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The quest for balance

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A student and her former instructor have teamed up to expand the wellness lifestyle options for locals.

Bermudian Carola Cooper has been massaging away our aches and pains for ten years. When demand for her services increased beyond what she could comfortably manage alone she decided to expand the business.

She turned to her former massage instructor and friend Anne Marshall. The pair met at the Florida School of Massage more than a decade ago they started LifeThyme Wellness last November.

“I knew Anne could offer other services that I couldn't, didn't want to or wouldn't, so I thought together we could make a wellness team because of our different approaches which fit together so beautifully,” said Ms Cooper.

“I am more of the sports massage, orthopaedic massage type, working with people in their fitness programmes.

“I run some functional training programmes specifically to help build people from their core to get stronger in their everyday life, or their job or their sport, depending on the level they would like to work at.”

Ms Marshall, on the other hand, offers cranial sacral therapy and herbal remedies which she can blend herself.

“The only real overlap we have is that we both do massage and we both do injury recovery,” said Ms Marshall.

Cranial Sacral Therapy

“I also offer cranial sacral therapy. I've been certified in that for ten years. It is working with people when other forms of therapy really heave not worked especially conditions of the nervous system.”

Cranial sacral therapy is especially helpful in alleviating the pain associated with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The therapy works with the rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid of the brain. This colourless fluid is what the brain is suspended in, in much the same way that a baby is suspended in amniotic fluid in the uterus.

Cerebrospinal fluid moves around and inside the spaces of the brain. It also moves along the spine. Its movement follows a specific path down to the base of the spine and back up to the brain in a loop. This happens at regular intervals. According to Ms Marshall, this is the body's primary rhythm.

“It's the first to come at conception and the last to leave at death. It has its own rhythm about nine to ten times a minute depending on your body,” she said.

In cranial sacral work, the therapist places his or her hands on the client and is able to feel the rhythm of this fluid in much the same way that one can feel the rhythm of the blood by feeling the pulse.

Feeling the cerebrospinal fluid rhythm at different points in the body, the therapist is able to determine where the rhythm may be weak, too strong or in some way imbalanced.

“What happens is that I can sense in someone's body where it is moving well, where it is not moving well and any misalignment in either the cranium or anywhere in the body,” said Ms Marshall.

“The different contacts that are made are used to balance that so that an optimal rhythm can happen for somebody which then results in better health, better sleeping, less pain.”

She said typically people feel rested after having a cranial sacral treatment.

“They feel almost like they've had a nap. They sleep very well that night, they have reduced pain as the nervous system is less charged,” she said.

In today's hectic world where we tend to be busy and even feel frazzled, she said this treatment helps to calm people and gives them a chance to heal. Ms Marshall said this therapy could also point the location of physical injuries in the body.

“Sometimes there's a place where there has been trauma and that's where the fluid is not moving well,” she said. “So that would be a place to focus the work.”

Herbal options

As a herbalist Ms Marshall says she works only to boost people's overall feeling of energy and wellness. “I don't do anything too dramatic and certainly do not replace the work of doctors,” she said.

“I like to use herbs as food. I like to use herbs to help people boost the foundation of their health.

“I do health consults, which involves a history, what they eat, how they exercise, what their lifestyle is, where they work and what their concerns are.”

She said her aim is to address the specific concerns of each of her clients while boosting their overall health.

“This way I'm not just treating the symptoms, but strengthening the body,” she said.

“So I may recommend different herbal formulas and/or I may have nutritional advice, guidelines or exercise.”

Ms Marshall said she's careful to give recommendations that will not only address the ailment but that also suit the lifestyle of the individual. For example, she might recommend certain exercises twice or three times a week for someone who doesn't normally exercise rather than a daily routine.

“I try to make a protocol for each person that they can do,” she said.

Most of the herbal formulas she has are in extract form. She says it is the most efficient way of getting the benefit of the herbal properties.

“One dropper full equals about a few cups of very strong medicinal herbal tea,” she said. This is the easiest way for most people because most will not drink four very strong cups of the medicinal tea a day they just won't do it.”

Based on her years of experience, she's learned the formulas most commonly needed by people and she said she keeps these blends on hand.

They include formulas to reduce anxiety, cough and cold relief, PMS relief and fatigue.

But, Ms Marshall said, she also has single herb extracts which enable her to customise a blend to address a perhaps unique set of circumstances a client may have.

She noted that immediate effects could be expected with some formulas like her anxiety relief blend, while others work more subtly and the effects can take much longer to manifest.

Functional Fitness Training

Ms Cooper holds a degree in exercise kinesiology. As such, she closely examines the mechanics of her clients' bodies.

“I look at exactly how that client is moving how their spine is flexing, how it sits when they are standing, the range of motion in all their joints. How their core is actually functioning,” she said.

She works with everyone, from elite athletes to those who don't exercise at all, with an aim to increase their flexibility and performance.

“I can look at everyday movements squatting, lunging, bending and twisting and pushing and pulling,” she said. “I look at that and see how they move. I can learn a lot from watching someone squat.

“I can see imbalances in how they go down, their stability, their knees, how their head goes forward. And if you add a squat with their arms over their head, I will see how their thoracic spine is adjusting to stabilise that load above the head.”

Ms Cooper physically measures the angles her clients are able to achieve in each of these sessions.

“People go home with numbers, tangible results; and we can look again in a month and see if there are any changes,” she said.

The aim is always to improve flexibility.

“I work on the whole body not just hamstrings,” she said. “It's about the full body and how the full body is moving. Some people come to me and say: ‘My hamstrings are really tight', but maybe that's not even the problem,” she said. “It could be that something else is tight and they are just thinking it's their hamstring.

“That's why I look at the body as a whole and do all these measurements.”

Depending on what she sees in the person's body she may advise strengthening the muscle or lengthening it.

“The specific exercises I give to achieve this are what we call mobilisation exercises,” she said.

Education

Equipping people to manage their own health is at the core of what Ms Cooper and Ms Marshall do.

“What we are really about is teaching people skills that they can go and do themselves,” said Ms Cooper. “It's not like you are booked in with us for life. We are here to help and support you and give you some tools to help, but we each have to take responsibility for our own health.”

Both Ms Marshall and Ms Cooper offer courses and workshops throughout the year in their specialties.

Ms Cooper offers group and individual sessions.

Ms Marshall will hold a workshop on herbs and the immune system on Wednesday, April 27. For more information visit www.lifethymewellness.com or telephone 333-0729.

Functional training: Massuese and exercise knesiologist Carola Cooper directs a group in one of her functional training clases. They all take place outdoors.
Wellness partners: Carola Cooper and Anne Marshall have started - Lifethyme Wellness, a new business that includes herbal remedies.

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Published March 08, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 07, 2011 at 3:35 pm)

The quest for balance

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