May 2017

Broken Open – paradigm shift!!

To say that my life has shifted dramatically over the past four weeks is probably a bit of an understatement. I came down with I thought was a stomach virus on April 7th. Within 72 hours I was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent emergency neurosurgery on April 12, 2017.

I am healing amazingly well from the surgery and had very little post-surgical pain. While the diagnosis is quite serious,  I have felt so loved and supported from people near and far, and would have to describe these past three weeks have been a very spiritual time in my life  – and filled with more blessings than I could have ever imagined.

Practice Changes

In the next several months I will necessarily be needing to devote my energy to my treatment and healing. Consequently I will be stepping away from all work responsibilities during this time. Two wonderful Yoga Loft colleagues – Claire Malone and Laura Garrison – have agreed to take over teaching the Wednesday morning classes at the Yoga Loft through the spring. My Yin classes have been cancelled for the rest of the spring session.  I am hopeful that I will be able to return to teaching yoga part-time in the fall if treatment progresses well, but I will most likely need to take a leave of absence from my massage practice for at least a year. I have many dear and talented massage colleagues who have agreed to take referrals from my practice, so please contact me if you are wanting a referral for a massage therapy during this time.

Back on the Mat

I returned to my personal yoga  practice last week and that has been feeling wonderful. All my years of yoga training will be put to the test as I embark on the next phase in life’s journey! Your prayers, well-wishes, emails and cards have boosted my spirits tremendously, so thanks for all the caring and love you have been showering my way. I hope you have a beautiful spring and summer and I hope to see you back “on the mat” this fall.

Namaste,

Mary

                              At May Day Protest with my son Cole in Albany!

April 2017

Yin Yoga for the Legs

I consider spring and fall the “walking seasons” in upstate New York,  so April is the perfect time for a Yin practice focused on the legs. There is still time to pre-register for this Saturday’s class “Yin Yoga for the Legs”, which will be held on April 8th at the Yoga Loft from 2-4 pm. Register for the class by Thursday 4/6/17 in order to qualify for the $5.00 pre-registration discount. Please refer to the Yoga Class Schedule page for registration forms. For other information about the class, contact me at 518-258-4842.

Thai Foot Massage Special

Springtime presents an ideal opportunity to “detox” the body after the stagnation of the winter months. Jumpstart your personal spring cleaning with a Thai Foot massage – a relaxing and rejuvenating massage treatment that devotes an entire hour to the feet and lower legs! Thai Foot Massage is a massage technique that provides relaxation, balances the body’s various systems, and facilitates healthy blood circulation. In the treatment process, crystals of calcium and uric acid (a.k.a. toxic wastes) that have built up in the body can be dispersed.To motivate you to schedule your treatment today, I will offer a 10 percent discount on all Thai Foot treatments scheduled during April. Contact me today for best availability.

Focus on: Pain Management through Massage Therapy

A 2016 collaborative review and meta-analysis of published science on massage therapy and pain – conducted by the Samueli Institute and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation – found that massage therapy can provide significant reduction in pain and anxiety and improvement in health-related quality of life for those seeking management of chronic pain. Conditions that massage therapy was used to treat included headaches, musculoskeletal pain, and chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia and spinal cord pain. For the complete review of the study, please see pain medicine.oxfordjournals.org.

March 2017

Yin Yoga for the Hips

I hope you can join me for this month’s Yin class, Yin Yoga for the Hips. The class, which will focus on a series of postures to release chronic tension in the hips, will be held at the Yoga Loft from 2-4 pm on Saturday March 4th. Registrations are due by 3/2/17. The fee for pre-registered students is $25/person. The class is filling up quickly, but  there is still space as of “press time”. Walk-ins will be accommodated on a space-available basis for a fee of $30/person. Yin classes tend to be quiet and meditative – a nice respite from these tumultuous times. For more information, please contact me or check out the Yoga Class schedule page on this website.

Yin Yoga Schedule Change

Due to a scheduling conflict, I have had to change the date of the final Yin class in the current series. Please note that the date of the last Yin class of the spring – Integrative Yin Flow-  has been changed from 5/6/17 to 6/3/17. If you have already registered for this course, you can request a refund or use the class credit towards another yoga class or a massage session. Please contact me if you are pre-registered for the 5/6/17 class and cannot switch to the new date.

Massage Discount Packages

Love massage, but looking for a way to make it more affordable? Consider purchasing a pre-paid massage club card and receive substantial savings. Specifically, the Body-Mind Care card, good for 5 one-hour massage treatments, costs $350 (or $400 for hot stone massage). This translates to a $5.00 discount per massage. The Deep Peace card offers you even bigger savings – 10 one-hour massage treatments for $625 (or $725 for hot stone massage) –  $12.50 off per massage for a total of $125 in savings. These cards are non-transferrable, but have no expiration date. Please contact me for more information or to purchase your discount card.

Focus on: Hip Opening Poses

Yin Yoga is a great way to release chronic hip tension. For those of you who cannot make Saturday’s workshop, here are a couple of hip-opening yin poses to add to your home practice:

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Standing piriformis stretch: Stand facing the table. Bend your right knee and place your right leg on the table so that your right foot is in line with your left thigh and your right knee is bent out to right. Lean forward into the table until you feel the desired about of stretch in the right thigh, hip and buttock. Hold this position for 2-3 minutes, leaning more into the table as the hip allows during the course of the stretch. Repeat with the left leg on the table.

Butterfly:

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Bend knees out to sides and bring soles of feet together. Position your feet a distance from your body that feels comfortable for your hips and knees. Slowly round forward over your feet and stretch your hands out in front of you on the floor. How far forward you bend will depend on the comfort level in your back. This pose targets the low back, hips and thighs. Hold this pose approximately two – five minutes. To release, come up slowly to sitting and use your hand on the outside of your knees to bring your legs back together. You can follow this with hammock pose – bringing your hands on floor behind you and slowly swinging your bent legs side to side.

As with any exercise practice, please consult your health care professional regarding any concerns of the suitability of these poses for your body.

 

 

February 2017

Yin Yoga for the Back

I hope you can join me for the next Yin Yoga class, to be held on February 11, 2017 at 2 pm at the Yoga Loft in Albany. This month we will focus on Yin poses designed to release chronic back tension. Pre-registrations are due 2/9/17. Please see the Yoga Class Schedule page to download a registration form.

Support USCRI

Wondering how you can support refugees and immigrants in our community? Consider attending the Yoga Loft’s Sunday Sadhana classes in February. These classes are held most Sundays at the Yoga Loft from 9:30 to 11:00 am and are taught on a volunteer basis by a rotating list of teachers. These classes are open to all students and payment is by donation only. This month all fees received will be donated to the Albany chapter of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, a local refugee resettlement agency. Come practice yoga together for a good cause! I will be leading the Sadhana class on Sunday February 12th.

Midwinter Hot Stone Massage Sale

We are at the halfway point in our Albany winter. If the cold is getting you down, consider giving yourself the TLC of a hot stone massage. During the month of February, all hot stone treatments will be discounted 10 percent. Please note that this discount cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. Contact me soon to schedule your hot stone treatment!

Focus on: Metta Meditation

We are living in a time a great political uncertainty and social volatility. Every day seems to bring more news of conflict and division. I thought it is an excellent time to revisit the practice of Metta Meditation as a way to stay centered and send  positive energy out into the world. Often referred to as loving kindness meditation, Metta meditation is the practice of directing well-wishes towards other people. Usually the practitioner directs a series of well wishes first towards oneself, to generate self-compassion. Over time, this practice is extended to others – first to loved ones, then to those we are in conflict with, and eventually to all beings. The intention is to increase compassion for oneself and others, promoting a more peaceful world.

There are many versions of the Metta prayer. Below is a version I am particularly fond of, which I learned at the Kripalu Center in Lenox:

May I be healthy

May I be happy

May I ride the waves of my life

May I live in peace no matter what I am given.

 

May you be healthy

May you be happy

May you ride the waves of your life

May you live in peace no matter what you are given.

 

May we be healthy

May we be happy

May we ride the waves of our lives

May we live in peace no matter what we are given.

 

January 2017

Jumpstart Your Yoga Practice

The new year is always a good time to renew your commitment to your health and wellness. If you have dropped off in your yoga practice, you are invited to come back to class this month and recommit to your well-being. Please check out the yoga schedule page for a current listing of my classes. Also, this Saturday  January 7th, I will be offering a Yin Yoga workshop focusing on the neck and shoulders. Please contact me asap if you would like to register for that class.

Yin Yoga  Winter and Spring Classes Announced

This Saturday marks the start of the next Yin Yoga workshop series. These classes are offered once a month on Saturdays from 2-4 pm at the Yoga Loft. The dates for the upcoming classes are January 7th, February 11th, March 4th, April 8th and May 6th, 2017. Each month will target a different area of the body through a series of Yin Yoga stretches. You may register for all five classes or pick and choose which courses you prefer.

I like to call Yin Yoga “Over 50 Yoga” as it is an intense but slower-paced practice designed to release restrictions in the fascia (connective tissue) of the body. These restrictions tend to increase with age, so Yin poses can be a great way to maintain mobility and ease of movement as we get older. Please contact me if you would like to register for the classes or have further questions about Yin Yoga.

Focus on: Benefits of Meditation and the Albany Peace Project

A regular meditation practice can have health benefits on many different levels – physical, mental and emotional. Some of the benefits of meditation confirmed through scientific studies include reductions in stress, anxiety and depression, improved immune system functioning, lower blood pressure, and decreased pain. Despite the knowledge of the ways meditation can improve our lives, many people – myself included – find it difficult to establish a regular meditation practice. While I practice yoga on a regular basis, I find it hard to prioritize seated meditation.

If you are like me and find some outside structure helpful in getting to the meditation cushion, consider joining the Albany Peace Project (APP). Now in its fourth year, the APP is “10- year research study designed to determine if an organized group of trained meditators creating a peaceful “coherent state” in their bodies and then focusing these peaceful intentions outwardly can measurably reduce local violence.The Albany Peace Project team is currently working toward gathering 2,500 participants to meditate/pray/focus to achieve coherence together for 15 minutes a day for the month of January 2017 while sending peaceful intentions to the City of Albany.  Simultaneously, research will be conducted to record any favorable changes in the Albany, NY crime rates.”(from www.albanypeaceproject.com).

During the month of January, the APP provides daily, guided meditations focused on sending positive energy to the city of Albany, the greater Capital District Region, and ultimately the entire planet. These meditations are provided via an email link every morning. I have participated in these daily meditations during the past three years and can attest to the positive impact they have on my mood and well-being. It is a meaningful way of connecting to others during a time of the year when we tend to hibernate. In the current political atmosphere of anxiety, mistrust and  bigotry,  I believe taking some time out to meditate can provide needed peace of mind and refocus one’s energy in a compassionate direction.

If you would like to join the project this month, you can sign up to receive the daily emails by going to www.albanypeaceproject.com. While donations are welcomed to finance the project, there is no charge to participate.

December 2016

Holiday Massage Special

The semi-annual massage three-pack special is on!  From December 1-22, 2016, you may purchase three one-hour massage treatments for the price of $185 – a $40 savings over regular pricing. These three-packs can be split as you choose, so you can give some away and keep some for yourself.  Gift packaging for the gift certificates is available upon request. Please note that this massage discount cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons. Contact me today to reserve your massage package.

Yin Yoga for the Spine

Take a break from the busy holiday season and spend a quiet afternoon at the Yoga Loft on December 10th. From 2-4 pm that day, I will be leading a class focused on poses to release chronic tension in the back. Yin Yoga involves, longer gentle holdings of poses to release restrictions in the fascial tissue of the body, leaving you feeling deeply relaxed. Please contact me or refer to the Yoga Class Schedule Page for more information about this class.

Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors

Saint Peter’s Health Partners and the Susan G. Komen Foundation are continuing their sponsorship  of free  yoga classes for breast care survivors. Designed to support patients in treatment for and in recovery or remission from breast cancer, these classes will be held at the Yoga Loft on Wednesdays from 12 – 1:15 pm. The next series of classes will run from January 4 through March 8, 2017. For more information and to register, please contact Diane Keasbey, R.N., Nurse Navigator at St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center at (518) 525- 1977.

Thank You for the Donations

I want to thank all of you who participated in the winter clothing drive for the Albany office of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants. Your generosity towards our newest neighbors is greatly appreciated. If you missed the clothing drive and would like to make a donation to USCRI Albany, please check out their website at refugees.org/field-office/albany.

Focus on: Stress Management Through Yoga

The holiday season often challenges our coping skills with the increase in social activity, errands,  and obligations. At times like this, it is even more vital to take time to get quiet and center ourselves. Below are a few of my personal “stress busting” favorite yoga practices to help you navigate the coming weeks. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced yoga teacher before practicing these poses if you are new to yoga or have serious health conditions.

Three Part Breath (Dirgha Pranayama): Slow, deep breathing inhaling into belly, then ribs and  then chest, and  exhaling slowly from chest, ribs and belly. This encourages full, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe in and out through the nose. This technique can be done sitting upright or laying on your back. Practice this pranayama 5 – 10 minutes and then relax into your natural breathing.

Legs up the Wall Pose (Vipariti Karani): Lay on your back with your legs supported by a wall. Try to bring your hips/buttock bones as close to the wall as possible without causing strain to either your back or legs (this should be a comfortable position – if unable to bring buttock bones right to baseboard, then just make sure right and left sides are equidistant from the wall). Lay here 5-15 minutes and let yourself relax into the support. You can practice belly breathing in this position. An eye pillow and/or relaxing music can enhance your relaxation in this pose. To come out of the pose, slowly bend your knees and roll over to one side. You may rest here for a few minutes and then use your arms to press yourself back up to a seated position.

Supported Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): My all-time favorite restorative pose. This posture takes a little more time to set up, but I think it is well worth it!   Total comfort is critical for receiving the full benefits of restorative poses such as this one. With practice you will find the prop support to make this a blissful experience.

You will need several firm yoga blankets and/or a yoga bolster for this one. Place one or two firm blankets folded into a rectangle and then again in thirds to support your spine ( alternatively, you can use a yoga bolster if you prefer). Place another folded blanket or pillow crosswise at the top of the “spine support blanket”/bolster  to support your head and neck in a neutral position. This is the basic prop set-up. Sit on the floor in front of your blankets and lay back onto the blankets or bolster. The blankets should support your head and back in a comfortable position, creating a gentle backbend. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together and drop your knees out to the sides. If you have any discomfort in the hips or knees, place support (pillows, rolled blankets or yoga blocks) under your outer thighs. You can also place pillows or folded blankets under your arms to increase shoulder comfort. A gentle weight (such as a sandbag) can be placed on your ankles to keep your feet in position if you choose.

While in this pose, you can practice a relaxing pranayama such as the Centering breath  (slow inhale and exhale followed by three inhale/exhale cycles of natural breath) for ten rounds. Transition to simple breath observation for a few minutes before exiting the pose. It is recommended that you use your hands to slowly bring your knees together and rest on your side after removing the props for a minute or two before transitioning to sitting.

 

 

 

 

November 2016

Yin Yoga for Better Breathing

This month’s Yin class will focus on poses for the chest, lungs and upper back to bring ease to the breathing muscles and facilitate deeper and more relaxed breathing. The class is open to all levels of yoga practitioners. It will be held on November 12, 2016 from 2-4 pm at the Yoga Loft in Albany. The fee for pre-registered students is $25 and is due 11/10/16. Walk-ins will be accommodated on a space available basis for a fee of $30/person. For more information and to register, please contact me at 518-258-4842 or synthesis.marysloan@gmail.com. Registration forms can be downloaded from the yoga class page on this website.

Massage Holiday Discounts

Mark your calendars! The semi-annual massage there-pack special will be offered again this year in time for the Christmas Holidays. From December 1-22, 2016, you may purchase three-packs (three one-hour massage treatments for the price of $185 – a $40 savings over regular pricing. These three- packs can be split as you choose so you can give some away and keep some for yourself. Please note that this discount cannot be combined with other discounts.

Winter Clothing Drive for Our Immigrant Neighbors

I will be running a winter clothing donation drive for the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants’ Albany Office in my November classes. USCRI Albany helps with the resettlement of refugees and immigrants, many fleeing war or persecution, to our Capital Region. Since many of these refugees come from warmer parts of the globe, they arrive here ill-prepared to face our cold Albany winters.

I will be accepting new or gently used winter clothing items for adults and children (e.g. coats, gloves, hats, boots, scarves, warm sweaters) as well as warm blankets. Please make sure that the items are clean and in good condition. USCRI does not have the staffing or facilities to clean or repair items like organizations such as Goodwill or Salvation Army might. These items can be brought to my Yoga Loft classes  through November 30th. Thanks in advance for your support with this.

Focus on: Lymphedema Prevention

Through my  massage work with oncology patients and my yoga classes for breast cancer survivors, I have become aware of the risks to cancer survivors of developing lymphedema.  Lymphedema is defined as an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid which presents as swelling, or edema, but has a protein component. Secondary lymphedema is caused by lymph vessel destruction, or lymph node removal secondary to a disease process or a surgery. Oncology care including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery can be contributing factors of lymphedema.

Up to 25% of breast cancer survivors currently develop lymphedema and up to 40-60% of patients with inguinal lymph node removal will develop lymphedema during their lifetime. I think it is important to emphasize that this increased risk is a lifetime risk. Many survivors mistakenly think that if they have not developed lymphedema in the first year or two post-treatment that they no longer need to follow lymphedema precautions, but this is not the case. Because, lymphedema once developed is a chronic, lifetime condition, prevention is very important.  To reduce the risk of lymphedema, it is important that cancer survivors follow precautions such as wearing a compression sleeve on airline flights two hours or more in duration, wearing gloves when gardening to avoid scratches, and having blood pressure, blood draws, and flu shots done on the unaffected arm.

For a complete list of  lymphedema risk reduction and for more information on the signs and symptoms of lymphedema, please contact your physician or go to National Lymphedema Network at www.lymphnet.org.

 

 

 

September 2016

New Yoga Class for Breast Cancer Survivors

I am excited to announce I have just contracted with Saint Peter’s Cancer Care Center to teach a new yoga class for Breast Cancer Survivors. The class will be starting up on Wednesday September 21, 2016 and will be held from 12-1:15 pm at the Yoga Loft in Albany. The class is open to those who are newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and is funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation and St. Peter’s Health Partners. To register, please contact Diane Keasbey, R.N., Nurse Navigator with St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center at 518-525-1977.

Yin Yoga Schedule

The Yin Yoga Fall schedule has been finalized. Classes will be held on 10/15, 11/12, & 12/10 from 2-4 pm at the Yoga Loft. In October we will focus on postures for the hips. The November class will target yin postures to facilitate better breathing. In December, the class will center on yin postures for the spine. Please refer to the Yoga Class Schedule page for more information and to register. Hope you can join me!

Focus on: Myofascial Release Therapy

 Myofascial Release (MFR) Therapy is a treatment modality that focuses on releasing restrictions in the fascial system through gentle, prolonged pressure. The fascial system is a specialized system in the body that serves to provide support and structure. It is a continuous sheath from head to toe – you might picture it as a bodystocking or a spider web.

The fascia can become restricted due to surgery, trauma, repetitive motion, and/or inflammatory responses. Because of the pervasiveness of fascia in the body, fascial restrictions can impinge on muscles, nerves, arteries, internal organs and joints – creating pain and diminishing movement and functioning.

MFR therapy is a method developed by physical therapist John Barnes, to release fascial restrictions and improve the fascial system’s overall functioning. I use it extensively in my  massage practice and have found it helpful in alleviating a wide range of conditions including back, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, plantar fasciitis, frozen shoulder, and carpal tunnel issues. If you feel you might benefit from a MFR treatment, contact me at 258-4842 for more information.

 

 

 

June 2016

Summer Yoga Schedule

Wednesday classes at the Yoga Loft – the 10 am Gentle Yoga and the 12 pm Yoga for Lasting Vitality (a.k.a. Extra Gentle Yoga) are running through June 29, 2016.  There is currently space in both classes, so feel free to drop in this month as your schedule allows. More information about the classes and class registration can be found on the Yoga Class Schedule page.

As in previous summers, I will be taking a hiatus from Yoga Instruction for July and August. Look for details about the fall yoga schedule in the August newsletter. I wish you all a healthy, happy, and relaxing summer!

Massage Hours

I will continue to offer massage appointments at both Albany Offices through the summer and will be offering additional office hours on some Wednesdays. Please   explore the massage modalities I specialize in on my Massage Services page. Gift certificates and discount multi-session packs are available upon request.

Community Service Yoga

The Yoga Loft in Albany continues its tradition of “by donation” Sunday morning yoga classes to benefit local Albany charities. The classes are open to all interested yoga students (you DO NOT have to be a current student at the Yoga Loft to attend). Teachers donate their time and all monetary donations from students are given to a designated local charity. This month all proceeds from the Sunday classes will benefit the Albany Office of the U.S. Committee and Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a non-profit refugee resettlement agency which helps hundreds of refugees and immigrants (often displaced due to war or persecution) adjust to life in the United States.

This Sunday June 5th I will be teaching to Community Service class from 9:30 – 11:00 am. I will be featuring a Yin Yoga flow during the class. Please join me in supporting this worthy cause!

Focus on: Yoga Practice for Decreasing Anxiety

One of the many benefits of practicing yoga is its ability to decrease feelings of anxiety, leaving people feeling calm and centered. If you are feeling anxious, there are ways you can tailor your practice to alleviate anxiety. Below I have highlighted some of the basic principles of a calming yoga practice:

  1. Practice breathing techniques which encourage deeper, diaphragmatic breathing. It may sound basic, but when we feel anxious we tend to take shallow breaths. Shallow (or upper chest) breathing in turn tends to make us feel anxious, thus fueling a vicious cycle. Consciously interrupting this pattern by engaging in either belly breathing or three-part yogic breathing (Dirgha Pranayama) is one of the quickest ways to reduce anxiety.
  2. Yoga postures which facilitate deeper breathing are also beneficial. If you are feeling anxious, consider doing some side stretches (such as the Kripalu-style Half Moon Pose) and simple backbends like bridge pose  and  supported fish pose to free up tightness in the accessory breathing muscles in your ribcage.
  3. Focus on yoga postures which calm the nervous system such as simple inversions (Viparita Karani/Legs Up Wall Pose) and forwards bends (Uttanasana, Janu Shirshasana I & Paschimottanasana).
  4. Balancing Poses such as Crane Pose and Tree Pose require  focused mental concentration and are good ways to interrupt the flow of an over busy brain. Often our thoughts fuel feelings of anxiety too, so focused mental activity helps break the anxiety cycle.
  5. Twisting Poses such as Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist) present opportunities for us to practice relaxed, deep breathing under less than optimal conditions. These poses restrict the movement of breath in the abdomen, which can initially increase feelings of anxiety. Learning to breath through these poses in a relaxed and calm manner can be excellent training for doing so in anxiety-provoking situations in our daily lives. Experiment with holding the twist for five to ten breaths.

 

May 2016

Return to Yoga

Spring is the perfect time to restart your yoga practice if you have gotten out of the routine, or to begin a yoga practice if it has been on your “to do” list. There are openings in both Wednesday classes at the Yoga Loft. Registration is monthly and you are welcome to try on a drop in basis as well. Please see the Yoga Class Schedule Page for registration information.

Mother’s Day Massage Special

Just in time for Mother’s Day, it’s the Synthesis semi-annual three-pack special! Now through May 22, 2016, you may purchase three 60- minute massage treatments for $185.00 – a $40 savings over regular pricing. You don’t have to be a Mom to take advantage of the savings, and the gift certificates can be split among different recipients (including you!). Contact me soon to take advantage of this special offer.

Yin Yoga for the Legs

This time of year is great for walking – before the heat of summer rolls in. Tune up your legs with this Yin Yoga workshop. The class will be held Saturday May 14, 2016 from 2-4 pm at the Yoga Loft. The fee for the workshop is $25  if you register by 5/12/16. Walk-ins will be accommodated on a space available basis. Registration forms are available on the Yoga Class Schedule page.

Focus on: Arthritis

Please note that this column is being re-run from March 2016 due to being improperly posted when it was first published.

Starting with this newsletter, I am launching a monthly focus column to highlight the benefits of and impact of massage and/or yoga on a variety of common conditions. This month the topic is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, a.k.a degenerative arthritis, involves the wear and tear of joints due to overuse and/or aging.  Repetitive use of the joints can irritate and inflame joint cartilage, leading to the deterioration, and in some cases eventual loss of cartilage. Common symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and swelling, pain or stiffness after extended periods of inactivity, and warmth or redness of affected joints.  Osteoarthritis affects over 20 million people in the U.S. alone.

While much of this is common knowledge, you may not have considered the benefits of massage therapy for those coping with arthritis. You might be thinking that since arthritis is a bone condition, why would massage help? While massage therapy cannot reverse joint deterioration, it can be a helpful tool in symptom management.

Specifically, massage increases blood circulation to the affected area and has been shown to be effective in reducing pain and inflammation, and increasing flexibility and range of motion. Massage therapy can also decrease the muscular tension around the affected joints – positively impacting the “muscle guarding” that often accompanies arthritic pain.

A 16-week study conducted by researchers for the Yale Prevention Research Center and the University of Medicine and Dentistry concluded that massage therapy “is a safe and effective way to reduce pain and improve function in adults with osteoarthritis of the knee.” (Institute of Integrative Heath Care Studies, 2013). This study found that participants who received Swedish Massage twice a week for four weeks, followed by once a week for four weeks, experienced improved flexibility and range of motion, and decreased pain at the affected joint.

Massage therapy is an intervention without the negative side effects of many traditional treatments for arthritis and is safe for most people. If you think you might benefit from receiving massage treatments, please consult with your health care provider. Please contact me if you have further questions on this topic.