The Autonomic Nervous System Explained

People often ask me about the science/logic/reasoning as to how the services that I offer (i.e. massage, acupuncture, yoga, etc.) promote health and wellness in the body. I could answer this question from many different angles; we could talk about knots, trigger points, reflex areas, fascia, lymph, inflammation, circulation, endorphins, energy/qi, and so forth. Today, however, I want to go a little deeper with my answer.

Throughout my thousands of hours of training in alternative medicine, I’ve had the privilege to learn from some pretty phenomenal practitioners of both Western and Eastern medicine. What I’ve noticed is that people generally tend to have a great Western/allopathic understanding of health, or they have a good grip on the Eastern/holistic perspective; only a small number of people have studied both. Not only have I actively pursued studying health from both a Western and Eastern approach, but I’ve been building bridges between the two for the last several years. In this newsletter, I’m going to explain what I do from a Western point of view and then next month I’ll explain everything from an Eastern outlook (and I’ll show how the two perspectives parallel and are really one and…

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The Mind-Body Connection Revisited

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

“There is no illness of the body apart from the mind.” – Socrates

“The mind and body communicate constantly. What the mind thinks, perceives, and experiences is sent from our brain to the rest of the body.” – Herbert Benson, M.D.

“The fact that the mind rules the body is, in spite of its neglect by biology and medicine, the most fundamental fact which we know about the process of life.” – Franz Alexander, M.D.

“It’s supposed to be a professional secret, but I’ll tell you anyway. We doctors do nothing. We only help and encourage the doctor within.” – Albert Schweitzer, M.D.

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.” – Hippocrates (The Father of Western Medicine)

I first wrote about the mind-body connection several years ago; you can read the article here. We intuitively know that our minds and bodies are connected. Haven’t you heard people experiencing “gut feelings”, “butterflies”, and “heartbeak”? These are all thoughts/emotions (which originate in the mind) that we feel…

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Stress 101

Take a moment to check in with your body. Are you furrowing your eyebrows? Clenching your jaw? Hunching your shoulders? Curling your toes? Do you feel tension in your neck and shoulders? If so, your body may be indicating that you are currently experiencing some level of stress.

Let’s talk about stress. Stress has become normal; even worse, it’s become a badge of honor, an addiction, even an identity. In our culture, you’re nearly judged to be doing something wrong if you aren’t stressed. Work deadlines, financial problems, relationship woes, bad test results, technology, the ever-increasing hustle of society, rambunctious children, and the media filling your thoughts with stories of war, violence, and greed all contribute to a constant bombardment of stress from all directions.

Webster’s Dictionary defines stress as, “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.” My definition of stress is anything that puts you in your sympathetic nervous system. Of course that would include divorce/break ups, death, illness, family issues, school/work related stress, bills piling up, car problems, and having too many commitments, but it would also include misplacing your wallet, speaking in public, the job you don’t like, dealing with rude and…

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My 15 Favorite Meditations

We’re in the middle of a discussion about meditation. I’ve been setting you up for this for months, explaining the various health benefits of meditating and becoming parasympathetic. Now, are you ready? Below I’ve explained the fifteen most common exercises I practice on my meditation cushion. I recommend choosing one and sticking with it for five to twenty minutes. Like I always say, start on the short end and gradually work your way up to longer periods of meditating.

Breathe in and out through your nostrils and keep your eyes gently closed (unless otherwise specified). My meditation instructor, Victor Parachin, recommends doing yoga and meditation in a two-to-one ratio; for example, stretch for twenty minutes and then meditate for ten. Typically when I meditate, I start with a simple phrase, such as saying to myself “in” as I inhale and “out” as I exhale. After a few minutes of that (once my mind has calmed down a bit), I then transition into a different meditative exercise. There are thousands to choose from, but here are just a few of my favorites:

  1. Count your inhalations/exhalations: Take a nice, long, deep breath in and out through the nose and then…
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The Importance of Self-Care

Self-care: two four-letter words. Taking care of ourselves is a foreign concept that’s often given a bad rap because it’s labeled “selfish” and thus invokes feelings of blame and guilt. This is indeed something that we all tend to struggle with. From what I’ve noticed, the problem seems to be two-fold; first, it seems like we don’t understand how valuable we are and second, our schedules are much too busy. We become our last priority because there is always 148 other things to do (most of which have a dead line or due date).

I’ve known most of you for a while now. I can verify that you are a priceless masterpiece that is amazing, strong, worthy, beautiful, unique, capable, magnificent, talented, admirable, likable, and wonderful. That being said, you need to treat yourself with the utmost acceptance, honor, dignity, respect, kindness, and appreciation. (When you think like this, you’ll automatically take care of yourself. Knowing our value naturally leads to self-care.)

Taking care of yourself isn’t about partaking in certain activities (i.e. yoga and meditation); self-care is going to look different for everyone, but it’s always centered around forming a commitment, adopting a new mindset, and starting…

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Learning to Live in the Moment: The Art of Mindfulness

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” – Babatunde Olatunji

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Teresa

What Does “Living in the Moment” Mean?

In everyday life we rarely pay full attention to anything. When we’re at work, we dream of vacation. When we’re on vacation, we stress about the work that’s going to be awaiting our return. Our society has all but lost the ability to live in the moment.

You frequently hear me talk about “being present”, “living in the moment”, and “practicing mindfulness”. These phrases are all used synonymously and were a core part of Buddha’s original teachings. If you aren’t familiar with this concept of mindfulness or living in the present, I highly encourage you to watch one of my favorite movies: “Peaceful Warrior” (it’s available on Netflix Instant).

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)

Don’t let the…

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