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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What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative YogaRestorative yoga is an excellent practice for all levels and is particularly recommended for those experiencing mental and emotional stress or turmoil, those with a Vata imbalance (feeling scattered, anxious, unable to concentrate), or individuals with chronic pain or difficulty sleeping.

This is a deeply restful and nurturing practice, designed to support the body with an assortment of yoga props, such as blocks, bolsters, blankets and sand bags so that you may remain in postures that help you feel safe and at ease.

Join me in this Restorative Yoga sequence to relax and renew your mind, body and spirit as you enjoy being present in comforting and grounded restorative postures.


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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.


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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.


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Toxin Elimination Bath

bath

Written By: Amy Miller

Place 2 cups of Epsom salts and one cup of baking soda into a tub, run the hottest water you can stand and add 8 drops of lavender oil. Soak for 20 minutes and allow yourself to sweat. When you are finished bathing, wrap yourself up in towels and go under the covers and sweat some more. You should feel very relaxed and sleep soundly.

There are thousands of different dietary recommendations and philosophies, and new ones come up every day. The very best way to figure out your personalized diet is to begin to pay attention to how you feel as you explore different ways of eating and being. In the process of cleansing, you will begin to recognize which foods may not be serving you, despite what you have read or been told.


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What is Self Myofascial Release and How is it Done?

photo

Written By: Amy Miller

Also known as Trigger Point Therapy, myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy that can ease chronic muscle pain caused by scar tissue adhesions in muscular (myo) fascia.

Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body, including muscle. Fascia supports and protects these structures but it can become restricted due to disease, overuse, trauma, infectious agents, or inactivity, often resulting in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow. Damaged fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain and decreased flexibility.

A trigger point is a small patch of tightly contracted muscle, which cuts off the blood supply to that part of the muscle resulting in irritation, aching or down-right pain. Trigger points are a key factor in headaches, neck aches, back pain and many other common ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, ear aches, and toothaches.

Almost everyone has a head start in self-diagnosing trigger points, because almost everyone already more or less knows what it’s like to have a muscle knot. If you have ever had muscle stiffness, tried to massage out that annoying spot in your neck or back, then you already have some experience with this — you have trigger points. You have pain and stiffness that feels like it’s in your muscles.

Trigger point therapy has gained popularity among athletes, particularly runners and cyclists, but it is beneficial for even the most sedentary individuals.

There are indirect and direct ways to release myofascial tension and I love both! First, you can indirectly release the tissues by simply stretching, because fascia covers all organs of the body, muscle and fascia cannot be separated. When you stretch a muscle, you stretch the fascia around it, thereby releasing tissues that have become stiff from immobility.

To directly release the fascia, I perform a release technique similar to a deep-tissue massage utilizing tools like a foam roller and a hard ball. Using body weight on these hard surfaces, I locate the trigger points and then pause, placing as much pressure as I can stand on the spot and breathing deeply for 20-30 seconds and visualizing the tight spot melting into the rest of the muscle.

The first couple of weeks of release therapy will be painful. It is important to be diligent and commit to doing it every day for two weeks, because the payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller and/or ball every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the therapy not hurt as much, it will begin to feel good and you will be on the path to feeling great!


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5 Foods to Remedy Sore Muscles

Written By: Brandy

You just took your first Yoga class in a long while and you’re feeling amazing… but there are a couple spots that feel a bit sore.  You’re probably thinking, “I really want to get back to another yoga class tomorrow, but I’m in too much pain.”  Never fear, we have your remedies here!

What is muscle soreness exactly and why do we incur such pain?
After any good workout, our body has a build-up of lactic acid in our muscles.  Due to this accumulation of lactic acid, our muscles become irritated and inflamed. You could go to your medicine cabinet and pull out the old pain reliever, but what if there was another way to make that pain a little more manageable? We have researched and compiled a few tasty alternatives that work to reduce inflammation and irritation.

Bluberries1. Blueberries
Blueberries are a super food, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. Their super power is in the phytochemical compounds. Research shows that these berries are especially high in anthocyanins. Due to the higher amounts of this compound, the fruit has higher oxygen radical absorption capacity, which aids in controlling free radicals formed from exercise.  So, the next time you are headed to a workout, pop a handful of blueberries in your mouth before and after class.

Cherry

2. Tart Cherries
There are two types of cherries that people consume, sweet and tart. In recent studies, drinking a glass of tart cherry juice before and after a marathon reduces inflammation and pain associated with the strenuous workout.  Similar to blueberries, tart cherries are packed with Phytochemical compounds and antioxidants.  In addition to soothing sore muscles, tart cherries are beneficial for those who suffer from diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis and back pain.

Ginger Root

 3. Ginger
Try adding a tablespoon of grated ginger to a glass of lemonade. This super root has a long history of providing remedies to many health ailments including inflammation, intestinal issues, morning sickness, seasickness, arthritis, and sore muscles.

Sliced Watermelon

4.  Watermelon
Eat a slice of watermelon an hour before your strenuous workout and you will be sitting pretty…and painless.  Researchers have found that an amino acid called L-citrulline eases muscle soreness 24 hours after your workout.  Watermelon season is right around the corner, so stop by your local farmer’s market and stock up!

Sliced Banana5.  Bananas
Bananas are rich in potassium.  This mineral is a necessity in your body for heart health, digestion, and muscle contraction.  Too little in your diet can lead to many troublesome issues including irregularities in the heart, weakness, fatigue and sore muscles.

The list could go on forever, but we want to encourage you to get back to your workout.  However, this time, try to include some or all of these foods in to your daily routine. What are some foods that you use to help with muscle soreness?

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