Don't get me wrong - I am not opposed to the buying or partying (just the rushing) and rather enjoy this time of year when we treat our loved ones to meaningful gifts. I relish in the creative thought put into selecting something special for loved ones and the eager anticipation of seeing their surprised and pleased (I hope!) expressions upon unwrapping the carefully chosen item(s). Mostly, I savor how the gift giving ritual of Christmas allows me to think about loved ones more and more, how I come to know my family better by understanding their likes and dislikes, and how it brings together family members for a happy, festive day of enjoying quality time and eating delicious food.
During the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, another personal celebration takes place - my birthday! Yet, it is not just my birthday, but my identical twin sister, Tara's, as well. We toasted to 32 years this December 2. Now, I raise my glass to her, for we have the great blessing of sharing the day upon which we entered the world together.
Tara and I give each other birthday gifts, and gift giving, no matter how big or small, is just as rewarding as gift receiving. Tara is by far my favorite person for whom to buy gifts, and I often find myself filling my shopping cart with so many items that I know she'll love that it's difficult to dwindle it down to what I can realistically afford!
The other wonderful thing about being a twin is making plans to spend time together. This year we spent it in a hot vinyasa yoga class followed by a trip to the farmer's market and a home cooked brunch by her hubby. To top it off, we attended a group acupuncture session some weeks later and mellowed out in meditation with needles sticking out of our ears and other body parts.
Taking the time to make time for loved ones, no matter what that time is spent doing, to me, is love, but then again, my "love language," according to Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (an easy, entertaining book, complete with a quiz to determine your "love language") is "quality time." With that said, being an identical twin adds a lovely dimension to my birthday, and I am ever grateful.
As twins, we share many passions such as the outdoors, travel, yoga, and all things healthy, including holistic healing. Our significant others can attest to our love and indulgences in massages, energy work, acupuncture, chakra balancing incense, essential oils, kombucha, pranayama, Vitacost, Ayurveda, juicing... and the list goes on. We seek the natural approach and alternative medicine route for just about anything, from muscle aches to colds to injuries to insomnia to house cleaning.
The natural route is what I embarked upon more than a year ago after a podiatrist offered cortisone shots and surgery for my heel spur. I balked at such a shallow, thoughtless, run-of-the-mill recommendation, especially after telling the doctor that I had an all-natural 20-hour labor and home birth, plan to nurse my child as long as he'd like, and never take Ibuprofen or other drugs. One would think that a Ph.D. holder could deduce that a breastfeeding woman whose selection of pain relief during childbirth was a tub full of hot water would absolutely not be OK with cortisone shots. Such was not the case, so I took it upon myself to find a healing modality more in tune with my beliefs. Thus, I dedicate this blog post to the holistic healers in my life. These are the people who helped me overcome the dreaded heel spur and plantar fasciitis pains that crept into my life in April 2013 as a result of running (with atrocious form, mind you!) up until my seventh month of pregnancy.
To begin, I must tell you that on Thanksgiving I decided to experiment with a past time of the past - I logged in a five and a half mile pre-breakfast sunrise run. Because it felt so good to greet the day in such a way, I woke up and ran five miles on my birthday as well, before Eric went to work. The morning run was special to me because I hadn't done one since before Avie was born - these days I do my runs after breakfast and before lunch when Avie begins to show signs of needing his first nap.
Since September, I've been running 20 to 30 miles per week. Most of those are accompanied by Avie. I nestle him into his Bob Revolution SE all-terrain jogging stroller covered in a protective weather shield, and we savor the quiet, calm, peace that comes with winter running. We get outside in the frigid, fresh air, even when it's snowing, raining, sleeting, 10 degrees, or all of the above. Each time, the bumps in the road, the sound of the wind, and the rhythm of my cadence lull him to sleep.
According to Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity authors and Another Mother Runner founders Dimity McDowell and Sarah Brown Shea, if pushing a stroller, running mileage can be multiplied by two. For instance, when I run six miles while pushing Avie in his stroller, I have the permission of all mother runners everywhere to call it a 12-miler. Do I do this when totaling my weekly miles? No, but I delight in the fact that if I wanted to, I could say that I run 40 to 60 miles per week. And, if I wanted to get technical, I could even calculate the week's total for stroller miles and solo miles, but the math required deters me. In the end, miles aside, I am grateful that I am where I am in my experience as a mother runner who has recovered from injury and acknowledge the aid of my mighty quiver of holistic healers.
Before I introduce you to them, allow me a short flashback as a means of demonstrating the effectiveness of their services. Recalling how I felt one year ago after completing a short birthday run, I shudder at the thought of how painful it was! My right heel spur and plantar fasciitis in both feet shot pains up my legs, causing my calves to burn, feet to throb, hamstrings to tense, psoas to tighten, toes to curl, face to grimace, and eyes to cry! Afterward, I was left hobbling along for the next three weeks, when I tried to run again, at which time the result was similar. I felt hopeless, thinking I'd never run again, let alone walk from the bedroom to the kitchen pain-free, and took a three-month running hiatus. I desperately made bargains with God and all gods everywhere - I implored that if I could just run three miles three times a week I would happy. When it became apparent that my appeal to the higher beings and at-home therapies of yoga, rest, ice, compression, epson salt soaks and rolling the feet with a golf ball were doing little to progress the healing, I sought professional help.
One of the first people I called was Alik Minikhanov for acupuncture and the wisdom he offers during his sessions. Aside from the effective treatment of my feet with cold laser therapy, reflexology, acupuncture, and massage, he suggested that I meditate. It was his counsel during a reflexology treatment at the end of December 2013 that led to a deeper exploration of my semi-committed, half-hearted meditation practice, and my 2014 resolution to meditate more deeply. Thus, Alik revealed to me how powerfully a role the mind and focused meditation can play in the healing process and set into motion my meditation.
Turning inward has as much of an effect on healing as the outward, hands-on methods, it turns out. In thinking about the inward aspect, I cannot help but see a correlation between my going vegan, which happened in August, and my return to consistent, pain-free running, which happened in September. Coupled with holistic healing, could the elimination of all animal products from my diet have helped reduce the inflammation in my body? It very likely could have had a profound affect and is the premise of such books as The China Study, but the purpose of this post is to thank the people who have helped with their healing hands. Perhaps I'll explore a vegan/running blog post at a later date.
In addition to Alik's help, the services provided by Rolfer Michael Waller; acupuncturist Melissa Murtha; chiropractor Dr. Claire McDaniel; and cranial sacral therapist/ spiritual guide/ pulsed electro-magnetic field therapy mat facilitator Paul Bando have been paramount. Below I share with you my personal encounters with each of them.
Acupuncture, massage, reflexology, cold laser therapy, and insight by Alik Minikhanov: To expound more upon Alik's services, I'll begin by telling you that a massage with Alik leaves me feeling as if I could melt into the warm earth, sleep for three days, and wake up possessing a heightened sense of clarity, rejuvenation, and calmness throughout every fiber of my being. IT'S. THAT. GOOD. Alik is one of those supremely gifted healers whom I'd travel far and wide to see. He helped heal my feet at the peak of their injury, from December 2013 to March 2014. Sessions involved cold laser therapy, acupuncture, massage and reflexology, plus tips on how to speed healing, such as adding Aqualyte water enhancer (coral calcium) to my drinking water, incorporating meditation into my day, and encouragement that, yes, besides being able to one day take one tiny step pain free, I would indeed run again. His prediction was accurate, and his encouragement kept my chin up.
Thank you, Alik, for your wisdom, client-centered approach, advocacy for relaxation, and for giving your all for the benefit of making the lives of other's more comfortable, fulfilled and pain-free. Even more, I always appreciate our conversations about raising babies and running. During my most recent massage, Alik asked if I planned to race sometime soon. I said yes, that I'd like to run a marathon, and he told me that if I can breathlessly run up the Summit, the local mountain pass, that I can run a marathon. This is no feat to be taken lightly, but I plan to do it soon- perhaps a Christmas run? To make an appointment with Alik or simply inquire about all the services he provides, contact the Nemacolin Woodlands Holistic Healing Center.
Rolfing by Michael Waller: My May blog post, Rolfing Away Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Spurs, gives specific details of the results and impressions of my initial Rolfing treatments. After each Rolfing session, I am amazed at how quickly my physical capabilities are propelled to new heights. The term "miracle" pops into my head each time I step off the Rolfing table. It seems a miracle that two hours of Rolfing can bring my body back to feeling brand new. Pains that once plagued me day in and day out because of pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period have never returned as a direct result of Rolfing, and those include: the constant dull, achy tightness in both psoas muscles; the burning, stinging feeling in the right hamstring, adductor and pelvic muscles; the restless leg syndrome associated with overly tight calf muscles and ankles; the congested, tight feeling around the right side of the cervical spine; and a fire-like, sharp-as-knife sensation that inflicted both feet and heels and shot pains up the legs and into the low back 24/7. These sensations have completely disappeared immediately after and even during Rolfing sessions. I continue to walk, float, rather, out of each Rolfing session with complete freedom in areas that felt impossible to restore.
Thank you, Michael for the art of Rolfing, and, of course, for our lively, fun conversations during session. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for finding my Rolfer and believe that above all else, Rolfing has restored my body most dramatically - it's been the catalyst to renewal while acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and PEMF therapy have acted as support. To experience the kinesthetic and visual on-the-spot physical changes of Rolfing, visit Michael's web site at www.prorolfing.com and make an appointment with him as soon as possible.
Acupuncture by Melissa Murtha: I first met Melissa in 2010 when my regular acupuncturist whose office was in Shady Side, a Pittsburgh neighborhood, recommended me to her for post traumatic stress disorder. I was living in Pittsburgh and doing my graduate assistantship at Carnegie Mellon University at the time. One day around 1 p.m., I decided to take a stroll in the aftermath of a snow storm that shut down the city. I was walking slowly on a path dug out on the side walk through about four feet of snow. A man, walking at a fast clip, approached me on the same narrow path. I stopped to let him go by. He stopped as well, stuck a 9 mm gun into my stomach, and told me to give him all my money. Luckily, I was in graduate school and had no money to give him! Instead, I handed him a point and shoot digital camera. He took it, scanned it over, gave it back, laughed, shouted "just kidding!" and ran along his way. I ran, too, straight home, which at the time was a rented room on the second floor of the daycare part of Pittsburgh's Waldorf School. I breathlessly told my roommate what happened, she called 911, and I met with the police. Over the next couple weeks, I had panic attacks upon seeing any man matching the physical characteristics of my gun-toting pal. Finally, I called my acupuncturist, who told me to call Melissa Murtha, who gave me a highly effective, heart-opening treatment that diminished all my anxiety. Thank you, Melissa!
Since then I've seen Melissa for a host of things, including general well-being, pregnancy and postpartum, dealing with the grief of losing my dad while eight months pregnant, and now for maintenance of my plantar fasciitis and heel spur and miscellaneous baby-carrying and running-related muscular aches. Melissa remains my constant and steady healing force, one whom I recommend to all my friends for not only her skills but also her nurturing, thorough, collaborative approach to acupuncture sessions. As an added bonus, it's always a joy to see Melissa and feel her positive vibes! To schedule an appointment with her, contact the Nemacolin Woodlands Holistic Healing Center or Braun Chiropractic.
Chiropractic by Dr. Claire McDaniel: While I was pregnant, my SI joint popped in and out of socket on a daily basis because of the hormone relaxin surging through my body and prepping it for the looseness and freedom required of the joints and muscles for birth. Nicole Gautier-Schatz, my prenatal yoga instructor who was a doula and midwife for nearly 30 years, insisted I make an appointment with Dr. Claire McDaniel, a specialist in chiropractic care for pregnant women. I didn't schedule that recommended appointment until Avie was about 10 months old. When I did, Dr. McDaniel took x-rays, reviewed them with me vertebrae by vertebrae, and sought to realigning what a four-year-old mountain biking accident of flying over the handle bars, landing on my head and subsequent concussion, plus other high-impact sports and on top of that pregnancy, did to my body. After many frequent visits, I was realigned and have found relief in my SI and cervical spine, which has simultaneously relieved the nerve pressure of my heel spur. Now I see Dr. McDaniel on an as-needed basis - lately, it's been once every one or two months. Thank you, Dr. McDaniel! To make an appointment with her, contact Atlas Chiropractic in Morgantown, W.V.
Cranial sacral therapy/spiritual guidance/Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field mat therapy rental by Paul Bando: For one month during the summer, I rented a Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy mat from Paul Bando, who practices cranial sacral therapy and other energy work. The prescribed use of the system for plantar fasciitis was spending 30 to 40 minutes three times per day using the full-body mat, the foot pillow and the probe. PEMF, put simply, heals on a cellular level via magnetic fields, and after religiously adhering to the thrice daily treatment, I began to turn my daily walks into walk/runs, and then full runs. Paul also generously gave me several bottles of essential oils to apply directly on my feet to combat inflammation and soreness. I still use the essential oils and recommend the mat for anyone with stubborn ailments that need a deep, cellular healing.
Further, Paul graciously took my prayers of healing to John of God during his journey to Brazil for spiritual purposes in July. Thus, I thank Paul for his abundantly positive, compassionate energy, his belief and openness to the workings of the higher forces of the universe, his prayers and intercessions on my behalf, his generosity and kindness, and his hard work and dedication to the betterment of my feet. Paul is easy to talk to, and his mere presence offers a sense of calm and healing. To contact Paul or to learn more about PEMF, visit his web site.
As I wrap up this post, I find myself wanting to thank many more people, such as Eric, my fiance and baby's daddy, for supporting my non-traditional path to wellness. My hopes are that Avie remains a holistic healing enthusiast for the entirety of his life as I slowly introduce him to them for the mind, body, and soul benefits they provide at the hands of loving, compassionate, intelligent, spiritual, and truly gifted individuals. He's already experienced some Rolfing and chiropractic!
As yoga teacher Brian Kest professed at the close of a two-hour yoga class that I practiced with my good friends Diane and Yogi Wade yesterday to honor the Winter Solstice, if we focus on the things for which we are grateful, the goodness of our lives will far outweigh the bad and have a transformative influence on how we live our lives. Conveniently, it's a great time to begin a practice of gratitude, whether it's via journaling, meditating, or orally listing them before dinnertime, because the Winter Solstice shared a day with the New Moon, which invites us to begin anew. Together, then, let's express and share our blessings and begin to make the world a brighter, better place! Happy Birthday Month, Tara; Happy Winter Solstice and New Moon; and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!