The late summer yogapuncture is in Crystal Lake on Friday September 15th at 7:15. If you’d like to join there are a few spots left. I am including a self care package that goes along with the theme of this yogapuncture and all of it relates to the spleen/stomach system in Chinese Medicine. The self care package is designed to assist you through out the season and hopefully give you a few new things you might not have tried before. Here are the 4 items that will be in this care package and what they are for. Since the spleen/stomach system’s main job in Chinese Medicine is to “rot and ripen” our food both transforming and transporting the energy our body uses from the food we eat and the color associated with this system is yellow/orange it only felt fitting to include a few things that support digestion.
These are hand rolled “pills” of powdered ginger, peppercorn and long pepper with raw, local honey are part of Ayurvedic medicine (Chinese Medicine’s). These can be enjoyed before or after a meal to assist with digestion and are especially good if you have a tendency to run cold or struggle with gas and bloating. Not sure if you run cold? If raw foods seem to give you an upset stomach that could be an indication of cold in your belly as one example. Black pepper is known to assist in the absorption rate of the foods it is paired with. These are especially helpful in the fall/winter seasons when the temperatures are colder.
Golden milk includes turmeric and ginger (both are yellow/orange) which are helpful anti inflammatory herbs. This concentrate is homemade and takes the labor out of making your own golden milk at home. Drink daily for a boost of energy, to support your spleen/stomach system and reduce inflammation. It reminds me of a latte and feels cozy in your belly on a cool fall day without any of the guilt. This golden milk is also dairy and caffeine free.
If you would like a self care package let me know by next Wednesday Sept 13th. The cost is $35 I will only be making them to order this time. They will be ready for class on next Friday and if you can’t make it to class I can mail to you or you can pick up by me. If you have any questions please let me know!
Here is the yoga sequence we did at Bonnie’s in Crystal Lake. Let’s do a Facebook live for the sequence at Ohm Mother Yoga especially for those of you who wanted a slightly more active class. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted with a date for July. Photo credit to my joy filled mom Joyce Zender-Hodnett for the pictures by her roses.
Centering with mudra: touch index and thumb together, place left palm up on thigh and right hand over heart. Find your breath. Inhale from base of the spine up and exhale from crown of the head down. Hold 2-10 minutes
Shoulder shrugs and upper body alignment. (Not pictured) sit at end of seat feet hip distance apart. Inhale shoulders up to ears and exhale shoulders down. Let movements match breath.
Lengthen the exhale: inhale shoulders up
Exhale squeeze shoulder blades then slide shoulder blades down into back pockets
Feel the shoulder girdle grounded (we return to this in chair downdog)
Square hips and cross ankle over opposite thigh, let knee open
Inhale arms up, exhale opposite arm back for extra stretch use other hand on elbow as pictured
Inhale arch back and reach arms out in soft cactus position
Exhale round spine and reach arms forward
Do 3-6 rounds
Swivel to the side of chair, back leg can be straight or bent, you could even put a block under a bent knee for support
Check your arm pit to feel the head of the humerus plugged into the socket, in downdog we feel this by releasing the shoulders away from the ears like we did in the beginning of class only now you are partially upside down
Keep the knees in line and bend your knee, bend the elbow and hold your hand out like you would holding a tray feel your chest open, stay here or scoop the inside of your ankle
Remember these fun stretches that open the meridians and nerves of the hands? Arms in a T ground the shoulders down, draw the ribs in and press the heel of the hands out as fingers reach toward shoulders, play around with fingers and wrist location for a different stretch, go deeper by slowly and gently tilting the head from side to side
Take hands to side of chair or back of chair depending on how open your chest and shoulders feel, lift up through the chest let the head and throats soften back
Rest torso on thighs and fold forward, reach for ground or block
One hand on block or floor and one reaching up, head can be neutral, looking up or down
Hands in prayer, thumbs resting on third eye
Summer is the time of expansion, growth, lightness, brightness, outward activity and creativity. Its when the energy around us is most superficial, abundant and available. Just look outside and see everything in full bloom.
In Chinese Medicine the summer is the time of the element of Fire and the meridians most active pertain to the Heart and Small intestine channel. Perhaps because the energy is so available this season has another organ pair active as well: the pericardium and triple warmer.
When you think of summer here is an easy cheat sheet. I’ll get into the specifics below
Color: Red Taste: Bitter
Emotion: Joy Meridians: Heat/Small intestine and Pericardium/Triple Warmer
Element: Fire External Factor: Heat
Opens to tongue Controls Sweating
The main function of the heart/small intestine system is circulation just like what you would think about in western medicine. In Chinese Medicine the heart also houses the mind, spirit and controls sleep and memory. Pericardium is said to be the master of the heart as well as its protector and because of this carries the same functions as the heart.
The small intestine has the job of separating the turbid from the clear for both the food we eat for usable energy and also for our thoughts.
The Triple Warmer protects the organs of the body on the outside as well as controls the “waterways” of the body which helps with distributing energy throughout the body. My teacher would say that the triple warmer is a concept looking for an organ. There are three warmers: upper, middle and lower that divide the torso in a certain respect.
The tongue is an useful diagnostic tool in Chinese Medicine. It is the only organ that is both internal and external. We look at the tongue as a way to see how the body is functioning internally. The shape, size, color and coat all tell a story. The tongue is also where the heart energy opens to. If you have trouble sleeping, are feeling restless/anxious take a peak at your tongue chances are the tip of your tongue will be redder than the rest of the tongue body. If you find a center crack on the tongue that can indicate stress in the body or can be constitutional deficiency of the heart energy. When stress recedes in our lives typically the center crack will as well even if it doesn’t go away completely. Balanced heart energy means you have an easy time communicating your thoughts. Trouble finding words or getting “tongue tied” can indicate an imbalance with the heart. Forgetfullness is also a sign of heart energy imbalance.
The emotion of the summer is Joy. Like any emotion it should be balanced. We often associate joy as being a positive emotion that you can’t have “too much of.” An example of too much joy would be shock. A woman was once thrown a surprise party. When she walked into the room and saw all of these people she started to scream uncontrollably. This is an example of the excess joy taxing the heart. Another example of excess joy would be overstimulation. You might think of burning that candle at both ends as overstimulation. All fun and no rest is damaging to the heart energy of the body. Manic energy is also depleting.
Especially in the Midwest it can feel like we wait all year for summer. It can feel like such a short season and we might feel compelled to get the “most” out of it. As a way to keep Joy balanced this is a perfect season to practice mindfulness.
The heart energy also controls sweating in the body. The heart energy can be damaged by too much heat. If you find yourself sweating excessively or feeling hot or stuffy especially in the palms, feet and chest this can indicate a heart yin deficiency, essentially your body needs more coolant. Acupuncture, herbs and diet changes can help rectify this.
The taste of the summer is bitter. This is often referred to as the most under utilized flavor in western cuisine and perhaps for good reason. In nature typically bitter plants warn us of the plant’s poisonous nature. However the bitter flavor of foods helps to increase saliva which in turn helps to improve digestion which allows the body to absorb more nutrients from the foods we eat giving way to our ability to have more usable energy. The bitter flavor also clears away heat and drains dampness which can make our bodies feel heavy and lethargic, not how you want to feel in the summer!
Examples of bitter foods include: celery, dandelion, burdock, yarrow, chamomile, hops, Echinacea, alfalfa, romaine lettuce, rye, asparagus, papaya, quinoa and citrus peel. Coffee and dark chocolate are also bitter.
Digestive bitters are also another great way to incorporate the bitter flavor into your diet. Take a teaspoon or so of bitters before a meal to help prime the body for digestion. If you indulge in a heavy meal that leaves you feeling full, bloated or gassy taking bitters after a meal can help assuage your symptoms. The digestive bitters that are included in the summer self care package are custom made for the summer and include cherries or strawberries (the color of summer), citrus peel (bitter element) and peppermint (aromatic and cooling). You can also use bitters mixed with some fruit and sparkling water for a low alcoholic beverage that supports your body rather than deplete it.
I find that the bitter flavor also leaves me craving more water which is a great way to keep the body hydrated in the summer months.
I’ll leave you with this here and get into the diet of summer in the next post so its not so overwhelming and then will have 2 yoga sequences for you to use through out summer as well. Stay tuned! There are still a few self care packages available for purchase as well, let me know if you would like one. 🙂
Doesn’t it feel like sometimes we wait all year for the summer sunshine and before we know it, its over? These care packages were designed to support you for a healthy summer season.
Each package includes a Pink Salt Foot Soak, Relaxed and Energized Tea, Digestive Bitters and An after sun serum. Below I’ll go into a little detail about the benefits of each. When you purchase your self care package you will also get access to a special blog post just for you with the recipes for each item so you can make more on your own!
Pink Salt Foot Soak
Summer is the time when we are more active and often times NOT wearing the most supportive shoes. This foot soak replenishes the body with magnesium from the Epsom salts and over 84 minerals and elements from the pink salts. The combo of pink salt, Epsom salt and baking soda make it very similar to taking a dip in the ocean which is very replenishing for the whole body. Lavender can also be cooling and its considered to be an adaptogen herb. While its known to be calming it can also be energizing if that’s what your body needs as well. The foot soak is a great thing to do before bed for a good nights sleep as well. (You can recycle the foot soak water and use it to feed your plants or garden when you are done too)
Relaxed and Energized Tea
The color of the summer season is Red and this delightful tea blend is perfect iced or hot for summer. The chamomile keeps the tea calming and the circulatory properties of the hibiscus and rose hips are great for a non-ca ffeinated pick me up during the afternoon slump.
The flavor of the summer season is bitter which is the most deficient flavor of US cuisine. These bitters boast the flavors and colors of summer and help support digestion. Take 20-30 minutes before a meal to prime digestion or after a meal if you’ve over indulged to aid fullness and gas. Mixed with sparkling water and fruit wedges its a perfect low alcoholic summer cocktail that benefits the body.
After Sun Serum
This after sun serum is infused by the sun much like a sun tea. The herbs are strained out before bottled. A little goes a long way to nourish the skin before an after prolonged sun exposure. Massage gently into skin.
If you would like to order a self care package they will be available at the Crystal Lake Yogapuncture this Friday at Bonnie’s house or next Saturday at OhmMother Yoga. I can also ship to you for an additional fee. The cost is $35.
We do yogapuncture with the seasons but there is always something happening in the body and our environment. If you’ve been curious about what yogapuncture is (a self care class!) read on and get a tiny peak in. If you’ve been coming to yogapuncture here is a tiny peak in what is going on as we look forward to spring. 🙂
February is the time of preparation for Spring! Even if it doesn’t feel like it. The energy that has been deep in the Kidneys all winter is starting to make its way back. The kidneys store our congenital qi or energy. This the energy given to us by our parents and could be considered the genetics of your body.
The Spleen/Stomach system which is active in periods of transition is continuously supplying the Kidney qi with new energy. Recall the old equation da qi + gu qi = zhen qi What this means is that the air we breathe and the food we eat gives us available energy to use. Any surplus is given to the kidneys for storage in times of need. Now is the time to fill the savings account so to speak so the body is prepared for the transition to spring. It is very common to get sick, worn down, allergies etc in spring because of depletion.
Ways to nourish the spleen: eating yellow foods, especially root veggies. Start to incorporate more veggies and meatless meals to give the spleen/stomach a break from the rich, heavy foods of winter.
Here is an almost perfect meal for the transition from winter to spring. Don’t worry it tastes pretty good too! Mung Bean Stew with Eggplant and Mushrooms
Chinese Medicine believes that colds and other sickness can “attack” the body from wind, especially blowing on the back of the neck. It’s especially important to keep your neck protected while you sleep, so avoid fans blowing directly on you or sleeping with a window open when its windy out. Its tempting when the weather breaks (and it will!) to change from winter to spring clothes quickly. Make sure that if you do go out in an open shirt to wear a scarf to protect your neck.
One way to strengthen your neck to keep the wind out is to practice this exercise throughout the day especially if you sit in front of a computer for an extended period of time or while driving. You can do it at each stop light as you get good at remembering.
In Chinese Medicine the kidneys control the bones and the spleen controls the muscles. A misconception is that muscles should do all the work. The foundation of proper health, movement etc is stacking the bones of the body first. Healthy muscles contract when working and relax at rest. When the bones are properly aligned the muscles simply hug the bones in support without effort.
To avoid injury don’t lengthen or strengthen muscles if the bones are not properly lined up.
Stay healthy friends and I’ll see you at the Spring Yogapuncture(s) in March!
Crystal Lake Bonnie Ricica March 3rd,
West Dundee OhmMother Yoga March 18th
Antioch Blu Rain Yoga March 25th!
I have been refining this collection of information for over 10 years, it began as my thesis on Chinese Medicine and the seasons and then one day at the beach the idea to incorporate yoga with the seasons and meridians hit me. It seems everyone I talk to about the concepts of Chinese Medicine asks where can I read a book about all of this. I’ve never found one that I felt was a simple introduction to the concepts of acupuncture that a lay person could understand and use in their daily life.
It is my intention for this ongoing class to be a way to learn and understand these concepts not only intellectually but also as an experience that can be applied to your daily life.
The ancient doctors’ job of their community was keeping people healthy; if someone got sick they had to pay their patient because they had not done their job correctly. This system was born out of prevention, to sustain a healthy life to the age of 100. It is also a system based on observation because of this it is easy to find contradictions because teachers may have made conflicting observations and passed those on to their students. They honored all ways of practicing as each way served a purpose or had a value even if a different or better way was later discovered. Sometimes these are simply cultural. For example, in China they prefer thicker gauged needles and they manipulate the needles until a strong sensation is felt, in Japan thin gauged needles are barely inserted into the skin, Korean acupuncture uses a hand system, some acupuncturists prefer to only use a method of acupuncture in the ear. The most fascinating part is that all of these systems work and it is also why acupuncture can be so hard to do clinical controlled studies on because they may think they are doing sham acupuncture when they may just be using an unknown system.
With that being said the idea and concepts discussed should never be taken at face value. They are simply points to consider. It’s up to you to be your own advocate in your body and find what makes you feel most whole. Not all ideas will work at all times and each season will be different just like we have mild winters and long winters. Some days are rainy or sunny or foggy. Taking on small bits of information and making small changes over time can add up to a lifestyle of wellness.
In school whether its grade school, high school, college etc. we study the body by systems. When do we put all of these systems back together to understand how the body functions as a whole?
Do we understand what a whole, healthy body feels like?
The body has the amazing capacity not only to maintain homeostasis but to remain in the present moment. What most people might not understand is how choices impact this. For example, the body’s ph is 7.34 and no matter what we do it will strive to stay here as long as we are alive. For example, if you drink a coke which is very acidic (somewhere around a 2) the body will compensate to keep homeostasis by leaching calcium out of the bones. One coke might not change the body, however, overtime all of that compensation could lead to many problems from muscle cramping to osteoporosis.
So how do we find balance in our lives? Perhaps we should learn a lesson from our bodies. In order to maintain homeostasis in the moment the body compensates after drinking that coke and borrows some calcium. It doesn’t consider the detrimental effect this loss of calcium will have long term- it is trying to survive in the present moment. The easy answer then is, if we stay present in this moment, the future is planned for.
Let’s talk about balance. What does the concept of balance look like to you? Perhaps an image of a judicial scale comes to mind. This idea is very static and rigid, life most times is not. I’d like for you to consider the idea of harmony. This concept is more fluid. The idea of Chinese Medicine is that each system supports the next and they all work together to keep the body healthy.
If a disharmony occurs it doesn’t happen in isolation to one organ system- the entire body is impacted, emotions are impacted, the individual’s life and all those a part of it are impacted. Kind of like that saying, “If mom’s not happy, ain’t no body happy.” To find harmony we need to look at what caused the dis-harmony. As the body becomes healthier all areas become healthier. It’s a domino effect in the right direction.
So where do we start? With awareness. A teacher once told me, awareness precedes change. First we have to know how we feel, what we are doing and then we can make changes if necessary. Small, realistic changes over time have the deepest impact and longest results.
Take some time to think about your day from turning the alarm clock off, showering, eating breakfast (if you ate breakfast), driving to work, tending to your family, phone calls, emails, going to the bathroom etc etc. As you are thinking about your day notice your body, notice your breath. How does your life feel in your body? How is your body compromising to maintain homeostasis? Are you bracing your body with tight muscles? Holding your breath?
You might imagine how over time this un-awareness of how your body manages your day can contribute to disharmony in the body, in relationships, in the very activities that we enjoy.
With that in mind, could you use a little more energy to use during your day?
In Chinese Medicine it is believed we get our energy from 2 places: our parents and our lifestyle. There’s not much we can do about our parents. The rest of the equation we have a little more control over. Da Qi + Gu Qi = Zhen Qi. What in the world does that mean? How you breathe and how/what you eat contributes to how much usable energy you have and how good you feel.
Da Qi: The Breath
The yogis believed we have a certain number of breaths to live, so they practice slow, deep, mindful breathing. An easy way to shut off fight/flight (stress!) is to exhale deeper than your inhale. This will not only calm you it will help tone your abdominal muscles strengthening your core and lower back in addition to taking stress off of the neck and shoulders. When you can, take a moment to check in with your breathing or take one or two deep breaths for a quick time out in the middle of a stress filled moment. You might end your day with some deep breaths as well to drift off into more restful sleep.
Breath is the mirror of the mind. Here are some examples of what happens to our breath on a day to day basis:
- Fear- gasping for air
- Resisting something- hold the breath
- Anger- short jerky, incomplete breaths
- Fatigue- long inhales through the mouth. Yawn
For optimal health, breathing should be performed nasally and should be full and rhythmic. The breath should come in through the nose and out through the nose. The nose is anatomically designed to filter and warm the air for the lungs, therefore try to use it as nature intended.
Gu Qi: Food
There are gobs of information on what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Alot of it can be confusing as many ideas are contradictory. One thing just about everyone agrees on is that Twinkies will never be a “superfood”. I tell my patients to eat food that is alive. Anything that can live longer than you can on a shelf try to avoid. The best thing you can do when you eat, whatever it is that you eat is to eat with awareness. Don’t multitask when you eat! The spleen/stomach controls digestion and is damaged by overthinking. If you are answering emails while munching you could be setting yourself up for digestive problems, period issues, obsessive thinking and not to mention overeating.
Zhen Qi= True Energy
Your true energy is the combination of your genetics and your lifestyle (air and food). TCM believes that your lifestyle is most important of these two forces because it is constantly being replenished. Our genes are our genes but our role in what we eat, how we breathe and move can have a huge impact on what genes manifest. Due to the changes in our environment each season our lifestyle can modify to adjust accordingly. There is a time to expend energy and a time to conserve. When we follow the flow of nature our bodies can function most optimally.
The gist of TCM is to keep harmony in the body by keeping the circulation of blood and energy flowing unimpeded. When blockages happen this causes the body to not be able to function as optimally as it can which can eventually affect every part of the body. Acupuncture can be a gateway to awareness. It literally forces you to be still for a while. After treatments most people feel better, “cleaned out,” energized and relaxed. With this new awareness they naturally start to make other changes in how they respond to situations that used to “stress them out.”
A bit about what acupuncture feels like
Many people are surprised how painless acupuncture is. Occasionally you might feel a quick pinch or electrical sensation that you might think about longer than you actually feel, this sensation is called “da qi” and basically means we woke up some stagnation and got energy flowing there again. If anything feels uncomfortable for longer than 30 seconds or so ask for needles to be adjusted. Once needles are in, your body may feel heavy/weighed down or light/floating or both sensations at once. Sometimes awareness can rest on a couple of needles like they are “talking” to each other and then change to another group of needles, sometimes you might swear there is a needle where you know there is not, we call this a phantom needle. It is opening up a pathway. Sometimes acupuncture points can feel really achy or itchy, this is all within the realm of normal and will subside during the treatment. A treatment can make some sleepy and others alert, the needles are tapping into your body’s healing resources for what is needed now. Each treatment can be a different experience. Because acupuncture addresses the body as a whole positive “side effects” can include more energy, better quality sleep, improved digestion and a more even mood.
When acupuncture is practiced in a group setting the effects are magnified. This happens because of entrainment. Basically everyone is on the same wave length and so deeper relaxation can occur. My teacher once said that needles are like antennas pulling universal qi/energy into the body. When a group receives acupuncture together more energy is harnessed.
A bit on yoga
The systems of Yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine are very similar, sometimes referred to as sister medicine with the Himalayan Mountains being their only divide. In the West we have picked a part these systems and taken pieces when in actuality they are both parts of bigger systems. While we won’t get into all of the specifics of these systems I wanted to address the nature of the yoga postures that will be demonstrated/preformed in class. There are over 84,000 yoga postures and chances are there will be some that just about any body can do. I choose to find postures that are simple and effective in nature so that you can feel confident in developing a home practice free of injury or over thinking. Looking like a picture of a yogi on a beach in a pretzel like posture is not necessary to receive the benefits of this practice. Whether you’ve never done yoga or you have been practicing for a long time it is my hope that you will find these sequences of postures for each season beneficial. Postures should be comfortable to get in and out of, free of pain that you can easily breathe through. Yoga means to unite the breath with the body so it is essential that we breathe during our postures to receive the intended benefit of each pose. It is often said if you’re not breathing, you’re not doing yoga.
Each yogapuncture class includes a short lecture on Chinese medicine and how it relates to what is happening environmentally/seasonally. Yoga postures are tailored to the current season and are accessible to beginning and seasoned students. Class ends with a seasonal acupuncture treatment.
Winter is the time of Kidney/Urinary Bladder system, the emotion of fear and coldness. We will explore these concepts with restorative postures to fortify our constitution, build endurance, peace and will power during this time of inner reflection, reverence and rest.
Spring is the time of Liver/Gall Bladder system, the emotion of anger and wind. We will discuss spring cleaning/cleanses, anger and courage.
Summer is the time of the Heart/Small Intestine system, the emotion of joy and heat. We will discuss how to harness the abundant energy of the season and how to not “burn the candle at both ends.”
Late Summer is the time of the Spleen/Stomach system, the emotion of worry and dampness. The spleen/stomach is related to all times of transition/transformation and is present in each season.
Autumn is the time of the Lung/Large Intestine system, the emotion of grief and dryness. This is a period of starting to turn inward.
Each yogapuncture class is unique!