Breath Matters

If you are reading this you are likely breathing.
However how much of your lungs are you really using? Are you nourishing every cell with your inhalation and really expelling the old stale air with your exhalation? Or are you breathing shallowly, you diaphragm barely budging, your breath filling only a small portion of your lungs?

So many of us are starving. Our breath is shallow and our diet is suboptimal. It is a marvel we have energy to do anything, much less move beyond the basics.

I invite you this week to nourish yourself more completely. Through food, breath and movement.

If we want to move beyond survival we must hold fast to the basics:

Drink half your weight in ounces of purified water daily.

Aim for at least 80% of your food to be a close to nature as possible (the farmers markets are in full swing and a great resource for local food).

Breath deeply and completely, as if your life depended on it.(Since it does.)

Following is a breathing technique from a lovely birthing resource:

Though this book is geared toward a laboring mother. It is remarkable for anyone. This is from page 68-69 of Labyrinth of Birth by Pam England. I am modifying the language to make it more inclusive.:
Step One:
This works best with a straight spine, so sit up, stand or walk tall.
In breath: Imagine, as you breath in, you are pulling life giving energy from your root chakra downward and backward along (the inside) of your perineum, and up your spine to the crown of your head. It is important to imagine your breath moving upward following the curves inside your spine. Attention on upward-moving inhalation is uplifting and refreshing.

At the end of your inhalation, in the brief pause before exhalation begins, focus your attention on the crown of your head or on your forehead between your eyes.

Keep your eyes slightly open, gazing softly downward. Looking up distracts you from your inward journey. Closing your eyes completely would interfere with walking or allow you to fall asleep. A soft downward gaze allows you to “be here now.”
Practice this inhalation meditation for a few breaths.

Step Two:
Out Breath: Follow your outward breath, from beginning to end, downward through your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your belly, just above your pubic bone. Imagine this life giving breath re-energizing every organ, every tiny cell, in your body. Practice this exhalation meditation for a few breaths.

Step Three:
Fill and spill the “cup of breath.” During this step you will begin to experience the circular pattern of breath: breathing up the inner curves of your spine, breathing down into your body, up and down. Feel the relaxing rhythm of circular breathing for several breaths.

Now notice the brief pauses between your in-breath and out-breath, and between your out-breath and in-breath. Bringing your attention to this still place between breath slows down the mind and deepens meditation. Pay attention to this in-between-breaths place for the next few breaths.

It may help to deepen your meditation to add the “cup of breath” imagery. Imagine a little “cup” sitting behind your pubic bone area. As you exhale, instead of letting the breath dissipate, imagine it is pouring into the cup. During the pause between outward and inward breath, imagine the full cup tips backwards and, as you breath in, you pull the life giving breath from the cup across your perineum and up your spine.

Step Four: Walking in Circular Breath Meditation. Now you are ready to combine circular breathing with walking. Focusing you attention on breath and walking together works like clockwork to deepen your peace of mind.

Be Stroke Savvy Part 2

auricular-baby-chartStrokes are scary and can be prevented, if one is willing to take responsibility for health and live life according to nature’s intentions rather than mass marketing and media. Prevention is by far the best medicine.

If you suspect someone has had a stroke, early treatment is essential for best outcome.

In fact, if someone has a stroke in front of you or you come upon someone who you suspect had a stroke, call 911 then find some needles and some gloves.

Diabetics often have strokes so they may have some lancets or needles around. Otherwise a safety pin will do in an emergency.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, prick the tips of each finger and toe and try to draw a drop of blood from each digit and also prick the earlobe in a number of places trying to get a drop of blood from each point (pay special attention to any discolored areas of the earlobe.) The points on the tips of the fingers and toes have a function of reviving consciousness and dynamically affecting the bodies energy flow. The earlobe corresponds to the brain. By pricking the points on the fingers and toes and the earlobe, you help move blood stagnation (a.k.a. blood clot) out of the body. By doing this before the stroke victim is transferred the negative outcome of the stroke may be minimized.

Yes this is powerful medicine, these points are powerful and may be tender and pricking them while waiting for hospital transfer could save a life or minimize paralysis. Once a stroke victim has been stabilized they should seek the services of an acupuncturist to further improve their outcome and work towards preventing future strokes and disease.

Treasure Mapping

bagua_map_575There is the idea that if you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it and that you must see it to believe it.

A Treasure map helps in both regards.
The treasure map is based on the Ba Gua. The Bagua originates from the I Ching, or “Book of Changes”, an ancient divination tool many thousands of years old. The I Ching has and is used as a tool for guidance to help people make important life decisions. Its wisdom states that when we are aligned with the balanced energy or Ch’i of the cosmos our lives flow more smoothly.

There are many ways to create your own treasure map.

We often potluck delicious foods and drinks and make an event of setting out our intentions for the coming year amidst the warmth and support of friends. If we did a treasure map for the previous year, we often reflect on how it manifested throughout that year.

We then look through old magazines and catalogues and cut out pictures and phrases that resonate with us. We divide a sizable poster board into the sections of the Ba Gua. Then the pictures and phrases  are glued onto the sections that correspond to the aspect of our life that they reflect. For example, I put a quote in the bottom center of my treasure map that says “If you get paid for doing what you love, then every paycheck is a bonus.”

The completed treasure map is placed in a prominent place to be a reminder of the intentions set forth.

I am living and breathing my treasure map. I know what I want and it is flowing my way, sometimes in ways I least expect and often not at all how I imagined.

Open yourself to your connection to the cosmos, invite the cosmos to serve you and serve it. Make your own treasure map and see what treasures come your way.

What is Qi?

Qi is most often translated as vital energy- though it is much more than energy. Qi is the driving force behind everything.  Within the body it is responsible for all physiological processes and structures.  If Qi is moving smoothly and properly abundant- the body is healthy and supple and able to move through the myriad of life’s challenges without breaking. When Qi gets stuck, through physical or emotional trauma, toxins, improper food or activity; pathology arises, often in the form of pain or malfunctioning organs. There are many ways to tap into the body’s Qi. The tools I most often use are acupuncture, Acutonics® Sound healing, Gua Sha, Massage and Cupping, and Moxa  and Nutritional counseling and supplements. I also direct clients to other self care techniques like Qi Gong or Yoga, Emotional Freedom Technique (http://meridiantappingtechniques.com/basics.html, or http://www.mercola.com/forms/eftcourse1.htm ), self massage, moxa, and meditation.

Though the concept of Qi may sound etheric, however there are many metaphors that can help one realize how very real and palpable Qi is:

Qi is money, without enough of it you are unable to meet your basic financial needs. If it is not moving it is stagnating and not creating the change and growth it should. If it is spent frivolously it  dissipates leaving empty pockets and insufficient Qi to meet life’s needs.

Qi is electricity, if there is disconnect in any part of the electrical wiring, the energy will not get where it needs to go. If the powerhouse fails or the external wires are severed, the lights won’t go on, there is power failure.

Qi is traffic, with appropriate infrastructure to meet the needs of the population, traffic flows smoothly. If there is an accident and traffic flow stops or slows, Qi is obstructed. If a bridge is blocked or destroyed Qi stops flowing through that route, new routes may be used or if there are no other routes complete obstruction occurs.

Within the body Qi empowers each organ and aids in the flow of nerve impulses, blood and lymph. If injuries (physical or emotional) go unresolved, or inadequate nourishment (prenatal Qi, air Qi, or food Qi) is present, Qi will not flow smoothly and will not nourish and move smoothly through the body. There are many ways to shift your Qi, the first step is to realize you can manifest your destiny and nourish and move your Qi.

Help yourself and let me help you.

Fall Tips

Breathe

We get our energy from the air we breathe, the food we eat and the prenatal Qi (genetics) we come into this world with.  It is no wonder why many of us are tired and worn down in light of the state of nutrition (a topic for another posting) and our tendency to breathe shallowly. Often we barely fill or empty our lungs.

Regular cardiovascular activity and breathing exercises help keep your lungs venting old stale air and receiving oxygen rich nourishing air. One breathing exercise I integrate into my sleeping and waking routine is to lie in bed with a hand over my chest and a hand below my naval. I imagine I have three balloons in my chest, one where I know my lungs to be, one at the area of my diaphragm the area just at the bottom of the ribcage, and one in my belly. With each inhalation I try to fill each balloon from top to bottom (which can feel uncomfortable if I haven’t been breathing deeply for a while). After I fill each balloon, I consciously empty each balloon from bottom to top. After doing this for a few minutes I usually drift into restful sleep or feel ready to take on the day.

Our lungs are our first line of defense during this cold and flu season. Keep them clear and strong, and get some acupuncture, cupping or gua sha if they do get challenged.

Clothing

As the fall brings dry air and crisp winds, so does it bring pathogens. From an Asian medical perspective these pathogens ride on the wind and invade the body through the nose, mouth or back of the neck.

If you get a wind invasion you may experience stiffness in neck and shoulders, or a sore and scratchy throat. If at the onset of these symptoms proper self care is not taken the pathogen can go deeper into the body and become a cold or flu.

Keep your throat and back of your neck protected this fall. Scarves, turtlenecks, hooded or collared jackets are important pieces of the fall and winter wardrobe. Wear them in health.

Diet

The transition from the heat of summer to the dry coolness of fall requires a shift in diet to weather the change well. This is a time for more warming spices and foods.

Raw green salads supported your body’s health during the heat of summer, now it is time for lightly steamed or braised leafy greens (keep them bright green to avoid overcooking.)

My favorite recipe is a bunch of kale or chard, mixed with some sautéed onions and garlic, with a splash of tamari and balsamic vinegar. This is delicious with salmon and a bit of brown rice.

In the coolness of the fall and winter your body needs more Qi or energy to stay warm and functioning. Avoid cold food and drink and spice up your foods with warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, garlic, onion and cayenne pepper.

Emotions are a Key

There are a number of stresses that can impact our health. Some stresses are obvious: physical trauma from a car accident or injury, clearly affects the injured area. Incorrect or insufficient diet leaves one with food poisoning or malnourished, polluted air disrupts the lungs. These are all widely accepted and understood causes of illness.

Yet we are more than flesh and bone. We are a united mind, body and spirit. If the mind and or spirit are out of balance, the body’s integrity falters. If we have swallowed grievances and pain rather than experience them and move through and past them, they become lodged within us. They can and do become chronic digestive disturbances, shortness of breath, low back or foot pain etc.

One of the beauties of acupuncture and sound healing is that these tools tap into the mind-body-spirit and can create a shift without my understanding or counseling my client through their emotional blockages. The integrated body is wise and the tools I use help integrate the body so that the still small voice can be heard and heeded. Of course many people need more than just the time on my table to process through old emotional dams, and I wish to empower my clients to become their own healers.

There are two self-help tools that many have found very effective at processing emotional debris: Meridian tapping also known as EFT and another Emotional Clearing technique published by Dr. Devi Nambudripad is discussed in my previous blog.  There are a number of good resources on EFT including emofree.com and this link is an efficient training tool as well.

If the emotional traumas that you are working through are too much to work through on your own, seek out counsel with someone who is credentialed and trustworthy. Another powerful technique that many quality counselors are trained in is EMDR. Chronic illness that does not shift in spite of the best diet and holistic care often has an emotional component. Processing through emotional sticking points will change your life.

Energy Exercises

A core piece of healing through East Asian Medicine is appropriate activity. Most of us know that balanced activity in the form of cardio-workouts and strength training are very useful and essential for optimal vitality. However moving with intention and breath and tapping into core energy areas can provide tools for building your body’s good energy (Qi) and venting bad Qi in a very real way.

Winter is the perfect time to start an energy exercise routine.

There are a number of ways to practice moving with intention and breath. Yoga, Tai Qi and Qi Gong are three accessible and powerful forms of meditation in movement, and these practices can also provide a great cardio and strength training program. Spokane is blessed to have many yoga studios: Equal Standing Spokane is a great yoga resource and lists local studios. Tai Qi and Qi Gong classes are also available in Spokane through parks and recreation classes and local studios.

There are also many books available to help you shape and guide your energy exercise routine. Energy Medicine and Energy Medicine for Women by Donna Eden are full of different exercises to tap into and shift your body’s energy. 7 Minutes of Magic: Recharge Your Body Each Day with Qi Gong by Lee Holden is a great resource as well. It provides a seven minute routine for the morning and the evening to help move and strengthen your vital energy. I have enjoyed doing these routines with my daughter and have certainly felt a positive impact on my wellbeing as a result.