Healing approaches

A healthy heart: What’s love got to do with it?

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By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist

The heart represents many things. More than just an organ that pumps oxygenated blood around our bodies to keep us alive, it is also a universal symbol of love and governs our ability to give and receive this vital emotion.

As a result, the kind of language we use in relation to the heart tends to be quite profound. We say things are ‘heartfelt’ and advise others to ‘speak from the heart’ or ‘follow your heart’. The phrase ‘you can’t decide with your head, you need to trust your heart’ is also a common one and positions this important organ as a key link between mind and body.

In physiological terms alone, the heart is an incredible machine. The size of a fist, it weighs about 10oz (283 grams) and beats around 70 times a minute. In that time, it moves five to seven litres of blood around the body, or up to 7,600 litres a day. Without its constant activity, we would die immediately.

The heart also has its own electromagnetic field, which being the largest in the body, permeates every cell and sends signals to our brain. Electrocardiograms (ECG) have indicated that the power of this field is 60 times greater than that of brain waves and can be measured several feet away from the body. The heart and brain synchronise through these energetic impulses and scientists working in the relatively new discipline of neurocardiology believe they are the basis of heart-brain communication.

These scientists have also discovered that the heart is a sensory organ, which consists of 40,000 neurons that are commonly associated with the brain. In fact, according to the HeartMath Institute: “The heart acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing centre that enables it to learn, remember and make independent functional decisions that do not involve the cerebral cortex” of the brain.

Such information may help to explain why cardiac surgeons counsel patients and family members about the surprising after-effects of some heart transplant surgery. The patient who receives a donated organ can take on the characteristics, memories, tastes and preferences of the donor.

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Heart-brain link

Recipients may also recall their donor’s personal details and in some instances, recognise and even feel love for their family and friends. In the words of Dr Daniel Keown, a practitioner of both Eastern and Western medicine and author of ‘The Spark in the Machine’, this scenario would appear to indicate that the heart has carried the donor’s memories within itself and shared them with its new recipient’s brain.

But there is also other evidence of a heart-brain link. For example, more heart attacks take place at 9am on a Monday morning than at any other time of the week, possibly due to an association with stressful situations such as work.

Stress-induced or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as broken heart syndrome, likewise occurs when part of the heart is temporarily no longer able to pump well. This condition is commonly seen in patients following the death of a loved one. Metaphorically and physically, they are heart-broken.

But the heart is just as responsive to love and compassion. According to Deepak Chopra in his book ‘Training the Mind, Healing the Body’, the survival rate of patients who have had a heart attack is 80% higher if they believe their partner loves them. Research also shows that people who are in loving, kind and affectionate relationships experience less hardening of the arteries.

If someone is caught up in negative emotions such as anger, frustration or anxiety, on the other hand, their heart rhythms become more erratic and disordered as the endocrine system responds to the situation and their body goes into fight or flight mode.

Experiencing positive emotions such as appreciation, love or compassion produces the opposite effect though, creating highly ordered or coherent patterns that move the body into a state of peace. The heartbeat becomes even and synchronises with other bodily functions, such as blood pressure, digestion and breathing, which calms everything down.

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Being kind

Another consideration in this context are the health benefits of being kind. The feelings generated from performing acts of kindness and compassion, or even of simply witnessing them, creates oxytocin – the ‘happiness hormone’ – in our body. Oxytocin, in turn, produces nitric oxide, which softens the walls of our arteries, improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure.

So it makes sense, both for ourselves and others, to choose a day each week to undertake kind acts. As Dr David Hamilton indicates in his books ‘Molecules of Kindness‘ and ‘Born to be Kind’: “We are genetically wired for kindness. The kindness gene, in fact, is 500 million years old – it’s one of our most ancient genes – which is WHY kindness impacts our biochemistry. It’s our deepest nature.”

Hugging someone, including your pet, is also another great way to produce oxytocin. Doing so will lead to a drop in your heart rate, reduce your stress hormones, cut your production of free radicals and lessen inflammation.

A lovely correction technique that I also use from the Creative Kinesiology school of practice is called ‘Heart Appreciation’. You can try it yourself by simply concentrating your mind on someone or something that you really appreciate and feeling how good it feels to do so.

Then breathe the feeling into your heart and let it spread throughout your entire body. Imagine your heart as a cup and watch it overflow. Your whole body will relax and your energy levels will rise significantly. Because it really is about feeling the love at every level – in body, mind and most particularly in the heart.

Anita Ramsden

Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. Anita is also a member of the Kinesiology Federation.

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Healing approaches

Kundalini yoga: Taking on the challenge of transformational change

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Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

By Sarah Stollery, kundalini yoga and meditation teacher

As the turn of the year approaches once again, how many of you have started thinking about New Year’s resolutions – even if, quite often, they are not very new at all? In fact, all too often, they are actually the same ones we made last year but did not stick to.

Which begs the question of why bother? Change is hard work. So shouldn’t we just accept ourselves as we are and let go of the idea that we could create a better version of ourselves?

Loving and accepting ourselves for who we are is certainly a worthy aim. But even doing that meaningfully can require transformation of a kind – a transformation in our thinking.

And what about those resolutions that really would support us in living more fulfilling, connected and joyous lives? If you are stuck in a job you hate, it IS important to make 2019 the year you find a new vocation.

If you are feeling stifled creatively, 2019 IS the year to find a satisfying outlet for your passion. If you are chronically stressed and exhausted, 2019 IS the year to find a more balanced and sustainable way of living.

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Transformational change

But change is challenging, and sometimes the best intentions in the world are simply not enough to ensure temporary change becomes lasting transformation. That is where kundalini yoga and meditation come in. They act as tools to help bring about authentic, lasting transformation by working on multiple levels.

Habits, both good and bad, exist not just in our subconscious and unconscious minds, but also in our cellular memory as well. So, to delete old habits and create new ones successfully, it is necessary to work on all of these levels. Kundalini yoga can help here by:

  • Rewiring our nervous system to remove old habits and embed new ones;
  • Rebalancing and reprogramming our endocrine (hormonal) system to support us through the emotional challenges that change generates;
  • Cultivating a neutral mind so that we have the necessary awareness to make conscious choices untainted by ego, which resists change;
  • Developing an achievable daily practice that specifically targets the changes we wish to make;
  • Providing us with a supportive community of fellow yogis, who are also working towards making change and so help to keep us accountable.

Life is too short to write off effecting transformational change in the name of loving and accepting ourselves as we are. It is important to remember that we cannot fully love and accept ourselves if we are not living an authentic life in which we recognise and honour our own needs. So it is vital to put in the hard work required to ensure those needs are met by creating the necessary change.

If you would like support in making such changes real and lasting, check out my new six-week Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Course starting on 16 January 2019 at the Mokshala Yoga and Meditation Centre in Saffron Walden, Essex. You won’t regret it.

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Sarah Stollery is a kundalini yoga and meditation teacher and co-founder of The Cabin, a self-directed learning community for home-educated children. She is passionate about empowering people of all ages and stages of life with the tools to thrive in these challenging times by creating space to learn, explore and integrate a wide range of wellbeing practices.

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Inspiring lifestyles

How ‘intuitive eating’ can help us reconnect to our bodies

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By Gemma Kennedy, transformational coach.

So you have made the decision that there is more to life than dieting. But the mixed messages emanating from today’s diet culture are likely to have left you in a quandary over which foods you should actually eat.

For years, you have been told to avoid entire food groups, not to eat after 6pm, or to fast for two days a week. It is impossible to remember a time when your supermarket trolley was not piled high with zero-calorie noodles, meal-replacement bars or cottage cheese.

But what do you really want to eat? What makes your body feel good? By this, I do not mean what makes your body slim. Or what satisfies your hunger with the minimum possible amount of calories.

No, what I am asking about is what food would you like to eat right here and right now if there were no limits. If no foods were designated as either good or bad, what would you choose?

Writing this, I find myself fancying a wild mushroom and parmesan risotto with crunchy garlic bread, a crisp side salad and, seeing as the weather is now feeling suitably autumnal, a delicious plum crumble with custard to follow. Be patient though as there is a point to all of this – it is about exploring the antithesis of dieting.

You may remember a time as a child that involved eating when you were hungry and stopping when you were full. While you may not have been in charge of the food that was available at that point, you may have had a strong understanding of what your body enjoyed – and at times, certain foods may have seemed more appealing than others.

If you are anything like the millions of dieters around the world, it is likely you will have become disconnected from this profoundly important way of nourishing your body. It may have been a result of encouragement from others to finish everything on your plate when you were a child or to have a drink to fill you up when you felt hungry. But whatever the source, such suggestions inevitably lead us to question our body’s instinctive knowledge.

As a result, many in the anti-diet movement are now support a return to eating mindfully or what Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch call ‘intuitive eating’.

The key principles of intuitive eating are to honour your body’s hunger and fullness, being sure to eat foods that bring you enjoyment while at the same time leaving the negative messages behind. Intuitive eaters might consider whether their bodies are in need of something salty or sweet, crunchy or soft, warm or cold, spicy or mild.

Of course, it is not always possible to eat exactly what we want as there are often time, financial or other constraints. But by returning to this way of eating, you do feel an immense sense of freedom from dieting.

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Permission to eat

One of the concerns that people often raise about this approach is the safety of giving ourselves permission to eat whatever we fancy. “Wouldn’t we just live on pizza or ice cream?” they ask.

Founders of the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramore discuss just this subject in their book ‘Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight’. They say: “The idea that you can stop watching your calories and eat what you want, when you want, is so contrary to current ideas that it evokes tremendous fear.”

But one of their studies confirmed that: “Once participants realized they could eat whatever they wanted and were supported in choosing foods they fancied, and in letting food serve many roles, food stopped holding as much power over them.”

Think about it: If you truly knew that you would be able to eat more of a particular food whenever you felt like it, without guilt or judgment, would you still spend so much time thinking about whether to eat it or not?

But it is worth noting that many people experience what anti-diet registered dietician and certified intuitive eating counsellor Christy Harrison calls the “honeymoon phase”. At this stage, they often feel “out of control” or as though they “can’t get enough” of food.

Moreover, exploring their new-found, unconditional permission to eat can last for months or years, particularly for those who have been dieting for a long time. It may feel like a pendulum swinging between eating a great deal and restricting your input again, but this situation will settle down in time, as I have experienced myself.

With regard to the issue of physical health, I do not tend to discuss it much in my work as I believe every body is worthy of respect, regardless of their state of health. But a recent HAES study showed clearly that after two years, those who lived by HAES principles, which include intuitive eating and movement, were markedly healthier, both mentally and physically, than those who continued to diet.

The report stated: “The HAES group sustained improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and depression, among many other health parameters. The typical-diet group, on the other hand, showed initial improvements in all of those parameters (and weight loss), but returned to their starting point within a year. The HAES group improved their self-esteem and reported feeling much better about themselves at the program’s end, whilst the dieters’ self-esteem plummeted.”

Due to its considerable benefits, intuitive eating is unsurprisingly becoming better known as the body- and fat-positive communities spread the word. I really hope it is only a matter of time before more people begin to question the compounded misery that dieting brings, which includes everything from food restriction to binging and the inevitable process of weight cycling (gaining and losing the same weight many times).

The fact that someone felt the need to coin the phrase ‘intuitive eating’ makes it clear just how disconnected many of us have become from our own bodies. But only when we stop relying on diet companies and the media to tell us what to eat and start listening to our own bodies instead will we truly experience life beyond dieting.

Gemma Kennedy

Gem Kennedy is a Body Positive activist and transformational coach. Having started her first diet aged 10 and spent many years promising herself that this would be the year to lose weight and start living, a switch flicked in 2017 when she discovered the Body Positive and Fat Activist communities. After training as a transformational coach, she now specialises in coaching and mentoring clients both individually and in groups to help them shed the burden of today’s diet culture and feel confident enough to be in the world exactly as they are, right now.

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Healing approaches

Kinesiology: The science of human movement

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By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist.

Kinesiology (pronounced kin-easy-ology) is sometimes known as the ‘science of human movement’ and is widely understood to mean muscle testing, with the key focus being on rebalancing an individual’s system.

Primarily used as a communications tool, this muscle-testing technique, which is based on a blend of principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine and western approaches, identifies what it is your body wants and needs.

Each person is treated holistically as all aspects of our being, whether they be physical, chemical, mental and emotional, are interrelated. If there is an imbalance in, or undue stress on, any of these systems, all of the others are affected. In other words, everything has an impact on everything else.

Each muscle group is related to an individual part of the body such as the digestive or endocrine system, nerves, organs and the like. As a result, muscle tests reveal how the body is functioning and where any imbalances lie.

The idea behind this approach is that if the body is in balance, it is better able to activate its own innate healing process. By obtaining information about any imbalances within their system, clients can also see where they would benefit from making changes in their life – on top of any adjustments made their practitioner.

If we think of life as being like a meandering stream, when all is well, the water flows beautifully and goes over or around obstacles. But occasionally a twig becomes snared and if it cannot free itself, leaves and branches can build up behind it. Before you know it, the little stream will be blocked.

In our daily lives too, a small issue can act like a twig and the situation can build up until our energy no longer flows smoothly. But kinesiology helps tug at the twig in order to release the blockage, allowing the stream to flow freely once more.

What are the origins of kinesiology?

Kinesiology was first developed by US chiropractor George Goodheart DC in 1964 when he started using muscle testing to evaluate the effectiveness of his corrective actions. Goodheart discovered that a number of techniques helped improve his ability to strengthen his patients’ muscles and, therefore, to encourage them into correct postures, reduce pain and restore wellbeing. These techniques included working with blood and energy flows, emotions, nutrition, the meridians and acupuncture points.

This knowledge was shared with other chiropractors and, in 1973, the International College of Applied Kinesiology was set up. A member of this pioneering team of applied kinesiologists, John Francis Thie, had the vision of making kinesiology accessible to everybody. His aim was to “empower people to promote and maintain health in themselves and their families”.

In the same year, Thie published a book called Touch for Health (TFH), which presented applied kinesiology techniques in such a way that the general public could understand and use them. The techniques were based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and founded on the principles of acupressureTibetan energy healing and nutrition.

A training programme was also subsequently developed as many people wanted more than simply a book to read. In 1990, Thie handed all of the work he had done on TFH to his newly-formed International Kinesiology College.

It is possible for people to either become proficient in TFH or use it as a stepping stone to other kinesiology approaches as there are now many branches of the practice.

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At whom is kinesiology aimed? 

Kinesiology is suited to pretty much everyone. The age range of my client base is currently between 18 months and 92 years. The kind of issues they suffer from include migraines, digestive problems and food intolerances, mental health issues such as anxiety and stress, emotional blockages, back and shoulder pain, chronic fatigue, hormonal issues, alopecia, skin conditions, seasonal affective disorder and adrenal exhaustion.

Kinesiology can also help people who want to develop a positive mindset, for example in relation to exams or job interviews, or to adapt to big life changes such as divorce or a change of career. But they may not always be aware of the impact these kinds of situation can have on their system.

For example, someone may come for treatment as they are suffering from a bad neck. They believe it is stiff because they have been sleeping in a strange position due to an old pillow they have been using.

But in reality, there is more to it than that. Their situation has been putting them under emotional stress, they have been experiencing digestive discomfort and their diet is currently lacking in B vitamins and iodine. As a result, their neck flexors, the group of muscles that flex and turn the head, have become weak – and a new pillow alone will not be enough to solve the problem.

Muscle testing will help to indicate what is required to alleviate the pain and stiffness. The practitioner can make “corrections” and also offer suggestions on what might benefit their client to include or exclude in their diet.

But it is also important to remember that an individual’s mental state, that is their thoughts and emotions, also affect their biochemistry and overall physical body. This means that aches and pains often have an emotional aspect.

What should clients expect from a treatment?

 Kinesiologists treat clients holistically as individuals, which means that each person’s session is unique to them. it is important that doctors have been consulted if necessary though and we strongly advise that medical help should sought if appropriate.

Each treatment is carried out fully clothed, usually lying down face up on a treatment couch. This couch can be adjusted to accommodate pregnancy, back or shoulder pain etc.

During the first appointment, it is necessary to fill in a general health questionnaire. All answers are optional but the aim of the exercise is to provide your practitioner with background information to help them build a picture of you, which includes pre-existing conditions.

This activity will also help you focus on yourself in a more holistic way. There are sometimes ‘aha’ moments as vocalising things can help you join the dots. Remember that you are a complex, intelligent being and everything in your life experience affects everything else at the physical, emotional and biochemical level.

As for the treatment itself, this will involve moving your arms and legs to test your range of motion and isolate how particular muscles are behaving. In the form of kinesiology that I practice, it is also about firmly massaging the neurolymphatic reflex points, which are mostly on the torso, front and back. I also trace the meridians and hold the acupressure points.

While each treatment is different, it can include nutritional advice, food testing, the use of flower remedies and the like.

Do clients attend treatment for a set length of time?

In order to see positive change, it is usual to attend a minimum of three treatment sessions. After the first, people usually feel more energised and positive, less sad or foggy-headed and more positive and mobile.

If they have experienced an issue for a number of years though, it can take more time to unpack their story and build up the treatment they need to help them on the journey back to wellbeing. Like an onion, it is initially about unpealing the first layers, before moving into the lower levels as blockages are cleared.

But it is also important that clients play their part too. For instance, if it emerges that eating gluten-based products is stressing your system and hindering your move back to health, it is advisable to avoid them for at least six weeks. Doing so will bring about the positive change you desire much more quickly.

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Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. She is a member of the Kinesiology Federation.