More about me, some Q & A

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Sometimes there is confusion about whether I’m a naturopath. Not here! In Florida, I’m licensed as a massage therapist, because that’s what I need in order to work with soft tissue mobilization techniques.

My education started in Germany in 1994 at a college for natural health. I’m licensed as a naturopathic physician there, and have been specializing in treating the neuro-musculoskeletal system.
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How to recover smartly from muscle injuries

2189924965_d6d4d780d1_mSo you hurt yourself. Maybe it happened working out, maybe you were just trying to carry something heavy in an awkward way. Maybe you lunged to get that ball. But you pretty much know you hurt yourself, even if later you think “ah, it’s going to be fine, I’ll be ok, it’s just a strained muscle.”

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Did I just sleep wrong? I have a crick in my neck!

Neck-PainI think I have slept wrong, they tell me.

That’s what I hear almost daily. It’s usually persistent neck pain and stiffness, often with limited range of motion–so it’s hard to turn your head when you’re driving, you notice that you’re shifting in the seat.

If it came on suddenly, you woke up with it, maybe you did actually sleep “wrong”.

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How Can I Find A Mentor? (for free)

by Alison Quine

My favorite kind of volunteer work is mentoring. Nowadays it’s fashionable to have a mentor, and “finding a mentor” is high up on the to-do-list for young professionals.

But how do you go about this? Do you just ask “would you mentor me”?

Usually not. Unless, of course, you’re willing to pay for it. Which would be great.. and if you pick carefully, you’ll get a lot more than your money’s worth.

But let’s assume you’re broke, and you need free help to get on your feet.

Here’s what you do:

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Holding The Space

meditation room

When I first heard that term, it meant nothing to me.

I was studying at the Rolf Institute® for Structural Integration. Rolfing® is about finding better, more effective ways to use gravity as a support, instead of fighting against it. It involves deep bodywork and movement education.

When working on long-held patterns it’s important that somebody is holding the space. The client can’t do it for themselves and a student who is just learning can’t do it either.

So we were practicing in groups of three. One to be the client, one to be the therapist, one to hold the space. “So I just sit here and do nothing?” I asked. “No, you’re holding the space.” One of those moments when I just wanted to smack somebody. I had lots of these moments during that time… I was in Boulder, Colorado. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. I felt like I was going to punch the next person who says “Namaste” on the street.

Holding the space means to create and maintain a safe environment. It means to watch over a person or a group, without watching their every action. It means being there, without intruding. So at first I was just sitting there, bored. Until I learned it. I think I learned it because the teachers and assistants held the space for us space-holders, so we could play with our boredom, our awareness, and cultivate a sense of being aware of what happened in the treatment without judging it, trying to fix it, trying to think about “what would I do.”

It was one of the most important lessons for my life.

In meditation, you can hold the space for yourself. It’s hard. Very, very hard. It’s so hard that I rather rely on a facilitator, teacher or instructor to hold it for me. Then I can relax. Otherwise it’s just a mental workout.

Some people create a whole room, like in the picture, to hold the space for them. Some use artwork, a statue, or just a beautiful landscape.

I do yoga in a community center. There is always noise in the hallways, sometimes in the next room, and in the room people are shifting, or cough. Meditation at the end of class can be a hard exercise in holding the space for myself.

It’s easiest if everybody works on holding the space together. When I was teaching yoga last week, substituting for my teacher, I got very irritated at one student who used the relaxation time to roll up the strap, stack her blocks, and sort through her purse.

A cough, or even a sneeze is different. It’s one thing, then it stops. But these little shuffling noises that go on and on draw everybody’s attention away from themselves, into wondering “what is going on? what is that noise?”. It’s very hard to meditate that way.

So as the teacher, I felt like I had to hold the space even harder, which doesn’t work, of course. You can hold the space, or you can drop it. I kept dropping it. I had angry thoughts, at myself and the student: “I thought I was good at this! Ugh! Why won’t she just sit and deal with herself?”

Usually I’m not teaching yoga. In meetings with other business owners, when I teach classes for therapists, and especially when I’m working with clients, holding the space is easy for me.

I need to get there early, and prepare my space, so I feel secure and confident, and then I can start holding it for others.

But teaching meditation is HARD! I think I had trouble holding the space for the class because I was so distracted by the display of boredom from this one student that I could not stay in my own meditative state.

Holding the space is a form of meditation. Being aware without being attached.

I’m working on it.

How about you?

The 7-point-plan for chronic pain and tension:

So, you’re hurting?
And it’s been a long time?

Then you’re like a lot of my clients.

Acute muscular pain is relatively easy to treat, and often goes away by itself anyway.
When a new client tells me that her neck/shoulder area has been painful for a couple of weeks, and nothing seems to help, I’m thinking “oh, this is going to be great!”. In 90% of these cases, it takes one treatment, and things are fine.
There really aren’t a lot of things that give me more pleasure than that new client checking out with the receptionist, exclaiming over and over “This is amazing. I can’t believe it. Look, I can move my head!”

Chronic pain is different.
It’s not easy to treat at all! It’s persistent, nagging, evasive, and it’s hard to predict what treatment will help. I started comparing it to predicting the weather–there are just too many different factors playing into it.
Chronic pain is now seen as a disease itself, not just a symptom, and it’s more a disease of the nervous system than the muscle or connective tissue.

So how do we treat the nervous system?

We need to get moving, develop a better attitude, get out of stress, but we also need good feelings in the areas that hurt–that’s why massage therapy can be very helpful. It gives the nerves something else to report than just pain, and feeling loose afterwards is sending signals to the brain that “this area is functioning well” which in the long run can re-educate the brain.

Here’s a video to explain these concepts. Of course it’s not as easy as that.

It’s hard to develop a positive attitude if you’re hurting so much that you can’t sleep, can’t think, and can hardly get through the day.

So here are the seven interventions, tested and approved by my chronic pain clients: Continue reading

Back Pain In Winter?

Pack some heat!

Hotpacks are your best bet if you, your clients, your family members suddenly have muscle pain for no good reason.

‘Tis the season!

I had clients with sciatica, a teenager with torticollis, countless neck/back/shoulder pains. All got rapidly better with hotpacks.

When we went on a trip to DC, I had a really uncomfortable spasm between the shoulderblades. Insane, stabbing pain. My thoracics (vertebrae in the upper back) have a tendency to get stuck in flexion, and in addition the muscles were just spasming. Uncomfortable doesn’t describe it. I was getting nauseous with the pain and stiffness. But it lasted only until I made it away from the monuments and the icy wind on The Mall, and stood under a very hot shower. After that I used the towel trick to open up the stubborn vertebrae, and I was miraculously healed.

And so were most of these clients (yeah, the ones who don’t have a chronic issue), and my wife, who is still sitting in bed right now, with the hotpack behind her. We all get similar problems if we let muscles that are already annoyed get too cold.

For my wife the story was this: in the last yoga class we did a lot of strengthening exercises, so the muscles were a bit sore. Then, yesterday, we had 45 degrees and she was going in and out the house a lot. Certainly NOT dressed for the weather. This morning she woke up, complaining about severe back pain where yesterday everything was fine.

My explanation: Soreness came first, then the cold inhibited healing of the muscle and induced spasm. Lying in bed over night can make things a lot worse, just because circulation to the muscles goes down and we’re in the same position for too long.

The fix: Sitting with a hotpack in her back, then moving around took it all away. Yay!

Don’t ice muscle spasms!

Cold makes muscles tight and sore, and can lead to sudden spasms. But do you know what people told the parents of the kid with torticollis? Put ice on.  Here he was, with the most obvious muscle spasm EVER, his head painfully tilted, his ear towards his shoulder… and the “experts” want to ICE. Brrrr.

He doesn’t have congenital torticollis (well ice would have been idiotic there… but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone suggested it).
There was no trauma, no muscle strain. But still “ice” is the first thing people come up with.

He was going through finals in school AND IT WAS COLD. We’re in Florida, so it isn’t cold often, and when we have sudden cold snaps, people aren’t prepared, and they don’t dress for it.

So please. If you, your loved one, one of your clients suddenly has muscle pain, especially in winter…. try heat first, ok?

In most cases, it melts the pain away. Add some mobilization, careful exercise (no drastic stretches), and maybe some skilled bodywork, and you’re good to go.

Stay warm!

Affordable Yoga Classes in Orlando

               (class descriptions by Candice Mitchell)

Don’t let this picture fool you! Nobody wants you to tie yourself into a pretzel (unless you’re a hopeless show-off like me, of course… then we have options for you).

And no, yoga doesn’t have to be expensive–community centers make it possible.

I’m doing nothing but yoga to stay fit. But this is not your run-of-the mill yoga class! I think it’s working so well for me because we’re always addressing different muscle groups with targeted strength and stretch exercises.

Right here in downtown Orlando, at the beautiful Marks Street Recreation Center, we have a great location, and a wonderfully talented, compassionate teacher in Candice Mitchell.
You just walk in, drop your ten dollar bill on the table, and you’re good to go. If it’s the first time, please come in a little early to fill out a release form.

Evenings: Mondays and Thursdays 5:45-7pm
Mornings: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 9:15-10:30am.

One of the best decisions in my life was to block my schedule for the morning classes at Marks Street, three times per week.
Today I’m more strong and flexible than when I was 18!

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Do Massage Therapists Expect Tips?

Etiquette around gratuity is puzzling for foreigners like me. But it’s also a problem for Americans! We often don’t know whether a service provider is an employee or an independent contractor, whether they get paid well or the bare minimum, and some people seem to get offended when a tip is offered.

I’ve heard of massage therapy experts who refuse tips with the argument “Do you tip your doctor?”

Then I also hear some who feel insulted because they didn’t get a tip. Continue reading