Zen Body Yoga + Wellness

Spreading the Zen to Tulsa!


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What is Thai Bodywork?

16Also called Thai Massage, Thai Bodywork is a combination of massage, Acupressure, energy meridian work and Yoga-like stretching.

Most people are familiar with “massage,” which involves working on the body’s musculature with compression and manual manipulation.  In the United States, massage is typically performed on a specialized table with techniques strongly influenced by Swedish massage, which became popular in the mid 1900’s via physicians in New York who practiced in the Swedish tradition, which includes rubbing and moving muscles with an ultimate goal of relaxation.

Thai Bodywork, by contrast, is deep, full-body work, incorporating Ayurvedic Principles. By relieving muscular tension, improving circulation, boosting the immune system and replenishing the body’s energy, the recipient leaves the session feeling physically and energetically blissful.

Thai Bodywork can be performed on a massage table or chair, but it is traditionally and most effectively performed on the floor, with the recipient lying on a comfortable mat and the practitioner kneeling or standing over her.  This allows the practitioner to use body mechanics and gravity to her advantage, promoting the longevity of her ability to perform massage, as well as allowing the use of elbows, knees and feet to apply deeper pressure when appropriate.

Progressing from the feet up, energy pathways are cleared, muscles are elongated, joints are mobilized, internal organs and all bodily functions are supported to move the client towards a more balanced state. While techniques of soothing muscle manipulation are used, the focus is on the health of the body rather than on relaxation.

History
13Touch is a vital part of healing, physical, mental and emotional, and healing touch has been in practice for centuries, perhaps since the dawning of mankind.

There is evidence of massage as an important practice in ancient Eqypt, as documented on tomb walls dated to 2500 BCE.  We have detailed information of the practice as an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine from the 8th Century BCE, and we know that Thai Massage was codified as a healing system by 500 BCE.  Its practice is well documented by Ancient Greek scholars and in Biblical passages, as well as in the earliest extant Ayurvedic writings from India, circa 400 BCE. Trade routes between Egypt, Greece, China, and India have been in place since at least 2000 BCE, and it is likely that in addition to goods, knowledge and services were shared among the cultures.  Most scholars agree that Thai massage is strongly influenced by Ayurvedic massage from India as well as by methods of acupuncture and reflexology from China.

What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda, which literally translates as the “science of life,” is a holistic medical science that has been practiced in India for at least 5,000 years.  Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth), these primary forces, or doshas, are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If vata is the primary dosha in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, athletic and goal-oriented, with a strong appetite for life. When kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, loyal, sturdy and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammation. When kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, excess weight gain, and sinus congestion.

Ayurveda held a prominent place in the Buddha’s life during the 4th century BCE in India as he was attended by his personal Ayurvedic doctor, Javaka Kumar Bhaccha.  Although Buddhism is not widely practiced in India today, the Buddhist faith quickly spread east across Asia. Buddhism was widely accepted in Southeast Asia, and today, Thai people are predominantly Buddhist.  In fact, Dr. Javaka (or Shivago) is celebrated in Thailand as the honored guru of Thai Massage, and his belief in Loving Kindness is still invoked daily.

Unlike Ayurvedic Massage, no oil is applied during Traditional Thai Massage.  At Zen Body, however, essential oils may be applied depending on the client’s Ayurvedic constitution and any imbalances that may be present. Similarly, the practitioner’s touch, pace and sequencing will be directly suited to the client’s individual needs and imbalances.

12 “A Lazy Man’s Yoga”
Yoga and Ayurveda are “sister sciences,” both codified in India with the goal of promoting health.  In general, Ayurveda focuses on physical health and Yoga focuses on holistic mental health.  In regard to Thai Bodywork, the Yoga influence is seen in the stretching postures, which are a small part of the tradition of Yoga, but the best-known aspect of Yoga today, particularly in the West.

In Thai Bodywork, the recipient remains fully clothed and is positioned on a floor mat.  This enables the practitioner to move, stretch and bend the recipient into a variety of Yoga-inspired postures. In fact, this modality is often referred to as Thai Yoga Massage or Thai Yoga Therapy, and has been called the “lazy man’s Yoga,” although it most certainly is much more than that.

While similar to a Yoga practice in that the body is used as a gateway to access something deeper, in Thai Massage, there is no physical effort or strain, and it is often possible to achieve a deeper range of motion as the assisted stretching allows the recipient to completely relax, helping to establish greater flexibility by promoting length in muscle fibers and connective tissue.

Joint mobility, muscular flexibility, myofascial release and increased blood and lymph flow are just some of the benefits of this portion of Thai Bodywork.

 Acupressure and Meridian Energy Work
Acupressure is an important part of Thai Bodywork, with principles influenced by both Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ayurvedic Tradition of Ancient India.  This pressure applied on particular points which lie along the body’s energy lines is believed to restore the energy balance throughout the body.

The energy itself is called chi or qi in China, ki in Japan, prana in India and lom in Thailand.  The energy is absorbed from the air we breathe and the food we eat, and moves through us along lines called meridians or channels in China, nadis in India and sen in Thailand.  All of these lines, whether meridians, nadis or sen, contain numerous points where small energy centers exist in correlation with various parts of the body.  These points are found where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones or joints, and they include the major and minor chakras of the Indian system. Each tradition believes that blocked energy is the cause of disease and that massage helps keep the vital forces moving.

28Thai Bodywork at Zen Body
The feet are the first, and some say most important, parts of the body to be worked during Thai Bodywork.  There are a large number of nerve endings make the feet very responsive to touch.  This, along with the many reflex points associated with every part of the body, make foot work a focus of massage in cultures around the world, and Thai Massage is no exception. Zen Body’s Thai Reflexology stimulates energy channels by massaging the feet to promote balance and harmony, physically, mentally and emotionally. Organic coconut oil or almond oil as well as other essential oils may be applied depending on the client’s Ayurvedic constitution and any imbalances that may be present. Aromatic hot towels complete this very powerful and extremely pleasurable treat for tired and aching feet.

Following the foot massage, the practitioner uses her hands, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to work the entire body with compression, kneeding, and acupressure, stimulating and balancing the flow of the body’s own healing energy, releasing blockages and bringing the recipient deeper into balance and harmony. All the while, relaxing assisted stretches improve flexibility and range of motion, tense muscles are soothed, and specific trouble areas or physical limitations are treated as needed.

Zen Body’s Thai Bodywork also places emphasis on working the face, neck, ears and scalp.  These areas incorporate important energy points, so treating the head has beneficial effects on the entire body. Facial massage, including marma point acupressure, helps tired and overworked facial muscles relax from their contracted state. It removes any stress-induced blockages that are present in the muscles and in doing so, also ensures that the recipient feels relaxed and rejuvenated. Stimulation of specific points promotes lymphatic drainage and the circulation of blood. And as a bonus, regular massage can make frown lines disappear and make skin appear healthy and toned!

If you’re still not convinced that a full Thai Bodywork session is right for you, try a 30 minute Thai Reflexology session. You won’t regret it!


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Fueling Your Body: Pumpkin Overnight Oatmeal

Written by: Calista Evraets

blogWith our fast-paced, busy lifestyles, it can be hard to make time to nourish our bodies with healthy foods.  It’s easy to get caught up in the day and miss a meal, or settle for fast food because of time constraints.  This recipe is a great one because it’s easy to prepare in advance for breakfast, or to take along for lunch!

This is the time of year where people seem to go a little pumpkin crazy, but don’t discount the health benefits of this fall food!  Pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C and beta carotene, has more potassium per serving than a banana, and is high in fiber.  It’s a great addition to your diet, especially when it’s not mixed with a lot of sugar!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole oats
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp Chia seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts taste great in this recipe!)
Dash of cinnamon and cloves
Honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar to sweeten to taste (I use about 1Tbsp maple syrup)

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours, until all liquid is absorbed.  Will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how easy it is to customize.  As long as you keep the fruit, milk, oat, and yogurt ratios about the same, you can change it with what fruit is in season, or what you have on hand at home.  If pumpkin isn’t your thing, try omitting the spices and throwing in fresh or frozen berries instead!  Applesauce also makes an easy fruit replacement.  If you don’t do dairy, you can use coconut yogurt with a non-dairy milk option!  The combinations are nearly endless!


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10 Ways The Master Challenge Can Enrich Your Life

Written by: Calista EvraetsMaster Challenge FB

Have you ever noticed the chart outside the studio door and wondered what it’s all about? The chart is a simple way to track the number of classes you’ve attended. Each month presents a new opportunity to complete Zen Body Master Challenge! If you complete twenty-two classes in the calendar month, you’ll get a Zen Body Master Challenge t-shirt, but there are lots of other things you can gain from taking the challenge!

1. Yoga will become a regular part of your day.
Coming to a class at least five times per week will help you to make yoga a habit! It’s a big deal to plan to spend that much time at the studio, and you’ll find yourself planning your days around yoga classes. The next thing you know, you’re in the habit of setting aside time to practice!
2. Yoga skills will advance.
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect, but you might be amazed by how quickly your strength and stamina builds when you’re practicing almost every day.
3. You’ll feel better about your body.
This can come in a number of ways. Stronger, more toned muscles may help give you a boost of confidence. You may gain more appreciation of how amazing and strong your body is. You may feel a sense of gratitude toward your body as it carries you through each class.
4. Your posture will improve.
Yoga helps to strengthen the core muscles that surround the spine, so as your strength builds, you’ll find yourself walking taller!
5. Sleep may come easier.
Practicing meditation regularly can help condition your mind toward relaxing at the end of the day. Additionally, regular exercise can help to physically tire the body. If you work at a desk all day, your mind may be tired but your body may not have burned enough energy to be ready to settle down for restful sleep.
6. Planning around yoga classes can improve your diet.
After a few days of practice, you’ll start to learn which foods fuel your body to be active for your class. Since twenty-two classes is a big commitment of time, figuring out meals in advance may help you to eat a healthier diet.
7. Your stress levels may drop.
Eating better, sleeping better, and getting regular exercise can contribute to less stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation will also give you a great outlet when you’re feeling stressed.
8. You will make new friends and build a community of encouraging people.
Yoga people are the BEST people! Every class is full of people making a similar commitment to their health and well-being. You might find yourself making plans with your yoga friends outside the studio!
9. It’s a great opportunity to try new classes.
Is there an instructor you’ve never taken a class from? Have you been meaning to try a restorative class, but haven’t found the time? Choose those new classes as part of your personal challenge!
10. You’ll feel confidence in your ability to reach a goal.
At the end of the month, when you reach your twenty-second class, you’ll be proud of your strength and follow-through!


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De-stress at the office with yoga stretches and breathing

Written By: Amy Miller

I see students in my yoga classes and private sessions every day with some issues relating to their work in offices, whether it’s low back pain from sitting, neck and shoulder pain from hunching forward over a keyboard, wrist pain from typing or using a mouse, or some other ailment from an unfriendly desk or chair.  All of this is compounded by the stress we feel in our daily lives and it leaves many of us aching from head to toe.

I can empathize.  I used to spend many hours sitting at a desk and there have been times in my life when I have been a regular at the Chiropractor’s office.  Since I’ve been doing yoga regularly, though, I’ve been relatively pain free.  I know getting to a yoga class daily isn’t an option for everyone, so I’ve created this video for you with a few exercises you can do at your desk that will have you feeling better soon!

Making these yoga exercises a part of your routine can decrease or even eliminate body pain, fatigue and tension and increase overall muscle strength and flexibility, and can even relieve headaches.

What Will Help You Bloom?

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Written by: Calista Evraets

IMG_20151008_131019As an avid gardener, I often find interesting parallels between my own life and my work in the garden. One of the challenges that I love about gardening is figuring out what a plant needs in order to bloom. Sometimes when I plant a new type of flower, it just doesn’t thrive the way I’d hoped it would. Then I have to do some research and figure out what I can do to help it along. Is it getting the right amount of sunlight? Is the soil too acidic or too basic? Maybe I’m over-watering. I recently noticed that while it’s easy to do research about my plants, it’s a lot harder where my own growth is concerned!

Perhaps you see a similar situation in your own life. Our lives are dynamic, and we continue to grow and change with our environments. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Has your routine become monotonous to the point where you don’t feel like you’re moving forward anymore? Maybe your stress levels are high and you feel as if you’re constantly running around without any time to enjoy the present. What can you change to feel more at peace in your daily life? For some of us, it may mean breaking out of the routine, trying something new, or exploring a new hobby or schedule. For others, it may mean cutting back on new calendar items, or saying no to some of the requests for our time and energy.

The same thing can hold true in our yoga practice. Many of us began our yoga journey as a way of achieving personal growth. Practice can become routine and static, and we may need to branch out and try something different. If you’ve focused on high intensity classes with lots of movement, maybe it’s time to try the stillness of a restorative class. Maybe you haven’t put as much focus on the meditation aspect of yoga, and you would benefit from a Kundalini class. If you’ve felt afraid to try something outside your comfort zone, you might appreciate the confidence that comes from taking an aerial workshop and realizing the amazing things your body can do! If you’ve felt your practice needs some fine tuning, it might be a great time to schedule a private session, where you can work one on one with an instructor.
One of my favorite things about yoga is this: I’ve found that when I make changes to my practice to achieve personal growth, other aspects of my life tend to slip into a healthier path with less struggle. My stress levels improve, I find strength and confidence, and I’m able to be present in my life, rather than always looking forward to the next minute, hour, or day. I encourage you to give some thought to what you need to bloom! You might be surprised at the answers you find!

Strengthening the Mind-Body Connection

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Written by: Amy Miller

IMG_20151001_152808One of the greatest benefits of yoga is strengthening the mind-body connection.

You have probably heard your yoga teacher say “listen to your body,” which is often interpreted as “don’t hurt yourself!” whether or not that was the sentiment being expressed. A more powerful and truer interpretation of your teacher’s words are to listen to your body, and to really hear the message, to quiet your thinking mind and be present with the sensations you feel. That is definitely easier said than done, but yoga practice is, in my opinion, the most certain way to achieve this ability to understand the body’s signals.
Our bodies often send subtle signals, and sometimes, when we don’t heed the subtle warnings, aggressive signals. With a calm mind, we become more open to hearing the messages before we experience a negative outcome from ignoring the body’s whisper.

For example, when practicing yoga, you might notice that you are holding tension in your shoulders even when you try to relax. You might decide to spend some additional time breathing deeply into shoulder and neck stretches to ease the tightness.  If you didn’t notice this gentle tension for many days, you might begin to ache. Then a few days later, the aching shoulders have caused significant tension in the upper back. This creates a discomfort when moving freely, so you become stiff throughout the torso, creating a new pain in the lower back…and pretty soon, it’s time to take some Ibuprofen and a trip to the chiropractor. Again.  In other words, learning to hear and feel the signals early, before they become a problem, offers the opportunity to make an adjustment and defuses the potentially catastrophic outcome.

Additionally, you may notice your body sending you early warnings of mental or emotional harm. Have you ever had a “gut feeling” or a “lump in your throat”? These are physical reactions to thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious. We typically notice these physical reactions once the emotion or mental anxiety is acute. What if we were to notice the onset of a reaction earlier, before the anxiety-producing thought came to our conscious minds? This is a form of intuition, and it can be very beneficial in avoiding unsafe situations (such as a threatening person or place) or overwhelming emotional responses (such as outbursts of anger or sadness).

Practicing yoga regularly can bring about the body awareness that allows us to avoid physical injury as well as help us balance and respond appropriately to emotions. Through mindfulness, pranayama and asana, this early consciousness can improve our self-regulation and our understanding of who we are.


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Finding Your Life’s Purpose

Diagram

Written By: Amy Miller

I’ve seen this diagram in the past, but it’s making its way around social media again and it still resonates with me.  Part of what I do as a Life Coach is to help people find their “Purpose.”

Spiritual Wellness is one of the 8 dimensions of well that I cover in 21 Days to Well and as a Life Coach.  Spiritual Wellness involves having meaning and purpose and a sense of balance and peace and may or may not include Religion.

Some elements of Spiritual Wellness include prayer, meditation, or personal reflection as well as understanding other’s beliefs and values. There should be a direct relationship between your personal values and your daily actions. Ultimately, we are talking about the self-awareness and understanding of your place in the universe, your purpose in life, your true passion.

Often, we are not immediately aware of our “purpose in life”.  Maybe you even think there is no such thing as a “purpose,” but it is here, in your purpose, that you will find true fulfillment.  Your purpose in life may not be something profound like “to heal others” or “to teach the next generation” or “end war.”

One purpose may be “to love” or “to be happy” or “to take care of my pets” or “to find and share my gift.” We may get so caught up searching for our Life’s Purpose, that we forget we may have many purposes.  But how do we find them?

We find our purposes by following our hearts and intuition and trusting ourselves to make the right choices. Listen to the thoughts that occur to you during or after meditation.  During meditation, we open the channels of communication between our mind and our unlimited awareness.  Listen carefully, as it will often be as quiet as a whisper and it might be overshadowed by the voice of the world – what you have been nurtured and enculturated to believe.

Try this exercise.

  1. Keep a notebook and pen just for writing down your plans for your future.  I like to have a pretty notebook and a special pen that I don’t use for anything else.  I keep mine in my bedroom because it is a calm space where I feel safe.  You might have a special meditation room or an office that makes you feel at your most comfortable.  Keep your notebook and pen in the place where you most often meditate.
  1. Practice meditation daily, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes.
  1. Once your meditation has become easier and you are able to let the mind and body relax for 5 minutes or more at a time, begin occasionally saying to yourself “reveal to me my highest calling” just before you begin to relax.  Then forget about it; don’t start thinking about what your calling is or should be.  It will only be revealed to you when you stop thinking and listen.
  1. During your meditation, if a thought pops into your mind, quickly write it down and then go back to meditating.  Don’t explore the thought now; that will close off your connection to your all-knowing spirit and set the human mind to work.  You can take care of that later.
  1. Remember that not every thought that comes into your head during this time will be an answer to your question, but it is usually placed in your mind for a reason.  Listen!

Don’t get discouraged when life doesn’t seem to be moving in the direction you want.  Sometimes, when things don’t happen in our lives exactly the way we planned or on the time frame we imagined, we think all is lost.  However, we ultimately have the knowledge of the way life is meant to unfold and while it doesn’t always meet our conscious expectations, if you listen to your heart and soul, the path you are on will not fail you.

Set-backs on your path are there to teach you something.  The sooner you learn from these trials the sooner you can get back on track to fulfilling your purpose.  As you explore your purpose, don’t be afraid to let it evolve and change.

Within each of us is a deep understanding of our values and through allowing our conscious minds to uncover these values, we can apply our personal strengths and abilities to create our purpose, our goals, our legacy.  Through this process we become the author of our destiny.  Every choice you make is a part of your life story but your story progresses in any way you choose.  Whatever you want with all of your heart, you can make happen.