Archives for posts with tag: Brian Wingate

As a healthcare practitioner, I am also by necessity a self care practitioner. The most powerful form of self care that I have experienced is meditation. Like most people, I struggle to maintain a daily meditation practice in the midst of a busy life. But the days that start with meditation (or contemplative prayer) always feel different.

When I have maintained a regular practice over time I have felt changed from within. As my practice lapses, I can feel those changes slowly ebb away. As a bodyworker, I see firsthand the effects of stress on the body: in the tension of the muscles, in the set of the muscles or the jaw, or in the struggle to relax on the table.

Meditation may seem unrelated to massage, but I think that meditation is in fact a form of massage. Our mental equilibrium directly effects our nervous system and the tone of our muscles. Regular meditation creates a new ecosystem that we live within and from. Harvard University just released the results of a study that examined the effects of meditation, and MRI scans revealed significant structural changes in the brain with just 27 minutes of meditation practice per day. As they state in the article, “people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

From the article (click to go to full article):

Participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. In a study that will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Harvard-affiliated researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reported the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s gray matter.

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Stretching is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves to maintain flexibility and address postural imbalances that arise from daily patterns. However, it is also possible to overstretch muscles that are not warmed up, or even to cause damage when stretching improperly.

In the article below, Dr. Ben Kim discusses a very common hamstring/lower back stretch that can stress the lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, and suggests an easy alternative. He also gives some good advice: don’t stretch first thing in the morning!

From Dr. Ben Kim at

Click quote for entire post

“I’ve long recommended avoiding vigorous stretching first thing in the morning; the risk of injury is significant, especially as we get older, as our muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not well perfused with blood when we first wake up. These tissues are best stretched after we have been out and about for an hour or two, and optimally, after enough of an aerobic workout where we are sweating – if we’ve worked hard enough to sweat, we can reasonably assume that our muscles and ligaments are flush with blood and ready to be safely and effectively lengthened through stretching.

One stretch in particular that I have found to be quite dangerous to lower back health is forward bending where your legs are pressed together on the ground in front of you, and you lower your chest to get as close as possible to your knees. Some people use this position to stretch their hamstrings, others to stretch their lower back. Regardless of which muscles you are targeting, you should know that this stretch puts significant pressure on the discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in your lower spine.”

I am most fascinated by how humans behave and operate both as personal beings and as containers of God, and how these roles coexist, clash, and exert opposing needs on each of us as a person. How can the strain of those opposing callings express itself in our body, our musculature, our nervous system?

I am curious about how to live a life that honors both the needs of the personal and the universal, the body and the soul. Of course no such division exists. We live as a whole in a state of dynamic tension, with many opposites coexisting simultaneously.  Our resistance to this can manifest as pain on many fronts–physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Our bodies provide a simple way to check in with where we are. Our bodies seldom lie as easily as our minds and faces. We feel the inner strains that our smiling face may never admit. Our body can serve as our conscience.

When we live in our body as a vehicle of consciousness, we open ourselves to many things we would rather leave behind. The need to breathe deeply and stay present within ourselves.. The need to endure a few moments of discomfort in order to experience a renewed sense of physical freedom and clarity. Our resources arise as they are called upon. The trick is remembering to call.

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