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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Using a Yoga Block

Written By: Margaret Wish

Yoga BlocksDo you use a yoga block in your practice? Personally, I always grab a block for every practice because you never know if and when you may need one. Some days my body will be fully open, other days I may be tight and need a little support.

When I first started my yoga practice, I didn’t realize the importance of using this prop. I thought that since I had a dancer background that yoga would be no problem for me, and that I would be able to do everything with ease. That was my ego talking. Once I became more serious about my practice, I realized that having a block is not a sign of weakness, but rather acknowledging that it is okay to need help and support.

Lately, I have learned several different ways that you can use your yoga block, and I thought it would be fun to share that with you! Here are 2 of my favorite ways that you can use your yoga block to improve your yoga practice:

1) Feeling Grounded
If you have used a yoga block during your practice, you probably already understand this tip! The yoga block has three ‘settings’: high, medium, and low. These ‘settings’ simply mean the way in which you are holding the block.

As you start your practice, you may need to use the high setting in your extended side angle or triangle pose until you are able to slowly move your hand to the floor. The block brings the ground to you, and can bring ease into a posture that would otherwise be uncomfortable.

2) Improving Technique
Alignment is key in your yoga practice, and your block can help you better understand how to properly hold your arms and legs.

Here is a great way to learn and practice engaging your shoulders in downward facing dog:

Holding the block long ways in your hand, press your hands into the side of the block while trying to make your pinkies touch. You should feel an internal rotation in your arms, similar to being in downward facing dog. Next, try holding downward facing dog and applying this technique to the posture. Do you feel the difference?

Next time you step onto your mat, don’t be afraid to grab your yoga block and use it to further your practice.


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What is Self Myofascial Release and How is it Done?

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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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Quick Daily Detoxing – Dry Brushing

Dry Brush ImageWritten By: Amy Miller

Dry brushing stimulates the organs of detoxification to function more efficiently, which has a myriad of benefits for the body:

  1. Dry brushing cleans the lymphatic system. All detoxification occurs first and foremost through the lymph.
  2. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells, which can help improve skin texture and cellular renewal.
  3. Dry brushing strengthens the immune system, possibly reducing the duration of infection and accelerate the clearing of toxins.
  4. Dry brushing stimulates the hormone and oil glands, thus helping all of the body systems perform at peak efficiency.
  5. Dry brushing tones the muscles by stimulating the nerve endings, which causes the individual muscle fibers to activate and move. It also helps mobilize fat and helps to even distribution of fat deposits.
  6. Dry brushing stimulates circulation. Our skin breathes! However for most people this vital route of detoxification is operating far below its capacity because it is clogged with dead skin cells and the un-removed waste excreted through perspiration. Dry brushing encourages your body’s discharge of metabolic wastes. By activating the circulation, you also help prevent varicose veins.
  7. Dry brushing increases skin functions. It helps your skin respire by eliminating clogged pores. Healthy, breathing skin contributes to overall body health.
  8. Dry brushing helps reduce cellulite. Improving cellulite is one of the main reasons people look into dry brushing. Toxins are often trapped in the subcutaneous layer of fat cells just beneath the skin, which contributes to cellulite.

Always dry brush your body before you shower because you will want to wash off the impurities from the skin as a result of the brushing action.

Ideally you want to brush from toes to neck because most of the lymph in your body drains to a central area near your collarbone. The entire body should be brushed, but skip the face and scalp.

Use long sweeping strokes starting from the bottom of your feet upwards, and from the hands towards the shoulders, and on the torso in an upward direction to help drain the lymph back towards your heart.

Note: Stroking away from your heart can put extra pressure on the valves within the veins and lymph vessels, and over time, may lead to ruptured vessels and varicose veins.

Use light pressure in areas where the skin is thin and harder pressure on places like the soles of the feet. Avoid sensitive areas like bruises and anywhere the skin is broken. Never brush an area affected by poison oak, poison ivy, or sun burn.

After getting out of the shower, dry off vigorously and massage your skin with pure plant oils such as jojoba, avocado, apricot, almond, sesame, coconut or cocoa butter.

Make sure to properly clean your brush. It is best to tap the brush over a trashcan to shake off the dead skin cells. Additionally, each person should have their own dry brush, just like a toothbrush! Make sure to keep your brush in a dry area away from steam and potential mildew.

How to Dry Brush (Fast and Easy Instructions)

  • Begin with your feet and brush vigorously in circular motions.
  • Continue brushing up your legs.
  • Proceed to your hands and arms.
  • Brush your entire back and abdomen area, shoulders and neck.
  • Use circular counter-clockwise strokes on the abdomen.
  • Use light pressure on the breasts and other sensitive areas.
  • Brush upwards on the back and down from the neck.

Share with us your experience with Dry Brushing!

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What is Wellness Coaching?

instructors at zen-99Written By: Amy Miller

As a Certified Wellness Coach I offer an Authentic Wellness Plan specially designed for each individual client. Authentic Wellness utilizes Positive Psychology principles and the StrengthsFinder method to empower you to draw upon your own abilities and strengths to achieve lasting lifestyle changes.

Coaching helps you take action in your life; so after each coaching session you will apply what you have learned and the plan you have developed to create positive change. I will help you focus on the goals you want to achieve and develop strategies to be sure you reach them. Authentic Wellness Coaching helps you gain clarity, focus and support build a life that best matches who you really are.

Your Authentic Wellness Plan encompasses the 8 dimensions of wellness: Physical, Environmental, Financial, Emotional, Social, Intellectual, Behavioral and Spiritual.

Physical wellness involves the condition of a healthy body, good physical health habits, good nutrition and exercise, and obtaining appropriate health care. Some elements of physical wellness include exercising regularly, eating fruits and vegetables, and even wearing a seat belt.

Environmental wellness involves being and feeling physically safe in your surroundings. This includes the places where we live, work, and learn as well as our communities, country, and the entire planet. Some elements of environmental wellness include keeping your home and work space free from clutter, avoiding unnecessary and overwhelming noise, and surrounding yourself with things that you love.

Financial wellness involves the ability to have financial resources, meet practical needs, as well as control and knowledge about your personal finances. Some elements of financial wellness include paying your bills on time, having a handle on financial status, and having available credit for unexpected life occurrences.

Social wellness involves having healthy relationships with friends, family, the community, and having an interest in the needs of others around you. Some elements of social wellness include having a network of close friends and family, communicating with a variety of people, and showing compassion or empathy when possible.

Emotional wellness involves the ability to express feelings, enjoy life, adjust to challenges, and deal with the stress that occurs in life. Some elements of emotional wellness include accepting responsibility for your actions, having the ability to laugh at life and yourself, and learning from your mistakes.

Intellectual wellness involves lifelong learning. This includes an application of the knowledge you gain as well as sharing that knowledge with others. Some elements of intellectual wellness include having an interest in learning new things, participating in creative and stimulating activities, and engaging in intellectual discussions.

Behavioral wellness involves participating in activities that provide meaning and purpose in your everyday life. Some elements of behavioral wellness include being happy in your career path, balancing work and leisure time, and participating in activities that are in line with your personal values.

Spiritual wellness involves having meaning and purpose and a sense of balance and peace. 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.

As your coach, I will work with you to develop a lifestyle plan that includes a balance of health habits: adequate sleep, rest, and good nutrition; productivity and exercise; participation in meaningful activity; and connections with people and communities that are supportive.

Authenticity as a quality of being genuine and worthy of belief. You know whether you are behaving in a manner in line with your values and inner being; you cannot hide a disbelief of your own actions and words from others. They will sense your dishonesty and instinctively become distrustful and will pull away from you. Being who you really are is always admirable, even to people who don’t share your values.

When you are true to yourself, you harness the power that lies dormant in the unauthentic being: the power to achieve any dream, to live your highest purpose. When you are not true to yourself, you hide the power and your dreams are inaccessible.

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Getting to Know Jessica Cummings

zen body-12What brought you to yoga?

I was first introduced to yoga as a child. I enjoyed the stretching, but at the time didn’t see it as much more than that. Over a period of years, as my personal Journey of Self expanded, I was reintroduced to yoga as part of a support system in my growing “tool belt.”

After spending some soul-searching time in the Rocky Mountains, I was inspired to embrace Hatha Yoga training at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona. This 5-week intensive program led me to many new layers of what I felt life was truly about. I awoke each morning at 4 a.m. – cleansing, neti-potting, meditating, eating vegan for the first time in my life, taking cold showers and releasing any form of technological support system, comfort food, or glass of wine I had once used to “escape” – and I began to see life much more clearly.

Being cut off from the mainstream to dive into my own personal oasis was truly life changing. As each week passed with others acquiring their 200 hours of yoga and hiking the blissfully charging lands of Sedona, a new Being inside of me began to arise. I learned through this journey of self-surrender that wherever you go, there you are. So here “I AM” – happy, healthy and whole – on my true path of Heart Source.

What is your favorite style of yoga? Why?

My favorite style of yoga is ever changing! After spending several years focusing on the classical yoga practice of Hatha, improving my alignment and flexibility, I began moving into deeper aspects of meditation, raja and mantra yoga. Currently, my highest focus is on Kundalini Yoga, as I have found that through this style of yoga, I have received the most energy at the fastest rate. Kundalini’s ability to shift internal perceptions as your external environment changes with it is like no style of yoga I have ever experienced.

I have found that this is truly a style of yoga that gives back as much as you offer. Yogi Bhajan said, “Let your effort be an offering to your highest self.” Through my time practicing, I have found this to be true. I feel more at peace with all things around me, less reactive and able to manifest my destiny at an increasingly faster rate. With the technology of Kundalini Yoga under my belt, I feel truly prepared for anything that comes my way.

What is one thing that yoga has helped you with?

One thing yoga has helped with is to shift my life “expectation” to the concept that I have a choice! I can choose to “be sad” or be experiencing sadness. I can choose to “be angry” or experiencing anger. I am able to step outside of my emotions and observe them as a witness to self. This has created a much more peaceful and loving environment internally and externally in my life.

I am grateful towards my teacher in Sedona, Shraddha, for sharing the Enneagram with us. As I was able to uncover my personality type through the Enneagram and see “what my ego does,” I was also able to find a gateway through the ego and back to heart center.

How do you integrate yoga into your everyday life?

I integrate yoga through leading by example. I choose daily to allow my practice to influence my lifestyle by choosing to make healthy and conscious decisions. Whether it is through my diet, kindness to others or my personal practice, yoga is a part of my everyday life.

When I go home, my home reflects yoga as I sit peacefully in my mediation room or enjoy the rock, water and fire elements around my house. I keep live plants always growing to remind myself and those around me that life is a gift in the present and when we don’t take care of it, it will cease to exist. Yoga is a constant and forever choice that I am choosing to live by.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to a new student beginning their yoga journey?

When you come up to your wall, you may choose to back up and go the other way, or accelerate and go through it! Throughout our practice of yoga, which is often described as “a life long journey,” we come up against many blocks. These may present themselves as a physical, emotional, energetic or spiritual block; but no matter what type of block, BREATH WILL GET YOU THROUGH! Just remember, it’s usually those breaths right after you want to give up and move out of a pose that the sweetest part begins to reveal itself.

Inhale the tension and Exhale the release – as Theodor Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” Be patient and kind to yourself as your journey to heart is endless.