Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Fantastic, Food-saving, Left-over Pie



                                                       




      With the Holiday season in full swing, there are bound to be many feasts to be had and visited in a variety of settings. From a variety of home-cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, to local area "pot-lucks" to New Year's soirees, there is a common denominator that we are left with after the festivities of abundance wind down: food. Now some may say left-overs are never a problem because "care-packages" usually leave with the guests as tokens of good will and cheer...and to make clean-up and wrapping left-overs easier. (C'mon man. You seriously think all those times grandma kept telling you to eat, eat, eat was because she was concerned about the possibility of your starvation? HA!!!) In my house, however, there are permanent and semi-permanent consumers that stay here who look forward for months in advance to the spreads from the kitchen. Left-overs usually wind up in my fridge. Although my beloved consumers have whittled the art-form of snitching and snacking into a skill that would make any Turkey Vulture proud, I have to monitor what gets circulated to the back and bottom of the refrigerator. My family is composed of hard-core carnivores. The side-dishes sometimes get forgotten unless I put together their plates for them. To help combat the chaos of left-over neglect, I use a special recipe to bring the separate stray dishes into one that is brand new and tasty. Bring in: The Left-over Pie. It is also quick and easy. With lots of left-overs, several of these pies can be made at once, sliced and then frozen for meals down the road. So here it is:  how to make Left-over Pie.



                                    "The Fantastic, Food-saving Left-over Pie"



Ingredients:


1 cup Left-overs "one"

1 cup Left-overs "two" - Now, "left-overs" in the first two items refers to potatoes of all kinds, stuffings, casseroles, wild rice, vegetables and even meat (if you still have some). What usually does NOT work well here are soups, sauces, Aunt Flo's Jello-mold or Great Gram's Chocolate "Surprise". Generally, if it is still edible mixed with other things on a plate of dinner items and has substance, it is safe.

1/2 cup biscuit mix - There are some really great, organic renditions of this stuff. I am not going to tout one over another. The message is you can do this and still be GMO-free. (wink.)

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese - I prefer aged, Wisconsin sharp cheddar, but I am biased.  Let your taste-buds guide you.


Instructions:


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a shallow 9 inch baking dish, lined with parchment baking paper, layer Left-overs one and two.

Sprinkle the cheese over the layered left-overs.

In a separate bowl, combine biscuit mix, eggs and milk. Stir until well blended. ( A few tiny, residual clumps are fine. They will dissolve when cooking.)

Pour the batter-like mixture over the awaiting, layered left-overs and cheese. (Cheese will float to the top. This is good!)

Place baking dish in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes. (When finished, the top will be a medium, golden brown. If left-overs used had a little more moisture, like with green-bean casserole or asparagus hollandaise, allow a few extra minutes to get that gorgeous, medium brown to show up. It will. )

Once cooking is complete, pull from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing. If freezing, allow pie to completely cool to the touch before wrapping and freezing.





That is pretty much about it. I hope this gives you a means to an end during these busy holidays.

Happy Post-Thanksgiving, Pre-Christmas, Yule, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and any other celebrations in between....i.e. Bright Blessings to all! :)








Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Instinctual Cooking

 
   

      Anybody that is a true chef will tell you, upon occasion, there will be failures. I learned this the hard way in my younger years, many a time. Although I have gotten a lot more savvy about what works and what doesn't, occasionally I am blind-sided. This was such the case with a recipe I decided to so diligently follow for a Cajun 15-bean soup I found on the back of a 1.5 pound package of beans I picked up.
     Sounded pretty good, at first glance. As I was soaking the beans, I started doing the math of what they were telling me to do. To make a long story short, the people behind this recipe seemed to think that covering the soaked 1.5 pounds of beans with 2 quarts of water was sufficient to cook said beans for 2.5 hours at a low simmer, uncovered. This totally rubbed me the wrong way, but then I heard my mother's screams from my youth as I experimented with "deviations" of traditional family recipes, in my usual "mad scientist" way.
      "You have to follow the recipe!!!" she hollered as one concoction blew up in the oven, while another boiled over into a foamy mess all over the floor. I told her I just wanted a chemistry set for Christmas, year after year. I guess I took it upon myself to make own chemistry set in the kitchen when my Wish List was repeatedly stamped, "Denied." (Psht! Blow up the house? What's the worst that could happen?... Don't answer that.)
     Anyway, getting back to the bean soup, I decided to fudge on the side of caution and added an extra pint of water. Just as I suspected, about one hour into the long simmer, the soup was starting to look more like lava than soup meaning the water was running out. With a quick stir, I could feel the thickness starting to collect at the bottom of the pot with the spoon, too. Grrrr. I knew it!!!
      Although the process of "reduction" when making soups and sauces is a hallmark of many a great recipe, there was no WAY this was going to go the distance for the amount of time they told me. In went another pint of water, and on went a half-cocked lid. Skip ahead to 30 minutes before time to add the browned meat and onions the recipe called for. It was getting way too thick again, and started to stick at the bottom. 
     Grrrowllll....in went more water and some vigorous stirring to keep the bottom from burning. Now I stopped to think, as I'm browning the meat and onions to seal the deal. Something seemed off about this process. I made navy bean and split-pea soup many times as a little girl with my grandma. I miss the days when I could just call her and say, "What am I supposed to do, again?" She worked on auto-pilot. It was a hand-full of this and a chunk of that, a pinch of one thing and a dash of another. Learning to cook from grandma was an exercise in observation and memory. Today, my now middle-aged memory was failing me. Something just wasn't right. But what?
     Added the meat and onions into the brew, just like the recipe said, being such a "good girl". The nagging feeling of unease persisted. As I cleaned up the kitchen, the lava-like sound returned to the pot. I raced over to stir, but it was too late. The bottom had officially started to burn. I pulled the pot from the stove, swearing the whole way to the sink. I pulled another pot that was still drying from a different dish prepared earlier. In went the lava, but not without leaving a good 1/2 inch of burn on the bottom. "F*#K! S#^T!" After I got over my surly sailor expletive session, I tasted the remaining lava.
       Oh. It was good, really good. A few "consumers" of my household passed by, tasted, and concurred; it was really, really good. Well, I hope they enjoy it. I now stare at the mess for the 'morrow, as the burnt-on pot soaks overnight. I sigh deeply, still knowing this could have been avoided. Grandma never constantly stirred her bean soup. What did I forget to do? Suddenly, I quietly heard her cackling from the great beyond.
      In her Hungarian-American accent I heard her say, "You brown the meat een the pot, silly mokush! You brown the meat und the onions in lard or oleo een the pot first, my dear. I luff you!" Her laughter echoed gently away. Yep. That was it. I will try it "our" way next time. Love you and miss you, Grandma. Thank you. Meanwhile, I have a pot to scrub.


       Have a Happy and Healthy Day! Bright Blessings!

Picture by : http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs16/f/2007/204/b/1/Cooking_Mama_by_sailorsavannah.jpg

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Knowing When to Say, "When."

   





   
     A client of mine spurred the impetus for this post. She had her own "AHA" moment realizing that continuously "working through pain" is not always the answer to healing. (You know who you are. Thank you for your keen insight, and blessing.) ;) She struggles on and off with a hamstring, IT band and piriformis issue that mimics sciatica. She pushes herself hard in a variety of physical outlets. This particular day, she had just run a 5K. She reported her ongoing problem as being a little "twingy" after the run, but over-all, felt pretty good. Her SI joints and hips were slightly out of alignment which is normal because she leads heavily with one side. While working to balance her back out, she told me that ever since she rested for a few weeks from the rigors of her usual routine, she noticed in a recent Taekwondo class she takes, that she is finally able to do a particular kick that she had been struggling with. AHA! She had just come back from a week-long vacation and was "easing" back into her schedule. She observed that since she had been being a little more gentle with herself, the offending muscles and corresponding fascia actually had time to unwind, and return to the proper resting length. This has opened up her body to have greater range of motion, stamina, and strength. You go, girl! Gently.
     In contrast to this awesome report, I had another client who doesn't believe in rest. He is a firm believer that "no pain, no gain, at any and all costs". This client works as a personal trainer, is built like a truck, and, despite his young age, has the range of motion in some of his joints of a senior citizen. "Yeah. I got a lot of work for you to do," he sighs. Never mind the taught bands restricting his neck and shoulders that are better suited for holding up a bridge than the human body.  It is when I get down to the legs that the true atrocities become evident.
    This client's hamstrings are like individual, solid, steel pipes with wrinkles and wads of scar tissue, throughout. The IT bands are so tight that there is a actually an outward bow developing in the shape of the thighs. There are corresponding "clicking" and "popping" sounds from the knees and ankles, sounding off from their torturous misalignment. On the front of the thighs there is more scarred and wadded up fascia and muscle-fibers gone horribly wrong. In one quad, there is an egg-shaped knot of such derelict fibers. "Yeah. That's from my last tear," he admits. I asked him if he realizes that when he gets into his 30's, if he doesn't knock this off, he isn't going to be moving very well, at all. He relates that he knows, and further relates that this last tear put him down for 6 months with crutches. I am stunned. He then goes on to say, "That's why I am working so hard, to get back to where I was." No AHA, here, unfortunately. After delicately trying to explain why this is a bad idea, he retorts, "I can't help it. It's an addiction." I finish my work, and quietly leave.
     Now, to see this guy walking about, he looks like a very fit, young man. It is sad that this is not the case. There is nothing wrong with pushing one's self up to the limit and eventually, making a break-though to another level. There does, however, have to be a respect for the integrity of the body and its health, for its own sake. Part of this maintenance includes rest. It is not an option. It is a necessity, if you want the body to be able to keep working to and through limits.  Please remember this the next time a limit is being approached. Be gentle with yourself. It is the only body you have, and it needs to last a life-time.

Have a happy and healthy week, everyone. Bright Blessings!


Picture by: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/338/a/0/simple_flex_by_n_o_n_a_m_e-d5n0jwh.jpg

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Proper Time Management vs. The Proper Use of Time

     





       Just got home a little while ago from one of my "brick and mortar" jobs where I work as a massage therapist; and for some, a confidant and cheerleader for helping others to achieve a happier and healthier, pain-managed life-style. I am passionate about what I do. The Universe has granted me a sound mind to cipher the intricate puzzle of the human body. This includes recognition of patterns and pains that can be debilitating if not dealt with in a kind and understanding fashion.
      These "patterns" are sometimes easy to figure out from a physiological stand-point. These can be observed in repetitive motion injuries, or improper work-out strategies for the particular body at hand. Sometimes postural distortions are discovered that were previously unmentioned. They show their insidious harm in the way a person compensates in his or her daily activities. This comes as a beautiful "AHA!" moment for some people that have been struggling with pain for a very long time, but never knew why. Sometimes, though, the chain of pain runs deeper.
       Sometimes, the reason behind a painful postural distortion comes from what it is happening, or has happened, in life. These cases require a special kind of care and patience. The problem with this particular "brick and mortar" job, is it is run by a corporation that is more concerned with "numbers" than real results. Enter: problem; at least, for me.
        Tonight, I did six hours solid of body-work, back to back. At this particular job, each hour of therapy is supposed to actually yield 50 minutes therapy time to each client. In the 10 minutes remaining, the therapist is responsible for: bringing the client in and seeing how his or her body is feeling, gleaning what he or she wants to be worked on, and getting the client ready for the job at hand. Apparently, there is no time allotted for gushes of approval over how much better the client is feeling since the last session or concerns over what did not work and needs to be done. There is also no time allotment for talk about the weather, grand-kids visiting, stress at work, or anything else that might be affecting the healthy integrity of the whole living, human being before me.
      Okay...I look at the clock that has passed several minutes past the top of the hour after this has all been revealed. I still have my 10 minute "slush-fund" to work with. It's all good. Now comes the session.
      Sometimes the client will relax right into the face-cradle, just needing to be touched to let it all go. Sometimes he or she will continue talking the whole time to "get it all out" while I work at the physical problems that ebb and flow throughout the session. But sometimes, there will be that one client that needs "just a little more time."
      Extra time is needed to go through Muscle Energy Techniques to release that bundle of muscle fibers that never let go after a gruesome hockey game two days ago. Extra Time is needed to quiet the nerve and stress bundles acquired by a young person trying to make "REGIONALS" at an important swim meet. Extra time is needed to disengage the shoulders from being worn as "earrings" from a person trying to accommodate demanding "in-laws". Extra time is needed to allow a person who is deaf and blind, to be able to find the table, know when and how to turn over, and how to find her clothes to get dressed after the session. Time. For the love of God and the Universe, it takes time.
       I can usually get it done within the time allotted; but sometimes, I just can't, or should say, WON'T. Apparently, this is not acceptable, at this particular "brick and mortar" job. Therapists are no longer able to keep one room for their shifts. (We are now required to bounce from room to room each hour, to show the rooms are being used "effiiciently". I guess it "looks better" on the books this way.) We are also required to change sheets, clean the room and do all of our case notes which are housed in the front office (so as, to comply by HIPPA laws) in between clients. (Please do the math on how long all of these items should really take. Remember, we have ten minutes.)
      I got reprimanded today, because: I take too long to get out of my room assigned for the hour before going to the next room, and, I quote, "You laugh too loud when you are in there". (This was a response to a particularly funny story a client was relating to me while she was on the table.) Another very humorous regular client was on the table a little while later.
       He is a very kind, fatherly-like character who has "adopted" me has his "go-to gal" to unwind his ill-placed golf-swing.  I caught myself laughing, and apologized and explained myself. With his usual wit, he replied, "Tell them you can show them how it is done, if they would like." I had to stifle myself, to be sure. I warned him I couldn't go over in time, as I had to be mindful of the clock. At the end, he thanked me, as he always does, then told me he would be out in 15 minutes. I closed the door laughing...loudly. Thanks for keeping me honest, dear sir. :D


Trying to be in the present moment doesn't always work in the world, I understand. But if you were on my table, how would you like me to proceed? Your comments are whole-heartedly welcome. Bright Blessings!

Please check out the beautiful image by: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Wings-of-Time-One-55051477

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Fermented Food Success Story!



   


     Hello! I am pleased to share with you a success story using the information provided on my my previous post:
http://womanofthewoodshealthportal.blogspot.com/2013/10/more-food-for-thought.html
where NutritionGeeks.com shares with us the value of consuming fermented foods in our diet. This recipe was gleaned from the info from that post by my friend and workmate, the lovely and talented Tina Hoffman. She has graciously allowed me to reproduce what she did here, to share with you! I must say, it is DELICIOUS!!! Two jars way, way up! So without further ado, here it is:


                                                  Tina's Ferment-abulous Cabbage!!!

Ingredients:

1/2 head red cabbage
1/2  head regular cabbage
4 carrots
1 small red onion
2 generous teaspoons of minced garlic - Hint: 1 clove equals about 1/2 teaspoon minced.
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

Shred the cabbage and carrots into a bowl.

Finely chop the onion and add it to the mix. Add in the garlic, too.

Lightly add salt and pepper to taste. - Note: Although the salt combines with the juices to assist in the fermenting process, you only need to add a small amount to achieve the taste you want.

Mix the whole works together by hand. Squeeze the veggies as you go. The liquid released should make the veggies start to feel wet. (You are breaking down the cell-walls of the veggies to release their juices. These juices combined with the light salting creates "brine" which is the preserving and fermenting agent.)

Stuff the mixture into a jar, or jars, depending on the size of your jars and the yield. Make sure that the veggies are completely covered with the brine solution. (If not, you can add a little water to "top it off".)

Allow to sit on the counter for three days. You can let it sit longer, if you desire, but this tastes pretty awesome at three days. :) Place finished fermented product in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process and keep fresh.

Now, I must note, that in the picture I took of Tina's beautifully colored concoction, there are some alfalfa sprouts in it, too. This is because I was a "bad girl" and ate some before I got home to take the picture. ( I couldn't help it! It's really THAT good.)  I through them in to re-fill the part I ate. I must say, it is a nice addition and adds to the bright and tasty mosaic inside that jar.

Hope you enjoy Tina's recipe as much as I did! Happy and Healthy eating everyone! :)



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sweeeet Pepper Poppers!!!

   

    Hi all! This is another cold weather treasure that makes for awesome snacks on a football Sunday, or a meal by itself. The ingredients in this recipe are mostly Tri-doshic friendly from an Ayurvedic standpoint. There are some potentially heating aspects of the end product that might aggravate Pitta a bit; however, on a cold, blustery day in November, you can aggravate my Pitta anytime. :) So here it is!


                                             "Sweeeet Pepper Poppers!!!"


Ingredients:

12 Mini Sweet Peppers - They come in all the gorgeous red, yellow and orange colors of Bells, but are small and skinny. Unlike similarly shaped sharps, they are sweet and mellow.

1 cup fresh spinach

1 cup freshly prepared (already cooked) couscous- Quinoa can be used, but I like the smaller size of couscous granules for this particular recipe. Note: 1/4 cup dry couscous makes about 1 cup cooked. If making from a box, save the left-over for salads. It's delicious!

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup celery, chopped small
1/4 cup carrots shredded and lightly steamed

About 1/3 pound ground and browned turkey - I have some hard-core carnivores here. Crumbled and browned tofu works, too. :)

1/3 cup plain yogurt      
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small bunch parsley (optional, but cool.)
2 pinches sea salt
2 Tablespoons sunflower or walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

About 1 teaspoon ground black pepper corn - I mill it straight onto the top of the finished product before popping in the oven. More or less is personal choice.


Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice peppers length-wise and remove seeds. Note: I like to keep the 2 halves together by not cutting through the other side. Just cut a slit big enough to open the pepper to take out the seeds. :)

Place the peppers on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Heat the garlic, salt, celery and oil in a pan and sautee for a couple minutes. Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, but still a lovely green.

Spoon the sauteed mix into the prepared couscous. Add in the steamed carrots, turkey or tofu, yogurt, turmeric and most of the cheese. Note: Keep a Tablespoon or two aside to sprinkle on top of the peppers after they come out of the oven for a little "cheesecap". This also serves to hide the veggies on the "inside" of the peppers for the picky, anti-veggie crowd. Mom trick. ;)

Stir up the couscous mix to evenly distribute everything.

With a teaspoon, spoon the mix into each of your little peppers. Be generous, but try not to overflow the little guys. Sprinkle your ground peppercorn on top.

Pop into the oven for 50 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top for last couple minutes of baking, if "cheesecaps" are desired.

Upon removal from the oven, garnish the tops by sinking little parsley florets into the tops of the stuffing. Careful. They will be hot. Place the peppers on a serving tray, and garnish the empty spaces with a few more parsley florets. (It's all about the presentation, donchaknow?)

Report: Entire plate of 12 was gone in 15 minutes, including the plate I used to take the picture. Might need to double or triple this recipe. ;)

                              Happy and Healthy Eating, everyone. Stay warm! :)











Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pan-tastic Potato Supper!

 

     As discussed in the last post (see :  What is "Ayurveda" Anyway?) the goal of Ayurveda is to live a healthy and happy life that is in line with an individual's unique constitution. This is done through diet. As the old saying goes, "You are what you eat." Ayurveda takes this one step further. The teachings decree that not only is the physical body affected by what is consumed, but so are the dispositions of the mind, emotions and spirit.
     When referring to food from an Ayurvedic stand-point, the first thing that is considered is the taste experienced on the toungue, or "rasa." There are six tastes : sweet, sour, pungent, salty, bitter and astringent. The doshas have certain tastes dominant to each nature. All six tastes should be incorporated into each meal, as it assists to balance the whole. All three doshas are found in all constitutions. It is the proportions of each taste that must be adjusted for the dominance of doshas in each person.
    Another thing considered in the Ayurvedic diet is the heating or cooling qualities of food, or "virya." This consideration is not only important to balance the doshas themselves, but also important when considering the season in which food is being eaten. Consumption of more cooling foods during the heated days of summer, and warming foods during the cold nights of winter just makes sense.
     One more quality considered for food by Ayurveda are the sensory or tactile qualities of food, or "guna". Whether a food is calming or stimulating, light or heavy, dry or moist, (among many others) can determine whether that food is going to have a positive or negative effect on the constitution. (Tiwari, pages 57-63) All things considered, there still are some foods that are generally considered to be Tri-doshic when eaten upon occasion by anyone. This generally means imbalance is less likely to occur for any of the doshas if certain things are eaten. It is this tri-doshic stand-point I am providing the following recipe for.  Hope you like it as much as all the different doshas did in this house!

                                                    "Pan-tastic Potato Supper!"
                                                       
                                                 - for a chilly fall or winter day-

                                                       Yield :  about 4 servings


Ingredients:

2 Cups Fresh Green Beans - Snapped into bite-size pieces.
                                            Steam-cook lightly, but still maintain firmness and bright green color.

4 medium red or white potatoes - Boil these until soft enough to pierce, but still firm.
                                                    Drain but set 1/3 cup of the potato water aside.
                                                    Cut potatoes into bite-sized cubes.

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon sunflower kernels
2 Tablespoon canola or sunflower oil
2 pinches sea salt
1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest pepper
1 Tablespoon ground sumac
1 Tablespoon ghee


Instructions:

In a large, tall-sided pan, (a wok works great!) heat 1 Tablespoon oil, salt, parsley and sunflower kernels and saute for a couple minutes.

Add in the beans, lemon zest pepper and potato water. Stir well. Allow to simmer for another couple of minutes.

Add the cubed potatoes, remaining 1 Tablespoon oil left and the ghee. Mix everything together coating the potatoes well. After 5 to 7 minutes, potatoes should be cooked through, but still firm.

Sprinkle sumac all over and mix once more.

Serve warm and enjoy! :)

Stacey Adams is a Body-worker, Healer, Herbal formulator, Perpetual student and Mom. She also is the owner and operator of "The Woman of the Woods Health Portal" on Myblogspot.com

Sources used for research :  Tiwari, Maya. "Ayurveda A Life of Balance". 1995.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What is "Ayurveda" Anyway?

   


     Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that translates into "the science of life". The tenants of Ayurveda were recorded more than 5,000 years ago making it one of the oldest, holistic medical systems in the world today. It is comprised of practices and philosophies that regard the mind, body and spirit as a whole unit. When any of these components become compromised, imbalance ensues which precedes illness, and ultimately manifests as dis-ease (Lad, pages 15-19).
     There are a variety of ways a person can become more aware of what needs to be maintained for holistic balance. Each person is a unique combination of the five"elements" of  Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space (Ether). The combinations of these natural elements, genetic recall and karmic memory make up each individual's human constitution, or Prakriti. The elements transmute their energies into the human form by way of three operating principles of nature called Doshas (Tiwari, pages 15-16; 23). These principles are thought to determine physical appearance, thought and emotional tendencies, and strengths and weaknesses within different people. (To determine which Doshic tendencies you may have, there is an interesting little quiz you can take found here:  http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/short/ ) The goal of Ayurveda is to know your Prakriti and keep it balanced "for optimum health and happiness." This is achieved by well-suited life-style, exercise, and most importantly, a diet that is in harmony with each individual's needs (Chiodo, page 8 -9).
     Maya Tiwari said, "Food is memory." It is from the five elements acting upon each other that subatomic particles, minerals, nutrients and living cells are formed. As we consume food, there is an inherent memory brought to our cells of sustenance (Tiwari, page 15). Each morsel is a reminder of the symbiotic relationship food and cells have had since the beginning of life, itself. It should be emphasized that food has its own inherent memory of  the cellular structures within itself, as it was designed to be at the beginning of time. Mutations to these structures alters the delicate DNA and balance of the sustenance held within. Hence, the importance of "living" food is emphasized. Food that has been altered, over-processed or made in a laboratory out of synthetic chemicals is not "living food", nor can it sustain life in healthy cells as they were designed to be sustained. This is another topic, for another time. With all this being said, the importance of food as a key player in balancing for health and happiness is tantamount to the Ayurvedic traditions.


Coming up: Some Ayurvedic-friendly recipes to help balance the Doshas. :) Stay tuned!


                                           

                                            Works Cited

Chiodo, Tess. "Ayurveda 101." Presentation at Joyful Yoga. 29 Sept. 2013.

Lad, Dr. Vasant. "Ayurveda The Science of Self-Healing." 1984.

Tiwari, Maya. "Ayurveda A Life of Balance." 1995.

Picture by:  http://th03.deviantart.net/fs71/PRE/i/2011/362/e/e/solar_mandala_by_steveallredart-d4kgt14.jpg











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Monday, October 28, 2013

More Food for Thought




I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. (I love NutritionGeeks.com) Your colon will thank you. :)

http://www.nutritiongeeks.com/blog/



Photo by NutritionGeeks.com.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When Parents Become Children



Ring ring ring, ring ring ring...phone call,  phone call....ring ring ring...

     Now, it is fairly early in the morning for me. My daughter and I are both proverbial "vampires", and the morning sun doesn't usually agree with us. I groggily answer the phone. It's my dad.
     "Hi! Hope I didn't wake you, morning glory," my dad says with feigned concern.
     "Mer...rahhawwwwn. No. It's fine, dad. What's up?"
     "Well, I broke my ankle."
     "You did WHAT?!?!" Now, I am sitting up at full attention. I am picturing him lying in a crumpled-up contortion, bleeding out somewhere. (Hey. I just woke up.)
      "Yep. Did it about a week ago."
      "Okayyyy. How'd you do that?" I relaxed back down a bit into the warm embrace of my pillows. My dad is an old salesman from way back in the day. He knows how to get your attention.
      "Was pushing a box into the screen porch and twisted my foot sideways out the door." An outside ankle injury is much more heartening news than an inside ankle injury, especially for the elders. I breathe my silent relief.
      "Alrighty. So, did you see a doctor? How do you know it's broken?"
       "Yep. Went to a podiatrist."
        "A podiatrist? Why?"
       "That's a foot doctor, isn't it? I twisted my foot." Not prepared to dissect the folly of this statement before coffee, I let him continue. "My ankle swelled up for a few days. Thought I just strained it, and it would get better, but I kept avoiding stepping on it because it hurt so bad. Finally decided to go see the podiatrist. He took X-rays. Who was I supposed to go see?"
      "Um, how about your orthopede? ...Anyway, did the doctor show you the X-rays?"
      "No. He just sat in a chair and held them up to the light. You know, I thought that was kind of funny. Seemed pretty old-fashioned, if you ask me. He said I had an in-place break and gave me a plastic thing with velcro straps to put on it."
     This seemed pretty archaic to me, as well. Modern technology has come a very long way in allowing patients to be able to see what "the doctor" is talking about. "How old was this guy?"
     "Maybe about 45, or so." Now, I started a silent burn. Young doctors taking advantage of the elderly are becoming more and more common than I care to say. Another topic for another time.
     "Okay, dad. Your insurance is probably shelling out a cool $1800 for that brace, for an injury you didn't really, even see."
     "Yeah, I don't doubt it. (sigh.) Anyway, what I'm worried about is the swelling is going above the ankle, right now. Not bad. But I just want to know if I should be worried. I don't want to have my leg amputated, or something."
     "How far above the ankle/"
     "An inch, or so."
     "Well, first off, you really should go see your orthopede. Inflammation and swelling is the way the body tries to immobilize a joint that has been damaged to keep it from moving until it's healed. Too much swelling can hinder this function, though. Especially if it's in the lower leg area that already fights gravity in lymph and blood flow, to begin with. Did he give you any anti-inflammatories?"
     "No. Should he have?"
     "In an injury like yours, normally, yes. Have you been icing the area?"
     "No."
     "Have you been elevating your foot? Old rule is it should be above your heart when lying down."
      "How come he didn't tell me any of this?"
      "No clue. He SHOULD have. Maybe he didn't think he had to because it's probably covered in the 20 page tome he gave you to 'read' when you got home about your own care." It has become VERY disturbing that many a doctor can now come in, after the nurse-practitioner has done all the intake and symptomology, glance at the notes, and then decree a diagnosis in about 3.5 minutes flat, then leave. A trail of pre-written, generic care-packages are then collated and handed to the patient without any real specific guidelines for the case.
       "Yeah, I did get a bunch of stuff to read when I left the office." My blood was reaching a fever-pitch boil, by now." "I'm getting some ice." Pause. Pause. Pause..."Ok. Now, what else am I supposed to do?"
      "Elevate your foot."
      "It is."
      "Above your heart?"
      "Well, it's on a little stool in front of me, and I can just barely see my toes." ...
      "No, dad. Lie down on the couch and put your foot up on the arm of the couch." Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
       "Ok. Now it's above my eyeballs! Is that better? And what am I supposed to take, Motrin or something?"
       "Yes, dad. Motrin will be fine."
       "But now, how am I supposed to watch TV?"...
       "Dad... turn your head."


      With the aging of America, this is becoming a common type of conversation heard everywhere. When the roles get reversed between parent and child, it can be funny, aggravating and sad, all at once. My dad used to tell me when I'd do something outrageously stupid in my teen years, "With every good man or woman, there comes a brain. FREE! AT NO EXTRA CHARGE! Use it!" This was a poignant day, today. I was going to pull out his salesmen-tinged logic on him. I refrained.
      It is important that we look after the well-being of our loved ones, even as they go through a curtain of clarity many of us will find ourselves at one day. I have some very, well-pointed (daggered) questions for the "podiatrist" that saw my father this day. I will let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, Bright Blessings. Happy Healing to all.
     

Picture by:
      http://www.deviantart.com/art/04-21-Flow-1-Dad-308830229

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Trauma Need Not Rule The Day

                       
                                               "The Rapist" - by Stacey Adams

                                               You loom in railway dales
                                        Slick in movement; slouch of stature.
                                          You barrel though that dirty snow
                                              Smiling that same, sick grin
                            Never caring for which way is out, or which way is in.

                                                         (True story.)
   
        So many people deal with pain that manifests in the spirit, mind, and eventually, the body. It is important to remember, that your suffering does not need to rule your future. Each person is a beautiful, sentient being that deserves to be here. Even if an oppressive force threatens happiness, it is ultimately up to you how the transgression of something or someone outside yourself is to be dealt with. No body or thing should ever be given that kind of power of you. Ever. Traumas are horrible. They need to be dealt with. They test our mettle and threaten to remove ourselves from the bright beings we are supposed to be. Check your trauma at the door. Make a promise to yourself that you are committed to healing, then work with it. Even if you need to call in the help of others, work with it. You deserve to be happy. Let it be so.


Bright Blessings, and Healing that brings Happiness. Here for you. :)


Picture by: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Rapist-73018335

Cafe Belinda: Meatless Monday: Cookbook Review, Free Recipe & Giveaway

Cafe Belinda: Meatless Monday: Cookbook Review, Free Recipe & Giveaway

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"If Your Back Hurts, It's Usually Your Butt's Fault"

 

 "If your back hurts, it's usually your butt's fault." These words were spoken by one of many great teachers I must genuflect in front of, even post mortem. (I would like to credit the specific teacher, but each one always credited another. The truth remains, however.)
     Our butts are considered the nemesis and boon of the human form, depending who you ask. It has been revered by ancient painters, sculptors, Hollywood superstars and "twerkers", alike. It is the anatomical mass that so many wish they had more, or less of. It is this same part that some of us seem to have a hard time getting up off of to do something productive. (see - household chores and teenagers, or http://alphamom.com/parenting/household-chores-and-teenagers/). Nonetheless, it is an extremely important part of our physiology that needs to be reckoned with, especially when the back starts to hurt.
     There are nine muscles in each butt cheek; yes, NINE. These muscles are major players in everything from power extension of the thigh at the hip, stabilization of the pelvis, inward and outward rotation of the thigh at the hip, and giving us something comfy to sit on without mis-aligning the whole rest of the spine. When these muscles are over-encumbered or weakened by postural stress, the body sends out pain signals to show something is "out of whack".
      One of these notorious pain signals comes from the sciatic nerve that directly travels under and through the deep muscles of the buttocks. (One of the prime candidates for this dysfunction is the Piriformis.) Sometimes stretching these muscles can alleviate the pain. I will go over exercises for this in another post. (My personal favorites are the straight-leg cross and shoe-laced figure 4.) In many cases I have observed, however, weakness in these vital muscles have caused a great deal of trouble.
      It is important to remember, that connected to the pelvis are a variety of other muscles of the core and thighs, and a big chunk of fascia that connects the whole works together. This big chunk of fascia, (the thoraco-lumbar aponeurosis, for the fancy) even has connections to the mid and upper back, obliques and diaphragm, among others. When our butt muscles are weak, stability of the pelvis demands that other muscles compensate to maintain integrity to the core. This makes sense. The core is where our vital organs are housed. When spinal and core muscles are asked to compensate for the lack of strength down-under, this creates a classic case of "over-use" for the muscles up above. (It is, indeed, all connected.) With over-use, comes the begging cry of tired muscles seeking relief. Enter, back pain.
    Now, before my fitness friends start screaming, "I told you so!!! Squats are BOSS!, it is also important to remember that form enables function. It is true. Well placed squats will help in solving the conundrum of a weak butt. However,  proper placement to exact strength of the buttocks without relying upon the quads or back is of vital importance. Try sitting on the edge of a chair. Stand up and squeeze the bum upon standing. Relax, sit back down and repeat. Do this 10, 20 or 40 times, depending on your development. What do you feel? Where is the burn really coming from? Quads some, yes. But don't you hear the butt bellowing, too? That's the stuff I am talking about. ;)

Bright Blessings and Happy Healing!!! As always, comments are most welcome! :)



Picture from: http://www.backandneck.ca
   

What do you do when you break?


An old song goes:
    "Anything you can do, I can do better...I can do anything better than you."
     "No you can't."
     "Yes I can."
     "No you can't."
     "Yes I can, yes I can, yes I caaaaaannnnn..." until something gives out. :(
      So...what do you do when the back, or the shoulder, or the hip, or the knee gives out? What happens when the picture perfect relationship heads south? What do you do when a loved one does not share in your ideals of what perfection should be? WHAT DO YOU DO? I am curious.
     We all want to be the picture of perfection in whatever our passions lead us to want. What happens, though, when those dreams get tripped up? What happens when you injure yourself by moving the wrong way, doing too much of something, or father time simply comes calling? What about when the heart, or feelings of self-worth are crushed? And what about coming to the realization that your ideal does not match that of another close to you? Or your own image of yourself becomes limited? What do you do?

Comments are SUPER welcome here. We can learn from each other.

Bright blessings in advance!




Picture from: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs17/i/2007/161/1/5/Defeated_by_Laiyla.jpg

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Your What Hurts? Part 3


      As a review from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, the things we do to our body in this modern era are deplorable. Isaac Newton once said, "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Holding one position for any extended period without release and reconnaissance promises damage in the form of chronic pain and postural distortion. Fret not. There are ways we can circumvent the abuse, as long as we take the time to correct the errors we have created for our poor bodies. In the previous post, I addressed the yogic posture of the "Reclined Tailor"  to assist in re-establishing integrity to the human body, despite the modern stresses of every day work and life. In this post, we will explore another restorative pose called the "Mountain Brook".
     Now, I do not have the "proper" name for this pose. (My Hindi speaking friends are welcome to help. Namaste.) The Mountain Brook pose was designed to mimic the flow of water over pepples in a stream, whereas the "pebbles" are the natural, spinal curves we are supposed to have. Some consider Mountain Brook to be a "kinder and gentler" form of the Reclined Tailor. If you look at the kinesiology of the two poses, however, you will see that there are subtle differences to be gleaned from each. The Reclined Tailor pose involves the lumbar spine, whereas the Mountain Brook takes the low back out of the equation so the thoracic spine and neck can be focused on. (Once versed in how to do both, try them both. The body's intelligence will show the difference.)  Let us begin.

   You will need many of the same props used in the Tailor Reclining pose. If knee issues are present, only one bolster under the both of them will be needed, this time. A folded blanket or pillow for the upper back, and an additional, small pillow for the neck, or the like, are needed. A "T-square" of criss-crossed bolsters works very well here, as well.
    Start in an upright, seated position with legs straight out in front. Place the bolster under the knees, if needed. Recline back onto the pillows set up for the upper back and neck. It should look something like this:


                    (Imageby http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_kp3gizBKB2U/TERxH4axanI/AAAAAAAAB5s/yQdKGA6iOwk/s1600/Heidi---Bliss-Blog-Pic.jpg)

     This is a restorative pose, like Reclining Tailor. The difference is that the lumbar spine and hips are not involved. The upper back gets a greater, gentle extension. This pose can be held for one minute or beyond. (I have fallen asleep like this, truth be told.) This pose serves to re-establish intregrity of the kyphotic and lordotic curves of the spine that are supposed to be present in a healthy body.
     Exiting this pose is the same as that described in Part 2 of this series. Bring the knees up, remove props in the way, roll it out to one side, then push back up to a comfortable, seated position. Take a moment here to breathe and pay attention to the sensations traveling about the body. This is "body intelligence" that supersedes anything we may try to do it in the course of our modern lives. Feel it. Breathe it. Remember it. Most importantly, come back to it, repeatedly. This is how new habits are born.

     May this inspire you to improve your posture. Have a healthy, and happy day! Om shanti. :)
                                       

Your What Hurts? Part 2

                                                         
                  (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Don-t-Get-Lost-333967044)

     As indicated in part 1 of this series, extended use of our arms and head forward is not only over-done, it is epidemic. This happens at the computer, when driving and any other common activity that we keep our arms held out in front for any period of time. Our necks, shoulders and all the corresponding muscles, joints and fascia suffer repeatedly. Adding to this positional abuse we use in our modern day world is the act of sitting. Over time, this further curves our spines away from the way it was designed to be used by our paleolithic ancestors. Connected to the notorious position of prolonged sitting is an unnatural twisting of our SI joints and femurs in their sockets to balance what is going on up top.
     "Yeah, Stace! But we can't very well just quit our jobs!" you may say. This is true, especially in our current economy. There are, however, restorative measures that can help unwind, relax and heal our poor over-worked backs, necks and shoulders. Two of these measures that help TREMENDOUSLY are the yogic positions of "Reclined Tailor" and "Mountain Brook". They can be done in just a few minutes to relieve stress in the offended areas and bring extraordinary relief. Part 2 of this series focuses on the "Reclined Tailor".


                                             "Reclined Tailor"
          (a.k.a., the reclining. bound, angle pose, or Supta Baddha Konasana)

      The object of this position is to extend the flexed Ilio-psoas muscles, open the hips and re-establish the proper alignment of the head, neck and shoulders. You will need a rolled towel or pillow for under the neck and another flat-rolled blanket or pillow for under the upper back. Additional bolsters for a comfortable reclined position are more than welcome, too.  If knee-troubles are present, a pillow on the lateral side of each knee will  help alleviate distress to the joints. A tension strap is optional, but not necessary. Set up your props ahead of time so they can readily be adjusted for comfort.

     Start in an upright position with the bottoms of the feet touching each other, knees out. Lengthen the spine, neck and head up toward the sky as if being pulled up from the center of the crown by a string. Recline back into your waiting props. Adjust the props so the neck, back and knees are comfy. Now close your eyes, and breathe. Allow your heart center to open as your body relaxes into the pose.


                           (Image by http://www.findhomeremedy.com)

      If discomfort is felt at any point, do not do the pose. It is meant to be restorative and relaxing. This pose should also be avoided by women who have just given birth until given clearance by the doctor. (The pelvic muscles, in this case, need time to restore to normal working length and strength. Never fear, dear yoginis! The doctor will most likely give clearance in about  6 to 8 weeks.)
     To come out of this pose, bring the knees together. Take out any props to the side, and gently roll to the right and pause before pushing back up to a seated position. Breathe. Pay attention to how your body feels after this gentle restoration. Allow the sensations to circulate through your cells before continuing to meditation, other poses, or the rest of your day. :)

Bright Blessings! More to come!

Your What Hurts? Part 1

      Hello computer users everywhere! (...and food prep people, students carrying books in front of them, over the road truck drivers, airplane pilots, lab assistants, and many, many more...) Today I would like to discuss a certain pernicious, postural distortion that plagues so very many people.

It looks something like this:
 
                                                                                                                        From a skeletal standpoint, it looks like this:                                                                                                                                  


           
                  ..and if you are like my teenage daughter, it looks like this:





      Any of this look familiar? Perhaps we need to ask your neck, shoulders and back: Does any of this FEEL familiar? How do we undo the damage we are doing with this familiar position of forward head, rounded shoulders and flexed, internally rotated hips and femurs? Glad you asked! Enter the "Reclined Tailor" and "Mountain Brook." More to come!

.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Hungarian Sicky Soup

 


 


     I have been talking about treating the common cold over the last couple posts. Upon consideration, I have decided to share the timeless recipe I use that was handed down to me by my Grandmother. May it bring you healing and a warm, happy feeling in your tummy. Gramma would be proud. :)


                                                 "Hungarian Sicky Soup"

Ingredients:

2 quarts water, roughly
3 large boneless chicken breasts

     You can use bone-in, but you will have to strain the broth and remove the bones before returning to the brew. Another way my grandma used to do it was serve the cooked chicken as a separate dish and ladle the broth around it. I prefer the chicken in the soup for when you are sick. The added protein shredded is easy to eat with a spoon and promotes strength.

1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper corn
1/8 teaspoon dried, ground, sharp pepper (Cayenne works)
   
    Now, if you like "heat", you can always add more black or sharp pepper. Just remember, once you put it in, you can't take it out. It is recommended to add "heat" gradually to taste.

1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 medium onion chopped (white or yellow)
1 small bunch of parsley (preferably with the root)
3 to 5 garlic cloves minced
1 cup carrots chopped
1 small tomato chunked
1 cup celery chopped (yes, use the leaves, too)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup noodles

     Although noodles are optional, I like using them. They make the soup hearty. Glutin-free noodles are available, but I usually like to just use good, old-fashioned bow-ties. They are fun. :)


Instructions:

In a large pot, bring 1 and 1/2 quarts of the water, salt and chicken to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer. Partially cover and cook until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 way down the pot.

Add back in 2 more cups water, veggies, herbs and spices. Keep simmering until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 way down the pot.

If you want noodles, add 2 cups water back in. (The noodles are going to suck this up.) Cook until noodles are tender.

Serve warm. Refrigerate left-overs after cooling.

    That's pretty much about it. Some people like to add crackers, croutons or melt some cheese on top. Be creative. The basics are already there for the eating. :) Enjoy!

Have a healthy and happy day! 




Thursday, October 17, 2013

"You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But..."

   





    My daughter continues to rest and battle "the plague" that manifested after it was too late to prevent it. I am happy to say she seems a lot better today. I was told by other people in the area that this particular virus was a doozy. Many took 3 weeks to recover, even while on a full arsenal of prescribed steroids and anti-biotics (which I do not understand because it is a VIRUS. That's a topic for another time, though.)
      My daughter is currently dancing about, listening to music and doing her chores. This flies in the face, of course, of her taking FULL advantage of mom's "healing" disposition which comes with a bit of spoilage. She ate up the bringing of  food, taking out her garbage, administering the right lotions, potions, oils for the job and more. There was just a little extra TLC given that she has come to expect when she falls ill. I worked my brick and mortar job last night. I am tired, for sure. After the work is done, however, her big brown eyes filled with gratitude says it all. :) Meanwhile...enter nephew.
     Now, my nephew is not a child, either. He scored his first full-time job this summer as a landscape laborer. School education with him consisted of doodling and falling asleep at the kitchen table while trying to get his school-work done. He is built like a stock horse and works just as hard. He is normally mild-mannered and even-tempered; that is, until he gets sick. He parades about thinking he is not capable of falling to the misfortune of illness, unlike his more delicate cousin; that is, until last night. Tried putting him on the same protocol that worked for my daughter. He was already stuffed up when he finally came to me. (Why are they so stubborn?) He turned his nose up at me. "I just want some cold medicine. Don't we have any cold medicine?" After a small feud, I gave him some over-the-counter antihistamines I have for when my other nephew is here as he is severely allergic to certain kinds of bug bites and stings.
     "This is all I have," I answered in resignation. He proceeded to play Mario Kart until two in the morning. He had to be up for work by five. I shook my head as he stumbled out the door to his ride picking him up. A few hours later, I got word he errantly drove an expensive lawn vehicle into a canal he was working along. Thank goodness he was not hurt, but still. A scene is recollected in my head from "That 70's Show."

     As Red so poignantly said :




   So I guess I'm making some more Hungarian Sicky Soup and busting back out the Woman of the Woods lotions, potions, oils and more. ;)


Bright Blessings to all of you. Have a happy and Healthy day. :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention Equals a Pound of Cure

   

    "Achoo! Achoo! Achoooo!!!" sounded my daughter from her room a few nights ago. My mom antennae went straight up with the sounds. I cautiously approached the disheveled hovel my off-spring seems to take pleasure dwelling in (much to my chagrin).
     "Are you getting sick?" I asked with furrowed eyebrows. Now, my daughter is not a baby. She is a full-grown teen with a very, strong head on her shoulders. She knows full well there is a protocol of pro-active measures to be taken when illness appears to be manifesting. There are specific actions to be taken and a pantry of "lotions, potions, oils and more" used for fending off vermin that threaten. (I am a formulator, as some of you know.)
     "No! I am fine!" she quips. "I just got dust up my nose, or something." I  hesitantly saunter away, hoping she has the good sense to take action if she needs to. Three days later, she is lying in bed with a 102 degree temperature and a grocery bag filled with snot rags.

Enter here a very long Lurch-like groan :

      As the cold and flu season is upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that if your body is telling you something, please listen before the illness manifests. There are a wide variety of means to prevention available. Zinc lozenges have been shown on a molecular level to strip a virus of its protective membrane before it can reproduce. The herb Echinacea (from the purple cone-flower) has been scientifically proven to bolster the immune system and fight off inflammation and viral and bacterial infection at its first signs of appearance. The efficacy of Echinacea is bolstered tremendously when couple with the root of the herb Goldenseal. (Note: Goldenseal should ONLY be used in conjunction with the first 7 days of cold or flu symptoms, or else it loses its effect.) Vitamin C has been shown in a plethora of studies to protect against infection and bolster the immune system along with over 300 other healthy metabolic functions. Once the full-blown illness is on, however, a whole new spectrum emerges for treatment which is going to lay you out.
     Once illness has taken hold, rest, fluids, mucous and fever control are all added to the equation of aiding the immune system to get rid of the invading "vermin". Hence, what could have been stopped with an ounce of prevention has now spiraled into requiring a pound of cure. (As always, it is imperative to get clearance from your physician if under one's care for natural remedies. Just remember, you have a choice to interview other physicians if he or she feels the only way to stay well and fight illness comes from a synthetic chemical concoction.)
     I hope to be able to share more means to natural wellness and treatments with you in the future. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. In the meantime, I have a girl with big brown-eyes pleading for some homemade "Hungarian Sicky-soup". Sigh.

Bright Blessings and Happy Healing!!!






Sunday, October 13, 2013

Power Without Flexibility Promises Injury

   


      Just finished another Sunday of watching my beloved American Football. Now I watch to see how many of the players injured today will be coming back to play another day this season. One particular game I was particularly interested in claimed several starting players from my team with leg injuries...AGAIN. Hamstrings, calves and knees; oh my! I have worked on football players many times. The muscles they have built up are of super-human proportions. The trouble with the vast majority, however, is they have virtually NO flexibility. When asked about what kind of stretching regime they are on, I get everything from: "We stretch before and after drills," to a sheepish smile, followed by: "I've never been very flexible." (As in: I don't.)
      The muscles in our bodies are held together in bundles of muscle fibers, blood vessels, nerves, fat and a connective tissue called fascia. To understand what I mean, cut a well-marbled piece of meat down the center into halves. Look at the swirled patterns and layers. The clear to white substance separating the layers is fascia. Not only is fascia the "glue" that holds our muscles together, it is also the stuff that connects our muscles to the bones. Muscles contract and extend to move our skeletal frame in a variety of ways, but it is the fascia that serves as the pulley system to get the work done. Unlike muscle fibers, however, fascia contracts and extends at a much slower rate. It makes sense because if there was not a certain amount of tension holding the whole system together we would wobble around like over-cooked chickens.
      Now, what happens when you work-out and strength-train? You build up muscle mass of the existing muscle fibers, but that's not how fascia works. The way fascia is conditioned to handle the extra load is to work it within its own parameters. If you don't train the fascia to accommodate the new load the increased muscle mass is capable of, you are asking for trouble, i.e.injury. Getting the connective tissue conditioned involves slow, really slow, SUPER slow stretching and massage. Remember, fascia contracts and extends at a much slower rate than muscle fibers. When you train your fascia properly, it will be better able to take on loads asked of it. Fascia is largely elastin and collagen. It behaves much like taffy, needing to be worked to be pliable. This is how to avoid injury. Power AND Flexibility = Durability.

    I welcome all comments and thoughts regarding this matter.

    Have a happy and healthy Monday! :)


Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Ice, Ice, Baby."

                                                         

       "...I don't like ice. Heat feels much better."

       When muscles and fascia  are used beyond their "normal" working limits, sometimes "micro-tearing" of the offended fibers occurs. This creates an emergency response by our immune system that says, "Damage has been done! Activate healing squads!" White blood cells and lymphatic fluid come to isolate the area and start repairing what is perceived to be a problem. Once the nerves of the area get involved, this manifests as pain, which can also be called inflammation. The body always tries to re-establish itself to its current "known" equilibrium. When pushed beyond this comfort-zone to the point of pain, many people think it is okay to add heat to relieve pain. It seems logical, since the very first moments of life on this planet is spent in a warm and balmy environment inside the mother's womb. The trouble with this yearning to return to that cozy, warm feeling that makes us feel safe and nurtured, is that the inflammation is further fed.
      Inflammation is exactly what the term sounds like. It is a cellular "flame" brought on internally to bring extra blood and fluid to a damaged area The body does this to brace from further damage and coddle the cells to returning to equilibrium with extra nutrients and waste-product removal. This "damage control" has a purpose. When actions threaten the re-building of damaged tissue, the body's action is stopped by the inflammatory response until the problem gets fixed. Injuries take time to heal. The body can get over-zealous in this splinting function. When our tissues become so engorged with blood and lymph racing to the rescue of damaged tissues, vascular function is slowed. This can create a "hot-spot" where waste-products congregate and damaged tissues languish because they can't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to fix themselves. It is a catch 22.
      Eventually, in a healthy working body, this inflammation "should" clear itself out. The trouble with this is that "time-passed equals cooling of the tissues" which opens up the possibility of further tearing. Cooled tissues get stiff, and sometimes, hard (see #scars). Equilibrium is distorted. The inflammatory response keeps doubling over on top of itself to stop the increasing threats of damage. It is a vicious, progressive circle. The way to keep the inflammation from running rampant is to ICE the area of injury right away. This drives  the lymph and blood out of the damaged area for a spell so the integrity of the damaged cellular structures can be assessed by the body's own inherent intelligence. Excess inflammatory response is slowed, and the offended nerve endings calling for the inflammatory response are dulled. Once the ice is removed, normal healing processes commence, flooding the area with a blood and lymph "wash".  Repeated icing of the area balances the inflammatory response to quicken healing.
    Although heat has a place getting the repaired tissue back to proper length for efficient function, the initial control over the inflammatory response is encouraged by ice. Yeah, it might not "feel" as good as heat, at first. Control over the pain with ice, however, will pay dividends to the healing process. As a certain pop culture figure said, "Ice, ice, baby." It truly is your friend.



Bright Blessings and Happy Healing!!! :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

You Got to Move It, Move It!!!

     Many people encounter pain in their lives. This can be due to a postural distortion, injury or disease. No matter how the pain manifests, however, one of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to stay completely still after the acute phase of healing has taken hold. Even in the case of a broken bone, sprained ligament or strained tendon, once the initial act of healing has started, it is still very important to keep the rest of the body moving. Once a good doctor recognizes the acute phase of healing is underway, he or she should prescribe, at least, gentle forms of bodily motion to get the patient back in the game. This can be in the form of physical therapy, at-home exercises, stretching and even massage. If a doctor does NOT prescribe motion, it is advised to seek a different doctor. Here is why.
     Healing and movement go together on a cellular level. The muscles, bones and organs of the body are held together by connective tissues called "fascia". These tissues are largely composed of cartilage, elastin and a viscous liquid called "ground-substance". These tissues are largely reliant upon surrounding vascular tissue for nutrients to help itself heal. When the body is moved, circulation is increased to bring nutrients and oxygen to an area attempting to fix itself. The lymphatic system joins with the circulatory system to remove debris and waste products from areas of cellular regeneration. Unlike the circulatory system which is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system is pumped by motion. Remaining still allows waste products to pool in the body like stagnant swamps. This creates a toxic atmosphere for cells trying to regenerate resulting in inflammation, illness, and eventually, cell death.
       Another reason why movement is integral to healing is the body, as a unit, requires movement. We were not designed by nature to be sedentary. Physics decrees that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. When the myofascial system is compromised by staying still, muscles atrophy and connective tissues harden. Muscles and fascia are kept supple and fluid internally by heat. This heat is given off as a by-product of movement. When the body is asked to move after an extended period of stillness, this results in stiffness, weakness and down-right pain to bring the injured cells back on line, and get the body moving through the thickened fascial barriers.
     On a final note, the body requires movement for balance. "It's all connected." (Those who know me, I'm working on the T-shirts. Ha ha!) Every part of the body plays a part in the dynamics of the whole. When one part of the body is held still and becomes weak or stiff, another part has to take over for the injured area. For example, if one leg is held perfectly straight and no weight is ever allowed to be placed on it, the other leg is going to get the load of dragging the body along when walking. (Try it. Walk around like that for a few minutes. How does the 'good' leg feel?) This creates a postural distortion the entire body must now compensate for. This leads to additional pain, stiffness and wear and tear. At extremes, this can even start to affect internal organs.
     In closing, if saddled with any condition requiring medical attention, it is important to discuss the process of healing. This should, by all means, include prescribed movement. If this is not part of an acting physician's wellness plan, second, third and even fourth opinions are warranted. You deserve it!

Happy Healing! :)
   

Pressing Against the Finish Line

   







     I am a formulator. I take therapeutic products and assemble them to meet the needs of each client. It may be an aromatherapy blend to work on the limbic system, a topical analgesic that assists in healing from an injury, or even a formula to help keep the "vermin" away as we head into the cold and flu season. I have one pet project I have been working on for awhile that is very, very close to being released; so close. The frustration comes when trying to mix a new base into a particular "potion" that is not only "Organic" but "Vegan", I get separation in the formulation. Here I thought I was doing something so "cool", and it has me up pulling out my hair out well past bed-time.
    How many times have you thought you were "doing the right thing", only to have it come back and smack you in the face? It would appear that, sometimes, it is in everyone's best interest to give up a personal goal when it is doing no good for anyone, and separates you from the "greater good." On the flip-side of that notion, however, comes the stuff that "Aha!" moments are made of. By forging forward in the face of adversity, when you can see, smell and taste the goal close-by,  this brings out the best in us...even if some hair is lost in the process.
    I once heard a motivational speaker say "Quitters never Win, and Winners Never Quit." It may be you are crawling toward the finishing goal of 10 more stubborn pounds to go. You might have one more physical therapy session to go through that painfully strengthens that pesky rotator cuff. You might be on day 7 of the 21 days it takes to form a new habit in your life. Keep going. You are almost there. :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Changing with the Changes



Note: This is a hypothetical composite of experience that does not belong to any one specific person. Any similarities to actual situations are strictly by coincidence.

     A beautiful, middle-aged woman lies on my table waiting to be "fixed". She has chronic, shoulder trouble and hip pain. She spins like a fiend, does light to moderate weight training 6 times a week and yoga. Despite all her efforts, her postural distortion is accelerating. There is a functional "C-curve" developing in her spine because she is VERY right-side dominant. One shoulder is glaringly higher than the other, and the opposite hip has tried to compensate for the distortion. She breathes like a champ when working through myofascial release to bring her new "shoulder earring" down. She is asked if she ever considered a more balanced form of exercise without so much strain.
   "Have you considered swimming and water-aerobics?" Aw man. The water-works flow forth.
   "That is for OLD people!!!" She is, indeed, NOT "old". This especially holds true as modern medicine keeps pushing the bar of the average person's life-expectancy forward from year to year. There is a troubling problem posed by the media-driven frenzy to stay "young and beautiful", however. What do you do when the mind and spirit are willing, but the body is not? -OR- How do we align the mind, spirit and body with the changes in the seasons of our lives?
    We are each saddled with genetic blue-prints that predispose us to certain body-types; hair, skin and eye-color; certain diseases and deformations and yes, aging patterns. Employing mind over matter can overcome many of these hurdles. It is, however, imperative to RECOGNIZE our short-falls, and then work around them. This goes hand in hand with the previous post about taking responsibility to see change in one's health. We are more than a the sum of our parts.  How do you rectify this with the passage of biological time?

I am very interested in hearing what you all have to say about this. Bright Blessings in advance. :)

"Ya Gotta Wanna"

     




       "I need you to do whatever it was you did last time." I am a Massage Therapist and Body worker. From a business stand-point, this is great; repeat business!!! I'm not so "giggly".
        It is always so rewarding when a client comes in with an ache or pain that won't quit, and I am able to help their body find its normal resting equilibrium; hence, releasing the pain. Healing, however, should not require the constant input of an extraneous source to make the person "better". The knowledge of a therapist is meant to "assist" the person's body heal, itself. The body WANTS to heal itself. When a good therapist comes in as a Body-worker to figure out why point A isn't working with point B,C or D, and uses physics and other sciences to re-establish the proper balance, that therapist is just being a FACILITATOR to the client's own ability to heal. The problem comes when the client doesn't want to hold up his or her own end of the bargain.
      There are lots of excuses: "...did not have time to do the exercises"; "...forgot to go see the orthotics person"; "...epsom salts rot my bath fixtures"; and my personal favorite, "I don't like water." The list goes on. Now I could write a novel on every excuse I have heard about people not wanting to take responsibility for their own health, and why each excuse is harmful. (I just might.) The point is that miracles only happen when both the healer and the healed are on board with healing as a goal and end-result. When something that is fixable keeps eluding the cure, both parties have to take accountability and work together to find the cause.
      As a therapist, if what I am doing is not working, it is my job to figure out why. If I need to try a different approach in my "methods of madness" to solve a problem, I will. What happens, however, when the therapist's challenge of helping a client overcome obstacles is not met by the client, as well? It is a two-way street.
        A wise scientist and philosopher once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." If your shoulders are aching because of crummy posture at the computer, but you don't go back to your office to fix it, what do you think is going to keep happening? If you keep throwing out your back,(shoulder, neck...etc...) because of an off-kilter golf swing, and nobody helps you see what you are doing wrong, what do you think is going to keep happening?
         This is not to say if a person fixes a postural distortion in a daily activity that an injury is not going to happen again. We all have strengths and weaknesses that make us who we are. The weaknesses test our mettle. As we age, some of these weaknesses start to become glaring if we didn't address them earlier. Sometimes brand new weaknesses show up unannounced! ( How rude of them! lol.) This is where Therapists are handy, especially when they are already familiar with your postural challenges.
        It takes a commitment and acceptance of responsibility by the injured, alongside the therapist, for true healing to take place. In the end, it is the body that heals itself. With proper attention to errors that have created an imbalance in the first place, a person CAN take control over the discomfort being faced. Taking initiative and responsibility to make good choices in the face of prior mistakes will make the road to health an abundant one.

       Food for thought. Your comments are most welcome!  Namaste.