Parents Supporting PLAY!

PS PLAY –Parents Supporting PLAY!

Watch a young child at PLAY and you’ll be struck by how totally and completely they are consumed by it. The yoga teacher in me would say they’ve entered a state of Samadhi—about realizing and becoming one, an I-am-ness, with what they’re doing; in terms of psychology they’re in a state of flow…being fully immersed and present, in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and total enjoyment in the process of the activity.

A succinct definition of PLAY is impossible because PLAY does so much! A general, but far from complete description: PLAY is an activity that is

  • Self- motivated
  • Freely chosen
  • Absorbing
  • Process-oriented, in other words it’s the doing, not the end-result that’s important
  • Imaginative
  • Mentally stress-free
  • Framework of rules governing how PLAY proceeds determined by player(s)

Why should you, as a parent, care about PLAY?

The answer to that is more than a few sentences! But I’ll highlight the extra important reasons!

  1. The need for PLAY is hard-wired into us; it is the way our brains like to learn best.
  2. The BRAIN develops sequentially from the least complex functioning to the most. However, PLAY in the early months and years of life is very important as it wires the brain, preparing it for higher level skills later.
  3. PLAY is integral to a child’s development emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively.
  4. Children fail to thrive when deprived of PLAY.

In fact, PLAY is so critical to a child’s overall health and wellness that the United Nations listed it as one a child’s rights.

So, what can parents do? water play

Luckily, that’s pretty easy!

  • Pay attention to your child—listen and talk to her/him. Relationship-building and language development takes face-to-face time.
    ◦ For example, immerse your child in language by reading together.  Reading to your child is a wonderful activity; building a closeness between parent and child that is never too soon start! You’ll also find out more about your kiddo’s interests and likes and can use that when creating PLAY spaces.
  • Provide time, space and materials for your kiddo to PLAY!
    ◦ Provide hands-on activities with a variety of materials. Young children need concrete experiences to build a foundation of knowledge; hands-on as opposed to virtual experiences offers the greatest learning potential.  This enhanced learning via hands-on persists even into adulthood.
    ◦ Do parents need to entertain their children 24/7? Of course not! And if you hear their cry “I’m bored!” then read this article for added reassurance.
  • Give your child the freedom to PLAY!
    Support their budding independence and decision-making with child-led activities. Another way is to resist the urge to over-schedule your kiddo with a lot of organized activities supervised by adults. One caveat to that: Downtime should not equate to screen time. The risks vs benefits of screen time for young children come down strongly in favor of waiting.

When children engage in PLAY they are gaining knowledge; developing the tools and skills they’ll need not only in the present time but also to be used as they continue to grow and learn throughout their lifetimes.

PLAY matters in childhood…and beyond!
Karen Whittier
Logo with me & toys
About the Author
:
Karen Whittier, aka Teacher Karen, is Early Childhood Engineer and Play Specialist for Play & Grow. She has an extensive background in early childhood education, co-founding and teaching at her own preschool for many years. Combining her backgrounds in engineering and early childhood education she’s serving children and families with Play & Grow advocating for children by supporting parents in promoting and facilitating PLAY!
website: www.PlayAndGrow.com

Benefits of Being Barefoot!

As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.Dr. Sharonrose Samelak is your source for wellness information! (1).jpg

Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.

The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.

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When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.

Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!

  • Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
  • The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
  • The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
  • Your balance and your proprioception suffer.

These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.

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According to an article in the Washington Post, “Going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness.” I love how succinctly they boil this all down.

Have you taken your shoes off yet?

Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?

Do your feet need to wake up?

Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.

Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!

 

Interval Training for Labor Prep- with Maura Shirey from Bodies for Birth

This week we are honored to have a guest blogger, Maura Shirey, from Bodies for Birth.

Bodies for Birth

Bodies for Birth is first and foremost a fitness company, but it’s so much more than that. It’s your village and your source for connection and resources in the community.  It’s Maura’s firm belief that women deserve to be supported holistically throughout pregnancy and postpartum.

I have enjoyed working with Maura, professionally for the past year. She is passionate and knowledgeable in her work and takes amazing care of our shared clients. Maura is sharing with us this week about the benefits of interval training for labor.

Interval Training for Labor Preparation

While there is so much we can’t control in labor and delivery, we can control how we prepare our minds and bodies.

With that said, this specific preparation looks so different for each one of us. For some of us, that’s attending classes, for others, it’s reading books, having conversations or asking questions. Despite the variable means of preparation, there’s tremendous comfort from knowing deep down that you have done whatever you consider to be your necessary work.

At Bodies for Birth we use a combination of modalities, but rely heavily upon interval training: bursts of higher intensity work followed by efficient, intentional recovery before beginning to work again.

This is in an effort to mimic the work of contractions–a time of sustained effort followed by efficient recovery…repeat, repeat, repeat and in labor…repeat again and again.

The mental and physical preparation allows for the opportunity to recognize the body’s innate ability to work exactly as it was designed and to recover with ease, noticing heart rate and respirations slow with the use of diaphragmatic breathing.

These repeated experiences can provide comfort, peace and resolve as you welcome labor and the uncertainty of it all.

workout-1931107_1920While we don’t pretend that we have any control over a labor or delivery experience or outcome, our goal is to constantly be adding tools to your toolbox. Each squat, each interval and guided visualization, each time you practice your breathing you are adding these tools.

And you won’t know which tools you will call upon during labor until the time comes, but the more tools you have, the better your coping will be. The greater confidence you will have that you are and have all that you need to meet the challenge.

Interval training is a vital component of this training and an essential in the labor preparation toolbox.

While the effortful work is important to train the cardiorespiratory system, to gain stamina and confidence in your body’s ability to perform the work, the magic happens during the recovery between the effortful work.

This is the interlude where the true preparation occurs, an opportunity to practice becoming efficient at recovery so that you can approach the next round of effortful work; ie: a contraction with renewed focus, energy and calm.

In class, we can often be heard saying, “and then, you turn it off. Just like a light switch. The work ends and you recover. Not ruminating on what’s passed or anticipating what’s coming next. Use your diaphragmatic breath to simply settle into this present moment of recovery. Right here. Right now.”

And what do we hear from clients and providers?

That Bodies for Birth clients really know how to recover in labor, that they have mental and physical resilience, a certain confidence in their abilities that translates into enhanced coping in labor.

Ideally, this endures right on into postpartum and motherhood.

Group Class (Photo Credit_ Benjamin Benschneider_The Seattle Times)
(Photo Credit: Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

So, what does interval training look like?

  • It can take the form of strength training or a low-impact aerobic style intervals.
  •  A strength training interval might include: body weight squats, stationary lunges or chest presses with a resistance band.
  • Aerobic-style intervals might include: marching in place with arms moving up and down overhead, repeated stepping up and down from a low step or moving side to side with swinging arms.
  •  If this all feels like too much coordination or aerobics just isn’t your thing, intervals can be incorporated into a walk, into lap swimming or work on the elliptical or other piece of cardio equipment. Swimming works particularly well as each lap can feel like an interval, followed by rest at the end. Hills also lends themselves easily to this sort of natural interval work.
  • Generally we advise beginning with an equal work to rest ratio; for example, begin with 30 seconds of effortful work followed by 30 seconds of recovery. Repeat up to three times.
  • The effortful work initially should be around a level “5” on a scale of 1-10 (10 being your max…which we never approach in pregnancy).
  • If this level of effort begins to feel easy, you may increase the ratio of work i.e.: 45 seconds of work to 30 seconds of recovery, perhaps approaching a level 6-7 on the exertion scale.
  • As you progress, notice the time it takes you to recover, notice your level of exertion throughout, not exceeding a level 6-7. In other words, you should be able to talk throughout the work.
  • Add short bouts of interval training into your routine and focus on the recovery between the work, always returning to your diaphragmatic breath.
  • With practice, notice how efficiently your body begins to recover and take great comfort in all of the preparation and your body’s ability to work exactly as designed.

Remember, intervals are completely versatile and modifiable, so listen to your body with the goal of exercise leaving you feeling energized and never exhausted in pregnancy! Your body is already working quite hard to support the work of pregnancy, so let exercise further fuel that effort, rather than deplete your reserves.

It’s a privilege to do the work we do at Bodies for Birth and such an absolute honor to know that it is making an impact.

No matter where you are in your journey, we will meet you exactly where you are, support you to the best of our abilities and help you to develop strength in mind and body while honoring your unique goals.

Bodies for Birth is much more than physical fitness; it is holistic wellness, and motherhood preparation at its finest, helping you to build strength, confidence and community.

Group classes are now open for all from preconception through postpartum! Visit MindBody to register and please reach out with questions!
Let’s build your village together!
About the Author:
Maura Shirey, RN, CPFE specializes in prenatal and postpartum fitness as the creator and owner of Bodies for Birth. Using current research and evidence-based practices, Maura helps individuals strengthen both mind and body as they prepare for and recover from one of life’s greatest feats! Maura’s wellness background includes work as a Registered Nurse, a Certified Personal Trainer & Chef, as well as a Health Coach & Screener for corporate wellness companies. Maura’s personal experiences, foundational nursing knowledge and passion for fitness and wellness provide the building blocks for Bodies for Birth.

As a woman and mother, Maura seeks to share her personal experiences with the Bodies for Birth community, to break down competitive barriers and to celebrate as clients surprise themselves with the inner strength they already possess. She is dedicated to ongoing education, pursuing best practices and individualizing fitness for each and every person. She is committed to providing a healthy and bold example to her son, Will (who had his own set of dumbbells and began practicing diaphragmatic breathing at 2 years old) and to creating a vibrant and sustainable future for her family doing work that brings her immense joy.

 

Holiday Recipe Alternatives

It’s upon us! Holiday season is just about here. Thanksgiving is next week!

As you plan your dish to pass or your family meal, try out some of Dr. Samelak’s favorite recipes for delicious and healthy side dishes.

Not Your Grandmother’s Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are one of my favorite holiday sides, but not the flavorless, boiled kind I grew up with. Instead, I love oven roasted, garlic brussel sprouts. They are savory, delicious, and have a great crisp yet tender texture.

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Ingredients:

Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and rinsed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Finely Ground Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim and rinse brussel sprouts, removing the external leaves so that they are tightly packed and the leaves are green. Cut them in half longways and lay them, cut side up, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I like to keep them close together so that they are pretty crowded on the sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over the sprouts- enough to cover them without drenching them.

Sprinkle the sprouts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste.

Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the sprouts are slightly browned at the edges. The side touching the parchment paper should also be browned.

Serve while hot.

These are always a hit at my family gatherings and I can never seem to make enough!

Cauliflower, Garlic Roasted Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of the holiday staples. However, they are starchy and can easily spike blood sugar. I love to combine cauliflower and potatoes to add a little more nutrition to the dish, while keeping the same great taste.

Ingredients:

1 head of Garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 head of Cauliflower

4 cups of peeled, diced Red Potatoes

Butter or facsimile

Milk or non-dairy alternative

Salt/Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

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Take a head of garlic and slice off the top. Drizzle it with olive oil and wrap it with aluminum foil. Bake until the garlic is translucent and soft.

While the garlic is roasting, steam the cauliflower until it is soft and boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.

Squeeze the garlic out of the cloves. Place the cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, butter, and milk into a stand mixer and whip until smooth. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Real Cranberry Sauce

Forget jellied cranberries or cranberry sauce from a can! You won’t look back once you try this recipe. One thing I love about it is that I can make it as sweet or tart as the audience prefers.berries-1851161_1920

Ingredients:

Fresh Cranberries

Apple Cider

Sugar or Agave Nectar to taste

Instructions:

Place a saucepan on the stove and add in rinsed and sorted cranberries. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of apple cider. Turn on the heat to medium and stir continuously until the berries pop. When the berries are all soft, taste the cranberry sauce and begin to add your sweetener of choice by the teaspoon until it is sweetened to taste.

Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. It will keep several days and is an excellent dish to make ahead of time.

These are a few of my favorite holiday dishes. They trim some of the sugar and starch out of the holiday, while keeping all the flavor.

And, who knows, you may just find that you LOVE brussel sprouts!!!

 

Can too much sugar effect bone density?

With Halloween next week, what could be more appropriate than a discussion about Bones and Candy, right?!

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The Western diet, high in protein and sugar is associated with an increase in all kinds of metabolic conditions from cardiovascular disease and Type II Diabetes Mellitus to osteopenia and osteoporosis. As a Chiropractor, bone density is a very important topic and it deserves some discussion.

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Let’s take a closer look at how our bones function in the human body. Our bones provide a framework for our muscles to hang upon. They create a safe space for our organs to live. They act as levers to allow us to move. These are all things that we have been told about before. But, did you know that your bones are actually the largest mineral reservoir in the body? From Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology[1] we know the following. Our bones are constantly in flux with minerals like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium being borrowed and stored to maintain our body’s pH. 99% of the body’s calcium and over half of it’s magnesium is stored in bone.

skull-778075_1920pH refers to how acidic or alkaline the body is. We live within a tight tolerance and have several systems that make sure that this is regulated. Body fluids can push the balance one way or another within a fraction of a second, the respiratory system can make changes in minutes by changing our breathing to either eliminate or preserve CO2, and the kidneys respond slowly but are the most powerful  buffers of pH in the body. This is where we will focus.

When the body has an acidic environment, our body fluids, breathing, and kidneys work to shift it back to the middle. Our body increases the free calcium in extracellular fluid to correct the imbalance which tells the kidneys to excrete magnesium in urine. These minerals are usually sourced from our bones.

Now that we have reviewed the physiology of the pH balance system, let’s apply it to everyday life.

When we have a diet that causes our body to trend toward acidity, this buffer system is continually pulling minerals from bone. Odds are, more quickly than we can effectively store it.

Think of your bones like a bank. There is a bank balance that is your bone density. When your body needs to borrow some, it makes a withdraw. When it takes in calcium and magnesium from food, it deposits. This system works well when it is balanced. However, osteopenia and osteoporosis happen when you overdraw the account.

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Therefore, it is important to balance the budget. Reduction in sugar consumption can help to reduce the withdraws being made from your bones. Improving absorption of dietary minerals helps you to build up your account.

Guyton and Hall [1] discuss the importance of Vitamin D in the absorption of calcium. They report the following mechanisms:

  • increases intestinal calcium absorption by helping the cells to form calcium binding proteins within 2 days.
  • helps to improve phosphate absorption (another important mineral in bone).
  • helps to decrease kidney excretion of calcium and phosphate.
  • promotes bone calcification by transporting ions through cell membranes

This lets us know that appropriate Vitamin D levels are important in healthy bones. Many people in the northern hemisphere do not make or consume enough vitamin D to have adequate levels when tested in the blood. This is an important conversation to have with your primary care physician.

x-ray-223836_1920Bone density is much more complex than just the biochemistry/physiology; however, there are some tried and true methods for helping to improve your bone density:

Improve your diet. Reduce acidic foods, especially grains and sugars. Consume more green leafy vegetables.

Get your vitamin D levels evaluated.

Start participating in weight bearing exercise! Bone responds to stress. If you do not ask your bones to do work, they do not store as many minerals.

As always, please remember: This blog is intended to provide you with tools and information about the human body. Please speak with your own health care provider before making major lifestyle changes.

Below is a citation for Guyton and Hall.

[1]Guyton, Arthur C., and John E. Hall. “Textbook of Medical Physiology.” Textbook of Medical Physiology, 11th ed., Elsevier Saunders, 2007, pp. 371–985.

For additional reading on the topic, check out these links:

Why is Sugar Bad For You?

Calcium and Osteoporosis

Effect of consuming different caloric sweeteners on bone health and possible mechanisms.

Fat, Sugar, and Bone Health

 

Travel Smart- Chiropractic Travel Tips for Flying

Flying can be a pain. Literally. You haul yourself through lines at security, toting your carry on luggage. You wait for your flight in uncomfortable seating or on the floor. The planes are cramped with uncomfortable seats and not enough leg room. The air is dry and blows into your face. You finally reach your destination and are so thankful to be done flying that you haul your carry on luggage down the aisle of the plane and breathe a sigh of relief.

It can be better with some planning.

  1. Carry On Luggage
    • Your carry on suitcase is a strategic decision.
      • It is important to choose a lightweight suitcase, preferably with multi-directional wheels. This allows you to push it down the narrow aisle of the airplane and more easily lift it into the overhead bin.
      • Lifting your case into the overhead compartments can be a challenge. By keeping the case light, and talking with your chiropractor about proper lifting technique, you can spare yourself some discomfort in maneuvering your luggage.
    • Your personal item can make or break your trip.
      • A tote bag or large purse seems like a good idea for a personal item. They hold a lot and can be quite fashionable.
      • I prefer and recommend a backpack for your personal item. You can pack your empty purse inside or in your main luggage. Remember to place your belongings in the backpack with the heaviest closest to your body (ie: laptop). Lighter items can be placed farther from the body.
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        A backpack is an excellent choice for a personal item when flying.

        Most backpacks have many compartments which allow you to stay organized and evenly distribute weight. I prefer packs made by backpacking companies like Osprey or Deuter because they are lightweight with many compartments.

  2. Dress the Part
    • Between security checkpoints and the prolonged sitting involved in plane travel, clothing can be an important part of trip planning.
    • Ladies, your hairstyle matters!
      • I have longer hair and have to be sure that my hair is either down or in a top knot. If my hair is in a ponytail or on the back of my head, it forces anterior head positioning.
      • Anterior head positioning causes increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders as well as promoting further poor posture
    • Wear comfortable shoes
      • Shoes should be easily removable for security, but should also be comfortable and practical.
      • High Heel ShoesHeels should be avoided because of the extreme angulation that they place the ankles in- not to mention the positioning of the pelvis while walking.  ***Stay tuned for a future blog that discusses the problems with high heels and their health impact***
    • Choose pants that allow for full hip range of motion. Tight pants, especially jeans can cause nerve and blood vessel impingement with prolonged sitting.
    • Consider compression socks for longer flights. These socks help improve circulation and can help with leg aching with prolonged inactivity.
  3. Remember Posture
    • We mentioned posture when choosing your hairstyle on a travel day… But it goes so much further. Good posture will help prevent low back pain and upper back pain from traveling.
    • Sit fully back in your seat and make sure that you are sitting on your “sit bones” not your tailbone.
    • Place both feet flat on the floor.
    • Adjust your headrest for optimum support.
    • Focus on alignment.
      • Think of your rib cage and your pelvis like 2 bowls.
      • Start by making sure that the bowl of  your pelvis is balanced and upright.
      • Now, line up your rib cage over it.
      • Make sure that your low back is not rounded or crunched forward.
  4. Hydrate
    • The dry environment in an airplane can dry out your mucous membranes- hydrating can keep them healthy and protect you from getting a cold while on an airplane.
      • When your nose dries out, it doesn’t protect you as well from viruses and bacteria.
  5. Sun Salutations!Forward Fold
    • Following your flight, it is time to move. I love how gentle yoga is to help me work the kinks out of my body after a day of travel. Sun salutations will help you to lengthen your spine and loosen tight muscles.

I hope that some of these tools will help you to feel better and be better prepared when you next travel. Please remember that this blog is intended for educational purposes. It is good to speak to your Chiropractor or Primary Care Physician to ensure that these tips are right for you.

MRI Study Demonstrates Lumbar Disc Herniation Heals!

backpain-1944329_1920.pngMany times in practice, a patient presents with symptoms of lumbar (low back) disc injury. They have pain into the leg, often have difficulty standing upright, and have accompanying low back pain.

This generally occurs when a disc bulge or herniation places pressure on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord. As shown in the image below, where the purple shape is pressing on the green nerve.

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Chiropractic care is a great conservative way to manage the pain and, often, it will centralize and resolve in a matter of weeks. A home exercise program is then prescribed to help prevent re-occurrence and strengthen key muscles. When symptoms do not improve with a trial of care, a referral is made to an Orthopedist for further evaluation and MRI. Sometimes surgery is warranted.

Previous studies suggested that, while it was possible to remove symptoms, disc injuries do not fully resolve- think of them like a sleeping dragon. This article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a case study that describes resolution of the patient’s disc injury, documented on MRI. This is incredibly promising and supports conservative management of  lumbar disc injuries with chiropractic care and physical therapy before a surgical option is considered.

***This blog post is intended solely for informational purposes. It is always essential to consult with your own health care provider when making decisions about low back pain or leg pain. ***