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15 March 2020

Covid-19 and massage

As the UK follows much of the rest of the world and goes into a bit of a meltdown re this I thought it might be good timing for a post about this and our massage practice.

This pandemic is no doubt going to impact on business, when the instructions from govt come to lock down we are not going to count as an essential service, no matter what our clients know to be true! We will also no doubt find cancellations increase as people get nervous. Here are a few hints and tips:

1. Be even more vigilant about clinic hygiene and wash your linens on as high a temperature as they will tolerate.

2. While I often use a Laundry Eco Egg for my clinic laundry as it is chemical free, I am instead using non-biological washing powder. If any of my clients have washing powder allergies I am inviting them to bring their own freshly laundered linens.

3. I have stripped back any under blankets on the massage table and have abandoned (for the duration of the outbreak) my soft face hole donut as it can only be washed at 30. Instead I am folding a hand towel to provide extra padding around the face hole.

4. I am ensuring I have extra time for extra cleaning between clients, paying close attention to door handles, surfaces and the massage tables legs that some clients like to hold.

5. I have antibacterial gel in clinic and ask all clients to use it before a treatment and use it myself before a treatment even though I have just washed my hands. When this runs out I am either going to make my own 70% alcohol hand cleaner or use Weleda’s citrus deodorant spray for hands - which sounds odd but it is just over 60% alcohol and skin friendly.

6. Perhaps most critically, I am messaging clients before treatments to explain what I am doing and asking them not to attend if they are even slightly ill or if they have been in contact with someone who is. I have suspended my usual 24 hour cancellation policy for now. If anyone turns up with so much as a sniffle, I will politely explain that I can’t treat them.

7. I am burning lemon and eucalyptus oil in my oil burner as traditionally this is understood to kill airborne virus’s - but I am not replying on that alone.

8. I am restricting my practice to existing clients only and not taking on new clients, my existing clients already know my protocols on not attending if they are sick so I can more reliably enforce the new restrictions on them than on people I do not know.

Feel free to add anything you are doing in the comments below, let’s share good practice.

Travel Bug(s)

Sept 2019

I have been very fortunate in my career to be able to travel to teach massage to many wonderful parts of the world. However, I’ve concluded that the tropics are not the best place for me. One terrible case of Bali Belly, one case of dysentery and always needing to have a shower as soon as you walk out of the door all point to me being more of a cold or moderate climate person. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say no to another trip but it might not be my first choice for a holiday. 

It’s not even the belly troubles or dripping with sweat that bugs me – it is the bugs – the 2, 4, 6, 8 legged varieties. Cockroaches are my particular bugbear. My first encounter with these particular critters was in what was the USSR, I was 21, had just graduated and was travelling ‘behind the iron curtain’ in Russia and what would become the independent country of Uzbekistan (more on this in a later blog). The walls in the state run hotel were paper thin and I could see the lights in the next room through a gap at the bottom of the wall when I opened the wardrobe door. That first night I became aware of something moving on the floor, the curtains were thin and the lights outside bright. My travelling companion suggested leaving our light on as she’d heard cockroaches didn’t like light – the screams and cries of ‘cockroach’ from next door told me our mission to keep them out of our room had been successful – sorry neighbours!

The next time I encountered these critters was in China, here they were in a wok on a street food stall – I declined to try them.

The last time I (knowingly) spent time with cockroaches was on a teaching trip to a very exotic island, lots of people at home told me they were envious of my trip – little did they know about the abundance of cockroaches in my accommodation. I left a side lamp on in my room but these little critters had sunglasses on – they didn’t care about the light. I finally dropped off to sleep having surrounded the bed in citronella oil to help ward them off. I woke an hour later in a start, aware I had properly screamed, as I become aware of something crawling across my face. I flicked it off and from what my hand came in contact with, this was huge. I spent the next half hour, heavy shoe in hand, looking everywhere for this little beast. It had completely vanished. I was badly jetlagged and exhausted from the travel, finally I went back to bed, a bed I had completely stripped and remade twice. I moved the lamp closer and tentatively climbed under the sheet. As I laid down – the cockroach took off and flew – straight out of my hair where it had apparently been hiding for the last half hour!

I didn’t sleep much that night, nor for the next 10 days. Those who know me know that I’m not a great fan of flying, I do it because I have to, not because I want to. My first flight was 6 hours long, mostly over water. I said hello to the woman next to me and then she nudged me, I must have nodded off. “Sorry,” I said, “are we about to take off?” “No” she replied, “everyone is getting off, you have been asleep since you fastened your seatbelt for take-off 6 hours ago. How on earth do you manage to sleep through a whole flight, especially one with such bad turbulence?” “Ah” I replied, “that will be the cockroaches”….

Taking Time to Breathe

July 2019

Every now and then things happen in life that throw your equilibrium. Events happen that may be completely outside your control, life gets too busy, we have illness close by, we lose people we love, political changes we don’t like might come about, jobs can be lost and those we love might struggle. The result can be that we find ourselves tired, run down yet unable to sleep, anxious, stressed and wondering what on earth will happen next.

There is a lot of online advice about what to do when this happens, what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, how we should move, what we should and shouldn’t do before bedtime – some of this advice will be useful, some of it complicated and some of it just plain bizarre. The internet can be a fabulous source of information and an amazing recourse as people share their knowledge and experiences – but it can also be dangerous if we use it on its own to self-diagnose and scary if we believed everything we read. “Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true” is an often-used phrase in our household.

So this blog is not going to offer a ‘cure all’ solution to dealing with stressful times in life but instead just shares something I have found useful in such times.

Often as we get stressed and anxious, we breathe more shallowly. Our bodies physically tense up, we don’t relax our shoulders, our intercostal muscles don’t relax properly, we end up gritting our teeth (and sometimes our buttocks!) and the result is that we don’t breathe as deeply as we should. Massage of course will help our bodies to relax but we may not always have a massage booked at that time that we are feeling stressed or anxious. Relaxing our bodies and focusing on our breathing can help to unlock this, different people will find different ways to do this but here is what I do:

Take myself off to another room, usually the bedroom but sometimes my treatment room, close the curtains and turn off the light so that the room is shaded or dark.

Lie down without a pillow so that as the neck and shoulders start to relax they can naturally stretch back to where they should be – the shoulders that start rounded should ideally finish by making contact with the supporting surface you are laying on.

Cover myself up – even if its summer I will use a light cover, in winter a duvet – your body needs the warmth and psychologically being covered gives us comfort.

I usually, but not always, put music on. I have a CD that is simply a recording of the sea, as the beach is my ‘happy place’ listening to the waves on the shore creates positive links in my brain. I also use some of the free resources on You Tube that are available just by searching for ‘relaxation’ or ‘anxiety’.

Then as I allow my body to start to sink into the surface below me I will focus on my breathing. When I first started doing this I would place one hand on my chest and one on my belly. The aim is that the hand on the belly rises and falls with each breath more than the hand on the chest. This ensures that you are breathing deeply and not ‘surface breathing’, if you look at a baby or young child breathing their whole abdomen will move up and down with their breath as they breathe naturally and fully. As adults we can forget how to do this and this exercise is a reminder of that. As you establish this breathing you can just allow your hands to move to rest wherever is most comfortable. As you breathe more deeply you will find that your muscles start to relax. There are good physiological reasons for this so this exercise is about relaxing both body and mind – just giving yourself some time out.

I usually put music on that lasts a few minutes less than the time I have and, probably about 50% of the time I do this, I fall asleep. When the music stops I will usually wake up but you can also do this at night in bed and then just turn over and go back to sleep.

When you wake or the time you have is coming to an end, give yourself time to come round and to be aware of how much deeper you are breathing and how much more relaxed your body is. Being aware of how your body is when it is in a relaxed state then allows you to start to become aware of when this changes and you are starting to get tense again so that you can do something about it before it gets too bad.

This doesn’t of course change the stresses, bring back the losses or cure the problems, but it does give you a space within it to relax, a chance to know that you will in time work through the difficulties and find your equilibrium again even if at the moment that seems impossible. Suggesting someone breathes can sound a strange thing, we are clearly all breathing to be alive, but that deeper, calming breath sometimes needs some work to achieve.

If you want to also try the sardine only diet while bathing in the tears of unicorns that of course is completely your choice!

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Massage for Labour and Birth

15 March 2020

We are celebrating in our home at the moment. Our eldest daughter who works with me in my massage clinic, has just had a beautiful baby boy. I am completely smitten and in awe of him; as with any new born he has the whole household running after his every need – a remarkable survival technique from new born and otherwise helpless babies.

My grandson is tiny, just 5lb 2oz, I am amazed by his fingers and toes, how perfect they are and how he has the skeleton, organs, muscles, tendons, ligaments etc that are needed to be this tiny perfect human being. I was also fortunate enough to be at his birth and to assist his mum as she brought him into the world. This is the second time that I have had the privilege to massage a new mum through her labour. Lower back massage is an amazing natural pain relief for labour, it doesn’t make the pain go away of course but it does help. In my clinic I often teach the dads-to-be how they can do some simple back and head massage to assist their partners while they are in labour, the mums appreciate the massage and the dads appreciate having something practical to do when their partner is doing all the labouring work and they can only watch and offer support.

That night reminded me, like no other treatment, as to what a gift we offer in massage. The gift of touch given in a knowledgeable, safe and caring way is not to be underestimated.

Now I am looking forward to giving lots of baby massage to this little boy who captured my heart forever in a moment. I am a very lucky (and young!) grandma.

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14 February 2020

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