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Melissa

Want to get truly healthy this summer? Return to natural movement!



“Perhaps the only way out of our poor physical state, created by our culture of convenience, is a return to the behaviors of our ancestors.”


― Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement


Summer is awesome isn't it?  Time at the beach, the pool, and not having to be bundled up in winter clothes, yay!  But let's be real for a minute.  Summer is busy!  If your life is anything like mine, you are still working, but now juggling the kids who are home for summer!  We have added to that, buying a house this summer, so it's been exciting, abundant, but also downright busy and crazy too!

We had a camping trip planned for the Fourth of July weekend, and the thought of packing for it almost threw me over the edge.  But thanks to an awesome husband, the packing did happen and all at once I found myself at an absolutely beautiful campground in southern New Hampshire with great friends and no to-do list.  

All I can say is that spending three days walking everywhere, relaxing in between, sitting by the fire, swimming, breathing fresh air and laughing with friends was the most healing medicine I could have imagined.  It was amazing how all of my aches and pains just magically went away!  And it hasn't just been me.  I've had several patients tell me that while they were camping, they thought that their neck/back pain was gone, only to find it return the moment they arrived back home.




Well it turns out, that this experience is backed up by science.  In my research it turns out that the paleo diet, goes way beyond just food.  It encourages a return to the natural movements that our ancestors did, outdoors, before the gym existed. There were no elliptical trainers in the Paleolithic age.  As was my experience with camping, it really wasn't exercise, but living, walking where I needed to go, lifting wood to make a fire, carrying dishes to wash them, that led to feeling vibrantly alive and healthy.  The other side of this Paleo type of movement is that rest and recovery are built into your life.  You make a fire, then rest and enjoy it.  No wifi, no email, no Facebook, just space to enjoy quiet and friends.  

So here are my five suggestions for connecting to natural movement this summer:

1.  Practice Forest Bathing:  The Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku Forest Medicine is to spend time in nature, walking slowly, breathing and opening your senses to the natural world around you.  Research studies have shown that subjects who participated in this practice had lower blood pressure, heart rate and concentrations of salivary cortisol - a stress hormone - when compared with those who walked through a city setting.  This is intuitive to many of us, but sometimes knowing the science behind the intuition really motivates the practice!

2. Take Off Your Shoes:  Walking barefoot is good for your body.  When you get home or if you are outside in your backyard, take off your shoes and let the feet be free!  Walking barefoot, also known as "earthing," has gone from being a kooky counter-culture trend, to a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages, such as increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep. Our body, connecting directly with the electrical charge of the earth, has shown benefits to the immune system, blood pressure and chronic pain levels.  So, take off your shoes and connect with your inner bohemian!

3. Sit Less and Walk More:  Sitting in chairs is associated with many of our modern ailments, especially back pain.  Walking, especially in the woods on irregular surfaces is healthy for your joints and the fresh air is great for your insides.  If you work at a desk, make sure to get up every 30 minutes to walk and stretch, and if you can take phone calls on the go, walk as you work!  Also, if you never sit on the floor, give it a try.  Sitting on the ground engages your core and back muscles and is much healthier for your body than being propped up by a chair.

4. Remember How to Swing like a Kid:  When I was a kid, I would hang upside down and swing from the monkey bars and climb to my hearts content.  I see this in my kids who are naturally strong and limber.  But me, not sure I could do the monkey bars anymore, haven't tried in years!  But moms, it's time we stopped sitting on the sidelines at the playground and learned how to swing from the monkey bars again!  This practice strengthens and stretches your body from head to toe.  It stretches and tones the core of the body which is so often tight and lengthens the vertebrae many of which become compressed over time.  Start slowly and hang from the bars (or tree limbs) with your feet on the ground, building up slowly to swinging!

5. Swim in Natural Bodies of Water:  We are blessed to live down the street from Walden Pond, and I can tell you first hand, there is nothing like swimming in natural water surrounded by the beauty of nature.  You feel refreshed, rejuvenated and connected to something bigger!  Plus it's summer, so take a break from the chlorine pool and opt for the swimming holes instead!

Next week we head to the beach for a week of relaxation, and these practices will surely be coming with me!  I hope you find some inspiration here and things you can add to your life right away!

Happy Summer and see you soon!



5 Comments
Melissa

Are you feeling STUCK this spring? You are not alone!

Welcome to spring, the return of the light and a time of re-growth and transformation.  Can you feel it? That's ok, I can't either!

Chinese Medicine is based on aligning ourselves with the seasons.  Winter is the most inward, yin, time of year.  A time for slowing down, introspection and warmth.  After the winter solstice, the days gradually get longer and there is hope in the return of the sun moving from yin towards yang. We crave the spring and the longer days, but our bodies are still in a winter slow down.  Then suddenly all at once we feel it, spring, warmth it's here!  

So then why are my joints so stiff, my mood so cranky and my headaches so horrible.  Why do I feel more depressed and anxious than usual, you may ask yourself, when I'm supposed to feel amazing?  The season I've been waiting for is here!  Well, the answers lie in understanding that seasonal transitions are big for the body and mind and the change from winter to spring can be the most tumultuous of all.  So first of all, lets take a deep breath, give ourselves a break and understand why.

In Chinese Medicine, Spring is ruled by the Wood Element.  When it is in harmony, the wood element is as flexible as a willow branch that can move and bend with the wind.  There is ease in the body, breath and emotions.  Everything flows and nothing is stuck.  Spring is a time of setting goals, making plans and then manifesting those plans.  If the wood energy is stuck, then that to-do list remains just that, a list, and is not put into action.  

We are seeing this a lot at the clinic right now.  Many people are wanting to make a change, lose weight, start a new job or project, get free of their irritability and stuck emotions, but not able to motivate putting their plans into action.  

On a physical level, the wood element rules the tendons, muscles, eyes and diaphragm.  If you are waking up stiff, more tired than usual, more headaches and neck pain than usual, then there may be an imbalance in the wood element.  It is also influenced by the wind, which increases in the spring and causes upward rising symptoms like migraines, dizziness and anxiety.

So, how do we get ourselves 'un-stuck'?  Well I'm glad you asked!!  In this medicine, we look towards the organs that rule the wood element, Liver and Gall Bladder.  Stagnation of these organs is epidemic in western culture because of our busy, high stress lifestyle and the typical western diet.  Looking at these two areas of self care is key to getting un-stuck. 

After the heaviness of the diet during the winter months, the spring diet should be the lightest of the year.  Think 'spring cleaning' from the inside out.  Adding sour flavors like lemon and lime to your water, fresh greens to your diet and decreasing heavier more processed foods, will begin to free up your energy and allow the organs to clean out the excesses of winter.  

Moving your body is key, but try not to have a weekend warrior mentality of doing everything all at once.  Starting with some brisk walks outside, stretching and deep breathing, will ease your body into a less 'stuck' place.

Emotionally if you feel stuck, it's important to bring a sense of mindfulness to your thinking.  It's common to feel irritable in the spring, but watching this tendency, instead of feeding it with more negative thoughts, can help to break the cycle.  Remembering to breathe into the diaphragm and not chest breathing is a great way to oxygenate the body and release tension to body and mind.   

And of course, please come to the clinic for some seasonal 'tune-ups'! Regular acupuncture during the spring can be a powerful way to not only manage the symptoms that arise, but to get unstuck in a deeper way so that the body can thrive! 

When following these above self-care suggestions remember this.  In the spring the seeds are planted, then you must water and care for those seeds before they grow to fruition.  It is the same way for any type of change for your body.  Continue to care for yourself in small ways everyday, just like watering your plants, and gradually you will harvest the fruits of your labor in the form of increased vitality and greater health.

See you in the clinic!

4 Comments
Melissa

Are you Stuck in 'Fight or Flight'? How Acupuncture can Pull the Plug on Stress!



Stress is truly a silent killer in our culture.  We are constantly barraged with the demands of life, violence on TV and anger on the internet!  This is all on top of the business of life where most of us just have too much on our plates.

If your life is anything like most of the people I know, then you are busy, too busy, with seemingly not enough time to take care of yourself.  Maybe you have kids, a job, a long commute and activities outside of work.  It can feel like the giving never ends, and then it leaves you depleted and overwhelmed.  Revving on this gear over time will eventually lead the body to being depleted due to the overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system or 'fight or flight' response.  

Essentially the same physiological effects to stress happen today, as did when we were all literally in survival mode in our day to day life.  If a tiger was charging at you, stress hormones like adrenaline would be released, the blood from your internal organs would rush to your legs and say, "run like hell!"  

Now there is no tiger chasing most of us (hopefully!), but instead it's a crying baby, a tense interaction at work, or getting cut off in traffic.  Either way the response inside is the same, the body gets cut off from its blood flow and the entire body suffers.  So then over time, symptoms arise:  back pain, neck tightness, digestive distress, insomnia, not to mention the anxiety!  Then before you know it, you have been slapped a label like IBS, Fibromyalgia or Depression.  How did this happen?!

Well I am here to tell you that there is an antidote to the 'fight or flight' and it's found in the parasympathetic nervous system, or 'rest and digest'  or 'calm and connect' mode.  We can't always change external circumstances or our responsibilities but we can always change what is happening inside.  Right now I am reading an amazing book called, "The Urban Monk, by Pedram Shojai.   In it he says, "The world outside us begins to change as we shift our inner state."  

Ever notice how when you are in a calm and relaxed state, that your kids are magically less crazy than usual?  I know that I have!!  Getting ourselves calm and balanced on the inside is key to having life on the outside not just flow smoothly, but to truly shine.  

Here is where the science of acupuncture comes into play.  Many think of acupuncture as just moving an invisible energy called Qi (pronounced chee), and yes I do believe there is an activation of energy at play.  Remember we can't see our cell phone signals, but we know they are real....lots of energy is beyond our sight.

However, what I'm talking about are actual physiological changes that happen in the brain during acupuncture that change our hormonal responses to stress.  When a needle is inserted into the body, it stimulates the sensory nerves to send a signal to the brain to activate a response.  Recent research suggests that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone and signaling substance that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system.  It is also sends a signal through the nervous system to the brain, where chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine and enkephalin are released.  When the body receives these feel good and pain relieving hormones, then the calming effect can go even deeper.  

Regular weekly acupuncture can help shift the body into this 'calm and connect' mode, enhancing the quality of our lives on many levels.  When life gets busy, all too often the good stuff that relieves stress can get cut out, but carving out your 'me-time' for acupuncture will set your entire week right!

See you in the clinic:)



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Melissa

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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Melissa

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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Melissa

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!






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Melissa

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!




1 Comments
Melissa

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!