Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stress Relief through Bicycling

 Cypress Point Park Trail from tampagov.net
As I have stated before, I am not a cyclist. I am not competitive and I don't wear funny colored tight pants. I am, however, an avid bicyclist who rides a beach cruiser wearing cargo shorts and whatever shoes I can keep wearing when I get off the bike and walk around in public. I use my bike for stress relief and to promote peace of mind, which I feel is the opposite of competition. Today, for example, I rode 7.5 miles in about 45 minutes on flat trails to and around Cypress Point Park in Tampa, FL. 

Tripadvisor.com's View of the Trail
My head has been buzzing with new stresses. Primarily, Mrs. Tom Heals is expecting our first baby and secondarily, I had a job interview last week for a massage therapy teaching position at a school which is within biking distance for me. 
 Yesterday I received an amazing two hour massage from Stephanie Kojima, LMT. She is a co-worker who I greatly respect - dare I say, the best therapist I've ever met? She patiently listened to me ramble and rant and gave some supportive advice. She reminded me that I can only control a very limited number of things in my life and that's all I can do- live in the present, be grateful, and make good decisions with those few things. One of the few things I can control is what I put into my body. After dropping the wifey off at work this morning, I stopped at my local produce stand and picked up a golden mango, a papaya, some bananas and a watermelon.

A quick tangent...

Dan "The Life Regenerator" McDonald gives a lot of good info in this video about seeds. He says they have infinite, exponential energetic potential. That lead me to meditate on "Having the faith of a mustard seed" and the consequent exponential faith that can easily move mountains. Dan also has stated several times that you must eat fruit with seeds, guys, so that you will have seeds in you. In other words, if you eat fruit that can't reproduce, you can't either. Papaya and Watermelon are PACKED with seeds and I'm having a baby...just sayin'.  

Ok, back on track...

After my fruity breakfast, I took a ride out to the park and feasted on some salty oxygen coming from the bay- one of my favorite, Zen inducing experiences. One of my overall bicycling goals for the year was to ride 1000 miles. Another is to ride over the Courtney Campbell bridge and back in one trip. Both are very attainable and are more to encourage me to go out and find my happy, Zen place, than to reach any specific physiological health standard. 

My little piece of Zen, this morning

I can also control my breathing and sunlight exposure, which go hand in hand when beach cruising on a sunny summer morning. While I'm not super sporty about my biking, I do use a few sport-like tools. One new piece of gear to me is a Mission cooling towel. You get it wet, wring it out, pull it in a snappy motion a few times and it chills down about 10 degrees cooler than air temperature. I love it because it fits under my helmet, covers my ears, keeps my noggin cool, keeps sweat out of my eyes, and keeps my earbuds securely in place. 

One of my best friends refers to Sunblock on me as "Freckle Repellent." Since I'm such a pale, freckly Floridian, I have always struggled with sun exposure. Since reading the Vitamin D Cure by James Dowd, I realize that Vitamin D can epigenetically turn off cancerous processes in the body. Obviously, sunburn is bad for me, but so are the chemicals in sunblock. I am learning to get the right amount of sun and the right amount of alkalization in my bloodstream to keep cancer away without harsh chemicals smeared on  my skin. Cloth barriers also help somewhat. I prefer cowboy style, lightweight, long sleeve shirts for my bike rides. Again, I like to feel like I can walk into a store without looking like the King of Spandexia.  I also ride at night when I feel too medium rare.

My goals here are similar to my mileage and route goals- I want more Vitamin D, more fresh air, and more Zen. I don't know how to quantify that exactly.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Innovative Massage Therapy

I had a longtime client ask me tonight about how I approach the body. He was curious to know if most of the techniques I do were specifically taught to me, or if I made up stuff as I go, to accommodate each client. It was a two hour massage, so we had plenty of time to talk. It took about 45 minutes for me to answer the question, because we are both music nerds who came up with several musical analogies to discuss the concept.

Guitar players, for example, are usually memorable when they do something innovative. Jimi Hendrix played with his teeth. Jimmy Page played with a violin bow. Slash bends strings all over the fret board. BB King uses his smooth trademark vibrato to sell every single lick.

These innovative guitar players have far surpassed typical routines and formulas to truly become artists. To reach this level in the massage therapy field, a therapist must be creative and brave enough to push some limits. Like music, which nobody will pay for if it doesn't sound good, massage can't push so far outside of the norm that people are scared or uncomfortable trying it. Back to BB King, his style is probably more accessible to more customers than Jimmy Page's bow solo here. 

You have to push boundaries but not too far. There are rules to follow in music that act as the framework for creativity, to make pleasing melodies instead of just making noise. The same is true for massage rules- fascia responds well to heat, grinding an elbow into shallow muscle attachments is painful, pay attention to and work with the client's breathing pattern, go slow to relax and fast to invigorate muscles...the list could go on. 

Not to disparage John Denver, who is a very talented guy, but his guitar playing is the opposite of innovative. He strums with one hand and holds steady chords with the other. Compared to Eddie Van Halen, John Denver is barely doing anything with his guitar. 

So what's the difference between my massage and a more conventional massage routine? First, I try to see the body as the 3 dimensional structure that it is. Eddie Van Halen clearly uses every inch of his guitar and comes at it from every possible direction. He also uses a diverse set of skills, string tapping, for example, that allows him to get something done more efficiently than the average player can. I find that every CEU I take and every massage I receive gives me more unique tools in my technique toolbox. I need to mix and match everything I've learned from neuro-muscular, myo-fascial, shiatsu, stretching, sports massage, craniosacral, orthopedic rehab, and anything else I can get my hands on, to fine tune the perfect treatment for the specific client in front of me.  

The answer to the question then, is that I have to draw from many techniques I have been taught first, and then, thanks to more than a decade of hands on experience, apply creativity to the basic techniques, to get the most possible therapeutic value out of them. 

Just to drive this analogy into the ground, here is a clip from the movie August Rush, in which a musical prodigy plays a guitar in a completely unique way.