Nurturing Yourself - Practicing the Everyday Arts of Balance and Rejuvenation
This morning it happened again That feeling that you, Beloved, Stood over me all night keeping watch. That feeling that, as soon as I began to stir, You placed your lips upon my forehead And lit a Holy Lamp inside my heart. Hafiz If every morning could begin like this we would be in heaven.
As you wake up and, before the world grabs you, and your mind resumes its incessant chatter, place your hands upon our warm belly and breathe deeply. Beginning the day with conscious breath and belly work prepares you for the moment by moment unfolding of each day, no matter what it holds. Let me guide you into the day and give you suggestions as to how your life can become more joyous, peaceful and meaningful. These practices are simple and require very little additional time. What they do require is presence, awareness and self love.
Beginning your day is this gentle way helps the lymphatic system process the waste in your body and purifies your blood. The deep lymph nodes are in the belly. All of the peripheral lymph vessels and nodes that are found throughout your body move the lymphatic fluid slowly through one way valves into your belly. Here, the lymph, which has been detoxified in the nodes, continues the refining, detoxifying process in the belly. Once the lymph has been cleared of impurities, it makes its way into a cistern deep in the center of the belly. Here it moves up the thoracic duct and rejoins the blood at the subclavian vein just below your collar bone. This lymphatic fluid is blood plasma. It is blood without the red blood cells. Its job is to keep our blood pure. When you are fighting an illness or have a flu, your lymph nodes may swell because the are overloaded with toxins. In order to keep your immune system strong it is important to have a clear, flowing lymph system.
I give my patients the example of a septic system and leach fields. If the septic tank is full, the leach fields have a hard time getting rid of the waste and the system backs up. It’s then time to call in the guy to pump out the tank. Doing belly work for a minute or two each day untangles the knots in the belly and allows the lymphatic system to function optimally. Emotional and mental stress as well as digestion and elimination problems cause the lymph vessels, nerve fibers and capillaries in the belly to entangle with each other. Gentle spiraling with one or more fingers in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction can soften the belly and allow oxygen to flow more freely, nourishing the blood and facilitating a rest and digest response in the whole body.
While you’re still in bed massaging your belly gently, take the time to breathe yourself awake. Breathe into your deep belly. Let go of the night and welcome the morning. Put a slight smile on your face and think of something lovely and peaceful. The way you start the day will play a big part in how it unfolds. Breath is life. The way we breathe does so much for our well being. Deep, relaxed breathing can lessen stress, help digestion and balance the nervous system. There are many breathing techniques that you can do through out the day any time you are anxious or need soothing and calming. Just notice your breath. Notice the sensation of your breath coming into and going out of your nostrils. Pay particular attention to the out breath. Let it be long and slow. Completely empty and feel that sensation of your body wanting to fill with breath once again. A few rounds of this relaxed deep breathing will help your spirit rejuvenate. You can count your breaths. Start with an inhalation count of 4 and an exhalation count of 4. Allow the breath to be even and relaxed. Do not force your breath. You can extend the counts to 6, 8 and so on as you become used to counting in an even relaxed way. Always keep that inner smile in your heart while you’re breathing. There is no nee d to be goal oriented. Just take it one breath at a time.
BRUSHING YOUR BODY
The morning is a good time to get your lymphatic system moving. It is a natural time for your body to cleanse. The belly work moved the deep lymph and the body brushing will stimulate the peripheral lymphatic vessels that are very close to the surface of the skin. Get a soft bristle body brush and begin to brush your body in the direction of the lymph flow, which is towards the belly. Brush up the legs and arms and down your chest and back towards the belly area. Be gentle and continue to breathe and smile. Brush for a few minutes until you feel tingly and refreshed. SELF MASSAGE Use some warm sesame, coconut or olive oil to massage your body. Take a small amount of oil in your hands and use your entire palm to smooth the warm oil over your body. Give particular attention to areas that or sore or painful. After the oil massage, immerse yourself in a warm bath and soak. This ritual is very calming and rejuvenating as well as wonderful for your skin. If you don’t have time for this full body massage, sit down and massage your feet with castor oil . You may also add any essential oil of your choice, such as lavender, rosemary or peppermint. Massage the entire foot. The feet are a mapping of the entire body. So when you are massaging your toes you are helping your sinuses, pituitary gland, thyroid and are balancing all the elements of the body: the earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The base of the toes reflex to the shoulders and neck. The ball of the foot is the lung area. Below the ball are the major internal organs: the liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas. Just below this arch area are the small and large intestine reflexes. The heel is the sacrum. The inner and outer ankle areas reflex to the sexual organs. The arch of the foot from toe to heel reflexes the spine. The castor oil will penetrate and give its healing properties to your entire body. Put some socks on after the massage to protect your feet and your carpets from the oil.
MAINTAINING ACID-ALKALINE BALANCE
All of these techniques are wonderfully healing and they contribute to the maintenance of a balanced ph in the body. The body is balance when the autonomic nervous system is not stressed. Maintaining this balance is the goal of all the rejuvenating techniques. When we reside in a parasympathetic dominant body life flows more easily. Much of the activity in the world challenges this balance and throws us into sympathetic dominance. The parasympathetic nervous system regulates the rest and digest functions of the body. The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response. They take turns operating depending on what is going on in our lives and how we respond to these circumstances. Unfortunately, many of us operate on fight or flight much of the time. Therefore we deal with issues that are caused by the body always feeling it has to be on alert for some crisis. We all know too well the symptoms associated with sympathetic nervous system dominance. Some of them are burn out, insomnia, joint pain, headaches, hormonal imbalances and on and one. This sympathetic dominance creates an acid condition in the body as we are not able to rest and digest, which is the parasympathetic nervous system’s role. So, no matter what we eat, if we are stressed out and in fight or flight mode, even the most alkaline foods will become acid in our system because we are not able to relax enough to secrete the enzymes needed to digest. It definitely helps to eat an alkaline diet but it’s not enough. Relaxation and nurturing techniques are essential to maintain a balanced ph. All foods occur within the acid-alkaline spectrum. There are many lists that will tell you the specific ph of each food. In general, most vegetables and fruits are alkaline. Most grains, dairy, meets, nuts and legumes are acid. There are some exceptions here. As you plan your meals, try to alkalinize as much as possible. There are ph test strips you can get that will tell you if you’re acid or alkaline. They work with your saliva or urine and will show you at any time you test where you are. In my experience the best way to stay balanced is to meditate, do yoga and qi gong, take walks in nature and don’t take circumstances too much to heart. It all passes just like a windstorm. Try to stay centered and protect yourself from falling debris as much as possible. Eat a balanced diet which includes lots of greens, fruit, some clean protein. If you eat dairy, try to eat goat products as they are much more alkaline forming than cow’s.