the Hindu pantheon Shiva is one third of the Trimurti, the primary aspects of the divine represented by Brahama (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the Destroyer).  In this tradition, Shiva governs the shedding of old patterns, structures and beliefs to make room for new life-affirming directions.  Much of the deep work we do at the Moon comes through re-evaluating the habits and beliefs our students have brought with them to the point in time in which they are experiencing crisis (infertility).  The techniques we use at Pulling Down the Moon – yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, therapeutic massage and nutrition – work to make us aware of patterns of harmony and disharmony in our lives; to consciously choose what we want to keep and what we want to discard.  On a visual level the symbolic connection of Shiva to fertility is even more obvious.  Shiva is often represented as a lingham and his partner Shakti is represented as a yoni.  They are often depicted together as a divine representation of procreative energy.

    So what is the Dance of Shiva?  Basically it is a set of movement patterns that you learn that becomes a form of moving meditation.  It looks like the love-child of yoga and martial arts and DOS practitioners claim that the practice stimulates insight, creates a sense of mental calm and helps the practitioner enter a state of flow where she is present in each moment as it arises.  Epiphanies that arise from practice break down outmoded structures and lead the way to change, calm and flow help us move in life-affirming directions.

    I asked Neil how he felt the DOS could help with fertility and here is his response:

    “If a woman is struggling with conscious or unconscious negative thought patterns about her fertility,” says Neil, “Doing the Dance of Shiva may help her become more aware of these thought patterns and move beyond them. ”  This is because the practitioners of DOS believe the initial memorization and practice of the movements creates new neural pathways.

    Furthermore, the Dance of Shiva is very grounding and returns a woman to her body.  The practice may also have a profound physical benefit as well.

    “The concentration required to do the DOS requires you to focus on feeling your body and this focus forces you to be truly present and in your body,” Neil continues.  ”Another benefit for fertility is that the DOS helps you practice knowing what you want to do (intention) and helps you arrange things so you can do it.”

    Over the past few weeks I have begun a DOS practice in earnest and, surprisingly, have found these spiraling movements to be meditative and interesting.  I have even experienced a few powerful epiphanies.  Placebo effect?  Perhaps.  But I think not.  The DOS is mathematical, which I am NOT, so I find that my brain is both challenged and energized by new neural connections.  The movements haunt me during the day and I find myself imagining and visualizing these spirals as I wait in line at the grocery store or drive my car.  In my experience this means this practice is penetrating on an energetic level and having an effect on my physical and energetic body.

    Regarding fertility, my hunch is that this IS a very powerful practice for helping us reach our goal of creating family so stay tuned over the coming weeks for more updates, video and further commentary.

    If you need more now, visit Neil’s website and blog at http://thedanceofshiva.com.

  • The Impact of the Mind/Body Program on Pregnancy Rates in IVF Patients

    by Alice D. Domar, Ph.D from the Domar Center Blog

    Dr. Alice Domar is a renown researcher in the field of Mind/Body Medicine for fertility and offers her ground-breaking Mind/Body Fertility Program at Boston IVF and the Executive Director at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health .

    When I read about the results of a new research study, I don’t tend to think too much about the amount of hard work it takes to carry out a research project, which is sort of odd given that is all I think about when I am the one conducting research!  I tend to focus on what the conclusions of the research are, and what this implies for patient care.

    Earlier this week, the results of my most recent research were released and have been widely reported in the media. The actual paper is being published in the June 1 issue of Fertility and Sterility, but it is available online now and Reuters picked up the story late last week and it was in the New York Times on Tuesday.

    The study included a randomized, controlled design. We recruited 143 Boston IVF patients who had just been advised by their physician to move onto IVF treatment. Half were randomized to participate in our ten session mind/body program and the other half received routine care.  Unfortunately, the women assigned to the mind/body program began their first IVF cycle right away (they didn’t want to wait for the next mind/body group to start), so only nine percent of them had done even half of their mind/body sessions.  For the first IVF cycle, both groups had a clinical pregnancy rate of 43%. However, for the second IVF cycle, when 76% of the mind/body patients had participated in at least half the program, the clinical pregnancy rate was 52%, compared to 20% in the control group, a statistically significant difference.

    So to apply my general thoughts about research to my own work, what are the conclusions of this research and what are the implications for patients?  The conclusions are two-fold. First of all, there was no placebo effect. In other words, even though all the mind/body patients knew they were assigned to attend a group, that knowledge had no impact on their first cycle. So knowing you are going to learn relaxation and stress management skills, but not actually yet having a chance to learn them, does not have an impact on conception.  Second, this is another in a series of studies which have demonstrated that women with infertility who learn a variety of skills designed to lower stress, improve lifestyle habits, and decrease isolation experience significantly higher pregnancy rates than women who do not learn such skills.

    And what do I say to all those ignorant folks out there who think that this study reinforces the evil myth of “just relax and you will get pregnant”?  I tell them that they have obviously never participated in a mind/body program! Women who attend a mind/body are doing so much more than just relaxing. There has actually never been a study simply on the impact of relaxation techniques on fertility, but the program is far more intensive and comprehensive than just relaxation techniques.

    In terms of implications for patient care, if I were about to embark on any infertility treatment, especially one as intensive as IVF, I would do everything in my power to learn ways to lower my stress level. There is no downside to feeling less depressed and anxious, and the advantages include better quality of life, possibly feeling more able to continue with treatment if a first cycle isn’t successful and higher rates of conception.  If you have access to a mind/body infertility program, go for it (check out www.domarcenter.com for more info).

  • Raw Milk for Fertility – Got Research?

    by Beth Heller, M.S.

    I have a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and I still get a headache thinking about all the ways the food we eat can impact our health.  Recently I’ve been reading about raw milk and the proposed benefits of drinking milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized.

    The whole topic of dairy consumption and fertility is controversial.  At the Moon we recommend women limit their dairy consumption to a single serving of full-fat organic dairy per day. Our recommendation stems from studies that suggest whole fat dairy may be protective against some forms of infertility (particularly ovulatory infertility) and due to reports that low-fat dairy consumption is linked to adolescent acne, certain reproductive cancers and other hormonally-linked conditions.   In cases where food sensitivity is suspected we may recommend completely eliminating dairy, but only under the supervision of a dietitian.

    But raw milk?  We have to say it hasn’t really been on our radar.  But there is a debate raging in our country about the safety and health benefits of consuming raw milk (milk that has not be pasteurized).

    To understand  the fuss a bit better we should take a quick look at two processes:  pasteurization and homogenization.  Raw, untreated milk from a cow’s udder is not the uniform white liquid we’re used to calling milk.  Raw milk has two distinct components, a thin “watery” layer that contains a fair amount of protein and a thick creamy layer that rises to the top and, obviously, contains fat.  Homogenization is the processing of milk into a uniform smooth consistency.  Pasteurization is a process where raw milk is heated to very high temperatures in order to kill any pathogens that may be present in the milk.

    Opponents of pasteurization note that the process kills more than just pathogens, it also destroys enzymes in milk that improve the digestion of important nutrients and may aggravate milk allergy.  Similarly, the processes of pasteurization and homogenization creates smaller milk fat globules that have a different chemical make-up than found in raw milk.  These globules have a higher level of protein, which raw milk advocates suggest may aggravate milk allergies and lactose intolerance.

    So how much of this is real?  Research does bear out that homogenization changes the chemical make-up of the fat globules, but double-blind studies have not yet shown that raw milk and better tolerated or less allergenic or that the consumption of homogenized/pasteurized milk leads to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer than the consumption of raw milk.  Currently the sale of raw milk is highly regulated. It’s illegal to transport raw milk across state lines for sale, and the federal government is threatening to crack down on the sale of raw milk on a national level.  The primary concern on the part of regulators is the prevalence of food-born pathogens.  According to the FDA raw milk is no elixer, it’s a potential stew of ecoli, salmonella and listeria bacteria.

    So what’s the upshot?  Well, in the process, no pun intended, of looking into processed dairy we learned a few things:

    1.  Raw milk is not a good risk for someone who is trying to conceive for the same reason that pregnant women are advised to avoid lunch meats and raw cheeses.  The bacteria that tends to be present in these foods can cause serious health and pregnancy complications.  It simply ain’t worth the risk until there is greater regulation and testing of raw milk products.

    2.  We did learn that some dairies are beginning to use “small vat low temperature pasteurization” methods and this excites us.  Interestingly, our local dairy here in Illinois, Oberweis, uses a low-temperature method which may preserve the nutrients and enzymes in the milk while killing pathogens.   Interestingly, Oberweis claims that most organic milks are high-temp pasteurized, which a quick (but by no means completely comprehensive) internet search seemed to support.

    3.  Regarding homogenization, we have to admit we’re slightly seduced by the argument that keeping milk in its natural state with the cream rising to the top is appealing.  As part of my blog research I went out and purchase some small-batch, low temp pasteurized whole milk and drank a glass along with a chocolate chip cookie.  I for one enjoyed the cream globs but when I told my business partner Tami about she was grossed out.  Homogenization is more than anything a matter of personal preference.

    So, our take-home is that raw milk is not your best choice for fertility.  We have always recommended milk from grass-fed cows that have not been treated with added hormones.   The benefits milk from grass-fed cows include better fat, including CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which may have anti-cancer properties.  As always we encourage consuming minimally-processed foods so the idea of low-temp pasteurization is appealing as is (at least for me) allowing the cream to rise to the top in my milk bottles.

    As would be expected, “boutique” milks come with a price tag and may take some searching to find.  Until there is more research into health benefits or health risks of homogenization and pasteurization we cannot say that such products are a “must-do” for fertility.

  • Benefits of Receiving Fertility Massage

    by Cathleen McCauley, LMT

    Cathleen McCauley L.M.T.

    Recently we held an open house at Pulling Down the Moon, and a perspective client asked me about the benefits of receiving fertility massage. I am happy she asked this question! I’d like to share with you some of the positive outcomes that clients experience from fertility massage.

    Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM) Protocol

    At Pulling Down the Moon, we offer the Fertility Enhancing Massage (FEM) protocol. Exclusive to the center, the sequence is a series of four 60-minute fertility-specific massages designed to enhance the health and functioning of the pelvic and abdominal organs and promote mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Each FEM session has its own unique benefits. Below are just a few:

    Cleanse the Body: The first session in the FEM protocol, this massage helps clear the body of toxins. A few of the benefits clients receive from this session include a heightened sense of relaxation aiding in stress and pain reduction; stimulation of the lymph system to detoxify, purify and balance the body; and a feeling of emotional and mental well-being.

    Enhance the Blood: Focused on promoting circulation, the second massage in the FEM series offers numerous benefits to fertility clients. By increasing blood flow, tissue and organs are nourished, helping them to function properly. As blood is pumped to the ovaries and uterus, egg health is supported and the lining of the uterus may increase. The abdominal region relaxes, reducing stagnation and rigidity; scar tissue or adhesions may be released.

    Open the Breath: To breathe is to be alive, and in the third FEM session, your body will benefit from increased oxygen intake. Sufficient air flow creates organ movement. When your diaphragm muscle functions correctly, fluids like blood are renewed and stagnation flushed.  You experience increased blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. Deep breathing creates tone and alignment in the pelvic muscles while reducing stress throughout the body.

    Relax and Integrate: The final session in the series aims to calm your body. Benefits often include deep, restorative states of restfulness. Your heart rate and blood pressure decreases, muscular tension releases, breathing slows and pain decreases.

    I hope this brief overview provides you with a little more insight about the benefits of fertility massage. If you’d like more information about any of the sessions, on Sunday, June 12, I will be offering a one-hour patient education seminar on the FEM protocol. It is free. I encourage you to attend or contact me. You may reach me at cathleen@pullingdownthemoon. I look forward to hearing from you!

  • More Therapeutic Yoga for PCOS – Apana Energy

    Beth Heller, MS, RYT

    According to yoga physiology, apana vayu is the downward flow of energy that governs the menses as well as elimination of toxins from the body.  In the yogic view of PCOS, the apana vayu has become stagnant and by stimulating apana we re-invigorate the menstrual cycle.  Poses that stretch and open the hips and lower back facilitate the flow of apana.   Strengthening apana energy flow is just one goal of our therapeutic yoga practice for PCOS.  A well-rounded practice for PCOS also includes twisting and folding poses to stimulate agni , back-bending poses to enliven the nervous system, restorative poses that induce the relaxation response and gentle inversions that stimulate the thyroid, hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

    This series of poses to strengthen apana begins with a vinyasa of chair (utkatasana) and standing forward fold (uttanasana) for a simple flow that is both energizing and grounding.  Follow this sequence with warrior 2, to continue to build strength and open groin and hip muscles.  Finish with Supine Cobbler’s Pose, a gentle supported back-bend that stimulates the relaxation response.

    Utkatasana

    Uttanasana “Forward Fold”

    Virabhadrasana 2 “Warrior Pose”

    Supta Baddha Konasana – Supported Reclining Cobbler’s Pose

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