Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunshine on the Inside


A month or so ago I purchased The Chakra Deck (by Olivia H. Miller) at my trusty EastWest Bookshop (which just happens to be a hop, skip, and a jump away from my home). This colorful deck includes seven cards for each of the seven chakras: two cards describe specific characteristics of the chakra and the five others show exercises and yoga poses that support the chakra.

Today I am drawn to the Solar Plexus Chakra (also called the Navel Chakra). I've been dealing with a bit of anxiety lately (well, more than just a little), and I have felt this anxiety humming in my gut. When I am feeling anxious, I feel all my blood and energy run to my core, and there is sometimes a burning sensation there. Have you ever felt this? There is a reason for this surge of energy in the gut: there are so many nerves that innervate the abdomen! And one of these nerve bundles is the the solar plexus.

So what exactly is the solar plexus (also called the celiac plexus) in physiological terms?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online describes this wonder bundle as follows: "1 : a nerve plexus in the abdomen that is situated behind the stomach and in front of the aorta and the crura of the diaphragm and contains several ganglia distributing nerve fibers to the viscera 2 : the pit of the stomach." This prominent nerve bundle controls many vital functions such as metabolic systems and digestion. The liver, stomach, gallbladder, adrenal glands, and spleen are all associated with this chakra.

And why is this plexus named "solar"? Many believe this is because the nerves emanate from the plexus like the sun's rays. I love this idea that there is a veritable sunburst residing in the center of me.
I often describe this chakra as the place where our gut instincts reside. Miller describes this chakra as a "power center," and also an "area of assertiveness, intuition, and inner drive." The Solar Plexus Chakra is often associated with power, particularly personal power, and when we listen to the "sparks" inside us we are experiencing healthy self-esteem, confidence, and vitality. When we are in alignment with these inner rays, we are able to make decisions that match our gut instincts and our strong sense of self.


The yoga pose that I most enjoy in Miller's deck is Sun Meditation. I enjoy this pose because I feel like I am emulating the sun's rays with my arms spread out and open in a "V" shape. When doing this pose, be sure to breathe in and out with nice long breaths and imagine inhaling light and exhaling darkness. Miller then encourages us to focus on the following thought: "My power radiates from the center of my being."

Whenever I do this pose I feel much more grounded. I also feel surprisingly open, yet not so vulnerable. See how you feel when you open yourself to the gifts of the sun glowing inside the center of your body.




Monday, February 9, 2009

The Emotional Side

On the home page of my website, I have written: "By integrating massage, energy work, creative play, and whole-person wellness approaches, I invite you to experience a unique blend of healing modalities to support your body, mind, and spirit." What exactly does it mean that massage supports your mind, body, and spirit? That mind-body-spirit trifecta is often used to describe how massage and bodywork may not only address physical issues, but also issues related to the mind, emotions, and also one's higher self. But how do we each experience this?

This weekend I purchased the latest issue of Massage & Bodywork Magazine and found myself immersed in an article by Stephanie Mines called "Whose Hand is This?: Attunement and Bodywork." At one point in her piece, Mines writes, "The release of tension can never be solely a muscular event. In order for muscles to come out of contraction the mind must let go; with this letting go, memories are unleashed, along with the fear, anger, or horror that initiated the contraction."

I can recall the first massages I ever received, close to ten years ago. I had a tremendously difficult time relaxing my arms during my sessions. I sought out massage to help relieve the tendinitis in my forearms due to computer work (I did a lot of layout and graphic design back then), but I somehow couldn't let my arms go. I found myself helping my massage practitioner by lifting my arms for her as she was massaging them, and when she tried to jostle them, my arms were as stiff as bricks. It was clear that my tension and holding was not purely a "muscular event." It became clear to me that not only was my mind causing my arms to contract, but so were my emotions. I learned, after many sessions, that my stress and worry and my need to stay "in control" were also contributing to my tense arms.

Mines also writes, "Our bodies are storehouses, veritable libraries containing volumes of life experiences." What life experiences was I storing in my arms, which made them react in such a rigid manner? On a metaphorical level, what couldn't I let go of? I had to explore these issues in conjunction with receiving good, therapeutic massage with a patient and mindful practitioner before I could relinquish control. Surprise, surprise: my tendinitis symptoms improved dramatically. And for the first time in my life, I could relax my arms so they were soft like noodles.

Try This:
Think about a place where you hold tension in your body. Now divide a sheet of paper in to three columns. The first column is for listing the physical reasons for this tension (i.e. too much computer work, work injury, posture, etc.), the second column is for listing what emotional issues might relate to this tension (i.e. work stress, financial worry, past issues related to abuse, etc.), and the third column is for exploring the metaphor embedded in this tension (i.e. my hip pain is a little girl with low self-esteem, my sore arm is a machine without an off-switch, my jaw is a rusty can opener). If you feel so inclined, post some of your writing here. I'd love to hear what you uncover.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Give the Gift of Massage this Valentine's Day!


Happy February everyone,

I am delighted to have endured the two darkest (and longest) months of the year, and I feel inspired by the tiny buds and blossoms emerging out in nature.

One of the joys of February is Valentine's Day! This Valentine's Day, consider giving the gift of massage and bodywork to yourself and loved ones. There is nothing like healing, therapeutic touch to relax the body, clear the mind, and open the heart.

I provide gift certificates for all of my offerings, including massage, Reiki, hot stone massage, spa treatments, and more. Feel free to visit my sessions and rates page for more details.

Gift certificates are available for my two-hour Winter Special "Chocolate Indulgence" as well. For details about this special, click here.


I also recommend my Two-hour Heart Chakra Session called "Open Heart." In this session, I invite you to open yourself to the gifts of the heart chakra: self-love, forgiveness, compassion, and grace.

This two-hour “Open Heart” session includes:

• A soothing rose water foot bath, strawberry-rose iced tea, and a light snack.

• A “Self-Love Valentine” writing prompt and art exercise (all art supplies provided).

• A combination of massage, Reiki, and guided visualization to support, soothe, and open the heart chakra.

• A “Heart Chakra Kit,” including a rose quartz stone and aromatherapy spritzer. (Cost: $150)

I wish you all a month of peace and abundance!

All the best,

Courtney

Rising Bird Healing Arts
http://www.rising-bird.com

Monday, February 2, 2009

29 Gifts in 29 Days

I just joined the 29-Day Giving Challenge!

I stumbled upon this amazing project when I joined the Arts and Healing Network the other day. Apparently, a kind and creative soul by the name of Cami Walker started this project after giving a gift a day for 29 days and seeing transformation in the lives of others and in herself. Through her process of giving, she noticed her MS symptoms diminished and she experienced more health and abundance in her own life. Read here for more about her story.


I have decided to join this movement in order to help balance the giving and receiving in my own life. By reflecting on my own life as a person in a "giving" profession--and by witnessing my clients try to balance the giving and receiving aspects of their own lives--I've come to the realization that we need to nurture both our giving (or yang) and receiving (or yin) sides. Both aspects must be attended to (and listened to) in order to achieve good balance and health.

In your own life, do you find that you give in a way that makes you feel exhausted? Do you ever find yourself having a hard time receiving? Joining this project has made me much more aware of my relationship to giving in general. Are there times when I resent giving (and why)? When do I resist accepting someone's generosity (and why)? How do I care for myself when I give a great deal without listening to my own body's message to take a break? How do I feel when I give without expecting anything in return? When has giving given me great joy?

Here's a bit more information about the 29 Gifts project (excerpted from their website):

"29Gifts.org is a global giving movement with more than 3, 600 members in 38 countries. Our collective mission at 29Gifts is to revive the giving spirit in the world. We change lives—and change the world—one gift at a time.

HOW IT WORKS:
Sign up and then give away 29 gifts in 29 days. Your 29 gifts can be anything given to anyone... money, food, old sweaters, smiles, your time, kind words or thoughts. You can start your own personal 29-Day Giving Challenge at any time—there’s no official begin or end date. To complete the challenge, submit a story, post a piece of your original artwork, create a short film or write a song. Tell us about your favorite gives and the impact it made on your life to focus on giving."

I just created my own page on the 29 Gifts website. You can check it out here. I will be starting my 29 days of gifting today and documenting my process on my page.

Want to join me? To sign up, just visit: http://givingchallenge.ning.com/main/authorization/signUp