“Hydrate This Summer!”

“By means of water, we give life to everything.”~Koran

Summer heat is no joke, especially in sunny, hot, and humid Southern Florida. Hydration is necessary all year but the summertime is the perfect opportunity to increase and improve the consistency of our water intake. According to a nationwide study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, more than half of children and teenagers in the United States might not be properly hydrated. One researcher stated, “I was surprised that almost one in four kids drank no water during the course of their day.”

We may think of dehydration as “dry mouth” under a scorching sun but this is not the case. It can sneak up on you if you aren’t aware of the need to hydrate regularly.

Though not usually deadly, mild dehydration can cause cognitive impairment, headaches and even nausea in severe cases. Symptoms in younger children may be fussiness, infrequent urination, dry mouth and a lack of tears when crying. For kids and teenagers, daily water requirements depend on several factors, including age and activity level.

Another study has stated that 75% of Americans tend to be mildly dehydrated. THIS IS AN EPIDEMIC AMOUNT. Our bodies are roughly 60% water by mass depending on age and body composition and adults lose nearly 4 cups of water a day through the skin and normal breathing, not to mention sweating and elimination.

Some Common Symptoms of Dehydration Include:

  1. Fatigue, Energy Loss
  2. Constipation
  3. Digestive Disorders
  4. High/Low Blood Pressure
  5. Gastritis, Stomach Ulcers
  6. Respiratory Troubles
  7. Acid-Alkaline Imbalance
  8. Excess Weight (Thirst is often confused with hunger.)
  9. Eczema
  10. Cholesterol
  11. Cystitis, Urinary Infections
  12. Joint Pain
  13. Premature Aging

Some Great Reasons to Drink Water Daily

  • Glowing, Soft Skin/Softer Hair/Healthy Weight-Health and Beauty go hand in hand!
  • Healthy Heart-A six-year study found that participants who drank more than 5 glasses of water a day were 41% less likely to die from a heart attack than those who drank less than two glasses (May 1, 2002 American Journal of Epidemiology)
  • Headache cure (in many cases)
  • Breastfeeding-increase hydration because breast milk production increases a mother’s water loss
  • Digestion-it’s necessary to digest food properly. Can help cure stomach acid problems and, with fiber, can cure constipation.
  • Cleansing/Immunity-it helps flush out toxins and waste products from the body.
  • Reduced Cancer risk-has been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 45% and bladder cancer by 50%
  • Better exercise-Exercise requires additional water, so be sure to hydrate!

Form a routine: Drink a glass…

  • when you wake up (an optimum time to drink a lot to flush and detoxify the system)
  • with each meal,
  • in between meals,
  • before, during and after exercise

Carry a bottle:

  • Fill a large (20-32 oz) drinking bottle and carry it with you all day. When it’s empty, fill it and empty it again. 64 oz. is a healthy baseline.

Set a reminder:

  • Set your clock for once an hour, for example.

Substitute water:

  • For soda, coffee, etc. Try sparkling water at social functions.

Filter:

  • Purchase a filter for your home faucet to save money on bottled water.

Track it:

  • Keep a little log check for each glass you drink daily.

Infuse It!:

  • Add sliced fruits/vegies if you dislike plain water.

This basic habit that gets overlooked by so many people can make a huge difference in your health, well-being, and quality of life! Drink up!

The Mysterious Psoas

female-hip“It’s in the reach of my arms, the span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lips. I’m a woman phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”

-Maya Angelou

Most people haven’t heard of the iliopsoas muscle, generally called the psoas (“so’ az”), much less know where it is. The largest and thickest muscle in the body, the psoas connects our trunk to the legs, connecting along the lower back (T12-L5) and involves movement of the back, pelvis, legs, and indirectly, the arms. It is deeply buried under the abdominal muscles and down into the pelvis. Think of the psoas when you enjoy that swing in your hips!

Two Fascinating Facts:
1. It’s the first muscle that forms in the human fetus.
2. When a woman is giving birth the psoas helps to push the baby out.

It’s quite common for postnatal women to report “pain in the buttocks, sacrum and along the crest of the hips in the back”. This is the path of the psoas so it’s often the culpit when it becomes tight and contracted, including the hip flexors.

AREAS WITH SIGNS OF PAIN:
low back, hips, thighs, abdomen during bowel movements, while standing or hanging, even difficulty breathing

CAUSES INCLUDE:

  • “Sucking” in the tummy (yes, allow your belly to breath!)
  • Over training
  • Sitting too long
  • Poor posture
  • Poor muscle alignment
  • Impact of childbirth
  • Scar tissue adhesions after surgery (including c-section birth)

You might call it a “deep feminine” muscle as it can also hold deeply buried emotions and tension, just like the pelvic floor.  Alexander Lowen, MD, creator of BioEnergetic therapy, wrote: ”There is a bottom to our despair. It is the pelvic floor.” Though it’s not technically a pelvic floor muscle, it is a vital part of the same web of connective tissues (known as “fascia”) and also helps create stability in our core and trunk so one invariably affects the other. As children, many of us learn to tighten our pelvic floor as a way of shutting down or repressing fearful emotions and trauma. This is a common response of “flight or fight” by the nervous system as a coping mechanism.

Other spiritual and emotional solutions may be:

  • grounding with the Earth,
  • monitoring stress levels
  • assessing whether you’re feeling supported or not

Connecting with the psoas can open up painful emotions and memories but on the other side is the healing, reclaiming our freedom of movement, vitality, dreams, creativity, and sexuality.

Standard psoas massage tends to be a harsh, painful, and even shocking experience. Therapists may dig down deep into the area without allowing the tissue layers to warm and melt so the body can open up beforehand.

Though not necessarily comfortable, I practice the approach called “Muscle Swimming”, developed by Peggy Lamb, which is a more thorough and gentle method of systematically locating and releasing the psoas, abdominal, and secondary hip flexor muscles; these all impact the health and alignment of the psoas itself. This can help alleviate stubborn low back and hip pain.

We do a simple assessment first to find out if the psoas is out of alignment and can check after each session to monitor progress.

Bellydance movement is also extremely healing for the psoas and pelvis, back, abdominals, and core in general. As a dance therapist, I incorporate these healing movements and stretches in addition to massage to bring the psoas back into health and alignment.

It’s important to develop a strong core through proper breath work and exercise but rigorous exercise can be dangerous before the psoas is back in basic alignment. Think SAFE and EFFECTIVE exercise. As with all movement, listen to your body and avoid anything that doesn’t feel right (sharp pain, cramping, etc.) Meet your body where it’s at in the moment.

Here are some basic psoas stretches. Remember to breathe…

psoas-hip-flexor-stretch-small

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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.