A Lasting Touch

About a month before she died, my grandmother and I sat in her garage apartment, had snacks, and a nice long evening conversation.

Our talks, on the patio, or in her apartment, were always tender, funny, and memorable. And I never came home from school without stepping in, to kiss her forehead.

I’m grateful she came to live with us when I was 10 years old.

That evening, after a couple of hours, I looked at my watch and said, “OK Grandma, I need to go. It’s getting late. Goodnight.”

But she put her hand on my forearm and squeezed it saying, “No te vayas todavía. Estamos platicando tan a gusto.” Translation: Don’t leave yet. We’re having such a nice chat.

So I stayed another half-hour, but to this day I can feel her firm hold on my arm. I had no idea she would be gone a few weeks later.

It was a privilege to be 25 years old, having a real conversation with my Grandma, feeling loved, and knowing that my presence was all she needed, at that moment.

There is power in touch. I can still feel the warmth of her strong hand, 23 years later.

When she died my Mom comforted me, saying, “You listened to her stories.”

How could I not? Her story was my story, our history.

If someone you love grabs your forearm, and asks you to spend a little more time together, do it.

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From Massage to Self-Care

How did my practice expand from massage to self-care support, since my training and certifications are in bodywork?

This came gradually, through the needs of my clients.(Some of whom have been part of my practice for over a decade.) We are aging together, so we support each other, as our bodies present different needs, through this process.

Through massage, we nurture the body, but our conversations expand to fitness, through movement, and health, through enlightened eating. I stay focused on massage and refer people to experts in other areas, for professional guidance and information.

I welcome requests for referrals (even to other bodyworkers!) or to diverse resources that promote self-care. Have you visited the self-care resources page on my website? This list is by no means exhaustive, but I promise to do more homework to help you find the right professional to support your wellness goals.

Several of my clients are psychotherapists and believe that massage is essential to the work their clients are doing, facing foundational life experiences. Perhaps internal work can help identify the patterns that keep us from a lifelong practice of self-care.

But, again, I’m only qualified to provide the bodywork component of this journey.

My virtual Rolodex is always available to you. Massage is more that bodywork. Self-care makes everything else possible.

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Posted in Enlightened Eating, Functional Fitness, Massage, Self-Care | Leave a comment

What is Chi Running?

 “I’d love to start running, but my knees…”

So, let’s talk about injury-free running. It is possible, using a gentle form called Chi Running. This practice combines a forward lean, neutral arm swing, mid-foot strike, and engaging the core, to create a sweet spot, where running feels comfortable. It’s also a mindful, almost meditative, experience.

But first, some background information. I always admired the freedom runners had to practice functional fitness in nature, on trails and on beaches, but I didn’t start running until my early-40s. Every time I attempted a conventional running practice, I’d injure myself. My ankles were usually the source of my pain. Thanks to Todd Lange, from 5k101.com I completed a “Couch-to-5K” program. I did this on a treadmill, with his expert audio guidance, and increased my running intervals gradually. At the end of 8 weeks I was able to run a full 30 minutes.

But I made a rookie mistake by going out on pavement and running much too aggressively. The ankle injuries stopped me again. As I recovered, I searched for injury-free running guidance. This led me to chirunning.com and the creator of this form, Danny Dreyer. He developed this running practice when he lived here, in Marin County.

Inspired by people practicing Tai Chi in Golden Gate Park, Danny wondered if the principles of that practice, namely, efficient movement, deep core awareness, cooperating with gravity etc. could be applied to running, to prevent injury.

In Chi Running, you do not pound the pavement. A hard heel strike can leave you prone to joint injuries (ankles, knees and hips.) Landing on the ball of your foot can make soft tissue (calves, Achilles tendons, hamstrings etc.) vulnerable to injury too.

A mid-foot strike, combined with a lean forward “into gravity” allows you to keep your legs, feet, and ankles relaxed. To increase speed, you simply lean forward one more inch. Running is more fun when you aren’t fighting gravity, but using it to create movement. Watch Danny explain HERE.

Another benefit is a series of body loosening exercises, taught as a warm-up, before a run. I’ve incorporated them even on the days that I don’t run. They keep my energy flowing, between massage appointments, because Chi (life force energy) cannot travel through joints that are tight.

My certified Chi Running instructor is Sally Mitchell from runningflows.com in San Francisco. I’ve taken every level of training she offers. One session, as she was evaluating my form, I stopped because I had the strange sensation of going downhill, even though we were on a flat stretch in the Presidio. It was the first time I experienced that “sweet spot” where running felt effortless.

Thanks to this practice and running form, I can run about 5K (3.1 miles) 3 or 4 times a week, without injury. This practice is best done on trails, and is an opportunity to connect with nature, be conscious of the earth below, and establish a steady breath cadence.

Body awareness, breath practice, and freedom that comes from being in nature, make Chi Running my foundational self-care practice.

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SF Marathon Self-Care All-Stars

  • A 70-year-old client, who ran a marathon for the first time
  • A 30-year-old friend, a veteran marathoner, who had to withdraw the day before, due to illness

My client made the completion of this goal a birthday gift. She was not attached to the result, only the accomplishment. During the bodywork sessions, leading up to the marathon, I noticed her deep peace about this challenge. She practiced self-care by inviting her 70-year old body to experience the race, without the pressure of measurement. Her serenity and focus were inspiring.  I’m looking forward to our conversations and insights into functional fitness, as my body ages.

My young friend is in the prime of physical fitness. His ultra-marathon accomplishments, and commitment to running, inspired me too. Posts about his distance times, and contagious enthusiasm, motivated me, albeit I only run 5K regularly. I felt his frustration, when he started getting sick two days before the marathon. When he had to withdraw, I admired his own practice of self-care. For an experienced marathoner, it was a painful decision.

The lesson: Give the body a challenge, as I age. Be respectful of my body but give it a goal of completion, participation and experience. When ill or injured, give my body the necessary recovery time, without anger or resentment.

I’m proud to know these two all-stars. They inspire me to keep promoting and practicing self-care, in my own life.

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Fear of Failure or Fear of Action?

Let’s be clear: It’s not fear of failure that keeps most people stuck.

It’s fear of action, any action.

I’m writing about stubborn inaction, rather than pausing, or taking a legitimate time-out. It takes courage to admit inaction, if we have been tricking ourselves by calling it something else.

Inaction guarantees failure. So what, exactly, do we fear? We create the very thing we claim to fear.

Failure is an actual (often temporary) obstacle. But let’s not blame fear anymore. Fear of the unknown is real, but if you accept failure as the product of inaction, then you can’t hide behind fear.

What’s the remedy? Action, any action.

Write

Walk

Run

Read

Do

Speak

Ask

Give

See

Be.

Self-care can mean movement, and releasing the internal attachment to inaction.

Let’s not delude ourselves anymore.

We aren’t afraid of failure. We are afraid of action, which usually leads to success.

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Intention for the Week

You’ll never be effective if you’re convinced tomorrow needs to be better than today, because this belief stems from resistance to the present—and the present is where your power lies.
– Lori Deschene

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Greatest Lesson from Dad

In the early 1970s, on a vacation to CA, we stopped at a rest area for an early morning breakfast.

We noticed a homeless man looking through a garbage can for something to eat.

Dad asked Mom to get a cup of coffee and a doughnut for the man.

My Dad ran over to the man, steaming coffee and doughnut in hand, calling, “Sir….sir…”

The scruffy man sat at the next table enjoying his small breakfast.

But the impression that has stayed with me, to this day, is the fact that my Dad treated this stranger with the highest respect, feeding him and calling him “Sir.”

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