Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hot Stone History and Technique by Sarah Woods

Hot stone massage is a treatment that is both powerful and healing. When performed correctly, and in a fluid manner, this type of massage can allow for the release of muscles that seemed as though they would never be able to let go. Hot stone massages in the western world include an array of techniques, however, the working tools are usually the same. These include: a set of stones that accommodate every nook and cranny on your body, a heated pot similar to a crock pot to heat the stones, and a sheet to create a barrier between the recipient and the stones, in case the client is too heat-sensitive. Of course, the client will be properly draped and laying down in a comfortable and supported position. Other than that, it is just the client, the therapist, and the stones.

Each stone is unique--just as each person is unique. Every stone is placed on the person receiving the service in a way that fits their body, and will give them the most comfortable and therapeutic experience. The rocks range in size from tiny toe stones that infuse heat into your littlest pinkie, to a large moon-shaped rock that cradles and comforts your aching neck. With stones to custom fit each client, your experience with westernized hot stone massage should certainly be a pleasant one.

Western hot stone massage is performed as every typical massage is performed. It is usually a full body treatment, excluding the obvious personal areas. Facial and abdominal massage techniques performed with heated rocks are absolutely out of this world, and will surprise those who are open to receiving such a treat. Of course, if there is any area that you as a client are concerned about, you should always share any feelings of reserve with your therapist. It is their first and foremost goal to make your massage experience utterly enjoyable. We never take offense to you sharing your feelings; it makes us happy to know that you are comfortable.

Hot stone massage is relatively well-known in the West (thanks to Mary Nelson the founder of Lastone Therapy), however the history of it is not. When you look into the background of this amazing technique you find that it has existed for thousands and thousands of years. More recently, it has morphed into a labeled technique, but ancient cultures have been using hot stones for medical and spiritual practices for a very long time. Native Americans, peoples of India, Asia, Hawaiians and indigenous people in South America had this idea of using stones to heal many, many years ago.

Native Americans have been performing sweat lodges for spiritual enlightenment and health purposes for thousands of years. They would build a tent-like structure with a pit in the very center to place the hot stones in. Heated for days, these high metal content stones retain and maintain such high temperatures that can stay hot for hours. In a sweat lodge session water would be poured over the stones and the steam from the hot rocks would wash over you in a blast of heat. I actually experienced a traditional Cherokee sweat lodge once, and I must say that the heat is stifling. Therapeutic! but stifling. A session can range in length but it is usually over only when the spiritual ceremony or goal has been attained. Heated rocks have been key aids in guiding one’s body and mind throughout time.

In indigenous traditions, hot stones have been used to alleviate pain from muscle or even menstrual aches. But, the purpose of a warm stone on one’s body is not only to comfort, it increases circulation and is truly beneficial to the overall balance of energy within the body. Digestion issues can literally melt away, and a deep feeling of true relaxation follows a treatment with hot stones. I highly recommend experiencing it for yourself! The results are utter bliss.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One of Life's Great Mysteries: Relaxation Vs. Deep Tissue

One of the questions that comes up the most for us at the front desk is, "What is the difference between Relaxation and Deep Tissue?" These are our two most popular massages, but many clients who are relatively new to the service aren't sure which one is right for them. My typical response is that a Relaxation is a basic Swedish massage with a light to medium pressure, and a deep tissue provides a medium to deep pressure. But recently, when I had the extreme pleasure of having my first massage with Pavia's lovely and talented therapist Chelsea Boyer, I got some valuable insight.

I opted for a relaxation massage, but asked Chelsea to help me identify the difference between Swedish and deep tissue techniques. She told me that deep tissue involves putting strong concentrated pressure into the hot-spots--where a client has the most tightness. The therapist holds the pressure on the muscle fibers until they feel them release. This process can be used in just about any area but is needed most frequently on the back, shoulders and legs.

I knew that massage itself is very detoxifying for recipients, because it moves impurities from your muscles and tissues and assists the lymphatic system in carrying away toxins. (This is part of why we always recommend that clients drink lots of water after a massage, to help their body cleanse). But Chelsea let me know that using deep tissue techniques on a client's entire body could flush out impurities TOO quickly and cause discomfort. So the Relaxation massage and the Deep Tissue both contain elements of the other, depending on our guest's individual needs and preferences.

For me, I have some crazy knots in my back, between my shoulders. I refer to them as my "hazelnuts." Unfortunately, hazelnuts go much better with chocolate than with scapula. But Chelsea blended her stellar deep tissue techniques into my relaxing massage and really got those knots to give it a rest. All evening I couldn't stop saying,"I LOVE massage!"

Thanks again, Chelsea!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Getting on my Soapbox: Holistic Kids

I've got babies on the brain, that's for sure. Since becoming pregnant, all I have eyes for are babies and toddlers. At 17.5 weeks, I have suddenly started thinking about how, exactly, I want to raise my kid, and what I want to show him/her about the world. Especially about the world of plants and herbs, and nature's wonderful medicine chest.

This train of thought brings me to a little digression...during my Herbalism studies, I had a classmate, Amy V., who owned an herb store in Florida. One day Amy was keeping shop, standing on the sidewalk outside her storefront when an older woman stopped, gazed at her sign and then at her, and asked pointedly, "Do you really think these plants can heal us?" Amy said, "Absolutely!" The woman shook her head and said, "No, you're wrong. Only God can heal us." Whereupon Amy gently remonstrated, "And whom do you think put these plants here?" Haha! I LOVE that story. Touche, Amy.

Back to my stream of consciousness. A babbling brook, really. I want to basically immerse my son or daughter in the world of healing herbs and plants immediately, and I started putting down remedies about how I was going to deal with everyday mishaps. Like, how I'll poultice bee stings with crushed plaintain leaf, or apply lavender oil to first degree burns, or rub calendula ointment into chapped fingers. For colds, I'll give the kid an infusion of sage, elderflower, ginger, yarrow, and thyme, and for coughs, I'll make the kid a syrupy candy from horehound and peppermint. For cuts and scrapes, I'll apply calendula - unless there's an infection, in which case I'll use Hypercal (St. John's Wort and Calendula). Instead of spraying the kitchen with RAID to get rid of ants, I'll sprinkle peppermint oil in the corners. Instead of spraying the kid with OFF, I'll slather him/her in natural insect repellents, like a mixture of catnip, lavender, and peppermint. Intestinal worms? No problem, kid, eat some pumpkin seeds. Diaper rash? Massage the kid in apricot kernel oil plus ointment of marshmallow. Colicky? No issues, I'll just Aromatherapy the room with some dill and chamomile in a candle diffuser. (Yes, I really did just use "Aromatherapy" as a verb.)

This is going to be one holistic baby. Probably even slightly disgustingly so, but it's important to me that my child learns what an abundantly fragrant pharmacy we were given, and how joyful it can be to use remedies from our own little green planet, and how sometimes, the most useful things in life are also the most common. A great lesson, wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pregnancy Brain...and How to Make Toners

Wow, it's true that you lose your mind when you're pregnant. Now I know why my mother is so forgetful...she had three kids. Two months ago in late December, I left my apartment without my keys. So I could neither get back into the apartment, nor get into my car. It was wintery cold and I had nowhere to go - standing outside with nothing but a laptop while pregnant is not what I consider responsible behavior. I went to the apartment manager's office, but their place was completely cleaned out. My poor husband had to drive 35 miles home from work to let me back in.

Then, this past weekend, I drove up to Sacramento to see my new baby niece, Madeleine. Well, given that I am still pregnant, and the baby is still sucking out my brains, I forgot my lovely Eminence toner (I love their Stone Crop Hydrating Mist), a centerpiece of my skin care regime. Ah duh duh duh duh duh.

Good news is, you can easily make your own toners at home in a pinch. Sometimes I even do this on purpose just to switch things up. All you need are the following:

  • A glass bottle (preferably cobalt or amber, not clear) - 4oz
  • An atomizer (a spray top, basically)
  • 2 oz of distilled water
  • 2 oz of witch hazel extract (I would not buy the drugstore kind though, those are more alcohol than witch hazel)
  • 45-60 drops of your favorite essential oils (ones that are good for skin)
So, here is what went into my makeshift toner:
  • 20 drops of Geranium (great for hormone balancing, which I am definitely in need of at this point)
  • 20 drops of Ylang ylang (great for uplifting the mood, again something which a pregnant woman sometimes needs)
  • 20 drops of Rose (very expensive, but great for overall feminine balancing)
  • I added the 2 ounces of distilled water and 2 ounces of witch hazel extract (the latter I bought from an organic bulk herbs and spices company, and it is 14% alcohol and 86% Witch Hazel Extract)
  • Shook it up, and started spraying! Yum yum yum. Very nice, lovely floral notes. And my skin looks soft and glowing.
If you have favorite recipes for homemade toners and mists, please share them with us here!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Is the Superbowl Bad for Your Skin?

Well, here we are, Superbowl Sunday. Cue the hilarious commercials, the everflowing booze, and fun parties at friends' houses. But for me, Superbowl Sunday has also frequently meant bad skin. Yup, Monday morning quarterbacking is not just reserved for whether or not Peyton Manning should have thrown that screen pass, but also for what I should and should *not* have stuffed my face with. We are what we eat, after all, and our skin is evidence of that. The largest organ in our bodies is also part of our all-important elimination systems, purging us of toxins and impurities.

So, what CAN we do to stay beautiful this Sunday? Here are MY tips:

1. Don't drink alcohol. Have a seltzer water with a twist of lime instead.
2. Stay away from that soda. I must admit, this is hard for me, too, especially since about all that I've been craving since my pregnancy is Coca Cola. But the high acidic content (yes, it can melt the gunk off battery terminals) translates into indigestion, which translates into poor skin.
3. Stay away from that cheese pizza. Or it might show up in your pores about a week later.
4. Ditto on the cheese puffs and corn chips and chocolate chip cookies. Why not try this recipe for a yummy guacamole dip instead, courtesy of a vendor of mine at the spa?

Ole, Guacamole! 
3 avocados – seeded, halved and scooped
2 limes – juice from
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
½ teaspoon chili powder + more to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin + more to taste
1 ½ cloves garlic minced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 roma tomatoes seeded and diced

  1. In a large bowl, lightly mash avocados and cover with lime juice – lightly mix with spoon (keeps avocados from turning brown)
  2. Add onions, salt, chili powder, cumin, Garlic and mix
  3. Next add the fresh cilantro and tomatoes and mix well.
  4. Taste and then add additional salt, chili powder or cumin to taste --  if necessary
Cover bowl and let set and chill for about 30 minutes, then serve!

Have a happy Superbowl Sunday!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Important Breast Health Info.

I have known for a while now that the typical underwire bra was not a healthy choice for several reasons. But I recently learned of another very serious reason to take a long, hard look at the type of bra you wear each day. A friend who works at the gorgeous lingerie shop Amoreuse in Santa Cruz recently told me of a class action law suit that Victoria's Secret is involved in. It turns out that they were sued by a group of women who suffered chemical burns on their breasts and torsos from wearing Victoria's Secret molded bras. They discovered that the reason for this is that Victoria's Secret uses formaldehyde in the fabrication of their bras, which has caused chemical burns on many women who wear those bras regularly.

My friend let me know that Victoria's Secret has worked very hard and paid a lot of money to cover up this scandal. However, I found it easily by googling "Victoria's Secret Class Action Law Suit." This important topic was even covered by ABC news. You can read their article here. I've been told that they will give you a refund for ANY bra purchased there at any time because of this appalling scandal, and I plan to return my own uncomfortable molded VS bra. Then I won't own any more under wire, and let me tell you, it is so comfortable that I never plan to go back.

Breast health has been brought into the spotlight by the very disturbing rise in breast cancer rates. A healthy diet low in processed foods and sugars, exercise, and a chemical free body-care regimen are crucial to all types of cancer prevention. But one factor in breast health that I feel is often over-looked is your lymphatic system. The lymph is the "sewer system" of the body. Waste and toxins are sequestered from the rest of your body and moved out through a vast connected network of little sacks called lymph nodes. However, unlike our circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a wonderful pump like the heart to move it. The lymph requires muscular movement to do its job.

The breasts contain a large concentration of lymph nodes. Bras in general, but especially constricting bras and those with under wire, prevent the breast's lymph nodes from draining with normal healthy breast movement. This can cause toxic build up in the breasts and contribute to issues like breast soreness, breast cysts, or even cancer. One book that draws a link between bras and breast cancer is called, "Dressed to Kill." If you are interested, take a moment to check out the page.

You may end up doing yourself and your breasts a big favor. If you are concerned about your body's lymph flow in general, please give us a call at Pavia to inquire about Daniela's Lymphatic Drainage service. That extremely gentle and light form of massage is both relaxing and very detoxifying!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Belly Has ARRIVED...

...seemingly overnight. This past Saturday I was still sporting the "food baby," but by Sunday, I had to run out to Target and get my first maternity outfits. They're very cute, although I am not sure how useful they will be post-pregnancy.

And along with the belly, some other things have also arrived that I wasn't quite ready for. First of all, my knockers are SO BIG now that the necklines of my blouses don't quite touch my skin...which means that whenever I eat, food drops into my clothes and trickles down into my bra and finally migrates into the waistline of my pants. Which, in turn, means that whenever my husband goes to do my laundry, he always has access to an inventory of what I ate: "I see you had Pop Tarts  and Hot Tamales this week..." Can't hide anything from him anymore.

Second of all, the flatulence! Oh my goodness. I am passing more gas than a high school football team and a row of fraternities and a zoo full of elephants combined. Maybe I should start a fumigation service, as I am sure nothing and no one would survive the kind of intestinal radioactivity I am emitting. Sorry to gross you out, but it is what it is: the truth.

One thing I've been a bit annoyed about is that in Master Herbalist classes, we were taught to recommend Peach Leaf tea and zinc, but NOT Ginger, for morning sickness. Well, I kid you not, I have done a gazillion on-line searches, visited a gazillion health food stores, and found zero peach leaf tea. Ginger, on the other hand, is prevalent everywhere, and cheap. I never threw up even once throughout my first trimester, but I did sometimes feel like I was on the deck of a ship, and could have used a little nausea alleviation. I think I am going to make it my quest to find a way to bring peach leaf tea to pregnant women everywhere (and not just peach-FLAVORED tea).

Lastly, I had my Pregnancy Massage last week - it was divine. It WAS a bit interesting to have the massage on my side, especially because I was never quite able to find a comfortable position for the arm that was squeezed against the bed. But, it did put me to sleep in a way that no other massage ever has, so I am looking forward to more!