The Power of Touch

 therapeutic touchWhile massage is becoming more recognized for its therapeutic benefits, any kind of touch including a simple handshake, congratulatory pat on the back, or a warm-hearted hug has the power to transform you both physically and emotionally. Touch triggers the hypothalamus to produce oxytocin, both released into the bloodstream and stored in the brain. This hormone has a range of physiological functions, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing pain tolerance and boosting your mood. There have been a range of studies, each with a different population including infants, cancer patients, mental health patients, the elderly, and pregnant women, all of which point to the same conclusion:

Touch not only makes you feel better, it is vital to our emotional and physical health.  

Science-Based Benefits of Touch

Edmond Ross found that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, linked to feelings of reward and compassion. His studies show that simple touch triggers the release of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone.” This fosters greater trust between individuals and builds stronger teams of people working together. Touch is the foundation for connection and community.

Mothers touch

Studies at the Touch Research Institute found that prenatal massage lowers stress hormones and increases serotonin and dopamine, in pregnant women, reducing the incidence of intra-uterine artery resistance, making it easier to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This means less premature deliveries, and with healthier birth weights. The women in this study also experienced shorter delivery times, and with fewer complications.

Infants and Touch

And how does loving touch affect the babies? A study carried out by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital measured the brain responses of 125 infants and showed that a baby’s earliest experiences of touch have lasting effects on the way the young brains respond to gentle touch. Preemies that spent more time in gentle contact with their parents and healthcare providers, had a stronger brain response to touch than those who were in incubators.  Preterm babies who receive positive supportive touch, such as skin-to-skin care by parents, have brain response to touch similar to those babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside mother’s womb.

Dr. Ruth Feldman carried out a 10-year study which shows the lifetime impacts of physical contact with preterm babies. “In this decade-long study, we showed for the first time that providing maternal-newborn skin-to-skin contact to premature infants in the neonatal period improves children’s functioning 10 years later…” said Dr. Feldman. Compared against standard incubator care, the baby held skin-to-skin against the chest of an adult, showed better cognitive and executive skills in repeated testing from 6 months to 10 years of age, such as more regular sleep patterns, better neuroendocrine response to stress, a mature functioning of the nervous system, and better overall cognitive performance.

touch of massage at Osmosis

Hospice Patients and Touch

Kutner’s research on the effects of touch on 380 hospice patients, half of which received regularly scheduled massage and half of which received a simple untrained touch from hospice volunteers, gave us evidence that while massage is extremely beneficial, untrained touch is also helpful. Both the patients who received massage and those who received untrained touch all reported decrease in pain, and elevated mood and quality of life. The patients who received massage reported those results more immediately than those who received untrained touch, showing us that all is helpful.

Dr. Tiffany Field, Director of Research at the University of Miami Medical School says,”Moderate pressure massage has a huge variety of benefits because it stimulates the vagus nerve, which has branches all over your body, so for example, it slows the heart rate and relaxes your nervous system.” This is huge. The vagus nerve interfaces with our parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract, so can lower blood pressure and reduce digestive or respiratory stress.

Mental Health and Touch

Several studies show that touch therapy can be helpful to people who suffer from mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety or depression, or physical pain. Why? Massage can reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol while simultaneously increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that fights depression and pain. Serotonin is a natural way to reduce physical discomfort and uplift the mood.

Six Facts Why Simple Touch or Professional Massage will Benefit your Well-Being:

  • Neuroscientists now know that physical touch is processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, and is thus vital to your emotional health.
  • Psychologists explain that simple touch stimulates receptors under the skin that lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
  • The Thymus gland, which regulates your body’s production of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s immune system and helping to maintain optimal health is stimulated through touch.
  • The Hippocampus, an area of the brain that is central to memory, is also stimulated.
  • Touch can, of course, rub away tension, and when administered by a trained massage therapist, can increase the range of motion and circulation while reducing pain or spasm.
  • Finally, all touch including professional massage releases endorphins in the body to reduce pain and elevate mood.

Healing touch has become a widely respected way to prevent and ease health issues. Doctors of all kinds recommend massage to their patients to ease both emotional and physical symptoms of dis-ease.

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Raizelah Bayen, Spa Services Manager Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming training in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Top 5 Benefits of the Cedar Enzyme Bath at Osmosis Day Spa

Osmosis Cedar Enzyme Bath

Over 30 years serving West Sonoma County, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary’s Cedar Enzyme Bath continues to remain a favorite among many. Do you ever wonder why people continue to come back, again and again, to get buried up to their neck in cedar and rice bran? Osmosis guests have reported experiencing a wide range of wellness and health benefits over the years. The following are the top five most celebrated.

Reduced Tension and Stress

For centuries, heat has been used as a simple and effective way to manage tension and stress. Upon entering the bath you will quickly feel the warmth that is generated by biological fermentation, mimicking your body’s’ own natural metabolic processes. You may perspire, as you feel this extraordinary heat radiate through your body helping your muscle fibers to loosen and relax while reducing muscle tension and pain.

Breaks Down Lactic Acid in Sore Muscles

Overworked muscles and a buildup of lactic acid are what causes the pain associated with exercising. Heat helps your muscles to relax and encourages blood flow to the area which can reduce pain. Increasing blood flow to sore muscles helps in eliminating lactic acid waste buildup which contributes to pain.

Beautifies the Skin

Cedar Enzyme Bath

Rice bran, a key ingredient in the Cedar Enzyme Bath, is high in enzymes and has a wonderful deep-moisturizing capability. This is due in part to its combination of vitamin E and fatty acids. Vitamin E improves the functioning of the endocrine system by balancing the release of hormones in the body. Beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, is also found in rice bran in significant amounts, which promotes the health and vitality of your skin. Rice bran also adds revitalizing nutrients to your body’s largest and most sensitive organ.

Detoxification and Improved Digestion

The tea and bath work together to metabolize waste, cleanse organs and facilitate absorption of nutrients. Enzymes are the catalytic force in all change in the living tissue. They are mostly known to help digestion, but they also conduct a whole symphony of functions from the exchange of oxygen from the lining of the lungs into the bloodstream and the whole movement of energy through your nervous system.

Improved Circulation

Heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and removes toxins from cells. Increased blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to the area. The bath dilates the cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to even the smallest capillaries.

If you have not experienced the Cedar Enzyme Bath for yourself, it is time to book a visit now! You can improve your health as well as your skin while reducing overall stress. Doesn’t get much better than that. This unique experience is also a great way to prepare your body for a relaxing massage. Osmosis Day Spa offers numerous packages to take advantage of the full experience! Convenient online booking can be found at the following link www.osmosis.com

 

Garden Journal

japanese garden master pruner

By Michael Alliger, Master Pruner

Autumn 2017

With the softening of the light and cooling of temperatures comes a time for an out-breath in the garden. Autumn at Osmosis brings a relaxing sigh after the hurried intensity of summer. In the calm expanse of golden light, we look back to what has been: the surprises, accomplishments, and challenges; and we look ahead to the opportunities that winter rains will offer.

Here at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Sonoma County, California, Spring was enlivened by deep and late rains. Trees especially came out with a robust vigor. This was an expectation gratefully rewarded. The surprise was that this vigor did not translate into increased health throughout a very hot summer. Many trees seemed inexplicably weaker as the season progressed. Autumn, therefore, brings welcome relief for the garden as well as the gardeners.

Falling Leaves

Bamboo Falling Leaves

Bamboo’s Falling Leaves

Though plant growth has slowed, the rain of falling leaves keeps gardeners busy raking. Raking of the paths and grounds is expected but benches, lanterns, stones and the plants themselves must be kept as pristine as possible. It’s interesting to observe that broadleaf evergreen trees (such as bays), as well as conifers, are losing countless leaves at this time. Bamboo, an evergreen, is dropping leaves at a surprising rate. For good hygiene and appearance groves must be raked and mulched. Pines, redwoods, and hinokis all display an inner browning of foliage that may drop eventually with winter storms if not cleaned by garden staff.

Lack of Rain

Anticipation of winter may stir in us the realization of how long the garden has gone without rain. Lack of rain combined with extremely low atmospheric humidity makes this the driest time of the year for plants. It’s important that irrigation be regularly monitored for accurate operation and that container plants be watered assiduously sometimes being dunked in large tubs or troughs where possible. Again in anticipation of winter rains the garden is freshly mulched with nutrient rich amendment. When percolated in by rain a mulch of composted humus and manure not only enriches to plant growth but helps keep the soil alive with microbes, insects and all manner of healthful fungi.

Fall Pruning

Fall Pruning of Evergreens

Fall Pruning

Garden pruning in the fall hasn’t the pace of summer yet opportunities for care and improvement abound. In Japanese-inspired gardens like Osmosis, many trees are pruned for human scale. This reduction often stimulates a reaction growth which must be addressed. As this growth slows in summer water sprouts on plum, crabapple and persimmon, for example, can be removed or cut back. On Magnolia, heavy summer growth is also removed in preparation for early winter flowering. In addition, fruit tress such as pear, apple and apricot may be thinned and cut back. At Osmosis, we have a large naturalized apple tree growing along the bank of Salmon Creek which is pruned as an ornamental, not to interfere with a vigorous fruit production.

Evergreens are also pruned at this time. Pines are thinned, shaped and cleaned of old needles. The same can be done with various Chamaecyparis.

Nandina

Nandina

The thinning of bamboo groves not only improves appearance by removing dead, dying, and spindly culms but also can help (along with fertilizing) to increase the size of next year’s shoots for added drama. Similarly, drifts of Nandina may be thinned to display their vertical canes from which they get their common name “sacred bamboo”, though not a true bamboo.

Yes, in gardening there is the Zen moment of NOW, but we are also keeping an eye on what has been and what will be. Winter will bring an ideal opportunity for planting and transplanting. Autumn is the time to be looking ahead to the possibility of these, often dramatic, adjustments.

Learn More about pruning Nandina in the following video! Get ready to be inspired!

Foot Reflexology: Not Just a Foot Massage

Many people believe that a Foot Reflexology session is just a relaxing foot massage.  While Foot Reflexology is indeed relaxing, it has many other benefits.  

There are ten reflex zones on the foot each corresponding to a different body area.  There are additional specific reflex points that correspond to internal organs, glands, and sense organs.  For example, in the center of the pad of the big toe there is a reflex point that corresponds to the pituitary gland; on the ball of the left big toe is a reflex point to the heart, and on the ball of pinky is a reflex zone to the shoulder.  There are over 50 reflex points such as these on the feet.  When these reflexology points are stimulated with specific massage techniques, the body’s natural healing abilities are stimulated.  Pain is reduced; organ function improves, and in some cases, diseases are resolved.  While massage therapists who perform Foot Reflexology are not medical practitioners with the training to either diagnose or treat, the practice of Foot Reflexology over recent decades shows, again and again, the healing potential of this modality.

How does Reflexology work?

Foot Reflexology works on several levels.

Research in the 1890s by Henry Head and Charles Sherrington shows us the neurological relationship between the skin and the internal organs, and that the nervous system as a whole adjusts to stimulus.  By applying pressure to the feet, the calming message to peripheral nerves is carried through the central nervous system signaling the body to relax.  This enhanced relaxation allows increased blood supply to the internal organs and their systems. This relaxation allows, additionally, the body to move naturally toward homeostasis and more optimal functioning.  

The neuromatrix theory of pain helps us to understand how Reflexology reduces pain levels in the body.  According to the neuromatrix theory, pain is a subjective experience created by the brain.  The brain does this in response to not only physical stimuli but also in response to emotional or cognitive factors.  Thus, your moods or stress levels can also affect your experience of pain.  Reflexology may reduce pain by reducing stress and improving mood.

Lastly, Reflexology is recognized as a specific type of massage developed based on Zone Theory.  Zone Theory, developed by Dr. William Fitzgerald in the early 1900s, understands foot reflexologythe body is divided into 10 vertical zones, each zone corresponding to fingers and toes all the way up to the head.  In Reflexology, every organ, gland, or body part that lies within a zone can be accessed via a reflex zone or point on the foot or hand.  For example, if you work on the horizontal reflex zone at the base of the ball of the foot, you are affecting the solar plexus and diaphragm.  These pathways between reflex zones and other parts of the body are thought to be connected via the nervous system, as described above.

History

Modern reflexology is based on an ancient form of therapy. There is evidence of some form of foot and hand therapy being practiced in Tibet and China as long ago as 4,000 B.C. and also at the same time in Egypt, as depicted in the tomb of Ankhmahor. The North American tribes of Indians are known to have practiced a form of foot therapy for hundreds of years. While there is some confusion about the true origin of this powerful therapy, sufficient to say that it has stood the test of time and has helped thousands of people to better health.

Zone Therapy

Dr. William FitzGerald (1872-1942) is credited with being the father of ‘zone therapy’. He worked in Vienna beginning around 1899. Zone therapy divides the body into ten zones—five on each side of the sagittal plane. The hands/arms and feet/legs were also divided into five zones each. Dr. Edwin Bowers in his book co-authored with Dr. FitzGerald, Zone Therapy in 1917 writes that FitzGerald discovered zone therapy in 1909 but gives no indication where he became acquainted with the theory. From 1915 into the early thirties the subject of zone therapy was controversial but did meet with a certain amount of success with doctors and dentists as a form of pain relief or analgesia.

Reflex Work

Dr. Joe Shelby Riley (1856 -1947), trained by Dr. FitzGerald further developed zone therapy by adding eight horizontal divisions to the zones of the feet and hands. His work is accurately the beginning of reflexology as it is known today—that is, reflexes found on the feet and hands that follow the anatomy of the body. Riley’s work with reflexes and zones also included the hands and ears.

Reflexology

During the 1930’s Eunice D. Ingham (1889-1972) met Riley as early as 1919 worked for Dr. Riley in St. Petersburg, Florida and continued to refine and improve his work. From her first book, Stories the Feet Can Tell (1938) she was encouraged by Riley and others to take her work to the public and non-medical community. Eunice’s major contribution to working with reflexes was that alternating pressure, rather than having a numbing effect, stimulated healing. For forty years she lectured and traveled back and forth across the United States, and is largely responsible for Foot Reflexology as taught today in most massage schools.

Reflexology at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

At Osmosis, we recognize that Foot Reflexology could increase the healing potential of any massage experience. We offer a 15-minute Reflexology Enhancement that can be booked with any massage modality of any length.  This not only feels good and enhances deep relaxation, it also brings increased blood supply to internal organs, promoting healing and the reduction of pain.  Click here to book a massage with a Reflexology Enhancement.

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Raizelah Bayen, Massage Therapist Supervisor and Trainer at Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Director of Training and Massage Therapist Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years, and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering trainings in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming trainings in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Why Zen Meditation Retreats at Osmosis Day Spa?

altar dedication Steve Stucky

Zen and Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

One may question the placement of Zen meditation retreats in a day spa setting, but if you visit Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary the link will be clear.  The vision of Osmosis grew out of our founder Michael Stusser’s extensive travels in Japan, studying both Japanese gardening and Zen Buddhism.  Osmosis’ signature treatment, the Cedar Enzyme Bath was also brought here from Japan. The property of Osmosis is embellished with Japanese meditation gardens conducive to both walking and sitting meditation.

Osmosis’ is called not just a day spa, but a day spa sanctuary, because of the of the peace and tranquility of our rural setting, and the support for quiet, introspective time in our Japanese meditation garden.  All of Osmosis’ guests are welcome to spend as much time as they like, before or after receiving a relaxing spa treatment, sitting quietly in the meditation garden or practicing walking meditation on the trails that span our 4.5 acre creekside property. Osmosis is not just a place to unwind, but also a place to turn inward.

History of Zen Buddhism and San Francisco Zen Center

The teachings of the Buddha are vast, spanning time and space. Through a strong oral tradition and lineage, his teachings were spread from India throughout the East, and in recent history here in the West.  Zen Buddhism was brought from Japan to the San Francisco Bay Area by a Japanese monk named Suzuki Roshi (1904-1971).  Suzuki arrived in the United States in 1959, welcomed by Western students eager to learn the spiritual practices of Zen, and by 1962 he, along with many inspired students, established the San Francisco Zen Center.  

Since its inception, the San Francisco Zen Center has grown to include its Page Street City Center, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gulch Farm Center. The purpose of Zen Center is to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. The ideals are based on the example of the Buddha and guided by the teachings and lineage of the Soto School as conveyed to us by the founder, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and other Buddhist teachers. Zen Center’s central value is to express the nonduality of practice and awakening through the practice of Zen meditation and the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts while acknowledging the value equally of practice in formal monastic settings and in life in the world.

Chris FortinIntroduction to Chris Fortin

Chris Fortin, one of Zen Center’s many ordained priests and teachers in the Soto School of Zen, leads Zen Meditation spa retreats annually at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary.  Chris Fortin is not only a Zen teacher but also a licensed MFT psychotherapist and Spiritual Counselor. She began practicing Buddhism in 1976 while living at the San Francisco Zen Center. After many years of practice, she received Dharma Transmission from Zoketsu Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen, in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.  Chris is based in Sonoma County where she maintains a private practice in Spiritual Counseling and has established Dharma Heart Zen to share the path of wholehearted living and awakening others.  She currently leads retreats and workshops throughout the country, continuing to make Zen meditation and mindfulness practices available to Westerners.

 

Zen Meditation Retreat on Sept. 6, 2017, at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

This rejuvenating day combines the best elements of spa and meditation.  The day will begin in the meditation garden with a program led by Chris Fortin teaching Zazen, a chance to stop, sit down on this beautiful earth, and quiet the body and mind.  She will deliver an inspiring Dharma talk with a discussion of the final stage of the Ox and the Herder, a Zen story symbolically depicted in the Osmosis garden. This stage is that of returning the world bestowing gifts of kindness and generosity, the work of a true Bodhisattva tasked to awaken Maitreya, the loving, compassionate one.  A Bodhisattva is someone who understands that our lives are intimately interconnected and works to embody this in everyday life through compassionate and wise action in the world. How does one walk in the world like a true Bodhisattva in difficult times?  How do we awaken the inspiration in Maitreya in this tumultuous world? These will be some of the questions for contemplation during this spa meditation retreat.  

The day includes sitting and walking meditation, your time for contemplation, a Dharma talk, and discussion of relevant spiritual questions, a Cedar Enzyme foot bath, a 75-minute massage to calm the body and mind, quiet time for reflection, and a conversation about how to continue the practice in our daily lives.

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Raizelah Bayen, Massage Therapist Supervisor and Trainer at Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Director of Training and Massage Therapist Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming training in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.