Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: July 2011

Demystifying meditation

What comes to mind when you hear the word "meditation"? Spirituality? Buddhism? Chanting "ohm"? Health fanatics that are a little too "out there"? Well, you may be surprised to hear that studies have suggested that meditation can be used as a practical tool in our health care. It may ease physical pain, boost your immune function, sharpen your memory, improve your mood, and help you relax.

To meditate, you don't need to be sitting on a mountaintop cross-legged, fingers touching, and chanting something nonsensical. Meditation is simply the practice of being present and mindful. It consists of getting yourself into a quiet location, sitting comfortably, and focusing on breathing and relaxing. This is difficult for most of us, with thoughts and worries floating around in our heads at all times.

That's why meditation takes practice. When you begin, you will be distracted by thoughts. The trick is to acknowledge the distraction non-judgmentally, and then bring your awareness back to the present and to your breathing. Without judgment, tune into how you feel physically and mentally. Meditation is simply a quiet time for you to clear your mind, check in with your body, and relax.

A study done this past March showed that low-performing students who meditated regularly showed significant improvements in academic achievement. Another study performed in April and published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed meditation to reduce pain by reducing pain-related brain activity. In fact, the author of the study, Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D, wrote, "Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs." In June, a study was published showing that eight weeks of meditation reduced post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms by 50 percent in U.S. military veterans.

It's been suggested that the positive effects of meditation are due to the improvement of the alpha rhythm, an essential brain wave. By meditating, we are practicing how to regulate the electrical currents from which alpha waves arise, thereby quieting down the distractions and helping us better cope with our over-stimulating environment.

So, no, you don't have to be a yogi or a guru to practice meditation. I encourage you to start by setting aside 15 minutes every day to meditate or (if you're not used to that word) relax. After you are able to truly let go of distractions and focus on your breath and how you feel in the present moment, without judgment, increase it to 30 minutes, and so on. In fact, let's do our own case study. Report back to me in a month about how you feel daily meditation has affected your life and receive a free gift at your massage session!

Source: Massage Magazine

Commuting is a pain in the neck!

If you're a commuter, you know that I mean that literally. Many commuters suffer from recurring neck or back problems. Not only that, but a large body of research shows that people with long rides to and from work experience disproportionate stress, pain, dissatisfaction, and general unhappiness. One survey found that "40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work 'experienced worry for much of the previous day.'"

What can you do to improve your health and happiness if you have a long commute? Well, you can move or find a new job. But, more realistically, you can take preventative measures by making self-care a priority. Along with stress reduction, massage therapy can help you with that achy back or neck. Massage enhances circulation to the painful areas, providing essential oxygen and nutrients. Specific massage work can also help relieve tension from tight muscles, and counteract the poor posture you can develop from hours in a train, bus, or car. Furthermore, massage releases those wonderful "feel good" hormones: dopamine, which enhances brain function in addition to making you feel good, serotonin, which enhances your mood, and oxytoxin, aka "the hugging hormone".

So make sure to get massage regularly, and be a happier, healthier commuter!

Source: Slate.com

What's new with me ...

Bachelorette parties are getting so creative these days! Last weekend, I went to my sister's bachelorette party on Long Island, where we ladies learned how to craft objects out of glass. After the party, I took my 12-year-old niece home with me for a sleepover in the big city!

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