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New Moon and Kidney Energy (Yogapuncture for Fertility)

Seed

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Have you ever held a seed in your hand before placing it in the dirt and marveled at its size? How can something so tiny possibly hold everything it needs to create a whole other plant that will bear roots, leaves, flowers and fruit? It almost seems inconceivable. This is the energetics of the water element, of the kidney/urinary bladder system. For ease I will simply refer to all of this as Kidney energy but all of the associations are included. (to be clear we are talking about the energetics of the kidneys as is related to Chinese Medicine not your physical organs) Just like a seed the kidneys are often referred to as “the root of life”. This is where our essence or Jing is stored. Think of essence like a seed- everything is there to create life. The essence we hold in our bodies comes from 2 places: our parents’ energy at conception (genetics) and energy of our lifestyle (food and movement). The energy of our lifestyle is considered most important because it is constantly being replenished whereas the energy from our parents is set and finite.

What this basically means is that the Kidney system is the foundation of the rest of the organ systems. The function of the kidneys is to store the essence as well as govern birth, growth, reproduction and development, produce marrow, fill up the brain, and control the bones. The energy of the kidney’s open into the ears, manifest in the hair and house the will power (perhaps that’s why we feel compelled to start New Year’s resolutions in the winter months).

In the fall the plants have given the last energy to the last harvest and as the coldness sets in the leaves and fruit dry out, shrivel up and shrink. Any seeds remaining from this fruit might be lucky to settle into the earth and sleep during winter. Because summer is the winter’s opposition we might think of the summer time as the place to fill up our energetic savings account to hold us through the winter. Being that the kidneys are our body’s foundation for every other activity our body needs to function and thrive it is especially important to be kind to our kidneys. And just like seeds, our bodies need periods of rest in order to thrive. The tulip is a great example, as bulbs must be planted at the right time in fall and then need so much time to settle in coldness in order to emerge again in the spring.

When we think of the kidney energy and how it relates to fertility it can be seen as the foundation. By nourishing the kidneys we are building our reserves for high egg quality, a smooth pregnancy and post partum.

Associations for Kidney System

Element: Water                                                          Organs: Kidney/Urinary Bladder

Emotion: Fear                                                             Color: Black/Blue

Sound: Groaning                                                        Taste: Salt

Function: Storing                                                         Direction: North

Manifests in Hair                                                        Controls the Low back Bones and Marrow

Balance/Opposition: Summer/Heart/Joy/Fire           Time: Urinary Bladder 3-5pm Kidney 5-7pm

Drawing with Skeleton, Acupuncture Point KI17 Shangqu, 3D Illust

The kidney channel starts on the sole of the foot and works its way up the inner thigh, torso and ends just under the collar bones. The kidney channel is the yin organ and the urinary bladder channel the yang organ.

The urinary bladder channel starts at the inside corner of the eye and goes up the skull down the back to the back of the knee then up the back to the calf and ends at the outside edge of the pinky toe on each side. This channel has the most points of any channel 67 in all and is the most grounding in nature. The energy is so grounding in fact that burning an herb called Moxa over the last point on this channel is quite effective in bringing a breech or malposition baby into a more favorable position. The urinary bladder channel also has what are called “Shu points” along the back about 1.5 inches lateral of the spine. Each Shu point correlates to an organ and when these points are stimulated it nourishes the corresponding organ.

Because the bulk of our essence comes from food let’s start here. The kidneys are nourished by slow cooked foods, think crock pots, roasted meats and veggies etc. Red meat and meat with the bone in are especially strengthening to the kidneys. Don’t throw the bones away but rather make a nourishing stock for soups or even when cooking rice to give it more flavor. Foods that are kidney shaped also nourish the kidneys; kidney beans are an easy example. Foods that are rich deep colors are also especially nourishing to the kidneys, bonus points if they are black or blue as this is the color of the kidneys. Black beans, kidney beans, eggplant, dark leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, chard and dates. Foods with a natural salty flavor are also helpful such as seaweed and seafood. Walnuts are also said to lubricate the joints and strengthen the lower back (where the kidneys reside). A common herbal prescription to strengthen the lower back is to eat one walnut a day. Incorporating bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, citrus foods helps with the absorbtion of iron from beans, whole grains and meat.

The Kidney energy can also be associated with the beginning of your cycle or menstruation. Day 1 is the first day of your period.

The kidneys are damaged by coldness so it is especially important to stay away from cold foods. Energetically speaking raw food is cold in nature so save salads for the summer months or later in your cycle when it is more appropriate. Avoid eating foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer. Stay away from ice in your drinks and ice cream. Dairy should be omitted completely with PCOS and avoid soy (read labels as most packaged foods contain soy) due to the phytoestrogens soy can deregulate a cycle. Keep the belly and low back warm especially in the winter months and start of your cycle. You might place your hand on your abdomen and notice the quality of the temperature of your skin, does it feel cool to the touch or warm? If you notice your belly is cool you might enjoy warm baths or hot water bottle over the abdomen especially in the first half of your cycle. Cold foods inhibit circulation and can contribute to cramping and clots in your menses.

New Moon

The new moon is when the moon is completely hidden from view. It is a time of turning inward and is why the Kidney energy of Chinese Medicine is relevant. The new moon is also the time of renewal and setting intentions. If we didn’t have schedules to live by we would also sleep slightly longer during the new moon as the sky is darker and invites us to rest more. This is a restorative time.

Homework Pose for the Week: Constructive Rest Pose

Constructive Rest Pose is said to be the equivalent to 2 hours of sleep when held for 10 minutes. If you notice midafternoon fatigue use 5-10 minutes of your lunch break to practice constructive rest pose, this is also a nice way to end the day before bed and you could even practice in bed and drift right off to sleep.

How to do it:

Lay on a flat surface with your knees bent. Bring your feet out about shoulder width apart. Turn your toes in (slightly pigeon toed) If there is any discomfort in your lower back walk your feet either further away from your body or closer to your body depending on what feels better to you. Slide your shoulders down away from your ears and rest with your arms at your sides just far enough away from your body so that your palms can comfortably rest racing up. Slide your chin slightly towards your chest to lengthen the back of the neck. Close your eyes and practice deep breathing for 5-10 minutes.

To come out of the pose:

Take a stretch if you feel its needed. Protect your back and roll onto your side. Rest for a moment on your side if you aren’t fully alert and when ready press yourself back to a seated posture.

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Acupressure for the Week: KD6

KD6

This point is located on what is known as the conception vessel in Chinese Medicine. What better point to stimulate when preparing the body for pregnancy? This point has many benefits, opening the body to conception is one and can also be used to combat nausea during pregnancy as well as for insomnia, prolapse of the uterus, constipation, frequency of urination and sore throat. It is a safe acu-point to use through out your cycle and during pregnancy.

Located in the hollow just under the inner ankle bone. Sitting with the soles of feet together and legs in a diamond is an ideal position to access this point. Hold this point for 1-3 minutes as well.

Located in the hollow just under the inner ankle bone. Sitting with the soles of feet together and legs in a diamond is an ideal position to access this point. Hold this point for 1-3 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sausage, Black Beans and Rice Bowl

This recipe has evolved quite a bit over the years, it barely resembles the original recipe that came in the cookbook from my crock pot that is called Creole Black Beans. Its a staple in our house because the kids love it. This week my daughter actually asked for thirds! I like to make this with breakfast sausage but any sausage will do, you could even make it vegetarian if you wanted. Its a perfect warm your belly winter meal.

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What you need:

3 cans black beans, drained or dried beans just add extra salt

1 chopped onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 chopped green pepper

1 pound ground sausage or patties

1 can of tomato paste or tomato sauce

Spices to taste: (1 Tbsp) cumin, (1 tsp) black pepper, (1.5 tsp)salt, (1 tsp)garlic powder, (1 tsp) oregano, (pinch) chile pepper

1 cup of water (this is optional I’ve also made without, if making with tomato sauce you don’t need it unless you want it to be more like a chili consistency)

What you do:

Throw everything in crock pot and cook for whatever time you need 4-10 hours

Serve with a rice and avocado

Enjoy!

 

Yogapuncture for Winter (January)

Here is a little sneak peak into what we will be talking about at Yogapuncture for Winter this Saturday.

January is traditionally a time for resolutions, by Febuary most are abandoned or forgotten. There are a couple of reasons why I think this happens. One, being that most resolutions are about health and our idea of health is usually weight loss and the winter isn’t the time for that. We need insulation in the winter to stay warm! The other being that most resolutions revolve around some form of marketing and its not really what we want but rather what we think/are told we want. Lastly our kidney energy is depleted making it hard to have strong resolve.

The Kidneys in Chinese Medicine house the will. It might be why in January we feel so inspired to start anew because winter is when the kidneys are most active. The kidney energy also controls the bones. In Yoga, alignment is of utmost importance for full benefit of postures as well as to prevent injury. My teacher would say, when bones are stacked properly there is no effort of the muscles, the muscles simply support the bones. When we find neutrality in our spine and our bodies are in alignment our bodies can take in more oxygen and are able to store more for available usable energy. On the flip side if our bodies are not in alignment it can compromise every system of the body.

Mountain Pose:, steady, strong, immovable

Mountain Pose:, steady, strong, immovable

 

In yogapuncture for Winter we will talk about the foundation of our yoga practice and how we can use this as a tool for the year. Through proper alignment the kidney energy can remain strong and keep the will focused. In our yoga practice we will work on foundation postures and build slowly from there. Movement in the winter should be slow and restorative but we are also every day closer to spring now that we have passed the winter solstice. Through these slow and restorative postures we are able to keep the kidneys nourished and keep our energetic savings account full.

This year already feels full of potential doesn’t it? The intention of class is to give you the tools you need to achieve your goals for 2017, lets enjoy the Winter season instead of “getting through it.”

shake

St Patrick’s Day Shake (healthy shamrock shake)

There is a recipe floating around facebook from the detoxinista for a healthy version of the shamrock shake. Dr. Scott printed the recipe for patients to take home and told me it tastes just like a mint chocolate chip shake. Did you know there are over 54 ingredients in a Shamrock Shake? That’s nuts! This version is “paleo” and vegan too so if you’ve been missing your shakes because your allergic to dairy or trying to eat better here is a great alternative that doesn’t feel like an alternative. I tried it on Thursday with my mom and oh my goodness was it delicious!

Give this a try and tell me what you think!

What you need: (this makes 3 small shakes)

2 cup almond milk

1/2 avocado, pitted

2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach

2 drops of peppermint essential oil (from here of course) or you can use peppermint extract for a more pepperminty experience add an extra drop or two this is more of a subtle background mint flavor

10-12 soft Medjool dates, pitted

2 handfuls of ice

What you do:

Put all the above ingredients in a high speed blender. Blend until everything is smooth and creamy. If you want sweeter add more dates. Enjoy immediately.

Thanks Detoxinista! (p.s. she has a bunch of other yummy recipes too!)

cold

Natural Remedy for Shoulder Tension

This cold weather may be making you tense your shoulders without you realizing it half the time. In Chinese Medicine the back of the neck is extremely sensitive to wind. If that wind gets into the body it can wreck all sorts of havoc. Its a pretty instincutal thing to hunch your shoulder when the slap of cold hits you. Here is something you can do to release some of that built up tension. (it works for regular old tension too from sitting at a computer too long, driving, stress etc)

 

Sit or stand up nice and tall. Take a deep breath and lift your shoulders to your ears. Now take your shoulders back (while keeping your chest in the same place) and slide your inner shoulder blades down. Ahh doesn’t that feel good?

The mom in me is going to remind you not to forget your scarf when you go outside too! Stay warm :)

Mindful Eating for Thanksgiving

The spleen/stomach system according to Chinese Medical theory is responsible for the transportation and transformation of food. This system is what gives us usable energy. The quality of our health is determined by the essence we received from our parents (DNA) as well as our lifestyle habits. If you were born with good essence that’s great! The best way to keep it that way is to make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle or it will catch up with you.

The spleen/stomach relate to:

  • emotion: worry/over thinking
  • taste: sweet
  • pathogen: dampness
  • color: yellow
  • season: late summer and transitional phases
  • When our stressors cause us to over think or worry it can damage the spleen. You might know a few people who are worriers and have weak stomachs, this is because the spleen/stomach system governs both activities. If you are a multitasker this can also cause disharmony in your spleen/stomach making you feel anxious. The spleen/stomach system also keeps the blood contained. As a women, if you are living a stress filled life with no outlet you might experience spotting between periods, and other disharmonies with your menstrual cycle.

The spleen is a dry organ that hates dampness. What does that mean? Damp causing foods are sweet, especially empty sweet foods like processed cookies and candy. Dampness causes the body to feel heavy and weighed down metaphorically or literally with extra pounds. In order to keep your digestive system strong its important to eat warm foods.

Raw vegetables are considered cooling and are hard for your system to process. Always cook your veggies. Processed, deep fried, fast foods cause dampness in the body and damage your spleen/stomach. What you might not know is that it is important to focus just on your food while you eat. If you watch tv, drive, sit at the computer etc while you eat you are dividing the attention of the spleen with thinking and eating which ultimately imbalances your spleen.

The Dali Lama once said, “if the problem has a solution then there is no need to worry and if the problem doesn’t have a solution worry will do know good.” Easier said then done, but do your spleen a favor and let it go. :)
How can you avoid stressing out your spleen?

  1. Avoid refined sugars as much as possible
  2. Eat yellow foods with full sweet flavors such as squash, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, or baby corn.
  3. Take life one moment at a time. Instead of multitasking, try to tackle one thing and complete it before moving on.
  4. Avoid living spaces and work environments that are below ground like garden apartments and basements. Keep yourself warm and covered when it rains or snows (dampness).
  5. Eat mindfully. Whenever possible eat with friends or family and enjoy their company and the food that you are eating. Notice the flavor of your food and chew! You might notice that you don’t need to eat as much as you used to.
  6. Unplug. Turn your cell phone and computer off when your work day is done. Even if all you do is turn your car off and sit for a moment of silence before going inside your home. Take some “me” time.

Natural Medicine Cabinet Essential: Postpartum Support

Yesterday we talked about how the body is depleted after childbirth and susceptible to cold and eating nourishing and warming foods. Today I’d like to talk about placentas. Consuming the placenta after birth is not a new fad, it is something that has been going on in various cultures around the world for quite some time. In the U.S. it became more fashionable to utilize the placenta in the 70s and is often associated with the homebirth movement. According to recent studies women who choose to use consume their placenta for postpartum support in the US are educated, middle class, and have both hospital births and home births. You might be asking yourself why on earth would someone want to do that?!

It is believed that eating the placenta offers support for lactation, prevention of or relief from baby blues, replenishes iron supply from blood loss during birth, stabilizes hormones, reduces after-birth pains, reduces bleeding time after birth and as a way to fight fatigue. Some mothers also use the placenta as a way to transition smoothly when menses returns and when weening. In some cultures the mothers themselves do not use the placenta but instead give it to their own mothers to fight symptoms of menopause.

Traditional Chinese Medicine considers human placenta an herb and is known as Zi He Che and is a warming herb. As a Chinese herb placenta holds the benefits above but has also been historically used to treat infertility, impotence, decreased libido, low back pain, light-headedness, insufficient lactation, chronic wheezing and cough and night sweats to name a few. Because of Zi He Che’s super tonifying nature it is an herb that is not recommended to be taken long term and especially not if you have a fever, inflammation, mastitis etc.

The TCM method of preparing placenta includes steaming it with lemon and fresh ginger and then dehydrating it in strips which are then pulverized and put into capsules and taken for a short period of time.

I am a proponent of utilizing the placenta for postpartum support because it helped me tremendously after having my child. I was at risk for postpartum depression and that was my main reason for seeking a placenta encapsulationist. I was a little leery about taking it from the Eck factor and the first couple of times I would swallow a pill my mind would make me feel like gagging but I felt a difference pretty quickly after I started taking them. In a pill form they look like any other supplement and did not taste like anything. I experienced pretty much all of the benefits of taking my placenta as described above. I found it particularly helpful at calming my emotions when I went back to work and had to leave my daughter.

This past weekend I received a certification of completion from Tranquil Transitions Placenta Training and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about placenta encapsulation, tinctures or salves. I am available to prepare your placenta as well.

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This Week’s Theme is Post Partum Recovery

I apologize for the lack of pretty pictures from this post. I’m writing quickly before heading off to day 2 of a placenta encapsulation training with Tranquil Transitions.

Check back this week as we discuss traditional post partum care and how to mother the mother in a variety of ways! :)