Saturday, December 7, 2013

Laundry Folding Yoga

Woah! That's a lotta laundry!
"It's hard to fit it all in" is a common phrase for the busy modern individual, myself included. But I believe that is related to the fact that we treat everything in such a compartmentalized way. We go to the gym to exercise, we go to a place of worship to be "spiritual," and our work and play is often so separate that many dread Sunday afternoon because they soon have to "go back to the grind". Our healthcare system is exactly the same way. We have bucketloads of doctors and clinicians who take care of only their own domain. The otolaryngologist for the ear nose and throat, the gastro guys for the belly, the pulmonologist for the lungs and respiration. In some ways this really works, because an individual clinician becomes so expert at his one body system, and it's pretty much impossible to know everything about every system. But sometimes it does NOT work. Like when the problem to be addressed is more systemic, or when there is a lack of communication between the specialists. I advocate for a holistic approach to healthcare, where there is communication and crossover between the disciplines. And I'll also advocate for that same holistic approach to LIFE.

When the components of your life are integrated, everything fits!

Picture it. It's a day off from work. It's rainy and cold, you know you need some exercise, some meditation and mind-body connection, but you also have about a boatload of laundry to fold. Here's how I integrate yoga and breathwork into my usually mundane chore.

Laundry Folding Yoga

First, a few centering breaths. And then try to keep the breath flowing throughout your "practice"

Forward fold and Padangusthasana to prep for sock folding.

Ardha Uttanasana ("halfway lift") for sock pairing.

Standing Back Bend while folding a towel

Virabhadrasana II folding another towel.

Malasana folding napkins and dishrags
(blurry I know, but I ad to use it because Simon the turtle was photobombing! Can you spot him?)

Dancers pose to reach for a T-shirt from the basket

Pigeon Pose folding tank tops.

Finished! Savasana
How can you get creative and integrated in your life? Can you combine cooking time with social time? Chores with exercise? Bring more spirituality into your career? Leave comments below with your ideas!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

WEBINAR: Simple Ways to Incorporate Holistic Approaches Into Your SLP Practice

Led by Brenda Lovette MS CCC/SLP RYT
Owner of Healthy Expression:
Holistic Speech Pathology and Health Coachin
This Program Aired on:
Thursday, December 5, 2013 7-8pm EST

Missed it? Sign up anyway and you will receive the recording and materials packet by email.

Cost: $18

This program will give you practical and powerful techniques to move your practice in a holistic direction. 

Who is this for?

This program is designed specifically for Speech Language Pathologists, but may be interesting to clinicians and providers of all kinds

What will I get?
  • A new understanding of the benefits of holistic approaches
  • Confidence to follow your intuition to maximize your services
  • Greater state of health for your patients/clients, and for yourself!

The program includes:
  • A 50-minute course, accessible live and available to view after recording
  • Techniques and tools to use immediately
  • Reference documents including definitions of various terms and resources
  • Research articles and other publications to support your movement toward a holistic practice

Are you ready to expand the scope of your practice?

All materials will be sent to the email address connected with your paypal payment, so be sure you check it before December 5.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hash Browns Supreme!

It was a weekend morning. We wanted something fancy. But eating out is pricey and often disappointing (since we've been perfecting our culinary skills and consistently choosing high quality ingredients to use in our dishes). Pancakes wouldn't do. Oatmeal gets old. We needed something SUPREME!
- 2 sweet potatoes, diced
- 2 small onions, diced
- 10 crimini mushrooms, sliced
- half a bunch of Kale, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- oil of your choice (I use reserved bacon fat, yep you heard that right!)
- 2 tsp each of thyme and tarragon
- salt and pepper to taste

Toss sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic in oil in your favorite pan (mine was cast iron). Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are nearly tender when pierced with a fork.
Add mushrooms, kale, and spices. Toss, stir, till cooked to your liking. Serve with bacon and eggs, or all on it's own. Yum!

Aphasia on Screen: Ram Dass in Fierce Grace

"Aphasia is a loss of language, not a loss of intelligence." That is the National Aphasia Association's motto and tag line. It's an empowering nod to all the individuals who are living with this disorder of communication. Maybe it helps. But it doesn't cure all of the frustration and hard work that comes with having aphasia and surviving a stroke. I must say however, as someone who has sat across from so many individuals with aphasia and other communication issues, these "barriers" don't eliminate their ability to deliver some truly powerful and moving lessons.

Ram Dass is a famous contemporary spiritual leader who was at the height of his popularity in the 60's and 70's. He was(is) well loved by the "hippie" movement and spiritual seekers for his book Be Here Now and for helping to make Yoga and Hindu spirituality more accessible to Americans. In February 1997, Ram Dass had a left hemisphere stroke which left him with right sided weakness and expressive aphasia.

In 2001 he "starred" in a documentary which included his perspective on aging and his aphasia in addition to his life story. I watched the documentary recently and was on the edge of my seat! It was a beautiful illustration of  how Speech and Communication and Spirituality can be so interconnected (one of my favorite things to muse about).

The documentary opens with a clip of Ram Dass in 1969 speaking eloquently and esoterically about the discipline of the yogi to stay present through both physical/external and internal distractions. Then cuts to a more recent interview with him, gray haired and communicating with aphasia. From my perspective as an SLP, Ram Dass's aphasia is on the mild side (mild anomic aphasia to be exact), but his language skills are markedly different from pre-stroke, and immensely frustrating for such a high level communicator, no doubt. The movie was full of these juxtapositions: clips of Ram Dass pre-aphasia or people reading from his eloquent books and letters, followed by clips of current interviews or   speaking engagements. All equally moving and insightful.

Watching this film made me think about my own experiences talking with people with aphasia and the unconventional but effective way ideas are often shared. I have experienced that sometimes "odd" metaphors and word finding pauses, transparent facial expressions, and unspoken parts of an interaction can be even more powerful communication than fancy words and sentences.  Often these messages need little extra explanation. They stand alone. This is good news! It helps me to recognize that we can all be powerful communicators, no matter our real or perceived barriers to being fully expressed and to using our voice.

I had so many favorite moments in this film. Ram Dass working with his Speech Pathologist (of course I loved that). Ram Dass talking about wishing to be free from the aphasia, the paralysis, but also welcoming it as an "experiment of consciousness." A clip of Ram Dass ecstatically experiencing chanting and music. And Ram Dass delivering intensely moving guidance to a young woman who was seeking his counsel after a terrible tragedy in her life. He has aphasia in all of these moments, yes. But he was just as alive, loving, and powerful as ever. Beautiful.

You can watch Fierce Grace on NetFlix or on YouTube (here)

How to Respond to Overstimulation

I recently spent the weekend in NYC, attending a conference on voice therapy and visiting my Speechie Friend Erika. Erika and I met in 2008 when I completed my clinical fellowship year in Detroit and she has been a valuable friend and colleague since the get-go. It was her dream to move to New York, and she loves that city! I grew up in the distant suburbs of New York and I visited a lot in my youth, so the city has a special place in my heart too. But I haven't been back to visit in years. I was really struck by how BUSY it is there! After all, it is "the city that never sleeps"

SLPs (speech language pathologists) and other clinicians often think about how overstimulation and extra sensory information affect our patients with autism, learning differences, and brain injury. We know that it can lead to agitation or anxiety. We understand that it negatively affects new learning, performance, and accuracy. We even create goals for people to try to improve their performance in the presence of extra sensory input like background noise or distractions. But we don't always think about how typically developing or non brain injured individuals respond to these same situations and environments. 

My NYC weekend helped me become acutely aware of how I respond to them! My work with yoga and other spiritual practices has made me more aware of the energy of different people and places. And my intentional lifestyle, which includes early bedtime, lots of fresh clean food, and rest was definitely in contrast to my weekend on the go. I ate out almost every meal, I stayed up late to reconnect with my friend (and to match that notoriously night owl-y NYC clock), and I did a lot of hurrying around to arrive on time to busses, my course, social dates, etc. On monday, by the time I boarded the T at South Station for the last leg of my journey home, I was SPENT! I wouldn't have changed a thing. I had a blast and learned so much but I could tell the weekend had taken a toll. I was extremely fatigued and I felt like every nerve in my body was about to short circuit. I hobbled down my street suitcases in tow and got to work on damage control.

Here's how I took care of my body and mind after all that overstimulation:

1. I drank a tall glass of water. Not coffee. Not juice. Just water, to hydrate and start my intentional mini-cleanse. 
2. I played some soothing music. My favorite is the Putumayo "Yoga" album. 
3. I ate a home cooked meal. Luckily my partner had cooked the day before and there were delicious leftovers for the win!
4. I took a cool shower, with lavender essential oils sprinkled in the tub at my feet for calming.
5. I dried off and applied a soothing face mask. 
6. I finished off with the neti pot to clean out germs that had hitched a ride on my travels. 
7. The rest of the evening was all about resting and connecting. No work, no electronics. I needed to hit the reset button to be ready for the next day!

Post your comments below! What are some ways you have found to reset after being overstimulated?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cherry Chocolate Yogurt Pops

I can't take credit for this idea but I've been scouring the web and I can't find the website/blog where I got the inspiration. If you're out there Cherry Garcia Pop Maker, I want to say "Sorry I can't link to you and THANK YOU for the amazing idea!"
This is a delicious snack, dessert, or even breakfast food. I love the tart flavor, sweetened only by the fruit. Next I think I'll try peaches, or blueberry/strawberry/banana!

A popsicle mold, purchase at most kitchen supply stores. It's a seasonal item so go scoop one up before the summer is over!
8oz of Greek Yogurt. I used 2%
1 cup of sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
A palmful of semisweet chocolate chips, chopped
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together and spoon into your mold. Freeze for a few hours. Run hot water over the outside of the mold to loosen the pops and slide 'em out. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rest and Tune In

stop and smell the roses, look at the clouds, take a breath
This weekend at the rehab hospital, I worked with a man who had had a stroke about two weeks prior. He was a high energy entrepreneur, very active. He was in his 50's (unfortunately I have been seeing many people under 60 having strokes these days) and raring to go. I watched in shock as he answered work calls from his hospital bed during our treatment session. I listened as he expressed his concern about missing work meetings that day. He was clearly frustrated about how this medical event was slowing him down and it seemed that he hoped the whole thing would just be over soon so he could get back to business. I gave him the usual talk, his job right now is focus on getting stronger, and that will give him the best shot at a full recovery.

Later that day I taught part of a yoga class with some other graduates from my yoga teacher training. After leading the class through a series of powerful standing poses I instructed them to rest on their bellies. I watched as they huffed to catch their breaths and I told them the story of the workaholic stroke survivor I met that day. I gave them permission to rest and listen to my words and to their own bodies. I encouraged them (and myself), when given the rare opportunity to rest: Take it! And maybe even give ourselves permission to take rests when it's not encouraged and provided, just because we need it.

We all might benefit from slowing down and taking time to rest. We might hear a lot if we quiet down and listen to ourselves and the messages our body and spirit are sending us. We often don't take time to rest and rejuvenate until it's too late, until we are sick or can't muster the energy for anything at all. I've heard it said like this: When you are supposed to hear a message, first the universe sends you a letter, then it sends you a package, then you get hit by a bus.

Oprah has a similar more eloquent way of putting it:

"I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like 'hmm, that's odd.' Or, 'hmm, that doesn't make any sense.' Or, 'hmm, is that right?' It's that subtle. And if you don't pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it's like getting thumped upside the head. If you don't pay attention to that, it's like getting a brick upside your head. You don't pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people's lives. And so, I ask people, 'What are the whispers? What's whispering to you now?'" — Oprah

Where can you listen to the whispers? What do you know you need to do "before it's too late" that you are not doing? When can you give yourself the permission to rest and tune in? Can you find a way to build this in to your everyday life?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How I Found My Voice

This blog post came to me as I was listening to the drone of voice menus, staticky hold music, and voice ad banners as I waited (not so patiently) for a bank representative from the 800 number. A relatively mundane task for most, but a task that is not to be taken for granted by many, including many young people and people with aphasia. Although I have never had aphasia myself, I have worked with dozens who have, and language heavy activities like this can be challenging! On the other hand I have been a young person and I remember many tense moments in my adolescence, coached by my encouraging (and sometimes tough) father as I gained my confidence with making "adult" phone calls. Something about this task always vexed me. I was fiercely independent but I had such anxiety around making these calls, getting on the line and using my voice. Something about the pressure of "doing it right" or "being taken seriously" or "being effective." This was pressure I put on myself, and I can see this clearly now in hindsight all these years later. This memory flashed over me as I listened to the voice actor inviting me to "clearly state the reason for my call" and "type in my 16 digit card number." (Grr, can't I just talk to a person?!)

Back then it took practice, encouragement, and time to get over the hump and "Find My Voice" in order to make those calls. Now I have no trouble speaking to reps and even firmly demanding refund of misassigned service charges etc when the occasions arise. But I am still working on Finding My Voice in other areas of my life. In many other areas. One of these areas recently surfaced as I completed this chapter of my Yoga Journey and earned my RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) Training.

Yoga can happen anywhere! Even in the middle of a babbling brook.
There are many places in my life where I have no trouble at all speaking up, using my voice, expressing myself, and feeling like an expert of my experience. I mean, I'm a SPEECH Pathologist after all! But the public speaking aspect of teaching a yoga class, especially to my RYT classmates, was a huge block for me. This environment was both particularly challenging and also the perfect place to begin working through this phase of my life long journey of Finding My Voice. Teaching yoga to a group is not only ‘public speaking’ but it requires the utmost in authenticity, connection, and alignment throughout the self. It requires absolute presence in the moment, and a real commitment to setting the ego aside.

Each time I tried to speak to my class and to share my gift and my passion for the practice, I choked. I was nervous and shaky and I despised the sound of my uncertain voice. All the while I had a raging inner monologue of "you'll never be able to do this" and "you should quit" type language. I had more than a handful of frustrating and emotionally leveling experiences as I clumsily worked through this block. There was a lot of noticing my ego, a lot of intentional self forgiveness, and a whole lot of tears!

Just like my young self's journey with speaking on the phone, it took time and support for me to navigate through that tangle. I spent hours processing with my partner, my health coach, and my peers. I began leading small groups of friends through free classes in my home. I meditated, journaled, and tried my hardest to be patient with myself. Although it was not pretty much of the time, I do feel that the process and the result was absolutely worth it. According to Andrew Carnegie, "Anything worth having in life is worth working for."

I am still a beginner teacher right now, and I have a lot to learn before my identity as a yoga instructor is fully manifested, but my process has much less fear, doubt, and judgmental energy around it. Now, I really enjoy leading a class and hearing my imperfect but authentic voice ring out. When my ego and self worth became too wrapped up in my performance I thought I had to “prove” to myself I could “do it.” Now I feel more able to relax into my role as both a student and a teacher in all areas of my life. 

To me, a successful class is one where my students and I can share a sacred time and space, and be present with ourselves and one another. I'm still working on not confusing my rights and lefts, but maybe that will come!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Abdominal Breathing for Voice and LIFE!

Breath is the "fuel" that powers the voice, and moving the work of breathing away from the throat muscles and down low in the body, to the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, is one of the keys in treating functional dysphonia (voice problems that arise from how a person uses their voice, not from a problem with the tissues or mechanism of the vocal cords themselves). Breathing is one of the most basic things we do each day! But lots of physiological and emotional issues can get in the way of easy and efficient breathing.

Most people use the muscles high in the chest and throat to draw air into their lungs. So, lesson number one for every single one of my voice patients is: Abdominal Breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing, but that sounds too fancy for this accessible, everyday practice). Every once in a while one of my patients has previously used this relatively simple breath work technique in training as a singer, in yoga classes, in meditation, or athletics, but 90% of individuals I work with have never heard of it. Some people catch on quickly, and others need to practice for days or weeks to feel comfortable changing the way they take each breath. But with time, almost every person I have worked with has been surprised at how they are able to shift their breathing style.

How to Practice Abdominal Breathing
    • Sit in a chair with your shoulders and/or mid-back supported*
    • Place a hand on your low belly, below your belly button
    • Exhale first and use your low abdominal muscles to draw your belly** in toward your spine 
    • Inhale and allow your belly to expand outward, away from your spine. Try to avoid using your chest and neck muscles to breathe. You don't need them at all for this job, so they can go "on vacation"!
    • Continue like this for 5-10 breaths at a time, if you get dizzy take a break, this is common when getting started because you are getting a big dose of oxygen that your brain and body may not be used to!
* You can also practice laying flat on your back, but seated posture is most do-able at any point in your day (driving, sitting in a meeting, and when using your voice to communicate)
**your belly isn't involved at all, in actuality your diaphragm is doing the work to allow your lungs to fill with air and your 'guts' have to get out of the way which is what makes them seem to 'fill'

Abdominal breathing is a helpful exercise and technique for people with voice problems but it has lots of other benefits as well. Many are surprised to hear that it is actually the most natural way to get the oxygen we need for our bodies to function. I often ask people to imagine a baby laying in a crib and then to imagine an ancient individual nearing the end of life. The ancient person will take shallow breaths high in the chest, but the baby's belly expands with each inhale and contracts with each exhale. In a sense, bringing the breath deeper into the abdomen can bring more vitality and young energy into the body.

Abdomnial breathing is the most efficient technique for getting the oxygen we need. According to Dr. Alan Hymes in his book Science of Breath, when sitting or standing upright (as we are most of our waking moments) most of the lungs' blood supply is in the lower areas of the lungs due to gravity. Therefore air is not mixed as thoroughly with blood if breathing is focused high in the chest (pg 31). In this style of breathing, more work is required to get the same amount of oxygen, resulting in more frequent breaths. Breathing deeply makes use of our more blood rich, efficient lower lobes, and allows us to make use of long oxygen rich breaths.

Abdominal breathing can keep your core strong. Some people worry that they will look "fat" if they use their abdominal muscles to breathe. But the fact is that muscles that move are stronger than muscles that stay static. I've even heard some patients report that their abs feel sore initially after starting to use abdominal breathing because they are working muscles that are otherwise forgotten in regular life.

And my favorite of the benefits of abdominal breathing: It is very calming to the nervous system. Slow regulated breathing encourages your body to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and to suppress or deactivate the sympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for your fight or flight response). Let's face it, generally speaking we are not being chased by a saber tooth tiger, but in stressful situations our body is programmed to respond as if we need to fear for our lives (and attacks on the ego can certainly feel like death threats, but that's another blog post!) We can convince our body systems to calm down, relieving stress and anxiety, by regulating our breathing cycle. Calm nervous systems yield calm minds which are better for learning, loving, and living life!

Take some time to try this simple practice when you already feel calm and centered. That way it will be more available to you next time you feel that familiar rush of the sympathetic nervous system set in (heart rate increases, body heat rises, sweaty flush). And leave a comment on your experience below, let me know if you are interested in learning other breath work techniques.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Raw Pad Thai

I debated about which of my amazing raw dinner recipes to post, but this one got the most salivating "That looks amazing" comments from friends and facebookers, so I figured I'd share it! There are lots of variations of this recipe out there so I certainly can't take credit for inventing it. I used a combination of this recipe from, and a bunch of others that I skimmed on an intense google search on the topic. Note: peanut butter, thai curry paste, and tamari are not raw foods, so if you want to be "Pure Raw" you will want to sub these ingredients. It was close enough for me though!

Thinly sliced red and green cabbage
2 small carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
1 bunch of baby bok choy, thinly sliced

1 cup peanut butter (you could use almond if you are super committed to 100% raw, but I love that peanut flavor)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons fresh peeled and chopped ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup 
3 tablespoonds tamari 
3 small garlic cloves
1 tsp thai curry paste

Garnish (not optional!)
crushed cashews
a handful of cilantro leaves

1. Slice all the "noodle" veggies and toss together in a large bowl
2. combine sauce ingredients in a blender and process till smooth
2. plate each serving of noodles and smother in sauce
3. top with garnish
4. Take your time enjoying this dish, there is a lot of chewing involved!

(I'm not Vegan) but I LOVED my 5-Day Raw Food Cleanse

Earlier this month, I went on a wonderful weekend vacation/retreat with my partner Dillan. We enjoyed every part of this much-needed trip to a wee town in Vermont (read more about our adventure on his blog here!), including three nights in a row of delicious cheese burgers made from locally sourced Angus beef sold at the snack bar of the Motel/Drive in Movie Theater where we stayed. Really unique and fun, but definitely in excess. When we returned home, we were both ready for some serious detoxing.

Detoxing and cleansing seem to be very "in" these days, especially in the spring when our minds traditionally turn to spring cleaning, shedding layers, and starting fresh. It makes a lot of sense energetically, spring being a time of rebirth and renewal.

There are many methods for cleansing: whole food cleanses, cleanses aided by teas and supplements, juice cleanses, sugar detoxing, raw food cleanses, fasts, and the famous Master Cleanse. Many people think that in order to cleanse the body they need to fast and feel hungry, but I would argue that that's actually counter productive. Not only is that method not sustainable and likely to end in cheating or binging, but it also sends a survival message to your body to hold on to anything it can. A cleanse which includes an abundance of clean nutritious food helps your body feel safe and full, and encourages a release of stored toxins and excess material.

In choosing a cleanse, it's crucial to identify your unique goals and intentions. For me: I wanted to experiment with veganism for a short time to see how my body responded, I wanted to reboot my digestion, and I wanted to feel energized and ready for a new season. After considering many options, I decided that a short (5 day) Raw Food Cleanse was a good match for me.
Yum! "Garden Juice" aka Un-Bloody Mary (carrots, tomatoes, red pepper,  celery, salt and pepper, Tabasco sauce)

I started my cleanse by planning 5 days worth of meals and heading to the grocery store to stock up on all the fresh organic produce I would need. It was fun to go through the checkout and buy a week's worth of high quality food for two people for just about $100. Skipping the meat, cheese, and prepared foods really changed the bottom line on my grocery bill!

Each day I spent about an hour in the morning assembling my food for the day. I started each day with a "wellness shot" (lemon, cayenne, ginger, and a drop of maple syrup, modeled after The Master Cleanse drink). I mixed up a few smoothies for breakfast and a mid morning snack. Our Vitamix got a LOT of play time that week. I packed a lunch (a salad or leftovers from the night before) and plenty of nuts seeds or whole fruit and veggies for between meals. When I got home each evening it was right to the cutting board again to prepare dinner. It was certainly time consuming! But i chose to make it a sacred practice, an investment in my heath, and an opportunity to practice gratitude. All that prep time made me really appreciate the convenience foods I do have in my life and the ease of the times I grab a meal out.

After 5 days of eating essentially 100% raw (with the exception of just few condiments) I felt AMAZING! I noticed a significant increase in my energy level. I was much less plagued by cravings. My gut was very happy with things moving very "smoothly" in that department. I also became acutely aware of how different foods affected me. I noticed an exciting natural "high" after a clean green smoothie, significant heat with my ginger cayenne drink, and a lively satisfaction after chewing a huge heap of raw veggies for dinner. I also felt so wonderfully focused and "in-charge" of what was going into my body, so empowering!

When I talked about my cleanse, many people where intrigued, and many said "that sounds so restrictive!" But it didn't feel that way at all to me, in fact I was more creative and adventurous with my food choices. I read new blogs and tried new food combinations. It was fun!

I've continued noticing positive effects long after the cleanse was completed, although I am happy to be back to snacking on cheese (my weakness!) and sustainably raised animal protein. Those foods, in moderation, work for my body. But I have continued to use more raw foods and recipes in my weekly routine.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. My cleanse left me feeling energized balanced and empowered, but I couldn't have done it alone. I'm grateful for all the amazing blogs out there, and for my own health coach who helped guide my planning and decisions. Do you feel like you could use a little of that in your life? If you are curious about how to execute a cleanse in your (busy) life, contact me for a Health History and let's chat! A guided cleanse would include a co-created meal plan, recipes, and lots of support along the way. I'd love to learn more about how I can support YOU along this food adventure!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to Tame a Headache

Headaches. It's a huge and complicated topic and I will just skim the surface in this post, and specifically discuss remedies for tension headaches.

First the disclaimer:

Headaches are not terribly uncommon even for healthy individuals, and most people have experienced them to some degree at some time in their lives. Headaches have a variety of causes, most of which are not serious and can be treated with lifestyle, hydration, and in some cases over the counter medications.

There are, however, some cases where a severe headache can be a warning sign for a very serious problem in the body/brain, such as stroke or brain hemorrhage, or brain tumor. If you feel concerned about the severity or frequency of a headache, or if it is accompanied by weakness or change in sensation in the body (especially on one side), or slurred speech, go to the emergency room immediately. A very severe headache accompanied by an aura could be a migraine and also may deserve medical attention. See the NIH page on headaches here.

A few days ago I woke up suddenly at exactly 5AM with a terrible headache. I could barely move! But fortunately (or unfortunately) I have been there before and I have collected some good strategies with managing this kind of pain. When I was a child I would get terrible headaches almost weekly. I was tested for everything under the sun, including Lyme Disease. Finally one pediatrician had me stand barefoot in his office and noticed that my ankles were misaligned (pronated) and sent me to a podiatrist. What a surprise! Everyone was looking inside me (blood work, allergies, etc) when the answer was in my physical body alignment. I began wearing inserts in my little sneakers and also began taking dance classes.

After years of classical dance training, and now yoga, my legs and ankles are strong and aligned... But I still do occasionally get headaches. Usually I can trace my headaches back to one or more of the following: dehydration, malnutrition/low blood sugar, fatigue, emotional stress, head/neck tension, and body misalignment (my neck is my trouble spot). This time it was a combo of dehydration and delayed effects of stress from my week.

Here is my Tame the Headache Standard Procedure.

1. Drink Water! This is number one, because it is just so common. Many times folks pop meds to relieve the pain but don't support their body's recovery from the pain. Chug a tall glass of water. Refill and sip over the next few hours. When the headache hits it's a valuable warning sign that something is amiss, so use it!

2. Stretch. Especially the head, neck, and chest. Let your head drop to each side, ear stretching toward shoulder. Hang forward in rag doll pose and shake your head yes/no. Grasp hands or a towel behind your back to stretch your chest. And don't forget to BREATHE!

3. BREATHE!! So often, when the headache comes on, I realize "My goodness, I have not been breathing all day." When emotional stress and busyness strike, I can often forget the breath. Deep belly breaths with eyes closed can sometimes do the trick.

4. Eat Something Nutritious. If it's been a while since you've had a meal, your body may be telling you it's time. Chose something hearty with healthy fats and dense nutrition, and low in sugar.

5. Take a Hot Bath. The hot water can be very relaxing to tense muscles which is a common cause for headache.

6. Sleep. When all else fails, I just put myself to bed. This is especially lovely with a warm herbal eye pillow.

Next time you have a headache try these instead of (or at least in addition to) popping OTC pain relievers. Let me know how it goes!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Setting Intentions

This Spring, I am approaching my five year anniversary as a Speech Language Pathologist. I am halfway through my yoga teacher training. And I continue to learn and refine my understanding of holistic health coaching as it applies to my clients and myself every day I live it. As I journey onward with all these different endeavors, in what appears at first glance to be very different directions, a question arises over and over again in my own mind. What does this all have in common. Where are the common threads? How are all of my seemingly varied paths connected? And when I stay quiet, when I allow the bigger picture to come into focus, I get many beautiful answers to that question. One of the precious common threads in these disciplines is the crucial and sacred act of setting intentions, goals, or resolutions.

Setting goals in my speech pathology practice teaches me that the more clear we are, the better. Speech Pathologists and other rehabilitation clinicians write "measurable and functional goals" for their patients in order to create guideposts for recovery. So lets break that down. Measurable, as in: the achievements should be quantitative. Instead of saying "the patient will improve his ability to speak." We say, he "will verbally express phrases in everyday life situations in 4 out of 5 opportunities." This way the patient and the clinician can really measure when these goals are met, and when it's time to raise the bar. And these goals should be functional, or useful in real life. So, instead of working with an individual to be able to "remember a list of 5 words" we might work to "remember new information from social conversations." So the gains show up in the person's ability to get through life, not just on test scores.

Working with intentions in my health coaching practice teaches me that the road may not be straight and narrow. When I speak with my clients, or when I call my own health coach, we begin the session by setting an intention. This doesn't mean that we can only talk about the one or two things that were set as intentions, but when the conversation takes its organic route we can look back and see how something seemingly tangential is actually really related to the whole picture. So if a client sets and intention to get more organized with meal planning, and the conversation leads to a discussion of feelings of disorganization at work or home, we can begin to see the patterns and thus the answers and action steps to feel better.

My yoga practice teaches me that the truest resolution comes from within. In the practice of Yoga Nidra (a deep sleep like meditation) we are asked to set a sankalpa, a resolution that we wish to actualize in our life. During a powerful guided meditation that I practice with my fellow teachers in training, we are first brought to a deeply relaxed state, and only then are we invited to set our intention. For me, the experience is more like discovering an intention that was there all along, less like "thinking" of something. When I quiet my mind and give voice to my deepest parts, I often find a simple but powerful message.

Spring, a season of rebirth and renewal, is the perfect time to plant a seed, create a goal, set an intention, or discover a sankalpa. And like a seed, an intention should be tended to gently and daily. What are your intentions for the coming months or year. How can you be clear, open to the twists and turns it may take to get there, and listen to your deepest voice to discover them?

Friday, March 22, 2013

PINK LUNCH! Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup (with a secret ingredient!)

  • 2 pounds beets, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable vegetable bullion dissolved in water
  • 1 orange to yield freshly squeezed orange juice


Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat beets and fennel with olive oil, thyme, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the roasted beets and fennel, and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.Transfer mixture to blender or use and immersion blender to process until smooth. Stir in the orange juice and some of the pulp. Salt to taste.
Enjoy this lovely pink dish!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Try This: Step Up, Step Back

Fun 2006 dance movie, lots of sequels,
no relationship to communication,  but I couldn't resist!
I am fascinated by "group work." Amazing things come out of group projects, group discussion, group social gatherings, support groups, book groups, the list goes on. There is something really special that happens when we put our heads together. Hellen Keller said "Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."

I am especially interested in the patterns of communication that happen in a group. No matter the topic or setting, there are two main types of group participants. There always seem to be participants who are the first to speak and to take up the most time and space with their opinions. And there are others who remain quiet, either speaking last, speaking briefly and quietly, or not at all. Then there are others who rest comfortably in the middle but usually tend to one side of this spectrum. The larger the group, the more unique individuals there are to navigate and the more polarized the extremes become. In life there are introverts and there are extroverts. There are linguistic thinkers and there are visuospatial or analytical thinkers. There are outgoing people and there are shy people. But when we are committed to a group's collective consciousness, every voice is important. 

I recently found myself getting acquainted with a new (and super amazing) group of individuals as I embarked on my latest journey: Yoga Teacher Training Program at Inner Strength Studios. I am thrilled that these people are on the path with me. They are loving seekers and I can already tell I will learn so much from this community. But we each come to the table with old habits and patterns, some that serve us, some that don't, and some that served us in one moment but are no longer aligned with our highest purpose. Like any group, we have some who are outspoken and some who are more hesitant to speak.

People who know me are often surprised to learn that I tend toward the quiet, speak last side of the participant spectrum! But this absolutely showed up in my first group discussion experiences with my new community. Sitting on my yoga mat in a big circle discussion, I was reminded of a valuable tool taught in many Unitarian Universalist communities. "Step Up, Step Back." This is a guideline for group discussions that encourages individuals to be aware of their own tendencies and consciously do the opposite. Those who find it easy to speak might wait to make space for those for whom it is more difficult. And us quieter folks might go out on a limb and speak up.

At first I was irritated by all the vocal, confident speakers not making space for people like me to use their voices. But then, lightbulb moment, I remembered the other half of the tool: "step up." It is MY responsibility to use my voice even though it sometimes feels scary or vulnerable. As the weekend went on I got more practice with stepping up, and I worked on trusting that my insights and ideas were valuable to the group. Speaking up, and stepping up became a little easier. Although I am fine to know that this is a growing edge for me and I am not done yet.

Every voice counts. Every person arrives with their own unique set of experiences, strengths, and thoughts. Every opinion can inform the collective consciousness. When we allow for all voices to be heard, whether that is by stepping back to make space for them, or by stepping up to offer our own, the group wins.

What type of group participant are you? Where can you "step up" or "step back" in your life for the greatest good of your community and of yourself?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Candied Citrus Peels

  • Yes, there is sugar in this recipe. Actually there is a lot of sugar in this recipe. But it is homemade, and made from seasonal ingredients, and it's delicious. So I feel okay overlooking the sugar part. Especially because many of us have a little sweet tooth after all. And at least this recipe contains no Red Dye #40 or other weirdness!

  • Ingredients
  • Peels of 2 grapefruits, 3 oranges, and 4 lemons. Oranges make the sweetest candies. Lemons have a sour patch kids kind of flavor, grapefruits are quite bitter, but still yummy.
  • 4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 4 cups water

  1. Carefully "zip" the peels of a bunch of citrus fruit (make about 6 slits from top to bottom so the peels are easy to pull apart from the fruit). Save the fruit for other uses like seasoning fish with the lemons or just munching the oranges. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. The more even your slices the prettier the candies will look when you are finished. Use a knife to slice away as much of the white pith as possible.
  2. Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat twice.
  3. Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves and forms a thickish syrup. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent (about 30 minutes).
  4. Scoop strips from the syrup and lay onto a wire rack. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for a long time (mine took 1-2 days to be fully dry).
    Gift. Share. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Responses to Previous Post on Treatment of Social Skills for Children with Autism

Last month, I blogged about my controversial opinion on treatment of social skills for children with autism. Here are some of the amazingly thoughtful and insightful responses from the facebook community. These individuals are parents, speech pathologists, educators, and/or spiritual teachers. All have an interesting take on this clearly complex topic.

    • Ken: Faith leads us to accept each person as they are, and encourage you say... to be themselves. It takes some people many years to learn this wisdom. Blessed Be

    • Janie: with autism, we can't just 'let them be themselves' when they CAN'T tap into their own underlying potential without professional help.

      Unable to speak, 14-year-old Carly finds refuge from disorder by typing.

    • Sue: Ahh - teaching the niceties. You have brought up an excellent question - should we teach children (autistic or not) how to say things that aren't true for them? Should we monitor other's feelings and then adapt our conversations to fit THEIR needs? Tough questions.

    • April: I love this Brenda! Especially since I was just worrying to myself about not teaching these skills to my ADD son who has social anxiety. It makes me feel good to be reminded of these things at times like this.

    • Heather: I think this is definitely something SLPs struggle with in terms of how and what we teach students with autism about social skills and relationship building. There is something very off-putting about changing a person to fit our neurotypical view of the world. However, we all know that people without these skills cannot easily find success in terms of a job and income. I have heard people take this further and suggest that these kids won't find happiness or loving relationships, but I don't really think we know that. We don't understand how they experience the world. As you said, I think it is critical to teach them the rules of the game while at the same time supporting their individuality, creativity, and uniqueness. Does forcing them to be different foster a belief in themselves or pride in who they are? I believe in teaching them about what "unexpected" behaviors look like and sound like, but I never teach that these behaviors are wrong. I want my kids to recognize these behaviors and decide for themselves if they want to suppress them in the moment. I don't think they should lose any part of themselves just because it seems different to me. To quote Paul Collins, author of "Not Even Wrong", "Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg."

    • Kim: That is a wonderful perspective! I think parents of children with high functioning autism would take comfort in this. I certainly know people who are obsessed with what others think of them and would probably be much happier without so much social anxiety. 
      I don’t specialize in autism either, but while I was reading this, I was thinking about a 5th grader, whom I officially see to fix his ch sound, but end up working mostly on social skills with. I’ve realized that the deficits in theory of mind that come with high functioning autism are a 2 sided coin – yes, you aren’t ruled by social anxiety, but you aren’t ruled by empathy either. The combination of the 2 has made this child a pill to be around. The rest of the speech group (myself included) is always relieved when he is absent, because his attitude is so unpleasant. What I want to help him with more than anything is how to be likeable. I believe his life would be richer if his peers and teachers enjoyed his company, because only then could he begin to make friends.

    • Gael Chiarella Alba: Hi Brenda!  How bold you are to be so honest! How wonderfully important to recognize the mandate to speak truth - no matter the topic. You address the enforcement of "the parasite" on our children (I love the direct naming of social conditioning for the sake of acceptance as spiritual teacher Don Miguel Ruiz calls it) which we are each called to claw and climb our way out of as we reach for authentic self-realization - while rising to the challenge of healthy interpersonal community, which requires serving each other well. As you keep your eye on the prize I surmise the journey will continue to clear as you help to build a new world for all of us one word - one glance - one truthful step at a time. Namaste. (