Category Archives: wellness

5 Travel Tips For Wellness

Every year we leave our homes numerous times to visit family and friends and we check our health at the departure gate, not just our bags. This Thanksgiving bring your health and your eating regime with you so that you return from the holiday actually feeling rested.

1. Keep Drinking

Just because you are not in your office cubicle with your special office water bottle does not mean that you need to stop drinking all together.  Think of every long conversation or road trip as an opportunity to keep a glass of water or a water bottle near by. You don’t need to drink coffee or tea whenever you sit down, replace your extra holiday beverages with water and fight the bloated, fatigued, headachy feeling that comes from dehydration.

2. Stay Regular

The best test for wellness while traveling is definitely the bowels. They are an incredibly sensitive system in the body. If you have a tendency towards constipation drink one or two glass of warm or room temperature water immediately upon waking and then follow it with a hot beverage like herbal tea or hot water with a little lemon juice and honey. Hydrating first thing in the morning will replenish the inevitable dehydration that comes from sleeping and keep bowels moving. Avocados, prunes, beets, sweet potatoes, and walnuts are much safer and tastier than traveling with a laxative.  If you know you have a tendency towards loose stools avoid overly spicy foods, greasy foods and cold raw foods.  Those are too much for a travel weary stomach.

3. Sip and Savor

If you set your self up to avoid all the tasty treats of the season you will fail, be miserable or do both. Instead think about high quality ingredients. Instead of sitting yourself in front of a bowl of cheap candy, bring expensive organic chocolate with caramel and sea salt to share. It will make you slow down and savor it and everyone will love you. Look for the desserts that you know will taste best and if it doesn’t taste as good as you thought it would don’t finish it to be polite. If anyone says anything remind people you are on a diet and look for tastier calories elsewhere. In terms of alcohol, stay away from the cheap stuff. The taste won’t satisfy you and you’ll end up drinking too much. Also be careful of drinking alcohol because you are thirsty. Be well hydrated before drinking time begins and then you will be able to control your desire for taste, not hydration. Limit beverages to one or two in a long night and that way you will enjoy every allotted sip.

4. Be Gentle on the Road

Let’s face it on Wednesday most of us will hit the road to visit those we call most dear. Everyone will be worrying about all the work they didn’t finish at the office and stressing about their unreasonable holiday diet. We are all in the same boat. So when someone cuts you off on the New Jersey Turnpike instead of throwing out some age old phrase or mannerism you could remind yourself that the other driver is very excited about going to their home away from home. You both are full of love for your loved ones and even though you were scared for a moment you are both safe. The best place to practice mindfulness is on the road. Try to think loving thoughts of all the other drivers when you get gridlocked on the Mass Pike this year and then find something good on the radio.

5. Remember to Rest

We all set excellent expectations of long cat naps and late sleepy mornings on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, but by the time Thursday rolls around we are up at 5am to baste the turkey and up until 3am Friday morning reminiscing. Even though you are around the ones you love stay mindful of sleep cues. If you get overtired and grouchy you might start a fight you regret or end up convincing yourself you can’t stand your family. If you are going to stay up late, make sure it isn’t drastically different than your usual schedule and plan to nap the next day because the body likes to rise at the usual hour regardless of bedtime.

 

Listening To What The Body Has To Say

I posted an article on WoH’s facebook page the other day about the difference between listening and hearing. It explored how hearing is a safety mechanism so we can decipher if something is about to fall on us or if a burglar walks in at night. Even in the deepest parts of sleep our body is censoring what it thinks we need to listen to and what we can ignore. Take for instance the end of my long savasana this morning when I realized that there were three enormous trucks digging a whole in the pavement right outside my window. Hmmm. Missed that.

But that isn’t the type of listening I was thinking about this morning when I decided to skip the early morning yoga class I like on Wednesdays and instead stayed home to practice. I was literally two minutes away from leaving when I heard this rather confident, strong voice inside of me call up, don’t go to class stay home. My inner monologue immediately called this voice lazy. To which the voice challenged do a more vigorous practice at home and do the postures you know your body needs.

There was no arguing with that. So as soon as my husband left I rolled out my mat gathered my props and sat down. Immediately the voice started throwing out pose names. It wanted to start in supported supta baddha konasana. It wanted to take a long headstand and shoulderstand. It wanted a significant amount of twisting and all the big hip openers. It turned out to be a glorious practice.  At the end I jumped up to shower and the voice swooped back in and insisted on a long savasana stating that I needed to rest for a full afternoon of patients and an evening workshop. So I did and felt more rested because of it.

I use the word “listen” when I teach my students how to check in with their bodies. Yet, this recent article on the difference between listening and hearing makes me wonder if I’ve been hearing what my body needs and fully ignoring what my body wants.

Be careful before you immediately censor the messages from your body, maybe they are healthier messages than you think they are. Maybe your body is actually desperate for something that would make your day easier and you miss out on that opportunity.

New Marketing Scheme: Look Healthy

Seeing Beauty

A few weeks ago my sister got married. Though I am obviously biased, I mean this quite seriously when I say she was the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen. She was radiant and graceful and rosy-checked and full of love. It was a sight to behold. But it wasn’t the makeup and the hairstyle, though wow, they did a very good job with both. When we met up in my parent’s kitchen the morning of the wedding and she was standing there with her hair dirty from sleep and her face unwashed she was equally as beautiful as ten hours later walking down the aisle.

Sitting there for a couple of hours in the beauty salon watching as the amazing stylist fluffed and powdered and prepped her hair for her updo I kept commenting that her face looked magnificent. In the three weeks before the wedding she went and received one facial a week in addition to working out and drinking lots of water. Without question I had never seen her glow with such health.

New Marketing Scheme

It got me thinking and its been on my mind ever since. I want to radiate that kind of health. At some point our society said it was okay for doctors to be overweight and for nurses to smoke. It was okay for therapists to be stressed out and massage therapists to go without bodywork.

Well this acupuncturist and yoga teacher is fed up with it. I want you to want my business because you think I am an excellent example of health. If I don’t look healthy enough yet don’t bring me your business.

Starting this week I am challenging myself to be as healthy as possible, to keep better boundaries around work time, to exercise more, to spend more time doing fun outdoor activities, to cook healthier foods and to nourish my soul amidst everything.

So in addition to postering, online advertising and increasing my SEO I’m going to woo new patients with my glowing complexion and boundless energy.

Demand More

If you don’t need acupuncture right now then I highly suggest you start demanding more of your care providers. Find someone who is fit, who has a good glow in their face, who knows more than you about health. I once had a substantially overweight doctor ask me in a very condescending tone if I exercised regularly. I almost punched him. Health providers shouldn’t ask questions unless they can back it up with their own personal experience.

Who is a Health Care Provider?

Yesterday I was talking about this with my husband and we talked about how unhealthy so many Western medical professionals look. He then joked that it is like going to see a skinny chef. I thought about it for a second and said that I want to go to restaurants where there are skinny chefs. It means they are remembering to eat healthy meals at reasonable hours and that the food they sell has healthy ingredients. When I challenged my husband with this comeback he laughed and said that is because I think chefs are health care providers as well. I agree completely. Everyone out there making food, discussing our health, leading us in exercise routines or talking about our mental health is a health care provider. Demand more of them all!

Taking Care of Yourself

Sunday morning I woke up with a sore throat. I had the little headache, the little cough, and the sneezes. My body was coming down with something. So I skipped biking to yoga class, which sounded like too much for my sinuses and my chills. I drank throat soothers tea with tons of honey and I sat on the couch all day.  I thought I was taking care of myself.

What was actually happening was what looked like taking care of myself. I did the things that came to mind if I was just going to skim the top of the list. I didn’t bother really questioning my body for what it needed. I did what I wanted to do. No, let me rephrase that. I did what I thought I deserved.

Yes, folks, here it is. So much of taking care of ourselves is the allotted amount, not the necessary amount. It is like buying organic. I’ll buy organic food as often as I can, but every once in a while I end up with something a tiny bit horrible in my cart because the organic costs $2 more, not just $1 more. Why am I drawing lines in some places and not others?

Right now I’m getting lots of bodywork for back pain, I get weekly or biweekly acupuncture and I’m on a slew of expensive vitamins to recover from grad school. Most people would say that is really taking care of myself. Today, with this fourth day of a sore throat, I’m less certain.

All of that would be enough if I hadn’t put myself through the ringer for the last three years. Truth has it grad school + commuting + planning a wedding = longer than two months of recovery.

Today this really dirty word came into my mind. Pampering. I was in the shower exfoliating months of dead skin off my body and hardened feet and feeling fabulous. That is when it happened, the thought slipped through my mind—you just needed a little pampering today.

It almost ruined my whole shower. For three years I occasionally showered, I occasionally washed my hair and the closest thing to pampering was cutting my fingernails, which is technically an obligation for someone who pushes on people’s abdomens for a living.  I did not pamper myself and I certainly didn’t allow my mind to dream up ways that would make my body feel less chaotic, more appreciated.

That’s what I’m getting at today. Appreciation. This word feels less dirty and a little more aggressive.

Are you appreciating yourself?  Really it is a challenge.

Think of the way we take care of plants. We water them when they start to droop. Think of the way we take care of our cars, we wait until a light comes on. What if we didn’t take care of our bodies, we instead appreciated our bodies every day.

What if we asked our bodies every morning what they wanted from the day and listened? How would that change our little worlds?

When asked, my sore throat wants to neti, it wants to rinse with salt water, it wants to stay better hydrated and eat salty foods. It wants a nap sometime this afternoon and a little fresh mint in my water. I haven’t tried any of those things all week because I didn’t ask. Now I’ve got a treatment plan.

Observation: Practice Lesson #4

As this is the last post in the Practice series I’ve been thinking an awful lot about what makes people stick to a routine. I’ve already talked about how I don’t think that discipline builds a practice or keeps it going, I’ve talked about lighting a spark to keep the fire alive in your practice and I’ve helped brainstorm ideas for the actually composition of a practice. Now what is going to keep you showing up every morning, every Thursday at 6:30 or Sundays at 3, whatever your chosen time slot.

This is what led me to the fundamental question: what do you gain from a practice?

I tried to think of the people in my life who have practices that don’t involve yoga, because I know all the benefits of doing yoga on a regular basis. I wanted to see the benefits of their non-exercise based practices. Two immediately came to mind. First would be my parents’ practice of drinking coffee together every morning in their living room. They don’t down their coffee over breakfast, they instead take about half an hour (sometimes more) and just drink their coffee and chat. They use it as a time to catch up, make plans for the day and to de-stress if the day is going to be hectic. I know it lowers both of their stress levels and I know it is the secret to their marriage. The other practice would be that of my father-in-law’s writing on Saturday mornings. In the midst of raising four boys and maintaining a very full career, he devoted each Saturday morning throughout his life to writing. It helped him keep the mindset of a writer, allowed for alone time in a busy household and energized him for the week.

These are two successful, long-term practices that are very simple, but additions to a busy lifestyle. So why when things get crazy did they keep them? Why is it worth showing up on your mat again and again?

Observation. Think of all the people in our lives we pay to observe us: doctors, therapists, supervisors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc. We want someone else to see the patterns, to notice the thing we’ve missed. And don’t get me wrong—that is a necessary skill set. Every time my acupuncturist treats me she sheds new light on this body of mine that I try to figure out 24 hours a day. We need that outside advice, but we also need to make sure that when we see these caregivers we know what is normal.

Even if normal isn’t healthy, it is worth knowing about. A practice lets you compare every single day to every other day that you do the same thing. Yoga students can attest to that first down dog in a practice when you first check in with the body. Think of the first down dog after vacation or after you’ve been for a long hike. The body is entirely different than the last time. We need to be able to compare.

You owe it to yourself to know what the body is capable of, what it is learning to do and when it has achieved something it didn’t expect. This isn’t just about injury and illness, though aren’t those two reasons enough? This is also about improving and the ability to be proud of yourself. With equal positive awareness it is also about aging and noticing what may be harder than it used to be.

The better we are able to say, hmmm, this is new, when something catches us off guard—the better equipped we are to walk into a doctor’s office and say this is new and I’m worried. Knowledge is power, but it requires regular observation.

When you show up to your next practice, be mindful. Do your day’s work. See what there is to see. Make a list of all the things you want to observe from this perspective. My parents are not just drinking coffee; they are monitoring their marriage, making sure it is healthy every morning. My father-in-law isn’t just writing, he is taking time to be an artist and see how his artist-self is after a week.

What observations are out there for the viewing in your practice?

My History of Beginnings

Starting this new business is a definite beginning, but unexpectedly it is also a spiraling back to the numerous places in my life that helped bring me to this point. This whirling of names and faces from the past coming out to show support reaffirms I am on the right course and that somehow all along they saw this coming.

I started practicing yoga in my bedroom when I was a freshman in high school. Every night after my parents went to sleep I would pull out my copy of The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. This creased and flattened book introduced me to pranayama, meditation, postures and a healthy diet. When I started practicing I didn’t know anyone else who did yoga. Literally no one. My mother and aunt had taken one class together in the 70s, but that was it. This was before google and certainly before the idea of finding a yoga studio in the yellow pages was feasible.

I was alone in this new exciting world. Everyone in my life knew the word “yoga” the way they knew the word “tofu” but had never tried either. I still remember the first time I saw a “Namaste” bumper sticker. My father and I were in Santa Fe and we took a picture of it we were so excited.

In college the yoga morphed into dance and from there into the desire for anatomy training. When I graduated from college I just decided to pick a town, move there and figure life out. Because the universe provides in its mysterious ways I stumbled into my first job and found my first two mentors. These two amazing co-workers taught me everything I know about employment, job searches and how to build a career.

I was your typical post-private school elitist who thought I could just roll out a resume and everyone would come knocking at my door. But you don’t make or even start a career by looking through the want ads. My two brilliant co-workers taught me the first step to getting a job is knowing what it is you want and what it is you have to offer. Then they taught me not to compartmentalize my life. Instead of thinking of writing as my only career option and having a mile long list of interests and passions, I could design a career path. I could imagine a career that incorporated writing, yoga, health, nutrition, business, organizing things, planning, birthwork, sexualities, researching, helping others and dance all at the same time. In fact if I could figure out an angle and had the guts to try, I could actually make a living from the delightful mix of all of my interests.

Now years later, though not many, I’ve got my angle. For five years the IRS has received taxes from the occupation: yoga teacher. This year I could add the occupations: acupuncturist, herbalist, doula, writer and business owner to the list, but I won’t in order to avoid confusing them.

My point is your path is there for the finding. You must first know deeply what it is you want. You have to find that which causes the utmost passion. That which makes you desperate to know more. Then you brainstorm and push and pull. You ask questions, you get hung up and you get confused. Yet all the while you have to trust that your desires are worth exploring. Let me say that again, your desires are worth exploring.

As my insightful father-in-law said to me the other day “You’re going to have a rich time building this practice, whether you get rich or not.” This has already proven itself tenfold. The opening of this business has reminded me of the richness of my community. Thank you to my marvelous network of loved ones, friends, mentors, inspirations, students, teachers, clients and patients. This beginning is the most spectacular homecoming of my life.

Life Changes

We all go through them. They spring up just at the moment we thought we were getting comfortable. And then boom, life goes haywire. I’m in a life change right now. Starting my own business, or a different aspect of the business and simply finishing school is a major life change. Like all things that I do, this change is rather scattered, chaotic and ungraceful. Things will eventually smooth out. I know this and I’m doing my best to open my self to the universe and just trust.

One of the key components to my yoga teaching is the lesson of allowance. I teach it because it baffles me. The more I teach it, the more I can almost see it and the more I know I need it in my life. The way I teach it to beginners is simply by asking them to witness their breath. Everyone can do that. Everyone can watch his or herself breathe (insert feel if the word watch scares you too much). But the practice, as every advanced yoga practitioner knows, is to watch the breath and not change it. Just witness it with all of its gloriously perfect imperfection and let it stay as it is. Some people don’t breath, they gasp every now and then. Others pant little shallow breaths. Other people are shallow breathers who every once in a while give a huge sigh to release the breathing diaphragm.  Whatever our pattern is, we obviously do it all day long—making it a rather sustainable practice. We are not going to keel over momentarily for breathing so poorly, but as soon as we witness the breath we want it to change. We want it to be better.

Right now I am witnessing the life change. I am seeing that I have successfully graduated from school and I am honoring that in all its significance. But I also want to hit the ground running with my new business. So I am alternating between periods of deep rest and insane activity. Which looks more like not sleeping at night and needing to take long naps to catch up. Not very effective.

So here is my goal for myself and the one I challenge you to on this rainy day when the seasons are adjusting slightly, but steadily. What is the change coming? Name it. Spell it out. Right it down. Read it to yourself. Then sit for as long as you can—60 seconds, 5 minutes, whatever you can spare and just watch your body respond. Allow your body to just be present with it. Racing heart, rapid breathing, extreme fatigue, sheer panic, excitement, smiling, release of the jaw, tension in the neck. There is no negative, there is no positive. There is just response. Stay present, stay interested and then get up and go face the change head on.

Conversation Officially Started

After three years of Acupuncture school and roughly 90,000 miles of driving the Mass Pike to class and home again I am in recovery, both intellectually and physically.  While I am, of course, grappling with the threat of pending student loans and the usual concerns about starting a new part of my business, I am struggling with something new I didn’t expect—a loss of community to discuss the zillion things I am forever contemplating. In the last three years I’ve started making brief manifestos of discoveries I had made about the body at the beginning of each of my yoga classes. And while I will no doubt still be doing that, I want a place to go into greater detail and allow for links to further information for those that are interested in the topic.

Instead of branching out into this next phase alone, I’m reaching out for you. I already know who I am. I am Courtney Hill Wulsin, Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist, Yoga Teacher, Writer, Doula, Dancer, Reiki Master. I specialize in teaching people how to find comfort in their body and enjoy the sensuality of movement and awareness. It is you that interests me as I start this communication with the greater world.

You must be a reader who finds interest in the body and mind. You would have to be a wandering sort, like myself, who seeks answers in unusual places and never trusts anything that doesn’t resonate inside the body, as well as inside the mind. You would be interested in medicine as a means to prevent disease, not cure it. You would define wellness not as an absence of symptoms, but as a strength and sturdiness of body that brings you joy and comfort. You would be interested in learning about all the systems of the body and how to use metaphor to understand those systems. You would have to be an art lover and see the body as the world’s most beautiful work of art. If those things do describe you than perhaps you would care about my ramblings, even if you don’t attend my classes or seek out my services as an acupuncturist.

I am starting to write today as a declaration. I want to integrate. For three years I’ve been integrating with select, classmates, students and clients, but now I’m throwing the doors open and asking for others to join me on this path. Come integrate with me, suggest books, correct me, ask questions, get confused, get excited. Whatever it is. This is Window of Heaven Acupuncture and Yoga and I am Courtney Hill Wulsin and as of today, we are open for business. Conversation officially started.