aroma therapy candleThe word aromatherapy often appears in my articles,  so I would like to share some simple  tips on how you can use it to enhance the quality of your environment and to help improve your mood.  First, go to your local health food store and check the lovely assortment of flora and fauna sitting there on the shelf!  Always make sure it says 100% pure on the label.  This means exactly what it says without that marker you may be purchasing artificial oil which will not have the same healing value.  You can, of course, purchase essential oil online but going to the store allows you to sample scents prior to buying.

If  you or anyone you live with has allergies, be very mindful when making your selection.  Avoid the strong scents at first such as eucalyptus or tea tree.  Though they have great therapeutic value, they can be very overpowering when introducing aromatherapy for the first time in your home.  Try the more simple and equally beneficial scents of citruses!  Grapefruit, sweet orange and even lemon are fantastic!  Bergamot, a citrus fruit similar to grapefruit and the main ingredient in Earl Grey tea, is one of my favorites.   Most people will not have a problem with these scents (unless they have a food allergy to them).  In addition, they have the familiarity factor which make people feel comfortable and welcome.  Citrus scents are great to use in those dark winter months to bring a little sunshine in your home and combat depression.

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band aidOn the playground there can unfortunately be many accidents both big and small.  Often there is no ice or first aid immediately available.  This is a simple first aid visualization one can use to help soothe a child until (you) can get home.  Of course for major injuries call 911 or go to the hospital or call your pediatrician.  This is for minor injuries that require TLC (Tender loving care) and a band aid (aka boo-boo’s and ouchies:)

When there is an accident often for moments long after the actual incident took place, people are coming up to you with concern asking what happened?  Then you are forced along with your child to go over it again and again for them.  This keeps the child returning to that painful or scary incident and not moving forward into the healing.  I have personally observed this and actually heard one dad shout out ‘hey, call a plastic surgeon”.  He was of course using humor to alleviate the situation but it was a little brash for a three year old and her mom.

For an excellent explanation of why we instinctively rub on an injury(not an open wound) see below:

“In 1965 the “Gate Control Theory” was proposed by Melzack and Wall.  It explained the relationship between pain and emotion.  According to this theory, there is a hypothetical gating mechanism occurring at the level of the spinal chord- a “gate” through which pain impulses reach the lateral spinothalmic system.  Painful impulses are transmitted by large-diameter and small diameter nerve fibers.  Stimulation of large-diameter fibers prevents the small-diameter fibers from transmitting signals.  Stimulating (rubbing, massaging) these fibers helps to suppress the sensation of pain, especially sharp pain.  Many parents and small children seem to know this instinctively.  They rub the injured spot, thus activating large-diameter fibers.  These fibers also carry a faster signal.  In essence, massage sensations win the race to the brain, and the pain sensations are blocked out because the gate is closed.” Source:  Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage by Sandy Fritz

Here’s a technique to use when you want to help your child move past the accident and feel empowered that they are on their way to feeling better.  Explain to them that they have teeny tiny microscopic helpers inside their bodies that are working right now to help them feel better.  Explain ‘microscopic” as so tiny that you can’t see them (it is very cute to hear them pronounce microscopic).  There are thousands even millions of them.  This gives them a positive image to hang on to if they are still replaying the initial injury and pain in their minds over and over.  This constant replaying of the accident can also be a reaction from well meaning people asking what happened and then having to explain it as your child relives “the spill”.  Now they can respond how they have microscopic helpers and feel more empowered.  It also gives them something positive to focus on rather than the accident itself.

Using our imagination to call upon imagery for healing is very powerful.  Remember that this is scientific.  Leukocytes (white blood cells) rush to an injured area to help heal it.  These microscopic helpers are in fact helping us on a consistent basis (unless there is a pathology wherein they are compromised).  In healthy functioning blood they are essential in recovering from injury.  This is a great first Biology lesson and may help them in connecting scientific principles to every day life.  Using this knowledge empowers the child by being able to answer back to concerned adults-“I have microscopic helpers helping me and I am feeling better and better.”  “Better and better” is a phrase used in the Silva Method of Mind Techniques.  This technique is extremely useful in helping to have tools to use our minds in positive and powerful ways.  See website for more info www.silvamethod.com.

Staying in the present moment is useful for anyone recovering from injury and replacing a negative experience with a positive image is very useful in returning to a stronger , more well-functioning place both physically and mentally.

Spine curveHow many times have you thought…I wish I had better posture? Maybe at one time you did have good posture, but with years of being slumped over a computer, gravity has pulled you forward. Maybe you noticed your reflection accidentally and gasped ” What happened to me!”…Or like me you may have suffered from scoliosis since birth and always had difficulty feeling comfortable and aligned. We feel guarded and are protecting our hearts when we roll our shoulders forward. Life’s trials and tribulations understandably can do this to all of us. This makes us give-in to low self-esteem, leading our physicality to display any anxiousness we may feel inside.

Well, after many years of searching I can honestly say I have solved a good deal of my discomfort and found ways to sort out my posture. I’d like to share with you one simple seated technique you can do in a chair that will help. You can practice this even at work-no one has to know what you’re up to!

Good posture should feel Good! Not stiff or uncomfortable. Dismiss the saying you may have heard in grade school: “SIT UP STRAIGHT!.” It is incorrect. The truth is the spine has curves (Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar and Sacral) Therefore, it only makes sense that we should align our posture in accordance with those curves.

Here’s the technique, which I call seated posture with coccyx bones pointed backward. (catchy title-I know). If you have Lordosis (sway back) posture this may not be the most effective technique for you. Feel your coccyx bones on the chair-they are the two bony parts under your bum! Most of us will sit on them pointing forward. Try arching your lower back a bit and have your coccyx bones pointing diagonally towards the back. Now feel how your spine stacks itself up on top of itself. Do you feel how your neck is in a better position? Try the old way with the coccyx pointing forward-you feel how your whole torso collapses onto itself and your neck jets forward? It is also more difficult to breath. Now try the new way-pointing those bones towards the back. There should not be too exaggerated of an arch of the spine. Feel your muscles support the spine. Now gently raise your chest up about an inch. This is referred to as “Heart to the sky.” Try it. Lift your heart to the sky. Now your chest is open and you have a better ability to breath. This position also feels great for the spirit! Gently look up to the ceiling, move your neck around a bit. This looking up will counterbalance constantly looking down.

Try this discretely next time you are in a meeting or an interview- you will feel so grounded and present because you are! It is very pleasant to be around someone in this state and you will probably get the job or the loan because you are solidly in your body not pretending to be confident. To pretend confidence is generally a turn off and a sure sign that you’re not secure. True confidence is presence and awareness-ability to roll with the punches/take what comes your way with dignity.

The position should feel relaxed and natural. This will probably happen more as you get used to it. Eventually you will be able to use it in standing and than in walking. Remember, Heart to the sky (and feet on the ground).  Most importantly, this technique can greatly improve your posture.

loosing pregnancy weight

In western culture, there is pressure and also a desire to lose pregnancy weight as fast as possible. It often seems that a woman is somehow more noble and has it all together if she can manage to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight in a month or so! Some women do and that’s good, but there are so many factors to consider such as nursing, hormones, metabolism, diet, exercise…etc. Whether delivery was a c-section or vaginal is also considered to be an important variable. I’m not suggesting that one should not try to lose the pregnancy weight-I just think we should be very patient and kind to ourselves, our bodies and our self-esteem-they have just been through A LOT! The fat gives us energy we need to breastfeed and care for our babies. We burn 500 calories a day in order to produce milk.

We see magazines with movie stars who’ve lost their weight in a miraculously short time period and hold that up as our standard. Let’s remember that most of them have personal trainers, nannies and a personal chef to cook their diet. Also, they are in an intensely competitive field and there livelihood depends a great deal on their image. So in a way they DO have that pressure to live up to.

Our bodies are our babies environment too even after birth. Imagine your baby holding on to you-which they love to do as often as possible! Doesn’t it seem to be the way nature intended that we should be soft and fleshy so our babies feel comfortable adjusting into this new environment/world? Try pinching your belly and lovingly consider it your “scoochieness” for them for a while!” My brother said something very kind to me at this stage when I was fretting about losing the weight. He said, “You have the rest of your life to lose the weight just enjoy this time with your baby.” His point really struck a true note for me. It is such a special, brief moment in our lives when they are so small and so dependent on us, so why waste a second condemning ourselves for not being thin!

I did walk regularly and used a Pilates videos almost every day when I felt up to it.  Sarah Picot’s video, Postnatal Pilates is excellent and only around 25 minutes long.  She promotes interaction with your baby as you are exercising.   I think I developed stronger “core” muscles than before I was pregnant. My arms and legs have gotten stronger from carrying my baby often. Muscle weighs more than fat so don’t trust the scale. Going by the way your clothes are fitting is a more accurate measure. Of course if you have a medical condition follow your doctor’s advice on weight management. Cardiovascular exercise is a key component to weight loss-try investing in a treadmill, elliptical machine or  a stationary bicycle for your home. Use them as a temporary alternative to the gym since it can be challenging to find the time to get back there!  You can also put on some favorite music and gently dance with your baby.

Remember, most people are focused on your baby now and if you are into baby wearing like I am, those carriers do wonders for hiding that post pregnancy ponch!  Furthermore, wearing your baby has many other physical and psychological benefits.  To read about all the “Attachment Parenting” Rewards (see Dr. Sears website). There are many different carriers available.  My husband and I use the Ergobaby and absolutely love it.

My point is to encourage women to not be so hard on themselves especially at a time when they deserve all the patience and compassion they are giving to their baby or babies. It is a healthy pattern to begin now to model for them a good sense of self-esteem. How we treat ourselves shows them how to treat themselves in the future. Try giving yourself the same compassion and you will probably not even notice the weight coming off. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. Weight Watchers is an amazing organization to help with sensible weight loss after pregnancy and can help set up great habits for your whole life as well as that of your children.

I am still about five pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight and I am gently conscious of it falling off.  Being a nursing mother of an eight month old and an active member of La Leche League, I know I need the extra cushion for energy to generate milk production. There is a saying that “it takes nine months to put on—it can take nine months to take off.” So I feel I’m on track. That saying really helped me be patient and realistic.

So, remember what a truly beautiful time this is and keep your focus on health and balance for you and your whole family. I heard the Dalai Llama speak once and he said “the better you take care of yourself, the better you will take care of others.” What a perfect quote for motherhood.