Bodywisdom: A Moment of Grace

Bodywisdom / Nancy Ivey

Inspired by the dedicated staff at St. Francis Memorial Hospital’s Family Life center in Los Angeles, I recently provided chair massage to their maternity ward and neonatal intensive care unit nurses and associates.

Grateful for their loving kindness during my daughter’s labor and delivery 2 months ago, I wanted to reciprocate to the saints and guardian angels attending her and proposed a “spa day” to communications director Linda Woo. Linda agreed to my plan and we chose a suitable day.

Arriving just after noon to set up the space for the event, Linda met me at the entrance and gave me a placard for my car so it could remain there. Leaving at midnight, the security of the building would be a blessing.

A pleasing scent of lavender lifted my spirits as we entered the classroom. Inside, we met Family Life Center Director Margaret (CSUB Nursing School alumni) and an aromatherapist named Elsie who also worked at the hospital.

Aromatherapy uses therapeutic grade plant extracts, like essential oils, to stimulate healing. The sense of smell is our oldest sense. The first cranial nerve to develop is the olfactory. The olfactory nerve is hardwired into the limbic system of the brain, which is the emotional center. The limbic system was archaically known as “the rhinoencephalon” or “nosebrain.”

Elsie left her DoTerra essential oils for people to apply to their pulse points. By adding aroma to the sessions people engaged more than just their sense of touch. Elsie also doused lavender and water into a device that infused the room with a heavenly fragrance.

Signup sheets were scheduled from 1-6 p.m. every 15 minutes, and I would do 10 minute sessions before an hour dinner break during shift change. After working another 5 hours for the night shift, I would drive back home.

We had a full schedule during the day shift, but the night shift only had a few people signed up for the very last time slots. Luckily, the different directors spread the word and the night shift picked up as people dropped by and found me free.

Beginning the sessions by asking each person what they needed, the most common complaints were the shoulders, neck and upper back. I discussed the notion of “bringing the back to the front,” with many people. This refers to taking the shoulder blades toward the spine which straightens up our posture and minimizes slumping

Low back and sciatica were another common problem. Addressing these conditions, I introduced sacral nutation where the sacrum rocks toward the navel at the sacroiliac joints which are the bony protuberances on either side of the hips just above the buttocks. Ending our sessions with passive stretches treated the front and balanced the relaxed muscles in back.

There are ways of working with the body and awareness to prevent the onset of decline. People can make changes in their physical life to enable their body to constantly recover from the rigors of life.

Nancy Ivey teaches yoga at CSUB. Email