Category Archives: Body Sleuthing

The documentation of my gradual and ever growing understanding of my body and my slow and steady process of transitioning to a preventative model of care and maintenance.

More Holistic Dental Hygiene Tips

My Dental ArsenalMy Dental Arsenal

I gave Rupam’s booth a quick visit on Saturday and came home with some new material to work on.

On the first matter, Rupam simply gave me a thumbs up.  A week or so ago, I’d noticed that our boy’s teeth were looking rather yellow.  I must confess that I often question just how well we’re doing with his dental hygiene – does anybody else struggle with brushing a two and a half year old’s teeth ?!  But the yellowish color was a new development.  I decided to use baking soda.  He tolerated it like a champ and sure enough, his teeth were back to gleaming white.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve made the point before, that Rupam’s tooth soap doesn’t have anything abrasive in it.  This is much better for our dental health on a daily basis but it means that we need to give our teeth a good scrub periodically – if we want them to be nice and white.  I’ve been keeping up with my activated charcoal and now I’ve added in a little baking soda here and there.  But tending to the same needs in my toddler’s mouth was a new thing.  I feel like I might just be getting the hang of this.  My kid on the other hand still hasn’t figured out how to avoid swallowing his tooth soap.  But given it’s all natural ingredients, I don’t worry about that too much.

On the second matter, Rupam gave me yet another tooth brushing tip.  I must confess that I’m beginning to love showing her my teeth because she always has something worthwhile to say and as a result I’m becoming quite the tooth brushing fanatic.  On Saturday, she observed that I haven’t been doing a thorough enough job at my gum line.  Her expert eyes (she’s looked at thousands of mouths over the years) detected a sort of cottage cheesy line of gunk along the tops and bottoms of my teeth and some inflammation on the neighboring gums – ick!  This made sense to me because I worry about being too rough on my gums and having them recede, although I’ve come to understand that perhaps the receding has more to do with the fact that I clench my jaw while I sleep.  Anyway, Rupam recommended a soft and steady scrubbing all along the gum line each brushing, with a soft bristle tooth brush.  I’m also doing a better job of flossing everyday which I sometimes get slack with (for shame).  And, of course, I’m feeling cleaner and happier to smile having implemented these new tips.

Several years ago now, I gave my approach to personal care some lengthy consideration and realized that I was slowly transitioning to a preventative model of care.  To me this involves a consistent routine of engaging with my body:  I keep tabs on what is happening and I respond with some sort of action.  My current lessons in natural dental hygiene are one example of this.  I love that there is always another detail to address, another improvement to be made.  But the only way that I become aware of these incremental improvements to make is by visiting Rupam and having her look at my teeth.  Once again, I’m feeling very grateful to know her!

Why I Love my Skin Care Products

Here it is…the last resolution post of 2014.  Whew, what a relief!  Tomorrow marks something of a new beginning here and I certainly am glad to be starting with a sense of resolve – at least in one little corner of my life.  Other corners are teeming with the debris of homemade valentines, I’m still not sure what I was thinking…..

delicious and nutritious facial

delicious and nutritious facial – really!

Okay, it bears repeating that I’m a cream junkie.  With my dry sensitive skin, there’s no other way.  Lucky for me, my obsession has led me to learn a lot and today I’m sharing what I know.  This is a follow up post to Why I Love a Good Facial.

I fell in love with Elina’s products in a short amount of time.  Given that Shelley and I were small business buddies, I would often pop into her space and I always would stand and gaze longingly at the display of products.  It wasn’t long before I was exclusively using Elina’s products and loving them all the more.  I haven’t strayed since.  Since I haven’t had a facial nearly three years, Elina’s products have really had a chance to prove their efficacy.  But first a little back story.  As a teenager who avoided the sun, I was mercilessly teased for never sporting a tan.  These episodes didn’t bother me much, for I had plans to have a beautiful complexion far into adulthood – perhaps the teasing fortified my determination.  Now that I’m in my late thirties, I feel satisfied with my action plan and thankful that I found the support of Shelley and Elina.

Over the years I got to know Elina and learn more and more about her products.  Given that her business is based in my home state, I’ve enjoyed many a treatment there.  I even attended one conference before my ability to travel became more limited.  The more I learn, the more I love what Elina offers.  And the more convinced I am that she has created a line of products that stands shoulders above all the rest.  As far as I can tell, there are three characteristics that set Elina’s line apart from the rest:  they are 100% high quality ingredients, organic or wildcrafted in all cases which change seasonally so that the body is always stimulated; they are 100% transdermal which means that instead of all that goodness resting on top of your skin it sinks right in where it will be best utilized;  and they have the added beneficial bonus of being bioenergized.

While I certainly believe that each of those three characteristics are essential for the high quality products that Elina makes, I have come to think that the transdermal quality is the most important.  Here’s the thing:  wax, a very common ingredient in skin care products (check your labels and recipes), is not good for our skin.  Like everything else in our bodies, our skin is designed to be constantly changing.  This change happens from layer to layer as materials pass through the layers of our skin.  When we put wax on our skin it feels good and smooth from the outside, but it severely inhibits that flow which is the basic function of our skin.  It may be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, it doesn’t make good sense to inhibit the basic function of any part of our body.  And since our skin is our biggest organ and we spend most of our time fully clothed (unlike Joe Pilates), it makes even less sense.  If the products one uses have toxic ingredients this is a good thing because the wax is limiting your exposure to those ingredients.  But if you’re using products with high quality ingredients and wax, then you’re creating a case of double deprivation with each and every application.

Here’s something that happens when folks begin using Elina’s products, their skin feels different.  Often, dry.  This is because their skin is incredibly thirsty for real nourishment since the wax that is in most creams has been keeping all the moisturizing goodness from soaking into the skin.  Once the skin actually gets the opportunity for nourishment and proper function, there is repair work to be done.  So it’s reasonable to expect something of a gradual result when beginning to use Elina’s products.  It’s also important to use the ones that match your body, that’s why Elina’s products are sold through licensed aestheticians.

The transdermal quality of Elina’s products means that all the power of the ingredients can be absorbed and utilized by our bodies.  This is no small statement.  I remember when Shelley made the transition to using Elina’s products in her treatments and sure enough, the results were immediately apparent.  While I am certainly of the camp that respects and honors the power of nature, I have learned that a certain base of knowledge is required to fully exploit what mother nature offers us.  I believe that this is what is meant by the notion of advancement.  It’s not just a matter of developing new things, it’s also a matter of developing a deep base of knowledge about what is already here and putting the two together.  To me, that is the most exciting kind of innovation.  I believe that Elina is one of the few people in our time who works with this idea in the arena of skincare.

I realize that there is a movement toward making skin care products at home.  While I love a DIY project as much as the next person, after years of blemished skin, I am wholly committed to using more sophisticated products.  Elina has specialized knowledge as a cosmetic chemist, aesthetician, and herbalist, far beyond what we common folk can apply to making our own products.  Her Russian heritage gives her access to ingredients from distant places and the knowledge that goes with how to best use those ingredients.  Elina is also an incredibly generous and positive person, and she consciously infuses each and every batch of her products with that positivity.  Somehow, I believe that I sensed that all way back when I first started using her products, but now I know so much more about the how and why of what I’m using on my body (this book provided supplemental information on the topic, both Shelley and Elina were interviewed by the author).  And that has given me a real sense of appreciation and respect for the products that nourish my skin every day.

Just like Shelley, Elina has shared some tips:

  • Your skin is your largest organ.  Use organic products on it that are good for your entire body.
  • Develop a regimen and make it a habit (see my post on Shelley for some tips on what this ideally includes).
  • Exfoliate! – make that a part of your regimen.
  • Another thing to add to your regimen:  treat yourself to a facial, at the least every change of the season.  (see my post on facials for some thoughts on why)




Why I Love a Good Facial



I’ve always been something of a health nut, perhaps that’s even more obvious these days what with all these resolution type posts showing up here.  Some examples from my youth: asking lots of questions during my check up visits to the doctor, looking up any symptoms I was experiencing in our copy of the merck manual, eating healthfully, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and generally taking care of myself have all been part of my MO since I can remember.  Since I got a serious sunburn as a kid, skin care has been a priority for me.  I was born with dry, sensitive, and fair skin so the importance of taking extra care has always been readily apparent.  Imagine my pleasure in learning just how much Joe Pilates was into the importance of healthy skin!  (So much so that I’m busy sewing my own clothes for exercise since I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find fashionable items in natural fibers that are reasonably priced and accessible given my lack of time for clothes shopping.)  Anybody who’s even glanced at the archival photos knows that Joe Pilates was into exposed skin, but his biographers uncovered more than a casual interest in nudist communities which I found interesting.  As an aside on that topic, anybody else out there found that once you’ve skinny dipped there’s no going back?  Yes, vacationing in Europe is a a bit more liberating, I think.  It would seem that for Joe, keeping the skin free of clothing was important.  He encouraged every client to scrub with a coarse brush and take a cold shower after their workouts, to exfoliate and then close the pores.  Interesting, eh?  Compare that to the contemporary practice of hermetically sealing ourselves in plastic exercise-wear that stays on from home to studio and back again, or sometimes all day – ick!  I’m compelled to point out that we may have lost a valuable element of the master’s approach to a healthy lifestyle.  Back to skin, skin was the point of all this.  In 2004, I had the good fortune to make friends with a lovely lady who shares my passion for health and our most superficial reflection of that good health:  beautiful skin.  Today, I introduce Shelley Brooks:

shelley brooks

I didn’t have acne until my mid-twenties.  It was then that I got an unsightly case of constantly occurring acne around my chin and jawbone.  For 2-3 years, I tried everything to no avail.  When I bought my Pilates studio, I noticed that there was also an aesthetician’s office in the same building.  I quickly introduced myself and my luck changed for the better.  Apart from ridding my face of blemishes, Shelley became a lifelong friend and a small- business-owning buddy.  For years, I saw her monthly for a facial, but pregnancy and being a mom have cleared my calendar of that monthly ritual.  I’ll be back eventually, but these days I’ve been keeping my skin (mostly) clear with the tricks and tools that Shelley and others taught me during my first bought with breakouts over a decade ago.

Shelley is passionate about helping folks who have struggled with skin problems and she is always learning new techniques and finding new materials to use.  In 2005 Shelley met Elina and that was a game changer for both of us.  After years of searching, Shelley had finally found a line of products that exploited the powers of nature without compromise.  For my part, I had found a constant source of practical information and the necessary  supplies for my own personal obsession of caring for my skin.  In short time everybody on Shelley’s client list had enjoyed dramatic improvements from using and being treated with Elina’s products.  Shelley’s facials and Elina’s products are a potent combo.

Having completed a class on the topic shortly before our meeting, Shelley was the one who pointed out to me that my breakouts were related to my hormone levels.  Within a year of meeting her, my wild and wacky hormone levels brought me to my acupuncturist.  (Years ago, my interest in TCM were ignited by my studies of t’ai chi chuan and I’ve been receiving support from that ancient tradition ever since).  The relevant point here is that these days I use what happens on my face as one indicator of what is going on with my hormones and it was Shelley who taught me how to apply that holistic approach to caring for my skin.  Shelley is the sort of person who looks at the whole picture which is a wonderful gift in a practitioner of any kind.  But in the highly superficial world of skin care, when so much focus is placed on what literally floats on the surface of our bodies, Shelley’s whole-body-whole-person approach is refreshingly profound.

After having sent many folks for treatments with Shelley, I’ve come to realize that not everybody is looking for her brand of profoundly transformative skin care treatments.  Some folks are just looking for some good smells and a relaxing massage.  Shelley offers that for sure, but the smells are never the same because our natural world and our natural bodies are never the same.  I personally love being enveloped by the scent of the soothing herbal tea that Shelley uses to clean the skin between the different treatment applications, but I don’t expect it to be the same.  Since the products that she uses always reflect the seasons it’s not realistic to anticipate the same scent every time you visit Shelley, but I always looked forward to a new stimulating experience.  If you are the type who likes the same thing every time, you’ll have to find something else about Shelley’s treatments to keep you coming.  I’m betting that the beautiful glow of your skin will be enough.

I’m compelled to point out that even if you are only able to receive a facial occasionally, it makes good sense to find a practitioner who has extensive training and who uses high-quality, natural ingredients.  An aesthetician can employ more potent methods with all sorts of cool tools, and their products often include more powerful ingredients than the ones that we use in home every day.  Also, there is a lot to be said for having the eye of an expert with all their high tech tools within reach.  They can see and do more than we can alone in our bathrooms.  And those are just a few reasons why a good corrective facial is more than just an indulgence.

If you don’t live in our neck of the woods, Shelley has shared a few tips for your home skin care regimen.
A good skincare regimen is based on good habits.  Here are the things to do every day:
Wash your face at night (morning too), but especially at night to give your skin a clean slate for its nighttime regeneration.
Wear a zinc-based sunscreen, because the sun shines everyday.
Apply eye cream from the outside of eye inward, avoid tugging or pulling around the eyes.
Eat a healthy diet, drink lots of water

Hydration is key to healthy skin, here are some tips for keeping your skin hydrated:
Don’t use soap to cleanse, use a facial cleanser. Soap will dry out your skin.
Always wear a daily moisturizer.

And Lastly…
Don’t pick at breakouts. It will cause the spreading of any infection under the skin, not to mention scarring.

PS, if you are local and reading this post inspires you to visit Shelley for the first time, let her know that and she’ll give you an introductory %20 discount off her services.


My Thoughts on Why Boys Should Pull Their Pants Up


This post was intended to be the last of my resolutions posts, something of a collective resolution.  But then two more jumped into the hopper.  Click over for those in the coming days…

Given that I live in Oakland, I often see young men sporting pants around their thighs.  I recently had the uncommon experience of watching a Justin Bieber video and arrived very late to what has become common knowledge, that sagging has become quite the trend.  I realize that I’m not alone in my confusion of why boys would want to wear clothing in such a fashion as to render themselves unable to walk, much less take part in any productive activity.  When I sit in my car watching our society’s future shuffle to keep up with the snails crossing the street, I wonder what the impact of such a gait pattern must be on their hip joints…and their backs…and their legs.  This is what baffles me most about the current style, my profession seeps into every aspect of my life.

I was told that sagging had a practical beginning, in prison where inmates didn’t have belts to hold up their pants.  Whatever the origins of this captivating trend, these young men aren’t going anywhere fast.  Which reminds me of a point that I’m pretty sure Bill Bryson made in one of his books that I recently read, and that Ben Hewitt also made within the past few months:  that in our current societal arrangement teenagers have become our designated specialists in nothing.  Which begs the question, if you haven’t got anywhere to go, why not take your time getting nowhere?  I find it a pity, all the potential that’s going into holding up pants and possibly causing lifelong physical ailments, rather than doing meaningful work.

I believe that we who are concerned about this fairly extreme fashion statement are being caught in something of a trap.  We adults keep wringing our hands trying to convince these kids to pull their pants up, and they keep on doing what they do.  I think that the important point of consideration is what might actually be going on with these youth who are catching our attention.  I’d like to suggest that perhaps we shift our focus off the pants and back to the people wearing them as well as to ourselves.  I’m pretty sure that will give us a fresh perspective on what is happening with these kids and give them some relief in fending off commentary that is tangential to the substantive content of their lives.

I am entertaining the idea, in truth it is based on someone else’s idea that I thought was a good one, that if we all start focusing a little bit more on the content of our dreams and the contributions the we all can make to the greater whole, we’ll be thinking more about the work that needs doing rather than a fleeting fashion trend.  Maybe this annoying trend is offering us an opportunity to redirect our focus back onto each other rather than the clothes that we wear.  Or we could keep it simple and look at the situation from a purely mechanical perspective, it’s a pretty sure bet that once these kids of ours have some purposeful work to get done, their pants will rise.  Because it’s downright impossible to get anything done with your pants around your thighs.

Bitters Make It Better

a bottle of bitters

This is my second to last resolutions post for 2014.  I categorized it as such because I achieved some dramatic improvements in my day to day health with a twice daily cup of warm bitters.  

I’m finally writing this post!  You see it’s been on the docket since November, but things just kept happening.  In getting to know Rupam Henry, I’ve become increasingly curious about her offerings.  I’m like this with self-care stuff, I get to know a practitioner and I become completely enamored.  Everybody falls for something right?  I fall for skin care products, body techniques, and herbal tinctures.  Back in the fall, I hatched the idea to give all Rupam’s a try and write about my experiences.

I’ve already written about her amazing, yes I really do mean A-MA-ZING, breast oil and tooth soap and together we decided that her Swedish Bitters were the obvious next step.  Bitters is a mainstay of what she offers.  And because of the things that were happening with my body.  Namely that I was beginning to have some symptoms of hormonal funny-business.  The idea was to start with her smallest bottle and see what happened.  I started when I had my NYC-in-twenty-four-hours-cold and I was pleased at how the bitters helped me with my symptoms.  It’s always a comfort to be able to do something when I don’t feel well, and even more of a salve when that something really seems to do some good.  Specifically, my cough was soothed by compresses and taking the bitters internally, and I found that helped me to sleep better.  I was on my way.

Once I’d recovered from my cold, I was feeling quite enthusiastic about the bitters and quickly upped my dosage to the more standard level – Rupam had recommended that I begin with a small amount because I am still nursing and it’s really best to take powerful medicine slowly and respectfully.  Given what I know of my tendencies around hormonal imbalance, I knew that taking bitters had the potential to help because they address the liver and the digestion.  Rupam, of course, corroborated this notion.  So I made a point of paying particular attention to the indicators that I am most familiar with and the symptoms that had been flaring up.  Mostly, I was sick of the pimples that popped up around my chin with ovulation and menstruation.  And sure enough, those have subsided almost completely since I’ve been taking the bitters.  When I do still get a hormonally related break-out it is significantly smaller and repairs itself much quicker than the ones that’s I’d been having before.  I know that this may seem like a small thing, but it’s big for my morale.  I really don’t like having pimples.

Things were looking good for a couple weeks.  I was sleeping through the night rather than having to wake in the wee hours to use the bathroom.  I had more energy and generally more motivation in the face of the day to day challenges that are commonplace for the small-business-owning-hands-on-mama that I am.  I was more resilient.  I was even enjoying some free entertainment in the form of creative dreams.  And I was pleasantly surprised to not experience nearly as much intestinal wind as I’d had previously – this was one of those things that I only noticed once it was no longer happening.

Another improvement that bears note, although I must confess that I believe that Rupam’s breast oil is a major contributing factor to this change, is that I haven’t had a case of mastitis since the fall.  My daily application of Lady Nada’s breast oil, along with the meditation that Rupam taught me paired with the liver support that the bitters gives me internally seems to have cleared mastitis from my slate.  I’ve come to understand that with me the cause of mastitis was always some stagnation in my breast tissues, usually too much pressure had been applied for too long, and it seemed that as the flow was slowing to a stop I’d suffer from mastitis more frequently.  I am so relieved to be free of that worry!

And then.  I told Rupam about all the good things that I was noticing.  She nodded and asked if I was noticing any irritability.  Upon her mention, I realized that yes, in spite of all those wonderful things, I had been operating with a rather short fuse.  From there, things seemed to get worse.  My next period was a doozy:  a serious case of PMS followed by a heavy flow that demanded a lot of attention.  At this point I realized that I was in the midst of some sort of liver clean up process and I was determined not to stop.  Somewhere in there, my husband noticed the notes that I was keeping about all this on the refrigerator and he mentioned that perhaps a heads-up would have been helpful.  Duly noted – because boy was I irritable for a spell!  Really irritable.

I started drinking Rupam’s daily tea too since it purports to work well with the bitters.  I was enthusiastic about the tea because now I felt that I was addressing my organs more completely with my kidneys and bladder both of which have gone through challenges what with the level of stress that I tend to maintain in my life and childbearing.  After only a couple months of drinking the tea regularly, I’m noticing more hair growth which is a real comfort since I’ve been frustrated by my thin hair for many years (my acupuncturist told me long ago that my kidneys were the cause of my thinning hair).

While I was in the midst of the seriously irritable stage of this introductory process (I’m guessing that it lasted somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks), it was all that I could do to hold on to my hat – my days were something of a wild ride.  And so I wasn’t too inclined to write about it all.  Hindsight is really the best view for some experiences.  Then the holidays happened and boy was I surprised at how much work goes into planning for a thirty-second nocturnal visit from a certain immortal.  Then my husband and I got flattened by a virus that keep us down for weeks.  Then it was the new year and business picked up in my studio.  And now it’s February.  I still take my bitters twice a day.  All the benefits of the bitters are still present and the liver clean up project seems to be done with – thank heavens!

Throughout my years of learning to understand and care for my body, I’ve used herbs often and yet I’ve maintained something of a subconscious bias toward physical methods.  My recent experience with Rupam’s bitters has opened up a whole new world to me and I’m so very grateful for the support that they offer me.  Life certainly is better with Bitters!

Pilates is About….Stretch


I read somewhere recently that Joe Pilates was often heard saying that there’s no stretching in Pilates.  This sounds so funny to me given that in my time Pilates was defined as Stretch, Strength, and Control.  Apparently his point was that the stretch is always part of a whole which included strength and control.  Okay, point taken.  But today, I’m inclined to focus on the stretch part of the definition.  Partly because it’s next on my list and partly because I’ve got a new project in the hopper and my thoughts on stretch have a lot to do with how it’s coming together.  But there I go getting ahead of myself again.  Today, stretch.

First, a little story:  there was a period in my training where I was doing a lot of pelvic tucking.  The point of this particular position, as I understood it for the brief time that I worked with it, was to create an opening in the low back and at the front of the hips.  And indeed, I did experience a sensation of the musculature in those areas opening and releasing – for a time.  I also experienced muscle spasms in my pelvic floor (thanks to my tailbone injury) and two massive spasms in my psoas and surrounding muscles that lasted for several weeks in each occurrence – not good.  During this period of pelvic tucking I was working diligently on balancing my asymmetries in my hips (yep tailbone injury strikes again).  Despite lots of cajoling and focusing and just plain trying my absolute hardest under the watchful eye of a teacher for whom I hold deep respect, I had no luck.  The muscles that didn’t fire couldn’t fire.

An alternative view on pelvic position was presented to me by another teacher for whom I have an equal amount of respect.  This view jived with the other material I was learning at the time (from Jay Grimes, this book, photos of Joe himself, this other book, this technique, etc) .  This view was based on a simple goal of creating space internally with the muscles engaging in a two-way stretch.  It proved to be the antidote to the consequences of all the tucking that I’d been doing and it gave me access to the entirety of my musculature like nothing else had before.  I was sold.

I’ve come to think of length first when it comes to Pilates because of this learning experience.  Time and again, with my own body and with the bodies of my clients, I see that more space gives access.  When we are compressed and condensed we are more likely to stay stuck.  When we create space within our bodies we also create an opportunity to find a more ideal skeletal alignment which gives our muscles the opportunity to activate.

What’s more, space is essential for movement (think of how little you move sitting between two people in the coach compartment of an airplane).  The two-way stretch creates space in our joints enabling them to actually articulate.  When we are compressed, the movements in the joints are significantly hampered, at least that’s what it feels like.  (Try jamming the fist of one hand in the palm of the other and moving them.  Then put a little space between them and see how they can articulate individually).  In the studio, I am often saying that the word for joint in Spanish is articulación.  It just seems to bring the point home.

So it would seem that without stretch, opportunities for strengthening would be significantly minimized.  And while we may experience a sense of control over a stable and tight body, without stretch we really don’t have access to its full capacity.  Come to think of it, I’ve talked myself into the idea that stretch might very well be the most important component to Pilates, sort of a gateway to the depths of the work.  (How ironic given Mr. Pilates’s assertion.)

Which brings me to one other point about stretch that I feel compelled to make even though this post is getting longer by the minute:  less is more.  In order to activate the two-way stretch, most of us are going to have to give up a fair amount of muscular engagement initially.  There is a controlled and deliberate release that is essential in Pilates.  That release gives way to a depth of engagement that is strengthening and empowering to the whole self.

Okay I think I’ve made my point.  Happy stretching!


Recently, I enjoyed something of a revelation within my body which relates in no small part to some other shafts of light that have been making way into my life these days.  I celebrate my joy and relief by sharing them here.

With my tailbone injury comes a fair amount of tension along my spine that radiates out to the rest of my body.  I keep that tension in check with the deliberate movements that make up my regular Pilates practice.  And I get support from various practitioners to slowly whittle away at the underlying tension patterns that have a hold on me.  It would seem that I’m making headway because recently I was able to feel something entirely new and gratifying.  In sitting and nursing, I often feel discomfort across my upper back.  I’ve known for years that this is indicative of my seated posture, I’ve even known how to change my posture.  But my body was under too much load to integrate the change.  In short, the pain remained no matter what adjustments I made.  (Movement has been the saving grace, I just keep moving and that has kept much of the pain at bay.)  But on this occasion, I was able to make the appropriate change, which is to sit upon my hips rather than slumping into them.  Instantly, my upper back pain disappeared!  This brought about a sense of relief that has been years in the making.

In a completely different area of my life, I’m enjoying a whole now sense of happiness and self-empowerment.  My son is nearly two and a half years old now and he’s entering a new phase of independent play.  One of the gals who has helped us with caring for him while I work, is leaving us because she found a full-time position that better suits her needs.  For a while I was struggling with how to re-organize our childcare arrangements and it finally dawned on me that it’s time for me to have less help and more time with my boy.  I can’t exactly describe the cascading benefits of this choice that I made other than to say that it was clearly the best scenario for both of us.  I partly attribute this to having passed through a rough place in my own personal healing process that becoming a mother initiated for me.  I share this because it is my belief that parenting presents us each with opportunities for healing old and long forgotten wounds.  The experience of tending to those wounds is not fun and not commonly embraced or even acknowledged in our collective conversations, which makes the challenge of it that much more than some of us would like to bear.   But coming through to the other side, has been such a clearing that it almost makes me eager for the next challenge that will inevitably come my way.

These two experiences put together bring to my mind another idea that’s been brewing since I put Rupam’s suggestion into practice.  If I think of my body as a vessel, then it makes the most sense to fill that vessel with love and light.  In doing so I expose the feelings and emotions that the dark thoughts in the recesses of my mind have embodied within my physical form.  The more that I fill my body with love, gratitude, forgiveness, and acknowledgement of that which hasn’t best served me, the more I clear out the dark places and complete myself.  In the physical sense I have noticed a spaciousness that comes with this clearing process.  That makes room for the constant expansion that drives so much of what I do.  I applied this idea to my Pilates practice one day when I was feeling particularly stiff and sluggish.  The result was immediate:  the entirety of my body opened and released.  I was longer, lighter, and more supple instantly.

We cannot always bypass the challenges that face us.  Often the only way is through.  And I’d argue that going through, rather than over or under, affords us the best opportunities for growth and empowerment.  In the face of adversity, we can honor ourselves.  We can focus on love and light.  We can give ourselves the best possible support for making the hard journey.  And we can assure ourselves, that we will eventually arrive at a clearing.

The Universality of Creativity

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and bones. -Henry David Thoreau

Romana encouraged us to lead full and diverse lives.  I remember that clearly….
During my years of study at university, when I was doing a lot thinking before having much real world experience, I became enamored with the idea that everything is connected and that no matter what a person studies there are common grounds of concluding thought.  Put another way, there are many courses of study to arrive at the same general ideas about living life.

Mostly because of this over-arching idea, but also because I have always tended to be a creative person with many interests, I often end up seeing similarities and common threads where others don’t.  I have learned to hold steady on my course despite not always being well received when sharing my thoughts.  Mostly because I’ve got to stay true to myself but also because in the instances where I’ve had the fortitude to inquire further into why my thoughts were received flatly, generally the person in question’s perspective is so different than mine that it’s obvious we wouldn’t have the same viewpoint.

Since delving even deeper into myself with my foray into motherhood, and occasionally peeking out into the broader world to see what others are up to, I’ve come to realize something about ourselves, we are pretty disconnected.  To me this disconnection takes on many forms, from nature, from ourselves, from our close relations, from our colleagues, from our kids, the list could go on.  I believe that a symptom of that disconnect is to compartmentalize how we express ourselves.

If there’s one personal theme that has come up again and again for me as I work together with my husband to lay the foundation of our family life, it’s integration.  Everything all together under the roof of our home.  Everything of ourselves in the dynamics of our relationship.  Everything that we care about must have a place.  Every aspect of our bodies, minds, and spirits must be served and cared for.  Every person, every being if we include the cat – which we do, has an important role to play in the theater of our family life – and in the world beyond.  Everything is everything.  That’s the sort of life that I strive to live everyday.

What I write about here, hopefully reflects that.  Because in many ways this space is supporting me in fulfilling that vision of a whole life lived in the community of loved ones.  Toward that end, I want to make a point which I’ve attempted to make before about the connection of creativity and our place in the natural world.  I admire greatly people who craft regularly, and people who live more in communion with nature than I do.  By in large, those are the bloggers who I follow here in cyberspace because that type of blogging seems to be the most prevalent.  With my Pilates Body Boost project, I began to connect with others from my own profession of Pilates online.  And now, I feel something of an obligation to regularly write about Pilates here.  Believe me, I’ve got plenty to say on the topic, with new ideas popping up daily in the studio.  But right now, something else in me is asking for a little bit of room to express itself.  It seems that the part of me that loves to sew is really demanding these days and everywhere I look, a new project presents itself.  So fair warning, there may be some clothing posts coming up.  But Pilates is always in the mix.  Even if it’s just in my daily mat.

And since I’m on the topic, I’d like to point out all the ways that practicing Pilates is a creative enterprise.  If there is a group of fundamental human activities (I’m sure that somebody has put such a list together), then creating is surely on it.  I cannot think of a more important expression of the human spirit than creativity.  I’m thinking of this excerpt:
“In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.”  – Toni Morrison, Sula

And I’m thinking of the wonderful sense of satisfaction we each feel when we make something happen.  Our bodies are rich material for creating, they are literally putty in the hands of our minds.  Its just that mostly we are ignorant to this.  Instead of being conscious about how our bodies reflect our thoughts and deeds, we are moulding them unconsciously.

This became very apparent to me when I began more serious dance training in college.  Looking at myself in the mirror, in skin tight clothing, amongst bodies already more finely tuned than my own, I realized that everything was there to be interpreted.  Unconsciously, we each do interpret each other based on the physical language of our bodies.   (I mentioned my favorite TED talk on this topic a while back).  It was back then that I became interested in bringing the moulding of myself to the forefront of my mind.  In making that change, I changed everything about my life.  Because of that I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned.

Being that I want to share what I care most about, it’s important that I continually come up with new ways to present the information.  Part of that is being open to the insights that come from all directions of this multifaceted life that I’m living.  Today, the theme is creativity, and the idea is that no matter what the medium, creativity is the common thread that binds us all in this human experience that we’re all having.  Given my recent insight, the slogan “do something creative every day” feels like a worthwhile call to action rather than a trite way to sustain a business selling paper.

Which gets me to the point of acknowledging all of the creative things that we do which don’t fall under the typical definition of “creative”.  So here’s to embracing the fullness and diversity of our creativity.  In that we will find fulfillment beyond what we could imagine in a world strictly defined categories.

Why DST Offends my Sensitivities

I know that I’ve mentioned reading Susan Cain’s book at least once here in this space.  It has been a game-changer for me.  My physical realities have made my sensitivity impossible to ignore.  So that’s good.  But reading her book has opened me up to a deeper layer of sensitivities that I have tended to suppress.  It goes without saying that suppressing part of ourselves for any extended period of time is a bad idea.  But because of the nature or suppression, I’m going to reiterate the point by putting it in writing:  suppression is not a long term strategy for wellness.  All that is to say that I’m getting more and more in touch with my sensitivity these days; it’s turning out to be a boon for me in that it is helping me to honor myself more in my day to day life.  This takes a little fight out of me.  As I’m more accepting of myself, I’m easier in my interactions with the outside world.

For the past few days, I’ve had a nasty and frustrating case of laryngitis.  This is most probably, the consequence of my ambitions.  I tend to pack more into my life than I can actually do, which keeps me going to the point of sickness when I do something crazy like fly to NYC for a 24 hour stay.  But perhaps on a more symbolic level, my therapist pointed out to me today, I’m in the process of learning to speak what’s true for me, for my heart.  Perhaps my loss of voice is reflecting the years of suppression that are washing away as I reclaim the parts of myself that I’ve attempted to ignore.  I’ll chose to believe a little of both stories, because I know each to be true.  And then I’ll get to the point which is to say that this current ailment has put me behind on posting my biannual protest of daylight savings time.

For those who are new around these parts, I am passionately opposed to daylight savings time.  I don’t think that the supposed benefit of more sunlight at a certain part of the day comes even close to outweighing the cost of the disruption that altering our time brings to our bodies.  Now I’ve come to think that it’s my sensitivity that makes me so passionate about this.  I realize that for less sensitive people this is not an issue, they gloss over their weaknesses and challenges easier than us sensitive folk do.  But I’m quite sure that most of us are affected.  Babies and children, for example, are affected across the board regardless of their personal temperment.

Along with others, I suggest that there are other ways to respond to the seasonal changes of the natural world then by changing the hour of our invented time system so that we sleep different hours which in turn messes with our own physical rhythms.  Businesses could have different hours of operation depending on the season, many do anyway.  Start and finish times at work could be flexible so that folks could take advantage of hours on sunlight in the way that satisfies them most.

The bottom line is that DST meddles with our nature for a not-good-enough reason.  And the longer it goes on the more we come to accept it.  (Please don’t take offense to what I’m about to say, I realize that it could easily be construed as criticism, take it more as an abstraction of human behavior rather than a singling out of some people versus others).   Many people I meet don’t really get DST, they see it as a nuisance and a funny thing to get confused about twice a year.  It’s those people who worry me the most, because those are the ones who go along with ideas regardless of how well they understand them.   Their going along creates the current that carries all of us down the stream of those bad ideas.  But us sensitive ones?  Today, my theory is that we are the ones who can save us all.  We can point out the obvious flaws in meddling with time.  We can suggest alternatives.  We can remain true to what we know.  And in time, everybody will benefit because there really is a more sophisticated and graceful way to live in concert with this world of ours.  Dare I repeat on of my favorite maxims?  Simple is the ultimate sophistication.  Changing time is anything but simple.

Reading Cain, has given me strength in my sensitivity and even more courage to share my experience, because we all have sensitivities, and the more we embrace them within the context of our lives the happier and healthier we will be.  So to all the sensitive people out there who really think that daylight savings time is a bad idea, speak up!  Let’s get back on time and stop causing ourselves unnecessary perplexity!

Cleaning My Teeth Naturally

Have I mentioned that I’m finally reading this book?  I’m around one quarter in and thoroughly enjoying it.  One of the mentions that I found interesting is the reminder of Joe Pilates’s interest in all aspects of hygiene, especially the skin.  (I have a couple posts about skin care in the works).   On the topic of holistic care for the body, I’ve been getting to know a lovely lady in our area, Rupam Henry.  Rupam offers our community a beautiful selection of herbal supports for optimal health.  Given Rupam’s professional experience in dentistry she has become a great support for locals who are interested in caring for their teeth and gums in the most natural, and appropriate way.  I’m eager to share what I’ve learned on the topic of teeth from Rupam and I look forward to learning more.

As has been the case for me with the use of natural products, the more I learn, the more zealous I become.  I’ve come to think that there is something particularly enriching about using naturally based products that truly honor and support the healthy function of our bodies because I’ve noticed that the more I know, the more pleasing the experience is.  In the case of brushing my teeth, the more I know, the more enthusiastic I am at every instance of brushing.  It seems a little funny to me that using Rupam’s tooth soap and learning from her has made me such a tooth brushing fanatic, but it’s true.

Let me try and sum it up.  Tooth soap supports our dental health by supporting the naturally occurring enamel that coats our teeth.  That’s great.  But there are a few things to bear in mind when switching from any other product (which by the way, seriously hinders, rather than supports, the naturally occurring cycles that support a healthy functioning mouth).

Apart from the ingredients that holistic folks consider to be harmful to our health, toothpaste consistently has two ingredients that are cause for concern:  abrasive material that breaks down our enamel, and some sort of wax-like material that gives us a false sense of our teeth being smooth and clean (this business of wax will come to bear when I discuss skin care as well, stay tuned).  Rupam’s tooth soap is completely free of abrasives which spares us the loss of our essential enamel.  Even though it goes with out mentioning, I’ll state the somewhat obvious, that tooth soap is full of ingredients that support our natural enamel.  Not only does using tooth soap arrest the enamel destruction that everybody using regular toothpaste (yes, even Tom’s of Maine) is unwittingly causing with each brushing instance; it actually supports healthy enamel, gums, and everything else important to a healthy mouth.

I think of regular tooth paste as a cheat.  Most products give us a quick and dirty, albeit false, experience of clean teeth.  When using tooth soap, one really needs to brush for a good long while, at least 5 seconds per tooth is Rupam’s recommendation if my memory serves me well.  This also means that we need to take extra-special care to keep our pearly whites.  Staining is something that can occur for many people.  While it’s unsightly to those of us who are rapidly becoming accustomed the the absurdly white teeth that are chemically bleached, it is not an indication of how clean our teeth are.  Depending on many factors, some of us are more prone to having stains on our teeth than others (smoking, coffee and tea, and ph level, all factor into the equation).  The important thing that I learned from Rupam is that there is a way to get rid of the stains that does not sacrifice our overall dental health.  Rupam recommends both baking soda on a cotton swab (once a week at most) and activated charcoal (beginning with an intensive course until the stains are gone and then weekly for maintenance).

Now, a word about plaque and brushing.  Plaque is sticky stuff.  Rupam likens it to olive oil on a porcelain plate.  Anybody who washes dishes regularly knows that the oil will come off with soap (no bon ami needed), but that it will take a little while.  The same is true when it comes to getting the plaque off our teeth.  When I brush my teeth for a good long while, yes I’ve become rather obsessive in that I’m probably well beyond the recommended two minutes by now, my teeth feel smooth and clean.  And while I would enjoy the same sensation were I to still be brushing my teeth with regular tooth paste, what I’d really be feeling would be a waxy coating that does more harm than good.  Just the thought of that is upsetting now that I know what I do!

I think that’s all I’ve got for now on the subject of dental hygiene.  I’ve got a feeling that I really ought to be using Rupam’s strawberry flavor on my boy’s teeth, up till now we’ve simply been using water.  And I really must increase my flossing from once or twice weekly to daily.  (Can you believe that I just admitted that in a public place?  Oh dear!).  There’s always some improvement to be made, but it is comforting to know that I’m on a healthy track.

Rupam has more information on this topic on her site along with dentists who offer holistic dental care.