Out of Breath Wearing Your Mask? Breathwork Can Help!

Masks- The New Fashion Accessory

Cloth Masks to help reduce droplet transmission

Mask wearing has become more common and even required in some areas. I don’t know about you, but I have them in many colors, styles, and probably most importantly kinds of ties. Some of you are sewists who have made masks by the dozens for friends, family, donation, or sale. 

We are being encouraged to wear them to slow the spread of Covid19 and help to keep each other safe. Like most things, masks come with some trade-offs that it is important to know about.

Mask wearing can be linked to increased anxiety as well as a buildup of CO2 in our bodies.


Dr. Samelak wearing a mask in her office Seed of Life Chiropractic and Wellness

Wearing a mask changes breathing dynamics. Breathing through a mask- especially a thicker cloth mask or N95 mask can feel difficult. The additional effort to breathe can trigger anxiety in those prone to panic attacks. Being able to slow and take more efficient breaths can be helpful in managing this trigger. For decades, healthcare workers have managed to adapt to breathing through different kinds of masks- we can too! Skip to the breathing section of this blog if you would like some tips on breath work. 

Hypercapnia- Too Much CO2

What most of you have probably noticed is that you are fatigued after wearing a mask for more than a few minutes. You might find yourself gasping for air when you take it off. Or yawning while you wear it. Your cheeks may be rosy or flushed. Sometimes you might have a headache and aren’t sure if it is from the ties behind your neck or ears. 

In more extreme cases you may notice that your pulse is bounding, a sense of confusion, premature heartbeats, muscle twitches, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and increased blood pressure. All of these symptoms are known as hypercapnia. Wearing a mask means that we are re-breathing our own exhalation- increasing the amount of Carbon Dioxide that we are breathing.

During normal respiration, you breathe in oxygen rich air and expel carbon dioxide on your exhale. The lungs have an exchange system with your blood to keep this pattern going. When we wear a mask, the amount of CO2 that we breathe in is higher- known as hypoventilation. This leads to a condition called respiratory acidosis. 

The human  body is a brilliant machine and works diligently to correct the acidosis by calling on the kidneys to hang onto or retain alkali. This is a buffering system to aid the body in times of stress. It is not a long term solution. 

It is vital for us to support our oxygenation through breathwork at this time to help our bodies stay in balance. I have added daily breathing practice to my routine to help counteract many hours of mask-wearing in my office.

Breathing Balances our Oxygenation

Breathwork helps to improve our capacity to oxygenate. It helps us to tap into our rest and digest (parasympathetic) nervous system. AKA breathing helps with stress management!!! Breathing helps to keep our cells nourished and our ribs moving. It benefits so many vital parts of our bodies. 

Simple Steps to Start Breathing

Always begin by making sure that you are in a safe space for breath work and relaxation where you can take your mask off. I like to incorporate a quick breathing practice right in my car after leaving work or the grocery store.

There are many breathing teachers and techniques- even professionals like Naturopaths who provide biofeedback to help you find your best breathing potential. However, there are simple things you can try at home to start improving your breathing. 

Positions for Breathing

Seated on the floor you may choose to put a cushion under your bottom to raise yourself up a few inches. This could be a folded blanket, a meditation cushion, or a yoga bolster. Sit criss-cross applesauce and, again, stack your rib cage over your pelvis and tuck in your chin. Place your hands palms up on your knees.

Seated in a chair with your sit bones in contact with the chair surface. Stack your rib cage over your pelvis and tuck in your chin. Ground your heels into the floor. Place your hands, palms up, in your lap.

Supine (on your spine) is my favorite. I like to find a 90/90 position where my heels are resting on the couch or a chair, knees and hips bent at 90 degrees. Hands may be at your sides, palms up or you can rest your hands, palms down, on your rib cage to tune in to your breathing patterns. You should feel your spine relax in this position.

Breathing Patterns

There are many strategies for breathing and even apps that help you to breathe rhythmically- which helps to stimulate rest and relaxation. Some of my favorites include box breathing and prolonged exhalation.

Box breathing is breathing on a 4 or 5 count. Inhale for 4, hold your breath for 4, exhale for 4, and hold for 4. Repeat this for a minimum of 4 cycles. 

Prolonged exhalation breathing works on training the exhalation- a great way to calm your nervous system. It is best to use a timer for this type of breathing and work to expand your range. A general rule of thumb is to plan your exhalation to be twice as long as your inhale. I started with breathing in for 5 seconds and out for 10- for a minimum of 5 minutes. 

Types of Breathing

Improving your style of breathing is valuable as well. Check out the breathing types below and see where you fall. 

Many people are chest breathers. This means that they breathe by using their neck and chest muscles and you can see their chest rise and fall with each breath. Chest breathing turns on the fight or flight response. This type of breathing is more like panting and is not efficient.

Belly breathers use their diaphragm, this is most common in trained singers. This type of breathing is more functional and helps to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. Here, you will see the belly rise with each inhalation and drop with the exhale. 

Functional breathing engages not just the diaphragm, but the entire rib cage. In ideal breathing patterns, the ribs will expand in 360 degrees, raising like the handle on a bucket. The diaphragm is engaged, and even the pelvis opens on the inhale. This type of breathing is most easily seen in children. It can be trained using breathing drills and exercises. 

Some of my favorite exercises for breathing include:


Dead Bug

Supine 90/90

Straw Breathing

Tips for Mask Wearing:

  • Make sure that your mask is clean or has a new filter paper in it.
  • Wear your mask only when you must- this means you need not wear it in your car when driving.
  • Don’t hesitate to take a “breathing break” when you have to wear a mask for an extended period of time. Find a safe space or step outside then take at least 5 deep breaths.
  • Be sure that you are not touching your face or mask to avoid spreading any germs.
  • Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning your mask appropriately between uses.

As always, this blog is intended for educational purposes only. Please consult with your Chiropractor, PT, or Primary Care Physician to determine what steps may be right for you. 

Dr. Samelak is a Family Wellness Chiropractor in Seattle, WA. She loves serving families and helping them to reach their greatest potential. If you are looking for a Chiropractor near you, please reach out to us for help!

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Tight shoulders? Blame it on the sugar?

Dr. Samelak is excited to have Amber Horn, NTP, LMT as a guest blogger today! Amber tackles tough topics with her clients like how blood sugar can impact your posture. I feel like I want to shout that out- Did you even know that your tight shoulders and hunched posture could be, in part, blood sugar related?

Amber and I recently geeked out about this topic and thus, a blog was born!

Can my tight shoulders be tight because of my blood sugar?

shallow focus photography of woman in black shirt
Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu on Pexels.com

Yes, it’s true! Let’s talk logistics.

Excess sugar consumption puts a strain on your whole body, but most notably your pancreas. One of the many functions of the pancreas is to release insulin when blood sugar rises. Blood sugar rises from stress, eating sugar, processed carbohydrates, and even fruit. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to unlock the cell “door” to allow glucose (sugar) into the cell and out of the bloodstream. Eating many meals and a diet high in sugar and processed carbs creates the need for constant insulin production. The pancreas then gets tired AND the cells stop listening when insulin attempts to usher sugar into the cell (insulin resistance). This happens over time and will be represented by low energy (especially after meals), difficulty losing weight, high fasting glucose and/or HA1C, among other symptoms. Since our bodies are essentially a fancy electrical system, this imbalance starts diminishing connections throughout the body.

One of these connections is muscle to organ and organ to muscle. These occur in common pairs throughout the body. Due to this connection, when an organ is in stress, it weakens the corresponding muscle. This allows the opposing muscle to become chronically tight, which creates adverse muscle and structure patterns. (Think poor posture or feeling tight no matter how much you stretch) The latissimus dorsi muscle corresponds to the pancreas and when the pancreas is stressed it weakens the lats, allowing the trapezius (brings shoulders to ears) to tighten without opposition. You’ll go broke spending money on bodywork if don’t address the root cause, which is a pooped out pancreas from excessive sugar intake. Who knew?!

Below are some action items to help balance blood sugar so your bodywork is worthwhile AND sustainable.

Action Items:


  • Keep sugar intake to 25g a day maximum.


Recent World Health Organization recommendations are for 25 grams or less of added sugar per day. Just for reference, a can of Pepsi has 33 grams of sugar and a lot of popular granola bars have 7-10 grams of sugar! If you’re not paying attention, you can meet your maximum by lunch. This leads into our next item.


  • Check your labels


food healthy vegetables potatoes
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

Food manufacturers like to hide added sugar in anything and everything. Educate yourself on all the names that sugar is listed under on a label. It’s in everything from ketchup and almond milk to granola bars and spaghetti sauce. A great question to ask yourself while shopping is “Does this food have ingredients or is it ingredients?” Fill your cart with ingredients for the most part and you will be on your way to keeping your blood sugar balanced. This often involves shopping the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the aisles.


  • Always pair carbohydrates with protein and fat.


Even if it’s not added sugar, carbohydrates can still spike blood sugar. Start thinking of snacks as mini meals and set yourself up with a carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This will help prevent sugar highs and dips and creates a food template and blood sugar that is in balance.


By helping to keep your blood sugar regulated, you can support your organ systems and your overall health. Please remember that this blog is not intended to be medical advice. It is important to consult with your medical doctor, chiropractor, nutritionist/dietician, etc prior to making major dietary changes to be sure that your body can handle the changes.

About the Author:
fullsizeoutput_18Amber is a professional trifecta, seeing clients as a functional nutritionist, massage therapist, and personal trainer. Her passion is figuring out the cause of imbalances that her clients come in with. After decreasing her own depression and regulating hypoglycemia through food choices and targeted supplements, her focus is helping others find optimal mood balance and decrease symptoms related to diabetes and other blood sugar imbalances. Amber lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with her husband, Steve and adorable pittie, Lucy. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and reading, and is a die-hard Gryffindor.

The Safety Aspect of Newborn Photography

Newborn photography is an adorable and growing field. Dr. Samelak is excited to host Uzma Hamid, certified infant photographer, as a guest blogger. In her post, Uzma shares a couple of the technical and (more important) safety considerations that must be taken into account when photographing newborns and infants. We hope that you gain some valuable knowledge in this blog and that you share it with your friends and families!

Please read on to learn more about Safety and Newborn Photography!

It is an honor to be chosen (read: trusted) to photograph a little new human who, almost always, is the center of many people’s universes. One very major aspect of that “trust” is ensuring the safety of the baby during the session. Like I frequently say, photos are treasures, but no photo is worth risking the safety of a human, let alone, the littlest one.

Unfortunately, newborn photographers are not required to complete any form of training or education before they are deemed qualified to photograph babies. This is especially relevant in case of styled newborn sessions, where babies are posed in those cute, squishy little poses.
This is not to say that such education, training and certifications are not available. Many photographers -who care enough – do enroll in, complete and maintain these certifications. This should be the norm; but unfortunately, such photographers are still a bleak minority.
For instance, the photo in this post is a composite (read: digitally created) image of three separate photographs: first, of just the hot-air balloon prop, without placing the baby in it; the second and the third, of just the baby in the basket with the ball (serving as the balloon) removed and the baby’s head carefully supported.

Hotairballoon (1).jpg
A newborn baby cannot support his/her own head. Hence, poses such as “the froggy” or “the potato- sack” require specific skills, know-how and expertise. A different kind of skill and caution is required when props are used. If older siblings are participating in the session (and why shouldn’t they?), there is an extra layer of care that is desired.

Needless to say, other basic precautions are always required to make the space safe, which includes not only ensuring safe handling of the baby, and safe handling of
photography equipment around the baby, but also other environmental factors, such as, temperature, humidity, air quality, and hygiene.
There is a lot that goes into photographing a newborn, other than the act of photography itself.

Being mindful of a newborn’s physiology, reflexes, sensitivities (such as the umbilical cord if it is still attached, and the belly-button site if it has fallen off; the site of circumcision if one is performed; etc.), and watching out for signs of distress are just a few to name. Take a baby’s immature circulatory system for instance.
Cyanosis is defined as a bluish discoloration, especially of the skin and mucous membranes, due to excessive concentration of deoxyhemoglobin in the blood caused by deoxygenation. Acrocyanosis refers to blueness in the hands and feet. It is marked by a mottled blue or red discoloration of the skin on the fingers and wrists and the toes and ankles. Central cyanosis is referred to as bluish discoloration around the core, lips and tongue and can be quite a bit more dangerous. Certain poses, if not performed
correctly, can cause a risk of cyanosis. For example, chest compression due to tight wrapping, leaving a baby unsupported in a position for too long, closing off the airway as can sometimes result from leaning the chin, or the area under the jaw on the edge of a prop or by positioning babies upright without supporting the weight of the head, thus leaving the head to rest on and compress into the wrists/hands.

This piece is not meant to scare anyone; rather to educate and inform. It is coming from a place of love.

Parents, please choose a photographer for your precious little one not only on the basis of the pretty photographs that you see in their portfolios; but after interviewing them and asking them how they intend to create any specific shots you (or they) may want. Also, do your own research. Professional organizations like the American Association of Newborn Photography Safety (AANPS) and Accredited Professional Newborn Photographers International (APNPI) not only train and certify newborn photographers, but also host public lists of certified photographers by location. Check their online directories to find trained and certified photographers near you.
And always trust your parental instinct.

If there are any questions that I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Uzma M. Hamid wears two professional hats: one, that of a maternity, newborn and family photographer; and two, a residential real-estate broker. She lives in Kirkland, WA, with her loving husband and adorable son, and serves families in the Puget Sound Area with their photography and real estate needs. As you might have guessed, she is an AANPS- and APNPI-certified newborn photographer, and can be reached at:


uzma.hamid@BubbleSnapPhotography.com or UzmaHamid@johnlscott.com

Book Review: Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief

In case you hadn’t noticed from my previous blogs about foot care and going barefoot… I am kind of obsessed with healthy feet. As a Chiropractor, I see the spinal changes and postural changes that occur in my patients from poor footwear choices or injured feet on a daily basis.


Katy Bowman’s book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, belongs on every household’s bookshelf! In her book, Bowman breaks down the details of how your feet move, how they are built, and the basics of both self foot maintenance and rehabilitation. The reality is that most women will experience severe foot pain at some point in their lives. With simple daily activities and stretches… and maybe some better footwear choices… these can be overcome, but most importantly prevented.

Here are some of my favorite take-home points from this book:

  1. Wearing shoes all the time is like living your life with mittens on.x-ray-223836_1920
  2. Your feet are unlike anyone else’s.
  3. Your toes should be able to move independently (This sounds crazy, I KNOW! But I am currently working on this feat).
  4. A shoe whose sole is taller at the back than the front is a heel… even if it’s a running shoe.
  5. Shoes should be foot-shaped.
  6. Ditch the Flip-Flop.
  7. Barefoot time is essential!!
  8. You have the power to change your own feet- and your HEALTH.

I also really appreciated the practical exercises in the back of the book and am implementing them into my own nightly routine. I highly recommend reading this book and starting to assess and correct your footwear and your feet. I am also excited to start reading more of Katy Bowman’s books 🙂

I’ll leave you with this quote from her book:

feet-619399_1920“Human tissue is phenomenal stuff. When you make small changes in your movement patterns, you nudge yourself down a new physiological path. The body works to tear down old or underused tissue every day, and builds up tissues that are in greatest demand. The body continuously adapts to whatever you are doing now. Changing your habits will change your life!”- Katy Bowman


Why Pregnancy Massage?

Please welcome Lize Williams as a guest blogger for Seed of Life! Lize is a massage therapist specializing in pre and postnatal massage- in the home. She is passionate about helping parents navigate the perinatal period through massage. We are excited to have her blogging with us!

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Pretty much anyone who has been pregnant has had someone tell them “Ooh, you should get a pregnancy massage!” And sure, massage sounds great, but what does that have to do with pregnancy?

As it turns out, quite a lot. There are a number of reasons to get massage while you are pregnant, some of which are the same as the reasons for getting a massage in general, and some of which are specific to pregnancy. Here are some benefits specific to pregnancy massage:

  1. Massage reduces strain on muscles. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of pregnancy massage is that it makes your sore muscles feel better. Pregnancy increases muscle soreness in several ways: you are carrying more weight, your joints aren’t carrying their full load due to loosened ligaments so the muscles have to pick up the slack, and your posture changes as your center of gravity shifts. All of this leads to increased strain on your muscles, which get fatigued faster, and can be more prone to injury.
  2. Massage can lower anxiety and stress hormones, resulting in a decrease in premature delivery and birth complications. This may seem like a wild claim, but Dr. Tiffany Field did a study at the Touch Research Institute on the effects of massage on pregnant women, and women who received regular massage during their pregnancy had improved deliveries!
  3. Massage can improve emotional well-being. Along with the reduction of stress hormones, massage can decrease depression and anxiety, and increase production of feel-good hormone serotonin. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it is also a time of change, and change is stressful. Even in the best of circumstances pregnancy can bring some challenging emotions, and massage can help balance those through hormonal effects and calming the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.massage-486700_1920
  4. Massage can improve blood and lymph flow. Improving lymphatic flow can decrease swelling, which is a common pregnancy complaint especially in the feet, ankles, and legs. Improvements in blood circulation can benefit blood pressure and relieve headaches.
  5. Massage improves posture. By relieving tension in various muscles, it can be easier to realign into good posture. Massage therapists can also help your posture by teaching you what good posture looks and feels like for your changing body. Proper alignment can help reduce frequent pregnancy-related complaints, such as low back pain, shoulder pain, sciatica and headaches.
  6. Massage can improve sleep. By decreasing stress and physical discomfort, massage can help mothers-to-be sleep better. Massage therapists can also give advice on how to properly position pillows to be adequately supportive and relieve stress on your body when you lie down.
  7. Massage can help mothers prepare for labor. By learning how to relax, and practicing relaxing as a response to touch, pregnant women can have easier labor thanks to their experiences with massage during pregnancy. Associating touch and relaxation ahead of time can help a birth partner’s touch be more effective during labor.
  8. baby-499976_1920Massage during pregnancy may increase how much loving touch mothers provide their infants. Touch is hugely important for human development. Even with all our other physical needs met, without touch, babies fail to thrive. Women who receive compassionate touch (such as through massage) during their pregnancy and labor go on to touch their infants more, in a more nurturing way. This creates more security and attachment for the baby, versus babies who are touched less and can be more aggressive and withdrawn.
  9. Massage can support lactation. Positive touch stimulates production of the hormone prolactin, which has multiple effects on the body, including increasing milk supply and nesting and nurturing instincts.
  10. Massage can help you enjoy your changing body. In a culture obsessed with women’s bodies, the weight gain and changes in shape associated with pregnancy can be hard on our self-esteem. We may avoid being touched or looked at by even our intimate partners. In addition to reducing pregnancy pains, massage can also help you reconnect to your body in a positive, non-threatening way, experiencing touch without the worry of attractiveness. Your body is doing a wonderful thing, but more than that, it IS a wonderful thing, and sometimes we just need a little extra reminder of that through an enjoyable physical experience.

[1] Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy by Leslie Stager


Finished 1.JPGLize Williams is a Licensed Massage Therapist whose work focuses on the strains of bearing and raising children. After having her own daughter she realized just how hard engaging in self-care can be for new mothers, so she founded Motherhood Massage, a house-call based massage practice designed to reduce the barriers to self-care for mothers, mothers-to-be, and other caregivers. She recognizes that amongst all the joy, motherhood can also be challenging and isolating, and works to help her clients feel more connected to themselves, their families, and their world through the healing power of touch. Her work combines treatment and relaxation, to help soothe and strengthen her clients’ bodies and minds. The perinatal period is rife with changes and challenges, and Lize views her work as a wholistic support for her clients, helping them with face whatever the journey into parenthood is throwing their way. She is a certified MotherTouch Bodywork Professional and has studied under Leslie Stager.

Facebook cover photo

www.motherhoodmassageseattle.com https://www.facebook.com/motherhoodmassageseattle/

Top Apps for Healthy Living

Staying healthy can be tough! It is hard to stay on top of the latest in healthy eating, shopping, and fitness. Luckily, there’s an app for that!

Dr. Samelak has put together a list of her Top Apps for Healthy Living.


Fooducate is a free app that makes shopping a breeze! Simply scan the barcode on your food to learn more about it. The experts at Fooducate have created a database that grades your food based upon its ingredients. It even provides suggestions for healthier alternatives! Did you scan something not in their database? Simply submit it for evaluation by the Fooducate team and they will research the ingredients and add it to their list!

Environmental Working Groupbrushing-teeth-787630_1920.jpg

The Environmental Working Group, EWG, is a US based environmental group that, “specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agriculture subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability”. [Wikipedia] EWG has released a Healthy Living App that works like Fooducate for your personal care products. This helps take the guesswork out of buying shampoo or toothpaste. Suddenly, you don’t have to be a chemist to shop smarter and healthier. EWG touts that you can, “scan a product, review its rating, and pick the better choice” in your purchases.


We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation in a myriad of areas in our lives… but where to start? Many times, we set out to meditate only to end up writing our grocery list in our heads or worrying about whether you were the one in charge of carpool pickup from soccer tonight. Enter: Headspace. The Headspace app specializes in providing guided meditations that are themed for different needs and work to help busy people take a break and create some headspace.


There are a lot of fitness apps and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. My personal favorite is Runkeeper. I use this app to help myself stay accountable to my fitness, track workouts of various kinds, and ensure that I don’t put too many miles on my running shoes. The app even includes a goal setting area and even training workouts. If you need the push, you can even allow notifications from the app to your phone’s lock screen to encourage you to get out and move.

Do you have an app that you can’t live without? Let us know about it in the comments!

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.

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.


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.


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.



Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and rinsed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Finely Ground Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt


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.


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


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


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


Fresh Cranberries

Apple Cider

Sugar or Agave Nectar to taste


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!!!