Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Do I Know What's Working?

This blog could be metaphorical for many aspects of life in the interest of simplicity I'll try to stick with health and healing.

Having good health doesn't mean luck, genetics, or spending hours at the gym. While these components might be part of good health they are not the essence. You might instead think of good health like a recipe. If one ingredient is not added or another is added too much it will change the entire outcome, perhaps causing the recipe to taste too salty or the dough not to rise. If the heat is too high or not high enough and the timing is off the recipe could be overcooked, undercooked or burnt.

Recipe for health AKA Balanced lifestyle might include:

> colorful diet

> movement (exercise is such a dirty work)

> sleep

> clean living and work space

> positive thoughts (what you think about you bring about)

> enjoyment of life and loved ones

Acupuncture is part of a complete system of healing. Some aspects a practitioner uses to assist you in maintaining optimal health and others are up to you to incorporate into your daily life.

> acupuncture
> tui na (massage therapy)
> herbal therapy
> diet therapy (food as first medicine)
> qi gong
> meditation
> feng shui

Many times when patients come to our office they are worried about taking herbs and doing acupuncture at the same time. Their rational is how will I know what is working? Sometimes patients can go to a larger extreme and not want to mix western and eastern medicine. Instead of this getting in the way of assisting the body in healing it might be the missing link. In Chinese Medicine we are looking at the whole body using a complete system to assist the body in healing itself. Chinese Medicine is also complimentary medicine and can assist with western interventions especially with negative side effects of fertility treatments and chemotherapy.

While its never smart to change every aspect of your life all at once for long term success it is important to look at the big picture. Think of balance like a pendulum. If you are out of balance to one side, moving too quickly will only cause imbalance in the opposite spectrum. Slow and steady brings us to the center. Starting with acupuncture, herbs, and making recommended lifestyle changes slowly so that they become habit might be the key to long term health.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929 http://www.wholehealthprograms.com/

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Make and Breaking Habits

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I've heard it before, I've talked with patients about it before and here I am in the thick of forming a habit of practicing qi gong every morning. Its Day 18 since I began my qi gong classes and guess what, the honey moon is over. I don't say this unhappily, I say it matter-of-factly because it seems to be a part of the cycle of rooting habits into life.

I once learned in a class taught my Joe McCue the 4 steps to learn anything:
unconscious incompetence "I didn't know I didn't know"
conscious incompetence "I know I don't know"
conscious competence "I know what I'm doing and have to stay focused in order to do it"
unconscious competence "I know so well I don't have to think about it"

I think Louise Hay does an excellent job in the book turned movie You Can Heal Your Life explaining the steps it takes to make lasting changes in our lives.

There is of course the excitement in the beginning- the honey moon stage, the "I can do anything" place.
There is the doubt in the middle- What is this really all about? Things were easier before this. Justification central.
I think its in this place where we really need to make a choice. Its the big test where you choose something new and unknown or stay in safer waters that might not be best but are at least familiar.

Before I went to the Qi Revolution I was looking for a routine. I was excited to learn something new, especially knowing that it would not only benefit myself but also my patients. I was looking for something that would give me structure and awareness and I am getting all of that and more. What I am most aware of as I create this new habit are my thoughts as well as my deeper rooted habits that no longer serve me.

For example:
I still turn the TV on to watch in bed to fall asleep to even though it now takes me less then 10 minutes to fall asleep instead of 2 hours. The sound and lights of the TV actually bother me as I drift off to sleep and yet the TV is still flipped on and a 60 minute timer is set.

I crave sweets and indulge in them even though the craving is not satisfied and I'm left feeling yucky inside. Perhaps my hardest habit to break will be the belief of how much I love chocolate even though in the moment it no longer is as enjoyable as I remember and actually leaves me feeling ill.

I will wake up before the alarm but instead of getting up I'll force myself back to sleep until the alarm rings.

The challenge of qi gong is that this practice is literally about discipline: discipline of how we cultivate and use our energy. It not about going through the motions, increasing time, sweating more, going further its just about the exact opposite. Its moving with sincerity with slower movements and deeper breaths. It could well be the best practice for me as I have a hard time sitting still or slowing down in just about every other aspect of my life. As I find myself getting anxious to be done I consciously slow my breath down more and pay more attention. Although I love the benefits I am receiving from this practice I still hear that little voice in the morning "hit the snooze and do qi gong later" (I know there won't be later and I'm also aware that this voice is yelling louder as I etch in this habit and my old habit of not wanting to wake up is slowly melting away). As I work towards moving slower and breathing deeper I can see how it can take a lifetime to perfect and refine my form. I can feel in my body more softer strength and endurance and see how this discipline is carrying over into other areas of my life.

Somedays I feel great as I move and think about adding form 2 into my routine other days I'm less enthusiastic. I'm not counting days as if just to get to 30 in a row instead I let it be the first thing in the morning, treating it more like breakfast (which I would never skip). I try to be kind to myself remembering that it is a practice and each moment is different and shouldn't be compared. I remind myself I enjoy waking earlier and having more time in my day even when the sleep dust is still covering my eyes and my old habits tell me differently.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I saw my first pair of robins this weekend. While spring has been in the air for a bit that was the sign I was looking for especially since Saturday marks the official first day of spring.

The liver/gall bladder system in chinese medicine is associated with the season of spring. As the world around us starts to turn greener and flowers start to blossom similar things are taking place with in our bodies.

The heavier energy of winter is lifting and lighter energies are now becoming available to us. The spring is a perfect time to cleanse the body of the heavy rich foods of winter and more sedentary lifestyle we've been living.

So what can you do?

Clean your house, reorganize your closet and open the windows even if just for a few minutes. Donate or free cycle anything that you no longer use or wear.

Get active outside. Spend more time outdoors breathing in fresh air moving your body. Make sure to keep your neck covered in the wind so you don't catch a cold. Resist the urge to peel away all of your layers...its not summer just yet. The liver controls the tendons in the body so make sure to stretch often as your cleanse your body.

Eat lighter foods. As the energy in the world becomes lighter in spring your body should also feel lighter and more energized. Eat smaller meals more often adding extra green leafy vegetables to cleanse your blood and liver. If you eat meat, replace warming foods like red meat with more seafood. (make sure to add cilantro as it helps detox heavy metals out of the body) Stay away from heavy foods like dairy and sweets.

Wake up with the sunshine and birds chirping and do your workout early so that your energy and metabolism are high throughout the day.

Emotions, memories, or feelings that have been buried can resurface when harmonizing the liver. The old rises up and out before it leaves the physical/emotional body. Practice meditation breathing in through the nose, tongue touching roof of mouth, exhaling out through mouth allowing tongue to drop. Exhale with an affirmation such as I trust, I am motivated, I believe.

Get your spring tune up acupuncture treatment to keep your immune system strong and allergies, hay fever, and asthma at bay as well as helping your body readjust after the time change.

Ask your acupuncturist for an herbal formula that will keep your body at its best for the spring.

The more you are able to harness the cleansing energy of spring the more energy you will be able to soak up in the summer time when the energy is lightest and most available to us. Not only is this great for your health in the present moment, it will also help you transition smoothly to next winter creating more reserves of energy later.

Garlic, Lime, Swiss Chard Soup

the perfect spring cleanse soup

sautee 9 cloves of garlic with ghee

add 6 cups of water

add the juice of 3 squeezed limes

use large can of white beans with water

(after mixing together you might blend beans to make soup creamier)

rinse swiss chard and chop

chop stems of chard (tastes just like celery and is rich in phytochemicals)

let simmer on low for 40-60 minutes

garnish with cilantro

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture

50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929 wholehealthprograms.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Qi Gong

I apologize for those of you who wait with baited breath each Tuesday for the new blog posting and did not find one. I was attending a 4 day Qi Gong seminar called the Qi Revolution. If you've never heard of it, as I never did until I received a postcard about a 32 hour CEU program for $99 let me give a few details.

Supreme Science Qi Gong is a non-profit organization that teaches massage therapists, nurses, acupuncturists and anyone who is interested how to use qi gong to live a healthier life while offering super affordable continuing education credits.

You might be wondering what in the world is qi gong. I'll start first with the pronunciation. Qi = chee, Gong = gong. Qi Gong is a branch of Chinese Medicine and is a form of gentle exercise and cultivation of energy with meditation mixed in.

Benefits of Qi Gong include: (taken straight from the Qi Gong training manual)

>>improves the motion of blood, warms the blood, and enhances whole body circulation

>>stimulates appetite, sexual function, assimilation of nutrients and digestion/elimination

>>accelerates metabolism, weight loss, decreases need for sleep

>>bolsters immune system by reducing cortisol

>>develops dexterity, reflexes, and prevents osteoporosis

>>opens arteries allowering greater brain-based microcirculation to prevent alzheimers

>>enhances mental acuity, focus and concentration

>>helps us to calm down and relax

>>improves results of hands on healing and helps spiritual growth

Qi Gong is the discipline of harnessing your energy. It is similar to Tai Chi although for most forms you stand in one place and work more with moving your hands and arms following your breath. For more information about qi gong you might visit here.

The list of benefits sounds compelling doesn't it and the fact that it doesn't appear to be as physically intense as say, running a marathon, almost seems too good to be true.

From my experience over the last 32 hours of qi emersion I will say this: Qi Gong is a powerful practice. I wouldn't think holding my hands at chest level and trying to breath would be so intense but then my feet would pulse and burn, my shoulders would fatigue, I'd forget to stay relaxed and hold my breath.

As I sit here listening to devaproject (music from the weekend) trying to find the right words to explain all that I learned over this 4 day class my only thought is this: it was a well thought out production and its presentation was responsible.

What this means is that it wasn't all just about qi gong forms, it was about balance. Jeff Primack was intent on letting the group of 900 know that all the qi gong in the world is not the end all be all of being healthy and living your best life. In addition to practicing qi gong proper nutrition is key (something none of us really ever want to hear) and so is your mind set (negative thoughts and holding on to negative emotions are just as damaging to our health as McDonalds).

There have been studies done in Washington DC where groups have gathered to meditate and crime rates have dropped. I was curious what kind of impact 900 qi gongers would have on Chicago but have no idea where to find such stats on 4 days. We did do several meditations on love, forgiveness, and world peace. So if at any point from March 6-9 you felt a moment of peace I'd be curious to know about it. At any rate, it has defiantly changed my life.

Qi Gong is not like working out at the gym where missing a couple days doesn't dramatically impact the body, its something that must be practiced every day. I made the 30 day challenge, to practice qi gong every day for 30 days. It was said we really wouldn't understand or feel the effects until at least this milestone. Today is day 2 of my personal qi gong practice. I've woken up at 6 each morning to get my practice in, something that if you know me especially recently is almost a superhuman feat. (i like my sleep) So far I'm finding that my sleep is deeper and I'm able to fall asleep quicker probably because my mind doesn't race as quickly either. My appetite and energy level is hearty and so are my bowel movements. (sorry if you didn't want to know)

There will be more blogs to come about the Qi Revolution and my 30 day challenge.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929 wholehealthprograms.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Acupuncture and Grief

In Chinese Medical theory the lungs control respiration, dominate the qi, skin, and hair and are impacted by grief. Through the inhale the lungs take in fresh oxygen and energy from the external environment and through the exhale release waste build up from the internal body. This is known as "getting rid of the stale and taking in the fresh" and is why proper breathing is so important.

When the lung function is normal, respiration will be smooth and unobstructed. When the energy of the lungs is deficient there can be feeble speech, weak breathing patterns, shortness of breath, and general lassitude.

The lungs distribute energy to the rest of the body via the inhalation as well as assisting in warming and moistening the muscles, skin, and hair.

The lungs control the skin and hair because these serve as a protective barrier to the internal body controlling the wei qi or immune system. Because the lungs work so intimately with the skin and hair they are often all affected when an imbalance takes place.

We've already discussed how the lungs are affected during colds in this previous blog. What I'd like to touch on today is how the lungs are impacted during periods of grief.

Grief can happen during any transitional period of life, not just when experiencing grief of a loved one. Often times when we are making changes in our lives either through moving into a new living space, starting a new school program, ending a relationship, or are a part of a loved ones death the lung can be weakened, especially if the transition is sudden or there is resistance.

Examples (names have been changed to protect patient confidentiality)

When Jane's father was dying from colon cancer her hair started falling out and would grow back smelling burnt and unhealthy. Ten years later she still has not fully grieved the loss of her father and suffers from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, dry skin, acne, and other nervous system conditions. In this case the lung has been weakened over the initial grief of her father and years of repression and now the lung is not able to bring in or distribute energy efficiently. Her breath is shallow and her posture is slumped forward. When she receives acupuncture she reports a sensation of being cleaned out and feels lighter with less physical pain.

Lauren spent years at a job where she was under appreciated but did not leave because of her fear of change. One day she discovered that her position would be taken over by someone else and she was forced into leaving. Although on one level she was happy to be free of this job, it was a scary transition. Instead of taking time to grieve the loss of this job she dove into projects around the house and diligently looked for a new job. Her resourcefulness paid off and she found new employment quickly. However, through this tumultuous time in her life she developed a sinus infection and tension increased in her upper body especially around her assessory breathing muscles. Her grief finally caught up with her and her body forced her to rest. Her sinus infections were recurrent for almost 3 months until she had made peace with her old job and settled into her new one.

Especially during times of transition and stress remember to take a time out and a deep breath. Refer back to the blog Change Your Breath, Change How You Feel for breathing exercises and a more in depth explanation about how important proper breathing is.

Whether it is environmental changes during seasonal transitions or life cycle changes our delicate organ the lung is most affected. Acupuncture can assist the body, mind, and emotions to gracefully move through these transitions offering not only a place for your body to heal but a quiet time of reflection as well.

Sarah Zender LAc

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 847.357.3929