As a massage therapist and yoga teacher I am asked a lot about the best way to treat chronic muscular pain, particularly back pain.
Some people don't see the value in stretching or just can't see themselves following a stretch routine, others don't see the value of massage therapy as a long term solution to their problems given the time and costs involved.
The truth is that if you are living with chronic pain due to muscle spasm, chronic hypertonicity (excessive muscle tone or tightness) or as a result of soft tissue trauma, then a combination of these two may possibly be the most effective treatment.
Yoga vs. Massage for tight muscle tissue
There are very specific differences between massage and stretching and both have been proven time and again through clinical trials to be effective in lengthening (reducing hypertonicity in) muscle tissue. If you are currently in pain with restricted range of motion then a course of therapeutic massage will be far better than a yoga class to begin with. While stretching lengthens contracted muscle tissue it can only do so in the direction of the muscle fibres. This means that adhesions or scar tissue which may be contributing to pain and which may not be formed in the direction of the muscle fibre will not be affected by your stretches.
Deep Tissue Cross-Fibre Massage Therapy
Initial massage therapy work, particularly deep Tuina work, Soft Tissue Release or Myofascial Release techniques will work cross-fibre, stretching the contracted tissue not only from origin to insertion of the muscle, but also separating the fibres as the massage strokes work from one side of the muscle to the other.
Both are good? So which do I get first?
Once adhesions and scar tissue have been worked out this way, allowing for safer pain free stretching of muscle tissue to occur, it is important to learn how to stretch to maintain and improve the length in the tissue and prevent future injury.
So if you are in pain, get the massage or first, follow up with the yoga stretches afterwards. It couldn't simpler (or more enjoyable)!
Yoga-Pilates Fusion Classes
So what is Yoga-Pilates Fusion?
In a nutshell, yoga will develop a flexible body and calm mind, Pilates will develop core strength and is excellent to alleviate and prevent certain kinds of back pain. Yoga-Pilates fusion brings the advantages of these two kinds of exercise together so you don't have to choose between the two.
The first class in the new course just took place today, Tuesday Feb. 7th at 9.30am in the beautiful Spotlight Studio on Main St. Arklow. New courses will be starting soon on Wed and Thursday morning at the Ananta Yoga Studio and Friday morning at the Gorey Holistic Centre. This is a perfect time to start. You can drop the kids off to creche or school and have your workout completed by 10.30, ready to head to work or home to chill out before picking up your little one again or into town for a well-earned latte before you get back into action again.
Keep an eye on the schedule at http://www.therapyandyoga.com/timetable.html for new classes always make sure to text before joining a new class as timetable always subject to change.
Has Your Kundalini Risen Yet?
And more importantly, how will you know if it has?
Yoga has become so amazingly popular today and of course the perception of the general public towards it has changed dramatically. Just a decade or so ago it was still shrouded in mystery and very bound up with ideas of the energy Chakras, enlightenment, Moksha, meditation and so on. Some of this still remains, however, by far the majority of students who walk through the door of a yoga studio have little or no knowledge of or interest in these things. Those who do may be a little dissapointed most of the time to discover that most teachers and classes will involve only stretching, breathwork and a little meditation.
Despite the association of Yoga today with back health, losing weight, physical exercise and so on, the ideas of the Chakras, Nadis, Moksha and Samadhi remain and integral part of yoga. Somehow the ideas of the Chakras have been separated out of yoga practice and become incorporated into quite different practices such as Reiki, Shamanic work, even Angel Healing Therapy and so on.
So does yoga as most people know it today have anything to do with Chakra work, Kundalini etc? Will stretching exercises and synchronized deep breathing clear your Chakras (whatever they are) and bring you closer to enlightenment? And who should you be asking? Your ‘yoga’ teaacher?
Many courses these days include exotic visualizations and methods to clear Chakras. You might use colours, sound, even visualize glowing spheres of energy along the spine being cleansed and powerful energy rising from the sacrum to the crown of your head and beyond. Are these all forms of yoga? Will you get any of this from your yoga class? Do you even want to????
Here is my humble perspective. It’s just my opinion. I have practiced yoga and meditation for nearly 30 years and dabbled in many other things besides including Reiki, acupuncture, hypnosis and so on. My honest opinion is that yes, you can expect your energy system to be purified and strengthened through the practice of yoga and meditation. Going swimming or running will also be good for your energy system. Carrying out a charitable act, an act of kindness or love will also strongly benefit this subtle energy system. How will you know its working? As one of my teachers, Yogi Hari once pointed out, if your heart Chakra is ‘activated’ you won’t have visions of swirling green or pink vortices of energy (and if you did, how would they benefit you?), rather, you will feel more compassionate and forgiving as a person. Likewise with your base Chakra, you will feel more grounded in reality, less prone to float away in dreams, connected by loyalty to your family and ‘tribe’ and so on.
Many people have psychic gifts and may be able to see the colors of Chakras and so on, but if you don’t have this gift and if you don’t have the time to develop it, this doesn’t mean you can’t work on the energy of your Chakras. You may not be able to see them like a psychic, but they may well be more developed than those of someone who is only able to see them, but doesn’t know how to work with them!
To develop your base Chakra, spend time with our family. To develop your main abdominal Chakra, learn to take pleasure in life and develop your creativity. To develop your solar plexus Chakra, learn to take responsibilty, step up to the plate more often and develop your self-confidence. To develop the heart, be more kind, loving and forgiving. To develop the throat, learn to speak clearly, honestly and with confidence. To develop your third eye, learn to think clearly, to be objective, to develop your personal vision for your future and those of your loved ones. To develop your crown Chakra….
Physical yoga, asana and pranayama helps you with all of these things, but if you choose to remain in a vain, selfish, hateful state of mind, you may have a flexible body, perhaps even a beautiful one, you may even have learned Patanjali’s aphorisms by heart, but your Chakras will be as closed as your mind and as blind as your desire to see swirling vortices of energy in your spine!
That's right! A whole new schedule of classes with yours truly starts this July at KB Fitness on Fitzwilliam St. in the posh D2 part of town. KB Fitness is right in Dublin City Centre with a range of fitness classes, amazing instructors and now of course, a full schedule of Yoga, Pilates and Yoga Pilates Fusion classes.
Check out the full schedule here http://www.kbfitness.ie/yoga-and-pilates.html and call KB Fitness directly on 01 6629723 for details.
Here's my profile on their site http://www.kbfitness.ie/trainers.html.
Spread the word folks!!
Yoga & Depression
What all of us who practice yoga know intuitively to be true (that it has a positive effect on mood), may be on track to being clinically proven.
Check out this article regarding the effect of Hatha Yoga on bipolar disorder and clinical depression in Psychology today.
It sounds like a lot more work needs to be done, but these preliminary studies are a step in the right direction.
1 in 10 People Affected
About 1 in 10 people or more are affected by IBS according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. While there is no known cause for IBS, stress is a common factor which exacerbates symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating and cramping.
The pain can be extreme in some cases and is thought to be caused by uncoordinated intestinal contractions, meaning that as one part of the bowel pushes the following area is not yet prepared, causing obstruction, spasm and pain.
While the smooth functioning of the digestive system is dependent upoin the autonomic or involuntary nervous system, we know that stress activates sympathetic part of the this system, disrupting the harmony of the system. It is this component of IBS which lends itself to treatment via the practice of yoga and treatment with acupuncture.
Yoga As Effective As Drugs in Clinical Trials
Meditation and relaxation exercises have a deeply calming and relaxing effect which has been shown to carry over therapeutically to distress in the bowel. Studies conducted in India have shown that Yoga is as effective as the use of drugs for IBS while having none of the side effects but many considerable additional benefits. One study in Banaras Hindu University showed that a combination of drugs together with Yoga was considerably more effective than either drugs or yoga alone.
Particularly useful poses include forward bends, side twists and poses that massage the abdominal area such as Prone Boat or Locust Pose.
Acupuncture for IBS
IBS may also be treated effectively by acupuncture. As stress is a component, acupuncture treatment is highly effective in beating the symptoms of stress. While acupuncture has not yet conclusively been shown to cure IBS, it has a known scientifically proven effect upon the autonomic nervous system which is linked to the pain and discomfort of this condition. For a detailed description, follow this link to hear Neelam Misra, MD, Assistant Medical Director, Manhattan Total Health, discuss the effect of acupuncture on the autonomic nervous system.
IBS is a widespread and poorly understood condition, however, a combination of prescribed medication, together with a course of yoga practice and 4 to 6 treatments of acupuncture can be a highly effective way of dealing with this problem.
Dip Ac, Lic Ac (China), Dip Tuina, MAFPA
Yoga vs Pilates
People in my classes are often asking me what the diffeence is between Pilates and Yoga so here are a few words about the fundamentals of each and why you would want to choose one over the other.
Yoga is different to most forms of exercise in that it emphasizes the synchronizing of breath with movent, it includes balance exercises and inversions (poses where you are upside down) with a heavy emphasis on flexibility.
Pilates also emphasizes the synchronizing of breath with movement but is unique for its emphasis on the building of core strength together with correct alignment of the spine.
A typical yoga class will lead to greater flexibility than a Pilates class and will tend to improve balance more because of specific balance exercises and inversions. A typical Pilates class will tend to improve and maintain back health better than a yoga class because more of the class will focus on exercises to strengthen core and to maintain neutral alignment of the spine. A typical Pilates class will tend to focus more on your mid-section, toning up and strengthening the area around the abdomen, the tummy and the lower back. Yoga has a more global focuse and so does not focus so much on core and mid-section.
Pilates has more of a musculoskeletal focus while yoga pays as much attention to the effect of poses on internal organs and on your state of mind, with attention drawn inwards or towards the breath. A yoga class may include some meditation and relaxation while a Pilates class tends to be all physical exercise.
I hope this helps clear up the differences a little bit. I teach and practice both, finding them a perfect complement to each other. Of course to really understand the difference you need to come and try out a couple of classes, so check out our timetable if you would like to experience what the diffrence really is. Trial classes are always free.
Look out for some Youtube clips coming soon to demonstrate some obvious differences between the two.
Very interesting snippet about telomeres on Today FM yesterday, but just as interesting (or even more so) was the conversation about Madame Jeanne Calment, the worlds oldest person. Mme Calment is now deceased but not until after she had reached her 122nd birthday! In her later years she took to ascribing her longevity to all manner of outlandish things, however, many believe that it was her constitutional inability to suffer from stress that gave her such a long AND happy life
However, to say this is constitutional is debateable to say the least. Mme Calment was know for saying that if you can't do something about a problem, then why worry about it? If a positive thought like this becomes a habit, a cognitive shift happens in the psyche which research into cognitive behavioural psychology shows will have an effect on emotions, on behaviour and ultimately on the body, immune system and so on. Yoga, hypnosis, CBT and all mind-body therapies have this effect. If Mme literally made a habit of repeating this thought when confronted by problems then the effects of stress would be ever more easily short-circuited as her body adapted itself to this effective way of thinking. This is the effect of yoga mantra, a hypnotic suggestion, an NLP reframe etc. In the truest sense of the word Mme Calment was practicing the essence of yoga which is, as described in the Aphorisms of Patanjali as 'control of the mind-stuff'.
Mme Calment smoked, drank a glass of port wine every day and ate a kilo of chocolate a week. Here's to long life, happiness and to the remarkable Mme Jeanne Calment!
New Therapy & Yoga Venue in Gorey
In the never ending quest to improve both our therapy service and yoga classes, I am very happy to announce (and provide some pictures of) our latest and greatest venue for classes and therapy in Gorey.
Having practiced acupuncture and massage in the lovely offices of the Tropical Medical Bureau for the last nigh on two years, the time seems right now for a change and we have moved to the therapy rooms of the Gorey Holistic Centre on Fort Rd (continue up John St past Petits & Gorey Theatre on your right, King Cod on your left).
The centre has been renovated and looks really beautiful now. I have already begun treating clients in the therapy rooms and will teach my first class in the yoga space this Friday May 20th.
There is plenty of free on-street parking outside and you are within short walking distance of cafes & shops on and just off Gorey Main St. if you fancy it after / before your class or therapy.
Any questions about finding us or about the Centre in general, don't be afraid to email or give us a call!
The Secret to Effective Dieting!
As a species we diet for many reasons; for improved athletic performance, for spiritual insight, for medical reasons. Perhaps the two most popular reason are for general health and to look better. Unfortunately for so many of us this is a one step forward and two steps back journey that leaves us feeling discouraged and negative about the whole issue of trying to control our diet.
There is a secret however, that will make any diet successful and without which no diet will ever succeed. The secret is very simple and this is to bring mindfulness to every meal. Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept meaning awareness, consciousness or bringing your whole self to any experience. It is the same as the state of mind achieved in true yoga.
With the right attitude of watchfulness your diet will automatically become more healthy and you will begin to eat more in harmony with your bodies true needs. You will begin to enjoy food more and have a healthier more joyful relationship to nourishing food rather than cycles of abandoned guilty pleasure followed just guilt with no pleasure at all!
No diet however good on paper will work without this healthy attitude and unhealthy diets cannot exist in the presence of this kind of mindfulness and yogic thought.
Christmas is the perfect time to begin this kind of diet. All the temptations are there so it is impossible to begin any other kind of diet this time of year. Try the yogic, mindful diet and you will see that not only can you begin your healthy diet right away, but you will begin to gain even more pleasure from your Holiday festive foods!
Best Wishes from Liam B.
Liam Byrne, Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Acupuncturist, Physical Therapist, Sports Massage Therapist,