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Sometimes I’m too hard on myself

The thought arose again as I was taking James Waslaski’s five-day Orthomassage Intensive in Portsmouth, N.H.

I wrote about Waslaski’s work in my November/December 2004 newsletter, how it had taken my massage sessions in a galvanic new direction with pinpoint attention to hamstrings and calf and quad and glute and shoulder muscles. The five-day intensive will do the same as I relearned some techniques, was introduced to others, learned a gastrocnemius stretch (see below) that helped relieve some pain in my legs, and came home with a comprehensive manual that I can refer to.

Yet, as I experienced with my introduction to CranioSacral Therapy, the amount of information and number of techniques seem overwhelming even as I recognize the value of the work and want to master it and share it with my clients.

So, now that the intensity of the intensive has abated, I step back, take a deep breath and remind myself: I am allowed to learn at my own pace. I can read the manual and absorb the information at my leisure. I can adapt from this pain-management therapy whatever I feel would fit into what is still for me a relaxation-oriented massage. And, should I feel drawn to pain management, I can always take the course again, and again.

Until then, such incorporation of varied techniques sets my sessions apart from others. This was brought home by a comment from a new client that my massage was different from previous massages by others. She zeroed in on the foot reflexology with which I had begun her massage, followed by some of the hip joint capsule work (see below) and other Waslaski Orthomassage techniques. That her 90-minute session also included 45 minutes of CranioSacral Therapy to help her relax a painful back underlined further the uniqueness of The Heartful Touch for both its clients and a therapist who’s sometimes a bit too hard on himself.

Massage technique of the month

Hip Joint Capsule Work

(from “Advanced Orthopedic Massage Manual” by James Waslaski, LMT,

An imbalance of the muscles around the hip joint can set up a neuromuscular response attempting to restore balance. This also creates tension in the joint, which eventually leads to joint degeneration and arthritis, as the cartilage wears down. The resultant discomfort also limits range of motion causing a formation of adhesions in the joint capsule itself. The articulating fascia acts as “superglue” and limits range of motion in the hip.

These deep fascial adhesions, however, can be melted much as you would melt Jello. Heat, pressure and gentle stretch facilitates myofascial warming and myofascial release. The head of the femur can be used as a massage tool to melt the fascia or “superglue” in the hip joint capsule using very gentle, pain-free movements.

The client is lying face up on the table with one hip flexed 90 degrees, his knee bent. The therapist places both hands around the client’s thigh. The client’s lower leg can rest on the therapist’s forearm, which becomes a lever to facility the stretch.

The therapist gently moves and rocks the client’s leg to make sure the client is fully relaxed. The therapist pushes down on the thigh gently so that the femur goes into the hip socket. The therapist rotates the thigh into the hip socket, rotates it into lateral (external) rotation and then pulls it out — contact, rotate, decompress. This is a plunging type of technique, cartilage on cartilage, to warm and melt the joint capsule adhesions. This mimics a “mortar and pestle” effect. This is done several times, and then the therapist does the movement medially (internally).

Stretch of the month

Gastrocnemius (calf muscle)

(from “Advanced Orthopedic Massage Manual” by James Waslaski, LMT,

The client is seated on the floor. One leg is straight with a stretch rope or long towel around the ball of that foot. The ankle of the outstretched leg is brought to dorsiflexion (toes and foot leaning toward the body) to lengthen the gastrocnemius. Then, the client plantarflexes the ankle (toes and foot lean away from the body) against the resistance of the stretch rope at about 20 percent of his strength for 10 seconds (the client counts “One one-thousand, two one-thousand,” etc.). The client relaxes, inhales and then on the exhale he actively dorsiflexes the ankle (toes and foot back toward the body) while gently assisting (pulling back on the stretch rope or towel) for 2 seconds. At this new position, the client repeats the stretch again. The client repeats the process several times to lengthen the gastrocnemius and then repeats the stretch on the other leg.

Food tips of the month

Gaining weight and consuming smaller, more frequent meals

I’m gaining weight in a deliberate, conscious way for the first time in my life — not a process, granted, that most people want to emulate.

I’ve always been slim — skinny, if you will. My mother remember me being a terror to try to feed when I was an infant, and one of my earliest memories is running away from my high chair and food I didn’t want to eat.

As I discovered in my 20s and 30s that I was sensitive to certain foods — refined sugar shut down my adrenal glands, yeast gave me headaches, dairy filled me with mucus, gluten made me tired, animal protein became more and more difficult to digest — it seems my reactions to food were understandable, even at that precognitive age. So is my becoming a vegan and undertaking the Hallelujah Acres ( diet, with its emphasis on raw foods and juicing.

Yet my initial immersion in the Hallelujah Acres diet brought me down to less than 125 pounds, made my face drawn and gaunt. It is wonderfully effective to help overweight people lose weight, but I had no spare weight to lose.

So I added more grains and sweet potatoes back to my diet, and I gained back five pounds. When I started working with a personal trainer in May 2005, however, my energy level was still flagging. He was touting the efficacy of protein powders. But I demurred, put off by the dairy and refined and artificial sweeteners in such products.

Fortunately, that’s when I discovered Thor’s Raw Power! Protein Superfood Blend. Made of Brazil nuts, hemp powder and maca, it’s raw and certified organic. I consume it twice a day. One is in a veggie smoothie in which I mix in my food processer two scoops of the powder plus half a green pepper, half a sweet red pepper, a slice of orange or lemon, a pinch of Celtic sea salt and cumin, a carrot and a handful each of cherry tomatoes, parsley and scallions. I also consume a fruit smoothie made in my food processor and made up of two scoops of the powder plus two bananas and a bag of frozen fruit — blueberries, cherries, strawberries or peaches.

The powder is pricy — almost $30 per container, which I generally go through in a week. But for the nutrition it brings me and the energy it supplies when I work out, it’s worth it.

So my meals, prepared first thing in the morning, are as follows:

4:30 a.m. Get up and have a tablespoon of Udo’s Oil and then a cup of water with a teaspoon of BarleyMax (a living food rich in vitamins and available at Hallelujah Acres at

5:30 a.m. A cup of freshly made carrot juice and a teaspoon of Barley Max

7:30-8:15 a.m. Breakfast of a large salad (lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper, broccoli, zucchini and avocado); grain (either rice or a millet/quinoa mix) cooked with onion, broccoli, turnip and kale; baked sliced sweet potato; a piece of cake (millet flour sweetened with banana and another fruit); and a Vitamin B6/B12 supplement, the only supplements I take anymore thanks to the nutrients from my food and the carrot juice and BarleyMax

11:30 a.m. Vegetable smoothie

1:30 p.m. Fruit smoothie

3:30 p.m. Carrot juice made earlier in the day

5 p.m. Dinner, a repeat of breakfast

I drink up to eight cups of water in between meals.

If I work out in the evening or do massages, I’ll also often have a Living Food Survival Bar, available at I’ve dubbed them “power bars” for the naturally sweet good nutrition they bring me. Among their ingredients are almond paste, Carrot Juice Max, Beet Max and agave nectar. Agave nectar is a sweetener naturally extracted from the Americana Agave, a cactuslike plant native to Mexico. The nectar is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream than other sweeteners, making it OK for diabetics and hypoglycemics. I order the Living Food Survival Bars by the case — $144 for six boxes, 72 bars total. Again, pricy, but worth it for the nutritional and hunger-assuaging support the bars provide.

From a low of 125 pounds a few years ago, I’m inching up toward 140 lbs., pounds that my work with the personal trainer is sculpting into muscle. Plus, my face looks rounder and fuller than it has in a while.

For those who need the energy but not the extra weight, I suggest the smoothies without the protein powder. Eating smaller, healthier meals, combined with an exercise program, can lead to a gradual weight loss and an increase of energy — the optimal way to regain and maintain good health.

Hike/trip of the month

Pine Creek Gorge and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

As daylight hours increase to hint of spring, I daydream of trails I’d like to hike when the warmth of May and June beckon. One place I’d had my mind’s eye on is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Distance — about 230 miles west of where I live — has kept me away, but it’s lovely to imagine this celebrated gorge northwest of Williamsport, Pa., and the verdant serenity therein. So daydream with me, courtesy of

Situated in approximately 160,000 acres of the Tioga State Forest lies the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The Canyon begins south of Ansonia along US Route 6 and continues for approximately 47 miles. The maximum depth of the canyon is 1,450 feet at Waterville, near the southern end. At Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, the depth is more than 800 feet and from rim to rim is approximately 4,000 feet. These overlooks offer the most spectacular views.

The exposed rock formations are more than 350 million years old, but the important geologic processes that formed the gorge occurred less than 20,000 years ago during the Pleistocene time. Before glacial activity took place, the headwaters of Pine Creek, near Ansonia, flowed in a northeasterly direction. Glaciers then covered the area with ice.

Wagon rides in the Grand Canyon

As the glacier began to melt it left a dam of gravel, sand and clay that blocked the flow of Pine Creek. This natural dam forced Pine Creek to reverse its flow to the south, forming what is now the canyon. This area received national acclaim in 1968 when a 12-mile section of Pine Creek Gorge was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Leonard Harrison State Park features the Turkey Path Trail, which descends one mile to the Canyon floor, or the Overlook trail, a .6-mile loop, which offers a scenic vista. The campground, open from April through October, features rustic sites, some with electricity and sanitary dump stations. Be sure to check for various programs offered through the environmental center. Picnic areas, playground, visitor center and gift shop are also available for your enjoyment.

Colton Point State Park also features four miles of hiking trails including the Turkey Path Trail. Many more miles of trails are accessible through the Tioga State Forest, adjacent to the park. Camping is open from April through October with rustic tenting and organized group tenting available. Of course, picnicking is a great pastime here. Registered snowmobiles may use the 20-mile trail network on state forest daily after the close of deer season. Be sure to check for other attractions in and around the Canyon such as biking, rafting, canoeing, horseback, wagon rides and fishing, plus so many other possibilities!

Recreational activities

For camping reservations call 888-PA-PARKS

Leonard Harrison State Park — camping, playground, picnicking, hiking, overlooks, environmental education, visitor center.

Colton Point State Park — camping, organized group tenting, snowmobiling, playground, picnicking, hiking, overlooks, fishing, hunting.


To reach Leonard Harrison State Park, the east rim of the canyon, follow Route 660 west of Wellsboro for approximately 12 miles. The road will end at Leonard Harrison State Park. To view the canyon from Colton Point State Park, the west rim of the canyon, follow Route 6 West of Wellsboro. The entrance to the park is along Route 6 in Ansonia approximately 12 miles from the town of Wellsboro.

Contact information

Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks
4797 Route 660
Wellsboro, PA 16901-8970
For camping reservations: 888-PA-PARKS

Until next time … keep in Heartful Touch.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy