Jan 4, 2017

Tai Chi – The Best DVD Lessons

I became interested in Tai Chi, one of the best known martial arts from ancient China (more information and history). I’ve been receiving acupuncture, and I wanted to try something myself to nurture my internal energy, qi, to enhance my wellness.  I don’t want you to think Tai Chi is a mere workout or exercise; it is an art. 

I came across Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health series on YouTube.  I watched the free first lessons, and I was very impressed with the slow pace, thorough instructions of every step, and helpful explanation of Tai Chi philosophy.  The slow pace and detailed instruction are must for me. I often get frustrated with yoga classes both in person and videos because the pace is too fast, and the instruction isn’t always clear. Dr. Lam’s calm and kind voice alone makes you peaceful and happy. You feel like he is really there in front of you to guide you through. 

I bought Tai Chi for Energy (outside USA), and I am in the middle of the 8-lesson course.  In each lesson, you will learn only a segment of the complete sequence of movements (3 minutes in total).  Each lesson goes over the previous learned forms, and the sequence gets longer.  I practice each lesson for 3-4 days before moving on to the next lesson because I’m so looking forward to the next lesson although my movement isn’t smooth yet. The reason I said Tai Chi is an art is the first movement you learn is to put the foot apart.  You have to put your mind to every single movement, however simple and subtle it is.  Tai Chi trains your mind to slow down and concentrate.  It takes time and many practices to “master” seemingly easy flow of slow movements.  It can be very difficult for some people to slow down, but once you let yourself go and follow the flow, it will be very calming as well as revitalizing. 

This page shows you what DVDs you can start with.  Tai Chi is proven beneficial especially for people with arthritis, and Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis is endorsed by Arthritis Foundations and CDC.  There are many other DVDs such as Tai Chi for Diabetes, Tai Chi for Rehabilitation, and Tai Chi for Osteoporosis. 

I am not getting compensation for promoting the products.  I simply believe that they are the best DVDs to learn Tai Chi.

Dec 24, 2016

Do You Have Migraines? Have You Tried This Method?

Headaches and migraines are the most common, yet very distressing condition that many people get.  I’ve written many posts about headache relief.  Recently, I gained better insight into migraines from webinars and articles by Til Luchau, LMT.  

Migraines were thought to be caused by dilated blood vessels of the brain.  However, it is now being viewed as a nervous system disorder, along with other factors.  A goal of massage or bodywork is to reduce the compression on the cranial nerves. 

One of the ways you can try to relieve migraine pain is pulling your ears.  When you pull your ears, you also pull the temporal bones slightly. Deep behind the temporal bone is the trigeminal nerve, the likely cause of migraines and cluster headaches.  Pulling the ears might help relieve the pressure on the trigeminal nerve.  You should experiment which angle of the pull relieves the pain better; straight to the side, up, down, back and etc.  Once you found the right angle, hold the traction and relax for a while. I hope this will work for you.

If you are interested in finding more details and other ways to relieve migraine pain, read the article here.  It is designed for massage therapists/bodyworkers, but you can try yourself or ask your massage therapist if they are familiar with the techniques.

Dec 18, 2016

Take a Pause: Body Scan Relaxation

Awareness is a great way to connect with our body.  We often forget how our body feels most of the time until it screams out as pain.  Or, we don’t even want to face any sensations, especially if unpleasant (will post about facing pain).  However, noticing any tension, discomfort, and ease that may go unnoticed in our daily life is important to deal with stress before it is out of hand.   

One of the benefits of massage is that you can easily notice how your body feels by touch; feeling good, sore, tight, warm, tingling, stinging, pain, or unexplainable sensation.  Massage is a great to way to learn to stay where the EASE is found.

If you need audio instructions, you can play the Track 6 “Body Scan for Meditation” (seated - 2 min.) by Mindful Meditations by UCLA or Body Scan (lying down – 5 min.) that I talked about in the post “Calm Your Anxiety with Breathing Exercises.

I use Body Scan before going to bed every day, and it puts me to sleep right away!

Dec 3, 2016

Diaphragm and Digestive Dysfunction (Heartburn/GERD/Acid Reflux/Hiatal Hernia)

I have become more and more aware that breathing is an important part of health and wellness.  I talked about the relationship with anxiety in the last post.  Anxiety is not only mental distress, but can cause muscle tension, chest pain, and digestive disorders

The diaphragm is a unique dome-shaped muscle controlling breathing.  It is located horizontally separating the thoracic cavity (containing lungs, heart and etc) and the abdominal cavity (stomach, liver, intestines and etc.).  The esophagus, vena cava, and aorta pass through the middle of it.

With proper breathing, the diaphragm contracts when we inhale, moving down and expanding the thoracic cavity to suck the air in, and the diaphragm completely relaxes when we exhale.  We do this about 26,000 times a day.
If we have shallow chest breathing, where the diaphragm can’t fully contract and relax, it loses the elasticity and tightens like any other muscles. The dysfunction of the diaphragm could cause adhesion with the stomach, or squeeze the esophagus, causing digestive disorders like GERD and hiatal hernia.

Here is how it happens.
Anxiety/stress   Incorrect breathing (shallow breathing)   Diaphragm dysfunction ➜ Stomach dysfunction   Digestive disorders 
I found very helpful and comprehensive videos about understanding heartburn and GERD and an abdominal massage for hiatal hernia.  Although I never had hiatal hernia, massaging the middle of the stomach right below the breastbone and rib cage has been effective for me to relieve the pain in the upper stomach because of indigestion.

It is important to massage other abdominal muscles (will post in the future) and use the breathing exercises in order to maintain the healthy digestive functions.

Jul 9, 2016

Calm Your Anxiety with Breathing Exercises

When we have stress, anxiety, and worries, we don’t breathe normally.  Shallow breathing could cause a panic attack for some people.  Keeping breathing under control not only calms our anxiety, but also transforms our life.    

There are many breathing exercises available.  I came across the book called Healing Power of the Breath.  It explains various breathing techniques and their benefits in different conditions or situations from trauma to relationships.  It emphasizes that breath is a “portal to the mind-body system.”  
Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior. 
The exercises are very simple.  I found it more helpful to listen to the audio and follow the guiding cues to do the exercises.  

I will introduce 3 basic techniques.

1. Coherent Breathing
A rate of 5 breaths per minute- 5 bpm (inhaling for 6 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds). 
Purpose: To increase Heart Rate Variability (HRV) by changing the pattern of breathing.  The higher HRV, the more flexible cardiovascular system and more resilient stress-response system.

If you were to learn one breathing technique, choose Coherent Breathing.  It helps relieve stress, tension, anxiety, worry, phobias, insomnia, and respiratory problems. 

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. 
  • Close your eyes and mouth, and breathe through your nose. 
  • Breathing should be very slow, gentle and comfortable, not forced.
  • Play the practice. (If 5 bpm is too slow, play the beginning of this practice at 6 bpm.)

2. Resistance Breathing
Any kind of breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air (by pursing the lips, hissing, tightening the throat and etc.)

Purpose: To stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system by the increased pressure in the lungs, inducing relaxation. (Like cats purr!)

3. Breath Moving
With imagination, moving breath and awareness to different parts of the body
Purpose: To improve the circulation of energy through the nervous system and improve blood flow. (In Easter traditions, to open chakras and dissolve blockages so energy can circulate more freely.)

I personally like Breath Moving because I am a visual person.  When I am lying down, I can easily picture the breath as waves coming in and going out.

Total Breath
The combination of Coherent Breathing, Resistance Breathing, and Breath Moving.
Purpose: To maximize effectiveness and rapidity of response.
The book recommends you practice once a day for at least 20 minutes with full concentration. 
Body Scan
After breathing practices, finish with Body Scan to allow your system to consolidate the effects.  You can choose any other form of relaxation (meditation, visualization, deep prayer, and etc.).  It helped me calm down better because following the practices makes me more alert than relaxing.   

If you would like to know other healing breath practices including vibration breathing, and also make these great breathing practices your routine, download the audio files here to your device.  The book has much more information, and includes a helpful chart “How and When to Use Each Practice” in the appendix.

Hope these breathing practices transform your life!
These audio files are for your own personal use only.