Cheers to a whole week of vacation. R&R, perspective, priorities, and lots of sleep- it's a great idea! You should try it.
For those wondering, here's where all we went on our 2018 Summer Vacay. Links are included where possible. Essentially, we took a grand tour of central Pennsylvania, and it was great.
Really, get out of your house, out of your office, out of your town, and go breathe some air made by trees you haven't seen before. The world will be here when you get back, but you'll have a whole new nervous system to deal with it.
Lansdale Farmer's Market
Kutztown Folk Festival
Pine Creek Outfitters
Corning Museum of Glass
People's Choice Festival of PA Arts and Crafts
I've joined Instagram so you can see more trip photos and videos there!
This is a picture-heavy post! Allow time for it to load, especially if you're using a smaller device like a phone.
As requested, here are some resistance band exercises that can mimic the work of the Reformer, to an extent. Use your familiarity with my cues (Neutral Spine! Pelvic Floor! Shoulder Blades!) and your imagination to help bring these to life. Have fun! (Hover over the photo for a cue.)
A series like the opening leg presses, or footstraps too:
More moves like footstraps:
Here are some like single legs, from the bar or in footstraps, in parallel:
Even when I'm on vacation?? Well, OK!
Turns out I can't figure out how to actually repost an old entry on this blog. But, what I CAN do, is give you a link:
I put this together a few years ago when I went out of town, so no heckling about the longer hair, got it? It's a little mat Pilates routine that should feel familiar, I tried to mimic the Reformer moves.
Hopefully I get another post like this up this week, using resistance bands to mimic the Reformer even more closely, so check back!
Here we are at the end of June, and some days it feels like winter isn't over yet. I'm talking to lots of people who are privately having a hard time coping. When it's sunny and warm, it feels 'right'. But then we get another cool, rainy, clammy day and I'm reminded that this is familiar, it has been since last Thanksgiving, and it completely erases the memory of that bright thing up in the sky.
How can we manage this? I have some ideas:
First of all, keep your D up. I stopped taking my vitamin D supplement because, well, it's summertime now, right? Turns out no, not really. So the last few weeks I've been taking it again, and what a difference! I take a chewable tablet right now, but have done drops and liqui-gels and sprays. Find the kind you're most likely to actually use- compliance is everything.
Next, seize the sun when it's there. When it gets bright out I'll force myself to weed, or read outside, or do anything in the fresh air, irrespective of what else is on my to-do list. Even short bursts outside help remind your brain of our place on the year's wheel, and getting hot and muddy and bug-bitten makes those cool days feel like some relief! Being uncomfortable is not the worst thing in the world, either, so go with it.
Finally, try to re-frame your perspective. Years ago I heard Dr Dan Gottlieb on NPR talking to a caller about her depression. She had described feeling crushed, like a weight pushing her to the ground. His response was seared into my memory: Instead of being crushed, imagine the Earth holding you up, like a gentle hand cupping you until you are strong enough to stand on your own. The vision I have of this is way beyond my pathetic art skills but if I could draw you a picture, you'd hang it on your wall. I just love it.
But what about the HERBS?! I hear you cry in dismay. An Herbalist without herbal suggestions? Well, sure, herbs are great too. Herbs that help nerves, and are sunshiny, like Lemon Balm or St John's Wort or even hemp oils, would be great too. Remember though, herbs aren't like pharmaceuticals. They are only part of the solution. We are empowered to help ourselves, with herbs adding to the overall picture. This is one of those situations where your choices clearly impact your wellness. Use your power!
I recently spent a weekend in Lancaster PA, and several people have asked all about the attractions. So here's the itinerary, for all who are curious!
Green Dragon Market- source of great furniture and great shoo-fly pie, from the Mennonites in the back
Town of Lititz- great walking around, shops, Sturgis pretzel museum
Amish Farm and House Tours- we did the house tour- SO MUCH cool information- and saw everything on the farm
Fillmore Containers- be still my heart. New drinking lids, new jars, and a countertop water dispenser are now safely at my house.
National Watch and Clock Museum- VERYVERYVERY interesting. Could have spent way more time there (get it?!)
Columbia Riverfront Park- near the museum, it's a big river, nice picnic lunch spot.
Rock Ford Plantation- we went during their May Day celebration, with costumed actors and lots of interesting details, inside and out
King's Herb Nook- I LOVE this place. Bulk herbs, plants, soaps, books, and an outhouse.
Stoudt's/Black Angus Steak House- the PA Dutch food. The beer. And check out the men's room- I'm serious!
Wilbur Chocolate- when in Lancaster...
Discover Lancaster- the resource I used to find almost all of this
Are you leaving on a jet plane?
A long car ride counts too, or that awesome trip by train from NYC to Seattle that one of my pilates clients took recently.
Being away from home means not only being away from all your little remedies and fixes you keep on hand, but also your regular route of health food stores, drug stores, and well-supplied grocery stores, and this can lead to lots of discomfort on your trip.
Let me share some of my favorite short cuts for staying comfortable when I'm away from home. (The products I talk about here are linked to my Amazon affiliate site.)
First, hydration. This is a BIG biggie for me, especially when I fly. I buy the biggest water I can find in the airport, then try to time my drinking it to suit when bathrooms are available. Drink a bunch right away, well before boarding, and as much as I can when I know we'll be landing. Then I have a big bottle to refill when I find a filling station, such as at my hotel.
On the plane, my absolute number one tip is this: ask for hot tea. The warm water and steam make such a difference, it's amazing. This little trick has become my standard "All's well" ritual, which looks funny to people who know me because as a rule I'm not a black tea or even a caffeine person. No matter, travel makes everything different.
You can bring rehydration salts with you to add to your water. I like the Hibiscus Ginger Coconut Water powder by Pure Planet. Sometimes water alone isn't enough to replenish you, particularly when you are changing environments rapidly like you do between airports.
Second, tummy trouble can also happen any time. I always travel with a Chamomile tea bag, because while it's not my favorite flavor, when my digestion needs help this is where I turn. Chamomile helps move digestion along, and it is also relaxing to your whole lower abdomen, which helps with cramping or tension.
Also always on me somewhere is a couple Honey Ginger Crystals packets. These little beauties dissolve in hot or cold water, and make a yummy, quick fix if I'm a little nauseous or when I get cold. Plus, Ginger really helps circulation so sipping some on long stretches when you can't get up and move can help things from getting too stagnant.
Peppermint relaxes smooth muscle and cools things down, so it can help move along a poor food choice and quell nausea. In a pinch, York Peppermint Patties are made with real Peppermint oil so they're a fine choice when you're uncomfortable. When I'm planning a car trip I bring a box of organic peppermint patties along, though I've found they don't ever hold up well when flying!
Third, stress is a huge deal when you're in unfamiliar territories without your usual routine. I have 2 go-to's for this. The first is Magnesium. (Anyone who's heard me give a talk knows I couldn't NOT slip Magnesium into this! Magnesium is your friend.) I like Calm powder, to add to drinks, because then I can dilute it as much or as little as I like. The individual packets travel well, but be prepared because they usually make a white powdery mess which will fizz in contact with water- not the best look!
My other favorite stress-buster is a Lavender perfume roller from a local Lavender farm. Not everyone likes Lavender, so pick your own favorite. A familiar scent can be as comforting as the helpful quality of the oils it is made with. I don't favor straight essential oils, and their tiny bottles are easy to damage in travel. So the little roller goes with me all the time. Plus, Lavender has the added benefit of being good for burns, and I've used my perfume on a hot coffee spill.
Have a good trip!
One of my teachers said once, "Balance is a moving target. You don't get to stay there,"
That's quite a thought. Take it further, and nothing has a fixed point that we get to hold onto- health, happiness, grief, it all shifts.
This is actually a good thing, because it lets us experience life.
For years now, I've loved a snowfall. The simple act of seeing snow come down so gently and inexorably gave me such a feeling of weighted comfort, like the heaviest, fluffiest winter blanket. I had to sit when I saw snow, and when sitting I very badly wanted to lay down. Just looking at it though a window made me instantly ready for a good nap in bed, not just a quick couch snooze.
See, for years I'd been... tired. Exhausted. Worn out. Beat down. About a decade ago I went through one of those things people go through, and I made it to the other side but at the cost of my vitality. Sleep became all important as a healing mechanism. Convalescing took almost as long as the original events did.
For the last maybe 3 years I've been rebuilding my strength. There are several parts to the process including nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, meditation, and rest. And I've seen a steady improvement in my stamina, motivation, creativity, and even skin texture.
Over all this time I've used recurring events to mark my progress. Remember how last year I didn't go to that thing because I just wasn't up to it? This year was fun, even if I only went for a short time.
We just had a late spring snowfall, an "onion snow" as my mom calls it, with big fat slow flakes all morning that coat the grass and cars but not the roads, and is gone by the afternoon. As I stood watching it, part of my mind was on my tasks and goals for the day. Suddenly I realized, I'm not so tired. The snow is pretty, and I'm enjoying it, but for the first time in recent memory it was just snow, not an absolute imperative to fall down with it.
Part of the reason I am an herbalist is because we can get better, I've seen it, and there are many many ways to help you do that. I don't want to just feel a little less like I do now, I want to be well and strong and adaptable, with endurance and vigor. Wouldn't that be nice?
The state of our health right now, and our ability to envision it better and stronger, is limited by how long it's been since we felt our best and strongest. As you heal, as you improve, the goalposts move and what you expect from yourself becomes ever more tremendous. We're capable of amazing things, given the right circumstances.
I'm so done with this. I'm over it. It's just... I can't even.
Have you been hearing this, from your friends or from yourself, about this Spring weather?
Unfortunately, that's too bad. It's only March. This IS Spring! This is what we signed up for! So what are we to do for our own mental stability?
Yes, you can take a vacation. You could bring me with you, too! But seriously, an even easier suggestion is to bring Spring to you.
It can be really comforting to see signs of Spring, so go look for them. Get yourself a potted daffodil. Or a bunch of tulips. Or grab your gardening shears (which means you get to go through your gardening supplies! Yay!) and force some blooms indoors.
Go find a forsythia or other spring blooming bush. Snip one or two branches that have lots of buds. Bring them back inside (quick now, it's COLD outside.) Grab a jar or something heavy with a blunt edge, and smash up the end of the branches. This will allow them to take up more water than just the small snip does.
Now put them in a really simple vase- a small jar, an old pitcher, a bud vase. In a few days, you will have lovely bright yellow flowers brightening up your house! And in a few weeks, you'll have them outside too. I promise, it's coming.
At Pilates we've been talking about the things in our lives that keep us going, so here are some highly recommended last minute gift ideas!
Pam: These Sole Energizers are amazing! She brought her set into Pilates for us to try, and I'd say she's lucky she got to take them home again. :) You stand, roll, rest, and massage your feet on them, and Pam says she uses them during conference calls at home.
They are Canyon Ranch brand, and Pam got hers from Rue La La.
Ellen: The Bliss brand shower products she gets at Nordstrom Rack are her favorites. I couldn't find any online to share links or pics, but I've seen them there. Yummy!
Lisa D: This lotion applicator is ideal for lotions, sunscreens, arnica, medicated ointments, or anything else that needs to go somewhere you can't reach.
Lisa recommends this one because it bends, and the washable applicators don't soak up the lotion.
Christine: Wella Bars are her new favorite for when she or her Painting with a Twist artists need a more substantial snack, that will take them through an entire class. I can attest, they are hearty.
Me: I have a few favorites myself. Weleda Arnica Sports Shower Gel is pretty awesome after a hard Barre Burn class. Just saying. It's how I get out of bed the next morning without falling down.
I'm also hardly ever without a layer of Incrediwear to keep me warm. They make base layers and braces that increase circulation, and I have a few pairs of socks and a pair of capris that I keep in constant use all winter. I get them from Holly Hill, link below.
Finally, I wouldn't be me without mentioning my favorite favorite supplement we should all take, Magnesium. Just visit Holly Hill in North Wales. They're known as the Magnesium Store and have not only all the kinds, but also all the information about them to help you decide what kind to take. Haven't heard my Magnesium Soap-Box Dissertation at Pilates? You will!
Happy Merry to you all.
My two cents: embrace it.
Oh, you want maybe fifty cent's worth? OK!
Autumn and winter, which are so miserable for so many, is contrary to the GO! GO! GO! we usually live. This is slow. slow. slow.
You're perfectly welcome to be miserable about it. Or you can embrace it. It's your choice.
A few years ago I heard Dr. Dan Gottleib on NPR talking with a caller about depression. She had been describing the weight of it dragging her down, driving her into the ground. He suggested that maybe she could look at it as the earth holding her up.
The visual I took away from that, of laying down and being cocooned between the weight of the world, like a muffling blanket, and the everlasting solidity of the planet, like a big hand holding a tiny baby, has given me some peace in dark times.
That mental picture, plus how much I love candles and hot drinks and my mermaid tail lap blanket and even the sight of falling snow, gets me through the cloudy days. What tiny bits of this not-summer weather do you like?
I decided to round up the seasonal writings of others who have inspired me, and proven to be more eloquent than me, too:
Maia Toll wrote a beautiful piece on Seasonal Sadness, with some on-point herbal suggestions in it. She asks, will you be abducted or willingly seduced by the smoky depths of autumn?
The Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism has a great piece on Ground Ivy, a useful and underrated remedy for upper body lymphatic movement. I never thought of it for tinnitus, which I've had since a fantastic (cough, cough) throat infection last year.
Maria Noel Groves always encourages us to get outside. I have to say, I agree. This weekend was very blah for me, then the 5 minutes I spent outside covering my windshield against a forecasted wintry mix turned the whole thing around. Who knew? (Maria did!) Here is the browser version of her latest newsletter.
Reading My Tea Leaves has a list of ways to ward off Seasonal Depression that I really enjoy. They're very hygge-inspired.
Hygge? No, not hygiene, stupid autocorrect. This is a favorite topic of mine this time of year- the Scandinavian idea of being cozy and content with good food and good friends. And they know something about surviving dark winters.
I saw this inspiring book at the Doylestown Bookshop. For those of you who feel better with busy hands, these are crafts and recipes to take you right through to spring. There's everything from making crochet lace necklaces to forcing blooms on forsythia and other early flowers.
One final thing: Pennsylvania is a beautiful place. I'll bet wherever you are is pretty too. Take a second and look out your window, or even step outside. Look around and smell the air. Find something right now that makes the corners of your eyes relax. That's all 'embracing the season' means. You can do that.
Hi there, I'm an herbalist and a pilates teacher. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one. My writing reflects my experiences, and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.