Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts- A Breathwork Therapist

Breathwork refers to many forms of conscious alteration of breathing, such as connecting the inhale and exhale, or energetically charging and discharging, when used within psychotherapy or meditation. Proponents believe breathwork technique may be used to attain alternate states of consciousness, and that sustained practice of techniques may result in spiritual or psychological benefits. Breathwork may also relate to optimal healthy breathing in a healing context. [Source: Wikipedia]

It is said that becoming conscious of your breathing, normally an involuntary action, can 
help to release old emotions, pent up feelings and allow happiness, joy, peace and love to fill your daily life- to breathe yourself whole. I have been curious about this idea lately, especially since I have incorporated yoga into my well-being routine. So, I contacted my friend Lauren Chelec Cafritz, a certified Breathwork Therapist who leads breathwork classes and workshops at the Mindfulness Center in Bethesda, MD, to learn more about this old world mindfulness technique for the nurturing your whole self for optimal well-being series. 
Lauren Chelec Cafritz, TBF, IBF
DC based Breathwork therapist
Can you please tell us about what you do. What exactly is breathwork? 
Breathwork is a self-healing tool that, once learned, you can use to deepen your breath—and with it, your life.  Breathwork is the foundation for getting the most out of our exercise routines and mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, or tai chi.  This practice teaches you how to break old breathing patterns and take deep diaphragmatic breaths.  Once your breathing is full and open, you can take this skill with you to your yoga class, the gym, work, meetings, traffic jams—or, whatever comes along in life.

How and why did you become a breathwork specialist? 
Stress, anxiety, and worry can inhibit breathing and create unhealthy breathing patterns over time.  When I started breathwork, my breathing was shallow and only in my chest—in what might be called “bare survival mode”.  (I have found most of us breathe this way on a daily basis.)

Physical pain and anxiety brought me to the practice of breathwork.  When my son was 9 months old, I could not turn my neck and, if I managed to, it felt like an intense sciatic pain in my neck.  A friend brought me to his breathworker.  With her, I learned how to open and deepen my breath and explore the issues and tension that had originally constricted it. Through breathing and learning, over time, I watched the pain miraculously disappear.  Once I learned the power of the breath—how it can heal someone on so many different levels—I wanted to learn more.  That was the beginning and I’ve never turned back.

How can breathwork help me (a fitness professional, fitness enthusiast, busy, often stressed mom or a beginner exerciser...)? What are the benefits. Are there contraindications? Breathing deeply helps you release tension on multiple levels—physical, mental, and emotional.  It gives you clarity—because when you breathe well, you think clearer.  If you focus on the breath, as in meditation, it clears the mind.  Paying conscious attention to your breath helps you remember to live in the present moment and brings more joy into your life.

I’ve learned that correcting non-optimal breathing patterns is not always as simple as telling someone to breathe deeply.  Muscle and connective tissue that have been held in patterns of tension for long periods of time actually change shape—some tissue lengthens, others shorten.  Through coaching, a breathworker can help you to reform tissue to support healthier, fuller respiration.

Now, I always tell my students and clients that our sessions are “labs”—I want them to feel their emotions fully and release their tensions in our lab, so that it’s much easier out in the world—in traffic, in an attorney’s office, in a doctor’s office.

Anything else you'd like to add, share with our readers. We all need something to keeps us aligned, balanced, and present.  Self-healing is about using and having the tools to get us back to that open, flowing, and joyful space wherever we find ourselves.

Thanks Lauren for sharing your expertise with us. 
I know I learned a lot! Next-up, we'll hear from a hypnotherapist on how hypnosis can help in weight loss and more.

Be active. 
Be happy. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts - A Yogi

Yoga (SanskritPāliयोग yóga) is a physicalmental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India
The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The word is associated with meditative practices in HinduismJainism and Buddhism
Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid 19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of Yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. In the West, the term "yoga" is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures), or as a form of exercise. Today, there are many different types of Yoga. 

Check out these sites for the different types and descriptions as well as more yoga history. 

There are many health benefits to practicing yoga. The three main focuses of Hatha yoga or any yoga style for that matter (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors.
Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and is shown to improve mood and anxiety more than other metabolically matched exercises, such as jogging or walking.  
[Source: Wikipedia]

I have recently discovered my inner yogi. She is a new friend- one I had resisted letting into my life for years. We'd met a few times before and didn't like each other. I thought her slow, cruel and unusual. She found me impulsive, fidgety and pertinacious.  Recently though, we have had a meeting of the minds (you could say) and are the best of friends. I mean don't get me wrong, we still don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but I suppose with increased age comes an increased openness and understanding. I have learned to stretch myself (pun intended). My inner yogi and I meet about three times a week. We share a lovely time together, albeit a sweaty, heart thumping, muscle burning experience, but a bonding one nonetheless. By the end of our time together I am energized, relaxed, stronger, receptive and peaceful. I probably would not have found my inner yogi if I wasn't ready to accept her. It also helps to have a great instructor, someone to bridge and help forge the bond. That brings me to our next wellness expert, Amy Beth Dixon, mother of four and my yoga teacher. She was kind enough to answer some questions I had about her practice for the nurturing your whole self for optimal well-being series. 

Amy Beth Dixon,
Certified Yoga Instructor- 250hrs.,
and her crew
How and why did you become a yoga instructor? In other words, what is your story, why did you start teaching yoga?
I became a yoga instructor for three reasons.  Firstly, I had practiced yoga since I was 20 and, although my personal practice began small, it grew and became for me the thing that became the cornerstone of my wellness plan.  Once I really accepted and committed to yoga I noticed immense changes in my life, both physically and mentally/emotionally and spiritually.  My physicality changed, going from a size 8 to a size 4 and as well losing 20 lbs.  It was interesting that during my seemingly fittest time (I taught aerobics in college and was very, very active and fit) that I was somehow holding so much more weight on my frame.  My family suffers from higher cholesterol and I also have hypothyroidism and those two conditions have as well improved since making yoga the focus of my wellness routine.  I am accutely more aware of what I put into my body and I make it a goal from myself to take nothing for granted and truly believe that every breath I take needs to be mindful and taken with gratitude.  So, my love for yoga was my first reason for wanting to teach it.  As well, I like to teach.  I have taught fitness classes since I was in college and I always really enjoyed lesson planning and driving a group toward a goal.  I have danced a lot in my life, so, yoga to me was just a really beautiful artform to teach to others.  Lastly, I have four children, and I was looking for something that could potentially give me an at home business so I would not have to return to the stresses and mania that was, for me, office work.

What is yoga? What type of yoga do you practice and how is it the same/different from other practices.  Please explain.
Yoga is defined as union.  It is this lovely balance of the physical, emotional/mental and universal pressence.  For many this last piece of yoga is a part of one's spirituality.  It is something that helps us stay very present minded and focused on our existence here on this earth.  The type of yoga I practice is called vinyasa or "flow" yoga.  Vinyasa refers to the linkage that one makes with their breath and their movement.  Vinyasa yoga is very akin to Ashtanga yoga but the postures are not performed in the same sequentially as in an Astanga practice.  Vinyasa is a very warm practice that is meant to help a person build heat and break through tensions (emotional and physical), the focus on breath helps us to stay very present minded and to deepen into our awareness of ourselves and our place within the universe around us. 

How does Yoga fit in to a person's overall fitness and/or wellness? You hear these terms health, fitness and wellness a lot - explain how yoga fits in.
There are many different forms of yoga that one can choose from.  If someone is a strong athlete and needs a way to open their bodies from tightness, one might use yoga to lenghthen the muscles that are over-worked.  Someone might simply enjoy the flowing, dance-like nature of a yoga class (vinyasa yoga specifically) and might want yoga to be the sole form of wellness for them.  Yoga should be something that is "practiced" daily.  It is a very unique form of physical wellness that becomes more beneficial to a person if done routinely.  Many yoga practioners recommend one practices at the same time each day in order to establish an ease of fitting yoga into one's daily life.  I recently heard a teacher say that yoga should not be on your to do list, that it is a part of your life.  I whole-heartedly agree with this.  Thinking that yoga is something you have to do, is not going to get you into a deeper, joyful connection with it.

Who does yoga benefit? Explain.
Everyone.  I have students in their early twenties and students in their early 70's coming to my class.  Yoga is one of those physical artforms that is appropriate for everyone.  Modifications can be made for nearly every movement so that the student is always safe and getting what they need from their yoga time.  I hope to practice my yoga as blissfully as I do now, at 39 years old, when I am 85 years old. 

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
I love this statement by Shiva Rea. 
Balancing in yoga and life is a reflection of our inner state.  Can we dance with change?  Can we fall and try again with playfullness and verve?  Do we have the focus, skill and attunement to find the still point within it all?  Touching the earth, we remember where we come from.  Yoga connects our body to the earth body, our roots to the soil, our breath to the prana of life.  ~Shiva Rea
Looking for some more yoga resources, check these out:

Thanks Amy for sharing your expertise with us. Next up, we'll learn from an expert on breathwork in our pursuit of nurturing the whole self for optimal well-being.   Shanti.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts- A Nutritionist

Nutrition (also called nourishment or aliment) is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet. [Source: Wikipedia]

Awe...nutrition, a healthy diet- my nemesis. If you are anything like me, you have an insatiable sweet tooth. It's beyond habit.  Sugar craving, dessert eating is a part of your make-up. At least that is your excuse and your sticking to it! Shoot, if you could only save yourself from yourself, who knows how many mood swings, sugar rushes and crashes you'd avoid in a day.  In comes my friend Peri Donner a certified nutritionist to set us straight! She was kind enough to answer some questions I had about nutrition for the Joy of Fitness Mom nurturing the whole self for optimal well-being, especially how a nutritionist can help people like me and others better our lives- our overall well-being through healthy eating.

Exactly what is a nutritionist? Is there a difference between a dietician and nutritionist?

Great question - The biggest difference is in the perspective and schooling. As a nutrition and wellness coach, I take a broader approach and look at more than just the nutrition aspect of life. I focus on the entire package; mind, body and soul. Dieticians are more focused on the bio-chemistry of food and how they work with the body. The role of the dietitian is to oversee nutritional guidelines for patients, using their nutritional expertise to help people overcome illness and maintain overall health.

I have spent many years learning and gaining knowledge of the body, mind and soul. It is a total package!

Each person is different which means “bio individuality” is imperative to wellness.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, the why and how you became a nutritionist?

My interest in health goes far beyond food; I have been seasoned as a personal trainer, spin instructor, fitness instructor and life coach.  Combing my skills as a motivator and educator, I hope to help others reach their wellness goals!

Peri Donner
 Integrative Nutrition
Health & Wellness Coach
My passion for health, nutrition, fitness and the promotion of well- being in my community led me to receive training as a Certified Holistic Health Coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, the largest nutrition school internationally. Drawing on this knowledge, I help create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

I am certified by the American Board of Drugless Practitioners as a Holistic health and nutrition coach.

What's your take on dieting, fad diets, trying to maintain a healthy diet in general?
I don’t believe in “diets”, I believe in a wellness focused lifestyle. These “Fad diets” set us up for failure and can really mess with our systems. It is best to consult with a nutritionist and wellness coach when embarking on a journey to better your health.

How can we eat healthier on a budget?
Doing anything on a budget is a great opportunity! I think it opens the door to try new things. If we can change the “challenge” to an exciting opportunity, we are more likely to succeed.

I offer grocery store tours as a way to help people trim the fat off their budgets and from the walls of their arteries! My cooking classes show you how to make more with less! One really great way is to sit down and plan your meals for the week or month – that way you know what to look for in the store and can really save money on unnecessary purchases.
Many people buy junk food because they think it is cheaper when in fact it is not. Junk food is not cheaper or healthier –when you add up the health costs you will incur in life to treat allergies, obesity, diabetes, heart disease – you name it – the “junk” that our society puts in our bodies causes the bad stuff in our bodies. Eating healthy saves you money and helps you to thrive in the present and future.

Ask yourself this, Can you put a price on your health?

Any tips and tricks of the trade that people can start incorporating into their diets now?
  1. Eat real food... If it is processed, try to stay away from it.
  2. The author Michael Pollan says it best “eat food, not much, mostly plants”. However, we have to remember we are all different and need different nutrition.
  3. If it comes from the ground or a tree it is typically good (veggies, fruits)!
  4. The more you bring healthy food into your life, the more you will want to crowd the bad out.
  5. If it has more than 5 ingredients that you don’t know what they are – don’t eat it.
How would a nutritionist benefit me?
I’m glad you asked! As I said before, we are all different – food, exercise and lifestyles that work for one person might be poison for another. Literally, your food can be poisoning you. I give people the opportunity to learn what is best for their body, mind and souls!

Nutrition and wellness coaches are trained to help you figure out what is best for YOU. It is all about personalization.

Any ideas on how to introduce healthy eating to the family? Kids?
There are always healthy alternatives. 
I have many great ideas to get kids and family on the healthy band wagon. Again, it depends on what your kids and family like to eat. This is a very “family- centric” question to answer here, sitting down with the family is best. One really great way to get good food into dishes is the food processor. I put all types of veggies in it until they are almost a puree and then I throw them into a sauce. Mix them into the hamburger you are making ( or ground turkey burger). There are lots of ways to get veggies and fruit into the kiddos!

I offer grocery store visits, cooking classes and post recipes on my blog. In my cooking classes, I focus on ways to make tasty, healthy treats which kids and adults will enjoy while still getting nutrition!

How do you deal with different body types, personality types, environmental factors... I mean it seems a lot a factors affect how and what we eat. For example, I am a tall, skinnish person, who thought she was in good shape to find out I had high cholesterol. How do you break down the barriers, people's misconceptions and break through? 
There are many factors that contribute to health and wellness. It isn’t about a fad diet, eliminating carbs or running 15 miles a week. Just because you are “tall and thin” does not mean that your diet and wellness plan will be the same as the next tall and thin person! People come in all shapes and sizes – we all have different stressors, triggers and demeanors. This again, is why individual plans are so important.
It is my job to listen, observe, and help problem solve. I can help create a wellness plan that will work, but it is up to the individual to put that plan to action and each step is important! We can’t bite off more than we can chew! Taking small steps will foster long lasting results.

Anything you'd like to add?
Wellness plans are forever, diets and fads – set us up for failure, generally because they are unrealistic and not sustainable (or healthy). Let’s find a plan for you, that helps you succeed!

This journey is not about being as skinny as we can be. It is about being our best selves and loving every moment of life. I offer a path to an invigorating, healthy and peaceful life! Check out my website and sign up for a free health consultation today! 

Check out these  

Choose My Plate

Know What You Eat Smart Nutrition Starts Here

Thanks Peri for sharing your expertise with us! Up next for Wellness Month: Meet the Experts we will hear from a mom of four and exceptional yoga instructor. 

Love this qoute (Thanks Peri!):
"Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny"  -Gandhi

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wellness Month: Meet The Experts - Massage Therapy

Massage: The word comes from the French massage "friction of kneading", or from Arabic massa meaning "to touch, feel or handle" or from Latin massa meaning "mass, dough",[3][4] cf. Greek verb μάσσω (massō) "to handle, touch, to work with the hands, to knead dough".[5] [Source: Wikipedia]

The healing art of massage, the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue to enhance function, aid in the healing process, and promote relaxation and well-being, has been around for centuries with the exact origins being hard to determine.  However, it is well known that many Eastern and Western cultures had techniques that eventually evolved into the massages we receive today. Literature from all over the world has been found to mention techniques of massage such as kneading, pressing, rubbing, tapping as a form of healing. The oldest medical book in existence mentions the treatment of paralysis and reduced circulation using massage. This ancient book called "The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine,"  was written in China in approximately 1000 BC. Then there was Hippocrates, circa 460-375 BC, who discussed "gently rubbing" a dislocated shoulder following reduction to aid healing. The ancient Greeks even used massage on athletes before and after sport. It was thought to help prepare the muscles before activity and remove extra fluid and metabolites after such activity. Gaelen of Rome (129-199 AD) wrote sixteen books on friction massage and gymnastics (remedial exercise), even describing the pressure direction and frequency of treatment. However, it wasn't until the nineteenth century that Swedish born fencer and physical education teacher, Per Ling, introduced the terminology we use today to describe the different massage techniques. He turned Stockholm into a center for therapeutic exercise, which was called medical gymnastics and massage therapy. That is when Swedish massage became internationally known. ln 1917 Massage Therapy was formerly introduced as a separate profession in the United States, when the Surgeon-General set up a rehabilitation process for soldiers wounded in the First World War. [Source: Wikipedia;]

Jennifer K. Brennan, LMT
Don't worry there will not a pop quiz at the end of this entry; however, I would like to introduce you to my friend Jennifer K. Brennan, LMT of Solace Massage Therapy & Wellness, LLC . She is an expert massage therapist who kindly answered some questions I had about massage therapy and her practice as part of the Joy of Fitness Mom's wellness month: nurturing the whole self for optimal well-being.

How and why did you become a massage therapist? In other words, what is your story,why did you get into the business?
In the late 1990s, I had my first massage after a relationship ended.  I was in great need of loving contact and spiritual uplifting and this massage changed my life.  As I trained for my first marathon in 2000, I received a weekly massage to keep my body comfortable in between long runs.  Massage was the one thing that consistently brought me relief physically and emotionally.  After my children were born, I suffered post-partum depression and when I rebounded enough I realized I needed something just for me.  I went to massage therapy school to honor my passion for the human body, the greatest creation ever, and my desire to heal and touch--literally and figuratively--others in need of vitality and solace.  I believe that people need and deserve healthy touch in order to thrive.  Now, I have a growing practice, interesting clients, and a joy in my heart that no other profession has offered me in my life. 

What is wellness? You hear these terms health, fitness and wellness a lot - explain the wellness part and how it differs from fitness. 
Wellness means being attuned to ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  If balance between the body, mind, and spirit is out of whack we are at risk for dis-ease.  Fitness is just one vital component of wellness and is especially important for women as we age.  To be well, we need to balance physical activity with rest, good nutrition with occasional indulgence, yin with yang, time with others and time alone.  Wellness for me also involves feeding my passions, doing things that resonate with me and bring me soulful moments, moments where smiles start deep within and radiate out into the world.

What is massage therapy and how does it work? 
Massage is the manipulation of soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia).  By using a variety of strokes and pressures, massage aids circulation by moving blood and lymph throughout the body. Massage offers many benefits.  First and foremost, massage therapy helps elicit the relaxation response and encourages the body to "rest and digest".  When the body is relaxed many more benefits can be derived such as reduced pain, improved flexibility, stress reduction, strengthening of the immune system, lowered blood pressure, and increased psychological well being.

Who does massage therapy benefit? 
Massage benefits just about anyone and there are few contraindications.  From the fetus inside a mother's womb to an elderly person nearing the end of their life, touch is vital to our survival as human beings. 

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Women need nurturing in return for all the care they give to others.  On the most basic biological level, women are in continuous flux hormonally--from the first menstrual cycle until menopause and beyond.  These chemical changes can have profound effects on our well-being and sometimes can drive us just about bonkers!  Thankfully, massage, acupuncture, Reiki, yoga and other healing arts are being embraced in growing numbers by women!  It is wonderful to see women acknowledge that they are important enough to care for themselves on deeper levels, to embrace rather resist the changes of each stage of life.  It is only with rest and downtime that our energetic endeavors can best be achieved and fully enjoyed.

Thanks Jennifer for sharing your expertise with us! 

Be on the look out for the next Wellness Month: Meet the Expert- A Nutritionist. In the meantime...Be active. Be happy!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Wellness Month: Nurture the Whole Self for Optimal Well-Being

The leaves changing colors, apple pie.
Refreshing, crisp air nipping at your cheeks.
Pumpkin picking, hay rides.

Sounds of glee, the pitter patter of little feet,
As princesses, ghouls and superheros scurry up your walk.
Jubilant voices imploring, "Trick or Treat!"

Nothing like Autumn.
This is your time.
Reflect, rejoice, embrace the sublime.

I just love autumn (can't you tell), as much as I love spring! Maybe it's just that I like transitions, change, that feeling of wonder, awe and adventure. Much like spring, I find strength and a sense of vitality in autumn.  Although it's a busy time of year, somehow the abundance of nature's beauty during the autumnal transition  helps remind me to slow down and reflect on where I've been and where I need to go. Or maybe I am a wee bit off my rocker...Really though, thank goodness for the seasons, because the physical changes in the environment are a great trigger for me to re-access my own health, fitness and well-being needs, Just as nature is preparing for the harshness of winter, I find I need to take heed of the needs of my mind and body and make the proper preparations as well. I know it sounds corny, but it's true.

Having fallen off the fitness wagon (and subsequently finding my fitness groove again), I know just how difficult it is to maintain physical activity, good eating habits, and just overall well being, especially in the late fall and winter months. It's a stressful, hectic time of year when all you want to do is hunker down with a cup of hot chocolate, or hot toddy and watch a movie, or read a book. Staying on the healthy and fit wagon is an ongoing process that even for me, a fitness professional, finds hard to keep a hold of. I tend to not heed my own advice and neglect my wellness needs for an innumerable amount of reasons. That is why I take the time during the seasonal transitions to re-access my fitness, health and well-being and plan ahead for those needs. Maybe this is a good time of year for you too, to evaluate your health, fitness and wellness needs.

Another thing I have found as a fitness instructor, is that my main duty is help people achieve their best physical fitness first and foremost. That's what I am trained to do, not necessarily to deal with nutritional, health related, and other wellness needs. I can make referrals, give some basic guidance, put references on this blog, but that's all. It's so important to have a balanced approach to obtaining good health, fitness and wellness for optimal well-being.  Since I only provide one aspect, one perspective to nurturing the whole self, I thought it would be prudent to invite some experts in the health and wellness field to talk about what they do, so that we all can start thinking about nurturing the whole self (mind, body and spirit) this autumn!

Be on the look out for Wellness Month: Meet The Experts entries for some thoughtful guidance and motivational wisdom.  And as always, be active and be happy!