Hello Fall!

I think that most of us can agree that there are few places more beautiful than the northeast during the Fall. Did you know that there are intricacies of the Fall season that affect our health and wellbeing? In Chinese medicine it is understood that humans and nature are closely connected; we grow and change as the seasons change. With the fall comes new and dominant characteristics to be aware of, and unique ways to stay balanced...

 

Fall Characteristics

 

Natural Element: Metal

Pathology: Dryness

Color: White

Flavor: Acrid/Spicy

Active Organs: Lung/Large Intestine

Life Stage: Late Adulthood

Emotions: Attraction to beauty, need for organization, feelings of sadness and nostalgia over letting go of excess and old habits

 

A prominent feature of the Fall is refinement; trees shed their leaves and keep only what is necessary for the months ahead. We too must shed excess as we move away from the activity of the summer towards the introspection of the winter. This time of transition reminds us to be adaptable and flexible as things change and cycles run there natural course. Fall is also the season of the Metal element and there should be a deep appreciation for beauty, nature, and self care.

 

 

Ways to stay healthy in the Fall:

 

1. Wake up early to walk - breathing the early morning Fall air will keep your lungs healthy and strong

2. Combat dry coughs, dry nasal passages, and dry skin by staying hydrated and eating warm Asian pears with honey

6. Keep your neck and upper back covered - these areas are vulnerable to wind and cold that can make us sick

5. Organize your life, let go of old unhealthy habits, start a healthy routine that you can take into the winter months

6. Eat warm foods like soups and stews that nourish your digestive system and boost your immunity - make sure to add some ginger and cinnamon (chinese herbs that keep the immune system strong)

7. Be kind to yourself, go to bed early and get more rest (remember that you cannot expend as much energy as you could in the summer, start reserving your energy)

8. If your body or mind is having a hard time with this transitional season, you can use thieves essential oil on the bottom of your feet to boost immunity, and come in to get preventative Chinese herbs or an acupuncture treatment!

Minding Your Memory

We've found that many of our patients suffer from poor memory and foggy thinking, and I think most people can relate!  Chinese Medicine has a unique approach to increasing mental clarity and focus, in addition to helping prevent memory loss...

 

So how does Chinese Medicine view the mind, known as the "Shen"? And how does it explain decline in memory and mental alertness? Well, the quality of our memory depends on four vital organs and their corresponding energetic meridians - the Kidney, the Heart, and the Stomach/Spleen.

The Kidney, which is the origin of our "essence" (life force) is the basis for the mind and all of our mental processes. As it is said, "If the essence is strong, Qi flourishes, if the Qi flourishes, the mind is whole." Our essence is the chief resource fueling our energy, thought process, and ability to perform daily activities. As we age, our essence begins to wean and our memory likewise declines. While our essence gives us the fundamental ability to recall short term memories and helps us feel clear minded and focused, our Stomach/Spleen maintains and nourishes our memory over time. In other words, the Stomach/Spleen creates the Qi that allows us to replenish and sustain our essence and maintain mental agility as we age. Now, in TCM, the Heart is where our mind and memory resides. Our long term memories are protected and maintained by the Heart. (Because the Heart is sensitive to stress and emotional upset, it is obvious why stress can make our mind and memory feel cloudy). According to Chinese medical texts, "If the Heart is strong and blood abundant, there will be normal mental activity, a balanced emotional life, a clear consciousness, and a good memory." 

With the tips below, you can focus on nourishing your area of weakness - long term memory, short term memory, or both. However, it is important to keep all of the organs discussed above and their energetic meridians balanced and healthy as we age...

 

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are super effective for improving memory and clearing away mental fog. In addition, below are some at-home suggestions for keeping the Kidney, Stomach/Spleen, and Heart happy, plus a delicious recipe from "Ancient wisdom, Modern kitchen" to improve memory...

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Kidney - avoid excess alcohol, caffeine, and overexertion, eat black foods like black sesame seeds and black beans, as well as walnuts, seaweed, and kidney beans.

 

Stomach/Spleen - avoid excess worrying and overthinking, mindfully eat regular meals full of warm bland foods like rice and pearled barley, mung beans, and sweet potatoes.

 

Heart - stay calm and reduce daily stressors as much as possible, seek joy and laughter, eat red foods like goji berries, beets, red dates, and cinnamon.

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"Memory Drink"

1/4 cup walnuts

1/3 cup dried soybeans

3 tablespoons black sesame seeds

2 tablespoons honey

6 cups water

 

Directions:

1. Soak soybeans for at least 10 hours at room temperature, then drain

2. Place soybeans, walnuts, black sesame seeds, and water in a blender or food processor and blend well

3. Strain the mixture to remove solids

4. Transfer liquid to a heavy pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, lower heat to a simmer and stir for 8 minutes

5. Stir in honey and serve warm

 

ENJOY!

 

Winter Season

The winter is upon us and I think we can all agree that the short days and grey skies can be draining, mentally and physically. Many of you know that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help with feelings of depression and lethargy, as well as boost immunity to keep away the cold and flu. Still, it is important to understand the winter within the context of the four seasons so that we can better utilize and even appreciate the winter months.

 

Let's first discuss the theory of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are opposing energies that complete each other and create balance in our bodies and the universe.  According to the ancient Chinese medical text, the Huangdi Nejiing, "...the change of yin (rest) and yang (activity) energy throughout the four seasons is the root of life, growth, reproduction, aging, and destruction. By respecting this natural law it is possible to be free from illness." Essentially, we are a part of nature, and the external environment we are exposed to affects the internal environment we maintain. Listening to our bodies and getting in tune with the season can help to promote health and longevity.

 

WINTER - According to Chinese medicine, there are a series of characteristics that are associated with each season. During the winter months all things in nature "wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls." The philosophy of the season is conservation, storage, reflection, and retreat. This is a time when yin energy dominates over yang energy. For this reason we should focus on embodying yin and preserving yang. This allows us to feel well and properly embrace the coming Spring, a time of yang energy. Winter is a time to get cozy indoors with those you love, eat some warm and nutritious foods, and store up your energy and resources.

                                               

                                                     WINTER CHARACTERISTICS

Nature: Yin

Element: Water

Climate: Cold

Direction: North

Emotion: Fear

Taste: Salty

Grain: Millet

Organ: Kidney

Color: Black

 

Here are a few nuggets of ancient wisdom on how to behave during the winter months:

 

   Retire early and get up with the sunrise

   Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep your pores closed/avoid sweating

   Soak your feet in warm/hot water, this warms and activates the Kidney channel, the channel most affected by the cold (the Kidney channel originates on the bottom of the feet)

   Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad to your low back (this warms the Kidneys directly)

   Eat warming foods (hearty soups, stews, congee) ginger, cinnamon, whole grains, squash, root veggies - carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, garlic

   Use immune boosting essential oils - eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, lemon

 

Points for a Pain-Free Period

Sorry to burst your hot water bottle bubble, but Acupuncture is even better at treating menstrual cramps…

 

Growing up I had the worst cramps. I dreaded my period each month, but I accepted cramps as a “normal” part of womanhood, as did my sisters and many of my friends. It wasn't until an acupuncturist explained to me that cramps, pain and discomfort during my period wasn’t “normal”….that cramps were a message from my body telling me that I was out of balance, hormonally and energetically. She explained that a healthy and balanced body should have a relatively comfortable period, cramp free. This news shocked me. Even more shocking was that after 3 months of getting regular acupuncture treatments and taking Chinese herbs, my cramps were totally gone. Inspired, I decided to earn my degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and to focus on treating women's health conditions with Acupuncture. Now, I get to be the one to inform other women that they don't have to be in pain!

 

First, let’s talk a little about how this all works...

 

The menstrual cycle is a delicate process that is easily disrupted by stress, overwork, fatigue, and diet. A woman’s cycle involves a number of hormones working in harmony, and if one hormone is out of balance, it creates a cascade of imbalance that can result in cramps, pain, and symptoms of PMS.

 

In TCM terms, there are meridians (energy pathways) that flow to the female reproductive organs. For the ovaries and uterus to be in balance, the kidneys, liver and spleen meridians must also be in balance. Additionally, for natural hormonal transitions to occur throughout the menstrual cycle, our energy (Qi) and blood need to circulate smoothly. When Qi and blood circulation is sluggish or obstructed, our hormone transitions become disrupted, causing significant discomfort. Acupuncture encourages the smooth flow of Qi and healthy blood circulation. It also stimulates the body’s own healing process and natural production of hormones, helping to restore health and harmony to the entire reproductive system.

 

In addition to getting regular acupuncture treatment and taking Chinese herbs when prescribed, here are some suggestions to make your period a more comfortable, less dreaded time of the month…

 

 

1.     Get regular cardio exercise, especially during the week before your period. This moves Qi and blood and smooths hormonal transitions.

2.     Avoid alcohol, coffee, salt and processed foods, especially during the week before your period. This reduces inflammation.

3.     Eat plenty of vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens. Prioritize unsaturated fats such as olive oil and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal. This ensures healthy hormone production.

4.     Apply castor oil packs to your low abdomen before and during your period to improve blood circulation and reduce cramping in the area.

5.     Take the following vitamins, as needed: Magnesium 200mg/day for cramps, bloating and sweet cravings, Vitamin B6 60mg/day for cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings, Turmeric 1 capsule/day for cramps and bloating, Rhodiola 200mg/day for hormone regulation and anxiety, Fish Oil/Omega 3 2000mg/day for cramps, Calcium 1200mg/day for weepiness, Vitamin E 400mg/day for breast tenderness

 

Interested in learning more?  Contact us and ask about booking a free consultation.

Intro to the Chakra System

Chakras are acknowledged in many eastern traditions; here we will discuss the Chakra system related to the Japanese Energy Healing tradition, Reiki. Reiki is an energy medicine that works to balance the Chakra System through hands on healing. A practitioner uses their training to realign the Chakra system, bringing positive energy to places of emptiness and draining excess energy from places of fullness, ultimately working to create physical and spiritual harmony.  There are 7 Chakras distributed throughout the core of the body, each with their own unique nature. They include The Root Chakra, The Sacral Chakra, The Solar Plexus Chakra, The Heart Chakra, The Throat Chakra, The Third Eye Chakra, and the Crown Chakra. Working from the base of the spine (Chakra 1, The Root Chakra) up to the top of the head (Chakra 7, The Crown Chakra) each Chakra individually deals with a major area of the human experience, as well as psychological health – Survival, Sexuality, Power, Love, Communication, Intuition, and Cognition. In “Eastern Body, Western Mind,” Anodea Judith explains that the lower Chakras, being physically closer to the earth, are “related more to the practical matters of our lives, like survival, movement, and action….they are ruled by physical and social law”. In order to feel grounded and safe, these Chakras must be healthy and balanced. In contrast, Judith explains that the upper Chakras “represent mental realms and work on a symbolic level through words, images, and concepts,” as they are physically closer to heaven. In order to think abstractly and feel connected to humanity, these must also be healthy and balanced. Essentially, the 7 Chakras create a ladder from Earth to Heaven, and connect the body to mind, matter to spirit.

 

There is a flow of energy throughout the Chakra system that can be disrupted by an energetic emptiness, fullness, or emotional blockage in any of the individual Chakras. If energy in one Chakra is blocked, the entire system will be affected. There are multiple directions of energy flow throughout the body. First, energy runs vertically in an upward and downward flow. At any given time, energy should be moving vertically in both directions, creating an even distribution of energy in each Chakra. The upward flow is called the “current of liberation” as it moves toward expression, freedom, and universality. The downward flow is called “current of manifestation” as it moves toward form, boundaries, and individuality. Both directions are important, since it is essential to be grounded in society as well as free in thought. Second, energy runs horizontally in and out of each Chakra. This is the energy current of reception (inward movement) and expression (outward movement). If a Chakra is blocked, giving and receiving “becomes distorted” and the Chakra may become “too open” or “too closed”. Now, we will describe the identities and characteristics of each of the 7 Chakras, and will later discuss how imbalances in energy flow to and from Chakras occur.

 

Chakra 1, The Root Chakra, represents the basic rights to be here and to have. The purpose of this Chakra is to create a solid foundation. It maintains our confidence that we belong, are secure and safe, and are welcome in the world. It also gives birth to our survival instincts and our awareness of physicality and physical comfort. Its job is self-preservation, and it is developed from the day we are born to 12 months old. When this Chakra is balanced, our spirit is anchored in the physical world and we feel grounded. We feel at home. When this Chakra is imbalanced, we are fearful, mistrusting, and have trouble feeling connected to our physical bodies. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance in their Root Chakra is “I love my body and trust its wisdom”.

 

Chakra 2, The Sacral Chakra, represents the basic rights to feel and to want. The purpose of this Chakra is to create a healthy emotional identity. It emerges from our physical identity (Chakra 1) because we have to be able to feel our bodies to feel our emotions and listen to their messages. It’s aim is to feel pleasure in daily life. This chakra connects us to our emotional experience and helps us establish our independence. It is developed from 12 months to 2 years old. When this Chakra is balanced, we feel clarity in our opinions, comfortable in our emotional depths, able to enjoy sexuality and connect to others without overstepping boundaries. When this Chakra is imbalanced, we feel guilt and confusion, an inability to enjoy life, and a desperate need to cling to others. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance in their Sacral Chakra is “I deserve pleasure in my life”.

 

Chakra 3, The Solar Plexus Chakra, represents the basic rights to act and be free. This Chakra embodies our ego identity and self-definition. It holds are personal vitality, self-esteem, sense of purpose and strength of will. It is developed from the time we are 18 months to 4 years old. When this Chakra is balanced, we have a healthy sense of our personal power, the ability to meet challenges and be responsible and reliable. We are also able to have a sense of humor and playfulness in our interactions with others because we are confident in our personal strength. When this Chakra is out of balance, we feel a deep sense of shame, lack of motivation, weak will and passivity. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance here is “I honor the power within me”.

 

Chakra 4, The Heart Chakra, represents the basic rights to love and be loved. The purpose of this Chakra is to maintain a healthy social identity. This is a pivotal Chakra, as it is located at the meeting point of the lower and upper chakras. Here in the center we find love, relationships, and the opportunity to “transform the self-centered ego of the lower Chakras into the awareness of the larger realm of the upper Chakras”. The Heart Chakra is about self-love, acceptance, and openness. It is developed between ages 4 and 7. In order to find balance and expression in the Heart Chakra, the lower Chakras must be established and healthy. Judith explains, “As the central Chakra in a system of 7, the right to love is harmed when any of the other rights are lost or damaged”. If the development of the lower Chakras is incomplete, or if the needs of the Heart Chakra are not met, negative feelings like grief, codependence, jealousy, lack of empathy, and criticalness arise. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with imbalance here is “I am worthy of love”.

 

Chakra 5, The Throat Chakra, represents the basic rights to speak and be heard. This Chakra gives birth to the ability to clearly communicate our thoughts and feelings, and to speak our individual truth. It is our creative identity and our self-expression. It is developed between ages 7 and 12. As the first of the upper Chakras, here we are breaking free into “the symbolic world of the mind”. When this Chakra is balanced, we are able to express our spirit and influence the world around us, as well as effectively listen to others. If we are healthy and balanced in this Chakra, we live life creatively, see immense possibility, and are free from fear. The Throat Chakra brings our lower Chakras to life by giving them a voice. If this Chakra is imbalanced, we tell lies, have trouble listening to others, and may even be afraid of speaking for ourselves. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance here is “I hear and speak the truth”.

 

Chakra 6, The Third Eye Chakra, represents the basic right to see. This relates to physical vision as well as subtle psychic perceptions. This Chakra is about self-reflection and our archetypal identity. Our intuition, insights, dreams, and imagination, and ability to think symbolically all belong to the Third Eye Chakra. Insight from our Third Eye gives guidance and helps us to ascend to our highest spirituality and access our psychic powers. The developmental time period of this Chakra is adolescence. If this Chakra is balanced we are able to perceive patterns, envision the future, and establish a personal spiritual identity. If it is imbalanced, we will be easily seduced by illusion and denial, be obsessive, have difficulty recalling memories and concentrating, and have an unrealistic self-image. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance here is “I see all things in clarity”.

 

The last and highest Chakra is Chakra 7, The Crown Chakra, which represents the basic rights to know and to learn. This Chakra develops throughout our entire adulthood, and is our universal identity. “The more our consciousness expands, the larger our identity can become”. Here, we transcend our small, limited world view and identify rather with the entire universe. We begin to see that the lower Chakras, though important, are only small pieces supporting a much larger whole. This Chakra holds the knowledge that we have divinity within, and the ability to pursue mystical experiences, as well as ask questions and analyze new information. Our lower Chakras must be solid and fully developed in order to handle the grandiose ruminations of the Crown Chakra. Imbalances in this Chakra come about from attachment to worldly objects and institutions, forced religiosity, blind obedience, and limited education. A healing affirmation for anyone dealing with an imbalance here is “I am open to new ideas”. 

 

The Chakras are wise energy reservoir’s that relate to the many spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of human beings. They develop during various life stages and are constantly fluctuating throughout our lives. Psychological and physical wounds that are forced upon us, or that we create ourselves through excessively engaging in certain activities or avoiding other activities all together, disrupt healthy energy flow throughout the Chakra system. Ultimately, energetic disruption is a result of using “coping strategies designed to deal with stress, trauma, or unpleasant circumstances. They…restrict the flow of energy through the system, and block the complete expression of both the liberating and manifesting currents. Eventually, they both result in dysfunctional behavior and health problems” (Judith, 20). However, our Chakras are here to guide and enliven us, and proper energy flow throughout the Chakra system can be reestablished with Reiki, energy work, and personal effort with the affirmations discussed earlier. Our challenge in life is to maintain our foundation in Chakra 1 while ascending to Chakra 7, and keeping all of the Chakra’s in between well nourished throughout the journey. Each time we have a disruption in our Chakra system, we have the opportunity to understand ourselves, and the wisdom of each Chakra more deeply. By healing our Chakras and reestablishing free flow within our Chakra system, we are creating fuller and richer lives for ourselves.

 

 

Sources

 

Eden, D., & Feinstein, D. (1998). Energy medicine: Balance your body's energies for

optimal health, joy, and vitality. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

 

Judith, A. (2004). Eastern body, Western mind: Psychology and the chakra system as a

path to the self. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.

 

Personal knowledge from Reiki 1 & 2 Training/Certification in India and San Diego.

 

Originally published March 28, 2016.