Healing in Underprivileged Communities

Ancient healing practices – like yoga and reiki, meditation, massage, acupuncture and energy work – are becoming more and more mainstream.

Studios and classes can be found nearly everywhere, and hospitals are including traditional healing practices in their treatments and instructional direction. The health and wellness industries have become multi-trillion dollar luxury businesses, with extensions creating income throughout accompanying merchandising.  

While more and more people are being exposed to the unquestionable benefits of holistic healing – including those who might have been turned off by the more esoteric, ritual or traditional aspects of these practices – we, at Taireiki, can’t help but ask; why aren’t these benefits being applied in all the places where they could really make a difference?

The fact is, most opportunities to access ancient healing practices lie behind pay walls and/or are given in very specific and monetized environments, even though their intrinsically low bars to entry (equipment, facilities, prior physical or athletic preparation, etc.) make them almost ideal answers to many of the issues people face today. Access based solely on inaccessible financial means ignores a genuine and profound need within these communities.

Seniors, the homeless, those who are mentally or psychologically impaired, at-risk youth and disadvantaged communities benefit immensely from exactly the kind of healing these ancient practices provide.

Traditional healing practices – and the benefits of each – are seemingly tailor-made for the specific issues faced by disadvantaged populations.  

Mentally and emotionally unbalanced individuals can often trace the root of their issue to a chemical imbalance (either from a pre-existing medical condition or the cellular damage caused by prolonged states of stress), and ancient healing practices have been documented to help process cortisol. adrenaline, norepinephrine and other stress hormones that wreak havoc on our nervous system. These practices also generate beneficial neurochemicals and promote the natural balance(sate) of a healthy body.

While most of the Taireiki community is familiar with the benefits of traditional healing practice, others may not be as aware of the specific benefits one can expect from diligent dedication to ancient holistic healing practices. Let us share a few:


Yoga

The poses, even in more modern systems, center on “flow,” stretch and naturally strengthening the bodies’ muscles to allow for better circulation, structural alignment, and many other benefits ranging from boosted immunity to mindful eating.

One of the most often ignored issues suffered by the homeless is the trauma and PTSD caused by becoming and being homeless. The deep breathing and mindfulness promoted by yoga allows participants to access and deal with the pain and mental stress while the postures help by both directly treating physical problems, as well as the other well documented neurological benefits the practice itself promotes.


Reiki

Reiki practitioners focus on manipulations of the natural energy fields of the human body (dissolving blockages, relieve pain, release stress and tension, etc.) through hands-on treatments, breathing and meditation. The ultimate goal is to “reset” the body (or specific systems) to its (their) natural state and to promote, support and enhance the natural healing, balance, and mind-body-spirit connection innate in to every individual.

Underprivileged communities can suffer from a lack of healthy food (food deserts, prohibitive pricing etc.) and increased life stress due to socioeconomic or circumstantial pressures and reduced access to primary medical care. Healing arts like Reiki specifically address tension relief, mindfulness to combat anxiety and stress, preventative holistic health and even pain relief. Being able to boost natural immunity, target and prevent minor aches and pains and heal or treat chronic pain can often mean avoiding a costly visit to the ER/UC or an individual being overwhelmed by the pressures of life.


Qigong

This Chinese discipline relies on slow precise movement, deep breathing and natural postural alignment, to stretch and strengthen muscles, promote harmony within the system of the human body, and increase self awareness and the mind-body-spirit connection in accordance with ancient Chinese cosmological principals.

Seniors, due to natural aging and a more sedentary lifestyle, often need to work on balance, tissue density, and respiratory health. Unfortunately, these same needs make it difficult for them to meet the sometimes athletic demands of yoga or Pilates.

Fortunately for this population, however, qigong is a perfect fit! Qigong can be practiced sitting or standing, or a combination of the two. It gently and progressively builds strength and most importantly, does not rely on strength, flexibility, stamina or any other athletic considerations to gain the benefits of a diligent practice. This focus on alignment and natural body positioning also makes qigong ideal for overweight or injured/differently-abled people as a supplemental program.


Pilates

A method developed by Joseph Pilates, using targeted precise movements and muscle isolation, as well as breathing, isometrics and even in some cases, purpose-built machines to guide the practitioner through a pattern of fitness movements aimed at increasing strength, stamina, postural alignments and the correct use (firing) of muscles.    


Many of these practices have overlapping benefits, as well. For example, both yoga and qigong can give at-risk youth a sense of community, help to relieve stress, address grief and other unprocessed emotions, and most importantly, foster a sense of control and self reliance, which can translate in to healthy self esteem and behaviors at school and in the community.

With the high popularity and obvious benefits of ancient healing practices, it’s a wonder they aren’t being utilized more. Luckily, one of the biggest reasons for lack of utilization is lack of knowledge, which is rapidly being addressed.  

A growing group of folks and organizations are looking to fund good service models, provide good services, or create overall strategy. Expert healers, on the other hand, need to use a more need-based public health-focused business model, and to target communities in need (housing developments, hospitals, senior centers, etc.) and provide their services.  

Institutions and organizations with funding in those areas are also usually willing and eager to work with expert healers to solve issues. In fact, they are looking for wellness professionals to come in and provide these healing services. See below for some of these organizations*.

As healers and practitioners, we are often focused on the individual and can sometimes forget the community and the holistic impact we can have. The Taireiki community and our healers, use the ancient healing arts to restore balance and harmony in our everyday lives, realizing that these practices can have a higher order effect on more serious and complex societal problems.

For example, Taireiki owner, president and master healer Ivor Edmonds serves, and has served, a number of communities across the Greater Boston Area, including St. Francis House Shelter, Tewksbury State Hospital, Boston Centers for Youth and Family, and local senior centers.

Each night, people die because they lack healing services. Overcrowded domestic abuse shelters; old people who fall alone, and the Potter’s fields filling up during harsh weather are all preventable outcomes with life or death consequences of our societal problems. There’s already a great deal of political debate about this issue, but the truth is that there is no more time for rhetoric; eventually you have to act in service, and that time is now.

Whether you believe that simply practicing positivity and healing can metaphysically affect the overall level of good in the world, or are just trying to get the highest number of individuals the best quality services, the work you do is important and every little bit helps.

Please let us know how we can help you.

***

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085832/

  2. http://www.traumacenter.org/clients/yoga_svcs.php

  3. https://www.muih.edu/aggregator/sources/1

  4. https://www.muih.edu/maryland-university-integrative-health-kicks-fall-2018-largest-group-new-enrollments

  5. https://www.brighamandwomens.org/about-bwh/volunteer/reiki-volunteer-program

Overcoming Shock and Crisis

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of going through some type of crisis, shock, or trauma, hopefully there were people around to help you. In the best case scenario, you’ll be able to rely on the kindness of strangers and professionals trained to guide you through this situation.

However if you have the misfortune of going through a negative experience alone, I want to be sure you have the necessary tools to take responsibility for your own healing and treat yourself from the immediate after effects of crisis.

When you go through an emergency, there are several physiological changes that happen, which fundamentally alter the state of your consciousness, such as:

  • The reptilian mind, or brainstem, becomes hyper active.

  • Adrenaline shoots from your adrenal glands located above your kidneys and into your bloodstream.

  • Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone,, floods the bloodstream agitating all the cells in your body and preparing your muscles for fight or flight.

  • Your heart rate will begin to increase pumping blood into your muscles.

  • Blood flow will also reduce to certain internal organs, and the frontal lobe of the brain.

In preparation for the emergency, as the flood of neurochemicals and hormones saturates your cells, your perception will become altered. You may experience tunnel vision, the inability to see peripherally. You may become fixated on what’s happening directly in front of you to the exclusion of the rest of your environment. Some people experience hearing loss and are unable to perceive people speaking, loud noises, or sirens.

Exactly what will occur to you will, of course, depend upon your individuality and the circumstances. However, it is sufficient to say that the longer and more intense the shock affecting your system the more intense your body’s physical reactions.

If this remains unchecked for too long it may lead to cardiac arrest or worse. It is of the importance to get control over yourself during these intense moments of shock, however, the methods for doing so often fall far short of their intended goal.

The most effective way that we teach to gain control of your bodies functions under Extreme duress, is through slow conscious deep breathing.

First, deep breathing is one of the few tools that we almost always have access to, regardless of the crisis. This type of breathing involves more than just filling your lungs with air and exhaling. So, a step-by-step practice to teach the correct method follows.

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width, with your feet parallel.

  2. Sit up, taking your back off the back of your chair (if you can) and make spine straight.

  3. Place your hands on your thighs. It should take minimal effort to maintain this position.

  4. Exhale out of your mouth and empty your lungs fully contracting your stomach and diaphragm.

  5. Next close your mouth and inhale slowly and deeply. As you do so, your abdomen should expand like a balloon being filled with air. Your shoulders and upper chest should remain still until the inhale is nearly complete.

  6. Once you have inhaled completely filling your lungs hold your breath and count to four slowly. You should feel as little strain on your body as possible.

  7. Then slowly exhale out of your mouth, allowing your abdomen to contract and empty your lungs.

  8. After you have exhaled, hold your breath and count to four slowly.

  9. Then repeat the steps 5-9.

Inhale… 2…3…4… Hold…2…3…4… Exhale…2…3…4… Hold…2…3…4… Repeat

When done correctly, you will feel your heart rate slow down, and your vision and hearing will return to normal. Any shaking in your muscles or nervousness in your stomach will begin to dissipate. The effects of the increased levels of cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline running through your bloodstream will diminish.

Most importantly, you will be able to think clearly and your sense of well-being will begin to return.

At times, I have students who attempt to practice this deep breathing exercise during a critical moment of fear and shock, and they report to me that it did not work. The key to ensuring that this exercise works in-the-moment, is making sure that the deep breath you take fully expands your belly in abdominal region keeping your chest and shoulders still.

What you are doing internally when you take slow deep breaths while expanding your abdomen, is massaging all of your internal organs. Your kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, large intestines, adrenal glands, gallbladder, etc. are physically massaged by taking a deep breath inside your torso. It is this internal massage that will move lymph fluid, blood, and the associated stress neurochemicals through your body preventing them from overloading your mind, changing your emotional state from shocked and afraid to calm and in control.

If you would like more information about this technique and others to help you during the moment of crisis, or if you would like to learn further techniques on how you can gain control over your own emotions, contact us or attend a Trauma Sensitive/Informed Yoga class.

We are here to help you.