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Work smart, not hard-advice for injury prevention on the job

“Work Smart, Not Hard!”
Staying safe on the job is important to your quality of life. It is so easy to get caught up in work and forget to take care of ourselves. I wrote this as a little check list to help you out on your day at work.

First lists look at activities that are known to put us at risk for injuries to occur.

Risk Factors for Injury:
• Awkward positions: being on a computer, standing too long, sitting too long, reaching behind while twisting, overhead work, poor lifting technique, constricted work space, phone use-speaking and texting, postures held for long periods, having items putting weight on pressure points (tool bags,backpacks, purses),driving static postures, maintaining fixed positions
• Repetitive motions: typing, texting with the thumb,using the mouse, writing, lifting, climbing, painting, typing, tool operation, opening packages
Excessive force: Lifting, pushing, pulling, moving heavy objects
Vibration: power tools, operating heavy equipment, driving, bicycle riding
Stress: (causes muscular tension, tight muscles = injury) physical or emotional, general unhealthy lifestyle habits, poor nutrition, poor sleep, general fatigue, rushing / shortcuts, not getting along with coworkers, problems at home

Advice for smart working:
• Know what you are lifting, how you will lift it and the weight of the object.
• Make sure your pathway is clear and tripping hazards and debris have been removed. • Don’t take shortcuts. Clear work space to improve access to tools and materials being handled.
• Know when you need help and ask for it!
• Don’t obstruct your vision when carrying.
• Don’t use a partial grip when carrying (example 1 to 2 fingers.)
• Don’t bend or twist at waist when lifting.
• When possible alternate tasks, to reduce repetitive injury.
• Alternate heavy lifting with light tasks.
• Adjust your workspace to ft your personal needs. Be sure you have your computer set up properly and that your desk fits your size, invest in a good office chair, wear good shoes. If you have a standing desk alternate it with your sitting desk.
• Don’t pinch your toes when lifting
• Plan workflow to optimize safety and production.
• Minimize distance that loads are lifted, lowered and transported, for example; have your lumber dropped of near work site to minimize carrying by hand.
• Position loads to be able to lift in the power zone (above the knees, below the shoulder and at the midline)
• Wear work gloves that ft.
• Choose tools that have padded grips and handles that extend across the whole pad of your hand and tools that promote neutral posture of your wrist.
• Use knee pads, when work requires long amount of time on your knees.
• Load tool belts evenly, use padded tool belts with suspenders, and use mobile tool bucket when possible.
• Pack containers so contents will not shift and the weight is balanced.
• When an object is too heavy for one person use a two person lift. When lifting with others it is optimal to pair people that are of similar heights, keep load level and lift at the same time.
• Recovery time. Take short breaks.
• Take breaks every hour to stretch when sitting or doing computer work for long periods of time
•Speak up when you see unsafe activity.
• Minimize the amount of time you are on a computer or phone
• Drink plenty of water through out the day
• Always use your PPE, blue glasses, proper headphones, Hard hats, eye protection, gloves, ear plugs, boots.
• When working on a computer, get up and take walks every couple hours. Movement is essential

Use Proper lifting techniques- Basic tips for lifting

• Squat to lift and lower
• Do not bend at the waist and twist the torso
• Keep your back straight while lowering
• Keep weight as close to you as possible
• When turning with an object, turn feet first and follow with torso
• Keep core engaged when lifting and putting down weight
• When possible, keep feet apart and staggered.

Instructions for Diagonal lifting -Use this basic lifting technique for small objects when you can straddle the load and use a wide stance (this technique is considered the safest)

• Get as close to the object as possible
• Use a wide stance with one foot forward and to the side of the object for good balance • Keep your back straight and use your legs and hips to lower yourself down to the object
• Slide the object to you.
• Put the hand (same side as the forward foot) on the side of the object furthest from you.
• Tighten your core muscles in order to keep a straight and strong back, look forward and upward, lift slowly and follow your head and shoulders, hold the load close to your body, lift by extending your legs with your back straight, and breathe out as you lift.

Recognize warning signs that your co-workers / volunteers / employees / employers are at risk for injury.
Watch out for each other!

• Worker fatigue
• Irritability
• Unusual complaining about pain or work conditions etc.
• Exhibit pain behaviors. (not moving body parts, self-restricting movements, massaging body parts, excessive stretching, modifying tools, careless work habits)
• Modifying tools
• Rushing- Watch out for yourself, only you can feel what is happening in your body
• Know your own warning signs and ask for help, breaks, or a different task.
• Signs of injury: Pain, stiffness, numbness, tingling, limited range of motion, muscle weakness, spasms, and strains, atrophy at the base of thumb, changes in skin color, such as blanching of fingers (fingertips turning white),nearing a meltdown

When managing a team and delegating tasks

• Ensure that the individual is up to the task, physically, technically, and emotionally.
• Check in on crew morale, is everyone getting along, having fun, not getting bitchy.”
• When necessary, reassign workers to a crew that fits them better.
• Ask your team for feedback on assigned tasks, physical ability, and work site efficiency

Injury Prevention in Yoga Asana (For teachers and students)

INJURY PREVENTION IN YOGA ASANA

Injury Prevention
Injury can happen in yoga class and if it happens to beginners they are likely to never return to your class or yoga in general. It is our job, as teachers, to make beginners safe, supported and excited about the prospect of joining those already on the yogic path. Most yoga injuries are not serious and often go unreported to teachers. However, though rare, some serious injuries also occur, some of these include sprains, fractures, strains, dislocations, ligament tears, bone spurs, etc. Most injuries that come from yoga come from sustained, out of alignment, postures that are practiced with repetition and high intensity, most develop gradually and can be corrected if the student learns to be more mindful of the postures, and is shown that there is no wrong or right, only safe and unsafe. As teachers, we can assist our students and help them to not get injured, yet we cannot force someone, who is determined to do it “the right way” to keep their bodies safe. You cannot keep your students safe, but you can put them in danger. Yoga asana that is gentle, alignment based, with proper sequencing and attention should be used to teach beginners.

Take the time to practice with props. Props are a wonderful way for advanced practitoners to support the joints, build strength in different areas, and deepen poses. And for beginners to gain body awareness when starting the practice. Use props when you demonstrate to make your students feel ok about using them. Encourage all the students to try the props first. When you demonstrate, show the pose that is realistic for that class. Encourage your students to check in with the yamas and niyamas in the poses. Know your anatomy as a teacher. If a student has an injury that you don’t understand, ask them about it, and don’t be afraid to tell someone you don’t feel comfortable working with their injury or condition – you don’t want to endanger your students because your ego got in the way. We can’t know everything as teachers and it is good for our students to be able to share their knowledge, and if they are unable to tell us, they often realize this and then do more research. When in doubt, have the student do an alternative pose. Do not push your students; encourage them and support students to move into more challenging poses when they are ready.

Common causes of yoga injuries (student and instructor related)
Pushing oneself
Competing with others or a past image of oneself
Weight bearing on non-weight bearing structures without proper support, sequence, preparation
Too many poses in a row putting weight on non-weight bearing structures
Too many asymmetrical poses in a row
Uneducated teachers
Teachers that don’t continue studying the function of the body
Teachers who don’t practice or study with teachers
Poses that are consistently out of alignment (knee in front ankle)

Help your students prevent injuries
Intake forms where first time students can write injuries is important as students are often too shy to say it in front of the class
Remember they don’t always tell you of the injury, then you go to assist them and they say,” be careful I broke my neck”
Know your students
Be attentive
Keep up with current research on injury prevention
Use proper sequencing in class
Do not compare students to one another
No pain no gain doesn’t apply
Props, props, props, (walls, blocks, straps)
Encourage the students to be honest and gentle with themselves
Learn the principles of alignment to correct misalignments in your students postures
Give your students a rest in the sequence and be able to modify your sequence to your class
Let your students know they can rest if they need to
Wrists must be spread wide and if they hurt supported with a rolled up mat or plank board
Elbows out of alignment will experience joint pain, Keep the elbows tucked alongside the ribs when bending and keep the “eye “ of the elbow forward
Shoulders must be in alignment, esp. when bearing weight on them, try not to lift them towards the ear in a shrug and pinch the muscles which can cause injury. Strengthening this area is more important than over stretching it.
Ribs and spine should be lengthened in twists. Use the puppet string from the head to feel that lift.
In twists allow the pelvis of the opposite side to move slightly to protect the SI ligaments
In forward bends the spine should lengthen rather than bend. The goal is to lengthen not get the head to knees, ground etc.

Stress the Silent Killer

STRESS THE SILENT KILLER But have no fear massage, yoga, nature and meditation are just some techniques that can help to keep stress under control.

As homo sapiens were evolving, we developed the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The main purpose of the sympathetic nervous system is stress and danger response; once the danger/stressor has passed,the parasympathetic nervous system then comes in and restores the balance and normal function of the body (such as digestion, sleep, immune response, etc.). The human body has had a hard time evolving to sufficiently cope with the amount of outside stressors of the modern world. We often spend the entire day from waking until sleep, living in our sympathetic nervous system, adrenaline and cortisol pumping through our blood. To put it simply, our nervous system is literally reacting to “everyday” life, as though simple sounds, such as your phone getting a text, are the equivalent of a saber tooth tiger about to attack you. In small doses stress plays a very important role and is a good mechanism to protect us – this is the purpose of the sympathetic nervous system. However, when the stress hormones overload the body, many negative health effects can manifest. Stress response must be followed by relaxation response for optimal health and quality of life. The average days of many individuals may begin by rushing to feed the kids and get them on the bus, being stuck in traffic, high stress job, lunch meeting, more traffic, kids soccer game, making dinner, paying bills, checking email, etc. For the majority of people, stress response stays activated and the body never allows the relaxation response to do its job and restore balance. When we sense danger or feel threatened our nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones. These hormones including adrenaline and cortisol flood the bloodstream and kick the body into emergency response. When that happens, blood pressure rises, immune system is suppressed, the aging process can be sped up, the digestive system is suppressed, the breath becomes faster, the muscles tighten, blood is sent away from the digestive system and toward the limbs and the body gets ready to “fight” or “flight”. When we have a healthy amount of stress it can sharpen our concentration, help us stay focused, and alert, in the face of danger it can save our lives, giving us extra speed and strength. However, when we let stress govern our lives and keep the stress hormones in our blood we could have long-term negative health effects. Some of these symptoms of stress include depression, poor appetite, pain in the body, sleep problems (too much or too little), weight problems, heart problems, constipation, diarrhea, loss of sex drive, anxiety, short temper, and skin conditions. The longer we – as people – live in stress responses, the harder it is to relax, and the more “normal” it becomes for the body to be stressed out. There are ways in which we can minimize the effects of stress allowing the relaxation response to kick in, reducing the negative effects of stress. Dancing, massage, yoga asana, meditation, journaling, walking, spending time relaxing and doing things we love are some of the techniques we can use for self care. When the mind relaxes, the muscles in the body will relax and reduce the tensions caused by stress.

18 Self Care Practices

Self-care is essential for maintaining physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It’s important to make time for yourself and practice self-care regularly. Here are 18 self-care practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and balanced.

  1. Take a relaxing bath with candles, epsom salt, and leave your phone in the other room. The warm water and Epsom salt can help to ease muscle tension, while the candles and phone-free environment will help you relax and unwind.
  2. Start your day off right by drinking warm lemon water in the morning. Lemon water is a great way to detoxify your body and boost your immune system.
  3. Dry brushing is an excellent way to stimulate circulation and remove dead skin cells. It also helps to firm your skin and improve the overall appearance.
  4. Spending time in nature is a great way to reconnect with yourself and the world around you. Take a walk in a park, sit by a lake, or hike a mountain. Being surrounded by nature can help to reduce stress and improve your mood.
  5. Gaze at the moon for one entire moon cycle. This practice helps to connect you with the natural rhythms of the earth and promotes feelings of peace and tranquility.
  6. Write in your journal. Journaling can be a great way to process your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It can also help you to identify patterns and gain insight into your life.
  7. Walking is a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your overall mood.
  8. Eating healthy, whole foods such as fruits and vegetables is essential for maintaining good health. Eating a balanced diet can help to boost your energy levels, improve your digestion, and reduce your risk of disease.
  9. Playing or listening to music can be a great way to express yourself and relieve stress. It can also be a fun and enjoyable way to spend your time.
  10. Reading a folk tale or spiritual text can help to inspire and uplift you. It can also provide you with valuable insights and wisdom.
  11. Laying over a bolster can help to stretch and release tension in your back and shoulders. It’s a great way to relax and rejuvenate your body.
  12. Legs up the wall is a yoga pose that can help to reduce stress and improve circulation. It’s a great way to release tension in your legs and lower back.
  13. Connecting with a friend, animal, or family member is an important aspect of self-care. Spending time with loved ones can help to reduce stress and improve your overall mood.
  14. Visiting a plant store or community garden can be a great way to connect with nature and surround yourself with beauty and life.
  15. Dancing when no one is watching is a great way to express yourself and have fun. It can also be a great way to relieve stress and tension.
  16. Wearing good shoes can help to improve your posture and reduce stress on your feet and legs. Investing in a good pair of shoes can help to improve your overall well-being.
  17. Taking a break from bracelets and watches can help to reduce stress and pressure on your wrist. It can also help you to connect more with the present moment.
  18. Leaving your phone at home can help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. It can also help to connect you with the present moment and with the people and world around you.

Incorporating these self-care practices into your daily routine can help you to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and balanced. Remember, self-care is not about indulging in luxuries, but about taking the time to care for yourself and your well-being. It’s important to make self-care a priority in your life, and to find practices that work for you. Experiment with different self-care practices and see which ones resonate with you. Remember, self-care is not a one-time event, it’s an ongoing process that requires commitment and consistency. Incorporating these 18 self-care practices into your daily routine can help you to feel more connected, balanced, and at peace with yourself and the world around you.

 

10 simple self care practices to incorporate into your daily routine:

Self care is the practice of taking care of your physic

al, mental, and emotional well-being. It’s an important aspect of maintaining overall health and happiness, and it’s something that everyone should prioritize.

If you’re looking to start incorporating self care into your daily routine, here are 10 simple practices to consider:

  1. Take breaks from screens: Spend some time away from screens each day to give your eyes a rest and reduce eye strain.
  2. Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to give your body and mind the rest they need to function at their best.
  3. Exercise regularly: Physical activity is important for maintaining physical and mental health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
  4. Eat a healthy diet: Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrients in your meals to fuel your body and mind.
  5. Practice mindfulness or meditation: These practices can help you stay present in the moment, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve focus and clarity.
  6. Set boundaries: It’s important to know your limits and be willing to say no when you’re already feeling overwhelmed.
  7. Take breaks from work: Step away from your work for a few minutes each hour to rest and recharge.
  8. Spend time in nature: Being outside and surrounded by greenery can help reduce stress and improve well-being.
  9. Practice gratitude: Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. This can help improve mood and perspective.
  10. Engage in hobbies or activities you enjoy: Taking time to do things you love can help you relax and de-stress.

Incorporating these self care practices into your daily routine can help you maintain your physical and mental health, and improve your overall well-being. Don’t hesitate to start making self care a priority today!

The Role of Self Care in Overcoming Burnout

Burnout is a common problem faced by many people, especially those in high-stress careers or those who are constantly on the go. It is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of accomplishment, and it can have serious negative consequences on both physical and mental health.

One of the most effective ways to prevent or recover from burnout is through the practice of self care. Self care refers to the various activities and behaviors we engage in to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can include anything from getting enough sleep and exercise, to setting boundaries and taking breaks from work, to practicing relaxation techniques or engaging in hobbies.

The importance of self care in overcoming burnout cannot be overstated. When we neglect our own needs and well-being, it becomes much easier to become overwhelmed and burnt out. On the other hand, when we make self care a priority, we are better able to manage our stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

There are many different self care strategies that can be effective in overcoming burnout. Some examples include:

  • Setting aside time for relaxation and leisure activities: This can help you recharge and refocus, and give you a much-needed break from the demands of work.
  • Practicing mindfulness or meditation: These practices can help you stay present in the moment and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercise can help improve mood, reduce stress, and boost energy levels.
  • Eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep: These are essential for maintaining physical and mental health.
  • Setting boundaries and saying no when necessary: It’s important to know your limits and be willing to turn down additional responsibilities or commitments when you’re already feeling overwhelmed.
  • Seeking support: Whether it’s through therapy, support groups, or simply talking to friends and family, it’s important to have a network of people you can turn to when you’re feeling burnt out.

In conclusion, self care plays a crucial role in preventing and overcoming burnout. By prioritizing our own needs and well-being, we can better manage our stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Don’t hesitate to start incorporating self care practices into your routine today!

 

Meditation, Breathing & Stretching

Pranayama (Breathing, expanding life force)

PRANAYAMA
written by Peggy Kelly and Samantha Goldberg Blackthorn

Pranayama comes from the words breath and control, it is an exercise that helps us to gain control over our breath and increase the movement of our vital life force (prana). There are many practices of pranayama; some use one or alternate nostrils to breathe out of, some retain the inhalation or exhalation, as well as many other techniques; in general it is a practice of breath and the control of it to bring about energy. This practice can be very powerful and must be respected. It is subtle yet powerful. In this workshop you will be exposed to many forms of pranayama. It is recommended to keep a journal and follow your practice. Don’t be afraid to realize you are not ready for a technique – these are developed and mastered over time.

Establishing a Pranayama Practice

Experiment with the syllabus in “Light on Pranayama.” Two months approximately will be practicing in a supine position—“supported savasana”. Blocks, blankets, bolsters, or a combination may be used. Try at least two methods of support and see which suits you best.

In your asana practice, include sukhasana, siddhasana and virasana. Refine your understanding of “pressing the sitting bones absolutely equally and evenly down.” Discover which of these seated poses becomes most “sukha”—comfortable and sustainable for you to sit and practice upright pranayama. Be sure to use support (blankets or blocks) if there is any tension in the belly, low back or groin. These areas must be supportive but not tense. If padmasana, the lotus pose, comes easily to you and there is absolutely no strain in the knees or hardening of the groins, it may be appropriate.

Experiment with time of day. Some of us like to sit (or practice in “supported savasana”) first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom and perhaps having a glass of water. It makes a difference NOT to turn on your computer or phone before sitting, so that your eyes are relaxed and your mind is quiet. Try for yourself, pranayama AFTER checking email, and pranayama BEFORE checking email.

Others of us find that pranayama goes better AFTER asana practice. In that case, be sure that there is a thorough savasana at the end of asana practice AND at the end of pranayama practice.

Beginners can aim to practice between 20 and 30 minutes per day. Always leave time at the end for savasana. You may find eventually that an hour is more to your liking.
Devote a corner of a room in your house to pranayama. It can be wonderful to be facing a window that is directed to the east, so that if you begin before the sun comes up, you can observe the sky grows brighter. If you are practicing pranayama in supported savasana and your house has enough space, leave your props set up so that they remind you to practice.

ALSO, keep a handkerchief or box of tissues always nearby. It spoils the quietness of the practice if you sneeze or your nose starts to run and there is nothing close at hand to blow with.

You might find it helpful to use a timer. You might find it helpful to work with an inner count for inhale/exhale/hold. You can certainly experiment in thousands of interesting ways. Make your practice your own.

Breath chart
Date:

Place: 


Time:

Length of practice:

Body posture: 


Pranayama:

Thoughts: 


Emotions: 


Quality of breath:

Body: 


Environment: 


Notes, insight:

Injury Prevention in Yoga Asana (For teachers and students)

INJURY PREVENTION IN YOGA ASANA

Injury Prevention
Injury can happen in yoga class and if it happens to beginners they are likely to never return to your class or yoga in general. It is our job, as teachers, to make beginners safe, supported and excited about the prospect of joining those already on the yogic path. Most yoga injuries are not serious and often go unreported to teachers. However, though rare, some serious injuries also occur, some of these include sprains, fractures, strains, dislocations, ligament tears, bone spurs, etc. Most injuries that come from yoga come from sustained, out of alignment, postures that are practiced with repetition and high intensity, most develop gradually and can be corrected if the student learns to be more mindful of the postures, and is shown that there is no wrong or right, only safe and unsafe. As teachers, we can assist our students and help them to not get injured, yet we cannot force someone, who is determined to do it “the right way” to keep their bodies safe. You cannot keep your students safe, but you can put them in danger. Yoga asana that is gentle, alignment based, with proper sequencing and attention should be used to teach beginners.

Take the time to practice with props. Props are a wonderful way for advanced practitoners to support the joints, build strength in different areas, and deepen poses. And for beginners to gain body awareness when starting the practice. Use props when you demonstrate to make your students feel ok about using them. Encourage all the students to try the props first. When you demonstrate, show the pose that is realistic for that class. Encourage your students to check in with the yamas and niyamas in the poses. Know your anatomy as a teacher. If a student has an injury that you don’t understand, ask them about it, and don’t be afraid to tell someone you don’t feel comfortable working with their injury or condition – you don’t want to endanger your students because your ego got in the way. We can’t know everything as teachers and it is good for our students to be able to share their knowledge, and if they are unable to tell us, they often realize this and then do more research. When in doubt, have the student do an alternative pose. Do not push your students; encourage them and support students to move into more challenging poses when they are ready.

Common causes of yoga injuries (student and instructor related)
Pushing oneself
Competing with others or a past image of oneself
Weight bearing on non-weight bearing structures without proper support, sequence, preparation
Too many poses in a row putting weight on non-weight bearing structures
Too many asymmetrical poses in a row
Uneducated teachers
Teachers that don’t continue studying the function of the body
Teachers who don’t practice or study with teachers
Poses that are consistently out of alignment (knee in front ankle)

Help your students prevent injuries
Intake forms where first time students can write injuries is important as students are often too shy to say it in front of the class
Remember they don’t always tell you of the injury, then you go to assist them and they say,” be careful I broke my neck”
Know your students
Be attentive
Keep up with current research on injury prevention
Use proper sequencing in class
Do not compare students to one another
No pain no gain doesn’t apply
Props, props, props, (walls, blocks, straps)
Encourage the students to be honest and gentle with themselves
Learn the principles of alignment to correct misalignments in your students postures
Give your students a rest in the sequence and be able to modify your sequence to your class
Let your students know they can rest if they need to
Wrists must be spread wide and if they hurt supported with a rolled up mat or plank board
Elbows out of alignment will experience joint pain, Keep the elbows tucked alongside the ribs when bending and keep the “eye “ of the elbow forward
Shoulders must be in alignment, esp. when bearing weight on them, try not to lift them towards the ear in a shrug and pinch the muscles which can cause injury. Strengthening this area is more important than over stretching it.
Ribs and spine should be lengthened in twists. Use the puppet string from the head to feel that lift.
In twists allow the pelvis of the opposite side to move slightly to protect the SI ligaments
In forward bends the spine should lengthen rather than bend. The goal is to lengthen not get the head to knees, ground etc.

Anatomy

Meet the Rotator Cuff

MEET THE ROTATOR CUFF
Introducing the rotator cuff muscle group.
Muscles you ask? That is right! The rotator cuff is a fancy way to describe a group of four muscles and associated tendons that attach the humerus (upper arm bone) to the scapula (shoulder blade) and create what is commonly referred to as the shoulder joint.

Many clients come in seeking bodywork after their doctor diagnoses them with a rotator cuff injury. Often when I inquire if the doctor took the time to explain what the rotator cuff was, they sadly say no. Taking the time to learn about the body you live is a helpful tool allowing you to become an active part of the healing process.
So let us take a deeper look.

The shoulder joint also known as the glenohumeral joint makes it possible for us to do many of the activities we love, such as playing a musical instrument, climbing, walking our dogs and so on. It is made up of four muscles which work with together to stabilize the shoulder and allow for a large range of motion. Three of these muscles – supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor – are located on the posterior aspect of the scapula,thereby laterally rotating the shoulder away from the midline and one muscle – the subscapularis is on the anterior aspect, on the underside, of the bone; internally rotating/moving the humerus forward and inward.The top rotator cuff muscle known as the supraspinatus also works with the deltoid muscle to lift the arm up and to the side.

To understand why so many of us have upper back pain it can be helpful to explore deeper into how these rotator cuff muscles work. Muscles work in opposing pairs so that when one muscle or group shortens the opposite group are pulled long. Pain is most commonly felt in the group that is pulled long, yet the shorten muscle is typically the culprit and it is helpful to release and lengthen that muscle.
The infraspinatus and teres minor located below the spine of the scapula both laterally rotate the shoulder and arm where as the subscapularis, in front, medially rotates the arm. Medial rotation is used when we are on computers, texting, driving and other front facing activities. Because we use it so often this muscle is often over contracted and tight due to the rotation. When the subscapularis is pulled tight the infraspinatus and teres minor are pulled long potentially causing pain and weakening of the muscles in the upper back, where so many people complain of discomfort. By opening the front body the subscapularis can be lengthened releasing the tension of the posterior muscles. It is also helpful to strengthten the muscles that are being pulled long. In this case the infraspinatus. There are many external rotator exercises that can be performed and gomukhasa is a wonderful yoga asana to help balance the muscle groups.

There are many common injuries of the rotator cuff that come from repetitive use. A few examples are; tendonitis, bursitis and tears in the rotator cuff tendons. We have many tools in the world of bodywork to assist the healing and improve function of injuries in this area. A skilled yoga teacher will have an understanding of the relationship between these muscles in order to safely guide students through beneficial asana practices. A skilled massage therapist will be able to help release the tension necessary to bring the muscles into balance to improve performance and reduce pain.

Fascia is so cool!

FASCIA

Fascia is a common word heard in massage, physical therapy, yoga and even exercise, however many people are still unsure about what this word actually means. Fascia is the connective material in the body that holds everything together, weaving in and out to create a three dimensional web-like structure that shapes, connects and separates the different areas of the body and helps to aid in easing the friction created by muscular force. Fascia creates compartments that wrap the blood vessels and nerves so they may pass with ease through the body; all the muscles and organs in the body are wrapped or encased in fascia from superficial to deep. Fascia has been defined as all of the soft fibrous connective tissues that permeate the human body (Findley and Schleip 2007). Fascia can allow function and can also inhibit function by the nature of its form, recent studies are finding that fascia is the underlying cause of many neurological, muscular and other health problems that are found in the soft tissue of the body. One property of fascia is plasticity, it can create form, and form follows function. One good example of form following function is the tightness people feel in the back from sitting at their computers all day. The muscles of the chest and front of the shoulders become shortened by continuous contraction, this, in turn pulls, on the opposite muscle group, this causes pain; the fascia over time begins to reinforce this posture and hardens, in the form of the misalignment. When fascia hardens, it impedes blood flow, movement, balance and so on.
Ida P Rolf Ph.D., who created a myofascial technique called “Rolfing” is quoted saying “Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important we as Rolfers must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spider web is in a plane. This web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get and understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole?” I believe it is equally important as yoga teachers to understand how this system affects the human experience.
Examining and exploring fascia helps us to understand how the body can be flexible, strong and stable at the same time. Aligning the bones, muscles and fascia can bring our bodies into balance and create a body free of dis-ease and pain. Fascia gives us the necessary insight to see the body; one connected beautiful network of trillions of cells working together to create our structure, function and unique quality of existence.
When fascia becomes hardened, it sticks to itself as well as other structures in the body. This hardening and binding can cause weakness, dehydrated and stiffness, not just in the fascia, but within the body in general.

Going back to the example of the person sitting at the desk and having fascia reinforce negative posture patterns; asana can help to counter these effects of hardened fascia, and re-soften the tissue. Simple poses like chest openers and supported backbends can help the back muscles to shorten and the chest muscles to open, helping to balance the postural deviation, in persons where such poses are not contraindicated. Yoga asana works with the agonist and antagonist groups and helps to bring the muscle groups into alignment, creating a class that is sequenced with this concept in mind will be the most structurally relevant, and can transform one’s postural habits.
Fascia is directly affected by our habits, daily activities, emotions and experiences. For example, when stressed we have a posture that may have lifted or slumped shoulders. Overtime this creates fascia binding and pain patterns. This can also happen with activities we love such as playing a musical instrument or dancing. By doing yoga poses in a mindful, and anatomically informed way, one can help the fascia in the body stay unbound, flexible, hydrated, stable and thereby function in a way that is optimal for our daily life.

Meet the Psoas

MEET THE PSOAS
Sometimes referred to as the “mighty” psoas, the core of the body, the thickest muscle in the body, this wonderful and unique muscle gets a lot of attention. Many people come into a yoga class knowing their psoas is tight and not being exactly sure of where it is or what it does. The psoas is a very deep muscle, one of the closest muscles to the spine that sits on either side of our center of gravity. There are two, one on either side, the muscles reach from the lumbar (low back) spine to the body protrusion on the inner femur (thigh bone).
This muscle is unique in that it is the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body. The psoas is a strong hip flexor and allows us to do many amazing things with our bodies such as walk, run, sit, lift our leg or reach to the ground.
The psoas muscle becomes tight when we sit throughout the day, drive, run, do squats etc. When this muscle is over contracted through repetitive movement, bad postural habits, (overuse or injury), low back pain, imbalanced hips, hip pain, malaligned knees, knee pain, pelvic tilt and referred pain down the front of the thigh and all the way up to the spine, to name a few, can occur.

When only one is over contracted the spine can be pulled out of alignment. This can cause pain and physical dysfunction creating problems within the discs of the spine.
When a muscle becomes over contracted in the body its opposing muscle groups must lengthen and often become pulled long and cause pain, such as low back pain as a result of the psoas muscles being tight. When the muscle is tight it becomes weak. When a muscle is causing pain the best way to self-care for aforementioned muscle (or muscles) is become aware of it, focus on it, notice what’s going on within, stretch it and strengthen.
Emotionally the psoas is said to hold on to deep-seated fears and trauma. An educated yoga teacher can assist in addressing the psoas, helping to stretch it and facilitate healing so the postural misalignments and pain caused from this muscle being tight can dissipate.

Meet the Iliotibial Tract

MEET THE ILIOTIBIAL TRACT
Introducing the IT band, the fibrous band that extends from the hip down past the knee along the outer thigh. The IT band is made up of an elastic connective tissue known as fascia. The IT band is a knee stabilizer, connects the hip to the knee, and is essential for movement. This band arises at the tendons of the gluteus maximus and the tensor fasciae latae and travels down, toward the foot where it attaches to the tibia (shin bone). The IT band makes it possible for the tensor fasciae latae to perform abduction (moving leg toward midline) and medial rotation. While running, the IT band moves across the lateral epicondyle (protrusion on the bone) of the femur (thigh bone) and functions to stabilize the knee. The IT band can rub continuously across the bone; often causing knee pain that can be mistaken for a knee injury. The muscles of the hip being tight often are the cause of the IT band becoming tight as well. Asana can greatly reduce pain by loosening up the band and allowing the rubbing to lesson.
The scar tissue that can occur in the IT band from overuse and injury can also be alleviated by yoga asana. Many times the IT band gets “stuck” to the outer quadriceps muscles (vastus lateralis) and can cause pain in the outer thigh and restrict movement.

Chakras and the relationship to the endocrine system

CHAKRA SYSTEM has a correlation to the ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
Understanding how the chakras and the endocrine glands relate opens the opportunity for insight into the body. Each endocrine gland has a relative or corresponding chakra. Understanding these connections provides tools to assist in venturing deeper into the relationship of science and ancient philosophy, in other words, self-discovery. Here lies a bridge between western and eastern healing arts.

Let us dive in.

First lets take a look at the magical ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
The endocrine system is like the conductor of the orchestra communicating with the many intricate parts of the human body. This system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate body functions such as growth, metabolism, digestion, sleep, mood, reproduction, development, sexual function, stress response, immune response, and cyclical cycles. The glands of the endocrine system uses hormones as chemical messengers. Together with the nervous system, the endocrine system works to communicate with the body to coordinate its functions and interactions. The hypothalamus is the area of the body where the nervous system communicates with the glandular system. The nervous system, through the hypothalamus interprets outside signals and communicates those signals, via hormones released by glands, to the rest of the body. The endocrine system is slower than the nervous system, however, its effects last longer. Hormones circulate through the bloodstream, targeting specific cells that match to those hormones – this is a lock and key system.

Chakras (CHUH-kruh) are energy centers in the body that form the main components (organs) of subtle anatomy in order to help our body communicate with the energetic world.
The word means wheel/vortex. There are seven major chakras that align in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Chakras receive and interpret energy. They can be deficient or excessive and blockages can occur.
Chakras can be balanced by many techniques including asana, pranayama, meditation, lifestyle, stones, aromatherapy, chanting, tones, color, intention. When one chakra is deficient another tries to make up for it as they are interconnected, when one is out of balance the whole system can suffer. Chakra balancing work must be addressed as a whole and interrelated system. Chakras unite body, mind and spirit and help to regulate all body processes from organs to immune system to emotional and spiritual. Each chakra has a unique vibrational frequency.

Below you will find each chakra and its correspondences:Number, location, associated endocrine gland, color, sound to chant, element, sense, things it can affect, corresponding location in body. You will also find a list for how you may feel when the chakra is in balance vs out of balance, ideas to bring it into balance. There is associated breathing exercises (pranayama), yoga poses (asana) and suggested meditations.

MULADHARA (root chakra) Associated endocrine gland: ADRENAL GLANDS
1ST Chakra
Located at the base of the spine (perineum in men, cervix in women)
Red
Bija mantra-LAM
Element: Earth
Smell
Family ties
Belonging
Basic needs
Pelvic floor and L5,4,3
Grounding
Survival
Primal instinct

IN BALANCE
Grounded
Connecting
Confident
Secure and stable
Balanced
Present and in the body
Feel the right to exist
Sensible
Needs are met

OUT OF BALANCE
Distrust
Nervous and anxious
Anxiety
Lack consciousness
Unwelcome and Unwelcoming
Greedy
Fearful
Bad boundaries

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Obesity
Hemorrhoids
Constipation
Sciatica
Arthritis
Eating disorders
Flight or fight syndromes
Anxiety
Stress, fatigue and worry
Colon
Bladder
Elimination
Feet
Low back
Prostate

BRINGING INTO BALANCE
Ground
Organize
Meditate
Higher power (universe, mother nature(
Red stones, food etc.
Chant bija sound

ASANAS
Tadasana
Supta Padangusthasana
Vpritti karani
Vrksasana
Malasana
Baddha konasana

PRANAYAMA
Begin observing breath, even inhalation and exhalation

MEDITATION
Imagine roots coming from the body down to the center of earth, through the earth, bedrock and into the molten lava of the deep earth while visualizing the color red and chanting the bija mantra LAM

SVADHISTHANA (svad-self, Histana-one’s own abode) Associated endocrine gland: Gonads
2nd Chakra
Located below the navel and above pubic bone
Gonads
Orange
Bija sound- Vam
Taste
Reproductive
Creativity
Sexuality
Procreate
Storehouse of all Samskaras (past mental impressions)
Most primitive and deep routed instincts
Instinctive drive to reproduce
Seat of the collective conscious

IN BALANCE
Creative
Intimacy
Abundance
In flow
Valued
Positive
Fertile
Open sexuality
Personal magnetism
Good sexual boundaries
Refinement in behavior

OUT OF BALANCE
Blocked
Lacking
Disconnected
Intimacy issues
Bad sexual boundaries
Emotionally unstable
Over or under sexually active
Inability to be alone
Addictive tendencies
Numbness and lack of passion
Rigid mind

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Impotence
Sexual dysfunction
Bladder, gallstones, kidney
Stiff low back
Acne
Weight gain
Mood swings
Depression
Infertility
Abnormal menses and sex drive

BRING INTO BALANCE
Cook, bake, garden (things that create transformation)
Creative writing or free writing
Awaken inner child
Play
Journal
Look nightly at moon and track its cycle

ASANA
Sukkasana circle the torso
Goddess pose
Janu sirsasana
Baddha konasana with forward bend
Bhujasana

PRANAYAMA
Ida nadi (left nostril breathing)

MEDITATION
Imagine water filling up the body and washing out creative blocks and filling up the space with creative juices
let the water turn orange as it washes you internally and chant the bija manta YAM

MANIPURA (gem-city) Associated endocrine gland: Pancreas
3RD Chakra
Located at Solar plexus
Yellow
Bija sound-RAM
Fire
Vision
Spleen, liver, pancreas, stomach
Social self
Power
Instinctive drive to find food
Power to create and exist independently

IN BALANCE
Transform energy into action
Playing with a full deck, firing on all cylinders
Gut response is clear
Alive and awakened
Confident with good self esteem
Oneness
Inner power
Realize potential
Self-motivated
Warrior energy
Right choices
Clear goals and desires
Leader
Able to try new experiences

OUT OF BALANCE
Stagnant
Follower instead of a leader
Low energy
Fear of risks
Scared to make change
Hard to make decisions
Obsession with power and control
Too busy and stressed
Stubborn
Lack of willpower

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Blood sugar
Hypoglycemic
Diabetes
Acid reflux
Agni (digestive fire) is off
Metabolic disorders
Ulcers
Tired

BRING INTO BALANCE
Strengthen digestive fire
Room temperature liquids
Don’t over eat
No spicy foods
Small sips while eating
Avoid soda, alcohol, juice and give the digestive system a rest

ASANA
All standing poses
Poses that bring heat to that area
Navasana
Matsyendrasana
Warrior 1
Twists

PRANAYAMA
Bhastrika breath

MEDITATION
Gut response meditation in sukhasana with hand on belly
Imagine different situations and see how your body reacts while visualizing the color yellow and chanting the bija manta RAM

ANAHATA (unstuck) Associated endocrine gland (Thymus)
4th Chakra
Location heart/ region of spine behind sternum
Green
Bija sound- YAM
Air
Touch
Heart, lungs, breasts, lymphatic system
Love
Where physical and spiritual meet
Integration
Compassion
Source of sound
Internal, unborn, undying vibration and pulse of the universe
Instinctive drive to receive

IN BALANCE
Compassion
Empathy
Open to new experiences
Free
Quick to forgive
Connected to others
Forgiveness
Higher power
Trusting
Present in the moment
Independent
Unconditional love
Open to touch
Loving and joyful
Let go of hurt
Empathy
Grounded in the lower chakras
Balanced giving and taking

OUT OF BALANCE
Possessive
Jealous
Isolated (often self-imposed)
Afraid of new people, places and experiences
Afraid of touch
Judgmental
Hold on to hurt
Stuck in bad situations and unable to leave
Codependency
Smothering
Neediness
Hatred of self and others
Problems sharing thoughts and feelings
Lonely
Bitter
Hard to trust
Cold and manipulative
Grief
Lack boundaries
Making unrealistic demands on others to make up for the love that one feels is lacking

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Asthma
High blood pressure
Heart
Lung
Depression

BRING INTO BALANCE
Practice letting go
Offer compassion (close or far away)
Smile at people
Practice not criticizing others
Forgive and move on (practice this with small things first: ex. server that forgets to bring your lemon slice)
Give positive affirmations
Put yourself in others shoes
Hug people who will allow it
Free write from your heart positive comments about yourself and others
Practice being extra loving, start with friends, pets, plants and move outward

ASANAS
Any asana that opens the heart or puts the heart below spine or pelvis (caution with high and low blood pressure) ex adho mukha svanasana, uttanasana
Backbends ex ustrasana, setubanda, laying over a bolster in supta baddha konasana, virasana or savasana
Gomukhasana
All asanas that lengthen the thoracic cavity (scalenes, pectoralis, trapezius, rhomboids, spinal muscles etc ex. Triangle, parsvottanasana, tadasana

PRANAYAMA
Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
Any breath exercise that deepens breath as we tend to hold the breath when our feelings are hurt (esp. as children, which creates fascial holding pattern)
Viloma (lengthen inhale)

MEDITATION
Begin by listening to the heart, imagine your heart as a beautiful green room with a beautifuldoor, open the door and inivite someone you deeply love in your space of your loving heart,spend some time with them, let them out of your heart and invite someone you are neutral about, and repeat with someone who has hurt you or you dislike. Chant the bija mantra YAM when you have let the last person leave, and shut the door, but do not lock it.

VISHUDDHA (purification shuddhi-purification and vi- enhances it) Associated endocrine gland: Thyroid and parathyroid
5th Chakra
Throat
Blue
Bija sound- HAM
Ether
Hearing
Jaw, neck, mouth, throat, larynx, ears and vocal cords
Communication and production
Listen, speak express
Center for purification
Right understanding and discrimination begin here
Duality of life accepted
Amrita (divine nectar) is tasted here
Instinctive drive to speak the truth

IN BALANCE
Speak truth
Express emotions in a healthy way
Good boundaries
Honor others truth without judgment (let others have their stories)
Not influenced by others
Able to speak
Able to listen
Creative approach to life

OUT OF BALANCE
Cannot find ones voice
Overly or under talkative
Does not listen
Do not feel heard
Succumb to peer pressure
Lack boundaries
Feel insecure to speak up
Dishonesty

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Throat
Thyroid
Imbalance in body
Ear issues including balance
Metabolism
Fatigue
Allergies
Stress and anxiety
Depression

BRINGING IN BALANCE
Practice asking, write out questions
Practice thinking before speaking (Should I say it, Is it true, is it kind)
Practice listening
Speak your opinion even if it is different
Practice speaking only truth

ASANA
Setu bandha
Sarvangasana
Halasana
Ustrasana
Neck lengthening poses

PRANAYAMA
Ujjayi (long flowing breath)
Anuloma Ujjayi (lengthen exhale)

MEDITATION
Visualize white nectar coming from sky through the head down to the throat chakra and filling body with blissful intoxication,let the white nectar turn blue as it enters the body and chant HAM

AJNA (jnana- eye wisdom, command) Associated endocrine gland: Pituitary gland
6th Chakra (jnana- eye wisdom, command)
Location between and above the brows
Indigo
Bija sound –kh-sham/aum
Light, spirit, mind (manas)
Intuition
Inspiration
Eyes, head, lower brain
Deep states of meditation
Inner guru
3 rivers converge (Ida: left side right brain, lunar cool, female, parasympathetic; Pingala: right side, left side of the brain, solar, hot masculine, sympathetic; Susumna: Central, connects 7 chakras, CNS)

IN BALANCE
Control over prana, mind steady and strong
Intuition is strong therefore trusting
Big picture
New perspective
Receive wisdom
Serendipity
Clairvoyance
Lucid dreaming
Visualization
Imagination
6th sense
Inspire

OUT OF BALANCE
Close minded
Too attached to logic
Hard to trust self and others
Cynical
Small picture
Stuck in a rut
Blocked to magic and imagination
Uninspired

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Headaches
Eyes
Tumor
Pressure
Something feels off
Disconnected with self

BRING INTO BALANCE
Journal
Meditate
Trust 6th sense
Practice trusting your intuition first with less important things

ASANA
Any pose with forehead pressed on a block, balasana, adho mukha svanasana with a block
Sirsasana
Legs up the wall

PRANAYAMA
Brahmari (cover eyes and ears)

MEDITATION
Visualize a small point of light or an aum symbol at the third eye center, feel yourself opening to your inner guru, listen to what they have to tell you, visualize indigo and chant KSHAM

SAHASRARA (one thousand petals) Associated endocrine gland: Pineal
7TH Chakra
Location crown
Violet/purple/white
Bija sound-AUM
Cosmic energy/pure consciousness
Union of shiva and Shakti (male/female, god/goddess)
Petals are 50 sanskrit letters 20 times over = 1000
Wisdom
Transcendence
Universality
Formless yet with form
Nothing and everything

IN BALANCE
Beauty
Spirituality
Beyond physical
Free
Bliss
Connected and grounded
Sense of belonging
Clarity
Pure awareness
Unconditional love
Miracles
Kind and compassionate
Humility
Serve others

OUT OF BALANCE
Happiness comes from others
Suffer
Unable to experience bliss
Ungrounded
Lack vibrancy
Desire shackles the self
Feel as if we don’t belong here

HEALTH CHALLENGES
Depression
Boredom
Suicidal thoughts
Out of balance
Insomnia

BRING INTO BALANCE
Meditation
Daily prayer
Daily silence

ASANA
All asana
Inversions
Down dog
Crown of head on floor (matsyasana, sirsasana)

PRANAYAMA
Nadi shodhana

MEDITATION
Imagine a white purple vibration bathing and spinning above the crown feel the light up and down throughout the body.
Feel each chakra being lit up by the energy. Feel the connection to your inner divine conscious and the outer energy of the loving collective conscious.

Mystical Studies

Candle Magic: How to get started

I love candle magic.

Candle magic is a simple yet powerful form of spellwork that anyone can do. Growing up in a Jewish home we lit the shabbos candles each Friday night and again the havdalah candle was lit and put out on Saturday evening. It always was so clear to me that lighting those Shabbat candles opened a portal into a different universe. A place where mystic studies, family and food were enjoyed. As children, we are told to blow out birthday candles and make a wish. Showing us that even adults believe in magic sometimes.

Working with candle magic is a powerful ally to add intention and focus to your magical practice. I have used it for many purposes. Always remember to only include yourself in the spell unless you have permission from the other person you are working in the realm of magic with. Spend time defining your intention and be sure that it supports the highest good of all beings. There are so many ways to do candle magic. We teach classes at Ace of Cups because there is so much tradition to working with fire in spell casting and manifestation. However what better way to learn than to dive right in? So here are some tips on how to get started with candle magic.

Choose the right type of candle: The first step is to choose the right type of candle for your spell. Consider what you want to achieve with your spell, and select a candle that will help you to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to find your creative voice, you might choose an orange candle. If you want to increase your health, you might choose a green candle. What kind of wax do you want to use? Something natural or a classic votive candle? Do you want to make the candle yourself? Would you like it to be in the shape of something? If you are doing candle magic for your dog you may want a candle in the shape of a dog. If it is for a new job or to bring luck you may want to choose a classic 7-day candle that is printed already and has been designed for that type of spell.

Choose an appropriate size: The next step is to choose an appropriate size candle for your spell. This is important because it will affect how long the candle burns and how long you will be responsible for your spell. I like the 7-day candles, but if I am wanting to do a quicker spell I will use the chime candles or tea lights. However, whenever I use the word “quick” with magic, I take a step back. Because magic usually takes time! So I tend to use chime candles for meditation, focus or to prepare for rituals.

Dress the candle: The next step is to dress the candle. This simply means adding any herbs, oils, or other ingredients that you feel will amplify the power of your spell. Once again, consider what you want to achieve with your spell and select ingredients that will help you to reach your goal. For example, if you’re doing a prosperity spell, you might want to add some abundance-drawing herbs like basil or mint. I like to use oils that were sacred to my ancestors. Use cinnamon to speed up the spell, but be cautious when you speed up spells. I will ask for a sped-up spell for things like a job interview the next day or a test. Not for love, healing, money, abundance etc. magic needs time and space to work safely and responsibly. You can also scribe directly into the wax. I use an old knife from my father for this, but a household safety pin will do.

Place the candle on your altar: Place your candle somewhere safe away from all flammable material on something safe like a metal plate. Build a small altar around it with items that represent what you are wanting to draw in. I do not recommend doing candle magic in the room you sleep in though if it feels right go for it.

Write your intention: You may choose to write your intention on a piece of paper, or a bay leaf and place it under the candle. It can be written in full sentences or drawn, abbreiveated etc. For example, if I am wanting to manifest more work playing music I may combine the first letter of each word into a pattern or sigil rather than writing out the entire sentence.

Purify the candle before lighting it: Use smoke of sage, lavender or mugwort (or another herb of your choice), sacred waters, waters of the world etc.

Light the candle: The final step is to light the candle and let it burn out completely. As it burns, focus on your intention for the spell. Visualize yourself achieving your goal, and let the flame of the candles carry your intention out into the universe. When to light it is up to you. I do like to use the moon cycles myself. Light it on a new moon to bring in new things and open new paths, light it on a full moon to shed light or add power to your spell, and light it on a waning moon to let go of things that do not serve you.

Keep up the spell work until the candle burns out: Each day and night restate your intention, burn more herbs around it, and add or take away items for the altar. I leave my candles burning on a mantle, however, if it does not feel safe to do so put it out and light it each day. Do not blow it out, simply put a plate over the top and let it go out from lack of oxygen. This way you do not symbolically blow out your spell and it is easier for the wick to be lit again.

When the candle is done burning you can dispose of the remains. I like to look for shapes and patterns in the leftover wax or on the glass and see if I notice any messages.

Remember the magic is not in the candle it is in you! But be prepared candle magic can be very powerful. If you using the 7-day candle you can recycle the glass, smash it, use it as a vase, boil it and use it as a drinking cup.

On rare occasions the candles will explode, crack, make noise and affirm your spell very boldly.

Be cautious, be smart, you are playing with fire.

Blessed be.

Creating a Personal Altar

How to create a magical working space or altar.

Building an altar can be a deeply personal and mystical experience. It is a way to connect with your ancestors, your deities, or simply the energy of the universe. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Here are some tips on how to build an altar that is perfect for you.

– First, decide what purpose your altar will serve. This will help you determine what kind of items to include on it. This can be changed weekly, seasonally or even daily. You can have many altars in your space

-We have an ancestor altar where we feed our ancestors and altars we change seasonally, often we set our table like an altar, especially on shabbes

– Choose a location or several for the altars that are special to you. Somewhere your kids, dogs, cats, etc will leave it alone. It could be in your home, in your garden, or anywhere that feels sacred to you. I have even had the on the dashboard of the car when traveling

-You can carry a traveling altar kit with you and set a small one up where ever you go

– Once you have selected a location, clean it off with some mugwort water (simply pour boiled water over dried or fresh mugwort and let steep 10 minutes), then cleanse it with smoke, I love to use sage, mugwort or lavender smoke. Find a beautiful cloth to lay over the surface if you desire.

– Now you can begin to decorate your altar with items that are meaningful to you. This could include anything you wish. I tend to always have a small cauldron, a wood box, something my children made, something of my ancestors, dried herbs, poppets I am working with, a black stone, a chalice, an athame, and a candle and the rest of the items rotate. But the possibilities are infinite. Items that belonged to loved ones, toys you had as a child, stones, feathers, living plants, dried herbs, brick dust, graveyard dirt, flowers, candles, pictures, or anything else that calls to you

– When your altar is complete, take some time to meditate on its meaning and purpose. Allow yourself to connect with the energies it represents.

-I enjoy going to it each day and lighting a candle, making an offering, admiring the beauty, burning some herbs or speaking about what I would like to cast into my day

-I often place the tarot card I pulled for the day onto the altar

-Use your altar to cast spells and weave magic into your web

There’s no right or wrong way to do it. And that’s it! Now you have your very own altar that you can use for whatever purpose you desire.

Take care of your altar: Altars are meant to be living spaces that evolve. Check-in with your altar regularly to see what needs to be added or removed. Add new items as they come into your life, and let go of anything that no longer feels relevant. Freshen up your altar as part of your practice. There are many ways to do this. Some ideas are to clean your altar on a new moon and place new items on it, wash the altar cloth, and spray it with mugwort, rosemary or lavender spray. Bath the stones in salt water and place them under the full moon. For the waning moon look at what you may want to remove from your altar space

However you decide to create your altar, the most important thing is to enjoy it and make it yours.

And if you want to send us photos of your altars we would LOVE to see them.

Step Into the Wondrous World of Tarot

Step into the wondrous world of tarot. Here magic and imagination guide the subconscious to deeper realms of the soul. Tarot is useful for helping us find our purpose and choose the right path to walk down.

The history of the tarot is shrouded in mystery. Scholars, mystics, occultists and historians each tell a different story of its origins.

Tarot is an effective divination tool that helps us to understand ourselves as spiritual beings experiencing life in a physical body.

In my origin story I imagine mystics from various traditions coming together and sharing knowledge, creating a system of numerology and symbols that could be hidden in the cards and kept safe from the looming censorship of the church and state.

Today there are many types of tarot decks created by people from all walks of life, traditions and religions. From the “traditional” decks of Marseille, the occult deck of Pamela Coleman Smith and A.E. Waite to the Alice in wonderland, Halloween and gender bending decks of modern times.

I find the path of life to be filled with marvel and amazement and I recognize the mystical world that lies underneath.
I open my ears and hear plants talk, the river tell a tale and the birds sing folk tales.
I see magic all around me and feel the connection to the cosmos.

I am the collective conscious, all beings, all elements and atoms run through me, my physical and energetic anatomy connect with others and all the world.

I can hear the pulse of the universe and the stories within and tarot helps me to do this.

When I read tarot for others I tap into this energy and use the cards to open communication between the querent, their true self and the universe or god they connect with.

The symbols on the cards awaken our deeper selves, our connection with our ancestors, our past, present and future selves, and give us tools to explore the universe.

Numerology and other mystical forms of mathematics are woven into the tarot and provide a means for us to contemplate the nature of the universe. The endless mathematical equations that are found within the tarot mimic those in our lives.

The combination of the 78 cards, the numerology, symbolism and characters tell an infinite amount of tales that could not be written down in one lifetime. If one attempted this task, the sheer number of volumes would have to be housed in giant libraries.

Within each card there is an infinite possibility of stories, lessons, adventures and life experiences. The deck of cards is truly a choose your own adventure story that is a key to life.

18 Techniques to get to know your tarot cards

Getting to know your tarot cards can be a fun and enlightening experience. The tarot is a powerful tool for self-discovery, insight, and guidance, and the more you spend time and connect with your cards, the more effective and accurate your readings will be. Here are 18 techniques to help you get to know your tarot cards better:

  1. Daily pull: Pick one card each day to get to know them as individuals. This will also help you focus on the energy of the day and gain insight into your current situation.
  2. Memorize the order of the major arcana: Familiarize yourself with the order of the major arcana cards, be able to recite them from fool to the world. 
  3. Lay out the cards and compare common symbols: Take a look at all the cards and notice any common symbols that appear across different cards.
  4. Shuffle the cards and then try to put them back in order:  This can help you to become more familiar with the cards and the order of the deck to be able to identify them easily in readings.
  5. Lay out the cards and make a story: Lay out the cards in a spread and make up a story based on the cards and their positions. This is a great activity to do with a friend
  6. Lay out two cards and imagine a conversation: Place two cards side by side and imagine a conversation between the two characters depicted on the cards.
  7. Practice a simple three-card spread daily and journal about it: One I like is situation (placed in center), what is helping (placed on the right) what is an obstacle(placed on the left.
  8. Do a 1-3 card reading for a friend: Offer to do a 1-3 card reading for a friend or family member. This can help you to practice your skills and gain confidence in your abilities.
  9. Choose one card to represent each phase of the lunar cycle and use them as guides for your readings and meditations.
  10. Look at the court cards and make a list of people in your life, in a book you love, in a movie etc. who remind you of each one. What qualities do they share?
  11. Draw the symbols in the cards: Practice drawing the symbols in the cards to help you become more familiar with them.
  12. Research a symbol that appears in the cards: Research a symbol that you particularly love or are drawn to and learn more about its meaning and significance.
  13. Make a sheet of 36 emotions, cut them out in to small rectangles and place them on the cards to help you connect with the emotions depicted in the cards.
  14. Gaze at a card for one minute, turn over and write as many symbols as you can remember.
  15. Turn over a card and notice your first impression: Turn over a card and take note of your first impression of it. How did it make you feel? This can help you to connect with your intuition and gain insight into the card’s meaning.
  16. Organize the cards by color: Organize the cards by color to help you connect with the different energies and meanings associated with each color.
  17. Sort the cards into two groups, those with people and those without, to help you connect with the different energies and meanings associated with each type of card.
  18. Notice the directions the characters in the cards are facing. How does this affect the meanings of the cards in a reading?

Herbal Education

Materica Magica (Herbal Magic)

The Magical world of our plantcestors: Properties and Ritual uses

Angelica
Latin name: Angelica archangelica
Common names: Angelica, Holy Ghost root, wild celery, Norwegian angelica
Family: Apiaceae/Carrot family
Parts used: Root, seeds, and leaves
Element: Sun
Tarot card: Strength

Magical properties: Guardian, healer, ward off evil especially in the home, associated with the archangel Michael. Rumor has it that a Benedictine monk had this herb revealed to him in a dream by the Archangel Michael to be used as medicine and to aid in the plague.

Preparation/spell work: Sprinkle the powder around the house, hang the herb in the entrance of the home fresh or dried, carry the root with you for protection, make a tea and add to floor wash, can be burned as incense or added to spell candles, make a flute out of the hollow stem to use as ritual item in sound magic

Precautions: Not for use in pregnancy, when wild crafting beware, will bring on bleeding if less than a week late, this family has many poisonous plants that look alike, can have emmenagogue effects, can cause photosensitivity

Mugwort
Latin name: Artemisia vulgaris
Common names: Mugwort, dream weed, St. Johns plant
Family: Asteraceae/compositae
Parts used: Leaves roots and flowering tops

Magical Properties: Oneirogen (dream enhancing) Lucid dreaming, dream work, clearing, cleansing and connecting. It is named Artemisia in connection to the goddess Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt. Use a tincture or tea of this herb to do dream work, especially lucid dreaming. Mugwort helps to create vivid dreams if you are already a dreamer or bring about dreams if you have a scarcity of dreams. It is said that St. John the Baptist wore this in the wilderness for protection and Roman soldiers used it in their shoes to help their feet become less tired and remember their quest. Used to keep away dreams of the dead. Used as a blessing herb before trance work and spiritual quests.
Preparation/spell work: Burn to purify a room before ritual practices, anoint mugwort infused oil before sleeping, meditate with the plant while awake to access dream knowledge, grow in your yard for protection, hang over your doorways for protection, sleep with a spring under your pillow for dream work, make a mugwork dream pillow and amulet.
Precautions: Do not use while pregnant or if you have allergies to the asteraceae family

Herbal Actions Vocabulary

PLANT-CESTORS
If you are new to working with our plant-cestors and incorporating the use of herbs into your life, you may have discovered that the study of herbs seems to have its very own language. An important aspect of herbalism is being able to communicate the actions of the herbs. Below is a list of herbal actions. These are properties of the herbs specific qualities and medicinal interactions. This is a small list to help you get started on your journey in the language of the medicinal use of plants.

Herbal Definitions
Adaptogens- helps body adapt to stress (licorice & ginseng)
Anti-inflammatory- to reduce or inhibit inflammation (cramp bark; turmeric for digestive)
Antispasmodic- reduces spasms (crampbark)
Alteratives- (tonic)-affect all body systems, tonify and restore function (dandelion, ashwaganda)
Analgesic- pain relief (chamomile, arnica)
Anti-catarrhal-to reduce mucus (thyme)
Astringents- contract/tighten tissue (yarrow and plantain)
Aprodesica-increases energetic energy and sexual desire (damiana)
Carminatives- relax the GI smooth muscle to allow burping or gas to be expelled (chamomile, peppermint, fennel)
Diaphoretics- to promote sweating (horseradish, ginger, cayenne)
Entheogenic plant – produce a non ordinary state of consciousness (mugwort)
Expectorant- influence consistency, formation, and transport of bronchial secretions (horehound, thyme for respiratory system)
Hepatic- to protect and strengthen the liver (all bitters, dandelion, schisandra, turmeric)
Hypnotics-aids in sleep
Laxatives- increase evacuation of stool (celium & flax); all berberine rich plants
Nervines- effect on the nervous system (skullcap, milky oats, passionflower)

Blending your own herbal teas

Blending your own herbal teas can be a fun and creative way to learn about herbs and their benefits. Herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and well-being, and they can be a great way to support your body, mind, and soul. Before blending, it’s important to get to know each herb as an individual.

Start by working with three of the herbs from the list below. Take the time to work with one herb at a time, maybe spending a day or even a week with the individual plant. Make a tea out of a single herb, and take the time to observe how it makes you feel, taste the different flavors, and notice how it affects your body, mind, and soul. Once you have tried the three individually, try combining them in sets of two. This process is similar to getting to know our human friends individually and then having them meet our other friends. Plants are our ancestors and have so much to teach us.

When choosing your three herbs to work with to create your blend, consider the family of the plant, when the plant grows, its flavor, which ones grow near each other, whether any are growing in your garden, and how they make you feel. Use your intuition to guide you in your selection.

For example, if you choose Lavender, Rose, and Damiana, try each plant as an individual tea. Then blend equal parts of lavender and rose and see how you like it, notice if you would like more rose or more lavender. Repeat this process with lavender and damiana, and rose and damiana. Finally, blend all three together and see how you like it.

If you want to go deeper, make a card for each herb and include the common name, Latin name, your observations upon working with it, initial flavor, pharmacology, and properties of the plant. This will help you to remember and understand the herbs better.

Remember that the quality of the herbal formula can only be as good as the ingredients, so purchase organic, ethically wildcrafted or locally grown herbs.

Each of the 9 herbs below will be prepared similarly to make the tisane (herbal tea) since they are all above-ground parts of the plants and made up of the flowers and leaves.

Hot Water Infusion:

1 large jar or teapot

1-3 teaspoons of herb/8-12 oz of boiled water

Place the herb in a jar, a tea bag or tea ball can be used

Bring water to a boil, turn off and let sit 30 seconds

Pour over the herb

Let sit for 5-15 minutes

Strain if needed

Use immediately or store for up to 72 hours in the fridge

Try different steeping times until you find the perfect one for you

 

9 herbs to practice blending teas you love:

  1. Lavender (Lavendula officianlis) -Mint family (lamiaceae)
  2. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)-Mint family (lamiaceae)
  3. Lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis) -Mint family (lamiaceae)
  4. Rosa sp. -Rose family (roseaceae)
  5. Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) -Daisy family (Asteraceae)
  6. Nettle (Urtica dioica) -Urticacea (was once in the mint family)
  7. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)-Daisy family (Asteraceae)
  8. Garden sage (Salvia officinalis)

Herbal Recipes

How To Make an Herbal Syrup

Making a syrup

Syrups are a terrific way to take herbs (especially ones that do not taste good) and they are easy to make.
Children will love to make them with you. There are so many types that we can make from cough syrups, to calming syrups, digestive syrups and even syrups to add to our sparkling waters or spirits. Have fun with creating them, be inventive. I love to keep syrups on hand in my refrigerator and add them to sparkling water for a delicious and refreshing beverage. Syrups can be made with honey or sugar. I am only sharing the honey syrup recipe here as that is the one I use the most. When making herbal syrups it is important to keep the ratio as 1:1, one part herbal decoction to one part honey for preservation. If you dilute this to make it less sweet, be sure to keep in the refrigerator and use quickly. I also preserve mine with vodka, grain alcohol or even an medicinal tincture.

Here is the basic recipe for a syrup of any type.

Basic syrup
· Make a very strong decoction by adding one ounce of herbs to 16 oz of water, simmer over low heat to reduce to liquid to about one half of the original amount
· Pour into a sterilized jar
· Add 50% honey or 25% honey and 25% glycerin, 50% glycerin or 50% simple syrup (one cup sugar to one cup water)
· Add one tbsp. vodka, brandy or grain alcohol or even an herbal tincture to enhance your remedy
· Store 1-4 months

Below you will find one of my favorite syrups, the calming syrup. I
t is great for kids and adults alike.
Calming syrup
Lemon balm, chamomile, passion flower syrup

Ingredients needed
2 cups of fresh spring or filtered water
½ ounce dried or 1 ounce fresh leaves of lemon balm
1/4 ounce dried or 3/4 ounce fresh chamomile flowers
¼ ounce dried or 3/4 fresh of passion flower vine
Optional one tablespoon vodka to preserve

Method
Place the lemon balm, chamomile and passion flower into a pot
Pour the water over the herbs
Bring the 2 cups water to a quick boil, simmer until reduced to about half of the content
turn off heat
Strain and add 50% honey and add alcohol to preserve (about one tablespoon)
Example: if there is one cup of the decoction (liquid) after the simmer, then add one cup of honey
Store in the refrigerator 1-4 months

I love to mix the calming syrup with some sparkling water and enjoy in the afternoon. You can also add a bit of apple cider vinegar to the water along with the syrup for an extra refreshing drink.
The syrup can also be added to other types of teas and enjoyed hot.
Please let us know how you like this recipe if you try it.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.

Dandelion Recipes | PDF

Lavender Recipes | PDF

Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) Recipes

Mugwort Rituals and Magic | PDF

Rubus idaeus (Raspberry) Recipes | PDF

Rose Recipes | PDF

Rosemary Ritual and Magic | PDF

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