SYMPTOMS ARE THE WAY IN

I recently wrote this to a client:

These symptoms are merely an access point to your core imbalance.  At the core (or beginning) are two parts, 1. an emotional imprint usually from childhood that affects our relationship with the world and causes us stress, and 2. lifestyle including diet, exercise, and sleep…

Most of us just want our symptoms to go away.  Nobody likes pain or discomfort.  Why then do you think we feel pain or have discomfort?  These feelings are being generated by us, from our body’s intricate system of communication.  They are telling us that something is wrong.  When we listen closely, we can learn a lot about ourselves.  What foods irritate, what movements are limited, what parts aren’t receiving necessary nourishment, which are being overused, and what triggers my emotional imbalances and why.

One of the worst things we might do is to make the pain go away or the problem disappear without actually resolving the issue.  Medications and other procedures are too often used in this regard.  Treating symptoms without affecting their root.  In fact, many of our “cures” are leading to more serious conditions down the road.  Alcohol or drugs for emotional upset, coffee for morning lethargy and headaches, ibuprofen or stronger for muscle and joint pain, anti-acids for heartburn, stomach staples and diet pills for obesity, are all examples of symptomatic treatment that sweeps problems under the rug only to suppress our ability to find a true and lasting solution.

When one successfully finds and fixes the root, all branches may resolve.  Ask yourself, am I seeking symptomatic relief or a lasting cure?  Most External or Passive approaches (receiving treatment & taking medications) cannot provide the lasting cure, as the problem originates Internally and the solution will require an Active role like modifying lifestyle, correcting nutrition, and facing your demons.

Note that in the majority of cases it was not the x-ray or blood test that made you aware of the problem.  It is also true that the xray and blood test, while very revealing in many regards, may tell us nothing about the actual disorder.  The first thing we should trust is ourselves.  Not necessary our logical-intellectual self, but instead our emotional-feeling self.  The one that speaks to us not in words.  If we focus on the symptoms, we often silence the only voice we can really trust to know what’s going on.

I used to be amazed at how accurately clients could identify the problem if I asked, “what do you think is going on?”  I am not surprised anymore.  The answer lies within.  Your symptoms have made noise and captured your attention in order to alert you to a problem.  Listen closely and as you learn about the problem you will also uncover the solution.

Folks like me are trained to understand the language of pain and other symptoms.  Many allopathic healthcare providers consider pain bad and their ability to make it go away good.  I agree that a life without pain sounds good, but at what cost?  How are we to find the healer within without something to be healed?  How are we to know our own strength if we are not challenged?  How can we develop the empathy and compassion without knowing suffering first-hand?  How can we really know a life without pain, without first knowing what is pain?

I am on a spiritual journey eager to learn all the lessons I can.  Pain can be a great teacher.  Like all great teachers, they want you to learn the lessons and move on to the next challenge.  To overcome difficulty and develop resolve.  Pain is your friend on that journey.  The one that tells you the truth despite you not wanting to hear it.   The one that returns even after you’ve pushed them away.  Be a friend back.  Listen, learn, and be present.

What is your pain telling you?  How can you connect the symptoms to reveal the source?  It can take great courage to deal with pain.  The truth sometimes hurts.  But the truth can also set you free!

I recommend breathing in a quiet place for an extended period (meditation) and asking yourself these questions.  Sometimes the answer will come quickly, other times it requires patience and inquiry.

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Office Workout!

Robin Luthi

Do you spend 8 hours or more sitting at a desk 5 days/week?

Do you experience eye strain and muscle soreness in your neck, shoulders, and back?

Are you fatigued, stressed, and need a break?

If you answered YES to one or more of  the above questions, this post is for YOU!

10 Quick and Simple Ways to Burn Calories at Your Desk

Quick Burst of Cardio:  Try jumping jacks or jumping rope for one minute each hour you are at work.

Use the Stairs:  Use the restroom or drinking fountain on a different floor and choose the stairs instead of the elevator.

Exercise Ball Chair:  Replace your desk chair with a Swiss stability ball and perform one minute of abdominal crunches each hour.

Office Yoga:  Interlace your fingers overhead, releasing your thumb and pointer finger.  Extend your arms straight with your bicep muscles by your…

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IN CASE YOU DIDN’T THINK IT WAS NATURAL

Do your neck and back hurt?  I bet this guy’s do too…
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Is it any wonder why?I watched to see if it was just temporary, but while he (uncomfortably) shifted in his chair, he never actually sat up or even looked around to notice me noticing him.

It hurt just to watch.

He is not unique.  In fact, he’s quite normal by today’s standards.

This next patron presents a totally different story .She noticed me right away because her head was up, eyes level, and mind alert.

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She continued to hold excellent posture the entire time, which happened to be taking “forever” on this occasion.  I imagined she was very productive in her work and that the quality was top-notch

Now, I hear what you’re saying:It’s exhausting.  I try but it hurts.  I’m just getting older.  And so on. While these may be true now, with the right guidance and practice sitting straight and reducing the strain on your back is energizing, reduces pain, and makes you feel younger.

WARNING: IN CASE YOU DIDN’T THINK IT WAS ‘NATURAL’

One comment that I reject is that it’s not natural. I can accept that it may not feel natural for someone used to slouching, but if you harbor any doubts here’s your proof that sitting upright is totally natural.

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It is not rigid nor does it require great discipline as was evidenced by this child.She maintained an erect posture throughout the meal, while being very active and well-behaved at the same time. She was centered over her hips with her head lifted high, effortlessly and with great joy! A treat to watch.

The goal is to reduce tension. Tension restricts the flow of Qi (Chi) leading to stagnations that are often at the source of many common ailments and chronic conditions. Our bodies will often lead our minds and chronic muscle tension further promotes frustration, irritability, and anger that we can all agree we could do without.

Good posture and breath are keys to reducing tension.

ACTIVE SITTING

Take these 3 simple steps to improve your health, happiness and productivity…

1. Edge of your seat – If your intention is to do anything other than lie around, then you’ll want to sit upright and on the edge of your chair.  Being on the edge of your seat symbolizes interest, heightened awareness, upbeat/positive attitude, and of course excitement.  These are all good and useful things for accomplishing our goals!  Sitting on the edge of your seat prevents you from slouching into the back of your chair compressing the lower lumbar, over-extending the thoracic and thus impinging the cervical, not good things.

2. Activate the legs – Trying keeping one or both feet flat on the ground and pressing down to ‘activate’ the leg muscles.  Notice how pressing down helps you to rise up, simple Yin-Yang!  Play with small side-to-side, circular and back-and-forth movements to keep your hips and lower back happy.  Rigidity results from lack of movement.

3. Raise your crown – Lift yourself upward from the crown of your head toward the cosmos.  Allow your chin to draw back and your chest to open as your shoulders naturally lower.  Be sure not to let your crown slip off the back of your head. Sit tall and proud like the righteous King or Queen that you are!  Without the stress and tension of your muscles having to hold you up, nor the collapsed chest and sunken qi, you will be able to rule with compassion, leadership and integrity.

WHAT’S WITH ALL THIS QI (CHI)?

qiQi or Universal Life Force as it is sometimes described is known as a Yang substance that warms, invigorates, moves and vitalizes all sentient beings. Yang substances are known to be intangible or immaterial versus their Yin counterparts. Blood, as we discussed last month, is a Yin substance as it has a material basis: ie. we can see and touch it. Qi is not. To date no one has been able to box Qi and sell it. And believe me, they would have if it were possible! In addition, the scientific world has been amiss over its inability to conjure up tests and hypothesis over Qi. Why? Simple, because it has no material basis for which to examine under a microscope.

“Not everything that counts may be counted” – Albert Einstein

Despite our apparent lack of proof that Qi exists, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been working with it for thousands of years. Qi is what flows through the meridians helping to warm the body, propel the fluids, and vitalize all the organs. To be specific we say that Qi drives the four primary movements that occur in the organs and meridians: upbearing, downbearing, outward, and inward. For those who study Tai Ji Chuan this may be an ‘Ah ha’ moment…

Now let’s talk about the five functions of Qi within the human body:

1. Activation – Qi is a highly active substance as it is unconstrained by material limitations. We say that Qi is the driving force behind all physiological activities including growth, metabolism, elimination, respiration, circulation and the like.

2. Warming – Qi keeps the body warm and provides the heat necessary for the myriad of functional activities of the body.

3. Defense – Qi fills the body from the inside-out to provide a protective barrier at the skin & intestinal surfaces to prevent external pathogenic influences from entering and expelling them when they do make it past the first line of defense.

4. Transformation – The conversion of food and drink into blood, body fluids, waste material, as well as transforming fluids into sweat or urine requires Qi.

5. Containment – Qi also has the critical function of helping to contain the blood, fluids and organs in their rightful places. Extravasation of blood, abnormal sweat, excessive urination, and prolapsed organs are examples of Qi failing to contain.

And here are four critical pathologies of Qi:

1. Qi Deficiency – Being the energetic force behind all the body’s functions, a deficiency of Qi will most notably result in low energy or fatigue. Weakness in the Spleen Qi equates to poor appetite and indigestion. Weakness in Lung Qi results in respiratory ailments like asthma, as well as easily catching colds as the Lung Qi rules the defensive Qi. Heart Qi deficiency results in poor circulation with cold extremities. Kidney Qi deficiency results in enuresis, seminal emissions, and overall lack of vitality as the Kidneys are the Minister of Health and Vitality.

2. Qi Stagnation – Qi is supposed to coarse smoothly throughout the body. When obstructed due to a variety of disorders we say that the Qi is stagnate. Qi stagnation results in pain that is of varying intensity and unfixed location. Mental or emotional disturbances are also often a sign of Qi stagnation leaving the person feeling irritable, angry or depressed. A good example of this is PMS, where the Liver Qi is intentionally stagnating in order to pool the blood and allow for a full menstrual flow. Many women report increased irritability, headaches, breast tenderness (pathway of the Liver meridian) and cramping with menstruation. As Qi moves the blood, a stagnation of Qi will eventually lead to a stagnation of blood too.

3. Qi Sinking – Severe or prolonged Qi deficiency can lead to a sinking of Qi that makes it difficult to uphold its containment requirements as noted above. Thus incontinence, loose stools, hemorrhaging, and prolapsed organs are examples of Qi sinking.

4. Qi Counterflow / Rebelling – Here Qi is moving opposite the normal pathway due to several possible factors. For example, the Lung Qi should be downbearing so when it counterflows we have cough or asthma. Stomach Qi should also downbear to send food and drink into the intestines. When Stomach Qi rebels we have acid regurgitation, belching, nausea, and vomiting.

So how do I keep my Qi strong and flowing smoothly? The three most important things are: eating right, exercising regularly, and having a calm spirit. Of course these sound obvious and even simple, but you all know the truth. In today’s world it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep these three things in line. I can tell you that the better job you do in these areas, the less you’ll need external interventions to correct imbalances. Some of us however cannot or will not make necessary lifestyle changes to correct our own Qi. In these cases, seeking the care of a licensed acupuncturist or other alternative healthcare practitioner can restore and enhance your Qi. While no blood test, X-ray or MRI will reveal this change; you will no doubt be able to feel it for yourself.

Standing Up-Right.

In the practice of Qi Gong (Chi Kung) an ancient method of health cultivation from China, you will often hear something similar to the following statement:

The body is like a vase that holds water to nourish the flower. If the vase is tipped over or broken, water will leak and the flower will wither. Here, water represents the internal organs and physiology, while the flower symbolizes the Spirit.

Following are 4 postural must-dos adapted from Qi Gong that will enable you to move with more power and grace while improving the functioning of the organ systems and thus helping to nourish your spirit.

1. Soften the Knees – The knees are like shock absorbers that help reduce impact upward into the hip and spine, as well as downward to the ankle and foot. Never lock your knees! However, there is no need to over-bend them either. Think about softening at the knees. Aim to keep them centered over the ankles. Reason is that the knees are not weight-bearing joints and if they are not directly over the ankles they become susceptible to injury.

2. Center the Hips – Many of us are stuck in a sway-back posture due to improper sitting and standing. Sway-back is when the hips are pushed forward with the perineum (halfway between the anus and genitalia) aligning over the toes rather than ankles. This puts undue strain on the lower back and throws off the alignment of the spine and head. It is of critical importance to draw the hips back in (toward the rear) to protect the lower lumbar vertebrae and allow for proper body mechanics.

3. Sink the Sacrum – The sacrum is the heart-shaped bone at the base of the spine connecting the back to the hips. Try placing your hands over the small of your back and see if you can tilt your pelvis forward and back without collapsing the upper body. Notice how the posterior tilt of the pelvis (ie. flattening the back) activates the quadriceps (front of the thighs) while taking tension out of the lower back, buttocks and hamstrings. For many of us, this is a difficult task as we have habituated and physically locked in place the lumbar-sacral joint. Don’t go too far with the posterior tilt, just drop or sink the sacrum and tailbone downward rooting us in Earth’s stabilizing and nourishing energy.

4. Raise the Crown – Now extend upward in a Heavenly direction by uplifting your midriff (between hips and ribs), opening your Chest/Heart (towards the front), and raising your Crown (located at the top of the head between the ears). Be sure to keep your chin lightly tucked (towards the back) and your gaze on the horizon. Notice how your shoulders roll back into their socket without having to pull them back, while the muscles of the neck are relieved of supporting the head on their own. Here we are resting on our skeletal system and there is no need for muscular tension to hold us up!

BLOOD, THE MOTHER OF Qi

bloodIn Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we say that Blood is a Yin substance relative to Qi, which is Yang. Blood is cooling, moistening, and nourishing whereas Qi is warming, drying and energetic. Qi moves Blood and Blood is the mother of Qi. This article will discuss the 3 Key Internal Organs and 3 Key Disharmonies with regards to Blood in terms of TCM. 

First a look at the three primary organs associated with Blood:
1. Spleen (Earth Element) – transformation and transportation of food and drink, controls the Blood, rules the Muscles, manifests on Lips and opens to the Mouth. The Spleen’s #1 job is to transform food and drink into pure Qi & Blood and transport it upwards to the Heart for circulating throughout the body. The Spleen is also primary in the control of blood, helping to keep it in the vessels. Easily bruising is a mild deficiency, whereas hemorrhaging is more serious failure to control the blood. Poor muscle tone and fatigue, along with pale or dry lips are signs of Spleen Blood disorders.2. Liver (Wood Element) – stores the Blood, regulates flow of Qi, rules Tendons, manifests in the Nails, opens to the Eyes. Qi moves Blood, therefore the Liver pays an important role in normalizing the movement and volume of Blood. This is especially true for women in regulating the menstrual cycle and reproductive activities. Tightness in tendons, brittle nails, and eye weaknesses are all indicative of Liver Blood disorders.

3. Heart (Fire Element) – dominates the Blood and Vessels, houses the Mind, manifests on the Face, and opens to the Tongue. The Heart Qi is the motive force for blood circulation throughout its network of vessels that nourish (arteries) and remove toxins (veins) from all the organs and tissues of the body. Cold, weak or numbness especially of the hands and feet, along with a pale complexion and pale tongue are signs of Heart Blood related disorders as is insomnia, anxiety, poor memory and concentration.

Now let’s look at three specific ailments:

1. Blood Deficiency – ie. not enough blood. Often originating in the Spleen’s failure to produce enough Blood d/t constitutional weakness in the Spleen Qi and/or poor quality food and drink (amongst other issues), but can come from a loss of blood or external pathogenic influence as well. Patients often present with symptoms of pale face and lips, blurred vision or floaters, dizzy-lightheaded, insomnia, palpitations, poor memory and concentration, cold extremities and the pulse is thin and tongue pale.

2. Blood Stagnation – ie. blood not moving. Blood will stagnate due to an obstruction in the vessels, a deficiency failing to fill the vessels, and/or sticky blood. Blood stagnation is marked by pain that is sharp, stabbing, in a fixed location, and tends to be worse at night (when the Qi moves less). Often visible signs are present including bruising or laceration in the event of an external trauma and varicose or spider veins through the course of prolonged but mild stagnation of blood. Women may experience painful menstruation and clotting. Blood stagnation can also lead to more serious and deadly ailments like thrombosis, stroke and heart attack. The tongue may be purple and pulse choppy.

3. Blood Heat – ie. overheating. Too much heat in the blood can come from internal sources such as extreme emotions like anger as well as external pathogenic factors like rheumatic fever. Symptoms include mental restlessness or even mania, red-raised skin rashes, and bleeding disorders including epistaxis, hemoptysis, hematuria, as well as profuse menstrual flow in women. The pulse is rapid and tongue red.

It is important to remember that our body is an inter-connected whole… imbalances in one area will affect others and may grow larger over time. Prolonged or severe Blood Deficiency is likely to result in Blood Stagnation as the weaker the flow of blood, the more likely it is to stagnate. Blood Stagnation tends to engender Blood Heat as the pressure and friction of accumulated blood leads to heat. In addition, prolonged Blood Deficiency leads to overheating as the cooling and nutritive effects of Blood (Yin) fail to balance the warming and moving effects of Qi (Yang). Prolonged Blood Heat leads to Stagnation and Deficiency as the body fluids are burned-off due to the excess heat and blood becomes sticky.

So what can you do to take better care of your blood? In addition to following simple dietary and lifestyle guidelines, a Licensed Acupuncturist (who is also trained in Chinese Herbs) can help to diagnose and treat blood related disorders with acupuncture, herbs or a combination of the two.