To our Watershed Wellness community,
It is with profound regret that we have made the decision to temporary close all Watershed Wellness clinics to in-person appointments effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until JUNE 4th, 2020.
This decision was not made lightly, as it will have profound ramifications for everyone who has contact with WW. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to intensify, and without any way for us to verify who is infected and who is not, we have made this decision to help “flatten the curve.”
Note that yoga classes were previously cancelled temporarily, and continue to be. If you wonder whether classes are happening again, you can always head over to our schedule page to learn more.
This will help our country’s medical system keep up with the demand we will soon see for intensive care and limit severe complications and deaths from the virus. For more information on the concept of “flattening the curve” visit this free resource from the Washington Post (free to everyone, regardless of subscription).
If you have an appointment during the closure period, you will be receiving communication from us if you haven’t already.
We will not be rescheduling these immediately, given that we don’t know for certain when operations will begin again. Instead, we will be keeping track of everyone and calling you back the moment we know when the closure will end.
Each week, we are monitoring the situation and receiving information from legal and professional situations, we will determine whether the closure needs to be extended or not, and will call affected patients at that time.
If you are interested in support with Chinese herbs during this period, there is an online consult option available.
Eric Grey, MS, LAc is conducting video consultations for the community. Consults are 30 minutes, done using a privacy protected tool, and herbs will be delivered via USPS or delivered within Astoria city limits. We use the most stringent guidelines to eliminate the possibility of any viral contamination on our end of your package.
If you'd like to read more about the consultations and sign up, please click here.
There is no doubt, this situation is going to be very difficult on all of us.
We encourage you to reach out to members of your community that may need additional support, and to reach out yourself if you are in need. While we don’t know what will be happening in the future, or how our world will change as a result of the pandemic, we do know that our community is filled with kind, compassionate and skillful people. We can get through this together!
With sincere hopes for your ongoing health & joy,
Eric & Amanda
As an accompaniment to the movement studio's focus on the breath this month, we'll be offering articles looking at the themes surrounding the breath and the lungs through the lenses of our other practitioners, modalities and various perspectives. Enjoy!
In Chinese Medicine each anatomical organ is associated with an entire energetic channel network that runs through the body. Additionally, each organ network serves as a symbol that has resonance with the natural world. It resonates with a particular season, direction, color, emotion, sound – there are many symbols the Chinese have associated with the organs over the years. If you want to dig in a bit deeper, you can read this brief article on Eric Grey's website, Chinese Medicine Central, about the classical Chinese concept of organ systems.
Understanding our physical organs through symbol offers us the opportunity to relate to our body in a more accessible way than the mere anatomical functions that we are familiar with through textbooks.
Beginning to explore these connections within our own body can open new ways of relating to both our internal and external environment, and also be an aid in our personal healing journey. These symbol associations are based upon an intricate science developed from the wisdom of ancient Chinese civilizations who closely recorded the interaction between the human body and the seasons/cycles of planet earth and the cosmos. Just as plants go through cyclical changes each year, so do we as humans.
Learning to live in harmony with these changes are key to our health, happiness and longevity.
We can understand this concept by examining the Lung organ network. The Lungs are a symbol of harmony as seen in the ever present rhythm of our breath. The Lungs have the ability to bring in what the body needs (oxygen) and discard what no longer serves (carbon dioxide), constantly maintaining balance. The Lungs are an important organ network in the Fall and Winter as they are related to our immune system. They have a close connection to our skin and serve as a barrier for keeping harmful pathogens outside of the body.
The Lungs are also connected with the metal element, which has a downward direction, resonant with the season of fall.
During fall the energy above ground is moving down and in, preparing to enter deep within the earth for wintertime hibernation and the eventual springtime regeneration. An example of this can be seen by observing a tree in the fall, who drops its leaves down to the ground. The leaves then decompose into the soil and after a long winter, provide nourishment for the roots of the tree and new green springtime growth.
By bringing awareness to what is happening in nature, we are able to understand how our body and being can best be in alignment during particular times of the year. Thus the fall is a good time for letting go of what we do not want to carry with us into hibernation and beyond. Energetically we begin to conserve our resources, drawing the outward yang energy inside to our core, lighting our internal fire that will keep us warm and inspired throughout the dark of winter.
Developing a qigong or movement practice as well as a breathing practice during this time can greatly benefit our health.
In the early spring the tiny seed requires robust energy in order to burst through the thin frost covering the earth. We too as humans rely upon the adequate energy reserve that we intentionally stored and carefully guarded within. When the springtime comes we will be strong and fit for bringing our new creations and dreams fully to life once again.
One final thought is that the Lungs are particularly sensitive to grief.
Grief can arise due to many of life's ups and downs, including: loss of loved ones, loss of parts of self and longing for a reality other than what is. Grief is a natural part of the human experience and shall be honored as such. Just as the tree may grieve the loss of it's leaves as they fall to the ground, the human too may grieve the loss of whatever was. But both the tree and the human are constantly reminded that the future holds the steady rhythm of the untold mystery of regrowth.
Interested in learning more?
We have a weekly Qigong class instructed by Hilly Shue, LAc that incorporates theory from Chinese Medicine in a gentle and informative way. This gentle movement class is accessible to everyone. Questions? Reach out!
Interested in what Qigong looks like? Check out this short demo by Hilly.
Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life? Mary Oliver
Inhale. Exhale. These actions are instructed many times during a yoga class. Inhale your arms up and overhead, exhale and fold forward. Inhale lift your heart, exhale allow your hips to sink toward the floor. The inherent nature of the inhale is to lift, to rise, to expand, while the exhale allows for drawing in, deepening, and release.
For the month of October, we will be exploring how the breath changes our practice. We’ll be looking at why the breath is important in a yoga practice, the anatomy of the breathing body, Pranayama, and how the shape of the body can change the shape of the breath.
Why does the breath even matter in a yoga practice?
Why do we link the inhale and exhale to certain movements? Breathing usually operates at the edge of our awareness. On average, we take about 16 breaths per minute. This correlates to 960 breaths per hour, 23,040 breaths a day. How many of those breaths are conscious breaths? Probably not many. Yoga offers the opportunity to create attention and intention around the breath. In fact, there is opportunity in yogic breathing to control the breath in various ways. Similar to a seated meditation practice, tuning into the breath can provide something to focus on during your movement practice.
In every yoga practice, breathing is closely attended to. Vinyasa yoga, specifically, links movement with breath. The word vinyasa means “to place in a special way”. A vinyasa specific class focuses on linking movement with the breath. Attuning to the breath can not only be a great link between poses and a focal point but also a way to warm the body to prepare for movement. Looking at the anatomy of the breath can help to illuminate how the breath can affect movement.
Anatomy of the Breath
The main goal in breathing is to move oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the body. Every time you take a breath, air is pulled backward into the nose past the hard and soft palates. It then makes a 90-degree turn into the pharynx, a funnel-shaped region. From the pharynx, the breath moves into the larynx (where the vocal cords are housed). After the larynx, the breath passes through the trachea, the right and left bronchi and then into the two lungs. The lungs divide into smaller and smaller segments (bronchopulmonary segments, secondary bronchi, tertiary bronchi, bronchioles, collectively called the bronchial tree, and eventually into the tiny alveoli) and your breath is processed and assimilated into your body.
Your lungs are mostly comprised of air: 50% after full exhalation, and 80% with a full inhalation.
This inhalation and exhalation changes the shape of your thoracic and abdominal cavities. The thoracic cavity houses the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, small and large intestines, kidneys, reproductive organs, and bladder. These two cavities are separated by a muscle called the diaphragm.
There are a few muscles in the body that enable a full and deep inhale, and the diaphragm is at the top of that list. This muscle creates the barrier between the thoracic and the abdominal cavities. The upper fibers attach to the circumference of the lower rib cage. The diaphragm attaches to the front of the lumbar vertebra L1, L2, and L3 (this is a simplified explanation of both the upper and lower attachments).
The diaphragm muscle is capable of creating a three dimensional shape change in the thoracic cavity. The shape of the diaphragm can be likened to a parachute or jellyfish. With a deep breath in, the lungs push the diaphragm down and make the belly push out. With a deep exhalation, the lungs deflate, the diaphragm returns to its dome-like shape, and the pressure on the abdominal cavity from the inhalation is released.
Try this, take a deep breath and notice how the shape of your rib cage changes.
Notice how your belly changes. The inhalation will change the volume of the thoracic cavity in three directions: top to bottom, side to side and front to back. Your ribs are designed to expand and contract with the inhale and the exhale. The lungs take up more room in your body as you increase the volume in the thoracic cavity, therefore pushing your belly out. You can also use the musculature of your belly (your abdominals) to create some control in this area. By doing so you can force the air more into the rib cage, allowing the ribs to lift and expand.
A quick note here of a few relevant accessory breathing muscles (the other muscles that participate in breathing). These muscles are:
- Internal and external intercostals
- internal and external obliques
- Transverse abdominis
- Pectoralis minor
- Serratus Posterior
Pranayama is loosely defined as the conscious awareness of the breath. Prana = life force, and ayama = extension. There are many different types of breathwork that can be practiced in a yoga class. We’ll bring up just a few that are great for those just beginning these practices. It is noted in most of the texts that discuss pranayama that these practices should be done with attention and that controlling the breath can have profound impacts on your body.
This is the most basic of the breathing techniques and is accessible to all practitioners. Ujjayi pranayama involves breathing through the nose with a very slight narrowing at the epiglottis. This breath produces a gentle wavelike, or whisper sound, originating from the constriction at the back of the throat. To find this constriction, imagine that you are sucking air as if through a straw at the back of your throat. Ujjayi breathing is said to warm the breath as it flows through the nose, thus warming the body.
Equal breath. Sama means same, and vritti means fluctuations of the mind. The hope of sama vritti pranayama is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. This breath pattern is practiced by making the inhale and exhale equal in length.
Alternate nostril breathing. This is practiced by closing the right nostril with your thumb, exhaling and inhaling once through the left nostril and then closing the left nostril with the ring finger, exhaling and inhaling once through the right nostril. You then move back to closing the right nostril with the thumb and start the cycle over. This practice can center the attention and calm the mind. It also helps to balance the nervous system.
There are many different types of pranayama, and various forms will be practiced throughout the month of November at the studio. Please note that if any of these practices cause anxiety, it’s always ok to come back to your normal breathing pattern and just focus on the inhale and exhale.
“Breathing has the dual nature of being both voluntary and autonomic, which is why the breath illuminates the eternal inquiry about what we can control or change and what we cannot.” Leslie Kaminoff in Yoga Anatomy
Breath in action
The shape of the breath can change with the shape of your body. By understanding the anatomy, as discussed above, we can start to look at how moving into certain yoga postures can change where our breath fills our body. For example, if we inhale and come into a backbend, our spine naturally extends and the breath in can help to support the heart opening and chest breathing that in inherent in backbends. The accessory breathing muscles of the back kick in as we breathe deeply to support the shape. The breath is forced into the upper chest region. Try this in a cobra shape. The feedback of the floor in this belly down backbend will help you see how the breath gets filtered more into the chest.
In twists, something similar happens. We constrict both the thoracic and abdominal cavities as we revolve around our spines. You might notice that you can lengthen more into your twist with the inhale, and then as you empty your lungs find a deeper twist with the exhale. You might also find that you have more constriction in either your belly or your chest, depending on the twist.
Regardless of what your practice looks like, paying close attention to the breath can deepen and sweeten any yoga asana practice.
The breath can be the doorway into a deeper experience of your body and your internal spaces. The breath can help to identify and release the tensions of the body and help to attain equilibrium. Keeping the lungs open can be an especially hard thing to do this time of year as we start to get our winter colds. We'll be exploring these concepts from different angles, including Chinese medicine, in upcoming articles.
If you’re interested in learning more about the breath and pranayama in meditation and movement, I encourage you to come to any class in October to explore these practices in your own body.
If you’d like further reading on the breath, I utilized the following texts in this article:
- Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
- Anatomy of Hatha Yoga by H. David Coulter
With the return of Fall and the recent Autumnal Equinox, the change of the seasons and the harvest time invite us to think about what is and is not working for us. It’s time to reap what we’ve sown over the summer months. For me, after the busy-ness of the summer the change of the seasons is like a fresh breath of cool air.
Autumn is a time to reassess and come into greater balance with yourself and the external world.
Summer always feels so frantic, and with the returning of the fall-time routines (back to school, less travel) we can view this as an invitation to come into balance.
Throughout our day we’re given the opportunity to find physical balance many, many times. Every time we take a step we’re suspended in a short moment of balance before our foot comes back into contact with the ground. In yoga, we’re given many moments to find balance in poses like tree pose or warrior 3. These poses ask for our complete focus and attention as we try to maintain our connection with the earth on one foot.
A balancing pose isn’t a destination that one can find, but rather a constant recalibration process as we try to find a sense of stability. Our muscles work hard to find harmony in the pose. Our focus and attention become attuned to maintaining an upright position. It’s easy to become frustrated if we fall out of our balancing posture, especially if everyone else seems to be effortlessly maintaining the pose.
In these poses, there is an opportunity to play with your own boundaries around feeling safe even when things are wobbly. With practice, you can maintain a sense of steadiness through the constant calibration and feedback from your body. The wobbles become smaller and your body adjusts to them more readily.
Let’s take a moment to look at the physical mechanisms of balancing
Good balance depends on coordination between your eyes (visual system), your muscles, tendons and joints (proprioceptive input), and the organs of the inner ear (vestibular system) to tell you where you are in space.
Proprioception is the ability to know where you are in space. Taken from the Latin proprius, meaning “one’s self” and capio, “to take or grasp”, proprioception is the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body.
Maintaining balance becomes much more challenging when we close our eyes and take away our visual input. The added challenge of adding closed eyes to a balancing posture takes away one of our methods of input (visual system) and becomes an opportunity for us to further hone our awareness of where our bodies are in space. This added challenge increases our proprioceptive awareness.
This knowledge of where your body is in space can be a game changer in real-life situations such as walking on a slippery or uneven surface. With practice, we learn to trust our bodies and our balancing capabilities and become more resilient over time.
With an intentional movement practice, there is always an opportunity to take what you learn about your body and your self on the mat to your life outside the yoga studio. Learning to understand the constant changeability and recalibration of your body by practicing balance can help you understand your own resilience as things in life shift. Balancing in class can help you understand how you can work toward harmony in other parts of your life.
Benefits of balance poses:
- Improves strength
- Improves focus
- Improves proprioception
- Helps you to get out of your head and more into your body
Balancing in yoga can look like many different things. For example:
- Standing poses balancing on one foot such as Tree pose or Warrior 3
- Maintaining a solid center while transitioning from one pose to another
- Balancing on your hands in handstand or crow pose
- Finding balance through the spine and heart in backbends
- Focusing on finding an equal length inhale and exhale
- Closing your eyes in horse pose and finding a sense of stability and grounding.
We’re looking forward to exploring all things balance related in our October classes. Check out our schedule of classes at our Astoria yoga studio. Here are a few of our favorite poses that incorporate balance:
At the beginning of a yoga class, sometimes I’ll posit the question: Anyone have anything that they want to work on today? Invariably someone will say: SHOULDERS!
What I understand this to mean, in most people’s bodies, is that area between the shoulder blades that often gets mucked up and crunchy, as well as the junction between the upper back and the neck. These two areas, the upper thoracic area and the upper trapezius area, are two common places that most people I know hold some tension. It’s also a common pain area for folks coming in for massage therapy.
In my massage practice, my clients often ask if everyone has tension in this area, or if theirs happens to be particularly bad. In general, most everyone I’ve massaged has some level of tension here.
Let’s look at the anatomy of the shoulder:
The shoulder is made up of three bones:
- Clavicle (collarbone)
- Humerus (upper arm bone)
- Scapula (shoulder blade)
The shoulder blade, collarbone and arm are all part of the appendicular skeleton which rests on the axial skeleton. The clavicle provides a fairly stable strut, while the humerus maintains the widest variation of movement possibility. The scapula helps to keep the peace between the two structures by providing extra stability for the clavicle and support by way of the glenoid socket (where the upper arm bone and the scapula meet) in order to manage the shifting of the humerus. This whole structure helps to provide some stability in movement of the arm on the torso (the axial skeleton).
The shoulder is a complex ball and socket joint that moves in a variety of planes. The muscles of the shoulder and arm are amazingly diverse – they span across the width of the back attaching the scapula to the rib cage, neck, head and arms.
The primary movements of the shoulder joint and scapula are:
Shoulder (glenohumeral joint)
- Abduction (bringing your arm away from you)
- Adduction (brining your arm toward you
- Horizontal Abduction
- Horizontal Adduction
- External Rotation
- Internal Rotation
Scapula (shoulder blade)
- Retraction (shoulder blades towardone another)
- Protraction (shoulder blades away from one another)
- Upward rotation
- Downward rotation
There are 17 muscles that articulate with the shoulder blade
- Serratus Anterior
- Teres Major
- Teres Minor
- Triceps Brachii long head
- Biceps Brachii
- Rhomboid Major
- Rhomboid Minor
- Omohyoid inferior belly
- Lattisimus Dorsi
- Levator Scapula
- Pectoralis Minor
An imbalance in any of these structures can cause pain and decreased mobility in your shoulder and scapula mobility.
The shoulder blade wants to be in a balanced position, but when one muscle or group of muscles gets chronically shortened or lengthened, the placement of the shoulder blade on your body can be impacted.
In a yoga class, having integrated shoulders is an essential part of your practice. What do we mean by integrated shoulders?
- Shoulders that have strength, flexibility and MOBILITY that allow you to do the poses that you want when you want.
- Shoulders that are well balanced both muscularly and structurally.
- Shoulders that support you with integrity while putting weight on your hands.
- Shoulders that work well for you in your daily activities, such as reaching for things over your head, or supporting yourself while mopping the floor on your hands and knees (does anyone else do this?!).
Let's look at a few yoga poses that integrate the shoulders. You can see in the images below that poses such as backbends, arm balances and poses that have arms overhead can all incorporate some good honest shoulder awareness.
Interested in feeling better in your shoulders as well as learning more about the anatomy and function of the shoulders? Come to any class during September for some shoulder love.
See you on the mat soon!
Our podcast schedule got a bit gnarled with the holiday season and the bustle of the New Year – but we're back! In this episode, I sat down with Amanda to talk about judgment, and non-judgment, in the holistic healthcare environment.
In particular, we examine some of the things that commonly hold people back from getting care due to worries about judgment around:
- Body image, such as body hair, body odor or weight gain
- Social factors, such as identification as gay or trans, or having low income and so being unable to wear “fancy” clothes
- Political and intellectual factors, such as having a very conservative viewpoint when you believe your practitioner to be quite liberal
It's just a quick 20 minutes, and we hope it will provoke questions – check out the form on the main podcast page to share your thoughts.
Believe us – we understand that entering into a yoga studio as a student for the first time can be overwhelming!
Far from feeling relaxed and de-stressed, you might have a hundred questions swirling around in your mind:
- What if you don’t have the right equipment?
- What will everyone else be wearing?
- What if you mess up and everybody sees?
- What if you don’t know what you’re doing?
- What if you're worried about how your body will look as you move around?
- What if you can’t keep up, or if you don’t understand what’s happening?
- What if you have this injury, and that might keep you from doing what everyone else is doing?
That's just the beginning, of course, our personal insecurities and past experience with yoga will both influence the anxieties that crop up.
What it takes for you to get to your first class is a willingness to be vulnerable. To put aside the “what ifs” and have the courage to try something new. One of our hopes in offering yoga in Astoria is to help you
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Whatever your reasons for wanting give yoga a try, if you can approach your first yoga class in Astoria without trying to be perfect, chances are the class will go a lot better for you than anticipated. You see, we all start somewhere. And not knowing how to do something doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or that something is wrong with you.
What it means is that you don’t know how to do something. And it’s our job to teach you!
Our beginning level class happens weekly so you can come on a consistent basis, for as long as you like, and learn the ropes of what it’s like to move your body in the context of yoga. You WON’T know what you are doing at first, and that’s GREAT! We hope to teach you in a manner that is safe for your body, informative and that allows for lots of questions and self exploration along the way.
Our beginning level classes all include:
- Help on how to sit comfortably – more difficult than it sounds!
- Some introduction to breath work and linking movement with breath – one of the foundations to healthy, lifelong yoga practice.
- Basic yoga postures (called asanas) that will help you gain strength, balance and flexibility – all with plenty of instructions to help you adapt each exercise to your particular body state.
- A solid introduction to yoga movement for those who want to continue on to more advanced classes. We want you will grow as a yoga student for many years with Watershed Wellness!
If you’d like this class to be offered at a different time, let us know what works for you! We’ll do our best to accommodate schedules as we figure out what works for most people in our new community.
As we've discussed on our Portland website, on our Facebook account and via our new Watershed Astoria newsletter, we're opening a new clinic here in Astoria! We will be inviting the first appointments and classes in starting January 17 – assuming everything goes more or less according to plan.
But how did we end up opening a second clinic focused on health and wellness in Astoria?
Good question! We'll hope to tell more of the story of how the clinic opening has been here on the blog and on the newsletter in the coming months. But the shortest possible story is simple. In March of 2016, we (Eric and Amanda) manifested our vision of moving our home base to Astoria, OR from Portland. But, instead of closing up shop in Portland – a place we still dearly love – we decided to expand! Thus you have Watershed Astoria.
The two locations will have different modalities, different foci, and yet maintain the same commitment to customer service, quality work done by intentful experts and a spirit of joy and fun in everything we do.
One of the most notable differences between the two clinics is in what we're offering. In Portland, of course, we offer Chinese medicine, Naturopathic medicine, skin therapy and massage therapy. In Astoria, we will be focusing on Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage therapy as far as medical modalities are concerned. While we may expand from those initial healthcare offerings, we are hoping to first focus on providing the best possible acupuncture, Chinese herbs and massage as we can.
One of the most exciting things about the new location is that we will be offering Watershed Yoga to the Astoria community
Amanda Barp, co-founder and chief massage therapist at Watershed, completed yoga training at the Bhaktishop in Portand. While she started school at her favorite studio mostly to enhance her own practice, as she went, she discovered how what she was learning about yoga meshed with what she already knew about the human body through her 10+ year long massage career.
This sparked further study and a deep immersion in her studies which resulted in her being asked to teach a class at her alma mater studio! This honor has allowed her to learn so much about yoga in a short period of time – particularly how she can help new practitioners to do yoga safely, no matter their age or mobility impairments. This passion drives her today.
We will be writing a lot about Watershed Yoga on the blog and through expanding the main Yoga page on this site. To give us a chance to make sure the studio is perfect for you, we'll be delaying the start of classes until February 1. Those first classes are already available for you to register if you're excited to get started.
To help jumpstart a vibrant yoga community at Watershed, we're offering 50% single classes and 5 class packs through the entire month of February 2017.
To take advantage, just use the code ASTORIAOPEN if you pay for your class online, or mention the discount if you pay in person.
We'll be sharing more about what's new at Watershed over the next several days. Stay tuned – and if you would like to have the latest articles sent direct to your email – sign up here.