Meditation, My Life Jacket

MeditationI’m a meditation fan. I first came across meditation by chance at the age of eleven or twelve. I am spiritual but not religious however like many of us in Ireland I was brought up a Catholic. I say this because the first time I ever heard about meditation was in a little booklet that I found in my local Church bookshop. I was completely fascinated by the cover, which I now know was a mandala. On this occasion I judged the book by its enticing cover and so I was led into the pages to discover a description of how to meditate. I tried it, I liked it, I grew to love it. It helped me map my way through the fall out of my parents break up.

Just knowing that I have meditation at my side feels like an anchor and strength whenever I find myself facing into turmoil. I throw on my meditative ‘life jacket’, buckle up, take hold of the oars and guide my boat through the storm, riding the waves and I keep on going. I can even enjoy the storm, the view can be quite spectacular, there are always things to make me laugh and smile, stormy skies are beautiful.

I have found that I need to practice meditation regularly for it to maintain effectiveness. Roughly fifteen minutes a day of meditation seems to do the trick, though of course I miss a day here and there, sometimes a week or two. It’s a bit like keeping fit, if you don’t exercise you begin to loose condition. It’s also like riding a bike and once you get back into practice its easy to find where you left off.

My advice would be, if you think meditation is worth a go, do it every day for at least three weeks. If possible start now, don’t wait for a crisis to arise before learning to do it. Have your meditation foundations set and your practice embedded in your life as a habit. That way you are fully equipped to stay calm and clear when a crisis, or as I prefer to call it, ‘a challenge’, arrives with your next set of life lessons.

They say the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. Similarly, the best time to learn to meditate is before a crisis hits. Have your lifejacket stowed under your seat before the storm hits and you’ll have a great chance of sailing through it.

Try out my two minute guided meditation. Sit comfortably cross legged on the floor or on a seat upright and feet flat on the floor. Let me know how you get on with this in the comments below.


Understanding The Nature Of Stress, It’s Effect & How To Counteract It

Effects Of Stress On The BodyStress is a natural process that happens to all of us.  Stress evolved as a way to keep us safe from perceived danger in our primitive environment. Today those complex responses still exist and indeed sometimes we need them even in modern times in  order to help avert us from a dangerous situation or even fight for our lives.  In reality our stress response is not triggered  by life threatening situations but instead by perhaps an overwhelming workload, financial strain, an unhappy relationship or an unfulfilling job.

Long term exposure to stress in your life can have a deleterious effect on your health and manifest in a whole range of symptoms. Why? As your body thinks it is in danger the ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms are prioritised while other bodily functions are switched to a minimal gear, including your immune and natural repair systems.  Why would your body waste energy fighting off a virus or healing an injury if your hormones are telling you that you may need to invest all your energies at any moment into running like hell from a hairy mammoth or fighting for your life? We have evolved to deal with the immediated danger to ensure survival but living a modern life tricks our bodies into thinking our stresses are more important than eradicating cancer cells, repairing injuries or fighting infection.

But don’t stress about being stressed! There are a whole range of ways to tip the balance back in favour of a balanced mind and body. If we can’t remove the stress (some we can, some we cant and some we aren’t yet ready to) then we can develop habits that will give our body a chance to balance. Once we understand this we can take steps to nurture our mind and body. Taking time out to ‘relax’ brings our nervous system back into what is called a parasympathetic stat. It is the opposite of being stressed out. The opposite of ‘fight or flight’. Your body releases hormones of relaxation and happiness. Your body brings its attention back into investing nutrients and energy to your immune and natural repair systems.  There are many easy and accessible ways to take time out for relaxation which will begin to address and balance the stresses you experience.

Shiatsu therapy is certainly a great way to sink into the parasympathetic state and counteract stress. Of course, it’s my personal favourite, which is why I eventually trained to become a therapist too. During Shiatsu the bodymind connection is invited to restablish itself. Where we are holding physical or emotional pain becomes apparrent to the receiver and relaxation follows. I also like to include  one to one guided meditation towards the end of a Shiatsu session if the client is open to this. The practice of meditation can provide a very comforting and effective haven in times of stress and is another powerful tool to aid deep relaxation. Once you have learned the art of meditation, it is a simple but powerful tool you can call on during any time of stress or personal challenge.  Meditation is something that you can do daily at home and is extremely effective in reducing stress and anxiety levels. Why not try some of the recorded meditations on my YouTube channel?

I also offer advice about which acupressure points can effectively  be used at home to reduce stress between treatments .  Shiatsu restores peace of mind, clarity and calmness.  As well as finding a therapy that helps you to relax there are physical activities that will maintain and amplify these benefits when practiced regularly, alongside with the benefits of becoming part of a group, which in itself has positive health benefits. These specific body mind focused activities include yoga, tai chi and chi gong.

What do you find most effective to reduce and balance your stress?

Yoga Class in Carrick on Shannon

yoga classes posterNew gentle yoga for beginners classes are available in Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim. The classes are small and limited in number to allow for attention to detail of each student. I teach hatha yoga with a special emphasis on body alignment and mindbody awareness. It’s a gentle form of yoga, perfect for those who wish to improve mobility, flexibility, strength, release pain, calm the mind, nurture a sense of overall wellbeing and find a physical and mental balance.

As a qualified shiatsu body therapist I’m confident working with people who have back pain, physical conditions or illnesses once your health care provider (doctor, consultant, physio, chiropracter etc)  has confirmed that yoga is beneficial for your particular case. Please feel free to get in touch to discuss this further.


Are Processed Foods Bad For Me?

For 200,000 years human beings have walked the Earth. Until very recent history, we survived by hunting and gathering for food. Our bodies have evolved to harness the nutrition and energy of the plants, and perhaps animals, that share our space on the planet. Examples of this evolution that has occurred over thousands of years include gut digestion that contains thousands of good bacteria and yeasts that assist our digestion. Also, the unique set of enzymes our bodies have developed which recognise and break down the food we eat into constituents that are beneficial to our bodies have slowly evolved with our life on Earth.

tryProcessed foods were popularised after World War 2 but it’s only in the last 20 years that the processed food industry taken ‘processing’ to a whole new level.  Because many foods are now so heavily processed beyond their original nature, our bodies can no longer recognise the food in it’s new format. It has been so far removed from nature by over cooking, removal of beneficial substances and additions of other not so beneficial, or even dangerous additives, that the ‘food’ is now very much alien to our biological systems. Our bodies struggle to digest processed food. It contains additives that kill and unbalance the delicate ecosystem of those essential gut bacteria and yeasts. Our enzymes don’t recognise or fit the corrupted food molecules or synthetic food additives, resulting in allergies, immune system problems, nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, mental health issues and other problems.

Unfortunately many of us find ourselves unable to move away from processed foods. You may have noticed how addictive they are. Sugar, salt and monosodium glutamate are just some of the additives used to get customers hooked. Next time you eat processed food product and think ‘delicious’, just try this simple test. Ask yourself ‘Is it really delicious, or does it just taste overwhelmingly of salt or sugar?’. Once weaned off processed foods with all their addictive and harmful additives, true ‘delicious’ will be a delight and a symphony of flavours, not just a monotone salty or sugary hit.

Six Ways To Improve Gut Flora

Six Ways To Improve Healthy Gut Flora :

  1. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

    Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

    Eat and drink one or more probiotic foods on a daily basis. eg kefir, kombucha, sauerkrout, kimchi or miso soup either homemade or from your Health Food store.

  2. Take a course of high quality probiotic tablets, available from your local Health Food store.
  3. Eat less acidic foods and more alkaline foods. eg less coffee and alcohol, more fruit and vegetables.
  4. Find a way to relax and de-stress on a regular daily basis. eg meditation, yoga, social group or hobby.
  5. For non vegetarians some organic bone broth soup can help the body to rebuild and repair. VisitNourished Kitchenfor recipes.
  6. Ensuring even a small amount of raw vegetables are included with every meal can aid digestive enzymes.

When gut flora is balanced many other health issues will often begin to resolve, including weight, hormonal imbalances, digestive difficulties, fatigue and nutrient levels.

Gut Health – Five Signs That Your Gut Flora Are Out Of Balance

There are manEating wholefoods supports gut healthy who believe that gut health is the foundation of wellness, in both body and mind. What is gut health? Occurring naturally in our small intestines is an ecosystem of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. They live in symbiosis (in harmony) with us. We provide food in our intestines that they digest and thrive on, in return, we have evolved to digest the nutrients that are released during this process. It’s a perfect match, it’s a win win situation. Humans, bacteria and yeasts have evolved together over thousands of years and we rely on this process to help digest our food and extract the nutrients we need for optimum survival. It’s a beautifully balanced environment.

Well it used to be a beautifully balanced environment. What happened? Anti-biotics, chlorinated water, preservatives, lifeless processed foods and stress happened. When we eat and drink foods containing these ingredients it can have a devastating impact on our gut flora.

Five Signs That Your Gut Flora Is Out Of Balance :

  1. Indigestion : without the correct balance of gut flora our digestion is not what it should be.
  2. Food intolerances : without the correct balance of gut flora we are only semi digesting some foods which can lead to our bodies not recognising and reacting against some foods we eat.
  3. Repeated bouts of thrush for women : with the wrong set of gut flora more acidic conditions occur in the body, conditions in which candida (thrush yeasts) flourish and dominate.
  4. Fatigue : if we aren’t able to digest and absorb nutrients efficiently we are going to feel tired.
  5. Immune System Imbalance : you may be susceptible to many infections or your immune system may have become confused and attack it’s own body tissue, over react to foreign bodies or not recognise pathogens that should be removed.

Other possible signs that our gut flora is out of balance, according to some researchers :
Mental illness, ADHD & ADD, cancer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and immune system disorders.

To assist your gut health eat as much unprocessed foods as possible and include some raw fruit and vegetables. If you’ve taken a course of anti-biotics talk to your Health Store about probiotics to help replenish your healthy gut bacteria.

Shiatsu Massage Therapy, Carrick on Shannon

RAThe ancient art of Shiatsu massage body therapy has arrived in Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim. This form of massage is received fully clothed, at ground level on a futon mattress. Unlike Swedish massage, Shiatsu uses a combination of palming and thumbing. Palming involves the giver using body weight to gently and slowly add gentle pressure to the back and limbs, resulting in the muscles relaxing underneath. Thumbing is used to work along energy meridians and hold certain acupressure points, encouraging flow of energy and a return to physical and mental balance.

Shiatsu is incredibly relaxing. The process increases the receivers own bodymind awareness, gently highlighting areas that may be holding tension. Shiatsu is not painful and works respectfully by encouraging relaxation from skin level down through each layer of muscle. As muscles relax the giver projects even to bone level in the minds eye. The treatment can be profound.

Wow, I had no idea it would be so deeply relaxing. I know you explained it to me beforehand but seriously, you just can’t appreciate how deeply relaxing it is until you’ve experienced it. I mean, I have not been this relaxed for a very very long time.” August, 2014.

Fifteen minute taster, half hour treatment or one hour sessions available by appointment.