Foundations

Pathway

Foundations

Curated for Inaura by: Kristen Stafford | Natasha Fallahi

Foundations are your framework, your structure. They aren’t a fancy redesign. So, we look to take the foundations you already participate in every single day and enhance their stability through simple connection.

 

Body Foundations

Movement + Exercise 
Casual athletic man in white pants making capoeira movements on the beach.

 

Movement should celebrate your strengths, not deplete or cause pain. 

Connecting with movement that feels enjoyable in the moment is your best guide to what your body needs to not only strengthen but to heal. When we work out, our body gets weaker during the process. You’ve likely experienced the burn or exhaustion of an intense workout. It can feel good to experience our heart pumping, lungs breathing hard, and skin perspiring. That exhaustion is the breakdown that you’ve created in your muscles. Your immune system then kicks in to say, “Whoa! Things are falling apart over there. Let’s clear out the broken cells, grow some new ones, and add a few more just to make sure there’s enough for this craziness next time.” If we don’t allow our body to rest, repair doesn’t happen properly, and we’re operating on damaged equipment.

Pain Management 

Avoiding pain, physically and emotionally, is hardwired in us. This is a good thing because it keeps us alive. Pain is also there as a teaching tool. It teaches us things like “avoid touching fire” and “watch where we’re walking.” For many of us, when we experience pain, we look to shut down the experience as soon as possible. Our physical pain can be numbed with various aids, and our emotional pain can be suppressed. There are repercussions in both scenarios. Pain can be managed while continuing to allow an opportunity for learning from the experience. We can look to various physical and emotional therapies, as well as herbal and plant medicines to support pain management. 

Common Somatic Therapies 

Touch is one of the oldest and most powerful healing modalities we have access to. Most of us experience human touch with our loved ones and friends, but not everyone has experienced touch healing from a professional. However, there are countless techniques and practices within the field of somatic therapies, healing arts, and bodywork.

 

Herbal massage. African-American girl getting a back massage at spa.


Here are some of the most common hands-on healing practices:

  • Massage –  A soft tissue technique for muscle relaxation and pain relief. Even within the modality of massage, there is a spectrum of techniques and styles, each with its own benefits: Swedish, relaxation, aromatherapy, deep tissue, sports, trigger point, reflexology, acupressure, shiatsu, tui na, Ayurvedic, lymphatic drainage, and so many more.
  • Chiropractic – A manual therapy that focuses on the alignment of the spine and the communication between the brain and the body (by way of the nerves and nervous system). Chiropractic adjustments are applied to the bones, joints, and soft tissues surrounding the spine and full-body (including the extremities and sometimes even skull or cranial bones).  Within chiropractic, there is a broad spectrum of techniques ranging from deep, manual joint adjustment to instrument-assisted techniques, all the way to light or “no-touch” energy field techniques.
  • Osteopathy – A manual therapy that focuses on joint mobility and soft tissue imbalance to balance the whole body (by way of the lymphatic system.) Osteopathic manipulations are applied to the bones, joints, and soft tissues surrounding the spine and full-body (including the extremities and sometimes even skull or cranial bones). Traditionally, osteopathy was an all-natural, somatic field of practice. However, western schools of thought have melded traditional somatic osteopathy with conventional Western medicine and introduced more prescriptions and pharmaceuticals into the field for pain and symptom management.
  • Physical Therapy – A form of manual therapy that focuses on a person’s ability to move and function without pain or disability. Treatments often include personalized exercises and adjunctive therapies such as heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, traction, or laser therapy. There are also many specializations within the field of physical therapy, including vestibular or balance, orthopedic, neurological, geriatric, women’s health, and pelvic floor.
  • Craniosacral Therapy – A light touch technique focused on the subtle movements of the cranium (skull) and sacrum (pelvis) to relieve tension in the central nervous system and spinal canal and improve the movement of cerebrospinal fluid. Craniosacral therapy can be practiced by many different practitioners, including trained osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists.  
  • Visceral Organ Manipulation – A form of soft tissue bodywork that focuses on the abdomen, organs, and surrounding tissue to restore movement and drainage. Many different types of practitioners can practice visceral organ manipulation, including trained osteopaths, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists.
  • Acupuncture – A practice rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine where thin needles are inserted into the body along Meridians and acupuncture points to balance the energy fields of the organs and body.
  • Reiki – A form of energy work rooted in Japanese traditional medicine. Reiki can be performed with light touch or no-touch as the practitioner gently places their hands on or above the receiver. “Universal energy” is channeled through the palms of the practitioner to the person to encourage emotional or physical healing.
Relationship with Food 

Nutrition supplies nourishment rather than deprivation. 

With billions of options at your disposal in any internet search, the results can leave us undefined and more confused than when we started. For our ancestors, food was something they had to seek out and then take time to prepare. It is so accessible and convenient now that the substances that provide us with the nutrients we need to sustain life are hardly ever regarded.

Similar to exercise, we have been told that healthy eating should be a struggle; it should be boring, bland, and unenjoyable. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Starting with one food or meal that you truly enjoy that gives you energy and makes your body feel good is a great stepping stone to reconnecting with and building a relationship with the food you eat and the nourishment you bring to your body. 

Lab Testing 

For optimal wellness, it’s valuable to get periodic lab tests to track objective data about your health. Many holistic practitioners can run standard or comprehensive blood work that includes markers that look at full-body health, including red blood cells, white blood cells, liver, kidney, cardiovascular, thyroid, and electrolyte health. 

Some additional things that can be tracked by blood tests include vitamin and mineral levels, hormones and advanced thyroid markers, and inflammation levels. Often, urinalysis can provide important information as well. In addition to standard blood tests, a holistic practitioner might explore deeper imbalance using functional lab testing.

These can include:

  • Advanced blood tests (inflammation, immune health, hormones, infections)
  • Stool tests (comprehensive gut and microbiome analysis) 
  • Urine test (analyzing nutrient status, hidden infections, or toxic load) 
  • Saliva and/or urine testing (stress, adrenals, and sex hormones) 
  • Breath tests (upper gastrointestinal health) 

 

Due to the overwhelming number of professional and consumer lab tests you could run, it’s best to work with a highly skilled practitioner to determine which tests would be of most value for you.

Supplements 

Supplements can be very effective and powerful ways to balance or optimize our minds and bodies. That being said, don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is a “magic pill” for every ill. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are made from natural ingredients or synthetic nutrients, but this doesn’t mean they are always harmless.

 

 

Variety of healthy food supplements


Herbs, extracts, isolated nutrients can be incredibly healing but can also be harmful when not personalized to your individual needs. The idea of supplements is to supplement nutrients you may not be getting from your food due to nutrient deficiencies common in the Standard American Diet, reduced digestive capacity from health imbalances, or depleted nutrient status of soils due to industrialized farming.

 

Common supplements include: 

    • Vitamins: A, C, D, E, K, and B-Complex, 
    • Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium 
    • Essential Fatty Acid: Omega-3s commonly from flaxseed, walnut, fish oils
    • Herbal Remedies: Echinacea, Chamomile, Ginkgo Biloba, Curcumin

 

Another important note about supplements is that the quality of ingredients can vary greatly from brand to brand. Supplements do not have to be reviewed for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. However, reputable companies will have 3rd party testing and review on their own products to ensure quality and safety. 

To find the best supplements and supplement brands for you, work with a healthcare professional who is experienced in personalized nutrition and consider testing your nutrition status (e.g., vitamin, mineral, and fatty acid levels). 

 

Diets 

Food is one of the most powerful ways to improve (or destroy) your health. The most important thing to understand about healthy diets is that there is no one-size-fits-all. We are all bio-individual, and different foods have different impacts on all of us. However, there is a general consensus in holistic health that we all benefit from foods that are: 

    • Organic – Free of pesticides, chemicals, and genetic modifications.
    • Whole food – Minimally processed and unrefined, closest in form to how it is found in nature.
    • Diverse and varied – Our brains and microbiomes are wired to do best with a rotation of foods to balance micro and macronutrients. 
    • Local and seasonal – Foods grown nearby and in sync with nature naturally balance our nutritional needs (e.g., local raw honey can help with local seasonal allergies). Locally sourced foods also reduce our environmental impact and create a deeper connection with our local communities, farms, farmers, markets, grocers, and restaurants.
Image of a woman making a healthy meal for her body.

 

 

There are a plethora of diets and nutrition philosophies. Again, there is no one-size-fits-all, but diets can be beneficial in providing guidelines and shared experiences for people who are working towards similar health goals. Here is a quick list of the most popular diets:

    • Gluten-free: Gluten and wheat have proven to be highly inflammatory for many people, so this diet simply excludes any foods that contain gluten (wheat, rye, barley, malt, etc). Gluten-free is a medical requirement for people with Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.
    • Paleo/Ancestral: The “hunter-gatherer” diet mimics foods similar to human ancestral development before the agricultural age. Focuses mostly on meat, veggies, and smaller portions of fruit, nuts, seeds that can be “hunted” or “gathered.” It excludes most/all grains, legumes, processed foods, and any added sugars.
    • Whole 30: Short-term “reset” similar to Paleo, but it discourages “paleo treats” like desserts and breads made with paleo-approved ingredients like nut flours, etc.
    • Primal: Similar to Paleo, but it includes dairy (ideally raw, pastured, unpasteurized).
    •  Autoimmune Paleo/Autoimmune Protocol: A short-term elimination diet used for gut healing and controlling inflammation in autoimmune conditions. Similar to Paleo, but it excludes some additional food groups for an elimination period followed by a “reintroduction” period (eggs, nightshades, nuts, seeds, legumes, and all grains).
    • Low FODMAPs: Another short-term elimination diet for a condition called SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) that reduces or excludes foods that the SIBO needs to survive (e.g., garlic, onions, sugars, some fruits, and some vegetables like broccoli and asparagus.)
    •  Ketogenic/LCHF/Atkins: A high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet that shows evidence of helping with glucose metabolism, weight loss, post-concussion syndrome, and epileptic seizures. These diets can be difficult long-term for people with liver, gallbladder, or kidney issues.
    •  Vegetarian: A plant-based diet that excludes all animal meat. Attention must be applied to include healthy sources of iron, protein, essential fatty acids, and vitamins like B12.
    • Vegan: Similar to Vegetarian, but also excludes any foods/objects that are animal by-products (e.g., dairy, eggs, honey, silk, leather).
    • Mediterranean/Blue Zones: A traditional diet seen in the Mediterranean region where inhabitants maintained healthy, long lives. Focus on veggies, fresh herbs, fruits, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, legumes, local/raw dairy, poultry, and seafood like fish. Minimal amounts of red meat and excludes refined grains and oils.
    • Raw diet: Foods that are all prepared and eaten in their raw, uncooked form. Usually these are plant-based diets focused on veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. However, some versions of raw diets include eating raw meat and fish, which can cause health concerns if the quality and handling of the meat and fish aren’t of the highest quality.

 

To find the best diet for you, work with a healthcare professional who is experienced in personalized nutrition and avoid diet trends without individualized guidance.

 

Water and Hydration 

Woman choosing to stay hydrated.Hydration brings life and flow through your body, brain, muscles, and joints. 

Water exists in many forms on the planet, not only in oceans, lakes, seas, and rivers, but in the air as vapor, in snow and ice, and in soil and underground reservoirs as well. Our bodies are similar: our brain, lungs, organs, muscles, even bones, and teeth contain water. It is an important aspect of every function in our body, from keeping muscles and joints hydrated to flushing toxins and metabolic waste out of our body to enable our brain to function at peak performance.

The fluids we choose to take in also play a great role in this. The water we consume often contains chemicals and additives that don’t support optimal function of our body’s systems. It’s important that the water we drink contains trace minerals and electrolytes, similar to those found in natural bodies of water, to ensure proper hydration and the ability of our body to perform its functions. We also want to consider moderation when consuming caffeine, sugared beverages, and alcohol, as these impact our hormone regulation, blood sugar levels, and toxin intake. 

Breath 
Woman taking a deep breath outside.

Our breath comes with ease through mindful connection. 

Most of us don’t even realize the incredible power contained within every breath we take. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but only minutes without air. Each breath we take provides us with life, influences the posture of our joints, and aids in the flow of communication through our nervous system. 

There are many techniques for exploring breathwork. Finding a technique that meets your needs, whether it be increasing mental focus, improving cardio and respiratory function, or de-stressing physically or mentally, is key to establishing a beneficial practice.

Sleep 
A woman sleeping with a sleeping mask.

Sleep integrates with the cycle of your daily life. 

Our thoughts and daily activities highly influence our sleep. We can get so caught up in what we want to get done each day that by the time we lie down to sleep, we feel exhausted but are so wired that our body is unable to go into a restorative, healing state. 

There are pillows, mattresses, and a host of gadgets to monitor sleep to improve the quality. Starting our day feeling rested means we need to set ourselves up during the day for the best sleep outcome at night. Making adjustments in our eating and workout schedule can help. Practicing techniques in mindfulness to become aware of the great number of demands we place on our brain and body can allow us insights into areas in which we can make adjustments to improve our sleep quality.

Mind-Body Connection 

Our minds and bodies are intimately connected in everything they experience. Our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can radically change our physical and chemical bodies and vice versa. An emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology is looking at all the evidence connecting these experiences. The Mind-Body Connection is an important part of why addressing our needs holistically can have far-reaching effects. When we care for our minds, we are caring for our bodies, and when we care for our bodies, our minds are also receiving the benefits.

 

The Mind

Stress Management 

Stress is often thought of as how busy we are, how much we have to get done, or a life event like birth or death. Stress comes in many forms. We have eustress (“good stress”) and distress (“bad stress”). All of it goes into the same body, or cup, if you will. When we consider our physical and mental choices, it is important to consider how our choices will affect our total stress load. 

Physical Stressors 

Working out is typically regarded as something that contributes to our health. It’s true on paper, but when it comes to your body, it’s beneficial to consider what kind of day, week, or month you’ve had as you head into your training session. If we are burdened by a stressful day, it impacts our mood, breathing, and posture. If this is a single event, a workout might help to make a shift physically and emotionally. However, if our stress burden has been ongoing, an intense workout can increase stress levels, making recovery even more difficult. 

Mental Stressors 

Your thoughts and emotions guide you in the choices that you are making to establish a strong foundation. 

Setting a goal is important, but being intentional in your daily choices to maintain alignment with your objective is key to achieving that goal. For many of us, we have a desire and simply hope to reach it. However, establishing a path that includes aspects of daily living and ways to work through challenges and setbacks is crucial to reaching the end result you want.


Remembering that the path to reaching your goal will never be linear and the obstacles that arise can be there as opportunities to learn, trying something a new way, conquering adverse experiences that make you more resilient and adaptable are as much a part of accomplishing a goal as completing the task itself. Acknowledging this ahead of time and preparing for ways to work through disappointment can help in maintaining a positive mindset.

Connection 

Having connection is one of the most important aspects of life. For some, the connection to others through community is crucial, whereas others feel more aligned with plants, animals, or the heavens. You can find ways to increase connection with yourself and all that is around you through the examples shared below. 

Community 

Humans are social beings, so the need for community, connection, and belonging are essential for our well-being. Yet, even though it may seem obvious, we’re only just beginning to really understand the physical, physiological, and psychological impacts of connection or lack thereof. For example, loneliness and social isolation have been shown to increase physical and mental health risks (including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated stress hormones, and weaker immune systems); this isn’t referring to alone-time or intentional retreats from social activity. 

Community and connection aren’t about the quantity but, instead, the quality of our relationships and interactions with others. Even small and simple connections throughout our day improve our well-being, so try to be kind and compassionate to others and find ways to connect like a polite gesture, authentic greeting, or genuine question of curiosity. 

Nature 

Studies have shown outdoor activities as simple as gardening or a walk in the woods can have health impacts equivalent to cardiovascular exercise. So, even if you don’t have a green thumb, finding a connection to nature in your area through walks in the woods, being near a body of water, star gazing, or growing an herb garden can have a tremendous impact in establishing your connection with all that is around you. 

Animals 

Here’s one for the animal lovers out there–your pet is good for your health! Not only do animals provide companionship and emotional connections, but they also improve our physical health. For example, petting an animal, touch, and eye contact have been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase our “love hormone” oxytocin, which, as a result, boosts our immune systems and reduces inflammation in our bodies. 

Home pet therapy dog and owner on the couch.

Some animals also help keep us active, such as hiking or walking with our dogs. Animals also remind us to be present in the moment (not worry about the past or future) and engage us in play (not taking ourselves so seriously). Our relationship with our animals also teaches us mutual respect and communication skills (verbal and nonverbal.) I’m sure you know someone who has gone through an incredibly difficult and dark time in their life and they credit their pet for their unconditional love and support, keeping them grounded, waking up to meet each day, and maintaining some level of routine. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is actually caring for someone else (including a pet.) The act of caring for an animal gives us purpose and meaning, even in times when that can be otherwise difficult to find. 

And on top of all this, animals improve our well-being by diversifying our microbiome! Some might think that animals are “dirty” and can make us sicker, but, in reality, the opposite is true! The fact that our animals mix and mingle with dirt, other animals (and, yes, even pee and poo) is part of the reason why people with animals have stronger and more robust immune systems. Conversely, the effects of over-sterilization can cause major immune weaknesses and intolerances. So, be sure to practice good hygiene, but don’t be afraid to get a little “dirt” in your life thanks to your pet…they’re helping diversify and strengthen your microbiome and immune health! 

Gratitude 

The experience of gratitude has proven to have profoundly positive effects on our health and well-being. Countless studies have shown the benefits of gratitude to improve mental health symptoms and reduce general stress. In addition, gratitude for people, places, and things, including ourselves and others, increases our perception of social support, and improves self-esteem and mental well-being. Gratitude has also been shown to improve physical health and sleep quality. 

These far-reaching benefits are thanks to the ability of gratitude to change a wide variety of brain activity. For example, the feeling of gratitude activates brain regions and neurochemicals related to the dopamine system, which involve our experiences of reward and enjoyment. So go ahead, think about what you’re grateful for, even the smallest things, and start experiencing the benefits immediately!

By supporting your Foundations, you can establish a daily practice that is attainable without feeling depleted or deprived and set yourself on a path of success and enjoyment.

 

Practicing mindfulness for gratitude and fulfillment, feeling connected with nature.

 

Book Resource:

“How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy” by Paul Chek

Curated By
Kristen Stafford

My gifts for understanding human movement stem from a desire to reduce my own pain associated with postural misalignment and energy imbalances. Incorporating holistic principles has allowed me to work through my own ailments and explore unconventional healing techniques. I use these same techniques when coaching clients who aren't experiencing relief through traditional methods and movement instruction. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to health and happiness, I would love to meet you!

Connect with Kristen Stafford
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