Strengthening Mind & Body through Yoga

Text by Michelle Chenoweth • Photography by Jim Wells

There is no good or bad when it comes to yoga, only a willingness to be honest, present, and accountable to you.   Starting a practice can be very intimidating. Whether you attend group classes, play on the mat at home, or work one on one, the practice of yoga is a very personal journey. It is an opportunity to explore more than just the flexibility of your body, but how you respond to the ebb and flow of the world you exist in. The word yoga means to yoke or connect. Connect to your life, your emotions, your mind, body and spirit. We all want to feel connected to something, to feel that our lives are important.  Yoga is more than a workout, it is your time to slow down, to breathe mindfully, and greet yourself wherever you are in that moment, to connect to the most authentic you.  Yoga exercises functional range of motion in the joints and spine and focuses on mindful movement and positioning of the body to increase strength,  flexibility, balance, coordination, agility, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and bone health. Through mindful movement of the body and breath, yoga is also very effective at managing stress and anxiety. The benefits of yoga are truly endless. This short sequence allows you to start at whatever level of intensity you seek and feel your ability and practice progress over time.  As you come to the mat, explore your intention. Move as slowly or quickly through the poses, and repeat as many times  as you desire. Breathe. Feel. Let go.

Cow/Cat: Begin the practice on all fours. Shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Begin to breathe in through the nostrils into the belly, ribs and chest. As you inhale feel the pelvis tip forward deepening the curve in the back and expanding the front body. As you exhale engage the abdominals and draw the belly up and in rounding the back body like a cat. Tuck the tailbone under and chin to chest. Repeat until you feel well acquainted with the body and rhythm of the breath.

Downward facing dog: This inversion brings hips to the sky, creating a long neutral spine from sacrum to crown, and an energetic stretch into the belly of the hamstrings. Feel the space around the collarbones open up as you press your shoulder blades strongly onto the back ribs. Draw the chest toward the thighs, and the sits bones back and wide. Root down through the heels and lengthen the back of the neck, gazing toward the knees. Breathe. Hold and explore as long as you like or flow into the next posture. You can modify this pose by coming off the mat and bringing hands to the wall.

Plank: Create total body strength in Plank. Stack Shoulders over the wrists and squeeze hands into the mat and toward the pinky finger. Feel your shoulder blades strong on the back, and bellybutton hugged in. Muscularly engage the whole body as you hold and breathe. You can modify this pose by coming onto the knees or forearms. Stay as long as you like or flow to the next posture.

Cobra or Upward facing dog: Starting belly and chest to the mat with arms in push up position, squeeze feet, knees, and inner thighs together and engage glutes to secure the lower back. Press through the hands to lift the chest off the mat. Breathe into the length of the front body. In full Upward facing dog, the shoulders will be over the wrists, Push through the hands and root through the toes to lift the body off the mat. Feel the chest open and space open up between the shoulders and the ears as you pull the shoulders onto the back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Modify by coming onto the forearms, following previous alignment ques. Lower back down to the mat or flow back into Downward facing Dog.

Lunge: Begin with forward leg pressing strongly down through the 4 corners of the foot and knee stacked directly over the ankle. Lengthen  back through the opposing leg and root through the ball of the foot. Muscularly engage the leg muscles to create a hugging in to the hip sockets.  Create a long neutral spine by hugging the belly away from the thigh and using blocks to bring the ground closer to you if needed. Modify degrees of difficulty by bringing back knee to the mat, or standing up in the pose. Breathe, hold, and switch sides when ready.

Hip opener with twist: Begin on back with arms in a T position. Bring palm of right hand to Right knee, Inhale as right knee opens away from the body. As you exhale right knee comes back to center and hands switch places, roll onto the left hip as right leg comes across the body. Head rotates opposite the knee.  Squeeze into the twist repeat pattern, switch sides when ready. Feel the breath guide the movement of the body and maintain the shoulders on the mat.

        Take a few minutes to breathe, relax, integrate, and be still before you get back up.  Namaste


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Massage Therapy

Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Andrea Cordeiro, Licensed Massage Therapist and Manager of Benefis Med Spa

beautiful and healthy woman lying on a massage table receiving back massage in spa salon . Traditional massage therapy and spa treatment.

When people think of getting a massage, they often envision being pampered in a luxurious spa. However, massage therapy has many benefits far beyond just pampering. Studies suggest that massages can actually help with a number of medical conditions.

• Anxiety, stress, and depression: We have all heard how relaxing a massage can be and there is a reason for it. Studies show that massage can help reduce anxiety, stress, and relieve depression by lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol by up to 50%. Additionally, massage also increases the release of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which help reduce depression.

• Chronic lower back pain: Studies have shown individuals with chronic lower back pain – lasting longer than three months – have better results from massage therapy than other alternative therapies. Individuals receiving massage therapy for lower back pain have also been found to need less over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and that they were able to function better than individuals being treated with just standard medical care.

• Sleep: It’s not surprising that message therapy has been shown to help improve sleep. When getting a massage, it’s easy and common to drift off to sleep. Studies show that massage can improve sleep for people of all ages.

• Headaches and migraines: There are many treatments for headaches and migraines ranging from over-the-counter medications and prescription medications to Botox injections. Massage therapy is another treatment for headaches and migraines that people enjoy and find effective. Massage for headaches and migraines is thought to work in multiple ways to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines. One factor is that headaches and migraines can be onset by stress and as stated previously, massage can reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Massage also helps relax muscles that can cause tension headaches and can ease the pain much in the same way that you would rub your arm to reduce pain if you were to hit it on something.

The Benefis Med Spa offers a special 30-minute Cold Stone Migraine Therapy that combines custom-designed cold marble stones with strategic placement along key headache sites to quickly reduce the pain and pressure associated with migraines and other types of headaches. This is a fast, drug-free alternative for headache sufferers.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing pampering day or seeking additional relief from symptoms, the Benefis Med Spa has licensed massage therapists ready to help you feel better. Our therapists have unique training and offer customized massage therapy treatments to meet each client’s individual needs. Jessica Klette is a licensed athletic trainer in addition to being a massage therapist and provides a specialized approach to caring for common aches and pains. Amy Holmlund is classically trained in massage therapy and has additional certifications in Thai massage, Tuina massage, and other Eastern techniques.

The Benefis Med Spa offers a variety of massage services including therapeutic massage, chair massage, prenatal massage, and stone massages. Call the Benefis Med Spa at (406) 455-2845 to schedule your appointment today.

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Beating Your Back Pain

Text by Dr. Benny Brandvold, Benefis Neurosurgeon and Director of Neurotrauma
and Dr. Paul Miller, Benefis Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Most Americans will experience an episode of significant back pain over the course of their lives. The good news is: most back problems get better on their own – approximately 90 percent of patients with lower back problems recover within six weeks, including those with disk herniations.

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Pelvic Prolapse

A Common Problem for Women

Text by Dr. Jeffery Palen, DO, Benefis Obstetrics-Gynecology

Many people find it shocking that your organs can move out of their appropriate place over time, but the shifting of organs, particularly those in the pelvic area is actually quite common, especially for women. This movement of organs from their proper place in the pelvic cavity is known as a pelvic organ prolapse. The organs in this area that can prolapse include the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, small bowel, and rectum.

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Lives Reclaimed

Finding Hope in the Battle Against Chronic Pain

Text by Holly Matkin | Photography by Marcus Serrano

Like so many Montanans who depend on the earth and sky for their livelihoods, Steve and Josie Gordon embody the principles of rural western culture. Propelled by determination, ambition and fortitude in the face of inevitable adversities, they toil away on their fourth-generation cattle ranch southeast of Cascade, fostering their family’s legacy.

Fellow Great Falls area resident Margaret “Maggie” Welzenbach exudes a similar tenacity and zest for life as a sprightly, self-proclaimed “wild child.” If you are having difficulty reaching her by telephone, it is highly probable she is outside, busily tending to her much-adored chickens.

Regardless of age, profession or specific location, Maggie and the Gordons exemplify the commonalities of Montanans as a whole.

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Don’t Skip Your Annual Exam

Pap vs. Pelvic?

Text by Kelly Timmer, FNP-BC, WHNP-BC, and Sydne Skaer, FNP-BC

For years, women have been accustomed to getting a Pap smear—a test to detect certain cancerous or precancerous cells of the cervix—annually. A few years ago, however, the Pap smear guidelines for most women were revised to recommend a Pap smear once every three to five years instead of yearly. This change generated a major misconception—that no annual Pap meant there was no need for an annual exam.

There is, and always has been,

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