Is your work out one sided?

skeleton and gym

Every week I see clients with one sided, tension related problems.  Sore right shoulders leading to sore right necks and poor range of motion.  Pain in the right sacroiliac joint, lumbar spine region leading to favoring movement to avoid discomfort, and sciatic nerve symptoms of pain down the leg or diffuse hip and buttock region pain.  These people are fit and active, some runners, cyclists, yoga aficionados.

I took an advanced training Feldenkrais workshop in Montreal a while back with my mentor and friend Feldenkrais trainer Yvan Joly.  We were studying the 4 pillars of laterality.  Hmmm that doesn’t even come up as a word…laterality what does it mean?

The term laterality refers to the preference most humans show for one side of their body over the other. Well, we all know about right handedness or left handedness and how our speech is a function of the left side of the brain if we are right handed and if we are a true lefty it is located in the right hemisphere of the brain.  But what about how we see (our visual field), how our head motion is influenced by our vision and  how we organize our pelvis on the right or left?  What can we do differently when our therapist says you are oriented more to one side than the other?  How can we reduce the effort we put on one side of the body and distribute that effort more evenly among all parts of the body?  That is truly where the Feldenkrais Method comes in.  Join me for my next workshop focusing on asymmetries and areas of lost or dysfunctional movement patterns in a part of the body that is often neglected in the big picture of aiding both the sacroiliac joints and the shoulders and neck.  Be the first to know when classes start up in the fall by emailing or give us a call on 250 886 2090

In the mean time while you are doing your regular exercise routines here are some words of wisdom written for Experience Life online magazine by Nicole Radiszewski called Taking Sides: The ONE SIDED STRENGTH WORKOUT  

Roxanne Derkson is a Registered Massage Therapist and a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner.  You can book with her online for private Feldenkrais sessions. Book in with Richard Cross Registered Kinesiologist and experience his functional assessment and guidance to a more strong and symmetrical body.




shoulder work

pain relief for shoulder

Shoulder pain and posture are related almost always. One of the most common upper body musculoskeletal complaints we see in our health clinic is hands down: ​one sided shoulder problems. 

Clients with shoulder and neck tension are very common at ViVi Therapy. People regularly seek massage therapy and acupuncture, kinesiology education for one sided shoulder dysfunction.  This post will highlight some detail and solutions to help you understand and learn more about your shoulder and what you can do to make some significant changes right from home.

Let’s get started. But before we dive in I want to thank Marissa Hoen a Kineseology student at University of Victoria and Movement aficionado for her amazing pics and illustrations below.

As well I direct you to our ViVi Therapy Integrated Health Facebook page to view  strengthening tutorial from Harland Derkson RMT described below.  He can be booked online and I thank him for creating these educational videos that are easy to follow and invaluable for your progress.

An excellent collaboration brought to you by members of our ViVi Team.

The common problem of shoulder dysfunction often relates to how we use our shoulders every day. YOUR SHOULDER GIRDLE is attached to the trunk of your body at one single joint, the sternoclavicular joint.

where the shoulder attaches to the trunk

know your anatomy and move better for it.

This joint is located where the collar bone (clavicle) meets the breast bone (sternum) on either side (right and left).  The shoulder girdle and its relationship to your rib cage is a feat of engineering specifically for optimal movement of your arms, hands and head.

The upper body is designed for freedom of movement to facilitate dexterity, agility and fine motor coordination, think calligraphy to golf and tennis, all require eye hand coordination and your mental attention.

Unlike the pelvic girdle (lower body) with its large and powerful musculature supported by the dense pelvic bone structure the shoulder girdle relies more heavily on good posture and balanced muscle action to stay functional and pain free.

We  find the dilemma of shoulder related problems appearing more than ever because our culture has become reliant on seated or upper body focused work and activities for hours at a time.

Let’s consider your shoulder issue. Do you ever wonder if your shoulder problem led to other issues on the same side of your body? For example neck tension or even arm, elbow and hand aches and pains.

Did the shoulder problem start but never fully resolve and now there are other issues?  Do you have postural challenges at work from too many hours in front of a computer or screen?  Do you really know how to get to a good posture that doesn’t require a special “ergonomic set up”.

Maybe your problem was a slow adaptation to poor functional movements from being overly stressed or  tense, leaning to one side while standing or sitting and habitually elevating your shoulder for no reason at all?

Maybe you were injured at home or at work?  Do you do a lot of lifting, pulling or pushing in a hurry? Trying to maintain productivity, but moving too fast to be able to think about how you are using your body.  If you pull, push or repetitively work with your hands and arms, there is no question that you need optimal shoulder blade (scapulae) and shoulder girdle mechanics.

I have observed that almost every assessment I have done relating to the shoulder have a common theme. Upper body issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, rotator cuff issues, frozen shoulder, tendinitis of the elbow (golfer/tennis)and pain or numbness from nerve compression all share this theme.

The shoulder in question I find consistently has lost some natural movement usually in the downward direction and has a tendency to over elevate. When this happens some muscles are habitually contracted all the time and others are left with very little use creating what is called a muscular imbalance.  Fixing the issue however, is not just about getting a massage or acupuncture or strengthening the weaker less utilized muscles.

So what is UP with this shoulder?” I find anatomy and movement habits reveal a lot when we look at healing outcomes for individuals with shoulder pain.


Your shoulder blade is the flat bone positioned at the back of your shoulder.  It floats on your rib cage gliding up, down, toward and away from your spine according to how your nervous system dictates and which muscles are recruited for action or stability.  When you lose shoulder blade depression it means this bone no longer optimally moves downward when your arm is lifted for action (think of a lever and fulcrum) with or without a weight in your hand. You then lose skeletal power for lifting your arms up and over head. Plus poor posture is inevitable because the muscles that depress your shoulder blade are key to good posture and feeling upright.

Instead of the natural mechanism of the shoulder blade gliding toward your pelvis or downward while lifting your arm it actually does the opposite.  As you lift your arm the shoulder blade elevates to avoid discomfort or just habitually from chronically engaged postural muscles. The muscles that are tight and over contract dragging your shoulder upward are: UPPER TRAPEZIUS and LEVATOR SCAPULAE.  If this happens long enough these muscles become rock hard, hurt, nagging you affecting your sleep, productivity and focus.

The upper end of the levator scapulae inserts in the bones of your neck, if tight can make you feel like your neck is strained and being pulled to the side. Think holding an old fashioned phone between your ear and your shoulder only permanent!  Is that you? Look in the mirror…I often ask my clients to check their photos/selfies. Your internal image of yourself may not match what you see?

Combined with other neck and shoulder muscles this over elevation can contribute to compression of the nerves that innervate your arm and hands.  That is why you may experience numbness and tingling usually below your elbow or hand.



  • Gain some awareness about how you move your shoulders. You can do this easily by scanning your body for specific motion and resting states of shoulder girdle.
  • Learn to pay attention to your shoulders and how they relate to other parts of your body when you are working or exercising.
  • Become curious about your movement. To know how you are doing something while you are doing it is mindfulness. This level of body intelligence will carry you through life stronger and more efficiently no matter your age or ability, improvement is possible.
  • I like to call this awareness to regain your movement “re braining” your movement.  Neuroplasticity or neuro movement is a combination of using your brain to feel and sense yourself while you are moving in order to compare, adapt and improve movement.


You also want to improve the muscular imbalance between the overused and over contracted muscles and the under active ones. Improving the balance between the muscles that lift the shoulder and the muscles that lower the shoulder will give you an incredible feeling of power and posture.

Understand that an over contracted muscle does not mean strong.  When the muscle is chronically shortened it too is weak.  Weak muscles can be muscles that do not engage regularly in action and muscles that are shortened and therefore do not have a full excursion of motion from length at full rest to full contraction.

We have a specific exercise to help balance the action of your painful shoulder. To improve scapular depression you will need to focus on the LOWER AND MIDDLE FIBERS OF THE TRAPEIUS MUSCLE.

HARLAND DERKSON RMT at ViVi Therapy has made three short videos to support you in your efforts to obtain better posture and skeletal power.  The shoulder depressors need attention there is no question.  Follow the specific instructions on these videos and their progressions and you will be feeling and looking better in no time.


Shoulder Girdle Biomechanics

Moshe Feldenkrais coined many inspirational sayings over his years as a teacher and developer of his method. One I especially love goes something like this “we are not after flexible bodies as much as flexible minds.”

Call or email to let us know if you would like to be the first one to hear about our fall classes on zoom and in person to address issues like your shoulder pain.  250 298 4484

What to Expect During Your First Massage


There are a lot of new clients, young and old, getting their first massage treatments here at ViVi Therapy. Some people new to massage can feel really uncomfortable with the thought of a stranger touching them—and that is totally understandable! For any of you who are slightly nervous about your first treatment, or just want to know what to expect, I’ll give you a brief run down of what a typical treatment with a Registered Massage Therapist looks like.


Before you go into the treatment room, you will be asked to fill out a medical history form. This informs your therapist about what you and your body have gone through in the past, and what you are currently going through, so that they can provide a massage that is safe and tailored to your needs.

Many therapists will sit down with you before beginning your massage to talk about any health concerns, why you are coming in that day, and ask questions about your life and daily activities that may contribute to any of your aches and pains. If you are experiencing pain or lack of mobility, the massage therapist may guide you through a few assessments such as range of motion, gait (walking) assessment, or orthopedic physical tests, to help find the different contributors to your discomfort.

After explaining a plan for the treatment, your therapist lets you know what position to take on the massage table and steps out of the room so that you can undress to your comfort level and get under the sheets*. 

During Treatment:

Each massage therapist has their own way of treating with a multitude of different techniques. My treatments, for example, can include general Swedish techniques, passive range of motion, stretching, trigger points and Myofascial work. Some therapists ask that you keep clothes on during the treatment if their treatment includes more active components, while others use oils or lotions with essential oils. Each method of massage has it’s benefits, so try them all and see what works best for you! 

Post Treatment:

If you came in with pain or restricted range of motion, your therapist may want to reassess your movement or tissue quality to see if any changes occurred during treatment. They may also provide home-care exercises, self-care techniques, or changes to your daily activities to help you improve your mobility and decrease pain. 

*It is important for every client to know that a trained Registered Massage Therapist in B.C. asks for consent before touching any body part. If you are uncomfortable with any part of your body massaged or you change your mind, please let your therapist know! Though RMTs have the musculoskeletal knowledge to help treat many conditions, your massage is ultimately up to you. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible so that you can relax and heal—we do not want to work on areas that promote feelings of anxiety or fear.*

Book Marissa Hoen!

Winter Colds Got You Blues? Acupuncture can Help!

A big thank you to exceptional Acupuncturist Jane Hsu for this insight into how colds and flu season can be rescued by skillful Acupuncture treatments, common sense and good advice. 

Are you currently suffering from a cold or winter blues?

The human body changes just as the seasons change but if your immune system is compromised or you are under unusual amounts of stress the transition can be less than smooth. Meaning we need to to be prepared with more than just our mitts, hats, scarves and woollies!

Traditional Chinese Medicine is was based on observing the natural earthly elements and how human life responds to the seasons. It is believed that all beings as with plants grow in the Spring, thrive in the Summer, harvest in the Fall and gather in the Winter. From the health perspective, the harvest and collection in Fall and Winter is an important concept for your internal Yang Qi. The lack of Yang Qi on your body surface renders you defenseless from the cold and humidity, resulting in frequent bouts of cold and flu. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help increase your Wei Qi and Yang Qi for cold prevention. If you have already contracted a cold this season or anticipate one or more, Acupuncture can help boost your immune system function and hasten your recovery. The human body’s constitution tends to lean towards the colder spectrum in our modern society, attracting cold and resulting in energy flow blockages in the body. This may lead to muscle soreness, joint pain, frequent bouts of cold, painful menstruation, diarrhea, malaise, depression and anxiety. Traditional Chinese Medicine helps to alter your body constitution, boost your immune system function, improving your nervous system and endocrine system function. – Jane Hsu

Your Registered Acupuncturist can also recommend foods and daily habits that will help you combat the symptoms that come on during this season.  Winter weather is challenging enough so get the help now so you can enjoy this season as much as the rest!

Book a session now.

Can Massage Help My Mother with Alzheimer’s

Recently a potential client of ViVi Therapy requested via email if her mother would benefit from massage therapy.  Here is how I answered:

Alzheimer’s is a neurological condition that would need exploring with each individual as to how they would respond to massage therapy.

There is no question that Massage Therapy and Acupuncture would have a positive effect on neurological receptors in both the central and autonomic  nervous system leading to  relaxation, reduction in anxious behavior and myofascial release.  The improvement of areas of  poor circulation can also be of benefit for a multitude of auxiliary conditions of aged care.  Craniosacral Therapy offered by our in house Physiotherapist would also be highly recommended for neurological calming and to encourage the bodies own innate harmonizing ability. The effect on the autonomic nervous system alone would enhance her well being and curtail the onset of anxiety that is often experienced with the confusion of memory loss.  

The issue lies in how your mother would accept someone touching and handling her.  I would be curious about her own past experiences with both bodywork and touch of any kind and whether she has had a positive response to touch in general over her life time.  Past traumas can factor in to the overall response someone has to particular styles of touch.  A skilled practitioner would know how to safely interact with your mother.

We often experience family members desperate to help their aging parents in any possible way and frustrated with lack of resources seeking massage therapy and other natural modalities we offer. She would be helped by regular massage and or acupuncture for maintenance of circulation to the brain in your case and other muscular skeletal conditions.  In theory this is a great idea. 

In my professional opinion as a long standing Registered Massage Therapist I feel it really depends on if during her lifetime she has cultivated a knowledge of the benefits of massage and some level of muscle memory that was pleasant while having massage or comforting touch in the past.  It boils down to her having had a positive therapeutic experience from human contact that you could remind them of.  Another factor is the environment and timing of the therapy being the least disruptive to their daily routine as possible.

I sincerely hope you find my answer helpful.  I know we can provide a great service and have no doubt of its overall efficacy. It is really just how it is received and being able to facilitate visits on a regular basis. 

Again in my professional opinion a course of a 3 or 4 weekly visits would be in order to give it a chance to observe results based on the other factors mentioned above.

Understanding Your Shoulder & Neck Pain

Four Muscles You Should Be Stretching To Avoid Neck Pain

The most common area that I treat has to be the neck. Why does this happen so often? I believe that there are several reasons as to why, including poor posture, bad bio-mechanics and inactivity.

Many of us now work in offices with nine-to-five jobs. A lot of these offices have people working at desks, with their computers in front of them, with improperly placed screens, keyboards, mice, and chairs that are not suited for the task of sitting all day long, do not give proper support or are improperly adjusted. The head falls forward quite often due to the fact that the centre of gravity for the head and neck is just above the ear, and very slightly towards the face. Many people also sit with a rounded-over shoulders posture due to fatigue and their own postural ignorance.


neck pain








One of the things that I most often prescribe for homecare is a series of self stretches to the sternocleideomastoid (SCM), to the scalenes, to the levator scapulae, and to the upper trapezius.

neck pain

1.I’d like to first talk about the SCM. The SCM starts from just in below your ear, off your jaw line, and reaches down to both your clavicle or collarbone, and your sternum or your breastbone. You can feel this muscle if you put your hand on the side of your neck, and look over your opposite shoulder. You can stretch this muscle from a seated position by tilting your head back gently, and reaching over with your opposite hand and putting it on top of your head. Gently pull your head and hold it for about 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch from your ear down into just above your chest. Make sure to stretch both sides, and that there is no bounce. If there is pain or discomfort, back off. If you wanted to increase the stretch, try sitting on your hand.

Another thing that you can do to help yourself with this muscle is to self massage it. Make sure that you have your head turned to the same side to slacken off the tissue. Take your thumb and first two fingers, and start massaging the muscle up by the ear. Use a little bit of pressure, but not too much. Make sure it’s tolerable. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but this is normal. If you feel like you’re starting to get a headache from any sort of massage to this area, this is normal as well, especially if you feel any sort of patterns like this:

neck pain

The X’s on the diagrams represent common areas of where the muscle may be feeling tight or sore. The red areas show where you may or may not have pain referring. It may not even be the part of the pattern shown here, but this is where the average person may or may not be feeling any sort of sensation or referral.

2. Next are the scalenes. They come off all but the first cervical vertebrae and either attach into the clavicle or into the first rib. They can cause a number of problems when they’re overused or over-tight, including impinging upon the brachial plexus. This means that if people could potentially have numbness, tingling, or achy feelings going all the way down the arm and into the hand, with nothing actually wrong with the hand or arm itself. Of course, because nothing is ever simple, you can have anatomic variations from person to person, as seen in the picture immediately below. This means one person can have a nerve impinged upon, but have slightly different patterns of numbness or tingling down the arm than another.

neck pain

neck pain

You can find the three major scalene muscles and the smaller scalenus minimus just to the outside of the SCM. Please, go easy in this area as it’s right below the carotid artery, and has the brachial plexus running right through the middle of the muscle belly. To find these muscles turn your head to the opposite side to get the SCM out of the way. Put your fingers just above your clavicle, and just outside of the SCM (the side closest to your shoulder). Breathe in. You’re now on anterior scalene. If you wanted to find the middle scalene, it’s just a bit further out towards the shoulder (laterally).

To find the posterior scalene, you have to find middle scalene and the levator scapulae (which I will describe shortly). Gently put your finger pads in between these two muscles. Take a deep breath to further expose the muscle belly. You can tell the difference between the levator scapulae and the posterior scalene by doing tiny little up-and-down shoulder shrugs. The one that doesn’t move around is the posterior scalene.

neck pain

I wouldn’t recommend doing any sort of self massage to the scalene group because they are so close to the brachial plexus; it could make your problem a lot worse.   Self-stretching is an excellent idea instead because your fingers are not poking anything that could cause any problems. As with SCM stretching, stay seated. You can bring your neck away from the side you’re trying to stretch, but just keep your head and neck moving in such a way that you’re trying to bring your ear into the top of your shoulder. No rotation is needed. You can bring your hand across your head as a way to increase your stretch.

3.I’d now like to talk about the levator scapulae. It comes off the outside, or lateral parts of the first four cervical vertebrae, and down to the inside, or medial corner of the shoulder blade, or scapula. The muscle is used to elevate the shoulder, especially if reaching overhead or if you are shrugging your shoulders.

neck pain

When people assume the typical working position at a desk, their shoulders are hunched and rounded over. What this does is shorten up the muscle, making it tight, and causing tension and pain.   Self stretching can help this by lengthening the muscle back out. While neck painyou’re seated, try bringing your chin to your chest, and then by bringing your ear into your shoulder, then looking down at your armpit. You should look like you’re trying to smell your armpit. You can use your arm to pull your head across if you like, and if you want to stretch further, you can bring your arm up almost like you’re stretching your triceps, but I prefer to just sit on my hand. It makes it easier to remember. I’m going to recommend that you not massage the levator scapulae because of the fact that it is so close to the brachial plexus and because there are so many vulnerable structures in your neck.

  1. Now we need to talk about the upper trapezius. It comes off right from the base of the skull, off of the inion, and the nuchal line. We can feel these as the rather large bump at the back of the skull, and the ridge just below that respectively. The muscle then comes down and out across the shoulder to the lateral third of the clavicle, to the top of the shoulder to just before it meets the humerus, and into the ridge that you can feel on your shoulder blade, called the scapular spine. This is the primary muscle that gets cranky when dealing with the rounded over shoulders posture that was discussed earlier. You can stretch this out by tilting your head forward gently, then by tilting your head to the side. It’s almost as if you’re trying to touch your ear to the front of your shoulder. You can increase the stretch by putting your hand on your head again, and gently pulling.

neck painYou can use something like a TheraCane (which, we coincidentally have in store!) or two tennis balls stuffed in a sock to do some self massage on the upper trapezius if you like.

neck pain

neck painneck pain








As we can see from the black, red, and white picture above, if pressure is put on the approximate area of the X, you may get referral patterns in a sort of question mark pattern, with the terminus around the outside corner of the eye. Referral can also be felt at the angle of the jaw.

I myself love using deep moist heat on these muscles because it helps improve blood flow, which improves tissue extensibility as well as bringing nutrients to the area. It doesn’t feel too bad either!

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’d love to hear feedback on what you think about these, or if you have any ideas for future topics!

I can be reached at 250-298-4484, or at I’m currently available for clients on Saturdays from 9:30 to 6, or for later appointments upon request. Roxanne is also available for appointments throughout the week. Appointments can be booked easily and conveniently online here.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Until Next Time,


DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional advice or therapy. Please check with your physician or health care provider before trying this out to confirm it is appropriate for your condition. Always stay within your comfort zone and if something does not feel right, refrain from doing the activity.






The Iliotibial Band, Running, And Taking Care Of Yourself On The Road Or Trail

One of the great things about Victoria is that there are many excellent places to go running. There are good places to buy your shoes, a number of resources on how to get started and how to maintain your running style and many races to run throughout the year. Healthy and fun!

However, one of the downsides of the busy lifestyle here is that many people neglect to take care of themselves. Knee pain, especially along the outside of the knees, is common among runners, and can be prevented. Most often, I find that the reason that this pain presents is due to an overly tight iliotibial band, or ITB.

“What the heck is that?”

itb band

The ITB is a fibrous band that runs down the outside of the thigh, starting from your hip, and running just past your knee. You can most often find it by straightening your leg and running your hand down the outside of your thigh. It can be quite prominent just above the knee, where it dips in and almost forms a divot.

“Will finding this help my pain?”

Well, not exactly. Most people run in their spare time, and a great many of us have desk jobs these days. This means that our muscles, which were purposely developed for use as hunter-gatherers, are not being used in an effective manner; in most of us they are underutilized and weak, especially in the inner thigh. This creates quite the imbalance. In order to compensate, the outer thigh has to take up the slack, especially when doing something as active as running. Because of its attachment into the knee, the ITB now pulls hard on the knee as a counterbalance. This is the source of most complaints in regards to running.

I can help with this by working into the fibrous tissue of the ITB by using several different methods. I generally prefer to use range of motion while working into the fibrous tissue so there is not only an increased range of motion after your treatment, but also slackening of the tissue. This helps relax the tissue, and stops the ITB from pulling so hard on your knee. Heat is a good thing for pre-treatment, as it helps with tissue extensibility and allows for more blood flow into the area. I love my Thermophore for this purpose; it provides deep moist heat to the area and clients are able to better relax on the table.

legs elastic

Homecare is another important piece of treatment that I like to focus on, because the inner thigh needs strengthening too. Typically I like to have my clients use a piece of elastic tubing or other exercise elastic, and tie it to either a table leg or something that isn’t going to move very easily. Make sure you’re well supported and feel comfortable with the movement, remain either seated or standing. Maintain the elastic at the same height as your ankle so that you and your ankle are going to be able to handle the extra strain. Now, bring your straight leg across your body. Go slowly, and repeat for three sets of five.  

After a run or if you feel like your ITB is really bothering you, you can also ice your thigh. I do have to ask a few things of you, however. Please, make sure that if you use an ice pack it does not touch your bare skin. Wrap it or make sure you’ve got on a pair of shorts or pants that go past the knee. You can use ice itself on your bare skin, but make sure you keep it moving, you keep the ice wrapped or in a container (except for the part touching your skin of course), and make sure it’s something you can handle. Don’t use ice or ice over any open wounds or sores. These points are imperative, especially if you’re adverse to cold or if you have any conditions that would slow healing. Of course, it’s necessary to do this within your own comfort zone. If you don’t like it or you’re not into it, please don’t do it.

man chair crossed legsYou can also stretch out the ITB by bringing your leg across your body so that you’re standing in a cross-legged stance, with the foot of the side that you’re stretching in behind. Make sure the outsides of your feet are touching each other. Try and throw the hip of the side you’re stretching out to the side as much as you can, while still staying comfortable.   Now, making sure that you’re not going to fall over, lean over, and bring your arm over your head if you like, moving slowly. Hold for 30 seconds if possible, and don’t bounce. If it feels uncomfortable or painful, come out of it, slowly if you can.

This may sound confusing. And it can be, but it can be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself, and for your health and joy out on the road or the trail. Thankfully, I’m only a phone call or an email away.

I can be reached at 250-298-4484, or at I’m currently available for clients on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9:30 to 6. You can book appointments easily and conveniently online by following this link.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Until Next Time,


DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional advice or therapy. Please check with your physician or health care provider before trying this out to confirm it is appropriate for your condition. Always stay within your comfort zone and if something does not feel right, refrain from doing the activity.

Craniosacral Therapy and your Brain

craniosacral therapyAt this very moment your head is subtly changing shape in rhythm with your sacrum. 

The Craniosacral system extends from the bones of the skull, face and mouth, which make up the cranium, down to the sacrum which is the flat fused set of bones that makes up part of your pelvis at the base of your spine.  The source of this shape changing motion is the interaction between the membranes and cerebral spinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. This fluid fills and empties the cranial vault creating a widening and narrowing cycle of motion that can be detected, assessed for vitality and symmetry among other things by a skilled manual therapist. 

This vital system influences the development and performance of the brain and spinal cord, an imbalance or restriction in it could potentially cause any number of sensory (changed feeling in your body), motor (movement) or neurological disabilities.  These problems could include chronic pain, eye difficulties, motor-coordination impairments, learning difficulties, sinus problems, sleep disorders, including reduced ability coping with stress.

Craniosacral Therapy a gentle manual therapy skill can give you relief that regular massage, Rolfing and deep tissue bodywork cannot, accessing another part of your body, the central nervous system. While the validity of the cardiovascular and respiratory rhythms is undisputed today, for many decades the existence of those systems was a topic for hot debate among medical communities around the world.  Based on solid research Craniosacral Therapy has been around for more than 3 decades. For this reason the Craniosacral system (still under debate) and Craniosacral therapeutic benefits are not well known in the main stream medical community.

Over the years I have found many cases where the need for Craniosacral Therapy was indicated and the treatment proved successful. I especially have had success with improving focus and clarity of mind, migraine headaches, anxiety and stress reduction, sinus problems and sleeping disorders.  As well post traumatic stress injuries including brain trauma and spinal cord injuries respond well to it.  Concussions can present both a predictable and unique set of symptoms depending on the area of the brain involved.  Giving specific focus to manually releasing and balancing restrictions resulting from the trauma  is highly effective in treating symptoms.  Once pressure is regulated and motion between cranial bones normalized clients report an increased sense of relaxation, improved ability to cope with multiple tasks and daily activities as well as stress reduction and higher performance at work and play.  Temporomandibular (TMJ or jaw joint) pain is dramatically reduced by specific Craniosacral therapeutic techniques.

Besides balancing the bones of the skull, head and face, Craniosacral Therapy can increase an individuals vitality and improve their performance in wellness lifestyle activities like yoga and meditation.  Therapist induced still points illicit deeper breathing and relaxation which in turn brings the body back to balance and harmony including the balancing of hormones. The harmonization of the autonomic nervous system responsible for organ functions, digestion, vision, swallowing etc is enhanced by Craniosacral techniques and combined knowledge of anatomy, physiology, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Contraindications of Craniosacral Therapy and Still Point Induction: Stillpoint is contraindicated in acute stroke, cerebral aneurysm, or any condition in which changes in cranial fluid pressure would be detrimental. In cases of non-acute brain injury, tumor, or any uncertain condition a CranioSacral Therapist will exercise caution prior to treatment.  In the case of self induced still point induction the same caution must be adhered to and a Registered Therapist or physician consulted.

cranial base

Cranial Base Diagram

Some of the key techniques in Craniosacral Therapy include movements that expand and regulate the motion in what is called the cranial base.  This consists of the sphenoid and occipital bones of the skull.  The connection of these two bones in the center of the cranial vault is where the Pituitary Gland lives.

What does the Pituitary gland do? 

Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is a small endocrine system organ that controls a multitude of important functions in the body.  (Credit: SEER Training Modules / U. S. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute)

 It is divided into an anterior lobe, intermediate lobe and posterior lobe, all of which are involved in hormone production. The pituitary gland is termed the “Master Gland” because it directs other organs and endocrine glands, such as the adrenal glands, to suppress or induce hormone production.


The pituitary gland is involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Growth Hormone Production
  • Production of Hormones That Act on Other Endocrine Glands
  • Production of Hormones That Act on the Muscles and the Kidneys
  • Endocrine Function Regulation
  • Storage of Hormones Produced by the Hypothalamus

These links to the parts of our body that control our most vital health functions such as, eating, breathing, circulation, lymphatic system (immunity), etc.

What does the Pineal Gland Do?

The pineal gland is situated deep within the brain, just below the back of the corpus callosum. The primary function is to secrete Melatonin the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep wake cycles.  This hormone on a larger scale also helps us adapt to seasonal changes.  Based on Pineal gland functions of regulating sleep and seasonal adaptations Craniosacral Therapy is often prescribed for sleep disorders and insomnia.  Try a still point inducer at bedtime. 

What is a still point?

For a good explanation of what a still point is check out this blog post “Stillpoint: A Gentle CranioSacral Intervention” by Kailas, LMT, NCTMB, CST, Cert. Ayu. CranioSacral Therapist and Certified Ayurvedic Clinical Consultant in Los Angeles

Yoga and Feldenkrais different & good together.

You can’t go more than 5 blocks in the central business district of Victoria without seeing a yoga class, massage or some type of bodywork offered.  What this means to me is we are living in a time and amongst a population of body savvy people.  Stats Canada have surveyed us and concurred that yes we are the healthiest lot of Canadians and “out health” our more eastern brothers and sisters.  Still we aren’t as far ahead as our California neighbors when it comes to “self awareness”.  I loved the reinvention of Meditation as written by Mary MacVean in a recent LA Times columnist article entitled “Meditation has peacefully settled in the mainstream.”

Combining body centered yoga and mindfulness is an increasing possibility here in Victoria and ViVi Therapy is planning on offering yoga classes at our store/studio before and after our opening hours.  We will be combining some Yoga classes in a mix with Feldenkrais classes for a body mind perspective that mainstream folks have not yet exposed themselves to.  With the recent publication of The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge M. D. people are now realizing how what we do with our bodies has everything to do with the functions of our brains and vice versa. Neuroplasticity they call it and it is on the rise.

The concept is that learning is contextual and what we do habitually without thinking can often be our demise. Since the book “The Brain’s Way of Healing” was published, dedicating an entire chapter to the work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais the founder of the Feldenkrais Method we Feldenkrais practitioners, Feldy’s (as we call ourselves) have been bumped up a few notches on the radar of “those who would try new things”. If you have been there and done that when it comes to Yoga, Pilates and Meditation you really need to have a go at the Feldenkrais Method.  Our group classes instruct you to do things with your body while teaching you to become aware of how you are doing it at the same time.  Sounds simple, but actually like simple meditation skills this type of self awareness takes focus and time to settle in and reconfigure old habits of moving as well as thinking. As we know old habits die hard!

When you do an Asana (yoga pose)  or a series of Sun Salutations in a flow format does it bring you immediately to a place of understanding how to sit better at a meeting, move while grocery shopping, surfing the net, watching a movie, moving the furniture, chopping vegetables, gardening, hugging a friend, even making love or cleaning the house?  These are the places of everyday living, the places where I have discovered treating clients who do yoga and exercise regularly have difficulty. Even when people are very body conscious and exercise savvy there are missing links in the brain map that correspond with certain parts of the body that are not available in motion or certain motions and even in stillness .  Feldenkrais brings these parts into the forefront of awareness and then into action.

Take your leg for example did you know it is connected to the line of your skeleton from your foot to your head and if you put your foot in a certain configuration you can actually work on that connection while lying on your back and paying attention.  While executing a series of movements designed to elevate your awareness about that specific thing (how you are connected through your skeleton). When you focus and pay attention to specific body movements then you actually can translate those connections to balance, skeletal strength and power. Doing so leads to less muscle tension and energy being used by the body to perform daily tasks.  This in turn leads to more graceful movement, better endurance and stamina to perform more intense athletic endeavors.  To this end we think that no matter what level your yoga practice it could benefit from the insights your Feldenkrais practice/teacher has to offer you.  Did you know it takes 4 years to become a Feldenkrais practitioner, long time eh?  Well not full time but two full months a year for 4 years. All the while rolling around on the floor discovering the connections that we can teach you (the connections that Doidge mentions in his book that heal people from strokes, neurological deficits in learning and movement, pain suffering and on goes the list).

Want to understand the body more and spend more time during your yoga or other workouts being mindful and noticing how your body and your brain is contributing to your pain or your better performance?

When people become older, strength and agility tend to decrease, knowing more about how your habitual mind to body or body to mind connection works while exercising is insurance for avoiding injury, strain and loss of mobility. Loss of range of motion or stiff joints affects your quality of life as does pain.  Your body has much to teach you and like meditation it requires you to slow down, listen and learn.

yoga poses



Enjoy the season and be symptom free with natural allergy relief


causes_of_rhinitisSpring has sprung but along with the beautiful blossoms and flowers come the not so great allergies! Congestion, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing & coughing – If you have gone through it then you know that it really is not pleasant.
You could reach for the typical over the counter allergy relief products but if you would rather avoid antihistamines & corticosteroids then the more natural approach might appeal.
If you want a medication & symptom free Spring and Summer why not relieve your allergies with Acupuncture?

Treatments can focus on alleviating the symptoms experienced and often yield a very quick response. Patients will notice a decrease in their nose stuffiness, sneezes, and number of itching episodes around the eyes, as well as an increase in overall energy levels. Book an appointment now!

Some natural tips for easing any symptoms in the meantime are –

Drink plenty of water – When you are well hydrated the mucous membranes of essential oilsyour nose remain moist to expel allergens more easily.

Eat local raw honey – Eating a couple of tablespoons of local raw honey every day (which contains traces of pollen) desensitizes the body to local pollen, so that the pollen floating about in the air does not trigger allergic reactions in the body.


essential_oils2Eat pineapple –  Pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, an enzyme with strong systemic anti-inflammatory effects, which helps decrease mucosal inflammation and nasal congestion.

Add turmeric to rice dishes, curries, soups etc – Turmeric contains curcumin, a phytochemical with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that are hay fevercomparable to steroidal and nonsteroidal drugs.

Essential oils can also be very helpful –

Peppermint – Dilute with a carrier oil and rub one drop onto your temples, lemon oilforehead or over the sinuses. You can also try a drop on the tip of your tongue, closing your mouth and then breathing it in to effectively open up the sinus cavity.

Lavender – Acts as an adaptogen and can assist the body when adapting to stress or imbalances. It can also help if you have difficulty sleeping due to congestion. Add a few drops to distilled water in a spray bottle and spritz your pillow to help rosemary oilyou drift off to sleep more easily.

Eucalyptus – Can open the respiratory system, reduce inflammation and allow better breathing.

Rosemary – Has a similar effect to Eucalyptus but is slightly milder so better for use by children.

eucalyptus oilLemon– Improves immunity, relieves respiratory issues, is antibacterial and relieves respiratory inflammation.

All the essential oils listed above (and more!) are available from the ViVi Therapy Massage Supply Store at 1976 Oak Bay Ave.