In this day and age, we live life fast. We are very used to having everything we want in an instant. If we want to know something, we google it. Purchases online with next day delivery, supermarkets open 24 hours. We want it, we get it. We don't want to wait. We want quick results. Nowadays, we are impatient.
It’s the same if we are ill. We see the doctor. We take a pill and the pain goes away. (Hopefully). We don't usually care that the pill most likely will give us other problems or side effects. And of course, we don't usually see those side effects immediately so we don't even give them another thought.
Another consequence of our busy lives, is that some of us don't come up for air. We often shoehorn things into every waking moment of our lives and we become compressed, weighted down, we don't have room to smell the coffee. Our need for speed in our lives, brings about problems like anxiety, stress, reduced immune function, gut problems, insomnia, aches, pains and illness. What our bodies would love is for us to slow down a bit, take a breath, a bit of space and room to decompress.
As a therapist and reiki master in the wonderful world of holistic wellbeing, I am often asked what reiki is. I can remember some time ago, when I asked the very same question and after (a lot) of reading, experiencing, studying and learning I'm starting to understand this whole exciting world of energy healing. It's science - that's all. Physics to be more exact. Misunderstood and disregarded by many, and overlooked by others, I will try to explain the theory of reiki healing as simply as I can.
As we know from science and physics, literally everything, EVERYTHING in our existence is made from energy which all vibrates at different frequencies. Physical matter is just tight bundles of condensed energy.
The energy that flows within all living things is known as life force energy. Although sounding a bit magical to some people, it's actually much simpler than we realise. Life force energy is very real and is present in us all whether we like it, are aware of it, or not. Life force energy sits on the electromagnetic spectrum, and just like electricity, infra-red, x-rays or wireless networks, it is invisible to the naked eye.
(Fun fact - if we wanted to get technical, the electromagnetic spectrum, has only 1% of energy which is actually visible to the naked eye!)
'Reiki' is a Japanese word meaning guided life force energy and it's used as an energy healing treatment. As something which has been used in the East for thousands of years, reiki is not based around any belief system, so anyone can receive or learn to give a reiki treatment.
This life force energy flows within our physical and energetic layers through pathways called chakras and meridians. It nourishes the organs and cells of the body, supporting them in their vital functions. When the energy flow is disrupted through negativities in day-to-day life, it can upset functioning in organs and tissues. Reiki heals by flowing through the energy fields, recharging with positive energy and clearing any blockages or dense patches in the energy pathways.
Imagine a stream flowing gently. A stick has become caught between a couple of stones and everything behind it is starting to back up. More twigs, leaves, the odd crisp packet. It's starting to create a small dam - the water behind it is flowing much slower and darker. Eventually this whole section of the stream is being bypassed as it has no proper flow. Reiki is a bit like clearing away the stick which was causing the blockage in the first place, so that the whole stream can flow again.
A reiki treatment is given to a client who is fully clothed and covered, in a comfortable laying position. The therapist gradually moves around the couch, placing their hands in different positions either touching, or with hands just above the client, on the chakras then around the body. It's a very soothing, gentle and relaxing treatment.
As a client, you may experience warmth or cool areas, tingling sensations, twitching or heaviness. Some people see colours, or you may simply feel very relaxed. Some people feel nothing, but enjoy the chance to have some moments to themselves. A reiki treatment is perfect if you are physically or mentally exhausted, or if your system simply needs to reboot.
Now, one of the most important things to do as a client receiving reiki, or any holistic treatment for that matter, is to 'let it in'. So, how do we do that? Sounds complicated, I know. I used to think the same, then one day I got it. I just stopping trying and relaxed. That’s all you have to do. Slow down and let your whole body relax, let your mind relax. You may have to train yourself to relax but you can start to do this by lying quietly, still, and breathing mindfully. In your mind's eye, see your belly rise as your lungs inflate. Then watch it drop as you exhale. You will let it in by focusing on your breath, simply telling yourself that you're relaxing and you are ready and open to receiving any healing. That's it. Just don't TRY to feel anything. Just relax and let any sensations wash over you, and if you don't notice any, that’s totally fine, just know and trust that it's still working anyway.
So, if you've started to get your head around reiki as a one-to-one-on-the-couch-treatment, this is where it all gets interesting and a little bit mind blowing. We now introduce something called Distance Reiki healing!
YOU DON''T ACTUALLY HAVE TO BE PRESENT FOR THIS ENERGY HEALING TO WORK.
What??? Yes, I know! Often mistaken for being a bit 'woo-woo' and mysterious, but distance reiki is actually very real and very healing. Let's try and break it down.
So, as a human being, we are made up of physical, emotional, mental, energetic and subtle bodies.
Although we may get physical, mental and emotional changes during a treatment, reiki and distance healing works predominantly on what's known as the 'subtle body' rather than the physical body. Therefore, you will most probably get subtle results.
Subtle means that it is there, but just less obviously. We don't have a specific sense to recognise activity in the subtle body. Often, this is a kind of 'just knowing' or rather than an experience through one of our other 5 senses.
You know like the gut feeling we have when something is right or wrong. Or the aura that people describe before having a seizure. Because it's subtle, we have to take time to notice. We have to train ourselves to start knowing ourselves and recognising tiny changes. Now in terms of reiki, this definitely doesn’t mean that if you don't notice anything it's not happening. It simply means it is happening but because it's subtle you might not have noticed it.
Let's see, subtle changes. That singular moment when liking your partner changed to love? Or when you go to the gym, after one visit can you run a marathon or leave with a six pack? When you eat better to lose weight, are you down a size the next day? A change will most definitely have occurred after each gym visit or every healthy meal, but the changes are so small that you don't notice them until they become obvious enough. We don't always get subtle. We are usually too busy.
In our 21st century modern world, we have something called the internet. If we try, some of us can remember life before it. And mobile phones. When we think about it, it's pretty amazing, technology. Most of us don't have a clue how it works, we don't need to, but we know it does. And more importantly we accept that's all we need to know. So, we just relax and let it do its stuff. It’s the same with emailing, MRI scanning and radiotherapy. We can't see it working, but we're told it does and we know it does because we have seen results. Now, the more inquisitive of us might understand that these new technologies work due to scientific research. Quantum physics to be even more exact.
So, we're back to this little concept - we know that everything is energy. Everything. The internet. Radiotherapy. MRI scanning. And us. And reiki and distance reiki. And everything in between.
Reiki and distance healing has been practiced in the East for thousands of years. Those guys didn’t have any 21st century modern day technologies to compare it to, so they just accepted it and embraced it and were grateful for it. Maybe due to their slower pace of life, they were happy not to expect such instant results. Quantum physics was around then too, but having no understanding of that they just trusted the process.
So, that's sort of it really. Trust it. Even if you can't get your head around it, just know that it works. The science is out there to explore and will most likely ignite and excite you, or comatose you with tedium! But in a nutshell, it's quantum physics. It connects us without wires. And distance reiki healing is a bit like a long-distance phone call. Without the wires.
I guess that’s really all we need to know.
Life sure is different these days. Nobody in our lifetime has ever experienced anything like this COVID-19 pandemic that’s for sure. Whoever would have thought that the whole world would slow down to almost stop?
The pace of life most definitely needed to change. For too long now, life has been too fast, too on-demand and has resulted in much negativity. We have seen this demonstrated in environmental changes and we are constantly seeing it in stress-related health issues around the globe.
Hopefully, you are someone who has been fortunate enough to take on board some of the positives of the crisis, such as being able to slow down and take stock. To start to be able to appreciate the little things again and to make some time for yourself. But for many, the consequences of the pandemic have been totally devastating. For others, the anxiety and continued uncertainty is overwhelming, which makes it quite understandable that we feel the need to keep checking the news for updates and changes.
A few weeks ago, things were very uncertain. Things were changing on an almost daily basis and we needed to keep on top of what was happening. We needed to know for our businesses and workplaces, our physical and mental health. And for those of us who were going to need additional help. So, we were pretty much glued to the news most of the day. Reading the papers, following social media, radio, TV, it's all readily available, constantly.
The tension was building up again this week ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement as to whether lockdown would be lifted, and of course yesterday's news brings further uncertainty, and more unease. Therefore, it makes sense how people want to keep reading, watching and listening to updates, debates, question times, and speculators. But what we possibly could need right now is to embrace ways we can help to promote our peace of mind during this testing time.
Are you a news junkie? Checking in every hour to see the latest? The thing is newspapers and platforms want to make money. They want us to read their stories and reports. In fact, they want us to be addicted to the news so that they can keep making money. And of course, we know that bad news sells better than good news, people's interest in light-hearted stories is short-lived. So, they will make things have a bad news slant. A negative slant.
They sensationalise. Because sensationalism sells newspapers. The trouble is, bad news doesn’t make us feel happy. It creates confusion, fear and uncertainty, in an already uncertain time. But that's so we keep reading. We keep buying.
And then of course people will be commenting on social media. News programmes will have various experts discussing their take on the situation. The whole nation has developed strategies on how to run the country. Everybody is second guessing when lockdown will end and how society is going to respond in the ensuing months ahead. Then there's the depression, the frustration. It's all actually quite exhausting. So, when we've got the TV on 24/7, or we're constantly scrolling through our news feed we should bear in mind the fact that it's very easy to get caught up in it all, for it to consume us. We should be careful of what we're listening to and watching.
For our own sanity and peace of mind we might want to think about stepping away a little bit. We can't control what's happening. The same things will happen whether we read about it all the time or not.
Things now have generally stabilised or are changing at a slowly rate, so it might be worth focussing on things we can do something about. Things that do make us feel good. The sunshine, friends, family, going for a walk, nature. That thing that floats your boat.
If you're someone who is suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, or you're feeling a bit out of sorts with this whole thing, maybe take a little breather from the news, you're really not going to miss anything. Promise.
Have you ever heard the phrase by Wayne Dyer -
"if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change"?
He's basically saying that if we consider something from a different viewpoint, then it can alter the way we see it. It's all about our perception really.
Let me give you another way of looking at this idea.
4 people lined up looking out of the office window.
Fred looks out of the window and sees a big rain cloud.
Carol notices a couple walking, hand in hand.
Tom sees the big apple tree in full blossom across the car park.
Jenny notices how full the car park is.
Same view, each person noticing something different.
What WE see or notice, is never the whole picture.
We see what we want to see, what we're influenced into seeing and what we choose to see – this is our perception.
Our perception of something creates an emotion.
And that emotion releases chemicals into the body.
Positive, comfortable, loving and happy emotions release happy chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. Our body loves these. These chemicals are associated with being relaxed, feeling good, helping the body to work effectively and efficiently and also with sleeping well and healing.
Feelings and emotions around negativity, unhappiness, guilt, confusion, uncertainty etc. cause the release of chemicals such as histamine, adrenaline or cortisol. They are released to combat something which is (or more importantly the body THINKS is happening to us).
These chemicals might close down some of our body's systems or restrict their effectiveness because the body is preparing us for fight, flight or freeze – the protection mode. These chemicals are great (and necessary) for occasional use, but prolonged use means that the other systems will be not be working at their optimum level or capacity and we may become ill. The longer-term effect of all these chemicals is chronic INFLAMMATION.
As difficult as the COVID situation is right now, we can choose to focus on the current situation and have more stress hormones pumped through us (which we probably don't actually realise is happening), OR we can choose to focus on things we know make us feel good and have more serotonin flowing through our blood.
Serotonin and happy hormones create a healing internal environment, cortisol doesn’t.
What we choose to focus on won't change a situation, but it most will definitely will change our perception.
Focus changes our perception.
The perception brings the emotion.
The emotion releases the chemicals.
The chemicals make our body physically and mentally settled or unsettled.
Remember you choose what to spend your time and energy focussing on.
You can CHOOSE how to feel.
Remember it’s the EMOTION which releases the chemical, so all we have to do is create a state of mind where we can actually feel that happy, content, relaxed, loving emotion.
Your body doesn’t care whether its real or not. It just need to register the emotion.
So, you can watch happy films, read some happy literature, close your eyes and dream of being on holiday.
Browse some holiday brochures.
Sit in the garden. Go for a walk.
Eat some yummy food.
Whatever floats your boat and will keep you in a continued state of 'feel good'?
Do that then!
At New Hall Therapies we are proud to be using the finest ethically sourced, award winning products from Neal's Yard Remedies and Pinks Boutique. Created, developed and researched in the UK, both ranges offer gorgeous and highly effective, luxury skincare of which every single product is certified organic by the Soil Association. This means that you can rest assured that each product contains at least 70% of organic ingredients. Our products are vegan and absolutely nothing synthetic or artificial is added including parabens and cheap fillers.
“You are what you eat AND what you absorb…"
What does it mean to be certified organic? Here's a quick overview…
NATURAL - Be aware that ‘natural’ labelling doesn’t mean organic or necessarily safe. ‘Natural’ can include ingredients which have been treated with harmful pesticides. Many poisons are derived from ‘natural’ sources. Petroleum and mineral oils are ‘natural’ but potentially harmful and included in loads of products on the market.
ORGANIC - Even ‘organic’ labelling can be misleading. Unless a product is certified by a body such as the soil association, an organic product only needs to contain as little as 1% organic ingredient to be called ‘organic’. (Soil association certified means products need at least 60% organic ingredient to be awarded.) The term ‘organic’ refers only to plant based ingredients. Other effective ingredients may be included in the product such as water, clay or salt but these cannot be organic, hence justifying a certified product showing less than 100% on its labelling. (Do note however that these other products may be ‘organically sourced’, eg. salt mined without chemicals. The Soil Association now offers a certification for non-organic ingredients with the Soil Association COSMOS logo which guarantees:
- No animal testing
- No GM ingredients
- No controversial chemicals
- No parabens and phthalates
- No synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all products out there on the market are safe. Big pharma companies who develop and sell them are the ones who fund and supply the research too.
Breathing. Yes we all do it. We have to, if we didn’t we'd die. But do we do it properly? There are different ways of breathing. By breathing properly our bodies will work more effectively and in turn we will actually FEEL the benefits.
When we are in flight or flight mode, our adrenalin and other stress hormones kick in, breathing speeds up and our heart rate quickens in order to get the oxygen to our extremities quicker. To enable and balance this process, energy from other tissues, organs and systems such as the immune or digestive systems slows down. This is all normal and supposed to happen to keep us safe.
However, when we are continually stressed from day to day life, the same things are happening in our body, just on a less obvious or noticeable scale. Constant stress, we know can result in issues such as low immunity or digestive problems, constipation, IBS, not sleeping etc etc the list is endless.
Possibly the single most important thing we can do to help ourselves is breathe properly. In yoga it's said that the breath is the bridge between the mind and the body. There are lots of different breathing techniques, but here's something to try. When you can (finding and allowing some time is again key) Close your eyes, sit up straight or lie down and begin to breathe normally. Notice and watch your breath. Assuming that you have no specific breathing problems, (for people with respiratory illnesses, this wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate) make sure that your shoulders aren't moving. Try and lower them. Begin to notice how your belly moves up and down with your breath. Breathe deeply into your belly. Count to 4 as you breathe in, hold for 4, then breathe out for 4. Keep doing this for as long as you can, breathing all the way in to your belly, and all the way out from your belly.
Stress makes us breathe shallowly, using only the top part of our lungs. This way the body isn't getting enough oxygen and it is tense, which then affects our personal strength and resilience. By breathing properly using the whole of the lung, we can oxygenate our body more effectively and get rid of the carbon dioxide toxins, we will feel calmer, less tense, our tissues and organs will work better, everything will be back to performing as it should. A bit like an MOT. You are the Rolls Royce, happy motoring x
The skin is one of the most incredible organs in the human body. Yes, it's an organ, which means that it works alongside the other organs as part of the whole system. It is actually the largest organ in the body! The great thing about the skin is that it forms a boundary between us and the outside world. The two main layers of skin are the epidermis, which forms the barrier and the dermis underneath. The dermis contains the blood supply, nerve endings, oil and sweat glands, hair follicles, collagen and elastin to keep the skin strong.
The main functions of the skin are:
The skin protects our organs, inner tissues and even bones from being exposed to the outside world. It protects against physical trauma and bacterial invasion and produces melanin which offers some protection against sun damage. Skin is covered with oils and nutrients which protect the outer layers from damage. This also helps the skins natural barrier against losing all the necessary nutrients and minerals which are stored.
When we become hot, our skin excretes sweat from the sweat glands to help us cool down and is one of the ways the body rids us of toxins and waste products. Hair follicles and blood vessels in the skin will react according to the external temperatures keeping us warmer when necessary. The release or retention of heat depends on temperature outside of the body.
Growth and movement
Because of the elasticity of the skin we are able to grow and this allows the body to change shape. These properties in the skin will also help us with movement. If your skin were rigid and hard, you would suffer pain when moving, if you were able to move at all. The elastic properties of the skin mean that it bounces back to its original form.
Our skin is sensitive and contains nerve endings which alert us to hot, cold or pain instantly and the messages sent to the brain allows the appropriate involuntary responses to maintain our body's safety. However, these nerve endings also allow the body to enjoy pleasant sensations such as gentle touch.
Skin actually breathes. The body needs to be able to absorb Vitamin D from sun and also oxygen and nitrogen from the atmosphere. It will absorb much of what is put on the skin, including more harmful products. What we put ON to our body is as important as what we put in our body. Almost 60% of everything that we put onto our skin is absorbed into the body. It’s really important to be aware of ingredients in your skincare products. Many products and brands contain ingredients which can be potentially harmful or have been linked to specific illnesses such as cancers. Pharmaceutical and health and beauty companies have clever marketing techniques which may mislead us in the selection of our products.
What does this mean to us?
So we know that we need to look after our heart, our liver and our lungs, but with all the jobs that the skin has to do, it's crucial that we look after the skin too.
The skin indicates how well we are. It will show signs of stress, dehydration and illness. Often the first changes in our general health can be seen in the skin's colour, texture, appearance, increase in spots and skin conditions.
How we can help our skin:
Drink plenty of water
Eat a healthy balanced diet
Take time to relax and avoid stress
Avoid or minimise toxins such as smoking, drugs or alcohol
Apply natural organic products where possible
Dry body brushing
Ok, I know I am always harping on about my wonderful aromatherapy! But the truth is, the benefits are so vast. Aromatherapy is, in a nutshell, the study of essential oils - which are the oils derived and extracted from plants, which all contain individual healing properties for various health and wellbeing issues and each has an amazing scent or aroma. Mixing oils together creates wonderfully aromatic blends which can then be used. Probably my favourite way of using essential oils is my wonderful, trusty and well-used diffuser. It's SO easy!
What is a diffuser I hear you ask?? Well it’s an electronic device, which has a chamber in the top where you pour a little water and then add a few drops of your chosen essential oils or blends.
Using the diffuser in different rooms can provide the right oils for the job in hand...
Here's some examples:
Other benefits of essential oils
Supports immune system – ideal at this time of year when our resistance is starting to lower.
Lifts mood – many oils are known to be uplifting helping us to feel brighter.
Decongestant – Some essential oils contain properties which help open our airways and encourage expectoration which helps us breathe easier. Ideal for coughs, colds and snuffles.
Stress reduction – Essential oils are well known to help with stress, anxiety and relaxation.
Sleep – a big problem for many. Lack of sleep can be responsible for much exhaustion, irritability, illness and stress. Essential oils can play a huge part in getting on top of this issue.
Hormone balancing – great for people of a certain age.
Headache relieving – need I say more?
Focussing – when you need to get on with that homework or presentation, these oils can help to stimulate the part of the brain requiring focus.
Never put undiluted essential oils directly onto the skin as their potency can cause skin irritation or sensitivity – but straight into the diffuser water is perfectly safe.
Wherever possible use organic essential oils, but more importantly, be sure to NEVER USE SYNTHETIC FRANGRANCE OILS! These oils are chemically derived not plant based. They contain harsh chemicals and can cause irritation even on inhalation.
So smelling the most beautiful of exotic aromas in the comfort of your own home AND knowing that it is good for your health into the bargain…..what's not to like?
Happy diffusing, enjoy !!
In this day and age, all around us we are being encouraged us to be more autonomous with pretty much everything in our lives. We are being encouraged to take control of our own health and wellbeing, being taught to recognise signs and symptoms and act on them. Everything is about being proactive rather than reactive. When we go to the bank, we don’t simply hand over our bank books to the lady behind the counter anymore. We have choices. We can bank online, if we go in to the branch we can 'self serve'. It's all about us taking the lead these days. Even a visit to the doctors results in the GP asking us what we think is the problem before giving us their likely diagnosis. And actually it’s a good thing. Its empowering. We should have some choices in our lives and our wellbeing.
It’s the same when you come to me for a massage treatment. A massage can be either passive – where it's something just being 'done' to you, or it can be active. An active treatment really means that the therapist and the client work TOGETHER to decide what kind of treatment is the most suitable on that particular day. The treatment is then designed on the outcome you want to achieve right then and there. The style, the depth and the speed can all be agreed. Your treatment, your choice! After all, when you go into a cake shop and ask for a cake, what's the first thing the shopkeeper will ask?……….(carrot for me please!!)
Whether we like it or not, we are evolving and changing on a daily basis. What our bodies wanted or needed last week, might not necessarily be the same thing we want or need this week. We are so very good at identifying what we don’t want. We know what we don’t like. We know how we don’t want to feel. All the negatives! Let's flip it over to the positives…
So what DO we want? How WOULD we like to feel? If the pain goes what WILL be there? If we are de-stressed what will be left instead? Tricky isn’t it?.......No! Not when you get used to doing it, it's actually easy because you get to know your yourself, what you need and what makes you feel good. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen instantly and sometimes you just won’t feel you know right then and there. But that's why we work together. So many people come into my treatment room and simply don’t know how they want to feel or won’t allow themselves to believe they could feel PAIN FREE or DE-STRESSED or light, loose, free, focussed, happy, loved, worthy, grounded, true to themselves, clear-headed or whatever.
With a bit of time and practice and daring to choose how you WANT to feel and with the right treatment to support it, you will.
There is so much around these days about stress and stress management, but just what does that really mean to us?
The Oxford English dictionary defines stress as:
"Pressure or tension exerted on a material object" and also as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances."
When we are stressed our bodies release chemicals to give us extra energy and strength. This is very useful and necessary to avoid immediate danger and return us to what we call homeostasis – our normal or natural order. The kinds of things we might notice here are: sweaty palms, faster heartbeat, out of breath, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach or needing the toilet. So, this example is a kind of short term stress – we get stressed, we address it, we are safe again and we move on. Absolutely wonderful if we are running from a mad axe-man or freeing ourselves from the jaws of a shark. Now the problem starts with longer term stress when we don’t use up this extra energy.
Over time, (and this can be many, many years, or maybe just a very short time) stressful things that affect us, or experiences that we have had, spill over from our minds and into our bodies. If these 'things' or issues are not dealt with then they will sit there within the layers of our body for a long time, fester and eventually manifest as a physical problem. The body needs to let go and release these 'things' in order to work most effectively.
Symptoms of stress
Our bodies will give us signs that there is a problem or something is not quite right, but in this fast-paced life that we live, we often ignore the signs and symptoms until the problem is so big that we can't ignore it anymore and it is causing our life not to run smoothly. This is longer term stress. Sometimes we may not even realise we have it.
Symptoms of longer term stress might begin with things like:
This list is a mere dot on the landscape of symptoms of stress, but the main point is that we need to look after ourselves to stay well, perform effectively and ideally avoid stress altogether. Obviously in the 21st century avoiding stress altogether is probably very unlikely, but what we can do is be kind to ourselves and try to manage any stress we may be up against, or anything which has been with us for a long time. We often avoid the subject of self-care saying that we are….too busy, too busy with work, don't have time, busy with the kids, don’t have enough money, have other things to do, etc etc.
We will look at types of things we can do to help us manage stress in future blogs. But put simply, we can't do everything all of the time that’s for sure, and if we don't put ourself at the top of the To-Do list, then all those other things on it will suffer. They won't get done, or they won't get done effectively, or we will forget something or not give as much as we could. Putting ourselves first doesn’t mean we are selfish or a bad parent, literally quite the opposite. We are worth it and our loved ones deserve for us to be the best we can……