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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:)