• 5 Restorative Yoga Poses to Hold You Over Until Your Next RMT Appointment

    We all know that warm, relaxed (and of course sometimes a bit sore) sensation we’re left with after an appointment with an RMT. Tension that earlier in the day was the centre of attention is now taking the bench, and hey, our stresses seem to be over there too.

    While nothing beats the skilled touch of an RMT, here are a few restorative yoga postures you can do at home to give you that ‘back to balance’ feeling in between sessions.

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    1. Child’s Pose

    The one yoga pose to rule them all, and for good reason! Not only are you alleviating spinal pressure in Child’s Pose, but you are simultaneously bringing openness into the hips, thighs and upper and lower back muscles, all the while in a passive position that can invoke a deep sense of calm and security. Child’s pose can also help activate your digestive processes, and provides us a welcome opportunity to turn inward and enjoy a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle.

    Limbering up

    2. Legs up the Wall

    A favourite of many, legs up the wall is one of the most beneficial and effortless postures in yoga and is considered deeply therapeutic. Simply inverting for a period of time everyday allows gravity to help regulate tension, promote circulation of fluids within all extremities, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure. You may find that holding this position for an extended length of time provides intensely relaxing effects. Try 5-10 minutes to start, and increase to as long as you feel comfortable with. Try placing soft pillows under the arms, lower back or neck for even more support. *Note: You do not need to lay on the hard floor for this to take effect. If your bed is up against a wall, do it from here for maximum comfort!

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    3. Reclined Twist

    They say you are as young as your spine is flexible. As the fluids in the spine don’t move by themselves and can be a storing ground for built up toxins and free-radicals, this is a great reason to bring a gentle spinal twist into a relaxation routine. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and arms out to the sides. Softly lower your knees to the right, looking over the left shoulder. Pause here and breathe deeply. Repeat on opposite side.

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    4. Seated Forward Bend

    All the feels of a morning stretch but at any time of day. Seated Forward Bend targets the back side of the entire body, while promoting digestion and washing away stresses as we turn inward. Approach this posture lightly, your body will do the rest. Close your eyes.

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    5. Savasana

    Although it is a pose of complete surrender and relaxation, this can make it slightly more challenging. Still the mind by focusing on each part of the body you are hoping to bring ease. Mentally relax this part, and move onto the next. If you feel the mind wander, just come back.

    Enjoy knowing that with only a bit of effort, these poses are helping to revitalize the body and mind, restoring balance and promoting your wellbeing from the ground up.

  • Lessons from the Road by Cheyne, RMT

    photo 3 (1)¡Buenas dias a todas los personas!

    We’re almost back from our travels; we’ve seen so many places, met so many amazing people! Traveling is such a gift. Being able to work, supporting my partner Lila’s yoga workshops while on the road, has made it such an amazing journey.

    We’ve been to the Interior, the Prairies, east coast United States, Hawaii, but mostly Central America, in the past seven months. We’ve taught workshops, yoga teacher trainings, took a two week permaculture course, lived with handfuls of Central American families, and traveled with some of our best friends to some truly amazing places.

    From the deep wet jungle to the oppressively hot coastlines, what resonates most deeply for me after reflecting on the past seven months, and often what we all come back with after traveling, is memories of the people we’ve shared our lives with. It seems there’s a wisdom that comes with developing new routines. Playing soccer with the children in the dirt, howler monkeys in the trees, hand washing clothes, speaking a different language, listening to their stories… It seems we travel in search of something. Something beyond our lives back home; an inherent sense of humanity that crosses culture, language, ethnicity, even belief.

    To be honest, the majority of people traveling for a few weeks from the west are there to drink. Some stay, and develop ways of bringing their Western luxuries and lifestyle to, quite frankly, these impoverished areas that are economically forced to serve them. Some people are searching for something better when they travel, more so when they move there, studiously avoiding whatever is left in their wake. Chasing happiness as a set of preferences that seems fundamentally unattainable. Others come with a beautiful sense of exploration, some with an inner churning, some come with a burning desire to help the world. Or maybe a mix of all of them. But that’s an essay for another time. Traveling deeper into Nicaragua, past the areas with these socioeconomic challenges, there’s a different vibe. Bustling sidewalks, kids playing in the dirt roads, hungry dogs looking for scraps, and the stare of unfamiliarity from the locals as they assume you’re not Catholic. Nicaragua. It’s in these places, and deeper into the jungle, that we came across new friends, some we eventually traveled with, and communities we visited that left permanent impressions on us. There are some amazing things happening everywhere, and many people to be inspired by. Sometimes you just have to look with the right focus.

    After being on the road for what feels like a very long time, I’m sitting with some reflections before I head back to BC. Part of our intention on this journey was to gain knowledge and inspiration for some projects we have when we return home. For that part, we were overwhelmingly successful. Being able to share with yoga teachers the deeper physiology behind their craft and work has been super fun. But in the feeling of connection to people we’ve parted ways with, and others we can’t wait to see again, I’m left with something that’s quite hard to articulate. Being in developing parts of the world, working through times when we were seriously ill, broke, and seeking refuge at a Red Cross with dirt floors and questionable medication, comes with it some obvious perspective. I now care a lot less if there’s a coffee stain on my shirt or if the line is too long for my liking at the market. What comes to mind for me is that inherent sense of life and vitality in everyone, everywhere: the humble nature that pours out of the women in Nicaragua, despite the general lack of rights they’re subjected to. They’re not chasing a dream, they’re happy with what they have and the food and love they provide.

    That proud vitality, and vibrant sense of life and happiness that we all know comes from something other than what’s material, is what makes me so excited to be home, to my family and friends. Doing the work I love to do, living in the city and country I love. We describe it as the mountains, fresh air, cherry blossoms… summer in Vancouver. But it’s the essence of what’s behind all of those things. It’s the virtuous life, and the communities we build that sustain us.

    With grace and gratitude,

    Cheyne Cameron, RMT

    Cheyne will be returning to Soma at the beginning of April! Go online to book with him.

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  • My experience with Somato Respiratory Integration.

    It’s a lot of heavy breathing, strange postures, and the occasional (intentional) exclamation (I deserve better!) but Somato Respiratory Integration is not a lover’s quarrel or a temper tantrum, it’s a healing practice. Developed by Dr. Donald Epstein, SRI is commonly used as a pain management strategy. Some have hailed SRI as a life saver, while others insist it’s a scam, citing the lack of empirical evidence. I attended an SRI workshop last night in New Westminster. Here’s what I thought.

    I was introduced to SRI by my Chiro, Dr. David Carson. I’d gone to him about a year before for a persistent headache, and continued seeing him regularly, mostly for the tremendous physical awareness and help with anxiety the treatment brought. Dr. Carson has practiced traditional Chiropractic medicine for over 20 years, but these days he mostly treats patients using Network Spinal Analysis, also developed by Dr. Epstein. Some find the concepts behind his methods a little esoteric, but after a few years of treatment, I am a firm believer.

    According to Dr. Epstein’s website:

    Through these SRI exercises, we awaken and surrender control to the internal vibrations, wisdom, and rhythms of our personal and transpersonal biology. In moments, you can take the “charge” off your symptoms and crises. Through this revolutionary method, we can amplify what was unavailable and invisible within, becoming more present with ourselves and others. 

    The SRI workshop I attended last night was an intermediate level, and although I had taken the beginner’s workshop over a year ago, I adapted fairly quickly. There were six of us in the workshop, ranging in age twenty to sixty five. Lying on our backs on yoga mats, we were guided through breathing techniques and movements designed to be used daily to strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself.

    “This may get a little snotty.” Dr. Carson warned of a particularly intense breathing exercise. His assistant handed out tissues. “It just shows how hard you’re working.”

    And we worked hard, building energy in our bodies with breath, and releasing the sounds (and for some, emotions) that our bodies produced. Vocal affirmations were used, such as “I deserve better!” The goal was not to achieve relaxation, but rather focus and awareness, and eventually, release. I’m usually pretty inhibited, but when instructed to vocally release any tension in my body, I wailed.

    It felt great.

    Learn more about NSA, SRI, and Dr. Epstein at Network Chiropractors Canada and Dr. Epstein’s website. I tried to find some useful skeptical or critical forums regarding SRI and NSA, but I only found a lot of angry huffing and puffing disguised as skepticism. Feel free to post any quality critique of NSA or SRI, or any personal experiences with the treatment.

     

    Be happy,

    carleigh.

     

  • New Years Resolutions: Meditate.

    January is certainly a popular month for meditation retreats. Who among us hasn’t resolved to give meditation a try, or to step up our daily practice? I did my first retreat in January five years ago. It’s often a bit of a low month for me: there’s the inevitable Christmas letdown, long dark mornings, and still no sign of spring. A ten day Vipassana retreat is like a clock winding. I emerge calm, confident and full of gratitude. It’s a powerful tool for dealing with life’s challenges.

    But you don’t have to do a ten day silent retreat to experience the benefits of meditation. I have a couple of friends who spend their New Year’s day completely off the grid: no phone, computer unplugged, some even leave the lights turned off. Their aim is to spend the day completely silent, and to remain meditative and self aware.  This might involve several short meditation sittings, walking meditation, long walks outside, or all of the above. There are wonderful guided meditation talks you can have ready on your Ipod (I know I said “off the grid”, but hey, these are the times we live in) if the idea of just sitting in silence is daunting. If the famous “lotus position” is uncomfortable for you, sit in a chair. It’s still meditation, even if you don’t look like someone who works at Lululemon while you’re doing it.

    The important thing is to eliminate opportunities for distraction, and to spend as much time in your body as possible. Simple vegetarian (or light, easy to digest) meals are prepared ahead of time, so that very little time is spent cooking. There is plenty of hot herbal tea ready and stored in a thermos. You might find yourself feeling pretty sleepy, but it’s better to try and stay away from caffeine. My fave Buddhist teachers always say that it’s important to be gentle with yourself and listen to your body, so if you find yourself sleeping for part of the day, it’s probably what your body needed. You wouldn’t expect yourself to run a marathon on your first attempt at running (or second, or third…) so don’t worry if you find yourself flipping on the telly after a few hours. Meditation is challenging. Keep trying!

    I chose the photo for this post, because I want to stress that meditation can be done anywhere, and at any time. I like to do something called Metta, or loving kindness meditation when I’m on the Skytrain. Metta is all about radiating kindness and compassion to everyone around you. You can use a little chant if you like (May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings feel love.) or perhaps a visualization of positive energy building up inside you and shooting out to those around you. Scoff if you want, but I guarantee you’ll feel much happier after a transit ride doing Metta, than a trip spent grumbling about the “guy on his cell”, or the “girl with too much perfume.” Although, okay-too much perfume really is annoying.

    Here is a link to some great guided meditation talks.  Good luck!

    Be happy,

    Carleigh.

     

     

  • Hello from Carleigh.

    Hi all, I’m Carleigh, and I’m thrilled to be here at Soma Studio. In addition to my reception duties, I’ll be editing Soma’s Blog and monthly newsletter. I’ve already met a few of you at the front desk, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all in the months to come. One of the things I’ve noticed about Soma is the compassionate, personal feel to the place. So many of our clients have been coming here for years: through pregnancies, recovery from an injury, or simply to nurture their body and spirit. Massage is an integral part of a preventative, holistic approach to wellbeing. So yes, I’m a writer, but I’ve also had a longtime interest in holistic health, so I thought I’d tell you a little about one of my interests: Vipassana meditation.

    You don’t have to go to a retreat to meditate, but for those who appreciate the baptism-by-fire approach to spirituality, this is it. The Vipassana course schedule is intense. For ten days, I meditate for eleven out of the sixteen hours I am awake, mostly in 1-2 hour intervals. For the duration of the course, speaking is only allowed if I need to communicate with a course instructor.

    I’ve been going for a few years now, but here’s a story from my first time.

    Two days after New Year’s Eve, I pack up the bare essentials and head to Chilliwack, to the Po Lam Buddhist centre. I haven’t given this much forethought. It seems like a great way to start the new year, I suppose. Some people go to Thailand to find themselves. I’m going inward.

    I arrive at the Po Lam around 4 pm, and tearfully kiss my boyfriend goodbye. I’ve been told not to bring any books or journals, and no cell phone. Nothing to distract me from the practice. All our food—simple vegetarian meals—is provided. There is no charge, though you’re encouraged to donate at the end of your stay if you feel you benefitted from the course. After a meal and a brief introduction, myself and 19 other women are sent to our rooms and told to prepare for our first meditation. This makes some of the new students laugh. How on earth do you prepare for this?

    It’s hard.

    It’s hard to be quiet for 10 days. It’s hard to sit still for an hour at a time. It’s hard to keep my eyes closed for the better part of the day. For three days, we breathe and focus on the feel of breath as it moves in and out of our nostrils. As I slowly quiet my mind and become more aware of my body, I become exponentially more conscious of how uncomfortable I am.

    My back is on fire. My legs are numb. There is frustration, and a feeling of being out of control. If I were at home, I could stand up, stretch, scream at the top of my lungs. Anything to relieve the tension. Here, I feel trapped inside my body. Pain from old injuries re-surfaces to taunt me. A torn ligament in my ankle from volleyball. The time I slipped and fractured my tailbone in third grade. I start to feel doubt; what If I can’t do this? It’s only day three! I know I’m not alone, many students have caught colds, and I can hear their sniffles and wheezing all around me. Most Vipassana courses lose a few new students. I want to see this through to the end.

    The instruction we’re receiving in between our meditation sittings is all about compassion. Compassion for others, but also, compassion for yourself. Around midday on day four, I realize that maybe I’ve been doing this wrong. I’ve been trying to power through the course. Forcing my back to stay as straight as the nuns, and begrudging my knees their creaky complaints. Mentally punishing myself for not being some kind of meditation superhero from day one. So I try, for the first time ever, being compassionate with my body.

    We have a little dialogue. Might as well, since I’m not speaking to anyone else. I tell my back that it must be difficult to support this posture for so many hours a day. I respect the work that it does. I thank it. I tell my legs that I’m truly sorry about their situation. Tell them if they’re willing to work with me on this, I’ll be sure to take extra time to stretch on my lunch break. At first, they’re not speaking to me, and I can’t say I blame them. But I keep at it. By the end of day five, I have a breakthrough. I’m not sure if the pain recedes, or my acceptance of its presence grows, lessening its power over me. I suspect the latter.

    There, in that modest meditation hall in Chilliwack, the experience of being kind and generous to myself makes me weep. I cry for the thirty years I’ve never once considered my body an ally. It had seemed more like an enemy: menstrual cramps, chubby thighs I’d abhorred, bad knees that made exercise difficult. So we kiss and make up. I promise to love and nurture it, as I would any dear friend. And through Yoga, massage, healthy eating and regular meditation, I’ve kept that promise. There’s compromise, like coffee. And wine. But compromise is okay. It’s a necessary part of any loving relationship.

    * * *

    I would love to hear your stories, testimonials and personal experiences with massage, meditation, or anything you would like to share with us here at Soma.

    Be happy,

    carleigh.