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.

My Pilates Lessons:

Be gentle.  Be kind.  Be forgiving.  Stay humble.  In every moment.  Toward each and every thing, living and not.  For every thought, every action, every word is reflected back into yourself.

This is what I’ve learned in the past few days, in three different ways.  First, in the most personal way, for my own body and the thoughts that I keep secret (mostly even from myself).  Secondly, in my work with a dear client.  And thirdly, from my current birds eye view of the broader Pilates community in which I used to be much more participatory.

I am blessed with getting to know Rupam Henry.  She brings a powerful blend of knowledge and spiritual intuition to her work with plants and our bodies.  She shared a mantra with me in relation to supporting my breasts which has had a powerful impact in just three days of practice.  Mostly because I realized how unkind, harsh, and unforgiving I’ve been with my body.  Directing words of apology, love, and gratitude toward my body has given me the opportunity to face all that internalized negativity and replace it with loving support.  I have read similar recommendations in the past (mostly in Louise Hay’s writings), but hearing the words in person really brought the message home to me and I was in a receptive place to try it out.  So often I’ve found this to be the case, that I come across plenty of information that sounds compelling and yet I do not take the step to implement it in my own life.  Until I have an experience.  Today I’m feeling particularly grateful for such experiences, they really have made the difference in my life time and again.

Last week, something came up for a dear client of mine.  I’ve been noticing a way in which she engages her muscles which indicates to me inhibition and tension rather than coordination and optimal function.  So for quite a while I’ve been attempting to help her change that pattern.  But my attempts were in vain.  But last week I said something that sounded an alarm for her because I pointed out that perhaps there was an emotional component to what was happening physically, and so she dug into what was happening with two other practitioners who also offer her support.  I had the opportunity to hear from one of those practitioners and while there was a lot of information shared, what I came away with was be gentle and be kind.  An excellent reminder.  Our bodies are so sensitive, they contain so much.  And we are blind to most of it.  It really is best to approach our bodies with gentleness and kindness.  As a teacher I am always trying to facilitate this.  But sometimes my message gets lost in translation.  Yesterday when my client and I reviewed what had happened over the week, I began to see that I had been unwittingly leading her toward a very different experience than the one I intended for her to have.  Clearly, I hadn’t realized this.  And neither had she until I made the observation about the possibility of an emotional component to what was happening.  I spent some time feeling badly for having contributed to her frustrating experiences by continuing down a path that wasn’t working for her.  But then I remembered to be kind, gentle, and forgiving to myself.  And furthermore, I realized that even though some frustrations were faced head on, a resolution was the final destination.  The two other practitioners helped tremendously, my client found some more information online that helped her to do what I’d been trying in vain to get her to do.  All was well.  I have some new information to learn since my client passed on the resources that had been so helpful to her, and I have yet more gratitude for the support of those two practitioners, since in helping my client they also helped me.

The interpersonal dynamics within the Pilates community seem to be in a state of dramatic expression right now.  While all I know of this is what I read in perhaps a string of 10 comments at a time on an online forum (I believe that the thread I was reading had several hundred – ugh), it is upsetting nonetheless.  I am reminded of past arguments which have reached the status of legend, and of the few to which I’ve had more immediate exposure.  Perhaps, it makes sense to point out that everybody exposed to these heated and dramatic interactions is affected.  I have often wished that the people who participated would have considered this simple truth.  Because whatever upset they felt compelled to express harshly has left it mark.  And I wonder what the ultimate gain in the original expression was.  Was it simply to vent some emotion?  If so, I’d like to suggest that perhaps that’s better done in a more contained arena.  Was it meant to make an important philosophical point?  If so, I’d recommend more editing and consultation in the ways political discourse, as there are savvy ways to convey seemingly indigestible pieces of truth.  But I digress, as it is so easy to do when sensitivities have been inflamed.  My main point is this:  be gentle, be kind, be forgiving, stay humble.  From that place I think that we will all find a way of doing the work that clearly means so much to us.  And from building real bonds of collegiality which will only strengthen our resolve to do the work that we love.  I think also, that if we bear those four tips in mind we’ll also come to an even more important and life-altering realization:  that the only one hurting us is us.  I believe that it was Byron Katie who really gave me the framework for understanding this essential truth to the workings of our minds:  that our thoughts, rather than the circumstances of the external world, are what do us in.

It’s been up on the shelf above my computer for a couple years at least, because it’s a notion that merits frequent consideration given how easy I make it for my mind to run a muck:  If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.  – Marcus Aurelius

I wish each person who reads this blessings for a beautiful day and a beautiful life.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month…

I’d like to share some things that I’ve done over the years to keep my breasts healthy.  It was my acupuncturist who first suggested breast massage to me.  He gave me links to two online sources which proved very helpful.  Here’s the first one.   And here’s the second one.  Back then regular massage alleviated the soreness that I experienced in conjunction with my menstrual cycle.

When I became pregnant I experienced what felt like extreme breast soreness.  I was not in any way inclined to touch my breasts during that time.  But when I did manage to grin and bear the initial discomfort of contact, the massage proved helpful once again.  Unfortunately for me, I was so exhausted and nauseated that I didn’t have the fortitude to do the massage regularly enough to experience complete relief.  But somehow I was glad to know that the possibility existed.

Once our bundle of joy joined us and I recovered from the early pain of breastfeeding (curse-worthy for at least a couple weeks), I was still indisposed to massage my breasts regularly.  Eventually, I found Lady Nada’s Breast Oil  and boy was I happy!  A quick nightly application yielded the same results as breast massage in far less time.

Someday when I’m not caring for a little one, I’ll go back to regular breast massages and I’ll use Rupam’s oil for a double benefit.  I’ll leave the cancer prevention portion of this topic to the experts (links above), but I do feel compelled to note what I consider to be the most significant benefits of breast massage (aside from the possibility of avoiding death).  Regular massage and application of Lady Nada’s Breast Oil both improve the shape and feel of my breasts by supporting the tissues of which they are composed.  Additionally, another of my acupuncturists recently explained to me that our liver channel runs through our breasts.  Since the liver influences our hormonal levels, regular breast massage also has a balancing effect on our hormones.  For anybody who has ever felt the effects of hormonal imbalance, I’m pretty confident that the simple act of regularly massaging one’s breasts would be a fair trade for avoiding such unpleasantness.

So here’s to healthy breasts and celebrating the simple things we can do to keep them healthy for a life time!

The Breath That Binds Us

I’ve been meaning to write a reflection of my gratitude upon meeting Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen last month, but only now am I completing the task.  She generously offered a workshop in support of an inspiring community project a little north of where I live in El Cerrito.  I should have known that a  luminary such as Bonnie would be associated with The Fountain Project but it wasn’t until I arrived at the Wen Wu School that it dawned on me that after thirteen years I was once again in the arena of Chinese martial arts and movement training.  The most enduring reason for my moving to California upon graduating from College was to study with a woman who I found entirely inspiring.  I loved my nearly two years of t’ai chi chuan study with her.  It was my version of church.  But my professional aspirations led me in other directions and I’ve always promised myself that I’d return to the movement study of the I ching.  (I’ve reasoned that it’s the sort of physical practice that lends itself to the aging body and so it seems okay to let that study rest for now while I occupy myself with back-bends and headstands.)  For all that and more, I was immediately contented to have arrived at the threshold of Body Mind Centering.

In what I hope to be the first of many workshops that I took with Bonnie, she gave us the story of our breath which stayed with me and deepened with time.  Bonnie strikes me as someone who has an extensive knowledge of the scientific understanding of our bodies.  She applies that knowledge to her experience.  She has a gentleness with which she seems to approach all endeavors.  She manages to humanize science for the very practical purpose of enhancing our physical experience.  Her work ends up being a beautiful and perfect blend of knowledge and experience, body and mind.  Working with her solidified an idea for me:  where body and mind line up, spirit is present.

What Bonnie said about the breath had to do with how it enters our body and is dispersed throughout our cells, and then how it exits our body.  She was making a point, if I remember correctly, about the flow that defines life.  How trees produce oxygen which flows in to our bodies, how we distribute it and make use of it internally, and how carbon dioxide flows out of our bodies to serve the trees.  The cycle is completed, not derailed, by us.  We are part of the cycle.  She made the point that while we think of the trees as providing something useful to us, we don’t think of us as providing something useful to the trees.  This seemed important to me because our minds, and our social nature tend to hold us separate from the natural world.  Given our inextricable participation in the natural world, this illusion of separateness is problematic.

But it was during a bought of insomnia that it occurred to me that this important connection is in every breath that we take.  It just proves how fundamental our connection to our world is, so much that we take it for granted.  Every breath that we take, links us to our very natural place in this very natural world.  It is nothing more than our minds that hold us separate from this reality.

While I often entertain ideas of spending more time in nature, following the pastoral dream, or any number of earthy fantasies, I have always led an urban existence.  And while we may someday retreat to a more rural setting, I must confess that I really am a city mouse at heart.  That’s why my nocturnal revelation was so important to me.  Like Bonnie’s class it wiped away so much of my self-criticism.  Where ever I am, I am part of nature, I cannot change that.  I can ignore it, or deny it, but those are purely mental exercises.  The reality remains the same, I am part of the natural world, within and without.  Even if I live in a concrete jungle.

We spent the majority of our three hours together exploring our lungs.  This was an initiation into my nocturnal revelation that followed a week or so later, because just sensing my lungs in action was tremendously healing for me.  Completely unintentionally and in spite of so much effort to the contrary, I’ve managed to implant a lot of negative ideas about my body in my habitual thought patterns.  It probably has to do with the persistent pain and discomfort that I’ve experienced for nearly twenty three years.  Or maybe it has to do with being a Pilates instructor.  As much as I love Pilates, and as much as I endeavor to act from a place apart from right and wrong;  Pilates has a definite form.   And that form is the key to unlocking so much of what the system has to offer.  Or maybe it just has to do with being human.  We can be a rather negative lot.  Somehow, feeling my body move just as it does felt so good and reassuring to me.

This new sense of awareness of my lungs and my heart has opened up a new avenue of exploration.  In the coming months I’m eager to look into the deeper layers of my body.  I have the idea that Pilates provides an excellent platform for such investigations and I’m looking forward to seeing how my Pilates practice permeates through all the layers of my body.  For now though, I’m so grateful to have met Bonnie and to have experienced a little bit of her work.  It was at once a salve and an initiation.

My Pilates Droop

Last week was overwhelmingly busy time for this body sleuth!   Here are the highlights that are relevant to My Pilates Body Boost.

On Wednesday…I must have discussed my somewhat frequent bouts with spasms of my trapezius muscle.  Well, along with continuing to address my tailbone area, my upper left back has been clamoring for attention lately at my chiropractic and body work sessions.  My chiropractor mentioned my trapezius a while back but it was my body worker who mentioned Eric Franklin’s (by way of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, who totally rocked my world last weekend – I’ve got a post on that coming) description of the muscle currents that got me enjoying my trapezius in a refreshing new way.  I’ve had the book for years, but I’m giving it a bit more attention now.  Basically I’ve been envisioning my lower trapezius like the base of a podium, my middle trapezius like the tray, and my upper trapezius like some lovely sculpture resting upon the tray.  It’s doing wonders for my posture, achy muscles, and integration of what I learned from Bonnie.

On Thursday…During my workout on the wunda chair, I fell off!  I was doing the teaser while worrying about how exactly I’d navigate sustaining my career while having a second child (I should have learned from my first pregnancy that there is no point in trying to plan certain life circumstances around having a baby, we figure it out a long the way and we are nearly a year away from feeling ready for an addition to our family anyway).  Clearly I was not focused on my Pilates, darn it all.  But I was pretty relaxed.  I watched calmly as my hands missed the pedal and as my reflection in the mirror went out of view and I fell back in what felt like slow motion.  Little by little it seemed, I made it to the floor.  I skinned my spine on the pedal.  As my heart was beating, I decided that it was best to lay and recover while focussing on the place where I touched down.  I reckon that I’ll have a pretty good bruise and I wonder how long it will take for the skin to repair since I think of bony spots as receiving less in the way of restorative blood circulation.  After a couple minutes I surprised myself by finishing my workout.  It would seem that I have successfully established a Pilates habit and for that I’m pleased.  And as far as falling, well I suppose that the more years under my belt the greater my chance of falling would be.  I’m hoping that just once is enough to teach me the important lesson of being mindful while exercising.

On Friday…A case of mastitis took me down.  Mastitis is a curious thing to me.  Despite my growing awareness and treatment arsenal, I was caught off guard yet again.  In this case, I felt a tremendous soreness in my breast, but no hard areas and so I figured that something else was going on.  But by the end of the day it was clear what was happening.  My Chinese herbs, soy lecithin, steamed cabbage leaf compress, warm washcloth compresses before vigorous pumping sessions, and nine hours of rest, all contributed to a fairly swift recovery.  Which is to say that I managed to keep my studio appointments over the weekend but still needed to take extra care.  Husband and boy also needed an extra mellow weekend of recovery so much of the usual was scrapped and we just made do.

On Monday…I finished up an ongoing project for my studio which is a tremendous relief.  Only today can I get back to whatever semblance of routine I manage to maintain.  So this post is finally going up.  I’ll get a workout, and generally feel like myself again.  What a relief!

What with all these happenings, and with my reading of Quiet (finally) I’ve been having some interesting reflections.  I tend to think that our response to challenges say a lot about us.  But in order to respond, we have to know what is actually happening.  It’s probably somewhat obvious to frequent readers that I am a sensitive sort of human, prone to really thinking things through.  I’m realizing that in order to support my temperament I require a certain amount of quiet reflective time.  When I don’t have that time it’s all to easy for me to miss internal signals because I’m in a state of overwhelm.  This past week was full of such instances and the ensuing consequences.  So it would seem that I can only take so much boost before I run the risk of being a droop.  It’s partly why Pilates is so good for me because it is a moderate and meditative system of exercise.  But it’s also why I have to be careful to keep my ambitions in check.  The danger of my very active mind is that I suffer from over-inspiration.  Good to remember and another reminder of why it is so very helpful for me to have this space.  Not every idea requires action.  Some are best put into words on the screen to take shape in other sorts of ways.

“What is Most Personal is Most Universal”

In reading this book at the lake, I was struck by one jazz great’s mention of Carl Roger’s eternal truths:  “what is most personal is most universal.”  The more I sat with the notion, the more it dawned on me that this idea is what drives me to write.

While I certainly see that what is closest to our hearts, we tend to have in common with others, I also see that with mental trickery, we tend to deny ourselves that which is most personal.  Giving voice through writing seems like a sensible countermove to that tendency of ours.  Why do we deny ourselves?  Is it our over appreciation of extroversion?  Is it our collective lack of intimacy?  Is it just where we are in our collective evolution, that we need to feel the lack of relationship to self in order that we realize just how essential it is to living a fulfilled life?  Or something else?  Or a combination of it all?  It doesn’t really matter, but my mind likes to come up with reasonable explanations for things.  In that exercise I gain insights into our human ways because I choose to delve under the surface to sort through an idea and link it to something in the material world.  The exercise itself is enough.  The arrival at any sense of right or wrong is not the point.  To share thoughts, to spark insights in others, that is the point.

Even more than my musings on my experience of living, I feel that my writing about my physical experiences answer the call to acknowledge the very personal because it is the most universal aspect of all:  our bodies, ourselves.  And yet such explorations are not particularly common.  Our bodies are our medium of influence and yet we take them for granted.  At least on a collective level.  So much of how we share our bodies on the social level is unappealing to me.  I’m interested in substance rather than form.  And on the social level, it seems that form is all that matters.  To give voice to the inner workings of our bodies intrigues me.  It is how I have always shared Pilates.

Every person brings their unique human experience to bear with practicing or teaching Pilates.  I chose to name this online space The Body Sleuth because I’ve come to realize that so much of how I approach Pilates has to do with body sleuthing.  I’m always curious what is happening on an internal level and why.  And as teacher I love to facilitate my client’s own internal explorations.  I used to say that Pilates was more entertaining than television because I used to teach classes after work and I figured that if folks weren’t there with me, they’d likely be on the couch.  “Don’t go home and passively meditate in front of a glowing screen, come and discover what is happening in your body, live and in person!”  Seems like a good slogan to me.

What I share here is always meant to expand out in the world beyond my own personal mental happenings.  In that way I don’t have control over it.  In spite of my limited sphere of influence, I do have a vision.  I imagine a world in which we are each more fully ourselves.  And I imagine that our relationships to our bodies and ourselves are largely supported by physical practices such as Pilates.  Toward that end I continue on with my part, sharing what I know about Pilates and the connections I see in living day to day.

It’s good to remind ourselves why we do what we do.  Especially on hard days when we question our resolve.  Thanks for reading.

Pilates and My Never-Ending Tailbone Injury

Have I mentioned lately that I injured my tailbone when I was fourteen?  I did.  That was nearly twenty three years ago.  And still, I remember.  Every day.  I have been cultivating a sense of my tail, sacrum, and pelvic bones since I was in my early twenties.  And yet I continue to make discoveries.  I’ve already explained the name of this blog, but it bears repeating because it really is the driving passion behind my life’s work.

As I’ve uncovered yet another layer of my tailbone story I am thinking about why body sleuthing has been so important to me.  If you look at me you will not have the idea that I am suffering from an injury.  I’ve got fairly good posture, I look like I’m in fairly good physical condition, etc.  But I am almost constantly experiencing some amount of pain.  My work in Pilates did not come easily.  When I was an apprentice I was usually a complete wreck by the time I arrived for training (leaving home and business, travel – all those stresses had their impact on my body).  Which is to say that some people do know that I am a “delicate flower”.  But even those people don’t really know the root of the condition.  It is my tail, my literal, physical, emotional, root.  I have enlisted the help of some of the most esteemed teachers on the planet.  And none of them addressed my tail.  I’m not criticizing when I say this, rather I’m making a point.  It is a sort of secret place to have an injury.  Which means that the only way it’s ever going to get acknowledged and addressed is by yours truly.  To me this seems like a great way to ensure that I would someday become a body sleuth.

My tail may be in a private place, but as an injury site, it is pretty darn influential.  Knowing this now, remembering how nonchalant the doctors that I saw were about what happened (just in case you didn’t click over the first time, here you go again) and knowing that I am certainly not the only person to bump her bottom, I feel even more compelled to share my process of living with this injury.  A lot of us are living with unnecessary tension in our bodies.  The precise design of the pattern is unique to each of us, but the story arc is fairly consistent:  injury happens, complete recovery nearly never does.  As Joseph Pilates pointed out back in the mid-twentieth century, we have come to accept poor health as normal.  Given that I’m following Uncle Joe’s advice even more than usual these days, I’ve come back to my base and realized that only way I’m ever going to be pain free is to really address the injury at my tailbone.  Until there is nothing more to be done.  With the help of my body worker, holistic biomechanics, and my chiropractor, I have been making excellent progress.

There are a few aspects to my injury that bear mentioning for the sake of saving others the grief that I have experienced and to serve as another way of illustrating how our bodies work.  As I’ve mentioned before, I took a really cool posture workshop a while back and I’ve been ruminating ever since.  It finally occurred to me that the tension around my tail is inhibiting my body from demonstrating the ideal position of the sacrum with respect to my lumbar spine.  I don’t want to get too technical.  But the point is important:  the tension at the base of spine is exerting pressure all the way up my spine.  That in and of itself is important.  Case in point, in our session yesterday my body worker uncovered and helped my body to unwind a definite tension pattern in the dura that surrounds my spinal cord.

Back to being a Pilates instructor, because we’re all about flexible spines.  Naturally my teachers have all been addressing my spine.  But they’ve been looking higher up where there seems to be an over exaggerated curve (my body correcting for the inability to curve in the lower more appropriate place).  In my obedient diligence so have I.  Which has been great.  As a result of our work, I have a fairly functional spine in spite of it being loaded with tension.  The importance of movement is unquestionable.  But all that moving and fussing around also added more tension to an already loaded system.  Now in addition to a wacky tailbone, I also have a disc or two that periodically goes all haywire (crazy, unpleasant muscle spasms that last for days – and I am a careful exerciser).  I believe that if I had completely addressed my tailbone injury long ago, I would have avoided this other problem.  We’ll never know for sure.

My point is, that when injuries happen, it makes the best sense to really address them.  Often times we can have loss of sense around an injury site due to nerve damage and scar tissue.  So it really is beneficial to get help in sensing and sleuthing to be sure that optimal recovery is achieved.  And, of course, sometimes there is a degree of damage that can not be repaired.  But the number of people out there who can truly help a body recover it’s natural ability and functionality is growing all the time.  Yes I’m talking about “alternative” practitioners, the ones who work with the health of the body, not the disease of the body.  If you are experiencing pain, you can find somebody to help you.  You may very well be able to eliminate all, or a good portion, of that pain.  That is good news worth spreading!

A couple weeks back I was sensing my tail in a Holistic Biomechanics class I was instructed to go and find it.  I couldn’t!  This really freaked me out.  Luckily my chiropractor and body worker helped me to locate my wayward tail tucked up under my sacrum (how pitiful).  Since then I’ve been experiencing the aftermath of my tail falling more into place.  My entire body is unwinding (and sometimes seizing up before finally just letting go).  I will continue to do this work.  The process is only just beginning.

Our bodies are layered.  While a person may not have an injury in such a private place as the pelvic floor, there are layers to injuries.  To really address each and every layer, we have to do some sleuthing and we have to be aware of our bodies.  May practitioners from a wide variety of disciplines are trained to tune into different layers.  Some have a touch for bones, some for muscles, some for fascia, etc.  But we are the only ones inside our bodies.  If we use a method such as Holistic Biomechanics to cultivate an awareness of our inner workings, we will enable the most fundamental layer of self-healing and self-correction with which our bodies are equipped.  This is the good stuff, I’m telling you!  It makes every experience you have with your body that much richer and interesting.

Here’s to body sleuthing and demystifying our bodies for living with normal health – as JHP defined it, of course.

Bidding Farewell to the The Not So Hidden Pounds

So…since my last post about my post-ween diet life just kept on going. And here’s how it went. I kept packing on the pounds! Despite upping my exercise. Despite being more careful about what I eat. The last time I put my “last stand” pants on I could barely button them, the pockets were flaring the way pockets do on tight pants (oh boy). I had an appointment with my acupuncturist and shared my post ween diet plan with her. She gave me some TCM perspective on the project. And we had dinner with friends, one of whom is also an acupuncturist. She added her two cents. Which gave me the sense that I’m on the right track. This, together with the simple fact that I no longer have any clothes that fit, I took as an indication: that the time to start is now (or rather, last Sunday when I did indeed begin).


A few years ago my body did a similar thing to what it has been doing in the past couple months. For no apparent reason, I began rapidly gaining weight. Because I hadn’t changed anything about my food intake or my exercise regimen, it was fairly clear to me that there was some other sort of something going on in my body. Through my work with my acupuncturist and ground level investigations (talking with friends and clients), I began to realize that for some reason my hormones, were directing my body to hold onto fat. This seemed like a bad idea to me then. And I feel the same way now.


Way back then, the key to my body shedding the pounds turned out to be treating my spleen. Now, the truth is that it may very well be more complicated than that (of course). I underwent regular acupuncture treatments and herbal regimens for upwards of a year before receiving the body altering treatment. One acupuncturist performed the many regular treatments, and another performed the fat dropping one. I know that the regular treatments helped me in lots of ways. But it wasn’t until I switched acupuncturists that I had the wow!-my-pants-finally-fit-again result. And, it is impossible to know if the wow! result was not only based on the single treatment, but also all the ones leading up to that point. This is what body sleuthing is all about, you know? Trying to sort all these things out.


This time around, I’m starting with my spleen. Might as well. It turns out that by cutting out gluten, sugar (mostly), and dairy, I’m giving my spleen a break from moisture, phlegm, and mucous. While pregnancy is a naturally moist period for the body, it can be difficult for some bodies to “dry out” afterwards. This is the information that I learned from my TCM sources. Hopefully, I’m correctly transmitting the information.


Now, the kidneys and the liver are often wrapped up with the spleen. I don’t know why. I just know that, when I receive treatments (TCM and visceral manipulation) these gals are usually part of the conversation. I decided to sit with heat on my kidneys every evening while my husband and I enjoy our installation of this fun show. That is generally soothing, which I figure is good for my adrenals if nothing else. I also notice that it helps me to empty a lot of fluid by way of my bladder. Which gives me the sense that the kidneys are kicked into gear. And what’s more, I’m able to sleep through the night without having to get up to pee. Always a good indicator of things going well with the kidneys. For my liver, I’m drinking lemon juice more regularly. And I am taking an herbal remedy from my acupuncturist which she tells me supports my spleen and liver.


Aside from my dietary changes, I also take this syrup, drink beet kvass and kombucha from here, pop a couple of these each day, and take my vitamins since my boy is still making teeth and using my milk for the project. All these bits, help to keep my blood in good standing, my gut humming along, my immune system ready for anything, and my brain well supported.


I am loving this cookbook since so many of the recipes are gluten free, it’s a perfect new addition to my collection. (And it helps me remember my days of leisure on the magical island of Cuba. Perfect for somebody who hasn’t been on a beach in way too long).


The late addition to my plan has been tending to my thyroid. Jojo pointed out that perhaps my thyroid is the wizard behind all this weight gain. Given my current lack of time and funds. I decided to have a look online to see what I could figure out right in the comfort of my own home about my thyroid. I read two articles that I found helpful. (This one and this one.) And after further investigation, I chose to resume my daily consumption of these. It turns out that a lot of the other things that I’m already doing are working toward the same end of supporting my healthy thyroid.


Over the past few days I’ve noticed a few things that may or may not be connected to all these changes I’ve made. I have often had a low grade headache which feels like the result of neck tension. I’ve got aches in other parts of my body too. I have also had several bouts of what I can describe no other way than ickiness of my stomach area. And I’ve been frequently quite tired and short of patience. I’d venture to say that my body is having a bit of a healing crisis now that I’ve removed some elements of distraction from the system. And I’m hoping that all these changes I have made will have me feeling better, and slimming down soon. Time will tell. The good news is that I haven’t done anything irreversible or incredibly dramatic to alter my system. Generally, I try to avoid such measures as there can be all sorts of reactions to such changes.


Lighter Days Ahead

Perhaps it was the emotional stress of the past few months, or a hormonal shift which I am quite sure occurred (I am nursing my little guy till his second birthday but my body’s reproductive rhythms are back in full swing, I see this as a mixed message which most certainly must have some hormonal wackiness involved), or just the cumulative result of chocolate and pastry indulgences…but there is no arguing with the little digital display on our bathroom scale. For the past month, every time I stand on that thing, I brace myself. Because every time, the number is higher. Oh drag!

As far as I can tell, there is not much to be done about this in the next few months. I’m in the midst of a big professional project which will be unveiled as soon as we get it together (yep, that’s right, more squeezing of productive moments into our already-maxed-out-lives). And I have a little pet theory that getting too obsessive about diets when lactating has an adverse effect on milk production. I have come to accept the notion that the lactating-mama-body keeps a little extra on hand for emergencies.

I do plan to up my vegetable intake, and increase my calorie-burning activities. But I am also hatching a plan for the months following my baby’s transition to little boy (read: stops nursing). It dawned on me last week, that the keys to making my plan a success are getting really enthusiastic about it, and a big part of that is making plans in advance so that over the next few months my eyes are continually trained on the prize of weight loss and giving my body a chance to revel in itself apart from anybody else.

Here’s the simple plan: in the months of July and August, I will not consume any products with cow’s milk (best to get those milk hormones out of my system, even if they are a cow’s, heaven knows that I don’t need any more baby fat), sugar (excluding chocolate, and honey is permitted – I have quite the sweet tooth and I’ll probably be going through oxytocin and prolactin withdrawals), nor wheat (just because it seems like a nice way to give my digestion a break). It bears mentioning that, I don’t really consume alcohol with the exception of my daily kombucha. If I were a drinker, I’d cut that out too.

And my plan for sticking with my plan is to gather quite an arsenal of recipes so that I am never without ideas of tasty things to eat. July and August are ideal months to do something like this anyway on account of the farmers’ market abundance, but getting excited about what I’m going to prepare via recipes will seal the deal. The recipes will serve as my jump boards. The produce and the actual preparation will feed my creativity.

And, with any luck…all these plans will get me fitting back into the majority of my wardrobe (did I mention that I have exactly on pair of pants that fits me right now?!)

I started a pintrest board to keep track of all my recipes. Someday I’ll figure out how to display a little “follow me” sort of button. And on that topic, I also started a twitter account for keeping track of those quick ah ha moments that I have now and again without weaving them into a whole post. So, I’ll probably get a button for that too. Someday… For now my flubbits and I are headed back to work.

Following my gut back home

While I do not have a direct line to the spirit world as some people on the planet do, I have it on pretty good authority that one of my big life lessons has to do with trusting my intuition and allowing myself to be guided by my own inner voice. My pregnancy offered me a wealth of opportunities to practice that very important life skill and now that I’m 15+ months into motherhood, I am miles ahead of where I was two years ago.

Yesterday I was on my chiropractor’s table with yet another spasm of my diaphragm and a seriously hard wad of visceral fascia causing me much consternation. As I’ve finally begun to realize that this is much more commonplace since giving birth I mentioned it to her and she confirmed that indeed what I’m experiencing falls within the range of “reasonable to expect” postpartum experiences.

As I’ve already pointed out, I think that it is essential that every woman be given support in recovering from the demands of childbearing. And I’ve already shared my deep appreciation for visceral manipulation and its miraculous healing powers. But now it seems that a little more specific information is needed.

Since my baby was born, I’ve been slowly and carefully reconstituting my core. While I have all my functions back, my tummy doesn’t look the same. It seems that my abdominal muscles are not laying as flat as they used to and that the cause is the slow and steady knitting together of the two sides of my rectus abdominis muscle is not yet complete. So there’s that. But I can’t help but think that there is more going on in my gut as well. Because I have often experienced very hard and painful clumps of something in what is usually the softness of my relaxed belly. Before my pregnancy I experienced something similar and it was a very tight psoas muscle. But now the source of the tension is the visceral fascia. I have been receiving care for my core consistently throughout my pregnancy and postpartum but I still have a ways to go before all is normal. While I understand that everyone’s experience is unique, I can’t help but think that there are a lot of people who could use some deep abdominal support postpartum who do not have the awareness or opportunity to do so. Because I’ve seen plenty of mama bellies to know that there is a difference between the pre-baby and post-baby mama belly. It is my sincere hope that more people learn about what can be done to truly support new moms.

Simply put, since I am not an expert by any means, the contents of our abdominal cavity can undergo a serious shift or series of shifts in the course of childbearing. Those shifts can contribute to inflammation and inhibition of normal function. If there is inflammation, the belly will be bloated and the common situation of the still separated rectus abdominis muscle will be amplified by the underlying layers of viscera. And there is more, much much more to the story than that with enough variations to cover every person on the planet. But again, I am not an expert. Suffice it to say that with proper support and care, mamas have a very good chance of their bodies recovering completely from childbearing. A much better chance with knowledgeable support and care than without, I might add.

Another common experience for me is the manifestation of stress or worry in my gut. Which, given my current level of inflammation, is more noticeable than usual. So it seems that in a very real way these days, my gut is guiding me toward the quiet and calm place of home. The journey is slow but the destination certainly worth the effort.

Introducing…Body Sleuthing

Body Sleuthing is the log of my prevention-based self-care happenings. Were it to be historically accurate, this log would have begun back around the time I was born (and yes, I have started such a log for my babe.). But the record begins here, so from time to time there will be some historical background offered. Which I suppose is appropriate since so much of what happens today in our bodies is the result of some long forgotten occurrence. Because our bodies don’t forget, they store away for another day….

And today I am suffering from yet another all too frequent upper back lock down. Which means that I cannot move too well from my mid-back up to my head. It’s a real bummer for me. When my upper back locks up like this it’s usually a result of something I did while sleeping through the night. As the day wears on and none of my efforts to alleviate the pain have the desired result, my morale sinks lower and lower. Luckily this usually doesn’t last too long. But the question is why does it happen at all?

Which leads me to explain this category’s title. Since my teenage years I’ve experienced all sorts of soft tissue ailments. Looking back I realize that this was probably the best assurance that I would follow a healing arts (further definition follows) path. Like many people, I suffered a tailbone injury as a teenager (pretty much everybody falls on their rump sometime in their youth, right?). When it happened, my mother dutifully took me to the doctor. They told me that it was most likely broken, but that an x-ray was pointless because there was nothing to be done about a broken tailbone save sitting on a donut and taking muscle relaxants. I already knew that I wasn’t interested in drugs of any kind and so I sat on a donut and waited for the pain to go away. But then I was doing an exercise video in our living room and gave myself my first muscle spasm. Which lasted a really long time because I didn’t have anybody with any real body sense with whom to consult. I lived with successive muscle spasms until I met my first chiropractor during my senior year of college. With regular visits, I finally experienced a break in the pain that I’d be having for six-odd years and I began what I believe will be a life-long journey of self-healing and full embodiment of my life. From the first injury, I learned that western doctors had little to offer me. From my first chiropractic experience I learned that pain did not have to be a constant in my life (boy, was I relieved!) and to hope for a complete elimination of pain. Slowly, I began to realize that while I could learn a tremendous amount from the healing hands of various practitioners, I was really the one doing the work. I was the healer. Anybody who was helping me was a facilitator and a teacher. I was the one integrating all the inputs toward an optimal end: normal health (further discussion of this term follows). To sort out what was happening in my body, I realized that I had to be a sleuth. I had to take information from a wide variety of sources to gain a full and complete understanding of what I was experiencing. While I don’t think that this process is necessary for every person -clearly I’m particularly interested in my body given my line of work- I have come to realize that normal health is won only by the person who fights for it. With the many compromises that we’ve made to live our contemporary lives -consciously or by default- normal health is the result of a carefully and regularly tended body.

Normal health is a term that Joe Pilates uses in his book Return To Life. He makes the point that we ought to define normal health as the condition that is free of all ailments. His point is important because most of us are living with at least one, if not many, ailments which are not necessary and which hinder our life experience. Since these ailments are not pathological, they are not treatable with western medicine. So we have come to consider them “normal”. But they are not normal. With simple and accessible treatments we can self heal and usher in normal health.

Healing arts describes a sort of work with the human body which utilizes any number of various modalities to facilitate a person’s self healing processes. The more skilled the practitioner, the more profound and lasting the results. Given my geographical location, I have many practitioners available to support me. I am an enthusiastic receiver of visceral manipulation, cranial sacral therapy, ortho-bionomy, BGI chiropractic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and psychotherapy.

Returning to today’s question…I have been doing some sleuthing with respect to my upper back for a few years now. This sleuthing process has integrated information from a variety of practitioners and books. I demonstrate a bracing of the rib cage which I’ve come to recognize in many of my clients too. I believe that this bracing is linked to some form of breath restriction and inhibition of spinal articulation. The specifics of these factors and the order of occurrence varies from person to person. Likewise so do the deep internal pathways of tension patterns that underlie the condition. Last week in my session with my amazing body worker a connection between the liver through the umbilical ligament down to the bladder through the pelvis down my left leg became apparent to her. In our previous session, she uncovered a fascial connection between my bladder, my restricted rib cage, and my upper neck tension. While, I am suffering today, I feel confident that we are well on our way to freeing my body of the layers of tension that repeatedly pull me into this lock down state. And as I learned so many years ago, hope is the best beginning for the journey toward normal health.