The Changing Seasons – Spring

spring

Spring is right around the corner!

In my neck of the woods we haven’t seen much snow this winter, but it’s been drab and damp, and typically overcast.

I’m excited by the lengthening of the days, more sun, and this time of renewal and evolution.

This is the season of the Wood Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The organs of Wood are liver and gallbladder.

From a TCM viewpoint, the liver is all about the free flow of qi, or energy. When the liver is out of balance, qi is stagnant, or stuck, and doesn’t move the way it should.

The last thing we want to be in the spring is stagnant. It’s a time of opening, new growth, and all sorts of transformation. Stagnation is just going to slow us down, and not allow us to take full advantage of this time of letting go and starting fresh.

So what causes the liver energy to stagnate?

First, emotion. The liver is energetically damaged by excessive anger, and also by the non-expression of anger and emotion in general. If you tend to bottle up your emotions, and have a tough time getting over it when you’re pissed off, you probably have some liver energy imbalance.

Also, toxic stuff. I won’t expound too much on this, y’all know what I’m talking about: pesticides, preservatives, and other unfortunate chemicals in our environment.

How do we offset this and strengthen the energy of our livers year-round, not just in the spring?

Herbs are a great choice for building up the liver.
The concept of liver detoxing is a bit of a misnomer. It gives the impression herbs will cause your liver to do a chemical “dump” or something of the sort.

In reality, liver detox herbs are actually strengthening and supportive of the liver, so it can do it’s job effectively. They do not cause an obvious response, like an intestinal detox will. Liver herbs should be gentle, and taken with the idea that they are building the qi of your liver, slowly, over time, so it can do it’s job even more wonderfully then it already does.

There are many options for liver formulas. If you’d like to take one, choose it from your favorite herb company, and whenever possible get a tincture instead of capsules or tablets.

The emotional piece of liver qi imbalance is also super important to address.

Anger is both uncomfortable to feel and uncomfortable to express. It’s a double whammy that is eventually very hard on the liver qi.

I have two suggestions for affirmations, depending on your experience.

If you are experiencing anger with regularity, and it feels irrational and excessive to you, and you’re unaware of it’s source, try this:

I want to learn the source of this anger, and release it from it’s origin.

If you absolutely know what is pissing you off, and you’re (for whatever reason) not making the change in your life to shift the experience, try this:

I am only creating torment for myself by feeling this anger.

My two favorite acupressure points for liver qi flow are as follows:

Liver 3: This is in the “web” between the big and second toes. It’s generally a bit tender, so you’ll know when you’ve got it.

Large Intestine 4: This is known the world over as the “headache” point, but actually has many applications. It’s found on the top of the hand, in the web between the thumb and the index finger, nearer the index finger side.

These two points in combination are called “The 4 Gates” and open up all the qi of the body, as well as supporting the liver. You’ll also notice they are in basically the same spot, one on the hand, and the other on the foot.

It’s best to hold both the right and left sides of the same point at the same time, with a medium amount of pressure, for approximately 60 seconds at a time; then do the same with the second point.

Enjoy your spring! I hope your transformations are full of ease and grace.

(This post does not constitute medical advice, folks. These are suggestions to support maintenance and prevention. Please see your medical provider for any symptom concerns you may have. )

The Changing Seasons – Winter

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Here in beautiful North Carolina it’s definitely rolling into winter. Our temperatures are steadily dropping and my fleece and wool pieces are out and in use.

I lived in Florida for 20+ years, so I’m not really acclimated to the wintry weather (even our “temperate” winters, here). I like to take extra special care of me in the chill.

In 5 element theory, winter is the time of water, represented by (surprise!) the kidney and bladder energy meridians.

According to Chinese medicine (TCM), the kidneys don’t like the cold. When your body is dealing with frosty outside temperatures, it adds insult to injury to mix in iced drinks. It puts unnecessary strain on the kidney qi, and can cause excessive urination.

Because of this, I always hydrate with room temperature water this time of year, and plenty of hot liquids.

In the same vein, avoiding cold foods is also a good strategy. I’m known for being too lazy to heat up leftovers, but this time of year I take that extra step!

Many of us notice we crave heavier, more robust foods when it’s chilly. That’s because these foods actually have warming properties, according to TCM food therapy guidelines.

Meat is more warming then grains and legumes, and root vegetables are more warming then green vegetables and fruit.

It’s a great time to use garlic in cooking, and to put together curries and other traditionally spicy dishes.

Ginger is also a very warming root, and so yum! It’s my go-to hydrating tea in the cooler months.

I also LOVE adding a bit of cayenne and cinnamon to my coffee (and my hot chocolate, too!) – it’s very tasty and a bit of extra heat to get me going in the morning.

Y’all might have figured out I’m quite the acupressure enthusiast.

Here are a couple of points I like to do that have warming, strengthening properties:

Kidney 3: this point is on the inner aspect of the lower leg, halfway between your achilles tendon and your ankle bone (or the medial malleolus for anatomy peeps).

Stomach 36: this point is located the width of YOUR four fingers below the bottom of your knee cap, on the outside of the bone. Find this one by placing your right hand below your left knee, with your index finger laying against the lower border of your knee cap. The end of your pinkie finger will land on ST 36.

Both of these points are bilateral; I like to apply medium pressure for about a minute at  time, several times a day. They are warming, energizing, and help to maintain consistent qi flow, too.

What’s not to love? ;-)

(Do avoid Kidney 3 if you’re carrying a wee one, lovely ladies!)

In terms of how I organize my internal focus, I remind myself that autumn was the time for preparing for a warm and nourishing cold weather experience.

This new season of winter is the time for quiet contemplation and DECISION MAKING.

Consider this: in the upcoming spring, the seeds we have sown (consciously or unconsciously) will start to peek out.

This will happen regardless of our attention or involvement.

Winter is the time to get engaged and set our intent so that we have a say in what plants we grow, or what types, or in which location.

Winter is for deciding how we want our spring to look.

So what are you imagining for spring?

Be well!

(This post does not constitute medical advice, y’all. These are suggestions to support maintenance and prevention. Please see your medical provider for any symptom concerns you may have. )

The Changing Seasons – Autumn

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For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, the season of autumn is upon us.

Autumn precedes the deep and quiet winter; it’s a time of preparation, of storing up what will nourish us through the next season, and of leaving behind what does not feed us.

According to Chinese medicine/5-element philosophy, autumn is the time of metal.

The organs associated with the metal element are the lungs and the large intestine, and they tend to be affected by dryness this time of the year.

Emotionally, the lungs are about grief, and the large intestine is (unsurprisingly!) about letting go.

What does this mean for us, in terms of maintenance, prevention, and making the most of the season in regards to physical and emotional health?

We can start by taking special care of our lungs (which include our sinuses) and our lower gut.

We want to keep our sinus passages moist and clear. One way to do this is with a combination of a sterile saline spray and with a neti pot.

The lungs are the first to be affected by colds and flu; taking some basic immune system-building herbs can help ward off any nasty bugs and keep the lungs strong. I like cat’s claw and goldenseal for a bit of prevention. If I feel something actually settling in my lungs, I use oil of oregano, which has powerful anti-pathogenic properties, so can handle both bacteria and viruses.

We also want to, ahem, keep our gut moving. While all of our bodies are unique, eating mainly unprocessed, whole food and getting a bit of daily exercise is always a good bet to encourage gut motility. And, while adequate hydration is always important, making especially certain we are drinking enough water is especially key in this season of dryness.

If you’re noticing an out-of-the-ordinary slowdown, how about some acupressure?

My favorite point for slow digestion is Stomach 25. It’s located about 2 inches to the right and to the left of your navel, both sides. It’s best to hold both the right and left sides at the same time, with a medium amount of pressure, for approximately 60 seconds at a time.

Also, Large Intestine 4: This is known the world over as the “headache” point, but actually has many applications, and constipation is one of them. It’s found on the top of the hand, in the web between the thumb and the index finger, nearer the index finger side.

You will know for certain when you’ve found this point, because it’ll be tender. Keep poking around until you “feel” it. (One caveat: do not use LI4 if you are pregnant.)

My favorite part of self-care is taking advantage of elemental, emotional themes through the seasons. As I mentioned above, autumn is the time to let go of old experiences that don’t support us, particularly grief. While there are many ways to do this, affirmations can be quite useful. Here are some suggestions:

I can integrate my learnings, while leaving prior experiences in the past.

I can leave behind what drains me, and take forward what nourishes me.

Autumn is for taking the opportunity to prepare for winter, a season in which we want to feel as if we’ve stocked up on everything that will sustain and comfort us through the cold months. At the same time, we can focus on leaving behind that which impoverishes us, like bad memories, old hurts, and crappy patterns of behavior.

We wouldn’t stock our cellars with rotted food, would we? Let’s toss out what is old and spoiled, and make room for what nurtures us and keeps us strong and healthy.

Enjoy your fall!

(This post does not constitute medical advice, y’all. These are suggestions to support maintenance and prevention. Please see your medical provider for any symptom concerns you may have. )

Ummmm…

So, yea. The blogging has been pretty sparse around these parts lately.

However. All is well. All is wonderful, actually. Life is grand and my acupuncture clients are sweet, funny, generous, lovely people who I absolutely enjoy working with. Hopefully the feeling is mutual :-)

I’ve been spending lots of time on my other website.

If you are interested in channeling, talking to entities, personal growth, and that sort of thang, check out mariachanneling.com.

Wishing you an amazing 2013…

It’s that time of year my lovelies.

Acupuncture gift certificates are available! There is a fancy new menu button with all the details you need to get someone you care for the gift of… love? Health? Stress relief? Yes! All of the above!

One of these babies with some scrumptious chocolate (the selection at parkerandotis.com leaves me drooling) or a bottle of wine (wineauthorities.com has the BEST selection) is a little piece of heaven, and will score you some serious points.

These can also be purchased for future use by you, to ensure at some point (perhaps right before the big day(s)? Or post-holiday madness?) you get some acupuncture goodness for yourself as well.