Transforming Anxiety with Chinese Medicine

transforming anxiety with Chinese medicine

Anxiety can be such so insidious. You can feel fine and then you’re hijacked by these paralysing and overwhelming feelings.

You can start to feel like you’re separating from your body, detaching from reality. A veil seems to descend between you and the world. Your mind and heart no longer feel safe and grounded.

You might even feel like you’re going to have a heart attack, pass out or die.

You develop a whole system of checks and balances nuanced to your particular flavour of control, all to avoid being triggered.

You become afraid of your anxiety returning and this creates a type of cage that you comfortably inhabit, because however restrictive, you deem it better than that anxious feeling. And this can work – it does keep things manageable – but sometimes you get stuck there and think it’s a forever thing.

But how to open the door? How to step out of the cage?

 

Treating anxiety with Chinese Medicine

Image courtesy of Schiz Life: www.schizlife.com

Anxiety and Chinese Medicine – An Alternative Approach

Chinese medicine offers some perspectives for easing anxiety that you may not have heard or experienced before.

 

The Root Causes of Anxiety in Chinese Medicine

Anxiety can have a lot of different root causes.

Chinese medicine is always seeking to address pathology at its root. When an issue is rectified at the root or causative level, innate processes within you take over. These are the processes that promote vitality, growth, repair and homeostatic balance.

Symptom management of anxiety can be great and Chinese medicine can be wonderful for easing anxiety symptoms. But it’s addressing the root cause that distinguishes holistic treatment from other ways of treating anxiety.

 

Diagnosing Anxiety with Chinese Medicine

A Chinese medicine diagnosis for someone experiencing anxiety could be:

  • Your ‘Spirit’ is disturbed
  • Your ‘Blood’ is deficient
  • You’ve got ‘Phlegm’ misting your Mind
  • You’re ‘Damp’
  • You’ve got stagnant Qi
  • You’ve got too much heat in the ‘Heart’
  • You have ‘Kidney’ and ‘Liver’ Yin deficiency.

The list goes on. Even though that list may sound simplistic and kind of neolithic, each of those diagnostic patterns is incredibly specific and nuanced to treat the different ways that anxiety shows up in a person.

For example, during attacks of anxiety do you get palpitations and hot flushes? Or IBS symptoms? Insomnia?

Symptoms of anxiety vary dramatically. That’s the beauty and the art of the Chinese medical model, which can be tailored to you to treat you with very specific therapeutics.

 

What are the Different Types of Anxiety?

Different kinds of anxiety include:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder – Constant tension and worry about everyday life activities, lasting for many months or years. Sufferers usually anticipate the worst even though there is little reason to expect this. Generalised anxiety disorder is often accompanied by physical symptoms like trembling, muscle tension, nausea, fatigue and headaches.

Panic Disorder – Intense fear that strikes repeatedly and usually without warning. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, heart palpitations, dizziness and disorientation.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviours that seem impossible to stop or control.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, anger, irritability and being easily startled.

Phobias – Extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that often poses little or no actual danger. The fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily.

 

Eastern and Western Anxiety Treatment Approaches

In Chinese medicine there is no separation between the physical and mental/emotional self. When one suffers, eventually so will the other.

Because of this mental/physical interdependence, an external emotional cause of anxiety, such as a traumatic event or an abusive childhood, will eventually lead to a decline in physical health.

Conversely, anxiety may be generated internally as a result of a purely physical imbalance. Often there is a complex interplay of both.

Either way, the physical pathology needs to be addressed. This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine excel.

If the anxiety originated from an external cause, whether in the past or continuing into the present, it is recommended that you, additionally, seek out psychological therapy.

 

Recommended Resources for Reducing Anxiety – Melbourne, Victoria

A Space – An awesome local meditation studio, running classes and workshops.

The Mind Room – An awesome local psychology practice that runs all sorts of classes and workshops.

Pete Coles – A very talented transpersonal therapist who specialises in transforming anxiety.

 

Psychological Treatment for Anxiety

If your anxiety does not stem from an identifiable external cause, psychological therapy is still a very useful tool in helping you manage symptoms whilst the Chinese medical treatment is working to correct the physical imbalance.

Aside from psychotherapy, the other modern medical treatments are drug therapies. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines (often referred to as sedatives) are the most common ones.

 

Anxiety Medication – Pros and Cons

Benzodiazepines, due to their addictive nature, are usually kept for short-term use in acute situations, or perhaps during more severe flare-ups. Some types of antidepressants can help people to manage their anxiety, and they are generally considered safer for long-term use.

There is a definite time and place for such drug therapies. They are relatively fast acting, and bring some much appreciated relief to a lot of people. However, they are not for everyone.

Some people don’t like the way they feel on medication, especially if your anxiety is arising from a physical cause. These medications can hard for the body to process and can exacerbate a physical imbalance or create new one in another meridian/organ system.

Some people are troubled by side-effects of anti-anxiety medications such as digestive disturbances, weight gain, emotional numbing.

People with lower levels of anxiety might struggle to justify constant medication. Furthermore, sometimes this type of medication treatment is symptom management rather than targeting resolution of the root cause of the anxiety.

From my clinical experience, I’ve observed that anxiety can sometimes arise from mismanaged emotional expression. Often, a pharmaceutical + cognitive approach doesn’t address or resolve anxiety arising from emotional origin.

Reduce anxiety with Chinese medicine

Understanding and Befriending Your Anxiety

You can transform your anxiety. If you are conscious of what’s happening, with some practice, mindset training and knowledge, you can develop strong resilience to the effects of anxiety.

Use some of these suggestions for managing your anxiety:

 

  1. Know when to address your anxiety.

When you’re in a full-blown anxiety or panic attack, that is not the time to address it. When anxiety has risen to that level then you are in survival mode and you just need to get through it.

You’ll want to start addressing your anxiety when you’re in a place where you feel safe, grounded and in a relaxed state.

It’s going to be uncomfortable. Transforming anxiety often involves really getting to know what the anxiety is for you and being in the experience of it.

 

  1. Let your anxiety in.

So, most people understandably want to get rid of their anxiety. For good reason – it can be incredibly unpleasant and disabling.

Yet, this rejection of the experience can compound your fear of it and add to the narrative that is already going on. The fear breeds more fear, making the whole thing more tangled and dramatic.

What if you welcomed it in like an old friend. Oh hi, it’s you again, what are you trying to tell me today?

 

  1. Give your anxiety an outlet.

Take some time to consider what is the narrative of your anxiety. What’s the story?

Write it out. Draw it out. Record it in a voice memo. Talk to a good friend or therapist about it.

Think about:

How does this anxiety affect your life?

How does this anxiety serve or protect you?

What’s the benefit of experiencing this anxiety?

 

  1. Feel the anxiety in your body.

Are you tired? Are you thirsty? Are you angry? Are you afraid?

Discerning the message of your anxiety will give you a greater ability to respond to your own needs and self-regulate your uncomfortable feelings.

 

Transforming Anxiety with Chinese Medicine and Calming Techniques

Why is it useful to feel anxiety in your body?

Anxiety is contractive by nature. Before you feel tension arising in your mind, somewhere in your body will tighten.

Catching tension in your body and consciously making an effort to relax will help calm your mind. Can you lean into this feeling?

Once you can identify the tight or unsettled places in your body where the anxiety has settled in, try the following techniques to self-soothe and encourage calm:

 

  1. Use the breath.

The breath is the most effective way to soothe your nervous system.

Inhale, then take a longer exhale than your inhale. This will calm the fight-or-flight response that is hurtling you towards fear. It’s called the ‘Vagal brake’.

 

Relaxation for Anxiety

If you are starting to freak out, try this relaxation technique:

  • Find somewhere comfortable to sit.
  • Sit in an erect posture and bring your chest forward, allowing your shoulders to fall back.
  • Relax your gaze and rest your hands on your lap.
  • Breathe with your abdomen, allowing your belly to expand on inhalation and contract on expiration.
  • Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  • Exhale through your nose for a count of six.
  • Repeat this process six times.

You have just slowed your respiratory rate to six breaths per minute and emphasised your exhalations.

Adults breathe at an average of 15 breaths per minute so this exercise asks you to reduce your basal rate by a little more than half.

 

  1. Address your core fears.

What are you afraid of?

The cave that you are afraid to enter holds the treasure that you seek.

Address your core fears. They may be existential or they may be very real. Fear can be the root of anxiety and identifying it can set you on your way to do some great work with a psychologist, counsellor, acupuncturist or loved one.

Mismanaged emotions can be a cause of anxiety in Chinese medicine – indeed, of many pathologies.

Chinese medicine doesn’t view emotions as either positive or negative. Rather, they consider all emotions (anger, fear, sadness, joy) as necessary and natural. Each has a specific pattern as to how it alters our physiology.

It’s not the experience of feeling emotions that is pathogenic. It is the avoidance, suppression, repression and denial of them that is the issue.\

Once you accept that you are feeling an emotion by letting it in and experiencing it, it changes, it integrates. If your mind becomes involved, telling you shouldn’t be feeling something or it denies you permission to feel it, this discord between body and mind happens.

 

  1. Move your body.

Your body is designed to move.

There is so much that we absorb that is non-verbal. Vibes, body language, our internal dialogue, our sub-conscious mind. This can all be reflected in our posture and how we feel in our body.

Some studies have shown that people who experience anxiety have a higher degree of muscle tension and pain. Long term, this leads to muscles becoming fatigued or inefficient.

Get out of your head, connect to sensation that is occurring in your body, and shake it out, shake it off, sweat, stretch, breathe, dance, strengthen. Movement is a path to feel centered, move stuck and constrictive feelings and get those endorphin levels up.

 

  1. Relax.

You want to reduce your anxiety? Relaxation is the only technology that will get you there.

To overcome anxiety, you need to relax. Anxiety is the antithesis of relaxation.

The nervous system is binary. It can only be in either fight of flight (sympathetic) mode or rest and digest / growth and repair (autonomic/parasympathetic) mode. When your nervous system is in ‘rest and digest’ mode, you’re not going to feel anxious.

The more often and deeply you relax and enter rest and digest mode, the harder it will be to elicit an anxious state.

If you suffer from anxiety, you need to start taking your relaxation seriously. Relaxation is different from rest, and is different from sleep. There is an art to it.

Consider acupuncture and Chinese medicine for anxiety. This holistic approach will help your body enter into the state it needs to heal and recover from anxiety.

If you want to learn more about coping with difficult emotions then please read the Experiencing Difficult Emotions blog.

Understand the nature of mind. We are not our thoughts, we are not our emotions. They are transient and changeable. You are not your anxiety. There are some great philosophies that reframe our mental and emotional experience. If you’d like to know more about this, please check out the Cultivating Spirit blog.


Acupuncture is a wonderful way to transform anxiety, whether the cause originated from an external event or an internal physiological imbalance. Book your acupuncture for anxiety appointment now.

Cultivating Spirit – The Shen or Heart-Mind in Chinese Medicine

Shen or Heart-Mind - cultivating spirit

 

“Life is transformation. There is no life that is not an unceasing transformation.”

– Élisabeth Rochat de la Vallée

 

It’s the final month of our Winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. As we approach Spring we get closer to emerging from our Yin state and the building of Yang will initiate.

Yang is light, activity, movement, initiation, action, the doing. On a metaphysical, spiritual and cosmological level the most Yang manifestation of a human, the purest Yang aspect of our consciousness, is the Spirit or ‘Shen’.

Shen is translated as something which is divine, marvellous, extraordinary or mysterious. In recent times we call it the Heart-Mind.

 

Separation, Suffering and the Shen: The Heart-Mind Journey

 

Shen or Heart-Mind is also translated as The Self, I, our presence. The Oneness of all that I am. It’s deep and primordial and connected to all that is, but is also just right there if you listen.

Shen or Heart-Mind is represented by the Chinese characters for the physical heart, plus something that descends from above and hits earth like lightening. From that, everything unfurls, is made manifest and expressed.

The inception of our Heart-Mind begins in childhood when awareness of ourselves as a separate being dawns. This is the original split from our ‘just being’ in the interconnected web of all life.

It is also the beginning of suffering.

 

The Taoists see our Shen or Heart-Mind journey as a path of self-awareness.

 

Our mission is to return to that state of inter-connectivity with all life through the integration of our understanding of who we are – our unique conscious awareness and expression.

 

Cultivating Spirit, Shen or Heart-Mind

 

So how do we embark on this journey into ourselves? You might be thinking, Do I need to become a Taoist to discover my oneness with all that is and ever was?

No!

 

Cultivating Shen is not as esoteric as it sounds. Really it’s just two steps:

  1. Shen realisation: you realise you have Shen and that is your original awareness/identity.
  2. Once this realisation occurs, you actively cultivate Spirit.

 

Cultivating Spirit means that you consciously work toward nurturing your relationship to your Spirit/ Heart-Mind.

 

Rather than identifying with distracting and often undermining ideas of Self (ego, masks, personas, thoughts, emotions or conditioning), you let your presence, in which is rooted in and infused with your Shen, nourish you and the world around you.

 

Traditional Ways of Cultivating Spirit, Shen or Heart-Mind

Shen or Heart-Mind ritual

Traditional ways of cultivating Shen include:

  • Meditation
  • Breath work
  • Qi Gong
  • Tai Qi
  • Internal and external martial arts
  • Artistic pursuits (the art of tea, painting, dance, writing, Taoist sexual practice).

 

Shen or Heart-Mind and Acupuncture

 

On the acupuncture table, I ask you to listen and become receptive to your Heart-Mind because it knows what you need. It knows in the most perfect way for you, way more tailored to you than I could ever craft in my advice – if you’re prepared to accept its truth.

Acupuncture allows you to get out of your head – so influenced by your external world – drop the stories and the habitual patterns of reaction and assumption, and get into the sense of Breath, Body and Heart. This creates an order and harmony, a resonance.

These are the conditions in which nature thrives – your nature and the Big Nature, the ‘One’ (the interconnected web of unceasing transformations which organises the systems of life).

To become a spiritual person according to classical Chinese wisdom is to become fully who you are as a human. To accept your unique expression, drop what you’re not and be who you are. That’s it.

 

How Acupuncture Heals the Shen or Heart-Mind

 

When you are settled on the acupuncture table, you start breathing into your lower belly and come into the experience of how your body feels in that moment.

You breathe out and let go – of your day, the busy-ness, your stuff.

 

You now have the opportunity to drop not only the roles and responsibilities of the outside world, but also your ego.

 

You can relax the sense of your identity, the masks and personas you wear out there in the world. The acupuncture table is not a place where have to keep your ‘shit’ together.

I offer this safe space so that you can relax your efforts, soften, open and allow yourself to drop into a connected restful state whereby:

  • Qi can flow (very important for the efficacy of your acupuncture) and
  • You can come into resonance with your Spirit.

 

The Alchemical Process of Liberation

Shen or Heart-Mind is present in nature
Fully becoming who you are and realising your Spirit is referred to by Taoists as alchemy.

I like to call it the alchemical process of liberation.

 

We achieve this liberation through the avatar of the Heart-Mind, which comes to reside in the empty void in the centre of your chest and gets housed in your Blood.

 

Enveloped, protected and cocooned by the Pericardium (wrapping of the heart), this space is infinite potential, interconnection and unconditional love.

It is a very difficult place to keep open. But you can – with intention, practice, determination and by habitually letting go.

From that space your Shen can create order, clarify direction, provide inspiration.

The great ideas that spontaneously erupt, the a-ha moments. They come from that place.

This is why acupuncture can be so transformative. We access your Heart-Mind Spirit where it resides in your body.

The ancient Chinese relate it to the north star, Polaris – the still point around which the entire galaxy pivots. Just as in the Northern hemisphere they look to Polaris to discover true north, so we can look to the Yang light, space and impulse of the Heart-Mind to discover our direction in life.

 

I invite you to explore the feeling of deeply letting go in the safe space of the acupuncture table. Head here to book an appointment at Cloud Gate.

 

The Wisdom of Water – How to Cope with Winter

How to cope with winter - the wisdom of water

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.

– Lao Tzu

 

In July in the Southern Hemisphere we are in the depths of winter – that deep dark Yin place of stillness, hibernation and rest. The mysterious and all-pervasive impetus for growth has stilled. The soil temperatures are cool and flower buds that have birthed from their seeds are still just kernels of potential, waiting.

Winter can be hard for some peeps. It can get you down, especially if life has also thrown in some tough times or big changes. In winter it’s easier to descend into the deeper layers of consciousness (the sub and unconscious) to places where the script is written. There can be great fear and resistance from most to go there and experience it.

From a Chinese Medicine treatment perspective, winter is a very important season for rejuvenation and renewal. Daoist and Buddhist traditions (as well as many styles of psychology) would posit that it is from sitting with yourself, with a non-judgemental attitude and willingness to just see what’s there and be with it, that enables transformation and disintegrates old constructs. What is liberated provides the alchemical building blocks for the new.

If you’re the kind of person who struggles in the cold, each year you may wonder how to cope with winter in a way that is less defeating, more empowering.

Since water is the element of the winter season, I like to look to the wisdom of water for answers.

 

What Can Water Teach Us About How To Cope With Winter?

 

Often when we are feeling low or defeated, we put pressure on ourselves to ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’ and DO something about how we are feeling. The lesson that water’s wisdom wants you to learn is …. (drum roll):

DO NOTHING.

(Huh? Say what? No way. That’s silly. I.Feel.Like.Shit.  Something’s got to change!)

DO NOTHING.

Water teaches: hold fast in the darkness, get comfortable with the not knowing and stay present to the tension. (You’ll need a touch of faith.) This is the time we use our will to not do, even if every part of us is screaming to take action, to fix the problem, to make everything ok.

At this stage we follow the left-hand path, the path of Yin. We trust, we wait and surrender to the unknown.

When one stays in the darkness long enough, one begins to see.’ -C.G. Jung, Alchemical Studies 

Think about how water behaves in the face of resistance. When it encounters stones, fallen logs, steep cliffs in its path, it does not attempt to change the obstacle. It yields. It softens. It makes room for the hindrance and continues on its way.

A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.

“I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me,” he said. “Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”

Now, I hope you think this is not some ‘new age’ woo woo, even if talking about the wisdom of the elements is new or weird at first.

But I’m not making this shiz up. The wisdom of the elements is based on a founding concept of Taoism.

 

The Principle of WU WEI

How to cope with winter - A Chinese medicine perspective

In the Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way.

The planets effortlessly revolve around the sun without any sort of control, force or attempt to revolve themselves. Instead, they engage in easy, spontaneous movement, as does all nature (generally speaking).

So the goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, attaining this purely natural way of behaving.

 

How to Cope with Winter Using Effortless Action

 

There is another, less commonly referenced interpretation of Wu Wei:

Action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort.

In this instance, Wu means “without” and Wei means “effort”. The concept of “effortless action” is a part of the Taoist internal martial arts such as Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua and Xing Yi.

This effortless action is so counter-intuitive in a modern lifestyle. It’s like the opposite of “efforting”. We are trained to believe that dealing with emotional challenges, physical challenges, sadness and suffering involves considerable effort to bring about change.

But the wisdom of water and Wu Wei are here to bring the opposite lesson: Stop trying to force things through, with the power of your will. Perhaps there is a greater will at play that you can align yours with. Be receptive, be yourself.

Just let go and wait for the growth to begin.

To start, think about an aspect of your life that you can release the vice-like grip of control over.

Consider the notion that whatever it is, it has arrived to make you thrive by adapting to your environment. Just as trees grow stronger due to adverse weather conditions, so do we.  Life is a process of unceasing transformations. What doesn’t transform, what can’t adapt, dies.  Inside the challenge is precious growth. Can you hold space for this idea?

Change will come. This is certain. The wheel is turning, a new cycle of seasons will inevitably begin, new growth will come. The cycle of life is always turning. This holds true no matter what.

This winter, feel the wisdom of water and Wu Wei so that you can enter spring renewed and rejuvenated. After all, that is precisely what winter is for.

How do you cope with winter? Let us know in the comments below.

The Power of Yin

The power of Yin - stargazing

What is Yin?

Yin is a term that comes from the classical Chinese concept of opposite yet complementary forces, Yin and Yang. Yin is described as the “shadow side of the mountain” in relation to the sunny side, which is Yang. Yin is dark, cool and quiet, and so we often neglect the importance of Yin in favour of the hot, bright and loud Yang elements in life.

It’s an elegantly simple concept, yet Yin Yang can describe mind-bending complexities of the mechanisms of the universe. Its essence is encapsulated in the Yin Yang symbol. No matter how you try to dissect this circle, every slice will contain both Yin and Yang.

 

power-of-yin

Image courtesy of tcmworld.com

 

You can use this symbol to understand the relationship of Yin to Yang and vice versa.

It’s impossible to separate Yin from Yang. They don’t exist without each other because they:

  • define each other
  • transform into each other
  • create balance and harmony together
  • are completely interdependent.

Neither is superior or inferior. They are both respected for their unique and necessary qualities as indeed, without one, the other would not exist.

 

Characteristics of Yin

Yin can be described as the quality of slowing towards stillness. It’s the withdrawing, the receptive. It’s what nourishes, what holds, what contracts, what is degenerating. It’s an entropic force.

In the body, Yin is the substances and states that nourish, and the matter that catalysts act upon to transform.

Yet, so often today, in relationship to the ebb and flow of our lives, we don’t value our Yin. We don’t protect it, nourish it, cultivate it. The body obeys natural law, but we live in an environment that doesn’t.

In our ceaseless activity we overwork, we over-schedule, we consume too many stimulants, we leave ourselves time-poor for the tasks we need to complete. We are glued to technology, rapidly processing volumes of information without a break. We rarely experience silence and we don’t rest when we are sick. We have the most unrealistic expectations of our bodies.

Yin states are restful states:

  • Relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Rest
  • Napping
  • Daydreaming
  • Sleep
  • Meditative art and music
  • Slow sex
  • Receptivity
  • Quietude
  • The realms of sensation
  • Space.
Power of Yin

 

In our rushed and overloaded culture, embracing these Yin qualities often feels indulgent and triggers guilt.

We can feel like we are weak, lazy, unproductive or vulnerable. We feel guilt or shame about having bodily needs. Through all this we have misunderstood the power of Yin. We have all sorts of judgements about dropping into deep restful Yin states, what are yours?

The good news is:

  • Great sleep produces optimal performance.
  • Slowing down enables better concentration.
  • Allowing space to digest information allows processing and integration of information. Boosts brain power.
  • The body can go into growth, repair, re-balancing and healing during rest periods.
  • Slowing down allows you to access your non-work Self.

Without periodic and ample restoration, you consume all your resources without replenishment. If you push yourself beyond your capacity, you start to consume your reserves. Do this for long enough and you’re on the burnout train, baby. Your actions start to lose presence, efficacy, efficiency, focus and power. You start to lose the ability to relax.

You’re entering into empty Yin territory.

Empty Yin

What the hell is empty Yin?

Empty Yin happens when you’ve let your stress run your life. Being in flight or flight mode has become your norm and you no longer listen to your body’s messages to slow down, take space, rest, relax and recuperate. Empty Yin feels like pressure, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, inability to relax, reactivity. Empty Yin can feel inflamed and dry, you may have tapped your adrenals, stressed your digestion, put pressure on your liver and overwhelmed your mind.

Fun times.

Empty Yin leads to empty Yang.

The good news is that to reverse this scenario – to build your Yin back and heal your body – relaxation, rest and recuperation are THE ONLY technologies that will get you there. You must give your body the environment it needs to heal, and that is in the rest and digest (aka autonomic nervous system) state.

At first it can be hard to finally feel what your body has been trying to tell you for months. You can crash. That’s ok. Understand that it is through the crash that you will build power. You’re cultivating the essence from which the next thing will spring.

When you get the hang of Yin restoration, it can feel lovely. A beautiful return. There is an art to relaxation – which is different from rest and different from sleep.

 

The Power of Yin

The internal martial arts, the Yin arts (training the mind, cultivating spirit), have always understood that to cultivate power you need to periodically turn inward.

With this space and quietude we can develop the relationship to our inner world. We can process and let go of how life has affected us. We can get clear on our deep motivations, we can reconnect with that consistent witness Self that is less swayed by the comings and goings of life. We can realign to our centre and we can house our mind back into our body, cleansing the doors of perception so as we can be refreshed when we re-engage with life outside ourselves.

Without this space, without this downtime, without letting go, without these rhythms, it’s an endless pushing of your own willpower. And with that approach, how are you meeting life?

 

Have you reached destination burn-out town? It may be adrenal fatigue.

Acupuncture can help you restore your health and recover your Yin – book an appointment with Becky today.

Pre-conception Care – An Holistic Perspective

Thinking about having a baby? It can feel mega – emotionally, psychologically and physically. Add a trend to have babies later in life, feeling the tick-tock of the biological clock, stepping into the unknown, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Fertility is an arena in which Chinese Medicine gets a lot of success and notoriety.

In Chinese Medicine, the premise for pre-conception care is to be at your optimal vitality and balance. If you are planning to conceive, both parents should prepare their bodies prior to conception. This will increase your chances of:

  • A healthy and energetic pregnancy
  • Easy breast-feeding and recovery
  • Optimal vitality in your children.

In essence, we are preparing the soil to plant the seed, then nourishing the eco-system to sustain growth.

Now, even though it’s important to think about pre-conception care, you don’t need to micro-manage your conception. Really. Even if it becomes an emotional rollercoaster or takes time.

It’s easy to want to control aspects of a process that is by its nature uncontrollable. Getting stressed, frustrated and anxious about the process isn’t going to get you to your goal.

Relaxation is the technology that will yield the best pre-conception outcomes.

There is nothing to perfect, all you can do it stack the odds in your favour and roll the dice. Parental guilt can start as early as pre-conception – thinking you aren’t doing enough, that somehow not yet conceiving is all your fault.

Why don’t you drop that now?

Birth, death, transformations – they put us in direct contact with the mysteries and the unknowables of life. There are forces at play here that you won’t be able to fully understand or control and that’s OK.

Underneath are ways to stack the odds in your favour and things to consider for your pre-conception care. Not all points will be relevant to all people.

Look at where your health and your life are imbalanced and start with that. Seek help if you need it. A practitioner can help you. Have a good chat about it all and they can create some strategies for you. They can customise that address your particular needs and set of circumstances.


Baby Brain

Pre-Conception Care for Males

Check Your Sperm

The male factor is a factor. Men having difficulty with fertility is also on the rise.

Sperm takes about 10 weeks to mature.

Sperm quality is related to:

  1. The total number of sperm cells produced (sperm count)
  2. Their physical attributes (morphology)
  3. Their ability to move properly once ejaculated (motility)
  4. The integrity of their DNA.

Factors that drop sperm count include elevated scrotal temperature, disease, toxic chemical exposure and increasing age.

At this point it’s unknown whether your diet, exercise, immunity, toxicity, hydration, stress levels (ie overall health) can increase sperm count, morphology and motility. But good health sure can prevent sperm quality from dropping.

That said, the greatest impact on male fertility actually takes place in utero and in the first 6 months of a male child’s life. Increased exposure to toxicity, pollution and chemicals have been seen to reduce the number of Sertoli cells (the sperm-producing cells in the testes).

Average sperm count has been declining since the 1940–50s, dropping from 113 million sperm per millilitre to 66 million sperm per millilitre. As it has been dropping faster than genetic factors would allow, researchers are looking for environmental causes for this effect.

A general rule of thumb is that if you have a lower sperm count (<40 million sperm per millilitre) it can take longer to get your partner pregnant.

Low sperm count is a biomarker for health. If you have a low sperm count, don’t despair – you can still conceive. We recommend to take it as a sub-clinical sign that there are areas of your health that need improving.

 

Pre-Conception Care for Females

Address Any Gynaecological Issues Sooner Rather Than Later

It takes on average about 5 months to develop an egg before your body ovulates it. Your health during that time affects the egg. So if you’d like to have an impact on the quality of an egg and its environment, it’s best to leave yourself time to come back into balance.

There is huge potential within Chinese Medicine to address female health issues. Stuff like PMS, lower belly and back pain, irregularities in cycle length, heavy or long bleed times are common but not ‘normal’ and don’t need to be tolerated month in month out. Chinese Medicine can offer solutions at the causative factor level, and also for syndromes such as PCOS, Endometriosis and Fibroids.

If you are older, FHS reading, ovarian reserve, cortisol patterns and thyroid health could perhaps be investigated as part of your preparation.

 

Detoxing for Pre-Conception Care

Most toxins are stored in fat. Breast milk is composed of around 1/3 fat. Toxins that have been quietly stored in your body tucked away in your fat will be mobilised to meet this increased demand and transferred straight into your newborn’s body.

Not only that, detoxing is a fabulous clinical tool to balance hormones, regulate cycles, improve digestion, improve nutrient absorption as well as clear the unprecedented levels of toxicity that we are being exposed to.

 

Look Out for Your Mucus Changes

Now I know everyone loves talking about vaginal discharge, aka divine freakin’ nectar.

Get to know that egg-white consistency stuff. It’s juicier than the everyday discharge and comes for 1–3 days around ovulation. It’s sperm candy.

If you’re not getting this discharge, chances are you’re not ovulating. It’s hard for some people to know when they’re ovulating, which could be anywhere between day 11 to day 18-ish (day 1 is the first day you bleed), especially if you have irregular or long cycles.

You can’t get pregnant if you don’t have sex around ovulation. This divine nectar is the sign to look for in pre-conception. It’s the cervix dropping nice and slidey guide ropes for the sperm. It is uber nutrient rich and it nourishes and protects the sperm as they make their epic journey to that egg. Only 1 (or 2 or 3) out of 20–80 million actually make it.

 

Look After Your Microbiome

It has been previously thought that the newborn comes out sterile and the colonisation of bacteria forming its microbiome (the sum of all microbial life living in or on the human body) starts forming as the baby leaves the womb. Recent research suggests that this is not the case and the baby’s gut bacteria begins to form in utero via the placenta, and is affected by the length of gestation time and possible swallowing of embryonic fluid in the third trimester.

Regardless, it is recognised that the most influential factor on the genesis of the microbiome is the transmission from the maternal microbiota.

If bub is born vaginally, the bacterial makeup of the Mama’s foo foo starts it all off. If born via caesarean, then it is the journey to the boob in which babe experiences the bacterial make-up of the skin. Babies will encounter very different bacteria species on these varying journeys. Whether you breast feed or formula feed or both will radically alter the microbiome development.

The essential and miraculous role that the microbiome plays in our life has only recently been uncovered in the West, and there is much we can never know about the extent of the functions and relationships it has in the body. We carry more bacteria DNA than human cells in our body. We have evolved symbiotically. The health of our gut bacteria affects our immunity, gastrointestinal function, neurotransmitter production, nutrient absorption and skin integrity.

If you have eczema, IBS or mental health disorders running in your family, clinical dosing of antimicrobial, antiparasitic, prebiotics and specific strains of probiotics can help prevent the onset of these conditions in the child.

 

Structural Issues for Women in Pre-Conception

How is your uterus positioned? Do you have structural issues to do with your hips? Over-toned pelvic floor?

The uterus is a suspensory organ, therefore it can move to the left and right, and tip front and back. It’s held in place a bit like a hammock by ligaments, muscle cells and fascia. The opening of the uterus is the cervix. How the cervix thins, softens and opens (dilates/expands) is the major factor in the ‘progression’ of labour. Easier labours are affected more by tone and relative symmetry of a woman’s uterine ligaments and muscles than the shape of the pelvic bowl. Having an alignment between the head of the baby, the cervix and the pelvic outlet is ideal and is dependant on the centering of the womb, optimal position of the baby and responsiveness of the cervix.

Symmetry in the Sacro-Illiac joints will help the sacrum line up with the pelvic brim. This helps align the pubic symphysis and the Sacro-Illiac joints. The baby can get into a nice head-down position.

If you have Sacro-Illiac Joint Disorder now, by golly it’ll probably flare up post-birth. Lack of recovery time, (ie laying down and resting post-birth) is one of the major contributors for chronic SIJ disorder in women. Many cultures bind the belly and hips post-birth to keep them warm and stabilised. This will help correct proprioception and aid ligament and joint recovery post-birth.

As the wonderful pelvic floor pioneer Mamashanti is often heard saying, “An over-toned pelvic floor is an obstacle to birth.” Many women store tension within the pelvic floor and also have active trigger points inside the vaginal canal, especially yogis (mula bunda anyone?) and dancers.

Getting to understand correct pelvic floor dynamics is one of the best gifts you’ll give yourself for pre-conception care and planning.

*Hint: Kegels WILL NOT show you the way – they were designed for men, by a man, to treat urinary incontinence.

 

Fatigue and Stress Issues in Pre-Conception Care

If you’re tired and/or stressed out of your eyeballs now, where is the energy and tolerance going to come from to manage pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the toddler years? They ain’t a ‘restorative’ time. You want to have something in the tank for that.

Both fatigue and stress are massive issues affecting us today. They can be a cause or a result of physical and mental ill-health.

If you are down the adrenal fatigue pathway, it can affect the way that your body produces and processes hormones and can affect your ovarian reserve or sperm health.

There is loads of help available to address this and it’s much easier to do so pre-baby, without adding the sleep deprivation that a newborn can bring.

 

Sex in Pre-Conception Care

Your sex life is not often spoken about. Sexual issues are a major cause of infertility. For real. Many people have sexual issues and to fall pregnant you may need to increase the amount and quality of sex that you are currently having. My homegirl Zita West recommends 3 x per week if you’re aiming to conceive.

How to maintain stamina, desire, humour and playfulness during that time? The pressure to conceive can be a major anti-aphrodisiac.

Classical Chinese texts talk about the benefit of conscious sex. What does that even mean?

Well to start, you’re sober when you have sex, or close to it. Secondly, but most importantly, you’re present. You are mentally and emotionally in the moment, surrendering and opening to the present moment. You haven’t ‘checked out’ because of stuff like:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by intimacy (for whatever reason, and there are plenty).
  • Your mind is focused on other things.
  • You are emotionally unavailable due to past trauma or dynamics that are present in your relationship.
  • You can’t accept or don’t want to experience your body.
  • Cultural or philosophical views on sexual behaviour, desire and pleasure.

 

Globally, we are in an era of change within the masculine and feminine dynamics which can affect the way that we relate.

Classical Chinese thought advocates relaxed, loving, harmonious relations with slow full arousal and expanding the perception of ‘orgasmic’ energy to include the whole body. Mind, heart, body and breath are aligned, which can be healing and energising for both the man and woman.

There are heaps of resources for this, and sex post-baby can be different too, so opening up the communication and exploring some relaxing, peachy, restorative ways to connect and build desire can serve your relationship and your self on many levels.

I highly recommend Being The Lover. It is a fabulous self-paced online program for couples that will give you great skills and knowledge to use your intimacy to heal.

 

Get Your Iodine, Zinc & Vitamin D Levels Checked

Natural Iodine is low in Australian and NZ soil. Iodine is needed by every single cell in the body. But it is especially needed for foetal brain development and there are extra demands during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Iodine gets stored in the body and you’ll need to get your levels accurately tested. If you’re deficient, take a practitioner prescribed adequate dose, which as a rule of thumb is WAY higher than the recommended daily allowance. That’s why you need the test.

Vitamin D demand is high in conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding. In Melbourne during winter A LOT of people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight. Get tested, and if you’re low get appropriate practitioner prescribed supplementation.

Zinc is necessary for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes, which means it plays a role in a great number of bodily activities. Some of those activities are critical during pregnancy because they involve embryo and fetal development as well as infant growth – the embryo consumes a lot of Zinc in the beginning for its growth and development. This can leave you deficient through the later stages of your pregnancy.

Some research also indicates that mineral and nutrient deficiency can be a cause of severe morning sickness.

If you’d like to chat about pre-conception care, please book an appointment to come and see me in clinic.

B x

 

 

The Flower Blooms: 7 Practices for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Women's sexual and reproductive health - female anatomy

                                                                                                                                                                                                         *Image by the talented Jem Magbanua

When it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health, attitudes matter. Our culture shapes the way we feel about our bodies and more deeply, how our bodies respond.

“Safe sex” in classical Chinese thought is sex that does not drain the body of needed energy and vitality, but increases it.

Chinese medical history is long and traverses time to places where cultural norms about women’s sexual and reproductive health were quite different.

 

(more…)

Experiencing Difficult Emotions (And How To Mine Them For Their Wisdom)

We all have trouble dealing with our emotions sometimes. Feelings that come up can have all sorts of stories attached to them. Stories we don’t like, feelings we don’t want to experience.

We hide what we feel, ignore it, feel shame and guilt about it, lie about it or blame other people for causing difficult emotions in us.

We also crave certain emotions that are considered positive: we want to grasp on to them, get addicted and attached to things, people and places which generate that emotional feeling.

This attachment to certain emotions can motivate our behaviour and make us feel out of control.

When it comes to emotions, perhaps we never really grew up.

 

Difficult Emotions and Chinese Medicine

Our feelings and thoughts have a somatic expression (a response in the body).

The Chinese mapped these body responses and attributed them channels. They also discovered which organs get affected by different emotions. Within a Chinese medicine framework, feelings are considered natural and necessary with their own unique wisdom, insight and character.

Emotions begin to be considered pathogenic (a cause of disharmony or illness) when the mind judges, controls, distorts, represses or suppresses these raw feelings. When the mind becomes involved in a controlling manner, it can stagnate the energetic momentum that contains the feeling.

This is why, when you start to move that blocked energetic momentum and relinquish mind control in practices such as acupuncture, massage, breath work or yoga, spontaneous emotional release can occur.

Our mind is heavily influenced by our conditioning – by our family, sub-culture and societal values. By our past experiences, by our associations.

We create defence mechanisms to get through, to avoid pain and to keep ourselves together psychologically. I call these mechanisms the gatekeepers or the bodyguards.  They are so important and they do great work… until they don’t.

We outgrow them, but we don’t update their job description and they start to cage us in and block healthy intimacy in relationships. That’s where the stagnation can really start to affect your health and happiness.

 

Emotional Stagnation

Emotional stagnation can lead to physical and mental ill health. It can keep you trapped and stunt your growth, maturity and intelligence.

The basis of emotional stagnation usually has to do with fear and control – fear of experiencing something that will overwhelm you and make you lose control.

The way to deal with that fear is to wake up to the very nature of emotion. 

That is, emotions are changeable. Often within milliseconds. The latin root of the word emotion means “to move”. Left to their own devices without interference by mind, emotions rapidly change.

It is the control, repression, suppression and stories we attach to emotions that causes them to stagnate or to identify with the story so much that the denial of our emotions becomes part of our personality.

 

How to Lose the Fear of Difficult Emotions

So how do we wake up and lose the fear?

1) Understand the nature of Mind

2) Understand the nature of feelings

The penny-dropping insight, the big A-ha, is realising that both Mind and emotion BY THEIR NATURE are impermanent, transient and are in a process of change. This means that mistakenly identifying them as fixed, permanent or part of yourself is fundamentally futile.

If you wake up to this reality, then you can really get to the root of what is causing you pain.

What allows our feelings to transform and continue on their merry (or raging) path is recognition or acknowledgement.

Acknowledgement.

Not by someone outside of you. By your own heart.

If you are busily committed to avoiding or ignoring your emotional truth, it takes a whole lot of energy, effort and mind control.

 

Shen Realisation and Difficult Emotions

The Chinese called the cognitive part of our mind, the streams of consciousness, the planning, the thinking, the processing etc the Yi.

The part of our consciousness that is beyond Mind, the consciousness you’ve had since within the womb (my working title is the embryological mind), the consciousness or awareness that is there beyond the thoughts, in between the thoughts – they call that Shen.

Instead of bombarding you with concepts of Shen (for which there really are no words), the Chinese – being an insanely practical culture – focused on Shen realisation. They then developed methods for people to practice and guide them to Shen realisation.

Shen realisation is the mother of all insights (and a different blog post) and is what reorientates you on your path. Shen realisation is awareness of our most primary nature. It is what can really reframe our sense of identity and make it a whole lot easier to see the ‘stories’ we’ve created in regards to our emotions and our emotional blocks.

Shen realisation is the goal of treatments like acupuncture. It’s like the diamond or pure awareness hiding under the rough of all the misunderstandings of our self.

We all have diamond (pure awareness) and we all have rough (not pure awareness).

The degree and impact of the ‘rough’ is very individual – it’s very human stuff. Viewing yourself with gentle eyes and suspending judgements long enough to listen to your heart can lead to liberation and wisdom.

 

girl meditation

 

Holding Space for Your Difficult Emotions

This is a practice. Holding space means setting an intention for your mind to suspend judgement of yourself and sit, listen and feel into your heart and your body and find your truth – regardless of whether what you find is unacceptable or contrary to your social values, regardless of whether you like it or not.

The steps below describe a really easy way to hold space for yourself and this is the way I like to do it.  You could do this just about anywhere, or use it as a regular practice. The acupuncture table is an optimal place for holding space for yourself.

  • I sit in meditation or lie down with one hand over my heart, the other on my belly.
  • I set my intention that for just this 20 minutes I will maintain concentration and suspend my usual judgements, stories, avoidance, clinging and all the rest and be kind to those disenfranchised parts of my self.
  • I visualise my self sitting in my heart, by a campfire wrapped in a blanket.
  • I listen and wait to see, hear or feel what appears. That which has been hiding, drowned out, unseen, not felt, denied. I wait gently for these parts of myself to reveal themselves.
  • I then relax my body, soften and acknowledge what shows up. My truth.
  • This is where the wisdom seeps in, the A-ha moments show up. Accepting what is my truth does set me free.
  • I then take rest in pure awareness knowing that all else is impermanent, by nature will change and to identify or hold onto it is futile.
  • I exhale and let go.

 

How do you release difficult emotions? Let us know in the comments.

 

To hold space for yourself using acupuncture as a healing tool, book an appointment at the Cloud Gate clinic today.

 

 

How to Detox: A Guide

Detox guide

I use detox as a clinical tool. I find it makes a huge improvement in my patients, especially for (but not limited to) those suffering fatigue, endocrine issues, digestive disorders and adrenal burnout.

Detoxing is also fantastic for pre-conception care.

I always spend time chatting with my clients and really getting a sense of what is realistic and what they can manage. Aspirations can be admirable. But you must know what you’re getting in to, be invested in the benefits and be up for it.

It can either be pleasurable coming home to your optimal health or it can be a total struggle. Preparation is what makes the difference.

 

Detox for City Living

My detox programs are designed primarily for the inner city urban dweller who often has a huge demand on their energy and time. There is no fasting involved. They are designed to provide you with consistent and improved energy levels.

I also integrate my Chinese Medicine perspective in tailoring a program to your individual needs.

(more…)

What I Tell My Patients About Hay Fever ( and how you can you use it to reduce severity)

image

 

Hay Fever, Grrrr its sooo annoying.

Allergic reactions occur when the body’s immune system misidentifies a normally harmless substance as a threat to the body. Common allergens (substances that produce allergic reactions) are foods, pollen, animal dander, mold, insect venom, drugs, and dust mites.  An inflammatory reaction takes place in an attempt to eject this substance from the system, resulting in a variety of symptoms.

There are other insidious factors that can set you up to be much more reactive as your immune system is already on alert and trigger happy.

(more…)

Are you a tired puppy? The Adrenal Fatigue Lowdown.

Tired Pppy

In July I attended an industry seminar called the Adrenal Epidemic and got the download on the latest research about adrenal fatigue which is otherwise known as allostatic resistance.

I’ve summarized  what I believe you need to know, especially if you are:

  •  someone who suffers from fatigue, burnout, thyroid or hormonal issues
  •  are entering their late 30’s, living in the inner city with a really full and busy life, burning the candle at both ends and wants to age­ (in the words of the naturopath leading the seminar)­ disgracefully well
  • wanting to stay fertile & juicy and have an easy menopause.

If this is you, then please, get to know allostatis and cortisol.

(more…)