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Healthy You

The Power of Relaxation

August 25, 2016 11:59 AM with Polly Liontis

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Is working on your mental wellness a part of your daily routine? Many of us set our sights on getting in good physical shape and eating right, but forget to step back from our busy schedules and take a breath. Though not always thought of as important like diet and exercise, relaxation plays an essential role in improving both your physical and mental health. Start focusing on your wellness with Polly Liontis, LMT, AOBTA-CP, HITA within the department of Integrative Medicine, in a chat on relaxation techniques and therapies. She will also be taking questions and providing expert knowledge on the health benefits of relaxation and ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.

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Polly Liontis (NorthShore) - 08/23/16 10:52 AM:
Hi, I'm Polly Liontis, and I'm a Yoga and Meditation Instructor, as well as a Massage Therapist and Shiatsu Therapist. We live in a fast-paced, stressful culture, and it's important for us to practice relaxation techniques so we can learn to take the body out of the fight or flight response. Chronic stress contributes to insomnia, intestinal distress, inability to concentrate, mental fog, depression and the inability of the body to heal from injury. Today, we'll be learning easy practices to calm the body, mind, and spirit!

Kathryn (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
Our relaxation chat is now open. You can submit questions at any time during our chat.

  Margaret (Evanston, IL) - 12:00 PM:
What are some small ways I can start to slow myself down? I am always taking care of family members, so I leave very little time for myself. I get up early and retire late.
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
One great way to slow yourself down is to invite your family members to join you! After a long day at work for you, and a long day at school for the kids, ask everyone to join you for 10 minutes of "Legs against the Wall" Yoga Pose. It's a simple pose in which you get down on the floor (carpeted is preferable!), get next to an open wall, sit down next to the wall, swing your legs up against the wall and rest your torso on the floor! It's a great simple hamstring stretch and a great stretch for the low back! It takes 5 minutes to reverse the blood flow in the legs and you can chat about your day and do some deep breathing! Make it a family tradition before dinner and everyone is less stressed!!

  Nicole (Libertyville, IL) - 12:05 PM:
I have heard that meditation is good for you, but don't know where to get started. How can I begin?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
The best way to begin is to practice awareness of your breathing. The simplest and most powerful tool we have for calming the nervous system, centering ourselves, and focusing our minds is deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Sit with your spine straight, feet flat on the floor, and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe deeply through your nostrils and feel both hands expanding with your inhale. Begin to slow the breath down by counting your breath. Begin by inhaling to 4 seconds, and exhaling to 4 seconds smoothly, evenly, and without sound or pause. Then, if it's comfortable begin to breathe in to 5 seconds and out to 5 seconds for awhile. Allow the ribcage to expand from side to side and allow the low belly to expand as well with each inhale, and soften with each exhale. Then stop counting, close your eyes and sit quietly for 5 minutes, just allowing the mind to wander. This is a great start to a longer meditation practice!

  Susan (Chicago, IL) - 12:11 PM:
First thing in the morning, what are some things I can do to calm myself when I have too many things going through my head?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
There are 2 great, simple practices to calm down the mind and the body. 1) Self-abdominal massage! Lie down and pretend there's a clock printed on your belly and gently massage each number on the clock until you feel the muscles in the belly soften and relax. 2) Slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing! Once, again, the best tool to calm the mind, body and entire nervous system is the breath. Begin by slowing the breath down, and cultivating certain qualities to the breath - we would like the breath to be deep, even, smooth, and without sound and without pause. Begin by inhaling to 4 seconds and exhaling to 4 seconds. 3) 1:2 breathing! Inhale to 4 seconds, exhale to 8 seconds, and keep this going for 3 - 5 minutes!

  Nora (Evanston, IL) - 12:18 PM:
I'm usually a calm person, but get so angry about everything when I'm driving in the morning. What are some good relaxation tips for a long car ride?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
1) Turn off the radio station if it's on a news channel!!!!! 2) Put on some calming music, or just drive in silence!!!! 3) Once again, your slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing is your very best friend in this case!!!! Just begin to slow your breath down. Breathe into 4 seconds, breathe out to 4 seconds, then breathe into 5 seconds, then breathe out to 5 seconds, and continue to lengthen the breath to the longest possible breath that you can comfortably sustain for 3 - 5 minutes. 4) Work with an affirmation or mantra. Try one of these if it feels appropriate: - I am grateful for this day. - I am grateful for my health. - I am grateful for my family. - I am peaceful. - I am loving. - I calm my body. - I smile at the world. These are just a few techniques to help you enjoy the ride and arrive at your destination in a peaceful and joyful state!!!! Good luck!!!!

  Cate (Buffalo Grove, IL) - 12:25 PM:
I've always wanted to try aromatherapy, but there are so many options out there. How can I find the best one for de-stressing?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
Aromatherapy is a wonderful and powerful tool for relaxation. There are lovely essential oils to induce a relaxation response in the nervous system. Lavender is calming and can be placed in your bath water, in an essential oil diffuser, a few drops in a candle, or even a few drops on the inside of your wrists, or on a Kleenex by your pillow at night. There is a company called Young Living Essential Oils which produces high quality oils for your aromatherapy practice.

  Chuck (Glenview, IL) - 12:30 PM:
I've heard that enjoying yin yoga is a great way to relax. What exactly IS yin yoga?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
Great question!!!! Yin Yoga is based on both traditional Yoga Poses from India, as well as the Meridian Stretches from Chinese Medicine Practice and Theory. The primary difference between Yin Yoga and the Yang forms of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow Yoga, & Hatha Yoga) is that Yin Yoga addresses the connective tissue (the tendons, the ligaments, and the fascia which encapsulates our organs and bones) primarily. So this is a slow, meditative practice with almost all of the poses done on the floor and the stretches are held anywhere from 3 - 5 - 7 minutes each!!!!! This places a gentle tension on the connective tissue and helps to lubricate the joints and also improve both flexibility and strength in the joints. Yin Yoga is a wonderful compliment to a Yang Yoga practice, as well as to any other vigorous exercise you may do, as it helps to prevent injury and also heal from injury. Try it, you'll like it!!!!!

  Judith (Glenview, IL) - 12:38 PM:
What's a good way when you are out and about and experiencing anxiety or tension to ratchet it down. e.g. waiting for a doctor's appt
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
1) Deep, diaphragmatic breathing! The best way to calm the nervous system is by slowing your breath down and practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Place your hands on your belly and breathe into your hands, feeling the belly expand with each in breath. Take a number of slow, deep breaths. Then, place your hands on the outside of your ribcage and breathe into your hands again, feeling the ribcage expand from side to side on each inhale. 2) 1:2 breathing!!! Inhale to 4 seconds, Exhale to 8 seconds, and continue for 3 - 5 minutes. If you do this for 5 minutes straight most likely your blood pressure will come down as well!!!! An added benefit!!!!! Feel free to go to my you tube channel; Polly Liontis, to view my videos on 1:2 breathing, self-abdominal massage, and legs against the wall pose, as well as other self-care videos!!!!

  Brittany (IL) - 12:47 PM:
Can any yoga stretches help relieve PMS-related pain?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
Great question!!! And the good news is yes!!! 1) Lie down on your back on the floor on a yoga mat, or on your bed. Bend your knees, bring the soles of the feet together, and allow the knees to fall out to the sides. If you need, prop underneath the outsides of the knees with pillows. Rest in this position for 5 minutes or longer. 2) Self-abdominal masaage. Once again, I refer you to my you tube channel: Polly Liontis, for a video on how to do self-abdominal massage. Performing self-abdominal massage for 5 minutes or so every morning and every evening can help alleviate the discomfort of bloating and constipation, and improve your digestion and also alleviate cramping from the menstrual period. 3) Child's Pose in Yoga: On the floor, sit down on your lower legs, take knees out to the edges of the mat, fold forward bringing your head to the floor or rest your forehead on your hands. This is a gentle forward flexion of the spine, and releases muscle tension in the spine.

  J (Evanston, IL) - 12:55 PM:
When I get stressed, my muscles get really tight, and it’s becoming a pain. Are there any massage techniques that I can apply to myself when I need to lose a little tension in my shoulders?
Polly Liontis (NorthShore)
Yes! You can tap, slap, pound, and massage the muscles in your neck and shoulders for pain relief! 1) First, before massaging or manipulating the muscles, begin doing some shoulder rolls, exaggerating the movement, doing at least 5 in the forward motion and 5 in the backward motion. Second, perform some arm rotations forward and back. Then, raise the shoulders up towards the ears, inhale deeply, and then let the shoulders drop as you exhale. Repeat at least 3 or 4 times. 2) Try using the side of your hand on the top of the shoulder (like a karate chop) and do that a number of times on both sides. Then, using your fists, you can pound on the top and below the neck muscles to release tension,. Also, try squeezing the neck muscles with your hands. 3) Go to my you tube channel: Polly Liontis, to view videos on slapping, tapping, pounding, to release muscle tension,

Polly Liontis (NorthShore ) - 1:04 PM:
Thank you so much for the wonderful questions!!!! I am available for Massage Therapy, Shiatsu Therapy, Yoga Instruction, and Meditation Instruction at North Shore Integrative Medicine Program in Glenview at Park Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, Glenview, IL 60025. To schedule an appointment with me call the front desk at 1-847-657-3540. Also, feel free to go to my you tube channel, Polly Liontis, to view specific videos on self-care techniques!!!! Thanks again, and enjoy this beautiful day!!!!! And remember, your self care is important! It helps you to be the best you can be: for yourself, for your family, for your co-workers, and for your friends! You deserve to take good care of yourself and you deserve to feel great!!! Namaste!!!

Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:15 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your questions. For more information on relaxation techniques, or to schedule an appointment with a specialist like Polly, contact the Department of Integrative Medicine.
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