Sacred Breath: Giving Ourselves Permission

Sacred Breath breathing-meditation

“The wisest one-word sentence? Breathe.”
~Terri Guillemets

Breathing is the channel through which the human body is designed to discharge 70% of its toxins. The smaller percentage of toxins are discharged through sweat, defecation, and urination. We don’t rid our bodies of toxins properly when we aren’t breathing properly; this means really filling our belly and lungs and fully exhaling, slowly and deeply enough to receive the oxygen that we truly need to function at full capacity.

We tend to forget and “outgrow” the full belly breathing that was so natural for us as babies. We can reclaim a major foundation of our health simply by relearning how to breathe by first becoming aware of our breathing patterns to see how often we actually hold our breath and checking in with our bodies throughout the day.

Sacred Breath breathe

In daily modern life, anxiety, stress, and trauma overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system (a system meant to be stimulated for only minutes at a time) on a consistent, on-going basis. We have become shallow chest breathers, just getting by with enough oxygen to survive while holding our bodies rigid.

Breathing affects our respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular, and psychic systems. It affects our sleep, memory, concentration, and energy levels.

Dropping our breath down to deep diaphragmatic (belly) breathing makes a huge difference and helps to re-program our nervous systems away from chronic stress.

The diaphragm muscle is located just below the lungs and, like any muscle, becomes weak when it is underused. Instead, we overuse the secondary breathing muscles located in the neck and the back causing imbalances and leading to neck and back issues and tension headaches. Eventually they can build up and surprise us with a pulled muscle that we didn’t see coming.

It is also a foundational “core” muscle. It is the beginning point for core strength and core rehabilitation. Both the diaphragm and pelvic floor work in tandem and are both toned during diaphragmatic breath. If we don’t use our diaphragms regularly while breathing, we don’t build foundational core strength. Proper breathing is essential to the natural course of laboring and birthing. It builds deep core muscle strength which aids mothers during pregnancy and postpartum recovery.

Breath plays a major role in the functioning of the immune system; in fact, improper breathing is a common cause of ill health and, in some cases, life-threatening disease. Medical research reports the prime cause of 1.5 million heart attacks each year is hypoxia (a lack of oxygen). Scientists have confirmed that a key precursor of cancer is a lack of oxygen at the cellular level.

It takes time to correct our breathing habits and develop the diaphragm muscle but, with repetition and consistency, you will feel the difference. Try this lying on your back with you knees up and soles of your feet down on any surface, just before you go to sleep. Repeat each 10-20x.

MAKE NOTE: If you get lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous, this is a sign of detoxification and lets you know that your body really needs this. Just back off and take a drink of water. Return to the breathing when you feel clear again.

  • Place your hands on your belly, inhale, filling it like a balloon.
  • Exhale fully.
  • Place your hands on the sides of your ribs.
  • Inhale deeply, expanding your ribs out sideways avoid your chest rising.
  • Exhale fully.

See what happens when you give yourself permission to take up some space and time and really BREATHE.

Healing After C-Section Birth: Scar Massage

Scar Massage cesarean-scar-quote-image

“To all women who have brought life into the world, to their courage and power. Thank you all.”
-Jane Claire, “C-Section Guide: A Handbook to be Informed, Empowered, Pro-Active”

A C-section is two very important things. First of all, it is birth. C-section birth is also major surgery which requires rehabilitation. Education and support is often lacking in regards to being aware of the potential post-surgery complications. Basic tools for healing and repair beyond “go home and rest” are sorely needed as follow-up to ensure the health and safety of mothers.

C-section surgery cuts through six body layers leaving a scar. The incision cuts the fascia (connective tissue) of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, superficial nerves and disrupts the lymphatic flow. As a result, scar tissue forms along the abdomen and uterus.

If you’ve had a C-section, these signs and symptoms may indicate that you’ve developed the bands of internal scar tissue known as adhesions.

  • Generalized pelvic pain or abdominal cramps
  • Sense of pain, tugging or pulling in the abdominal area when you bend forward or sideways, while lifting, leaning, reaching or standing up straight
  • pain, discomfort, or urgency when urinating
  • pain or discomfort with intercourse
  • infertility
  • gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation (including IBS)
  • low back pain
  • incontinence
  • pelvic organ prolapse

“If not treated, scar tissue can spread in multiple directions. It can also travel up towards the diaphragm and inhibit breathing”.

How Can You Immediately Address Healing After C-Section?

  • rest and recovery
  • avoid doing too much, too soon
  • keep your incision clean
  • avoid lifting anything heavy
  • eat well to support healing

cesarean-scar-healing

Scar Tissue Massage as Medicine

With physician clearance post-c-section, women can generally begin scar massage at 6-8 weeks postpartum. Or seek a qualified massage therapist or physical therapist. Gentle, consistent massage for as little as 5 minutes per day is effective. It involves massaging the scar tissue so it becomes softer and more pliable using “three dimensional focus, slowly and gently separating the adhered tissues in all directions.”

Some women don’t want to look at or touch their scar because of pain or numbness. Everyone has different responses; there may be little to no pain, a burning sensation, pain, or emotional release which can include feeling sad, angry, or incredible relief, crying, laughing or any combination of emotions.

Benefits of Scar Tissue Massage

  • softens tissues
  • increases circulation
  • lightens color of the c-section scar
  • reduces “pooch” if caused by fluids trapped by the dam of scar tissue
  • creates a flat, smooth scar
  • stimulates the nerve endings
  • reduces/eliminates numbness
  • increases circulation
  • improve body awareness
  • reduce lumps and chords which may contribute to complications from adhesions (see list above)

Initially, hold below your scar to avoid it opening. The actual scar is much deeper down than what you can see and feel.  Focus on gentle, deep breaths into your belly to help relax the muscle and skin tissues and the nervous system. After you massage for a long time, the scar softens and you can penetrate the abdomen more deeply and help dissolve the deeper levels. To prevent keloids, apply silica strips or gel which will help with discoloration and scar texture on the surface.

Healing After C-Section Birth: Dry Skin Brushing

Healing After C-Section

Dry skin brushing is an effective tool for self-care and recovery after c-section birth. It can increase circulation, remove dead skin, decrease infection, and assist healing by protecting an incision from developing ingrown hairs.

Healing After C-Section dry-skin-brushingBenefits of dry skin brushing include:

  • Moves the lymph which flows down in the deep skin layer.
  • Helps prevent or reduce ingrown hairs on or around the incision.
  • Stimulates the skin’s oil glands maintaining healthy, functional skin.
  • Stimulates circulation which helps remove toxins, tightens the skin, and accelerates healing.
  • Improves the function of the nervous system.
  • Tones the muscles.

LYMPH is a major component of our IMMUNE SYSTEM. In fact, our bodies contain more lymph than blood. Lymph brings our cells nutrients and removes their waste through white blood cells called lymphocytes.

Dry skin brushing moves the LYMPH when it can get clogged with large proteins and particulate matter. Lymph is the only way they can be transported back into the circulatory system. When these proteins are not removed, they attract other fluid which results in swelling. This is called lymphedema.

Consistent skin brushing will reduce and eliminate INGROWN HAIRS around the incision. If not treated, these hairs can create blemishes and lead to more scarring.

The skin is your body’s largest organ and vital to proper ELIMINATION OF WASTE PRODUCTS. If the skin is not maintained, the kidneys will take over this duty and be put under great strain.

Dry skin brushing removes the old top layer of skin, allowing the clean new layer to come to the surface. Our bodies make a new top layer of skin every 24 hours thus producing a softer smoother scar and skin in general. The old, neglected outer layer of skin has been tested and found to contain uric acid, which is highly toxic.

Our skin actually BREATHES when unclogged! It is designed to be a major route of detoxification but cannot function properly when clogged with dead skin cells and the waste excreted through perspiration. Dry skin brushing increases circulation to skin, encouraging our bodies’ natural capacity for discharge of metabolic wastes.

Many women report that their scars feel numb. Dry brushing rejuvenates the nervous system by stimulating nerve endings in the skin. This stimulation causes the individual muscle fibers to activate and move which also helps muscle tone. This benefit greatly contributes to the recovery of the abdominal muscles as well.

The combination of dry skin brushing with daily cesarean scar self-massage (see “Healing After C-Section Birth: Scar Massage”) is a great combination in your toolbox for healing.

C-section birth recovery and postpartum recovery in general, can be a multilayered and sometimes delicate process. Your commitment, consistent effort, patience, and perseverance will pay off! It takes strength to ask for help when you need it.

Remember to have compassion and give yourself major credit for doing the amazing and hard work of being a mother!

Sacred Body: Helping Ourselves

Helping Ourselves - Nang Talinee, the Lao Earth GoddessSuppose… the body is a God in its own right, a teacher, a mentor, a certified guide? Then what? …. Are we strong enough to refute the party line and listen deep, listen true to the body as a powerful and holy being?”

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run with the Wolves)

Our bodies are a sacred gift that, when cared for, are a vital part of our ability to live life to the fullest and be our truest selves. The body has great intelligence and is capable of profound healing and amazing feats as well as the little things that give us so much pleasure. It will also tell us when something is wrong.

Our job is to listen and respond accordingly.

Developing this relationship with our bodies is a skill that takes practice and support to develop because we are generally taught to do the opposite. The conscious connection between our minds and bodies has, in many cases, been weakened or even severed. We may walk around numb to the signals and signs as well as our emotions and feelings. We often feel guilty when we give priority and take the time to listen to our intuition.

But there is a big difference between thoughtful listening and responding and being selfish.

I find that one of the greatest challenges for us as women is valuing ourselves enough to focus our attention upon our own needs to an effective level.

Our bodies love to be loved and we are each the only person who can ultimately give that love. Movement, fitness, proper breathing, nourishing foods, plenty of water (dehydration is epidemic in this country), and the cultivation of a positive mindset can form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. This is extremely powerful medicine. It can help us find our strength and balance in these times.

Reclaiming Ancient Feminine Wisdom

In our culture, postpartum is generally considered to be the first 6-8 weeks after giving birth. In some traditional cultures, the mother and baby are secluded, sheltered, protected, and nurtured for the first 40 days postpartum. This is to ensure that the mother’s womb and belly heal properly and that her full health and vigor is restored before she takes on the full-time job of childrearing.

What a humane and logical way to prepare mothers for perhaps the most challenging job they will ever undertake.

But in the modern world, without the family, community, and “village” structures in place, the health of families and often the postpartum mother is “falling through the cracks” of public health. It is alarming to me to see how many mothers have never received any support or education about postnatal recovery, including women with grown children. Many issues will not go away without proper care.

I’m witnessing how women beyond the socially acceptable period of 6-8 weeks, are often ashamed that they couldn’t “get it together and recover” during this short period. Sometimes they just give up or beat themselves up, adding to their sense of being burdened.

The true definition of postpartum is simply “following childbirth or the birth of young.” How can we accept that the term “postpartum” is now automatically synonymous with “depression” in our culture??

Helping Ourselves

I’ve heard many stories of mothers whose health concerns such as diastasis recti (split in the belly muscles), inability to rebuild the core (aka “mommy tummy”), incontinence, constipation, depression, numbness around cesarean scar incision, and birth trauma are disregarded. Without proper education and support, women may not know what solution to pursue, or if a solution exists at all. These issues are often brushed aside, never to be addressed as the demands of parenting take hold. They may last a lifetime, causing further pain and complications.

Finding your voice in the face of being disregarded and owning the fact that you need help or to take action can be the biggest stumbling block. This is exactly why proper postnatal recovery support, education, and services are so important and necessary for mothers at any stage. Whether it’s a network of mothers, women, family, community, and/or women’s health and fitness professionals, mothers deserve to be respected and acknowledged for the priceless contributions they make.

The well-being of our children and our planet ultimately depends on the health of mothers.