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Stress-Less Holidays

by Joel Curry, MSW, CMT

It is one the ironies of our age that many people dread the holiday season. A time that is given to communal and religious celebration evokes a dreaded response in many of us:
STRESS! How can we approach this holiday season and avoid the negative effects of
this dis-ease of modern times?

The key to avoiding stress may lie in a combination of activities that either prevent
tension, i.e., planning, budgeting, to-do lists for gifts and projects; or involve direct
tension relief methods like receiving a therapeutic massage. Massage therapy is proving to be a first-line form of treatment for holiday stress related conditions.

Under stress muscles can become chronically tense, knotting and going into spasms,
causing pain receptors to be triggered and severe pain to be felt. Fascia, which begins
just beneath the skin and continues in layers throughout the system, is the web of elastic
connective tissue that holds muscles, bones, and organs together. Stress and tension
dehydrates, thickens, and shortens fascia and contributes to discomfort in the body.
The action of massage further helps restore the elastic texture of fascia and the fluidity of
muscles, relieving pressure on pain receptors, and generally bringing about a feeling of
well being in the body. The reduction of stress is a proven benefit of massage therapy.

A number of physical symptoms can be a result of chronic stress. Controlled studies
now show that there is an increasing amount of scientific verification of the beneficial
effects of massage therapy for stress related symptoms. A study reported in the Journal
of Clinical Rheumatology on the effect of massage on fibromyalgia found that massage
improved mood and sleep, and levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter in the pain fiber system, decreased, along with the number of tender spots in the bodies of participants.

The massage sessions combined Swedish massage and shiatsu done with moderate
pressure and stroking of the head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs and feet.
Subjects received 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks.

So, this season, besides thinking ahead and getting organized, consider massage therapy
as an effective way to counter the effects of holiday induced stress.

Avoiding Holiday Stress with Ayurveda

by Laurie Millar, M.S., C.A.S., Clinical Ayurveda Specialist

Returning to a state of balance and good health after the Holidays doesn’t have to be difficult with the practice of Ayurveda medicine. The word Ayurveda can be broken down into two parts, ayus meaning “life” or “longevity”, and Veda meaning “knowledge” or “wisdom”. Ayurveda was born as a medicine by the Ancient Riches of India and shared as a “gift from God” over 5,000 years ago as the story goes. It is the oldest, most holistic and continuously practiced form of medicine still being used today.

American Ayurvedic schools and treatment centers are popping up all over the country as word of its effectiveness for treating difficult chronic disease conditions spreads. At Pathways and other spas around the country treatments like “Shirodhara”, warm oils massages, steam showers, and the use of essential oils are being integrated into the massage experience. You will also find many Ayurvedic herbal preparations to choose from in your local health food store today. Historically effective Ayurvedic tools for healing the body and mind also include the use of yoga (the sister science to Ayurveda), meditation, color and aromatherapy, affirmations, massage and Pancha Karma therapies for cleansing and detoxifying the body and mind.

As one person stated, “Every thing in nature can be used for healing someone”. But Ayurveda also warns us that “not everything in nature is right for everyone”. That is why it is a good idea to get an Ayurveda consultation before embarking on a healing journey.

The foundation of Ayurvedic treatment includes understanding the 5 elements and the qualities they possess. By consistently applying these principles we are able to counteract Holiday stress. First, let us take a look at how we become imbalanced in the mind and body during the holidays and what we can do about it. There are several reasons:

1.) Take in too much through the senses-- i.e. TV. parties, shopping, eating out. In short, overindulging all of the 5 senses.

2.) At holiday times, the weather changes to cold, windy and dry aggravating the individual and leading to disease or imbalances.

3.) Increased activity and motion during the holidays such as travel and last minute holiday shopping …In other words, trying to do too much actually ages and weakens the body causing disease and imbalances.

4.) Other factors such as the increased use of alcohol, coffee, sweets, dry snack foods (pretzel, popcorn and chips) and fats during the holiday negatively affect the body and in particular the nervous system.

5.) Most importantly: Forgetting our true nature as spirit beings. When we do this we let the mind or ego take over and it nature is to indulge and have fun and be in control. It is part of the human condition.

The way to handle all of these factors is to become aware of them first. Secondly, take steps to counter act them with the opposite qualities in order to return to balance in body and mind. For example, keep travel and shopping activities to a minimum to decrease dryness. Bundle up when going out doors in the cold, dry weather and drink warm drinks to counteract the qualities of both dry and cold. Eat warm, moist foods as oppose to dry foods. Avoid too much alcohol, caffeine, fat and sugar. Substitute healthy alternatives such as Chai tea, relaxing herbal teas, almonds, sesame products, tofu, fresh fruits, cooked grains and vegetables which will nourish the body and mind. Get plenty of rest (7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night) and take time to recover from holiday fun. Finally, for the mind-- avoid taking in too much through the 5 senses. For example, watching too much t.v., the excessive use of computers and video games, exposure to bright lights, and loud music are all great fun and stimulating but cause disturbances in the mind leading to anxiety, worry and insomnia.

As David Frawley, author of River of Health, poetically says, “Ayurveda is the medicine of nature, the medicine of life. It does not give us a set of theoretical principles to place upon our lives. Rather, it seeks to present the principles and power of nature itself for healing.”

The Holidays can be challenging but with the ancient tools of Ayurveda and regular massage you can be successful in creating more perfect health and enjoying this beautiful time together with family and friends.

Ear Candling Success Story
By Shaun Brown
After suffering with vertigo awhile back, I tried many different home remedies for my dizziness. Basically, after 5 days I was finally able to function. After discussing this with Jody the owner of Pathways To Health in Auburn, he suggested that I try ear candling. So, I had one of the therapists do the procedure on me, and my ache ear stopped. I was very impressed with the results.

Since one of my ears tend to always start bothering me and/or getting infected every year, I will definitely have the procedure done a few times a year. Hopefully I wont ever need to go the route of antibiotics again. I was so inspired to share with others about ear candling that I am adding this as another item on my healing arts menu. If this seems like something of interest to you/or someone you know that suffers from sinus and ear problems, please let me know.

Shaun Brown, Independent Certified Massage Therapist, Instructor, Healing Arts Institute.

Happy New Year '08
By Joel “Jody” Curry, MSW, CMT
During the holidays we are challenged by the stress of the season of good cheer.  We do well to remember to breathe, and to focus our awareness on relaxing, letting go, and watching our frantic thoughts rather than reacting to them.  And, of course, we do well to remember to call Pathways and receive a nice steam, sauna, and massage.

After the holidays, we have new challenges.  Possibly we need to confront what may be nudging us up front: our expanding belly, the result of one of our  over  productive stress relief activities—eating every thing we think we normally should not eat. It is certainly good to continue to do deep relaxation to deal with the anxiety about becoming fat, but other action may be required.   Just as we were supposed to learn in physics class, every action  generates the need for it’s opposite reaction— (or something like that), if we do deep relaxation exercises, we also need to do deep physical exercise.

Exercise works in tandem with relaxation to help keep our stress level down . Physical activity also transfers nutritional energy into useful functions in our bodies.  Purposeful walking, running ,biking, working out at the gym, or any activity that makes us breath hard for more that five minutes, is an essential spoke of the wheel that keeps us turning.

Here in the foothills we are fortunate to live in the “Endurance Capital of the World”.  We may be somewhat intimidated by the 100 mile runners or the hardy souls that take part in the Auburn Triathlon, but we would do well to incorporate some of their active spirit into our daily activity.  There are no end to the health benefits derived from exercise. 

I am writing this to remind my self to stop using bad weather as an excuse not to get outside and move. I need to balance my “being still” with the challenge of becoming physically active every day. And, after a vigorous workout, there is nothing better, or healthier than a good massage, steam and sauna at Pathways. 

The Value of Massage Therapy with Steam and Dry Sauna
By Joel “Jody” Curry, MSW, CMT
The therapeutic value of massage has been widely acknowledged. Headache, backache, general muscle pain, and chronic fatigue may be relieved by non-invasive manipulation of muscles and fascia. The use of heat, either in the form of a steam or dry sauna, increases the benefits of massage.

Using a steam bath or a dry sauna before receiving a massage facilitates deep muscle relaxation. Therapists find that it takes less time to prepare their client’s muscles for firm or deep work if steam or dry sauna is used before the massage. Valuable time on the table is therefore saved for the important work of massage.

There are other benefits of using massage and heat therapies together. We know that the action of massage: kneading, streaking, and pressing muscles and fascia helps the lymph system move through the body and remove toxins created by energy combustion in cells. But we also know that heat therapies also assist in this process.

Dr Andrew Weil writes in his book Eight Weeks to Optimum Health: “sweating is one of our most important mechanisms of natural healing. It allows the body to rid its self of unwanted materials such as excess sodium, drugs and toxins, taking part of the workload off the liver and kidneys, which are chiefly responsible for detoxification and purification of the blood.” Therefore the combination of the physical manipulation of the muscles with the added benefits of heat therapy results in a much more complete therapeutic experience.

At Pathways To Health the use of steam or dry sauna is complementary with any massage. Clients are encourage to come in fifteen to thirty minutes before their session begins to relax the one of the two private steam baths or the dry sauna. Showers are available in the steam rooms. For cooling and further relaxation, a patio with waterfall is provided.
Receiving a massage has many heath benefits. But getting a massage along with a steam bath or dry sauna adds tremendously to those benefits.

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Benefits of Massage for Headache Pain
By Joel “Jody” Curry, MSW, CMT

Over the past fourteen years, experience with a broad range of clients suffering from various forms of headache pain has confirmed, for me, (and for many of Pathway's clients), the effectiveness of massage for this condition. I find that deep work in the shoulder, neck, jaw, and cranial area relieves pain in most suffers of headache pain.  This observation has been confirmed by two controlled studies.

A study in the Journal of Neuroscience, 96, 1-11, twenty-six adults with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to a massage therapy group, which received twice weekly 30-minute massage for five consecutive weeks.  The control group received no massages. The massage group reported fewer distress symptoms, less pain, more headache free days, fewer sleep disturbances and taking fewer analgesics.   They also showed increased serotonin levels, the chemical messengers in the brain that affects emotions, behavior, and thought.

Another study was on the effects of massage therapy on chronic, non-migraine headache Reported in the American Journal of Public health, 92, 1657-1661.  Four chronic tension headache sufferers (aged 18-55 yrs) received structured massage therapy directed toward the neck and shoulder muscles during a 4 week period.  Massage therapy was effective in reducing the number of weekly headaches.  Headache frequency was significantly reduced within the initial week of massage treatment, and continued for the remainder of the study.  It is concluded that the muscle-specific massage therapy used in this study has the potential to be a functional drug free intervention for reducing the incidence of chronic tension headache.

Of course we recommend that an MD be consulted for conditions that persists. For more information about research findings related to massage, check out this web site:

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Some of the Methods Used by Pathways Therapists

Acupressure is a form of touch therapy that utilizes the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.  In acupressure, the same points on the body are used as in acupuncture, but are stimulated with finger pressure instead of with the insertion of needles. Acupressure is used to relieve a variety of symptoms and pain.

Ashiatsu (Foot Massage for the Back)
Ashiatsu (ashi=foot and atsu=pressure) is an Asian form of bodywork that has been adapted to include Deep Tissue and Swedish Massage techniques. The therapist is supported by bars suspended fro the ceiling, and applies different foot strokes in a deep compressive manner. Ashiatsu is a well-documented. Effective technique for treatment of chronic low back and neck pain.

Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine from India, and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, the word Ayurveda comprises the words āyus, meaning 'life' and veda, meaning 'science'. Ayurvedic practitioners work with the 3 life force energies of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha for curing various ailments.

Bowen Technique addresses key points to stimulate energy flow, and involves a gentle, rolling motion. The practitioner will stimulate sets of points, often with pauses between sets. The Bowen Technique is not a form of massage, though it does claim to release areas of built-up stress in the muscles, and clients usually experience profound relaxation after a session.

Craniosacral therapy  involves gently working with the spine, the skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia.  The restrictions of nerve passages are eased, the movement of craniosacral flluid  through the spinal cord can be optimized, and misaligned bones can be restored to their proper position. Craniosacral therapists use the therapy to treat mental stress, neck and back pain, migraines, TMJ Syndrome, and for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia

Myofascial Release is a form of soft tissue therapy which includes structural assessments and manual massage techniques for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia, muscles, and bones with the goal of eliminating pain, increasing range of motion and balancing the body. The fascia is manipulated, directly or indirectly through the use of trigger points and soft pressure, which allows the connective tissue fibers to reorganize themselves in a more flexible, functional fashion.

Prenatal or Pregnancy Massage is the  use of massage therapy to support the physiologic, structural, and emotional well-being of both mother and fetus. Various forms of massage therapy, including Swedish, deep tissue, neuromuscular, movement, and Oriental-based therapies, may be applied throughout pregnancy as well as during labor and the postpartum period.

Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain by stimulating predefined pressure points on the feet and hands. This controlled pressure alleviates the source of the discomfort. In the absence of any particular malady or abnormality, reflexology may be as effective for promoting good health and for preventing illness as it may be for relieving symptoms of stress, injury, and illness.

Shiatsu , translated as finger pressure, is a manipulative therapy developed in Japan and incorporating techniques of anma (Japanese traditional massage), acupressure, stretching, and Western massage. Shiatsu involves applying pressure to special points or areas on the body in order to maintain physical and mental well being, treat disease, or alleviate discomfort. . All types of acupressure generally focus on the same pressure points and so-called energy pathways, but may differ in terms of massage technique.

Sports Massage: There are special stretches, release moves and muscle group techniques that our therapists use to address the specific activities of athletes in their respective sports. We work extensively with endurance athletes like runners, cyclists, triathletes. We also serve all manner of weekend warriors - tennis, basketball, baseball. Please inquire about which therapist(s) might serve you and your specific athletic needs. Check the Therapists Bios for details

Swedish Massage & Deep Tissue Massage: Swedish massage is the most popular type of massage in the United States. It involves the use of hands, forearms or elbows to manipulate the superficial layers of the muscles to improve mental and physical health. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of the massage. The benefits of Swedish massage include increased blood circulation, mental and physical relaxation, decreased stress and muscle tension, and improved range of motion. 

Deep Tissue massage uses basic Swedish with slower motion to effect muscles at a deeper level.  There is no extra charge for deep tissue massage at Pathways.

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Holiday Chatter

By Joel “Jody” Curry, MSW, CMT

I’m feeling a little anxiety about the Holiday Season. What to give? How much to spend? Do I have to join the crowds and go shopping? My mind begins to ‘rattle’ with these questions about this time every year. This is the basis for the dreaded HOLIDAY STRESS that we hear so much about this time of year.  For a time I can be carried away by this chatter and begin to feel my body begin to tighten in response. 

However, I can also choose to remember to BREATHE. Breathing is the one of the things I often forget that I’m doing.  My body will keep me breathing no matter how forgetful I am, thankfully.  But I find that remembering that I am breathing helps me in many ways. 

For one, just the act of taking my attention away from the chatter of holiday anxiety by “watching” my breathing, I  gain a different perspective on what is going on in my head. That perspective allows me to see that my worries about the future are not so important in this moment, and there are alternatives to just becoming stressed.  In the more relaxed state that this observation permits, I can see more clearly what I may need to deal with the realities that the holiday season imposes.  I can become aware of both sides of the situation, the fun, good feeling part of holiday joy and thankfulness. I can plan to counter the stressful times by taking time for myself to do important things like receiving a massage at Pathways. I can remember to plan ahead a little because I know that Pathways can become pretty busy around holiday time.

By  separating from my chatter,, I find an objective observer inside of me that is able to more clearly direct my attention to productive activity, like planning to take time for myself,  make massage appointments, do focused breathing every day, etc. At Pathways we are making every effort to make it possible for you to use massage as one of your de-stressing for the holidays. What ever you do, allow yourself to have a wonderful holiday season.

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Benefits of Prenatal Massage

Massage therapy can enhance the overall health of mother and baby during and after pregnancy. The  nurturing touch of massage can provide ease and comfort during this transformative time in a woman’s life. By reducing stress hormones massage can reduce birth complications, ease labor and improve infant health. Additional benefits: reduce stress, anxiety and depression, enhance self-image, reduce insomnia, relieve fatigue, headaches, back, joint and nerve pain, help control blood pressure, strengthen immune system and improve circulatory system.

See the following therapists for prenatal massage:
Lori Bretz, Suzy Zahrobsky, Holly Slaats,
Debra Barbarick, and Jessica Krissovich.

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