Here's Why You Need To Start Meditating Today!

If you haven't already noticed, the world has been kind of a stressful place lately.  It's during these really intense times in life that we have a choice:  go to a place of anxiety or find ways to counteract that stress and find a place of calm.  No matter what is going on in the external world, this is always a choice.  

The stress in the outside world may not instantly go away, but finding tools to calm and connect on the inside will keep us healthy, strong and actually much better equipped to respond to those challenges, whatever they may me.   


Generally I tell people that technology is a distraction from that connection, and that is mostly true. The one big exception I've found is the power of technology and certain apps and websites to support my meditation practice.  I've used a few different apps for yoga and meditation: yogaglo, calm, headspace etc.  But most recently I've discovered the Insight Timer and it's by far my new favorite (and bonus, it's free!).  The insight timer is like the social media of meditation.  There are literally thousands of free guided meditations and a really nice timer setting if you want quiet meditation time.  You can invite friends and also see how many others around the world are meditating with you!  If you and a friend join, it's a great opportunity to find an accountability partner for your practice, which can be extremely helpful to really following through on making it a regular part of your life.  You can find the app by clicking on the link below.

https://insighttimer.com


Meditation has many well known benefits. It literally slows down your brain waves and when scientists have studied the brain during meditation, they've seen some incredible changes.  This is amazing to me.  The following brain scans have revealed some of the following findings when people meditate even short periods of time (around 20 minutes/day):

1.  Increased grey matter in parts of the frontal lobe that controls focus and flexibility in our thinking.
2.  The prefrontal cortex has also shown increases in grey matter.  This area is responsible for executive functions such as emotional regulation and problem solving.
3. Increased thickness in the hippocampus that governs learning and memory.  It is also very susceptible to stress and PTSD related issues.
4. Decreased amygdala size.  This area is responsible for our 'fight-or-flight' response, so the smaller size is very beneficial to how we respond to stress.

There may be some reading this blog that are thinking, "I've tried meditation and I can't sit still.  I'm just not wired to sit still and do that kind of thing."  I used to give people a pass when they said that, but not anymore!  Since reconnecting to my meditation practice recently and feeling how powerful its benefits are, I'm instead inviting people to let go of that old story that they can't meditate and perhaps take another look at this practice that has such incredible benefits for the body and the mind.  

Many patients here at the clinic, have started their meditation practice while lying in their chair getting a treatment.  Using apps such as these to guide you into meditation during acupuncture is an awesome way to start, especially if you find you have a challenging time lying quietly in the chair.  Acupuncture is an amazing opportunity to slow down, remember to breathe and undo the stress of the outside world.

Start tuning into your ability to turn within, to deepen your breath and slow down the stream of thoughts in the mind.  A teacher of mine has started calling this practice 'Brain Training" instead of meditation.  So if you'd like to look at this more as a science experiment and less as a spiritual endeavor, I invite you to do so as well.  Either way, the benefits to your life and to those around you will be the same!

This meditation below is one of my incredible teachers, Elena Brower.  Hope you enjoy it!



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Rebounding: Bounce Your Way to Amazing Health!

Lately everywhere I looked someone was telling me to try rebounding as a way to get healthy.  I had no clue what they were talking about, so finally I googled it and realized they were saying, just jump on a trampoline!  Really?  We have a small kid version at home already, so I started bouncing and wow, yeah, my kids are on to something, this feels really good.  So of course as the nerd that I am, I needed to research the benefits of rebounding to motivate me.  So here goes!

1. Rebounding moves your lymph
Your lymphatic system surrounds every cell, carrying nutrients to it and carrying away waste products.  In fact, your body contains three times as much lymphatic fluid as blood.  But your lymphatic system has no pump like the heart is to the blood, making it totally dependent on movement and exercise to circulate.  Lymph moves through vessels that run up and down from the legs & arms to the torso, so the up and down movement of the rebounder is ideal for stimulating the movement of this crucial fluid.  

2. It benefits your immune system
The motion of rebounding causes immune cells like T-Lymphocytes and macrophages to be up to five times as active.  The job description of these cells includes eating up bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.  So helping them along and preventing them from being stagnant will directly enhance your immune
system.

3. Stimulates cellular detoxification
I've heard people call rebounding cellercise, because of the beneficial effects it has on nourishing and cleansing ALL of the cells in the body.  This effect is due to the gravitational force (G-force) that is placed on the body with each movement.  When jumping up, the cells engage, at the top of the bounce have a moment of weightlessness and then accelerate when descending.  This works to quicken the movement of oxygen, nutrients, hormones, enzymes and wastes through the cells, for complete cellular cleansing.

4. It can improve your eyesight!
Rebounding helps strengthen your ocular nerves and muscles (eye muscles are very weak). What other exercise or piece of home gym equipment can workout your eyes?  It can also benefit the lymphatic flow to the eye by stimulating the movement of it's fluid.

5.  Strengthens Digestion and Enhances Elimination
The digestive peristalsis is re-calibrated and improved by a regular rebound practice.  Just maybe don't bounce on a full tummy!

Other reasons that rebounding is great includes:
-Low impact on joints and bone
-Strengthens the heart muscle and improves circulation
-Tones the endocrine system, especially the thyroid, to increase output
-Lowers blood pressure

So are you ready to bounce?!  I decided to buy a new mini-trampoline instead of using my kids' trampoline and will attach the link to the one I bought on Amazon.  Prices vary widely, but I decided to start with a lower cost rebounder.  It was less than $40 and seems good to me.

https://www.amazon.com/Stamina-38-Inch-Intone-Plus-Rebounder/dp/B005IQS6P2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478279753&sr=8-2&keywords=rebounder

Here is a video of my 5 year old twins trying out the rebounder, enjoy!  (No I won't attach one of me!)











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Fall Reboot Time!

I don't always say this, but everyone is 'off' right now.  People are tired, not eating well, not exercising, fighting off a cold and just too stressed with their routine.  Anyone out there feel that way?  

I'll admit it, I would definitely put myself in the above category with everyone else.  Fall is overwhelming when you have kids, work, get less sunlight and adjust to colder temperatures.  Therefore I proclaim that it is time for a FALL REBOOT!  I'm not calling it a cleanse, because frankly, I just don't want to label it that way.  This reboot is a set week (I'm starting monday) to commit to getting your body and mind back on track.  

We are all different and inspired in our own unique way, but this is what my plan is for the next week, and possibly longer:

1.  Wake up and drink an abundance of lemon water, stretch and meditate 10 minutes before my shower.  Write in my gratitude journal.  Check out the 5 minute journal for info about this amazing little book.  
https://www.amazon.com/Five-Minute-Journal-Happier-Minutes/dp/0991846206/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475862528&sr=8-1&keywords=5+minute+journal

2. Eat Clean:  my plan is going to include morning green smoothies, ayurvedic kitchari, crock pot soups and stews.  I still plan to drink one cup of coffee in the morning because I'm not going to be ridiculous!!  I'm cutting out all sugar and processed food from my diet but not defining the particulars too strictly.  If it comes in a box, I'm going to try not to eat it.

If you haven't tried kitchari, I highly recommend it.  It's delicious, nourishing and cleansing according to ayurvedic traditions.  Below is a really good recipe you can try.  I plan to replace the white rice with brown, but otherwise it's perfect.  Visiting a local asian market can help with getting some of the ingredients.
http://www.yogajournal.com/recipe/recipes/simple-kitchari/


3. Movement:  I'm purposely not calling it exercise, because my main goal is to walk, stretch and move more in nature.  Fresh air is key to this part of the plan.

If you are inspired to also do a reboot, let me know so we can all support each other in shifting into a healthy, vibrant fall season!






Now is the Time to be More Flexible!

Fall has arrived and life may have 'amped' up a bit for you. Busy with work, school, activities and a return to routine. Routine is a beautiful thing. As I see in myself and in observing my children, we are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. The downside that I also observe is that with routine, can come rigidity, stiffness and the tension that being on a schedule can bring. This stiffness, especially in the fall, can also translate as stiffness in the physical body.

In Chinese medicine, the fall marks the transition to the metal element. Metal is the strongest of the 5 elements, but also the least flexible. Cool mornings and the dramatic fluctuations in weather throughout the day can lead the body to feeling stiff and stuck. Pair that with busy days and emotional 'stiffness' can also be right behind. The physical and emotional are intimately paired in this medicine and we are always addressing both.

Here are a few tips on staying flexible this fall:

1. Breathe with Awareness: The metal element is strongly influenced by the LUNGS. Many who become aware of their breathing patterns realize that they are breathing very shallow, or using their neck muscles to breathe instead of their belly and diaphragm. This ends up causing more tightness to the neck and upper body. The main way to improve breathing patterns is to simply become conscious of it flowing in and out, and try to make sure there is no forcing. Flexibility means ease in the body, and even a deep breath can be tense and forced.

2. Stretch Often for Small Amounts of Time: As you may remember, one of our favorite books here at Acupuncture Connections is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This inspiring book on how to make transformative change tells us, "What you do everyday, matters more than what you do every once in a while." Stretching for an hour, once a week, is not going to contain the powerful transformation that stretching for 15 minutes, twice a day is going to have. Learning how to release your tension is empowering, and will forever change how it feels to be in your body!

3. Don't Over-Book Your Life: Allowing some breathing room between activities can give some ease to your day. Try to make some week nights time to stay at home and some weekend days to be completely open. Time can seem to fly by very fast when we are booked solid. Just because an hour is free, does not mean it needs to be filled!

4. Try a Body Scan: I know this one sounds a little strange, but a body scan is simply the mindfulness practice of paying attention to where tightness and stress may be holding and storing itself in your body. During my acupuncture sessions, I always do a body scan to see where in myself I can let go and relax more deeply. If you want to use technology to benefit you in this regard, download a free app called CALM. This app has free guided meditations and body scans for various lengths of time. Even a three minute body scan can work wonders, and kids love it too!

5. Drink Plenty of Water: The metal element ushers in the dry season, so it's an important time to stay hydrated. The link between hydration and flexibility is well known. The fascia and muscles become stiff, and since most of our culture is chronically dehydrated, this may be a big reason why people are so stiff and inflexible. Try increasing your water intake to see if this helps your stretching routine.

6. Protect Your Neck from the Elements: Cold in the morning, hot and sweaty in the afternoon, then the cold wind returns at night and goes right to your neck causing it to stiffen up. This is a common story in the early fall. In acupuncture school the teachers scared us so much about 'wind-cold' invasions, that we all spent our time bundled up in scarves year round!! I'm not suggesting this, but carrying an extra layer to cover up if the weather shifts is not a bad idea!

The transition from summer to fall is the perfect time to focus on your flexibility and doing so will surely serve your body and mind until spring:)

Happy Stretching!




Keep Enjoying Summer, But Start Getting Your Body Ready for Fall!

Earth is a stabilizing force during times of transition. After all the activity of spring and summer, nature’s time to grow and bloom, earth can help us get centered and balanced in late summer as we organize ourselves for the autumn harvest and begin to prepare ourselves for winter, the season of rest.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news for some of you, but fall is coming!  I know, I know, it's only early August, but can you feel it in the newly crisp mornings and slightly shorter days?  Anyone around you starting to get some late summer colds?  Believe it or not, fall has started to creep into the acupuncture clinic, and so we feel it is our obligation to give you a heads up!

6 weeks before and 6 weeks after the fall equinox is a crucial time for boosting your immune system in preparation for the winter months.  This is especially true if you have small children, a compromised immune system or fall allergies.  So even if you are feeling great (and we hope you are!), it's important to refocus on making sure your body and mind are as healthy as they can be.

You probably thought there were four seasons right?!  Well just to make things even more confusing, Chinese Medicine went ahead and added a fifth season, LATE SUMMER.  Late summer is dominated by the EARTH element and harvest time.  It starts the third week of August and goes until the fall equinox the third week of September.  Being healthy according to Chinese Medicine is all about being in-tune with the season you are in.  Most of summer is dominated by the fire element and is a time of long days, cooling foods and lots of activities.  Late Summer is dominated by the earth element, where we begin to strive for balance between being an extrovert and the beginning of turning and tuning inward.

When earth is balanced, digestion is strong and emotionally we feel grounded.  Out of balance it can present as the tendency to worry and feel anxious as well as having low energy and digestive distress.  These symptoms can become especially unbalanced in late summer and because they are related to a seasonal imbalance, often respond very well to acupuncture and herbs during this time of year.

 It is a time to reap the harvest, nourish the body with amazing foods, refocus our efforts on taking supplements and herbs to strengthen the body and tuning inward with more frequent acupuncture sessions.  It's an incredible time to spend outdoors, to breath the fresh air and contemplate where life will be focusing our energy this fall.  Revisit your intentions and plans, and write down some new goals.  Buy a new journal and start writing, while still going out swimming and playing with friends.  

So just to re-cap your late summer to-do list, for those who may be skimming this article....:)

1.  Go to the farmers market and enjoy the local foods that are so abundant this time of year
2.  Try to start getting more sleep as the body becomes more grounded and inward focused. 
3. Receive regular acupuncture to boost the immune system and keep the earth element in balance.
4.  Start herbs and/or supplements if needed for allergies, immune, digestion or other imbalances that may occur for you during this time of year.
5. Go for walks outdoors to directly connect with the earth element and breathe/contemplate plans for the coming season.  

Enjoy and be present for every moment of your summer, but keep an eye towards where you are heading and your fall will be vibrant and healthy!

Happy Late Summer and hope to see you in the clinic soon!