Massage Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis: Breathe Easy

Approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States have cystic fibrosis, a debilitating condition that affects breathing. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, cystic fibrosis (CF) is caused by a defective gene which causes the body to produce abnormally thick mucus which  builds up in the breathing passages of the lungs and in the pancreas. This collection of sticky mucus results in lung infections and serious digestion problems.

Losing the capacity to breathe normally is both life-threatening as well as mental strain on someone’s quality of life. Administering additional oxygen is a standard treatment for people with chronic lung diseases. Massage directly affects respiration, so there is reason to believe that massage therapy could help CF sufferers. 

Massage therapist Peter Iocovello of Broxville Wellness Sanctuary in Bronxville, NY speaks of his experience helping a patient with CF.

“I was able to help her dramatically improve her ability to breathe by massaging the muscles of the respiratory system. By focusing on specific muscles, I decreased the amount of scar tissue which had developed from several surgeries. Within just a few months, my client was able to realize her dream of running 5 miles without gasping for air. It was truly remarkable and humbling.”

Massage helps to reduce anxiety levels, positively affect mood, and in turn may enable proper breathing. Even if breathing is affected, dealing with a physically exhausting disease warrants the need for relaxation to increase feelings of comfort and well-being. There is no cure for CF and massage does not replace medical treatment, but with a doctor’s supervision it may complement the life of a CF sufferer.

7 Secrets for a Sounder Night’s Sleep

By Healing Lifestyles & Spas

The definition of insanity, Albert Einstein once quipped, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But for the millions of Americans who head to bed each night, only to spend most of it lying awake in the darkness, the hope for deep, restorative sleep isn’t a laughing matter. According to the National Sleep Foundation (who host our 2nd favorite relaxing week, “Sleep Week“) in Washington, D.C., 75% of us experience at least one indicator of a sleeping problem a few nights a week, a number that’s increased significantly in the last four years. And while most of us know that we need eight hours of sleep a night to be at our best, only about a quarter of Americans regularly get that much rest.

Not only does sleep improve your skin (it’s called Beauty Sleep for a reason!), a study from Columbia University and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City concluded that regularly cutting into your sleep time could also put you at greater risk for gaining weight. Researchers discovered that people who average less than 4 hours of sleep a night are 73% more likely to become obese than those who got the recommended 7 to 9 hours of rest. “Sleep deprivation may lower levels of leptin, a blood protein that suppresses hunger,” says lead researcher James Gangwisch. Stay up late a few nights in row, and you’ll probably notice that your appetite has spiked.

While lifestyle and environmental factors play a major part in the rest that we get, our minds often get the last word on how well we’ll sleep. To help patients get some rest (without the use of prescription medications), sleep specialists and naturopaths will often suggest a series of activities or exercises designed to relax the mind and take the focus off the day’s stressful events. Here are some of their most reliable sleep techniques.

1. Create a pre-sleep routine

“You need transitional downtime—you can’t just switch from ‘worry, worry, worry’ straight into soothing sleep,” says Joanne Getsy, medical director at the Drexel Sleep Center in Philadelphia. Make a cup of decaf tea, climb into cozy pajamas, and read an article in your favorite magazine. By creating a short wind down ritual, you’ll signal to your body that its time to enter rest mode.

2. Turn on the steam heat

Taking a hot bath or shower can depress the nervous system and encourage the muscles to relax. “At first this can be stimulating and wake you up, but after about twenty minutes, you’ll feel yourself start to get very drowsy,” says naturopathic physician Suzanne Lawton. The scent of lavender can also be relaxing, so try to find a bath product, which features it as a key ingredient. (This lavender shower fizzer by Essential Addictions is only $4)

3. Offer yourself hypnotic suggestions

Your brain can either work against you—or for you—in bed. Clear away stressful daytime thoughts by replacing them with those more conducive to sleep. “Tell yourself that you’re feeling incredibly tired, that your eyelids and body are getting heavy,” says Lawton. “Once you’ve given your brain the suggestion, the body quickly follows.”

4. Engage in deep breathing

(Elena Brower taught you this WEEKS ago!) Allow yourself to expel the stress you’ve been holding onto by exhaling it out. To begin, get settled on your back and rest your hands lightly on your belly. “Inhale slowly, feeling your hands lift on your stomach as you draw air in. Hold it for a moment; then slowly let it out. The act of deep breathing can be surprisingly emotional, so take as few or as many breaths as you feel comfortable with,” suggests Fleishmann.

5. Think of calming visuals

“Creating an image in your mind can help lead you away from stressful thoughts and into a dream-like state,” says Joanne Getsy, medical director at the Drexel Sleep Center in Philadelphia. “Some people like to imagine walking along a path near the ocean, while others might think of making snow angels in winter.” She suggests choosing a visual that’s soothing and relaxing, and if you’re inclined, building a simple story around it.

6. Get Moving

Engaging in stretches, poses, and guided relaxation just before bedtime can help release the day’s tension, preparing you for a restorative night’s sleep. If you’re not already a practiced yogi, follow along with movement expert Ann Dyer in zYoga: The Yoga Sleep Ritual (Sleep Garden; $25) for a combination that will take you from type A to Zzz in fifty minutes or less.

Chamomile… what a snore.

7. Supplementing Sleep

Taking sleeping pills isn’t the only way to tackle symptoms of insomnia. These natural remedies can help speed you towards dreamland, without a prescription.

  • Chamomile If you’re feeling agitated, brew a pot of tea made from the leaves of this fragrant herb. A strong cup can soothe aching muscles and relieve stress, enabling you to fall asleep.
  • Kava Root This member of the pepper family is a natural relaxant, which can have a therapeutic effect on your body. Take care to consume products made from the root only, as those made with the leaves and stem could have adverse side effects.
  • Valerian A non-addictive sedative with anti-anxiety benefits, valerian can keep you from feeling wired and worried, reducing the amount of time it takes you to drift off at bedtime.
  • Melissa Extract Also called Lemon Balm (thanks to its citrus-like scent), this member of the mint family works to relax agitated nerves and encourage proper digestion.

Lead Image via, ocean image via chichacha’s flickr

5-Minute Daily Breathing: Challenge Completed!

If you are anywhere along Irene’s warpath, let Elena Brower’s Spa Week Daily Challenge, which officially ended yesterday, continue to carry you while rain pummels down on your roof and the winds howl past your window this weekend:

JUST BREATHE.

“Breathe consciously for 5 minutes a day” to be exact, is the grounding practice that yoga expert Elena Brower challenged you all to do every day for 2 weeks. Over 100 of you joined the Daily Breathing Challenge Facebook event to share your feedback, some of you even blogged it. Some of you reported that you found it to be a meditative escape, an instant destresser, a headache-reliever. Some of you found the ritual difficult with kids running around. Some of said you found it life-changing.

I’ll be the first to admit it: This was not an easy challenge. Life is hectic, minds like to race, and I found myself not getting my 5 minutes in until just before bed on most days. I’d try at my desk on some days, but 3 minutes later that “email” sound would awaken me from my moment. I even tried to rally the Spa Week office for a 5-minute breather during a social media meeting – strength in numbers! – but alas, the consensus was: “too much to do.” My yoga classes each Monday are my favorite ways to escape through breath; absolutely no distractions. I used final savasana to concentrate on this challenge, and it was… breathtaking. So, how did you fare? Read on for inspiration from some of your fellow breathers.

Rita R: Started your challenge and probably will do this the rest of my life. I work full time at a job I had always loved . . . Then came a co-worker with such negativity. Her spirit is evil and nothing pleasant comes out of her mouth. She is always mad and complaining about something. If the sun is out, she’s mad. If it’s raining, she’s mad. I have to do this challenge to find any form of inner peace before she gets to me. I want my work environment back and I do believe this small step is helping.

Kathy V. It’s helping me get through planning my daughter’s wedding…… Just breathe

Desiree L. For four days now for 5 mins a day I just breathe and I love it!! My body releases all the tension and I feel light and free. I forget how heavy my seven mnth twin belly is and breathe.

I’ve been doing my 5 mins of breathing and I still love it… Its actually getting me ready for labor and delivery in October. Those of u who haven’t started come on give it a try!!! Do it in the shower or before bed anytime is great!! In the beginning its a challenge but now its a routine.

Lisa Gay G. About a month ago, I started my chakra meditations again, listening to the sounds of Tibetan bowls as I do. Now when I’m done, I take an extra 5 minutes with no outside sounds at all. It’s amazing!

Eve L-G. Breathing everyday! :) and after the past year, & at a near 5 months of being a caregiver to my mom who’s in the hospital which can be & is so very stressful! That I been happy to find myself actually taking upto 10 mins at a time, I can tell I need this, as I feel better afterwards :) I even have the hubby doing it too! To bad we don’t have more time daily, to sneak away from all the life’s stressors one may have.

Katherine R. C. I am at an incredibly stressful point in my life, and slowing down, breathing, and clearing my head has been a great tool for me. I also have less headaches!

Misti R. B. This daily breathing has been such a good destressor for me and I find myself taking five minutes to just breathe several times a day

Laurie M. I am trying to do this. Keep getting distracted by 2 little boys who constantly fight and scream.

Juli-Ann W. Breath is so very important to me. As a singer, it’s such a good reminder.

Diamond T. Having 8 kids, this is such a stress reliever!! Did I mention the 18 mo old twins?

Myrna S. I’ve learned that breathing makes me slow down and focus on the task at hand!

Bella D. Much needed, THANK YOU…. 5min of PEACE & CALM…. tomor I will turn lights off first, try with only sunlight shining through window :-D

Barbara J. what a win-win… focus your mind, clear your airways, rest your spirit. All while doing something you need to do anyhow. NO excuse like “too busy” and “frivolous indulgence”.

once you start *breathing* it’s hard to stop… definitely a positive thing I learned and will continue. Thanks for giving me the nudge in the right direction towards more inner peace and balance

Cara W. H.This helps me get through a long day with my 2 year old!

And now… the two luck participants who will be rewarded $50 SpaWeek Gift Cards for breathing and sharing…

Rita R – who has used this exercise to combat negativity in the office, and Diamond T. who has 8 kids. Girl, you need this! Congratulations to both of you… and to EVERYONE who has taken a step in the direction towards a clearer mind and a new outlook on life.

Winners, please email stephanie at spaweekmedia dot com with your address and phone number within 3 business days to claim your prize.

Get ready for the next Spa Week Daily Challenge, being announced next week! Hint: You are what you eat.

Stay safe this weekend! No matter the chaos going on outside… think: