• Breathe—for Your Health

    by Cathy McCauley, LMT

    You aspire to feel well and whole, yet sometimes, the path to wellness and wholeness can seem like a lot to add to the “To Do” list. Another thing to stress about doing. Wouldn’t it be convenient to find one simple, daily activity that could improve whole-body health?

    One activity exists. You already practice it. It’s breathing!   

    Trouble is, many people don’t breathe to support whole-body health. In fact, many people breathe in a shallow, restricted manner that actually impedes health.

    Diaphragm Functioning

    Consider for a moment the functioning of your thoracic diaphragm muscle. It attaches along the inner rim of your lower rib cage and is the primary muscle responsible for your respiration. It is dome-shaped or looks like an open umbrella. When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and pushes down against the abdominal organs, which allows the lungs to expand to receive fresh air. When exhaling, the diaphragm relaxes upward against the lungs, helping to expel air from them. The more efficiently your diaphragm contracts, the more air will be drawn into your lungs.  However, if your diaphragm does not contract efficiently, you end up with shallow breathing.

    Got Stress?

    Now knowing how the diaphragm works, consider what happens when you are constantly stressed out. The body responds to stress (both good and bad types) automatically by tightening the abdominal muscles, among other responses. When stress becomes the norm, continual abdominal tightness restricts the diaphragm and in turn, shallow breathing occurs.

    All the systems of your body can be affected by shallow breathing. Reduced oxygen intake can raise your blood pressure, create low-level anxiety, decrease immunity, cause mental and physical fatigue, reinforce serotonin and cortisol hormonal imbalance, and disrupt digestion.

    Just Breathe

    Thankfully, it’s not too late to learn and practice how to relax your breath and breathe fully from the abdomen. Perhaps it’s time to sign up for a yoga class or schedule an “Open the Breath” massage with us. Or try the “Breath of Happiness” YouTube tutorial. Do what you can to get started.

    As reported in our “Open the Breath” massage client information, the health of your body, and specifically your reproductive organs, is greatly affected by the movement of your breath. In fact, the human body is designed to discharge approximately 70% of its toxins through respiration. As deep, full breathing engages the diaphragm, the organs are kneaded and churned, fluids are renewed, and stagnant, toxic build-up is flushed out. The pelvis is bathed in oxygen-rich fluids, helping to balance the chemistry of the blood. Deep belly breathing also creates tone and alignment in the pelvic floor, while promoting movement in its connective tissues. Developing a deep, free breath is fundamental in preserving abdominal pliability and mobility.

    Another benefit of belly breathing is the relaxation response. Deep abdominal breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and enhances your cellular, hormonal, and psychological processes. Your bodies conserve and restore energy, build immunity, and regenerate injured tissues. The relaxation response can even lower blood pressure levels. In addition, a deep breath can encourage a feeling of groundedness.

    You aspire to feel well and whole. Breathe—for your health!

    Be well,

    Cathy

    See Cathy in Highland Park on Mondays and Thursdays for massage therapy and starting July 17th she will be available on Tuesdays in Buffalo Grove as well!

     

  • ‘Letting Go’ Through Yoga to Find a Deeper Peace

    by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

    Over dinner a few weeks ago, a friend and I chatted about her attendance at the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Chicago. I unfortunately had not been able to make it which was a big bummer. My girlfriend had recently been through some big, not so great, life changes and had said that spending the day at the yoga festival was very healing for her. She shared a quote with me that one of the Wanderlust teachers had started their class with that really resonated for her life and current situation. The quote by an unknown author read “It was never mine carry, so today I lay it down”.

    This is where the beautifully simple, yet abstract and often elusive idea of “letting go” comes in. As a yoga teacher, I use this phase often during my classes and for many of us, hearing the words “let it all go,” may be one of the reasons why we step on our mats.  These comforting and supportive words ease our minds both off and on the mat. Fully letting go to create more space takes courage, trust, and faith. This 100% translates to life off of our mats and igniting the strength to tackle head on whatever struggles we are facing.

    As we practice yoga, we connect with our divine nature and our higher selves. Letting go may feel different each day. Sometimes it feels active and moves forward into more knowledge. Other times letting go feels like acceptance, sometimes it feels like a release. It can mean a celebration, while other times it feels like surrender or a rest. However it feels to you, it is important to remember that this practice of letting go evolves and grows deeper the more you do it. It’s a practice and it’s not meant to be perfect right off the bat and you can’t expect it to be.

    The lack of control that we have while trying conceive can seem very unfair. The waiting game is frustrating, isolating, tiring, unpredictable, expensive, and lengthy. Increased ease through our fertility journeys can be found if we work on and practice ‘letting go’. Once we start to channel our ability to ‘let go’, we find that we can transfer this skill to be useful in other parts of our worlds; work stresses, relationship issues, time management, parenting, financial fears, and health management, just to name a few. Come check out Yoga for Fertility or the Two Week Walk to work on ‘letting go’.

    “It was never mine to carry, so today I lay it down.”

    by Alison Lautz, LCSW, RYT

    Join Ali in her new series of Yoga for Fertility on Mondays at 5:30pm! Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

  • Stay Cool While TTC

     

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM

    Summer is here, in Chicago! It is time to get out, play, and stay cool. While trying to conceive in the heat, there are a few things to remember, and they are not new ideas.

    • Cotton is queen! Organic cotton is even better, especially down there. For guys and girls, it is important to stay cool and non-toxic where it counts, so wear loose clothes made of organic materials.
    • Use peppermint essential oil in your diffusers at home, and look for cooling, non-toxic deodorants.  They are stronger than ever, and last much longer than cheaper versions.
    • Diet and fluids are vital. Keep your barbecues sensible. If you are charring meat, know that you are creating heat and inflammation. So add greens, add cucumber and watermelon, and add water to drink, even if it is in between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol creates heat, so if you imbibe, hydrate smart with coconut water, electrolyte water and lemon and cucumber water, and fresh fruit and watery vegetables.
    • Keep your distance at night. If you can, sometimes it’s relaxing to sleep alone and rendezvous with your partner in the middle of the night. Two bodies lying next to each other on a hot night creates a lot of heat.  Studies show that birth rates are lower 8-10 months after hot days. (https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/375/pdfs/does-hot-weather-affect-human-fertility.pdf?v=1) What is more important about this study is that the discomfort leading to a lack of intercourse was not the primary contributing factor to the lower birth rates. It was more likely a decline in reproductive health—lower sperm production in males, and potential embryonic development issues, once fertilization occurred, in females.
    • Play with air conditioning wisely! The environmental costs of air conditioning are pretty high. So use it, and use it wisely if you’re TTC. It’s a tough call, because do you keep your air on all day? It takes more energy to re-cool a warm room, than it does to lower the temp in an already cool room. You make the call, but air conditioning is going to help humans keep making babies as temperatures rise, and it will do it an environmental cost. Experiment to find the sweet spot with your energy use.
    • Find your local watering hole and enjoy it.  The closer you are to a body of water on a hot day, the cooler the temps will be. If you are on the water, you will stay cooler throughout the warmest part of the day. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
    • Iced Beverages—when hydrating, keep it simple. Filtered water in a stainless water bottle is your best friend. Add ice, lemon, cucumber, crushed mint leaves to it. To add variety to your fluids, ice some matcha green tea and add some mint.
    • Disconnect your devices, and keep them out of the bedroom, at night. It is not always easy to keep your phone off your person, but at night, definitely do it. It will serve you.  Keep your devices off your laps, in general, and especially out of your front pockets.
    • Emotions! In Chinese Medicine, all emotions eventually create qi stagnation and heat accumulation. How it does this is fascinating, and can help you manage your response to all of your emotions. Imagine an event or encounter stimulates an emotion in you. When we have the capacity to witness that emotion, it is easier to let go. But more often than not, because of the sheer volume of stimuli, we do not let go of every emotion we experience in a day. These emotions that linger, sometimes get stuck. That stuck emotional energy blocks free flow of other energy and the stagnation builds. When stuck energy builds in one channel or body area, it creates heat. I love to describe this in the terms of a party. Imagine this: You are having a party. Your house is all set. You are a little chilly in the living room so you’re wearing a sweater.  Joy arrives early. You two chat and then Sorrow arrives. They start catching and then Excited arrives. The party is starting to get lively. Anger and Anxious arrive together and the room is really filling up and WARMING UP. You take off your sweater. Sympathetic and Loving arrive and it is really starting to heat up. You hydrate, and go the other room to cool off and get some space. By the time Mopey and Kind show up, you don’t want to be in the living room anymore because you can barely move and it is so hot. This is how emotions build up and stagnate in the body, and lead to heat. So remember to manage your emotional life, so that things keep moving.
    • Come in and get acupuncture and herbs! There are many things we can do in the office to help you clear heat and cool down, so ask your acupuncturist if you have heat signs and if you should amp up your heat clearing at home.

    Things are getting hotter, and we want you to enjoy it!