For the Love of Vets and Dogs

Veterans see and deal with many traumatic experiences in service of our country. They frequently come home physically and emotionally damaged. The most common emotional challenge vets face is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Vets dealing with PTSD have difficulty readjusting to life away from the battle field. The Veterans Association (VA) believes owning a dog may help alleviate some of the PTSD symptoms vets manage.

New Leashes for Vets and Dogs

According to National Geographic, 11 to 20 percent of vets who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD each year. Organizations like K9s For Warriors and Paws for Veterans seek to help both homeless pets and traumatized vets by matching them up. The dogs get forever homes and the vets get a companion who helps them heal and readjust. A true win-win.

According to a story on NPR, and the VA’s own website, the VA encourages dog ownership to help with PTSD symptoms, but won’t help pay for their purchase or care due to a lack of evidence surrounding the actual benefits. Veterans, however, tell a different story. They believe that owning a dog trained to help with their PTSD saved their lives. The VA’s own statistics show that 22 vets commit suicide daily – that’s more than 8000 per year. Based on what the vets themselves say, many of these deaths could be prevented with a properly trained dog.

One Vet’s Story

Cole Lyle served overseas in the Marine Corps for six years. He told the Huffington Post about his challenges with PTSD and his newfound passion – thanks in part to his dog Kaya. Lyle was given prescription medications to treat his PTSD and depression upon his return to the U.S., but he felt they only exacerbated his symptoms. After two of his friends killed themselves while on the medications, Lyle decided to drop them – cold turkey.

Instead of seeking alternative chemical assistance, Lyle approached his family and friends for financial support to get a PTSD assistance trained dog. He was matched with Kaya, a German shepherd who Lyle credits with helping him regain control of his life. Lyle is now a college student and advocate for soldier rights, particularly with regard to getting laws passed that make it easier for vets to own a PTSD assistance dog. He’s currently working with lawmakers to pass the PAWS Act.

The Zen of Fish

If you’ve ever spent time at a public aquarium or keeping fish in a tank at home, you’ve likely noticed the sense of peace and calm you feel when watching the fish. For some, extended time around fish tanks can lead to a Zen-like state of mind. Science now shows that this feeling has deeper physical and mental impacts.

Biodiversity Calms Human Biology

A controlled study recently published in Environment and Behavior measured participants’ vital signs while observing aquariums with varying ranges of biodiversity. Although the study observed greater benefits with more bio diverse tanks, the physiological benefits of lower blood pressure and heart rate were observed in participants viewing empty tanks as well. These benefits were observed after only a few minutes.

To further emphasize the benefits of fish tanks, researches believe that these effects can be extended to a clinical setting. For example, if a live feed were set up from a public aquarium to a hospital, researchers theorize that patients would experience a significant reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. Perhaps some innate understanding of this is why many dental and doctor offices have fish tanks in their waiting rooms?

Blue Environment Cures the Blues

A recent study in the International Journal of Life Sciences Research looked at the mental health benefits of keeping fish at home. Although researchers are unsure how it works, they were able to find a connection between keeping a fish tank and a reduction in need for mental health medications to treat depression and/or anxiety.

When participants spent time gazing at a fish tank, the amino acid GABA, which stabilizes mood was released. Participants who reported feeling anxious, depressed or stressed noted a reduction of the feelings after gazing at the fish tank for several minutes.

The Zen of Fish

For years, scientists have been touting the positive effects of water. Humans spend time in water/fluid in the womb and many theories suggest that this leaves humans programmed to respond with calm and ease to water. One yoga blog theorizes that the swaying movement of plants in a fish tank are hypnotic and could even improve the yoga class experience. If you’re looking for a new pet or to add a little “Zen” to your home, cultivating the zen of fish with a fish tank may be the ideal solution.

Cancer Sniffing Dogs Save Lives

Dog owners know just how much their four-legged fur babies become members of the family. Most dog owners would do anything to help or save their beloved pet. It turns out, dogs feel the same way about their owners.

The Biology of Cancer Sniffing

Dogs and humans have co-evolved for more than 100,000 years. Dogs have come to rely on humans to provide shelter and food while humans trust dogs to provide protection and assistance in hunting food. According to the InSitu Foundation, evolutionists and biologists believe that humans may never have progressed past the agricultural stage without help from dogs and their noses.

Because dogs rely upon humans for shelter and food, it’s beneficial for dogs to know if their human caretakers are sick. Their powerful noses are put to good use in detecting early warning signs of many illnesses, including cancer. If you’ve ever been around someone with the flu, you know the “sick smell.” Many oncologists have reported a similar smell on the breath of patients in stage three or four. Now, there are studies showing that dogs are able to detect cancer much earlier – even stage zero.

Types of Cancer Detected by Dogs

Bladder

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that dogs were able to detect bladder cancer based solely on the odor of urine. More than 40 percent of the time, the dogs correctly picked out the scent of bladder cancer from all other compounds and scents found in urine.

Breast and Lung

The Pine Street Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to analyzing medical data to help people with cancer and chronic illnesses make informed decisions. They recently conducted a study which was picked up by Dogs Naturally. The study found that dogs could detect lung and breast cancer on patients’ breath an astonishing 90 percent of the time.

Melanoma (Skin Cancer)

Working with a certified dog trainer, dermatologist Dr. Armand Cognetta was able to train dogs to detect skin cancer 99 percent of the time. Even more astonishing, the dog was able to tell the difference between benign lesions and malignant ones when presented with both.

Colon Cancer

The discomfort and embarrassment of a routine colon cancer screening may become a thing of the past if this study out of Japan proves to be repeatable. The study looked at 200 people with colon cancer and found that the dog was able to detect early and late stage malignancies with 97 percent accuracy – that’s 25 percent more accurate than the fecal occult blood tests currently used.

Prostate

In a European study, a team of researchers used two dogs and urine samples of 320 men with prostate cancer. For the control, they used urine samples from 357 men without prostate cancer. The team found that the dogs were able to detect prostate cancer at any stage of the disease with 98 percent accuracy.

Pet Therapy: Hospitals Healing with Animals

Being sick and in a hospital is stressful and scary. Adults and children miss their loved ones and their pets. Across the nation, hospitals are integrating pet therapy to help reduce stress and loneliness during extended hospital stays.

Philadelphia: Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program

For children receiving treatment and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), dogs are an important part of the overall treatment plan. They believe dogs provide value and support that human family and staff members cannot provide. Using highly trained volunteers and even more highly trained dogs, the Pet Therapy Program helps relieve stress and reduce anxiety in pediatric patients. The dogs also create a more comfortable, homey feel and support the overall social, physical, and emotional well-being of patients.

Boston: Pawprints

Boston Children’s Hospital is renowned for its amazing doctors. They have a reputation of saving the lives of children other hospitals believe are beyond the help of medical science. For patients who qualify, the Pawprints program is one piece of the puzzle for overall care. Once a patient has received the necessary approvals, a visit time will be scheduled. Depending on the patient’s needs and mobility, the dog will either go to the child’s room or meet in waiting or family rooms. Siblings and other family members are encouraged to join the fun. As with the Philadelphia program, the dogs and their handlers are highly trained volunteers.

St. Louis: TOUCH Dogs

The Children’s Hospital of St. Louis works extremely hard to make the children in their care feel at ease and comfortable. Clown docs put in many hours visiting children in their beds to bring joy and laughter. The TOUCH Dogs program is one of the many other Healing Arts programs the hospital offers. The hospital partners with PetSmart Paws for Hope to bring appropriately trained dogs to comfort children in their care. Many believe this program actually helps children recover faster.

Boston: Adults Love Pet Therapy Too

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center brings pet therapy dogs to adult patients too. They believe interacting with these dogs improve a patient’s mood, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates healing. Staff report a morale boost when the therapy dogs are on site.

Have you or someone you know benefited from a visit with a therapy dog? Tell us about it.

Purring Warms Hearts: The Healing Power of Cats

Cat lovers everywhere tout the benefits of their furry, purry friends. New research indicates these benefits from purring may actually have scientific validity. The reasons why are still being explored, but many of the findings seem to indicate that the vibration frequency is a factor.

Purring and Stroke Prevention

Research conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Research Center and presented to the American Stroke Association found a decreased risk for cardiovascular diseases and deaths based on cat ownership. Specifically, the study found that people who had never owned a cat in a 20-year period were more than 40 percent more likely to due from a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease complications. Continue reading Purring Warms Hearts: The Healing Power of Cats

Is Cupping Worth a Try?

Cupping is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that’s becoming more well-known as celebrities open up about their experiences and more alternative treatments push toward becoming mainstream. The technique used is a simple one. Traditional cupping is done by heating the air inside a glass cup, usually by holding a flame there briefly, and placing it on the skin. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum that pulls skin and muscle into the cup.

A series of cups on the back may be moved by sliding them over the skin, or they can be left in place for several minutes. Wet cupping is also an option, in which the skin under the cup is pierced so that blood and fluids are pulled into the cup. Plain suction can be used, as well, but most traditionalists use heated cups which they believe help open the pores to draw more toxins from the body. Continue reading Is Cupping Worth a Try?

Hippotherapy: Healing with Horses

Ancient Connection

The connection between humans and horses goes back millennia. Romans used them to pull chariots. Native Americans rode them and viewed them as partner in their connection to Earth. Farmers and early American settlers used horses to help plow the fields and to increase the distance they could travel. This lead to the term “horsepower” to describe the speed of motorized vehicles. The sound of hoof beats frequently produces awe or fear in those who hear it. Now, horses are used to help heal humans with a variety of conditions.

Hippotherapy: The Field of Horses

Hippotherapy, the technical term for horse therapy, is a growing field within the practice of physical therapy. According to the American Hippotherapy Association, hippotherapy uses the horse’s movements to promote an active response in patients. The goal is to positively affect patient function. Some of the primary benefits are improvements in balance, circulation, endurance, muscle strength, posture, and confidence.

According to a recent article in The Alternative Daily, hippotherapy is beneficial in treating a variety of conditions including:

  • Amputations
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Curvature of the spine (Scoliosis)
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Paralysis
  • Spina bifida

How Hippotherapy Works

With the help of a volunteer, a horse is led around an arena. Each stride pushes the rider’s pelvis forward creating a constant back and forth motion, which helps build overall muscle tone and relaxes hip and thigh areas. Average sessions last about 30-minutes and are coordinated and supervised by a licensed physical therapist.

Patients also show increased attention and greater ability to communicate. Speech and language therapists may use hippotherapy to assist patient’s forming sounds. They walk next to the patient on horseback and use the repetitive, calming motion of the horse to help the patient manipulate his/her mouth in the correct manner.

A recent study published in Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics indicates that hippotherapy provided by a trained therapist in a consistent and graded manner for 10 weeks can improve “body functions and performance of gross motor and fine motor activities in children with cerebral palsy.”

Other Benefits

Children who receive hippotherapy are given a safe way to interact with a large, intimating animal. As Cerebral Palsy Guidance points out, this opportunity helps patients become more self-confident. They become adept at responding to the horse’s natural movements and gain an understanding of the equipment used in horseback riding, something most of their peers likely don’t know. They get to feel special while improving physically.

Get Your Animal Yoga On

Animal Yoga: More Than a Fad

Animal loving yogis across the globe now have many opportunities to combine their passions into one. Practicing animal yoga may not be quite as zen in some ways, but it’s still an amazing experience – one that helps the animals too.

A growing number of yoga studios are doing special classes with animals seeking their forever homes. The animals get a chance to get out, stretch their legs and interact with people in a positive setting. Many often wind up adopted or fostered by the humans in the yoga class.

Bunnies

Cute, soft and cuddly bunnies are also easy to litter train and make wonderful pets. Sadly, some areas of the world see an abundance of bunnies needing forever homes. Sunberry Gym in British Columbia found a great solution – bunny yoga! Although class participants must be careful where they step, everyone enjoys the experience.

The bunnies brought to class are former house pets that have been abandoned and are in need of new homes. At first, they hang out near their cages. Fairly quickly their shyness wears off and they start hopping around the room “helping” participants with their yoga poses. Many bunnies wind up with homes, but people who can’t adopt them truly enjoy the chance to get some animal time too. Bunnies also benefit financially – proceeds go to shelters caring for them.

Cats

Cat pose takes on a whole new meaning when cats and kittens are added to the yoga class mix. Yogis with cats at home know cats love yoga mats. Bringing cats to a yoga studio means lots of laughs and fun. One Vancouver yoga instructor even has her class chant “meow” instead of omm.

During class, cats and kittens are given free reign to walk through the studio and interact with people. Poses aren’t always done with perfect form, but the kitties don’t mind. They’re happy to have a chance to have positive interactions with people. And the people taking the class get lots of smiles and laughs. As with the bunnies, many wind up with new homes as a result of the classes, and those that don’t benefit from the funds raised to assist in their care.

Horses

Yes, you read that right horses. Unlike yoga with bunnies or kitties, horse yoga is done outside and includes animal participation in a unique way – participants do all poses on horseback. Check out these amazing photos from Equine Om in St. Augustine, FL.

Through a combination of meditation, yoga, and equine therapy (also known as hippotherapy) humans and horses experience amazing benefits and healing at a deep soul level. One participant describes it as “feeling the breath of the universe between my legs!” The horses pick up on the calm, peaceful feelings coming from the yogis and feel calm themselves.

What other animal yoga experiences would you like to see?

Recovering from Your Narcissistic Mother

The Damage Caused by a Narcissistic Mother

Growing up with a narcissistic mother can leave you feeling worthless, like a non-person. Narcissists have a sense of entitlement that takes over their children’s lives. You become their servant through no fault of your own and aren’t given the space or love necessary to develop your own sense of self. Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi, a clinical expert in narcissistic personality disorder describes them as “cruel, cold, selfish, highly controlling, exploitive and often vicious and sadistic.”

Being reared by such a difficult person leaves children feeling invisible, as described in this case study by life coach Lisa Romano. Narcissists continually discount your feelings while making their own feelings the sole focus of their own lives and those around them. This leaves children with a void. They’re unable to express or explore their own emotions or personalities.

Growing Above Your Narcissistic Mother

The good news: if you’ve made it this far, you’ve managed to retain the inner strength and sense of self your narcissistic mother tried to take from you. Recovering from the damage done won’t be easy, but your inner strength will make it possible. Narcissistic abuse expert Rani Fine says that the first step is realizing you will never make sense of the behaviors your narcissistic mother exhibits. She is also quick to point out that recovery will require professional assistance, but with time and help you can take back the power your mother tried to steal. You can move on from the damage.

Life coach Lisa Romano believes in focusing on reprogramming the lessons you learned prior to age nine. This is when you were most rapidly discovering your sense of self and your place in the world. Being raised by a narcissistic mother prevented you from going through that process normally, but as an adult you can remap your subconscious mind and become the person you were always meant to be. See the success in this video.

Tina Fuller, author of It’s My Turn and daughter of a narcissistic mother has made it her adult life’s work to help others with their recovery. Learn about her P.A.C.E. program and her story in this video to get inspired for your own recovery.

Fall Healer Conference Roundup

healerIf you’re a healer, it can often be a solo venture. At times, it can be nice to strike out and connect with other healers. Throughout the year, there are conferences set up to help any healer do just that. This fall, there are three we’ll look at.

  1. The Healing Beyond Borders 2016 Annual Conference will be held in Colorado Springs, CO October 6 – 9. 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of this conference and they’re celebrating with the conference’s theme: Celebrating Our Path. Aiming Straight to the Future. Keynote speakers are experts in their fields including vision therapists, energy healers, futurists, psychologists, intuitives, music therapists and holistic health practitioners.

Healing Beyond Borders is the certifying arm of Healing Touch International. They train, educate, and promote the skills used in Healing Touch therapies. Their mission is to spread healing, love, and light worldwide through teaching Healing Touch.

  1. The International Globe Sound Healing Conference brings together the top 20 researchers, pioneers, instructors, doctors, sound therapists, and musicians in the sound healing field for a variety of workshops and exhibits. This conference, which will be held in Sausalito, CA on September 24 – 26, is also a benefit for the Sound Healing Research Foundation (SHRF).

SHRF is a non-profit organization dedicating to researching sound healing and making it a healing option available in hospitals, homes, and other mainstream medical arenas. They also act as a central location for all research and and resources in the field of sound healing.

  1. The Science and Nonduality (SAND) conference this year is October 19 – 23 in San Jose, CA. This year, the conference will explore the place where knowledge and meets the unknown and unknowable; how humans perceive and use intuition. They question the existence of a final destination or stage of enlightenment and delve into the idea that each bit of knowledge obtained upon life’s journey is a stepping stone in an open-ended search.

SAND’s mission is to foster a new relationship to spirituality. One that is free from religious dogma, informed by scientific facts, based on timeless traditions, and grounded in experience. SAND hopes to bridge the divide that has arisen between science and spirituality, create a forum for safe exploration of spiritual concepts, develop and share resources, and celebrate the mysteries of life.

Which of these conferences might you attend?

 

For the down to earth