Are you clenched?
I was reading the most fascinating article in the car last night while I was waiting for my son to finish up practice. It was written by a cancer survivor who described her success in relaxing her body and mind through the simple exercise of 'unclenching' her face.
One of the first areas of the body we tighten unwittingly under stress is our jaw and this form of compression has a ripple effect throughout the body often giving rise to blockages and pain.
So right in front of her oncologist and chemotherapy nurses, this patient would engage in a deliberate act of unclenching her jaw before each treatment, a technique she learned in her yoga practice. She describes it simply as "dropping the lower jaw away from the upper jaw and letting it hang with an open mouth" (she parallels the look to those "heavy metal mouth-breathing dudes from high school" which I not only found hilarious but also a helpful visual).
But it's what she describes next that I found most interesting.
The act of relaxing her face not only had a marked effect on her body (there was a measurable decrease in her heart rate each time) it also softened her grasping mind and helped calm her fears and anxieties around her illness. She describes an openness of the psyche that improved the energy in the treatment room and lead to an emotional unclenching that was integral to her success during each and every treatment. It allowed her to better deal with what was on hand and even reflect more calmly on things to come.
Belly breathing, visualization, meditation, music and movement are all common ways of eliciting a relaxation response in the body in preparation for the more difficult work of calming the mind. Trying different techniques can help identify the ones that are best suited to our sensibilities.
I share this one as a possible new experience which the author describes as one of the simplest and profoundly effective techniques we can practice.
Well I haven't been this excited about the outcome of a baking experiment since I made these Flourless Peanut Butter and Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
These muffins are soft, moist and surprisingly sprightly despite their lack of flour (love that). They have a nice rise, delightful taste and are also powerfully nutritious. The banana and nut butter flavours are muted amidst the more dominant chocolate chili taste. For good or for bad, the black beans are imperceptible in taste (in my view anyway). They add colour, bulk, density and character to the mix -- as well as a host of nutrients.
Be sure to check out the Nutrition and Cooking Notes for more information and best results!
Flourless Black Bean Chocolate-Chili Muffins (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free)
Nutrition & Cooking Notes:
Heat oven to 325 F.
no visible beans in here