Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Medicinal Mushroom Risotto


This recipe is from my 5-Element Nutrition workshop on Medicinal Mushrooms. It wonderfully boosts your immune system, is anti-viral, increases circulation, and makes your Spirit happy. Enjoy!


2 Tbs Olive oil

2 Tbs Butter

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbs fresh lemon zest, chopped (about ½ lemon)

8 Shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and chopped (ok to use fresh or re-constitute dry ones)

1 Maitake mushroom, chopped (ok to use fresh or re-constitute dry one)

4 cups Arborio rice (rinsed, uncooked)

1 cup dry white wine (optional - if you leave out increase water by 1 cup)

2 cups mushroom broth (OR chicken or vegetable)

5 cups water

dash of salt

fresh juice of ½ lemon

1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

black pepper to taste

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pressure cooker.

2. Sautee the shallot and garlic. When browned, add the fresh lemon zest and stir around until you smell the lemon.

3. Add all of the mushrooms and sauté until starting to brown.

4. Add rice and stir.

5. Add all of the liquids (white wine, broth, water) and stir. Add a dash of high quality sea salt and lemon juice.

6. Close the pressure cooker. When ready, pressure cook for 7 minutes. (NOTE: I really like to make risotto in a pressure cooker, but if you don’t have one it’s fine to make it in a large pot – you just have to stir about 1 cup of liquid in at a time and keep stirring for about 35-40 minutes.)

7. When done, open the pressure cooker and add the parsley and nuts.

8. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste. For an added bonus, serve with a glass of water containing 8-10 drops of Reishi (Ling Zhi) Mushroom Tincture.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Case Studies and Meridians

Everyone's body is different, and every body has different complaints, aches and pains. In our [massage therapy] class at the Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage we were able to take our personal complaints and were able to help treat them or subside the issue.

Over a period of time, we were taking massage, acupressure, tai chi and qi gong, as well as our own personal home care such as dieting, exercising, and essential oils to change the complaints that we had.

There were many different types of case studies that were covered, from fatigue to joint pain, previous bone injuries, tiredness, skin problems, and insomnia. All case studies were treated differently according to what acupressure points were right for that person, as well as different types of qi gong for every individual.

The five elements played a big role in defining what a person had a deficiency in or where stagnation was in the body. The five elements all compliment each other, and every organ is is linked to an element. 

What is the 5 element theory?The Five Element theory is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in both our environment and within ourselves. The foundation of the theory rests in the correspondences of each element to a variety of phenomena.

Depending on the complaint that the individual had, we were given specific acupressure points to trigger in the one hour relaxation massage. All meridians were covered during the massage yet specific points helped subside the complaint the person had.

Some major meridians are the Bladder meridian, Spleen and Gallbladder meridians, Stomach, and Triple Burner meridians.  Qi gong exercises were also given to the person. In most cases the qi gong exercises that were given were moves that the person felt comfortable with. If your body feels like it needs that type of movement, in many cases it means it is effective. For example a type of Qi Gong for the water element is listed below. 

* Reaching for Heaven and Earth
* Pumping the kidney qi 
* Drawing the bow

Some of the individuals in the case studies were given different kinds of essential oils to use, as well as following a healthier diet that included foods that were beneficial to the complaint. When using multiple tools to help the issue you were able to tell the difference in a short period of time.

The result:
At the end of the treatment sessions you were able to tell dramatic differences right away. Problems that the individuals had were either gone or were mild. The change was fascinating because it not only made you feel better but also look at the issue differently.

Massage is such a great and effective way to help treat many problems someone may have, and with multiple types of massage you are able to subside many problems.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Massage Therapy

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the after effects of stress from a traumatic event, situation or accident. Massage is beneficial to people with PTSD for several reasons.

Firstly, lets have a look at a client with PTSD. A middle aged woman is in a moderately severe car accident and comes in for massage due to neck and back pain. The scalenes, trapezius and latisimus dorsi are all very tense and it feels like there are two iron cables running down either side of the client’s spine. This is the physical trauma left from the accident. Trapped within the physical trauma is part of the emotional trauma. The reason for this is that emotions are, in the Western medicine tradition, nothing more than chemical reactions. What happened in the accident was that the rush of adrenaline and fear activating chemicals got trapped in the muscles when the muscles tensed. The muscles never released enough for the adrenaline and other chemicals to move on, so they got stuck there.

It is important to understand this because when you start working on releasing the muscles, you are releasing the pent up chemicals and allowing them to at last start to move and flow. Depending on the situation, this may elicit an emotional or physical response from the client. This is perfectly normal, and it is important to let the client know that, as they may not be certain of what’s going on or why they are experiencing certain emotions. Sometimes, the reaction may not come until later that day or within the next few days, and may leave the client a little shaken. This is also normal and varies case by case. In the case of the middle aged woman, if the car accident had been more recent, the faster the chemicals will be released from her muscles, therefore the quicker the reaction. If she had been in a car accident several year ago, the reaction may be slower and it may take more work to undo the physical trauma.

The other half of the PTSD is mental and emotional. Depending on the situation, the client may have a habit or unconscious reaction when either remembering or being faced with a similar situation. The woman may find that after the accident, she is extra cautious while turning left, or may not drive on icy roads. The muscles which are the most likely to hold tension at the end of the day are the ones that she tensed in the accident, or those in relationship to the muscle.

PTSD is not always related to an event that happened to the person physically. It could have been an emotionally or mentally traumatic experience, such as watching a pet or family member die, grade school trauma, or verbal abuse. While nothing physically happened to the body, it can still affect the body and by working on the affected areas, you can assist the client. In grief, the body folds in on itself, chest caved in, head bowed, hunched shoulders. Awkwardness may be shown in side effects from trying to fit in, such as sore feet and ankles from poor footwear, or anorexia or overweight problems. Anger shows itself by puffing out the chest, sharp and/or glaring eyes, firm jaw set, tight muscles or a rigid stance. These are very important signs for a massage therapist to read as you work on the client.

The client may start talking to the therapist about their trauma either before the session, while on the table, or after. It is often best at these times to just listen to what the client is telling you, and to watch what their body is doing while they talk, because often times that will tell you if they have other traumatized areas or how they feel about something, and either aren’t telling you or don’t know how to say. [It is appropriate for a massage therapist to listen, but not to try and resolve these issues. Many massage therapists are able to refer a client to a qualified counselor if needed.]

PTSD can have a wide range of levels, from minimal (general physical tension and subconscious actions, like flinching or tensing) to severe (outcomes vary from client to client). Some clients with PTSD may be on medication, in which case, precautions should be taken. It is highly important to know which medication it is, why they are taking it, and do research on what the drug is physiologically meant to do and its side effects [so that a massage may be safely modified]. Other clients may be using tools such as exercise, breathing techniques, meditation, or other recreational activities such as drugs or alcohol to deal with their trauma. It is important to watch for signs of such tools due to health precautions, which will change depending on the client.

Massage can offer safe, professional physical reassurance and pain relief for those suffering from PTSD, as well as coping techniques, and a safe, welcoming place for the client to release the trauma from their tissues without fear of embarrassment or pressuring.

By Tonia Curry-Ohlsen
Massage Therapy Student

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Massage Therapy For Seniors

From the Senior Point of View

I’m 65 and I love massage! 5 years ago I had a lot of misconceptions about it, but today it’s my favorite part of health care. Let me share a few things I learned:

• It’s very modest. My body is always covered with a sheet and blanket. I dress and undress in a private room.

• Many years ago massage was associated with “the red-light district”. This has changed immensely! Today massage therapists are educated, highly skilled in pain relief, and are licensed in the health care profession.

• Massage is meant to leave you feeling wonderful. A good therapist will explain everything in detail and welcome any and all questions you have about massage, like is it ok to tell the therapist the pressure is too light or too deep or something hurts or that spot feels great. (Yes! Massage therapists really appreciate your input.)

I love massage and my therapist cares and takes great care of me.

~Betty E., Anchorage

From the Massage Therapist Point of View

I see more and more seniors in my massage practice. This ancient form of healing has evolved over centuries, to eventually become known as therapeutic massage. It is increasingly used as a tool by healthcare practitioners and individuals to promote health and wellness.

Massage therapists manipulate tight, poorly functioning muscles to return them to a more relaxed working state, thereby reducing stress, pain & dysfunction within the body.

There are 100’s of styles of massage, so I’ll mention the 3 most popular in Anchorage:

Swedish Massage offers long flowing strokes, compression, and sometimes assistance with range of motion. It is often associated with health clubs & spas of the past century.

Thai Massage incorporates graceful, flowing compression and stretching techniques designed to move the body’s energy throughout the mind/body complex. It is also known as assisted yoga and includes an attitude of Loving Kindness towards all people.

Tui Na Massage is also called Chinese Massage. It can be more vigorous in nature, treats the mind/body/spirit as a whole, and uses techniques based in Chinese medicine like Yin-Yang and Five Element Theory.

Massage therapists tailor each session to your preference, i.e. the amount of pressure desired or needed, areas to be worked on or concentrated on, whether you prefer to be fully clothed during a table massage or modestly undressed down to your comfort level to allow the use of massage oil on your skin.

Massage is a uniquely personal experience. Table massage is performed while you lie between the sheets under a warm blanket. Typically a massage session begins with you and the therapist in private room discussing what you want to achieve from the massage – is it for relaxation or to treat a specific type of pain or discomfort.

Once that is established, the therapist leaves the room giving you time to undress, climb between the sheets and get settled, usually lying face up. The therapist will knock before entering, asking if you are ready.

During the massage the therapist will uncover only the area of your body they are massaging such as your back, leg or foot. The therapist will also check with you to see how you are doing, if you’re comfortable and inquire about the pressure. When the session has ended the therapist leaves the room allowing you privacy to dress. Usually there is a short dialogue to ascertain how you are feeling after the massage.

Regardless of preferred style, massage creates a sense of well-being through increased energy, better circulation and mental clarity, allowing for more restful sleep, greater flexibility, and overall peace.

~Alanna K-Dunn, 58-years young
Licensed Massage Therapist
at The Oriental Healing Arts Center

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Massage Therapy for IBS!

What is IBS?
Even though the cause of IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is not known, there are ways to help relieve the pain. IBS is a sensitivity of the intestines which may be caused by diet, antibiotics, stress, and genetics.

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Mucus in Stool
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Anxiety or Depression
  • Fatigue
Treating IBS The Natural Way!
Stress is a big factor when it comes to imbalance of the body. Getting a massage helps relax the body and forget about the stress of life. When getting a massage the body releases a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is the "'good" feeling the body gets when its relaxed and happy. The muscles in the intestines cease up from pain or stress which makes it hard for blood and nutrients to flow through the body. Without the flow of blood through the intestines, it makes it hard for the intestines to absorb nutrition from the food we eat. So, massage helps relax those tense muscles enabling blood to flow more smoothly.

Massage therapists can also massage the abdominal area to help break up and move stool if they have constipation. Massage can also relieve people of IBS symptoms if they have diarrhea. These massage techniques can be done at home. Have your massage therapist show you how to relieve your symptoms of IBS with massage.

Relief At Home!
If you're having constipation or diarrhea problems you can massage your large intestine to get relief. Your ascending colon starts on the right side of your abdomen, comes up just below your rib cage, and descends down the left side of your abdomen. Here's a massage that you can do at home:
  1. Start from your descending colon to help clear out stuck stool.
  2. Make a fist and massage down towards your feet a couple inches at a time. Massaging until you get to your ascending colon.
  3. Then, at your ascending colon take an open palm and follow your ascending colon to your descending colon in one smooth stroke.
  4. Take both fists and run them down both sides of your abdomen (only going in a downward direction).
  5. Repeat steps 1-4.
Use oil (Almond, Vegetable, etc.) to lubricate your abdominal area so it's easier to massage. I found it easier to do this colon massage when laying down.

Pictures from Webmd.com and Colon-info.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Empower Yourself to Heal with Instant Tai Chi

Protective Energy
Tai Chi Chuan, an Internal Chinese Martial Art, is practiced for the protective energy it provides. Not only does it teach self defense, it makes the immune system stronger and more protective, creating a positive effect on our health.

Natural Spirituality Beyond Dogma
Translated as "supreme ultimate fist", a personal practice of tai chi chuan provides many benefits for the practitioner. These benefits can be physical, emotional, and spiritual.

In the realm of spirituality, tai chi offers the benefits of a natural type of spirituality that goes beyond any sort of dogma or religion. If you feel your life and health are already well, tai chi is a life-enhancing practice. It will make you better and stronger at whatever it is you do.

Tai Chi Heals Diseases
Also, research has shown tai chi chuan to:

- Cure high blood pressure
- Heal type II diabetes
- Ward off dementia
- Improve and prevent osteoporosis
- Decrease cardiovascular incidence
- Improve brain function
- Enhance quality of life with almost any illness

Whether you are a physically fit athlete or a person with health challenges, tai chi has something to offer you.

Tai Chi Energy Travels Through the Body
Instant Tai Chi offers the very essence of tai chi in a two hour workshop presented by one of the best instructors in the world.

The essence of tai chi can be described using the energy of the body. How this energy travels through the body is a parallel to how a person lives their life. It travels two ways: 8 distinct movement patterns and spontaneously.

How it travels is determined by the dynamic quality and the abundance of the energy.

Instant Tai Chi
This workshop will focus on these two concepts of tai chi: the pattern of energetic movement and how to move the energy dynamically and abundantly.

If you want to heal, if you want to be stronger and better, if you want a dynamic life, if you want abundance...this workshop is for YOU!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Massage and Autism

Most of us are aware massage therapy has many benefits, especially when our muscles are tight and nothing will do the trick to loosen those muscles like a good one-hour massage will. You might’ve even known that massage is also great for other ailments like stress, depression, and even arthritis. But did you know that massage has a lot of great benefits for people who are autistic? Keep on reading to learn more!

People with traits that fall in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can benefit in many ways from massage. These benefits can include improving sleep, calming stress, addressing problems with muscle tone, increased ability to stay focused and interact with others. A large percentage of autistic people have an aversion to touch. “So how can they handle a one-hour massage?” you may be asking yourself… Well, they don’t start out with a one-hour massage. The therapist will start out just getting the person used to being touched and overtime the individual will get more and more used to this type of interaction and could eventually have a full 30 minute massage!

In a non-therapeutic setting, touching one another is usually a much lighter touch. Social interactions can be very over-stimulating for an autistic person, which can create a negative response from them. Firmer touch is less stimulating and more calming for an autistic person and that makes it easier for them to tolerate being touched. Routine is also very important to keeping a calm state of mind for an autistic person, therefore having a set massage at the same time each week creates an even more healing setting for the client. There have been numerous studies done and the results showed that autistic children who were massaged regularly had a much larger ability to receive touch and had more regular sleep patterns than the control group. Parents who are taught this special form of massage and massaged their children every evening for 15 minutes saw an even greater progress made. 

This insightful information was gathered from a lady named Tina Allen on her LiddleKidz website:
What is not so commonly known is that many autistic children have significantly lower levels of Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone, which is associated with emotional connections and feelings of love. It can cause feelings of warmth and relaxation and a decrease in stress. Numerous research studies have proven that Oxytocin is released in our bodies during, and after, receiving nurturing touch. A 2007 study reported that oxytocin helped autistic individuals retain the ability to evaluate the emotional significance of speech and also showed a decrease in autism spectrum repetitive behaviors. Wow! 

Some other options during a massage include adding some healing essential oils to the massage. A great [essential] oil to use would be some Ponderosa Pine Cone Essential Oil, which will promote an even greater sense of calmness and grounding. Not only does a massage benefit the person receiving it, but it also benefits the caretaker or parent. Imagine their child being able to receive a 30-minute massage while the parent also receives a massage. Talk about a win-win situation. Both of them come out feeling more relaxed, calm, and loving…. And that is the recipe for a better a day!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meridians and Massage: A Match Made in Heaven

Being a massage student here at the Oriental Healing Arts Center has been a life-changing experience. Before starting school 9 months ago, when I was originally thinking about becoming a massage therapist, I had looked into OHAC having no prior knowledge of Oriental Medicine (also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine; TCM). In the past, I’ve received massages and also acupuncture but I couldn’t see how knowledge of TCM and massage would meld together. When I thought of massage, I thought of sports massage or deep tissue; but acupressure massage never came to mind. So I decided to do a little research on my own to see how TCM and massage would fit together.

The more I learned about TCM, QiGong, and Tai Chi from the books I was reading, the more I wanted to learn. My thoughts of “How could TCM and massage go together?” turned into “How could they not go together!” I quickly finalized my massage student application with OHAC and dove into the learning experience of a lifetime!

Learning about the Theory of Oriental Medicine and Meridians and Points has taught me an entirely different way of looking at the human body. Before, I always thought of the body comprised mostly of bones, muscles, and organs and while that is still the case, I now see an underlying current of energy highways transversing the lengths of the body. Symptoms of disease (or disharmonies in the body) are no longer just individual organ issues. To me, they are now keys into the inner workings of the body and instead of a something negative, I see them as a calling from the body to bring itself back into balance. A symptom doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it can be viewed as your body communicating with you that something is off and you need to take care of yourself.

Knowing the meridians throughout the body, along with what’s currently ailing a person, changes each and every massage to be specifically tailored to the client’s needs. If a person comes in complaining of certain ‘symptoms’, I’m able to deduce that it sounds like their Spleen may have a bit of a disharmony and during a 1 hour full-body massage, once I got to the lower leg portion, I would focus on stimulating Spleen meridian points to bring energy and flow to that meridian, which would then help create more harmony for the interior Spleen organ… and when there’s heath and harmony within the body, life becomes more enjoyable!
Before attending school here, I thought massage was something you received when you had a sore muscle from shoveling too much snow. Now I have learned that, while massage is excellent for sore shoveling muscles, it’s also amazing for helping heal anything a person may be going through. The body isn’t just bones, muscles, and organs. The body is an intricate part of a healthy mind and soul also. Having a healthy body begins with having a harmonious interior state for happy organs and a healthy, harmonious place for your soul to live. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupressure are tools that help create a pleasant atmosphere within your body so that your soul can thrive!