Header for Alicia Mutch | Poppies Reaching Towards the Sky | Hypnotherapy and Massage Therapy | Healdsburg, California

Therapeutic Massage – the Top 10 Benefits

Foot MassageFace it, some of us have a hard time justifying splurging on the expense of a massage. The cost of living can be extremely challenging right now, and many people are holding out for special occasions like birthdays to receive a massage. Since an hour massage runs anywhere from $60 to $150, many of us can think of many other ways to spend that money. Rather than thinking of massage as a luxury, I invite you to think of it as an investment in your health. How often does your body need a tune-up? Once a month? Twice a month? Once a quarter? Think about what your body needs and schedule some sessions for yourself.

Top 10 Benefits of Receiving Regular Massage:

  1. Reduces or eliminates pain and muscle tension from chronic or recent injuries
  2. Reduces stress and fatigue
  3. Alleviates headaches and lowers the need for migraine medication
  4. Accelerates your recovery from muscle injuries and surgeries
  5. Improves poor posture
  6. Increases joint flexibility and muscle range of motion
  7. Increases circulation and lowers blood pressure
  8. Improves immune system function
  9. Alleviates symptoms of depression
  10. Enhances attentiveness and focus

For more information on the scientific research being conducted on the benefits of massage, visit the website for the Touch Research Institute.

My HypnoBirthing® Home Birth Story

You might say that I had been preparing for my daughter Emily’s birth since April of 2000 when I took my very first HypnoBirthing® practitioner course in Redmond, Washington with my friend Kathleen. I have been teaching HypnoBirthing® childbirth classes since January, 2001, and I’ve been a Certified Hypnotherapist since 1998. After so many years of teaching, I finally had the privilege to birth my daughter at home using HypnoBirthing®, and I can say now with certainty that when a woman is properly prepared for childbirth, her body knows exactly how to birth her baby. Here is my birth story.

I had my first inkling that Emily’s birthing was beginning when John and I were playing partner cribbage with our friends Jeff and Helen at their house. They had just fed us a tasty late lunch of leftover ribs and Caesar salad and the women were playing against (and beating!) the men. I felt a tightening in my uterus and thought, “Hmmm…labor is going to start soon.” I didn’t mention it to anyone, and we continued to play. We left their house around 4:15 so that John could drop off his son Levi at a friend’s house for a sleepover. John dropped me off at home first, and I asked him to pick up chicken broth, vanilla pudding and sliced turkey at Big John’s market on his way home (I didn’t tell him I thought we were going to have a baby that night). As soon as I got home, I set to work with the pumice stone on the inside of the toilet. I was planning to spend a lot of time in labor on the toilet, and I wanted it to be sparkling!

Toilet project completed, I settled down in bed, got my iPod and earbuds out, and listened to Aaron Aldridge’s “Gentle Surge” album for the next several hours until about midnight(track 1 set on repeat). When John returned at around 6:00, he asked me if I wanted to go to our neighbor’s house to pay our respects for her husband who had recently passed away, and I said, no, I was having uterine surges, and I was just going to stay in bed for a while. I continued to nap and stay in deep hypnosis for a long time, just breathing up with the surges when I felt the tightening in my abdomen. Surges were light and about 20 minutes or so apart at that time. I wasn’t timing them at all or really paying much attention to them. I just wanted to be deep in my birthing body. And I was pretending it was just practice labor to keep my mind relaxed the whole time.

I started needing to get up from time to time to go to the bathroom, and I felt a little cramping that felt like mild menstrual cramps. I passed gratitude on to my prostaglandins for softening my bowel movements and opening my cervix. Then I passed what seemed to be a small blood clot a little before 7 pm, and I texted my midwife (Colette) to let her know. We texted back and forth, and she decided the blood clot was normal, and then we talked on the phone at 8:45 and decided that my mucous plug had released. By this time, I was alternating between lying in bed (listening to my iPod), and sitting on my sparkling clean toilet. Colette decided to come over and see how I was doing, and she arrived a little bit after 10 pm, listened to Emily’s heartrate (it was perfect!), and we discussed whether she should check me or not. I decided that checking me would be some useful information. Plus she’d never checked me before. My cervix was 2 centimeters open, 50% softened, and very stretchy. With that information in hand, I went back to bed to listen to my iPod, and Colette left. I kept pretending to myself that I was in practice labor.

Then at 12:20 I went to the bathroom and threw up (it felt great!). John filled our small bathtub for me and checked to make sure it was around 100 degrees. John texted Colette to let her know I had thrown up (Yay, birthing hormones!), and I texted her to let her know she could come back and we had an extra bed in case it was practice labor. Then I got into the bathtub and lay down on my left side with my inflatable bath pillow under me, and went into self-hypnosis again. The reason I lay on my left side was because Emily’s back had been a little to the right for the last few months of pregnancy, and I wanted to make sure that she spun fully to the front with her butt to my belly button during the birth. I spent a few hours in the tub. The surges were still irregular and just felt like tightening, but they were getting closer together. Colette arrived around 1:30 in the morning. She decided I went into active labor around 2:00 or so. That’s when my surges were coming regularly and getting closer together.

During my pregnancy, I had visualized where I would like to labor with Emily, and I got to spend a little bit of time in each place: several hours in bed in deep hypnosis, a few hours in the bathtub, an hour or so getting on and off the toilet, an hour on the bedroom floor (while John was taking a nap in our bed), an hour in the birthing tub, and about 30 minutes on the bed birthing Emily.

Labor was amazing! It was everything I hoped it would be. I loved the HypnoBirthing® surge breathing. I would take a deep, slow breath in to fill my belly, and then on the exhale, I would moan it out at a low pitch. I had warned everyone ahead of time that I was planning to be fairly vocal during labor because it’s such a wonderful way to move energy through me. It was also a good signal to them when I was having a surge. Did I mention that labor felt great? At one time, when I was lying on the floor, my legs started shaking like crazy. John asked me if I was cold. I said no, it was only birthing hormones. Then Colette came in to check on me. I looked at her with a big smile and said, “This shivering feels GREAT!” It was like energy moving through me in an amazing way. I knew from the shaking that I was transitioning from opening my cervix to birthing the baby. I never felt fear — just a calmness and trust in my body. Poor John kept trying to read the birth companion’s prompt sheet, do light touch massage, feed me, and use the glove relaxation on my arm and in general be a fabulous birth partner. I told him, “No massage, just constant pressure feels great,” as well as, “Just silence, please.” What I didn’t tell him was that I had listened to my HypnoBirthing® birthing affirmations CD so much in the car that the affirmations were a running soundtrack in my mind all night long (“I breathe up every surge to the fullest.” “I see my breath filling a magnificent balloon.” “I work with my body.” “I trust my body to birth, and I follow its lead.” etc., etc.). So, even though I had no music playing and no HypnoBirthing® soundtracks playing from midnight onwards, the Birthing Affirmations soundtrack was with me in my mind all night in a very powerful way.

Colette checked my cervix again sometime around 5:00 when I was lying on my side on the bedroom floor and discovered that I was 8 centimeters open. I had already known that I was going through transition(because of the shaking legs), so it was great validation for me. I thought to myself, “Oh good, I’m going through transition right now and it’s easy.”). Colette said I was so relaxed she couldn’t tell when I transitioned from opening to breathing the baby down (and I didn’t tell her, though I knew when it was). Then I got into the birthing tub and John squeezed my hips with fabulous counterpressure while I bore down. That was great! I didn’t want to get out of that tub. I squatted a bit and laid on my left side with my right leg over the side of the tub for a bit. However, I did get out of the tub and onto bed for the birth. Again, amazing. I lay on my left side and held onto John around his torso (he was kneeling on the floor next to the bed) and rested my right foot on Colette’s shoulder. And I birthed Emily that way. The only two not-so-fun parts were that my hip ligaments were very sore during the last part of birthing as they were spreading and making room for Emily’s descent (but John squeezed the bejesus out of them and that was incredible) and crowning was very stingy, which disappointed me because I had hoped that that wouldn’t happen with me. But I knew that if it stings, it’s your body telling you to slow down and let the tissues unfold and open around the baby. So I slowed down the descent, and let my perineal tissues open around her for about 10 minutes. I focused on moving her down only with my breath. With this technique, I was able to keep my pelvic floor intact with only 3 itty bitty superficial tears on the labia and outer perineum that my midwife sewed up for “cosmetic reasons” only. So, according to my midwife, I was in active labor for 3 hours 5 minutes and breathed the baby down for 1 hour 46 minutes. Not bad, eh? And no tearing of my pelvic floor (yay!). Did I mention that this is my first baby?

Emily was a beautiful baby and she’s an amazing little girl(she’s 5 years old now). She started turning over onto her side within 3 days of being born, and onto her stomach 7 days after birth. She started smiling after the first week. She was very alert and calm, and spent a lot of time lifting her head looking at the world around her (especially trees). She was nine weeks old when I originally wrote this birth story. We enjoyed each other quite a lot in those first weeks and months, and I attribute her sweet personality to her months inside me when I spent my days in peaceful relaxation, listening to the Rainbow Relaxation at night and the Birthing Affirmations in the car. I feel very blessed and privileged to know her and to be her mother.

Book Review: “The Happiest Baby on the Block”

One of my clients recommended this book to me, and I filed its title away in my mind for future reference. And then when I was six months pregnant, I suddenly became very interested in what the heck I was going to do with this baby once she was born. I loved this book. I not only read it, I read it TWICE. It was THAT GOOD.

This book should be required reading for every single new parent out there in the universe. It focuses entirely on the “fourth trimester” — those first three months of the baby’s life outside the womb. The author of the book, Harvey Karp, is a pediatrician in Hollywood, and his premise is that because babies’ brains and skulls are so big, they are born at a time when their heads still fit through their mothers’ birth paths but before they’re actually ready to be outside in the world. In essence, they’re still fetuses for three more months. And they miss life inside the womb. A lot. He says that “colic” doesn’t actually exist — the symptoms of “colic” in a baby are simply the baby wanting to be soothed exactly like it was when it was warmly and comfortably tucked inside mom. The whole book is about recreating that womb experience for new babies so that they can be calm and well-adapted to life in the outside world.

Harvey Karp describes five techniques that recreate the womb experience, what he calls the “5 S’s”: swaddling, side-lying or stomach-lying, shhhhhh-ing (or white noise), swinging and sucking. Swaddling creates a nice pressure all around the baby where the baby is inhibited in its limb movements. My husband thought that this looked like our baby was in a straight jacket. But when you think about it, babies are extremely limited in their movements for 40ish weeks. It’s not a “straight jacket” for them — we’re just anthropomorphising their experience. For the first four to six months, babies have a “startle reflex,” where, if they are lying on their backs (either in bed or in your arms), they feel as though they are falling backwards. To catch themselves, they throw their arms back, and instantly wake themselves up. Swaddling inhibits the startle reflex, and I can’t overemphasize how wonderfully well it works. It doesn’t calm the baby, but it sets up the baby to be soothed by the other four techniques. And by firsthand experience, I can tell you that a baby that wakes herself up every five minutes because of the startle reflex is a very unhappy baby (and her parents probably aren’t getting much sleep).

Ok, now that your baby is swaddled, the other four techniques will finish the job of soothing her. Side-lying or stomach-lying(when you’re holding her) prevents her from experiencing the startle reflex. Only babies who are on their backs will startle. Good to know. So, you’re holding your baby either on her side or facing the floor. Next, you start making a loud “shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” sound. This is a white noise that replicates the loud noise of the blood flowing through your blood vessels when she was inside (kind of like when you are lying in the bathtub and you dunk your head under the water. The water amplifies all of the sounds of your house’s plumbing.). Harvey Karp explains that babies love white noise. It’s the peace and quiet that disturb them. So, air conditioners, fans, white noise machines, and “shhhhhhhhhhhh” sounds calm them down. Adjust the volume of the “shhhhhhh” to match your baby’s volume if she’s crying.

Next, start swinging your baby from side to side. This mimics the lovely hammock-like swinging and swaying they experienced when mom was walking around every day. During my pregnancy, I never really noticed my baby moving around when I was in motion, but she really moved around at night. Maybe she was thinking, “Hey, mom! How about a little movement out there! It’s a little too still and peaceful for me to get to sleep!” You can do little jiggly movements or turn your body back and forth like a top-loading washing machine agitator.

Sucking is last, and Harvey Karp calls it “the icing on the cake.” Babies can either suck their thumbs, your fingers, or a pacifier. This satisfies their hunger, calms them, and soothes them in a fantastic way. Harvey Karp says that if you use a pacifier, the best time is between two to three weeks of age (so that breastfeeding goes well to prevent nipple confusion) and four to five months. Around four months, babies learns to stick their own thumbs in their mouths (sometimes both at once) to soothe themselves, and the pacifier is no longer needed. With some creative swaddling, you can also swaddle your baby so that her thumb is directly next to her mouth, and she can soothe herself at an early age. And now that your baby is soothed, you can put them down to sleep (on their back).

The last few chapters of the book continue with the theme of creating happy babies. One chapter goes into more details about some other tried and true “colic” remedies like infant massage, walking outside with baby, keeping them warm to soothe them, preventing food allergies, treating constipation, troubleshooting feeding problems, dealing with actual acid reflux (which is rare amongst babies), and using alternative medicine like chiropractic, homeopathy, herbal teas, and osteopathy. The last chapter is about baby sleep patterns, weaning your baby off the 5 S’s, techniques for helping babies sleep better, room sharing, co-sleeping, techniques to help prevent SIDS and suffocation, and answers to frequently asked questions.

In conclusion, the contents of this book saved my life, it probably saved my marriage and definitely saved my sanity in my first three months of parenting.

For even more information (and for all of those visual learners out there), Harvey Karp’s techniques are featured on YouTube videos, like this appearance on Dr. Phil:

You Are Already Hypnotized

Hypnosis pocket watch

I was sitting at the Flying Goat Coffee shop (typing my blog), and a gentleman approached me and struck up a conversation. He eventually asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I was a hypnotherapist. I’ve noticed that this tends to receive very similar responses. Most people ask me (in defiance): “Well, can you hypnotize me?” as if daring me to try to push against all of their resistance. My natural response is, “I don’t need to. You’re already hypnotized.” People are always a little startled by this. Let me explain what I mean. You have had an entire lifetime of experiences that have caused you to form opinions about the world around you. Those opinions will either lift you up or drag you down in your life. Just by forming those opinions, you have automatically begun to limit your own potential as a human being. The catch is, you formed many of those opinions when you were younger than 10 years old (often the tender age of 3 or 4) and were completely lacking in an adult viewpoint of the world. My question to you is: do you want to be driven by the decisions, emotions, opinions and tantrums of that 4-year-old for the rest of your life?

The subconscious mind is responsible for directing our energy that drives us toward our goals in life. If you don’t set a goal for it, it will either choose its own, or choose a goal that someone else has suggested. And that means — you guessed it– our subconscious mind often chooses the goals that were programmed in us by the things that happened in our childhood (often by our parents). At that point in our lives, we were too young to filter out the destructive messages from the constructive messages, so we took them all in. No wonder we walk around so often in a state of confusion. We are so used to giving ourselves mixed messages that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

Here are some examples for you. You say to yourself, “I would really love to go to the gym, but I never find the time.” Your subconscious mind is working very hard to not find the time to go to the gym, just like you directed it to. Here’s another one. You say to yourself: “I shouldn’t eat that piece of chocolate cake, but I really can’t resist it.” Your subconscious mind is working very hard to drop all resistance to the chocolate cake. Or how about this one: you say, “I want to be in a loving relationship, but no one ever seems to notice me.” Your subconscious mind is working overtime to make you INVISIBLE, just like you requested. The subconscious mind is like the genie in the lamp. It says, “Your wish is my command,” and goes out of its way to make that wish come true. Be careful what you ask for, because your subconscious mind will manifest it for you (in all of its dysfunction). It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

The solution is to get clear on what your actual goals are and to drop the mixed messages entirely. Hypnosis is a great way to go directly to the subconscious mind and upgrade the system software. You can actually grow up that 4-year-old inside of you and bring them with you into your adult perspective. You have more control over what you choose to manifest in your life. How about that? In my previous examples, that would be: 1) Go to the gym regularly; 2) Eat healthy foods; 3) Manifest a loving relationship and be VISIBLE to the world. Now, doesn’t that sound way more fun than what you were doing before?

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