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My friend Anna had a trying time this holiday and she has shared with me her process for working through and out of it with the help of several holistic practitioners and ancient remedies.

She was the unfortunate recipient of a brownie cooked with a large amount of hashish.  She did not know that it was not a “normal” brownie when she ingested it but soon after noticed as she was getting ready to sit on the floor that she did not know if she was standing or sitting.  This concerned her and she wondered if she was having a stroke or a heart attack.  Soon after she was told about the brownies and then she blacked out. 

After vomiting for several hours at the ER and having cat scans of her abdomen and head and blood work and a long list of diagnostic tests that would have not been done if her driver had admitted knowing what she ingested, she realized that to end the nightmare she would have to act as if she was feeling okay.  She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t end this nightmare like she usually did.  She has little snippets of images from 8 hour black out, including being treated unkindly by those trying to move her, and a doctor saying it is a good thing you vomited that all up, because it was very toxic.  She also remembers hearing an angry voice say several times, “vomit into the blue bucket” but she had no idea where that was.  And she remembers hearing several times, outside her “room”, “They found her lying face down in her vomit.”  Some friends took her home, (sadly the hospital only supplied a hospital gown and slippers over her pajama bottoms ).

The combination of the hash and the tranquilizer the ER doctor gave her, in a body that had experienced a few drugs but not since 1970, did a number on her nervous system.  She told me she remained in a doped up space for ten days!  The first few days were a wash.  Then she became more alert but was in shock and could not sleep.  She said she felt as if there was an electric current pulsing up her spine and getting stuck in her neck.  She forced herself to drive to her first healing treatment from a craniosacral therapist who helped her let go of shock in her spine, skull and legs.  He told her she was pale when she got there, but had plenty of color when she left.  Driving home she felt more relaxed and that night did fall asleep watching C-SPAN Book TV.  Her second treatment was with an acupuncturist who put needles in her areas of depleted “chi” and on points to help her sleep.  She felt much better after that but could not sleep that night.  The next day she thought she better get some sleeping pills because she knows that not sleeping can make it impossible to recover from shock to the system.  She went to the health food store and found Bach flower Rescue Remedy sleep aid and that night used it whenever she woke up.  She did get sleeping pills to have on hand if needed, but she  never used them.  She had a second craniosacral treatment during which she released some more shock but was concerned that a week after her event she still felt liked she was going to faint.  Her acupuncturist told her she was probably dehydrated and suggested water with electrolytes and emergen-C.  After a day and a half she no longer felt faint.  One more acupuncture treatment, and then a massage on the 10th day helped her turn the corner.  She now felt grounded and in her body.  But she had to work hard to get there.  She also took hot baths in epsom salts, lay on tennis balls to release tension from her spine, did yoga in the middle of the night when she woke up, began to take  some walks and constantly had to remind her self to stop holding her breath and breathe.  An aromatherapist also put some anti shock oils on her solar plexus and shirt and some myrrh for protection.  She slept in that shirt for several days as that also seemed to help her sleep.

She told me she wondered how all the people who experience shock and trauma recover from it.  Do they get help, or ignore the physical and emotional symptoms.  Does the painful event(s) stay stuck in their nervous system?  Or are they able to release it gradually and gently, without causing more shock to their body/mind/spirit.

She says she is thankful for the help she received, medical and holistic, for her friends who cooked her nurturing meals, for her pets who stayed tuned into her throughout, and for healing touch which she noticed was essential in her healing.  Anna is savoring every minute of her peaceful holidays.


Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10AM-3PM

Come get a mini table massage from me, and check out first edition of my new book, Circle of Healing: Helping Extraordinary Clients with Yoga and Massage, A Practical Guide.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 

Sponsored by Riverside County (CA) Commission for Women

60 vendors and speakers

Admission free with non-perishable canned food item or grocery store gift card for $5.  Refreshments provided with admission.

The County of Riverside Commission for Women seeks to improve the status of all women by ensuring opportunities for each woman to develop to her full potential.  In support of this mission, the Commission for Women identifieis problemsl, defines issues and recommends policies and procedures to the County Board of Supervisors regarding, but not limited to, women and health, the workplace, family, education, violence, law and society.

More information, contact me at 951-677-5962 or Michele Broad, Women’s Health and Wellness, 951-304-3180.


Learn yoga poses and self-care techniques for flexibility, to help balance the endocrine system, to create strong muscles and bones, to promote balance and clear thinking.  Learn ways to enhance your midlife and beyond.

Saturday, April 10, 2010 – 10:45-12:45

Korrie’s Pilates Place. Baxter Road off Rte 15 in Wildomar – exit east, make first left at Monte Vista, first right on Fredrick St., up the hill and buildings to the left.  34859 Fredrick St., Suite 108

$25, or $20 to members of Korrie’s Place.

Questions?  Call 951-677-5962.


Winter Solstice Greetings!

From the shortest day of the year to later and later twilights,

May your lengthening days be filled with increasing

health, happiness, humor, peace and riches of all kinds.

Winter time was the Star of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with candles in every window, huge snowdrifts blocking our front door, wood fires in our little Limeport home, and sleigh rides on the hill. It was time for small gatherings with remarkable friends and family and the annual 10 mile Christmas Peace Pilgrimmage from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  We welcomed the beginning of winter with piano, recorders, flutes, violins, and song.  Today winter is pink sunsets over the Pacific coastal mountains and crisp clean air.  It is snuggling with Marina between her visits to her childhood friends, being amazed at how independent and wise she has become, and being thankful that Winnie, the dog and Gray, the cat are safe and cozy.  It is time for running to our old house to see the winter stream after first rain, and trimming the native plants by the pond.    

The winter solstice is like magical twilight, when the yellow haze of day turns to pink, blue, and then moonrise.

I know many of you have been faced with seeming unbearable losses and challenges, and I trust that the cool blue twilight of winter will give us quiet time to center and prepare for all of our upcoming changes and unfolding.    


solstice mandala Good news!As a result of hard work of many dedicated people  including lobbyists, California now has  state certification for massage therapists.  After becoming certified,  massage therapists can work anywhere in the state of California.  Before now, massage therapists paid for a city license and then were unable to work in another city unless they paid that city’s fee.  (Or in some places, there was an extra fee for crossing county lines.) Many states in the US have state certification, and soon it will be nationwide.

As a result of this I will be offering massage therapy at Korrie’s Pilates Place (formerly A Balanced Body Center) in Wildomar, and at The Herb Peddlers on Main Street in historic Lake Elsinore.

More good news:   With a lot of help from friends, writers, editors, etc., the book I have been working on for six years is almost finished!

Yoga class:  I am still not in my home on Via las Flores.  The lawsuit with the bank is still pending.  So I am gathering students for a  class at Korrie’s Pilates Place.  Evening?  or noon hour?   Or if you know a home or business that would like a class there, contact me and we can work out details.

If you would like to host an infant massage class, a pet massage class or mandala creating class, talk to me!

And as holidays are approaching, I am offering gift certificates for massage or private yoga, for $50 for an hour, or $25 for thirty minutes.  This includes house calls.  I welcome working with the elderly, hospice patients, people with physical challenges and special needs, and those recovering from accidents and trauma.                   

Call me at 951-677-5962 or email me at Wendy726@verizon.net.

I hope you are well & enjoying the beginning of cool weather,

Wendy Hammarstrom

Blog: www.WendysWellnessWorld.Wordpress.com  

Website: www.WendysWellnessWorld.com


In 1970, when I took a ceramics class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I quickly discovered that I could not center clay on the pottery wheel.  After months of attempting to keep my clay creations from leaning to the left or right, I decided to ditch that idea and make pinch pots instead.  Over the next few years I studied tai chi and ten years later my studies took me into the heart of Kenpo Karate and White Crane Kung Fu.  It was those movement systems that taught me about finding one’s center, also called hara or tan tien.

The hara, also called “one point”, is said to be located just below the navel and about an inch inside the body.  It is a protected area and considered by many to be a sacred space.  It is not surprising that this is the womb area, and is immediately below where the umbilical cord connects mother and infant. Another factor that makes this area important is that the psoas, a major walking muscle and the only muscle to connect the lumbar spine to the legs is nearby. The intestines, located in the center, are where 95% of the serotonin is manufactured in our body.  The gut’s own nervous system or mini-brain has more nerve cells than our brain’s central nervous system.  The number of nerve fibers that carry messages from our GI tract to our brain is nine times more than those that travel from the brain to the GI tract.  Therefore, a calm gut or hara means calm mind and body.  (I have noticed when I take immodium to slow down motility, my mind relaxes also.)

As a yoga/movement instructor I emphasize that students become centered through mat work, stretching, conscious breathing and attention inward.  By focusing on the center, yoga practitioners are able to generate heat and healing energy throughout their body, at the same time bringing the person into the here and now, with less focus on worries.  The squat, the Iyengar standing and balance poses, dog pose, seated forward bends, and many others stretch the legs and open the hips to develop strength and flexibility in the lower body which encourages us to extend and open our upper body.  And what is the connector here? Our center – of gravity, balance and equilibrium.

Skilled dancers of all styles also move from their centers. In Contact Improvisation, dancers move with others in a constant flow of losing their balance, falling, catching and supporting, often with movements that mirror those of infants learning to move and to trust.  Many forms of movement originate from our center, and that includes bodywork.

The minds of skilled bodyworkers are focused and free of Ojai 12distraction so they are able to be totally in the present with their clients.  They may reach this state before beginning a session by consciously inhaling and consciously exhaling, and using energy awareness techniques such as yoga, meditation or focusing on a mandala.  This creates a free flow of healing energy so that the massage recipient experiences more than simply the physical sensations of having muscles rubbed.  They often experience a renewed sense of wholeness.

I am fascinated by the concept of hara and or center because I know what it is like to be not centered physically, a good example being last year when I was moving a large box in a dark garage. I fell backwards and literally flew through the air and landed on my hipbones. Also there were several times I tripped over grapevines in the hill behind my house which resulted in my completing a somersault mid-air.  I also know what it is like to lose my center emotionally/spiritually.  I know what it is like to “fall out of rhythm” as Brooke Medicine Eagle says, and to be helped back into my rhythm with the help of bodywork and movement.

The center is the starting point when I begin creating a mandala and my calligrapher neighbor has shown me the difference between making a line on paper, and making the line from your center.

Centering is a foundation of my Quaker upbringing and of yogic philosophy.  In Quaker worship, we meditate by calming our thoughts, centering and opening to divine communication.

When I was a child, an elegant family friend always impressed me with her graceful manner and movement.  After her husband died, she immersed herself in Zen Tea Ceremony.  When I bumped into her in New York City decades later, she was still striking, graceful and moving from her hara.


Mandalas:  The art of centering

“There exists no circle in the world which is not made from within a single point which is located in the center…and this point, which is located in the center, receives all the light, illuminates the body, and all is enlightened.”  From the Zohar

Mandala is a Sanskrit word for circle or wheel that signifies beginnings with no ends.  The variations of patterns are endless, but each has a specific center, and concentric rings that emanate from that center.  Every culture and spiritual practice has their own representation of the circle, evident in their art, architecture and rituals.  In ancient Britain the Druids told time and performed rituals within their circles of large boulders. The circular Aztec calendar was also a time keeping device as well as a vehicle for religious expression.  The 12th century Christian nun Hildegard von Bigen created mandalas to express her visions and beliefs.  The mandala is a recurrent Christian image: the rosary, halo, Celtic cross, crown of thorns, rose windows, floor of Chartres Cathedral and more.  In Islam the entire building of the mosque becomes a mandala as the dome of the roof represents the arch of the heavens and turns the worshippers’ atttention towards Allah.  The Star of David is a Hebrew spiritual symbol.  Natives of North America create and use medicine wheels and dream catchers.  Navajo Indians spend days or weeks creating sand mandalas. Indigenous Australians have bora rings, and the Amish have hex signs on their barns. Some cultures regard the mandala as an eye of God, or of the Goddess.

Zen Buddhist monks also spend days or weeks creating a sand mandala, only to sweep it up and disperse it into flowing water, to demonstrate the impermanence of life.   According to Buddhist scripture sand mandalas transmit positive energy to the environment and to the people who view them, even after they are swept away. The circle with a center pattern is the basic structure of nature, from the smallest molecule to the conceptual circles of family, friends and community, to the seeming endless Milky Way galaxy.

Psychotherapist Carl Jung created mandalas for his own growth and with his patients and said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.” Whatever your belief systems are, creating your own mandala design, or coloring one, lets you express yourself. Flowers, rings found in tree trunks, and snowflakes can be your inspiration.  The act of creating the mandala – with crayons, markers, paint, collage or stones — is relaxing and centering.  When you have completed it, look at what you have created.  Notice where your eyes land, and where they travel.  Then go to the center of the mandala and focus on it as you_Mandala become aware of your own center.


I am enjoying teaching this class. So far mostly new students. Today we focused on hip stretches and strengtheners, from mat work to partner stretches to standing poses. As always, I included some dance warm-ups, self-acupressure with tennis balls, and upper back stretches with larger balls. People seem to enjoy seated spinal twist with a partner as it is easier to go deeper into the pose and also flat back stretch, where we counterbalance, and have to trust each other. The energy in the room at Korrie’s Pilates Place is wonderful—very inspiring and peaceful. We ended the class with savasana, complete relaxation pose as I asked the class to visualize breath and energy coming in left hand and swirling around body, and whatever we don’t need flowing out the right side of body through the right hand.
Thursday mornings, 10-11:15AM, Wildomar, CA. Call 951-677-5962.


Summer into Fall

Summer into Fall

The Art of Centering in Yoga and Massage

In 1970, when I took a ceramics class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I quickly discovered that I could not center clay on the pottery wheel. Over the next few years I was also studying tai chi and ten years later my studies took me into the heart of Kenpo Karate and White Crane Kung Fu. It was those movement systems that taught me about finding one’s center, also called hara or tan tien.

The hara, also called “one point”, is said to be located just below the navel and about an inch inside the body. It is a protected area and considered by many to be a sacred space. It is not surprising that this is the womb area, and that it is immediateley below where the umbilical cord connects mother and infant. Another factor that makes this area important is that the psoas, a major walking muscle and the only muscle to connect the lumbar spine, is nearby. Also the digestive tract, especially the intestines, is where 95% of the serotonin (feel good transmitter) is manufactured. In fact the gut area has its own nervous system, often called the mini-brain.

As a yoga/movement instructor I help students become centered through mat work, stretching, conscious breathing and attention inward. By focusing on our centers, yoga practitioners are able to generate heat and healing energy throughout their body, at the same time bringing the person into the here and now, with less focus on worries.

The squat, the Iyengar standing and balance poses, dog pose, seated forward bends, and many other positions stretch the legs and open the hips to develop strength and flexibility in the lower body. This allows us to root or ground and supports our extending and opening our upper body. And what is the connector here? Our center — of gravity, balance and equilibrium.

An alarming number of people, especially over sixty years old, have suffered from falls, and even more alarming is how many people die as a result of complications from the injuries. It is urgently important for people to stay in touch with their center as their anchor, thus I highly recommend yoga for people from early years to one hundred years old or more. And while they are at it, they can learn how to give massages!

Most forms of movement originate from our center, and that includes doing bodywork. The minds of skilled bodyworkers are focussed and free of distraction so they are able to be totally in the present with their clients. They may reach this state before beginning a session by consciously inhaling and consciously exhaling, and using energy awareness techniqes such as yoga, meditation or focusing on a mandala. This creates a free flow of healing energy so that the massage recipient experiences more than simply the physical sensations of having muscles rubbed. They often experience a renewed sense of wholeness.

Peter Levine, a well-known trauma recovery therapist and author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, believes that trauma is not in the event but in the nervous system. Thus everything we can do to enhance the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system will help us stay calm even while external events attempt to un-hinge us.

Not only is awareness of our center or hara an essential part of everyday balance and agility, it is a component of subtle and often spiritual ways of healing. We transmit healing energy from the same center that we use in an emergency, such as when a mother rescues her child pinned under a car. Our “chi” or life force, hyper activated in this instance, is also available to sooth us.

One of my favorite poses for bringing awareness to our center is called constructive rest pose. Lying on your back with knees bent,
legs hip width apart, feet flat on the floor and arms resting on your abdomen, across your chest or relaxed with palms up by your head, relax into gravity. This is a passive release of the psoas, encourages good alignment of the spine and full and deep respiration. Inhale, focus on your center, then exhale, internally sensing your breath move your energy or chi through your body, to release tension. After several breaths, allow your breathing to simply happen. After five, ten or twenty minues, roll onto your side, prop yourself up slowly, and re-enter the world.

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“Holding the breath is like holding the soul.” BKS Iyengar

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“Energy is the real substance behind the appearance of matter anad forms.” Randolph Stone, D.O., D.C., founder of Polarity Therapy

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“If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.” Walt Whitman

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“Movement never lies.” Martha Graham