When you have a condition that affects mobility, traveling anywhere involves planning, research and in some cases stress-induced, ingenuity. Normally when I attend a Politics and Prose book reading it’s held at Sixth and I. This historic DC venue is one I’ve scoped out, mastered and feel comfortable navigating either via car or public transportation. …

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I like the idea of a daily yoga challenge. The problem is, I don’t actually like doing them because it’s an easy way to bullshit myself. When I couldn’t make it to the studio, I’d simply unroll my mat for about 20 minutes of yoga. Or do a few asanas in the kitchen while waiting …

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I was a few months from finishing yoga teacher training when I received my MS diagnosis.  Considering how many people swear that yoga healed their MS you would think being a teacher would be an advantage. It would if I were a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, take-life-one-day-at-a-time, obstacles-are-nothing-more-than-opportunities, no-matter-what-my-body-is-my-temple, type of gal. It would if being in my …

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Failing to Vibrate Daily

February 19, 2016

Before we get started, I’ve got to know. Why exactly did you click on this blog post? Who are you, Samantha Jones? What type of daily vibration do you think I’m talking about?

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I’m talking about Whole Body Vibration.

You see, the vibrator I use doesn’t fit in a nightstand. It’s a whole body vibration machine. Specifically mine is the Power Fir DS-K01 Bantamweight Vibration Massager. I love my machine so much that I consider every day to be a failure if I haven’t stepped on it for a least a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 7.05.28 PMI discovered the power of vibration at Ballenger Creek Chiropractic. Every time I had a knot in my back, Dr. Cassie would pull out a jack-hammer-like hand-held device that pounded the hell out my muscles. I would walk out of her office feeling amazing and then hop on her whole body massager to stretch, strengthen and also work on my balance.

I loved their machine so much I often went 3 times a week until I researched WBVs and figured out that I could buy an affordable model to use at home.

Although fitness folks like exercising on WBVs I use it to stretch and get blood flowing to my weak left side. Some days after only 5-10 minutes I’ll look down to find that my left foot, hand, leg or arm is beat red and itchy like how your legs look when you go for a run. Considering how little movement I give to one half of my body, I love knowing that I can give my vascular, lymph, and musculoskeletal symptoms a workout.

I also can’t help but notice that ever since I started actively working at the level of my nervous system and added movement with awareness to my life, my machine has been helping me wake up parts of my body.

For example today I made the connection that when I’m using my exercise bike, if I press into the peddle with the forth toe on my left foot, it helps to stabilize my knee which allows me to peddle properly (i.e., my knee doesn’t collapse in on itself). I then took that new tidbit of information into my functional, daily movement. Suddenly I can more easily rise from a chair, keep my legs crossed and push off my foot when walking which is HUGE!

So what does that have to do with a vibration machine?

I believe the machine is bringing parts of my body back online. By micro-moving bones, tendons, joints and bringing blood flow to the aspects of myself that I normally don’t feel at all, I’m bringing these parts back into my mind-body consciousness. This awareness helps integrate my foot back into a very complex gait-cycle that most people don’t think about let alone, notice.

If you’re interested in adding this technology to your wellness regimen keep a few things in mind:

  • Although they make industrial machines for gyms that cost upwards of $6,000, you can buy a small, home-use machine for about $150.
  • In her book, Whole Body Vibration: The Future of Good Health, Becky Chambers notes that double motor machines are a waste because you can’t completely synchronize two motors. Although you won’t notice the millisecond difference, your nervous system will. Keep it simple and stick to a single motor machine.Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 7.23.41 AM
  • Avoid seesaw oscillation and stick with vertical vibrations.
  • If you only want to warm up, stretch and relax your muscles then a WBV can be a passive addition to your wellness routine
  • But if want to turbo charge your fitness regimen, WBV only does that if you’re already a fitness freak that loves to sweat and push yourself to your limits. It adds another dimension to your workout, brings more muscles into play, and challenges you in ways different from static, floor moves.
  • I have no clue if you can lose weight with these machines so if you think you can vibrate while eating a doughnut without any consequences, spend your money on something else. I also can’t confirm that 10 minutes of WBV exercise equals an hour of traditional exercise like a lot of the marketing materials claim.

And finally this is the part of the post where I need to remind you that I’m not a doctor and I’m not dispensing medical advice. I’m just telling you what works for me. In other words I’m describing activities not advocating any, so talk to a healthcare professional if you’d like to add whole body vibration to your healthcare regimen. But between you and me, if I had a pacemaker, recently implanted pins, plates, or screws, a history of deep vein thrombosis and blood clots, varicose veins, disc issues, orthopedic problems or recent head or neck trauma, I sure as hell wouldn’t be adding vibration to my day until I spoke with someone in the know.

Day 31: Failing to Explain How I Plan to Kick MS’s Ass

February 8, 2016

This past November I started an online course with Irene Lyon, called The New Inner Game. It’s a 12-week nervous system rewire. Irene combines her kinesiology and bio-medical research backgrounds with her Feldenkrais and Somatic Experiencing certifications to do some pretty ground breaking work.

The toughest part of this work is explaining it, but I shall try…

Everyone suffers from trauma. We suffer from emotional wounds, shock trauma, acute injury, psychological damage and chronic stress and as such we’ve all been thrown into multiple fight, flight or freeze responses due to traumatic events throughout our lifetimes.

Unlike animals that automatically discharge excess energy once they’re safe, we humans let that energy build up. This disrupts our autonomic nervous system and causes our vagus nerve to malfunction.

Because the vagus nerve (which prevents inflammation) connects the brain-stem to our visceral organs and the Autonomic Nervous System unconsciously controls all of our body systems, this disruption eventually shows up as disease and/or emotional issues.

Irene has been teaching me how to work at the subtle, internal, somatic, (body) level which helps me to move with more ease and less tension, better follow my impulses and not only notice but also discharge this excess energy.

Research is now showing that this type of work will not only re-balance my nervous system but by toning and strengthening my vagus nerve it will also help to decrease my chronic inflammation and strengthen my immune system, improving my overall health and wellness.

In case you’re wondering if any of this is valid, her work dovetails nicely (and is partially based on) the research coming to light about how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) negatively affect health in adulthood (Donna Jackson Nakazawa has written extensively on this). How trauma gets stuck in our nervous system causing psychological problems and health issues. (Peter Levine’s lifework.) Dr. Gabor Mate has been exploring and writing about how the emotions we process are connected to our hormonal, nervous and immune systems while Dr. Michael Merzenich’s research in brain plasticity has completely changed neurology as we once knew it.

So yes, the nervous system can be rewired. That’s what I work on every day and what I hope to ultimately succeed in achieving. But it’s complicated, nuanced and multifaceted. There’s no nervous system re-wire pill that I can pop. (However if you have severe epilepsy or depression you can have a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) implanted in your chest wall to send mild electrical impulses to your brain via your 10th cranial nerve which is cool!)

But for the most part, doing this work takes, time, patience, mindfulness and requires movement, resourcing, orientation and sound to get your autonomic nervous system back on track.

I’ll be blogging about this in future posts but suffice to say this is a cool and exciting option if you suffer from one of the more than 80 autoimmune disorders, emotional distress, or feel chronically overwhelmed.

If you’re interested in your own personal re-wire another 3 month session starts next month. You can also work with Irene 1:1, dig into her blog or download her free content. Go to her site for more information or message me if you have any questions.

 

 

Day 23: Success #2

January 31, 2016


I mentioned my failure to meditate in a recent post. What I neglected to tell you is how often I orient instead of meditating and the easiest way to explain the art of orienting is to show you.

Read through the next set of instructions, then try them out for a few minutes.

  • Without rushing, look away from your tablet, computer or phone.
  • Very slowly and without moving your head and neck too forcefully, glance at whatever is across from you (a wall, window, another person, art, nature, books, signage or anything else that’s in your field of vision).
    • Slowly move your head an inch or less to either the right or the left and allow your eyes to follow.
  • While you’re doing that notice how your feet are making contact with the ground.
    • If you’re sitting, notice your glutes, thighs and back making contact with the furniture.
    • Feel how your arms press against your sides, rest against your legs or make contact with whatever you’re sitting on.
    • And if you’re lying down, feel how the entire backside of your body is supported.
  • Now notice your breath (don’t change it, just notice it).
    • Follow your inhalation as well as your exhalation.
    • Is it even or shallow? Fast, deep or slow?

In other word, focus on where you are in space, note how you’re breathing and take in your environment. But do it calmly, not quickly.

How Meditation Differs From Orientation

I always think of meditation as quieting the “monkey mind” by turning off the language center of the brain. Specifically the meditater is asked not to follow the thought that pops into her head. She is encouraged to act as a nonjudgmental witness of any ideas that come to the surface then push them away and return to her breath. This type of mental shutdown is wonderful and has great value but it requires a set time and place. You can’t meditate while driving, take a sit when your boss is screaming at you or go into meditation while your toddler is throwing a fit at Wegmans.

What are you supposed to do with all that stress while you’re waiting for tomorrow morning’s moment of meditation?

Meditation also asks that your hips aways be above your knees and most forms specifically ask you to ignore your impulses (don’t scratch the itch, sneeze or cough) and close your eyes.

Whereas orienting gives you similar results while allowing you to stay in your current reality. You can orient while driving or during a difficult conversation. You don’t have to excuse yourself to meditate for 5 minutes, simply orient while doing whatever it is that you’re doing. If you’re stressed at a work meeting, orient to the chair, the room, and your breath which calms you down and brings you back to reality. Yes your boss might be psychotic but he’s not harming you. He’s not throwing a punch or a running towards you with a knife.

You’re fine and you need to tell your autonomic nervous system (the one that your boss threw into high gear by being a jerk) that everything’s okay. The metaphorical, sabre-toothed tiger you’ve created in your head isn’t charging at you after all.

Orienting also shuts off your monkey mind but without asking the language center to shut down completely. You leave the narrative in your head because your brain is given something else to do. Hmm…the wall across from me is orange. My right foot is on the ground but my left foot is shaking. My breathing is pretty shallow. 

You are also given the luxury to follow your impulses. Noting where you are in space might mean noticing that you need to sit down or that your excess energy is because you need get up out of your office chair and move a little.

Its been easy to start and continue an orientation practice as opposed to maintaining a meditation practice. Mediation is cumulative and helps you over time whereas orientation is immediate and helps you in the present moment. Meditation helps us deal with the chronic affects of constantly being in fight, flight or freeze mode. Orientation is the tool you use to get you out of fight, flight or freeze as it’s happening.

*** Please Note*** If you’re actually in danger, being chased, attacked, or in harm’s way – Don’t orient or meditate. Run! Punch! Or Hide! I’m talking about all the other times when we unnecessarily wreck our adrenal system by putting ourselves into these fear-based modes.

Orientating helps people that experience anxiety, depression, and stress. If you’re someone that worries a lot about future events, orient. If traumatic memories from your past pop into your head often, orient. Instead of always focusing on the story in your head, orientation forces you to acknowledge, I’m here. I’m safe. Everything’s fine. 

If you want to learn more, head over to Irene Lyon’s site, poke around her blog, and download her free content.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 22: Failing to Meditate

January 30, 2016

I’ve spend many years working on my meditation practice. I’ve meditated at the yoga studio, at home, on the High Line in Hell’s Kitchen, before bed, upon waking, and smack dab in the middle of a stressful day. I’ve done walking meditations, guided meditations, and the popular don’t-scratch-cough-or-move-at-all meditations. I’ve tried chanting Om, mantras and my personal favorite, the Sa-Ta-Na-Ma Meditation that involves bilateral movement of your fingers.

I’ve tried staring at candle flames and chilling out to the sweet sounds of a sitar mixed with Tibetan singing bowls. I’ve used machines that make fake thunderstorms and other forms of white noise, frequently imagined ocean waves cresting upon a beach as well as simply achoring to the sound of my breath.

The one thing I’ve never been able to do is a daily, no matter what, meditation practice which is embarressing because it’s not that hard. You sit, close your eyes and ignore all the crazy thoughts in your head by focusing on your breath instead of all the crazy thoughts in your head.

I have lots of friends that meditate daily and swear by it. I definitely have the time to meditate and certainly realize that it doesn’t require an hour out of every day. Yet I can’t seem to act on this impulse.

Which brings me to the $64,000 question. Am I failing to meditate or failing at commitment in general?

I think it’s the latter. A general failure to shake things up when it comes to my daily routine. So in honor of that, I will hit publish, hit the Noisli app on my phone and then meditate. If you’d like to join me, when you finish reading this post, feel free.

Focus on your breath for five minutes and see how you feel.