p l a n t e d

As I mentioned yesterday, my foot has been bumming me out these days.  And when I say bumming, I mean, bum planted on the couch, toes wrapped in ice, meh.  But speaking of plants (stay with me as I reach for romanticism in this medically-charged* post here), to quell the inflammation, I’ve been exploring the many methods through which Mother Nature heals.

Coupling my strong aversion to western pharmaceuticals (I blame a sensitive stomach and exposure to the miracle of acupuncture) with the aches and pains that accompany a ballet career, in recent years I’ve found myself charging down a quite intriguing path towards holistic healing.  I’m pretty convinced that plants rule the world.  A few of my favorites and the strange ways I’ve been harnessing their powers recently:

ginger. DSC07785minced up in sautéed kale, grated over strawberry-rhubarb crisp, bulky chunks steeped in tea.  it’s healing gingerols are powerful, and I love them in all forms.

turmeric.DSC07818 (1)which, thanks to my mom, i currently have in full root, ground and extract forms.  the curcumin found in this tasty spice is hailed by masters of Chinese medicine as one of the world’s most powerful anti-inflammatories.  try steeping the roots in hot water (mixed with a bag of green tea for added anti-inflammatory benefits!), sprinkling its grounds over a cauliflower before roasting or blending into your favorite smoothie recipe (it’s taste usually disappears amongst fruits and berries), or popping the extract capsules along with water and some food (the most potent and effective method, so I’ve read).

tea.DSC07834tea is a great way to absorb more of those wonderful inflammation-fighters found in the aforementioned ginger, turmeric, and yes, the magical flavonoids packed into green tea leaves.  the high level of catechin polyphenols in green tea have many healthy benefits, and relief from joint pain and swelling just so happens to be one of them. fill a mug and drink up!

maple and walnut.DSC07774curled into a beautiful (and efficient!) foot roller by the talented husband of a fellow FBP dancer, what once branched up from the earth now relaxes my roots.  it may look unassuming, but this bad boy has been a lifesaver for my cramped arches and stuff joints.

garlic.DSC07783in my (italian) opinion, garlic turns any dish it touches to gold**.  but its strength is not just in flavor; did you know garlic works hard to fight inflammation, too?  okay, so this is mostly based on dancer suspicions and old slavic advisors, but hey, it can’t hurt to add a little more gusto to your dish in the hopes of reliving some pain, right?  if you can get your handsome boyfriend to cook said dish for you, you’ve got it made in the shade!

arnica.DSC07766 (1)conveniently gel-ified by the wizards at arnicare, the arnica flower delivers an impressive collection of natural soothers.  the sesquiterpene lactones, found predominantly in the stem of the plant, share their anti-inflammatory effects to the body when applied topically.  yes, please.

actual flowers.DSC07828last but not least, never underestimate the effect of a cheery spring bouquet in lifting your spirits (especially if you’re currently experiencing a snow storm during the first week of April).  positivity=power!  bonus points if they are delivered by your sweet mother.

Happy healing!

*full disclosure: I am not a doctor.  The suggestions in this post are just that.  If you are experiencing pain or swelling in your body, I recommend seeing a medical professional whom you trust, listening to their advice, and experimenting with plant-based treatments that work for you and your body.

**unless your mom accidentally slices up a chocolate-almond croissant on your garlic cutting board.  garlic-flavored sweets are decidedly disgusting…haha.

target demographic

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Thursday evenings are the unofficial ladies’ night at my physical therapist’s office.  Tonight when I arrived the only patients there were 2 other ladies and when I finished up several hours later, I left 7 women behind.  Of course, I was the only one under 50, but what does that matter?  We’re all hooked up to the same stim machine in the end…

At first the other ladies left me alone and chatted about the weather in PT terms- Is it supposed to rain tonight?  I think so, my knee is killing me– while they stretched their hammies with long green straps.  I was in the middle of a good yawn when one of my favorite 50-somethings shimmied on over to do a few leg presses on the machine right across from me and my lat pull-downs.  Finally face-to-face, she must’ve felt some subconscious need to address my contextual youth.  So she starts in, “When you’re my age everything will hurt all the time.”  “It already does”, I tell her, with a smirk.  “Are you an athlete?”, she asks next, nodding away because she already knows- without any casts, scars, or crutches, what else could I be doing in here?  “Yes, well, er, I’m a ballet dancer.  Professionally.  I’m a professional ballet dancer.”

Then it happened.  As if I had screamed the words BALLERINA OVER HERE through a megaphone, the ladies looked over at me, watching with wide eyes that reflected the tiny tutus of their childhoods as I moved on to my seated rows.  My initial interrogator and the weather observer on the stationary bike next to her couldn’t ask their questions fast enough.  Who do you dance for?  How many hours?  Are you dancing in the next performance?  What’s your injury?  Stress fracture in your spine?!  How did that happen?   But you’re so young!  Festival Ballet?  Doesn’t Baryshnikov’s daughter teach there? 

Why had it taken me so long to realize I was surrounded by my target demographic?  Thursday evening PT seshes are my new favorite.

back to the grind

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Coming back to the states means not only an end to my french adventure, but also the return to my schedule full of acupuncture and physical therapy appointments.  Ah, the life of a dancer.

This morning at acupuncture (which I attended all by myself for the first time ever! be proud!), I asked my doctor to put special needles in my ear to curb hunger cravings, telling him that I’m still trying to get back into shape and reminding him of the dishonorable amount of cheese I consumed in Paris.  He then sized me up, asked me my weight, laughed at me a little bit, but eventually agreed to give me the hunger-halting pressure points remarking, “To always be more slim…that’s the curse of the ballerina.”  This guy really knows what he’s talking about…

Later on at physical therapy, I received some rather painful, but quite necessary soft tissue massaging.  Oooh, these casual little soft tissue massages they give me.  You’ve never experienced as uncomfortable a massage as one of these; It’s like they are feeling around for the most painful inch of muscle in your body, and upon locating said twisted tissue, they pound it into the floor.  So, as the trainer dug her elbow farther into my left buttock, she politely suggested, “Just let me know if I need to back off a little, okay?” but she already knew my response.  Before I could get out the full, “It’s okay, I can take it”, she interrupted with a laugh and said, “Yeah, you’re a pro athlete, you love this kind of pain.”  Not only was it extremely refreshing and lovely to be referred to as a pro athlete by a trainer in a sports medicine facility, but she was also exactly right.  I do love that sore, almost-on-the-brink-of-tears, recovery and healing, grinding away at my tight muscles, type of pain.  So, healers and  feelers, keep that good pain coming!

alternative healing: herbs and more herbs…

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As I head fearlessly into my second month of acupuncture treatments, I can’t help but wonder…what do my readers think?  With all of the medical options available today, it can be hard to keep them all straight.  This option treats a certain group of muscles, that option adjusts your bone structure routinely, another aims to rework the flow of energy through your entire body.  But what does it all mean?  Which option is the most effective for me?  This can be one of the toughest questions to answer, and one of the most frustrating obstacles facing an injured dancer.

One of the biggest differences between acupuncture and traditional Western medicine I’ve noticed (besides the extreme difference in needle size, quantity, placement and purpose), is the opposition of herbal supplements versus medical drugs.  I don’t know about you, but if there is an all-natural option promising to cure my ailments, I am alllll ovah dat.  But how hard are these herbs actually working in my body?  I mean, the often immediate relief you feel after taking some ibuprofen is undeniable.  Conversely, if you asked me how much my health has improved after taking a hearty dose of 14 different herb capsules 3 times a day (that’s 42 big capsules, peeps) I would be at a loss for words.  While I don’t have any real complaints about taking the herbs (swallowing a mass amount of capsules is actually a luxurious experience compared to my previous method of herbal ingestion in powder form- I will tell you right now, spooning large scoops of powdery dirt into a shot glass and chocking down the now-goopy mud-like substance then trying to erase the entire process from your memory 3 times a day is even harder than it sounds), I also don’t have a lot of great things to say about them.  The “sleepy-time” herbs do promote a nice restful sleep (so that’s 3 more capsules every night before bed, for anyone still keeping count), and I think my morning round up of herbs do kill the pain for a short while, but I always end up requiring some ibuprofen midway through the day.  Without much instant gratification (something our “progressive” society has taught me to crave) from the herbs, it’s hard to see the point in the whole process…

Soooo here’s what I want to know:  Have any of you ever tried acupuncture?  What was your experience?  Did you have a whole cocktail (kind of like a long island iced tea in this case) of herbal supplements to take?  What other forms of healing have you tried?  Did they work for you?