A dear friend of mine has a very special daughter. Let's call her "Alice".
Alice has a wide-eyed curiosity about the world and constantly asks questions. And boy do I mean "constantly". But, different from other kids her age she waits for the answer and then mulls it over before giving you her opinion and/or response. The first few times I saw her do this I was amazed, so I commented to her that I liked her thoughtfulness. Her immediate response was "If you listen, you will understand"
Wow - Talk about out of the mouths of babes. It lead me to thinking about listening. Are we doing it right?
lis-ten-ing n: the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages
How many of us feel like we are really listened to – that people really get what we are saying? Most people do not feel like they are heard. As Alice said, when having a conversation - Just listen. That in itself is powerful.
Listening is more than just hearing until the other person has stopped talking so we can share our thoughts with them. Active listening involves MUCH more than just talking! To be effective in your communication you must master the skill of “active listening.” To listen is to “tune in” to what is not being said, how it is said, and what feelings or emotions may or may not be expressed.
Most of us think we listen, yet we do not always “attend” to the person who is speaking to us. We are too busy doing other things. Or even thinking about things while others are talking to us! How many times do you catch yourself holding onto judgments, opinions, or even beliefs about someone or something that is being said – while they are talking! Sometimes we forget to “live in the present moment.” Active listening is about being in the present to “tune in” every moment that is necessary.
The following skills, when practiced, will improve your listening skills and your relationships with others.
Remain silent when someone speaks. (Easy to say, hard to do.) Give the speaker your complete attention. Avoid distracting behaviors or interruptions.
Perception checking is about feelings more than words. The focus is on checking what you perceive to be the emotion that motivates the other person's communication. What have they conveyed by their tone of voice, what did they really mean to say, and is the emotion genuine? The rest is just “noise or fog” clouding the truth. Active listening is about listening to the truth, to what is honest and real. We have two ears and one mouth so we should be able to listen twice as much as we talk.
Be empathetic and non judgmental.
When you value the person you are having a conversation with and accept their feelings you will be able to empathize more, to “hear” more clearly and completely, and to offer them the gift of being heard. Forgo judgments. Just Listen!!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time....
**This post was originally written by Wilma in March 2011
How do we choose which acupuncture points we are going to use?
This is a question that I often field in the clinic, and the short answer is this: location and function.
Location is probably an obvious answer. As you might expect, sometimes when you get an acupuncture treatment to resolve something like knee pain, you might get needles directly at the site of the pain, but it doesn't always work this way.Sometimes we may choose points that do not seem like they would have anything to do with your knee pain (for example, near your elbow) but actually still have a relationship to the area that you would like to have treated. We call this distal needling.
In Chinese medicine, there are 12 primary energetic pathways upon which most of the acupuncture points are located. (There are an additional 8 meridians that travel more internally, and are only accessed by one acupuncture point each, but I'll discuss those more in a different post.)
Each of the 12 pathways (aka meridians) are associated with a specific organ, travel through the torso and extend along either the upper or lower limbs. It is because of these pathways, that we are able to needle points on the arms and legs that allow us to treat conditions or ailments pretty much anywhere in the body.
I'll give a more specific example. Say you come in to have some low back pain treated. We may start by needling some points on the feet. Though it might seem odd to needle the feet, we do this because there are points on the feet that belong to channels that travel directly through the low back area.
Next up, point functions: Each acupuncture point has a specific function, and many have several.
An example, the acupuncture point Pericardium 6 (located about 3 finger widths up from the inside of your wrist, in between the two main tendons that you can see when you make a fist) has the main function of controlling nausea. This is a point that would be useful to press if you are experiencing any kind of motion sickness, morning sickness or nausea due to any other reason.
This point - which being a pericardium point also acts as a protector of the Heart - can be useful for calming the spirit when symptoms manifest such as anxiety, trouble sleeping or heart palpitations.
So the next time you settle in for an acupuncture session and are discussing your most recent health concerns with your practitioner, he or she is quickly assessing a combination of points based on their locations and their functions, to create a treatment that will work to bring your body back into balance and good health.
The practitioner started by asking the patient if she did anything to exercise the mind. The patient then responded by saying she went on 10-mile runs. The practitioner's response surprised me a little, he said, "Oh.. 10 miles, that may be too much. And what about the mind? Do you do anything for your mind?"
This question was met with a bit of a blank stare, so the practitioner continued by saying, "It is important to exercise the mind. Find a place where you can get quiet, perhaps a place where you can stare out at the ocean, and really empty the mind. It doesn't need to be long. Spend maybe just 10 minutes to clear the mind."
I wasn't quite sure what the patient thought of this as she sat there with a slightly confused look and nodded her head, but this interaction in the clinic was a good learning moment for me as well. Previously, exercising just the mind was not really something I had considered much.
To be fair, I believe that exercising the body is quite an effective way to clear the mind. Exercise helps to bring your body into the present moment, and certainly if the exercise is difficult enough to warrant your full attention, you won't be permitted to have a laundry list of to-do items cycling through your brain. And of course there are countless benefits to regular physical exercise, such as improved metabolism, energy, sleep and mood, as well as resistance to illness, just to name a few.
Chinese medicine also recognizes this correlation. Stress, for example, is referenced in Chinese Medicine speak as "Liver Qi Stagnation", and one of the best remedies for alleviating stagnant qi is to go for a brisk walk or engage in some kind of steady physical activity.
The growing popularity of meditation in the West also speaks to how the benefits of "exercising the brain" are being recognized. It seems especially important now in the incredibly connected, fast-paced and everything-needs-to-happen-now modern world we live in. And acupuncture, coincidentally, is a really helpful tool to that can help you do just that.
I like to say that the mental relaxation and buzz that comes from an acupuncture session, is similar to the benefits one gets from a deep meditation, without the hard work of letting go to get you there. Fortunately, the needles can help do that part for you.
Have you ever wondered why your acupuncturist wants to look at your tongue?
The quickest answer is that we are taking a snapshot of the internal climate of your body, as well as getting a sense of a person's general constitution.
Just as the various regions of the earth have different climate systems, people are unique in the types of internal weather that they have going on inside them.
Many factors can influence this such as age, diet, where a person lives or one's general constitution. For example, just as some people are naturally tall, some people might have internal weather that is more cool, or more warm.
Understanding someone's internal weather system, sometimes helps us in choosing acupuncture points, and can be especially useful when selecting herbal formulas or considering what kind of foods might work well for someone.
The list below gives an idea of the types of things that we are looking at.
- Tongue shape --> Is it large or small? Is the tongue swollen? If so, is the whole tongue swollen or just one area, like the sides? Is it scalloped, meaning, are there indentations along the sides where your tongue presses up against your teeth?
- Tongue color --> Is it pink? pale? red? dusky? (a slightly purplish color), Is the color even or is there, for example, redness just on the tip or sides?
- Tongue coat --> Is there a tongue coating? If so, how thick is it? Is it white, yellow or maybe even brown/black?
- Other markers --> Are there cracks? Are there spots? And where are these spots or cracks located?
As in many other things with Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue serves as a micro-representation of the body on a larger level:
-A white coat that is primarily covering the center of the tongue might indicate that there is some "dampness" effecting the digestive system, manifesting as sluggish bowels or bloating.
-It is very common to see a pale tongue that is slightly swollen. This can be an indication that the digestive system is maybe not working as efficiently as it could or perhaps that energy is running low.
-Another very common presentation is a tongue that has a slight (what we refer to as) dusky color to it. This often indicates that "qi" is not moving as freely as it could.
Ok, now that I have shared with you the things that we are looking for when we look at your tongue, I have a caveat. It does not tell us everything. It offers us a clue. This is because people are complex, and sometimes our bodies can have various internal climates happening at the same time!
One last thing to keep in mind is that we do not look at your tongue to find things "wrong" with you. We observe your tongue to see how we might support your body in finding balance. Our bodies are in a constant state of flux, always adjusting, and our job is to help support your body in that process.
If you have ever been curious if cupping is right for you, read on...
There are many reasons people come to see us here at Tiny Needles, but among the top are for the management of stress (in its various manifestations) as well as for the management of back pain, whether it be upper, mid, low or whole back pain.
These are both excellent reasons to come get acupuncture, but they are also excellent reasons to try cupping.
Cupping is included in the ancient folk tradition that is Chinese Medicine and it has myriad benefits. Primarily, it is useful for extracting what we call "stagnation" in the muscles and energetic channels, which is considered the root cause of most painful conditions according to TCM (short for Traditional Chinese Medicine).
People often wonder if cupping is painful, and the answer to that question is, "it depends". It depends on how painful your particular condition is, how generally sensitive you might be to touch such as massage, as well as the strength of the cupping technique itself. We can always adjust the level of suction to suit your needs and this conversation will be a part of your assessment and treatment.
At Tiny Needles we do a combination of moving and stationary cupping, which is basically what it sounds like.
We apply coconut oil to the skin when we do moving cupping, so that we can slide the cups along the muscles, creating a "reverse" massage sensation. Instead of kneading or pressing, we are pulling up on the muscles. This part should feel good, comfortable and relaxing.
The second part, with stationary cups, is the "heavy lifting", and where the deeper work comes in. It may mirror a bit the experience of a deep-tissue massage.
We place 8-12 stationary cups at strategic locations along the musculature of the back and let them sit for about 10 minutes, to extract stagnation and help relieve pressure and tension.
The method we use at Tiny Needles:
We use tongs to hold an alcohol-soaked cotton ball, which we then light on fire. This flaming cotton ball is placed inside the glass cup to consume any present oxygen. We then remove the cotton ball and quickly apply the cup to the musculature on your back. The lack of oxygen creates a vacuum, which then creates a suction, allowing the cup to adhere to the muscle.
You may leave a cupping treatment with dark circular marks. These marks, although sometimes dramatic-looking, are not painful, and will disappear within 3-7 days.
There is nothing quite like a cupping treatment. It is powerful in its ability to relieve tension and alleviate pain. If you hold a lot of your stress or have a lot of pain in your upper or lower back, consider booking a session today. Your body will thank you.
It's the time of the year where everywhere you go someone is either coughing or sneezing in your general direction and no matter how hard you try to stay away from those who are feeling sick, it's nearly impossible. If you're starting to feel achey, congested, sluggish, cold and all around miserable, fear not! Rather than sit around and let the sinus congestion make you feel like your head is the size of watermelon, give these ideas a whirl! We swear by these simple steps you can take to prevent & relieve the symptoms of a cold. It's amazing what a difference some of these small things can make when it comes to feeling better.
First Things First
During 'Cold Season' it is important to take good care of your health before you even begin to feel the symptoms creeping in. As a preventative, you can take a tonic like Fire Cider or Four Thieves' Vinegar to keep your immune system strong and be sure your getting vitamins and minerals that your body needs by eating healthy meals. At the first sign of a cold, steer clear of alcohol, fried foods, sugar, and dairy as these will only exacerbate mucus build-up and congestion. Drink a lot of water and give your body plenty of rest. Try some Yin Chiao, a Chinese Medicine formula that will sort that cold out toot suite. Eat nutritious, warming foods (hooray for soup season!) and add warming spices like garlic, ginger and cayenne to meals. We have a killer garlic soup recipe on the blog and packets of Chinese Herbs for sale that can be added to any soup. If you're tired of drinking just plain old water, make some tea! These simple tweaks in diet and lifestyle will help you keep a cold at bay.
Sore Throat/ Dry Cough
If your throat is starting to feel sore, swollen and dry and you find yourself having dry coughing fits don't reach of the over-the-counter cherry flavored sludge! Instead, cut up some lemons and ginger and add them to hot water. Flavor with honey & sip this religiously for the next few days. Not only will the ginger warm your spirit, the honey will soothe your throat, the lemon will give you some vitamin C, and you'll be hydrating your body. *For a little added heat to your system, you can add a tiny pinch of cayenne* Drink a cup at least 3 times a day for a few days until symptoms dissipate. If your cough is more severe try supplementing this tasty tea with an all-natural cough syrup or some herbal cough-suppressant tea.
If you're feeling congested, try a steam. Steaming your face will open pores, loosen congestion and get things moving in your sinus cavity. First, add a touch of eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil to some steaming hot water. Then place a towel over your head to make a "tent" and hold your head over the steam at a safe distance as you inhale. Have a tissue on hand to blow your nose as the sinuses get relieved. Alternatively, you can place essential oils on a hot, wet washcloth and put it in the corner of your shower when you take a hot shower. This will not only make your shower smell and feel like a fancy spa's steam room, but it will also relieve you of congestion!
Beyond keeping your body hydrated and warm, sometimes it takes a little extra effort to beat the aches that can come with getting sick. Draw yourself a hot bath (or shower) and bundle up in blankets immediately afterward. If you can take a bath, add some Epsom salts to the water to help relieve tension. Adding some lavender essential oil or any other calming oil for added relaxation and scent is also recommended. You can also add tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint or rosemary oil if you are also battling congestion. If you don't have a bath tub, don't fret.
Fill a pot or tub that is big enough for your feet with hot water. Add Epsom salts and essential oils for a soothing foot bath. Although the bath is just for your feet, your whole body will feel the benefits.
After your bath (or shower or foot bath), dry off, keep warm, and snuggle up!
In Chinese Medicine the digestive system belongs to the Spleen organ system (including both the Stomach and Pancreas) and each organ system within Chinese Medicine contains a collection of symptoms that make up a pattern that we look for when a patient comes to see us.
Underneath the umbrella of a Spleen organ system in disharmony are probably some obvious or intuitive symptoms such as upset stomach, bloating, changes with bowel movements, nausea, but as Chinese Medicine also includes things of a mental and spiritual nature, symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, a tendency to ruminate and worry are also relevant. Other things we might see if there is an issue with the Spleen system is dampness in the body which can manifest as edema, weight gain or mucus production.
There are flavors that are associated with each organ system, and sweetness is the flavor connected with the Spleen. This means that sweetness can be both beneficial to the Spleen (for example, cooked yams and root vegetables are typically easier to digest, especially for those who have irritated gut linings as they contain high soluble fiber and low insoluble fiber)
and its demise when in excess (for example, obesity and/or insulin resistance as a result of excess consumption of refined sugars).
Chinese medicine is very based on cycles in nature, and associates different seasons with each organ system. They break down the year into 5 seasons, not 4, separating summer from the late summer (aka Indian Summer) that usually occurs during the September and October months. This late summer season is Spleen time (and, arguably, the best season here in San Francisco).
Often times the foods produced during a given season, are ones that are good for our bodies given the nature of the climate outside. Late summer is a good time to eat the naturally sweet foods that are available, such as berries, apples, pears and carrots. To support a healthy digestion, Chinese medicine recommends eating with others, eating slowly and in moderation, and taking time to really chew your food.
If you are having any digestion concerns, acupuncture can help ease discomfort and reduce inflammation. There are also many Chinese medicinal herbs that can be soothing. Here at Tiny Needles we carry a very popular TCM formula - brazenly named Curing Pills - for addressing all manner of digestive distress from stomach pain, to bloating, to nausea, to loose stools, and even hangovers. It is a good one to keep in the just-in-case drawer at home. Feel free to ask us about it the next time you are in.
Treating allergies in Chinese Medicine really revolves around using acupuncture points to help reduce the inflammation of the sinuses, support the body's return to homeostasis and also combat what TCM refers to as "dampness".
Dampness can be related to swelling, feelings of bloating or distension, aches in joints that get worse in rainy weather, but in today's post it is specifically a reference to congestion.
There are several acupuncture points that are helpful for combating allergies.
Here at Tiny Needles there is an acupuncture protocol that often shows up when addressing sinus congestion that we refer to as "ShenHawk". It is a combination of the points Du20, Du 23, and Yin Tang. Du20 is a point at the top of the head, Du23 is about an inch behind the frontal hairline, and Yin Tang is located at the third eye area, just above the bridge of the nose.
The "Shen" part of the name stands for mind or spirit. That is because although these points are helpful for clearing the sinus passages, they have the double function of helping to relax the mind or calm the spirit. The "Hawk" part is a cheeky reference to the word Mohawk, as that is what someone thought the points looked like when inserted together.
Our bodies are incredible at mending themselves, and sometimes they just need more support to do that job. Acupuncture is wonderful for getting the body into its "rest and digest" mode (the parasympathetic nervous state) and away from "fight or flight" (the sympathetic nervous state), so that it can have the strength it needs to work on repair.
In addition to acupuncture, using herbs and diet can be powerful aids for overcoming allergies.
Herbs prescribed for any kind of phlegm congestion will typically be bitter in nature, as the bitter flavor helps to break up or resolve damp. We carry a few phlegm-resolving herbal formulas here at the clinic, with two specifically geared towards targeting the sinuses: Bi Yan Pian (sounds like Bee YAWN Pee-AWN) and Pe Min Kan Wan (Pey Min KAHN WAHN) Herbs may also be geared towards promoting better digestion, as sluggish digestion can also lead to the development of dampness.
In order to speed up the recovery from damp conditions (and, incidentally, support better digestion), Chinese medicine has some specific dietary suggestions. It is recommended to avoid ice water and cold-nature foods (things like fish, raw fruit and raw vegetables) that slow down and hamper the digestive fire, as well as foods that are considered damp in nature according to TCM, such as sugar, dairy and alcohol.
Here is a simple nutritional tip to try at home. Dried tangerine peel is a common ingredient used in phelgm-resolving Chinese herbal formulas. Take some fresh tangerine or mandarin peel at home and keep it in a glass of (room temperature) drinking water (just refill throughout the day) as a gentle support for fighting dampness in your system.
Chinese Medicine suggests that we should never drink cold water. In a previous post about how Chinese medicine looks at the common cold, I discussed briefly how cultural differences can influence our thinking around everyday things. The ideal temperature for drinking water is another example of this.
In another prior post about why we look at tongues in Chinese Medicine, we talked about how each person has their own internal "weather system". Accordingly, TCM believes that what we take in via food and drink can have an effect on this weather system.
Chinese medicine refers to our metabolism as our ¨digestive fire¨. If we drink ice water, the body then has to work to heat it up to our body´s temperature before it can be absorbed for use, slowing down its ability to do its primary job of breaking down food. Therefore, drinking room temperature or warm water, helps keep our digestive fires strong.
A person´s constitution as well as seasonality can also come into play. Although TCM will always recommend room temperature or warm over cold water, it would make more of a difference for a person who has a tendency towards running cold, a weak digestive system and during the winter months, than for a person who has robust digestion, always runs hot and is battling the warm sun of mid-summer.
Before studying Chinese Medicine I didn't really pay much attention to the temperature of the water I was drinking. Here in the United States, we operate under the assumption that water should be served chilled or with lots of ice.
On a personal note, and speaking as someone who often runs cold and lives in the typically cool and damp climate of San Francisco, it now strikes me as odd to walk into a restaurant on a cold and rainy day and still have an ice cold glass of water plunked down in front of me. The point of this post is not to suggest that ice water is wrong, but to offer up an alternative perspective as food for thought and invite you to explore if changing the temperature of the water you drink can improve the way you feel.
Neck and back pain are probably the two most common reasons that a person comes to see an acupuncturist. It would probably be fair to say that it is our specialty.
Something that confuses people, especially when visiting our community style clinic, is how we are able to treat neck and back pain, without needling directly at the site of the pain.
I covered some of this in a previous post, Why did you put that Needle there, but thought that I could talk a little bit more about it here today.
Here at Tiny Needles, we place the majority of the needles that we use in the arms, legs and also sometimes the ears. Partly we do this because it makes sense to keep people mostly clothed in a community room, but we also do this because we have access to everything we need, using just the points on the limbs.
In fact, a category of points referred to as the 5 transporting points, which have within them specific points for treating pain conditions, all happen to exist on the limbs.
Chinese Medicine, and specifically acupuncture, operates on a system of energetic channels that travel throughout the body. Each of these 12 energetic channels has a name that is associated with a specific organ. When you come to our clinic with a concern related to your neck or back, we will be curious to figure out which of these channels are effected. The primary way we can tell is by checking the location of the pain, but how movement is restricted can also be a clue.
It may be fun for you to know that the channels most commonly effected with neck pain are the Small Intestine and what is referred to as the Triple Burner channel (which is really just a fancy way of saying that it connects to 3 organ systems at once). The channels most associated with low back pain are the Urinary Bladder and Gall Bladder channels. This just means that the channels that happen to travel through the areas of the neck or low back, also happen to connect to the organs after which they are named.
Aside from checking which channels are effected, Chinese Medicine also differentiates between types of pain. We have what is referred to as deficiency type pain, which might look like sore low back and knees after standing for long periods of time, versus excess type pain, which might be a waking up with an acute neck muscle spasm. There is hot type pain conditions (the skin actually feels hot to the touch or looks red) versus cold type conditions (placing a heating pad feels relieving). There is also pain that is due to what TCM calls qi and blood stagnation. This would look like bruising, trauma or, for example, pain that arises after a car accident or fall. We also have what TCM refers to as damp stagnation. This could be joint pain - typically chronic - that gets worse with cold, damp days or drops in barometric pressure.
All of these considerations, such as which channels seem to be primarily effected, as well as whether a condition is deficiency related or excess, hot or cold, due to qi/blood or damp stagnation, effect the points that we select in treating your condition, and we have access to all of these types of points on your arms and legs alone.
Our diet has changed rapidly over the last 50-100 years, moving from a simple diet of fruit, seeds, meat, nuts and wild greens to one of high fat, high sugar and processed foods. Our biochemisty has not had time to evolve and adapt to this new food, resulting in a lot of digestive discomfort. In this rapidly changing and constantly moving world, here are a few simple measures we can take to make sure our digestive system is getting the support it needs.
The Digestive System begins with the mouth and includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, large intestine and rectum. It is responsible for two opposing actions: assimilation (of nutrients) and elimination (of waste). The health and well-being of every single cell in our body depends on the nutrients assimilated into our body by the digestive system. If out of whack, our cells run the risk of not functioning properly and causing chaos whether mentally, physically or both.
Know that everyone's body is different; there is no "cure-all" diet for everyone to use.
Use diet systems and programs as mere suggestions and do what feels best for your body.
Here are a few simple measures you can take to keep your guts (and you!) feeling happy:
-Slow Down! Give yourself time to eat; do not rush. Gobbling down big bites at a rapid rate will leave your stomach working overtime trying to break things down. No matter how good something tastes and how hungry you may be, SLOW DOWN!
-Don't over-eat. Stop eating before you feel too full. Again, don't overwork the stomach.
-Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible--try your best to avoid processed foods. The closer your food is to its natural state, the easier it will be for your body to digest. This includes trying to eat locally and seasonally.
-Chew! This may seem like a no-brainer, but too often we swallow our food before it is fully chewed leaving our digestive system working over-time. Try to chew at least ten times before swallowing.
-Avoid distractions. It can be easy in our highly stimulating world to eat in front of a screen whether it be a computer or phone or tv. It can also be easy for us to eat while we work or while we're on the go. Eating while distracted can make us eat too much, too fast. Again, slow down and give yourself time to eat and try to focus on each bite.
If you would really like to work on re-connecting with how you eat, an eating meditation can be a rewarding experience. Here is an example of one below. If you averse to raisins, substitute it with something you enjoy eating.
Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness
First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.
Focusing on it, imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life.
Take time to really see it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention.
Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture, maybe with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.
Holding the raisin beneath your nose, with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites ito it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in the mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment, as well as any changes in the object itself.
When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how the body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise in mindful eating.1
1 Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.
I grew up eating this soup throughout the cold winters in New Zealand. My mother had a pot on the stove the entire time. swearing that if we ate it regularly we would never catch cold. I would even take it to school in a thermos (sometimes having to run the gauntlet of other kids teasing me for smelling funny) and rarely caught cold while all those other kids were sniffling and sneezing all around me. Garlic has magical anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties due to it's chemical constituent allicin. Numerous studies have also shown allicin to increase your T Cell count. T Cells are our best immune system building blocks and essential in the fight against bacterial and viral infections.
Baking the Garlic Cloves makes the allicin more potent and upping the infection fighting properties. Next time you turn on the oven through in lots of garlic to have on hand and start feeling better.
Total Prep Time : 1 hour
Cook Time : 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small glass baking dish add the unpeeled garlic cloves with the olive oil and sea salt to taste.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 45 minutes until the garlic becomes brown in color and tender to touch. Set aside and cool.
Squeeze the garlic between your fingertips to release the cloves and put aside
In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over a medium heat (do not brown) and add ginger, garlic, onions, thyme and cayenne pepper.
Cook until the garlic and onions become translucent (approx 6 minutes) then add the baked garlic.
Add the broth, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and puree with blender until it is smooth. Transfer back to the saucepan and add coconut milk and heat through.
Serve with salt and pepper, lemon wedges and fresh herbs.
Can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Sweet Potato "Hummus"
Fall is here and there is no better time to highlight the wonder vegetable that is sweet potato.
In my previous post I talked about great foods to eat during the second half of your cycle and the mighty sweet potato was mentioned there.
I love this recipe because it combines the sweet grounding properties of sweet potato with the amazing benefits of sesame seeds in the form of Tahini. Sesame seeds are naturally anti-inflammatory and rich in iron, which your body needs once you enter the beginning of your period. It's also super easy and you can trick yourself into thinking you're having something naughty when in actual fact you are eating nothing but good. The sweet potato replaces the traditional chick peas which can create inflammation and therefore increase your pain during your period.
Spread on whole grain toast or eat dolloped over roasted vegetables like Broccoli and Cauliflower. Deelish!
Total Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Wash, peel and cube sweet potato and peppers. Season with paprika, chili powder, a little olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Roast until soft, about 30 minutes.
2. Allow vegetables to cool for 10 minutes. Once cooled, add to a food processor or strong blender with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and additional seasonings to taste.
3. Puree until smooth. Tip: Add small amounts of water to thin out hummus, if necessary.
Keeps for about 4-5 days in the fridge.
Carrot and Ginger Soup
This soup is great use of autumnal root vegetables - but this doesn't only work in the fall, it's a great summer soup as well as the ginger gives it a lovely zing. Ginger has long been used as a natural treatment for colds and the flu and also has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties. Many people also find ginger to be helpful in the case of stomach upset and it is used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of menstrual cramps.
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or equivalent in refined coconut oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 inches of fresh ginger - finely grated and peeled
4 cloves of garlic - minced
1 1/4 pounds medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth (chicken is best but vegetable stock can be substituted)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Green onions, sea salt and pepper to serve.
Melt butter or coconut oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften . Add ginger and garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes. Add chopped carrots and lemon peel and fry until the veggies are just starting to brown and there is some lovely sticky stuff on the bottom of the pot.
Add 3 cups stock, scraping the sticky bits up and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree soup in batches in blender or use an immersion/stick blender. Mix in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring soup to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Ladle into bowls. Top each with green onion and black pepper.
The Ginger flavor is fuller the next day so this a great soup to make the day ahead. Be sure to cover and keep in fridge.
Sweet Sensation Soup
This is one of my absolute favorite comfort soups and I thought I would share it after Tanja's blog post on Digestion in TCM. Parsnip, Cabbage, Onion and Carrots are all vegetables that give our bodies the sweet it craves. They soothe the internal organs and energize the mind. Add sweet potato to the other vegetables and you get an energetically grounding mix that counteracts the spaciness that can sometime occur after eating sweet things. Eating this sweet soup can help minimize your cravings for other, less healthy, sweets. It balances your blood sugar levels and helps break down animal products.
Oh, and it's bloody delicious!
Cooking time: 30 minutes
4 Parsnips - chopped into equal sized chunks
2 Carrots - chopped into equal sized chunks
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves of garlic - peeled
2 medium sized sweet potatoes - chopped
1 large onion - chopped into equal sized chunks
2 cups of chopped cabbage
6 stalks of thyme
6 cups of vegetable stock (I make my own using stalks from organic chard, kale and broccoli, some herbs and leek tops boiled for about an hour in some lightly salted water)
2 tablespoons of your favorite curry powder
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro/coriander leaves and roasted pumpkin seeds to serve
Toss parsnips and carrots in olive oil and place into a moderate oven and roast until golden brown and soft (approx 20-25 minutes)
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, place potatoes, garlic, onion, cabbage and thyme into the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Boil until sweet potatoes are soft.
Remove stalks of Thyme.
Add the parsnip and carrot to the mix with curry powder. Stir through.
Using a stick/immersion blender blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with some chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of olive oil.
Kimchi - Fermented Wonderfulness
Fermented foods are lacking in the modern day American diet. Cabbage season is in full swing so now's the time to make yourself some delicious Kimchi. Did you know that Koreans eat so much of this super-spicy condiment (40 pounds of it per person each year) that natives say "kimchi" instead of "cheese" when getting their pictures taken?
Total Prep Time : 1 hour
Cook Time : 0 minutes
Ingredients for Day One:
One large Head of cabbage
6 tablespoons of salt
Ingredients for Day 2:
4 scallions, including tops
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Sriracha (or substitute another garlic chili sauce)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup sliced or grated apple (I love Fuji for their wonderful tart sweetness but any kind will do)
1 tablespoon salt
Cut cabbage into 1-inch square pieces, or a large shred like thick coleslaw (I find this cut makes it easier and more versatile once it's done).
Place in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt.
Add water to cover, and mix well.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let stand in a cool place overnight.
Drain the cabbage and rinse quickly under cold running water.
Cut the scallions into 1-inch lengths, then cut lengthwise into thin slices. In a bowl, combine the scallions with the rinsed cabbage, garlic, chili sauce, ginger, sugar, apples, salt and enough water to cover.
Mix well, and place in a quart jar with a lid. Close the jar, and let stand for a few days in a cool place.
Taste mixture every day, and when it has a good balance of flavor and acidity, place in the refrigerator (this usually takes four to five days depending on the warmth and humidity in your kitchen)
The kimchee will keep for two weeks.
Make a Kimchi Fried Rice, Serve with Eggs for Breakfast or make a delicious kimchi bibimbap
One of my favorite times of the year, the holiday season can also be a whirlwind of get togethers, to-do lists and friends and family. At times it can be overwhelming or even downright stressful. If you feel like you are being pulled in many different directions it can be hard to fully enjoy the abundance of the season. Looking after yourself, while important all of the year, becomes even more important.
Take a moment and look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see?
Do you see all your flaws and weaknesses reflected back to you? If so, it may be that you are looking at yourself through a dirty mirror. When we neglect ourselves (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually) we allow a residue to build up around us. We become less vibrant, less fulfilled, a cloudy version of who we really are. By ignoring, or not taking time to care for ourselves we let this warped perspective begin to take over. Instead of seeing love, compassion, and positive energy we begin to see negativity, criticism, neglect, and emotional disconnection.
Ignoring the importance of self care is in essence like never cleaning the mirror in your bathroom. Initially it’s not a big deal you can see things just fine, but in time the smudges and dust build up and before you know it you aren’t seeing things clearly anymore. It happens slowly, so slowly that often you don’t even realize just how much is standing between you and a clear image of yourself and your worth.
Just as you would give your bathroom mirrors a clean before welcoming guests into your home, take some time this holiday season to clean your personal mirror by giving yourself the gift of self care.
This holiday season I challenge you to give yourself the gift of caring about you first. All the other stuff will fall into place.
7 Great ways to give self care this hoiliday season:
1. Prioritize the 4 Pillars of Health
2. Embrace the Spirit of Giving
This doesn't mean you have to buy a gift for everyone, in fact it means the opposite.
The pressure of gift giving can be stressful when it's all about what you buy at the store. It can also be expensive. Instead think of ways that you can give without having to go through the madness of shopping malls and carparks. Things like volunteering at your local homeless shelter or food bank; giving presents just to the kids in your life and donating money to your favorite charity on behalf of the adults; making a batch of homemade cookies or signing your friends up for a CSA box or meal service are all wonderful ways of giving that won't break the bank and help you to avoid the madness of the shops. I also think these great ways to personalize your gifts in a meaningful way.
3. Make a schedule (and stick to it)
Working to a schedule helps de-stress all of the tasks you have to get done by prioritizing and setting limits of time. Most importantly be sure to schedule time for yourself. Come in for an acupuncture treatment, have a massage or just go for a walk in nature and breathe. Your reflection in the mirror will thank you for it.
4. Just say "No"
You will receive invitations to all sorts of things, and often not all of them sound like fun. Ignore the little voice in your head telling you that you "should" attend everything and just pick what works for you. Make time when it's less busy to catch up with people you feel like you may miss out on by not attending. Chances are the time you do catch up will be quality, more personal time without all the pressures of being around so many other people.
5. Reach out to your community
The holidays can be very lonely for many people. If you find yourself alone at the holidays reach out to your local community. Perhaps invite your neighbor over for a cup of tea or take them some of the cookies you made. Volunteering is also a great way of meeting new people!
6. Allow Imperfections
No one is perfect and neither should your holiday be. If the table setting doesn't look like something out of Vogue no-one will mind. If a present isn't what you had in mind, it can always be exchanged. If the mirror in your bathroom doesn't get a chance to cleaned it's all fine. The most important thing is to:
7. Enjoy yourself
Make this holiday season about you! If you enjoy large gatherings and lots of parties -go ahead and indulge. If you prefer to stay in and binge watch your favorite TV show that's up to you. Let go of what doesn't serve you and enjoy the person looking back at you in the mirror.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Tiny Needles.
Thanksgiving is a great holiday as it reminds us to be thankful for friends, family and good food.
Personally I like to think of every day as Thanksgiving day. Some days this can be more difficult than others when stuff doesn't go my way but I've found that by having the Gratitude Attitude even bad days can have a ray of hope in them.
Abundance is all around us... and evident to people in different ways. Perhaps you are grateful for living surrounded by natural beauty, perhaps being surrounded by the buzz of many people in a big city, perhaps eating a good meal, enjoying a glass of wine, being with your friends and family, your beloved family pet, the guy who picks up your trash, the lady that irons your shirts, a co-worker that brings you back a coffee on the Starbucks run, your favorite song on the radio, a funny joke someone tells that makes you laugh out loud.... the list goes on.
I woke up this morning in a bit of a crabby mood because of all that is going on in the world right now. I avoided Facebook as is becoming my new routine (actually not a bad one to have!) I sat quietly with my coffee in a sort of meditation but my cat was acting like a loon, not allowing me to sit quietly. He wanted attention, and lots of it and was bouncing around the place. I admit it - a little irritation started to creep in. But just as that happened he climbed onto my lap, collapsed into an exhausted heap and fell promptly to sleep. I looked at him and couldn't help but be thankful he came into my life.
I have a challenge for you. Take the time this thanksgiving day and every day this week to write down 3 things that you are thankful for. Use the comments section below or share them with a friend. Sharing the gratitude has a greater impact on your own well-being and those you choose to share it with.
Research shows the gratitude attitude has long-reaching affects on our health and wellness; but you won't need to read the research to believe it... just live it and you'll see!
Historically, the western perspective has preferred to discuss the mind and body as if they were separate things. This is not strange as one could easily spend a lifetime on the study of each and still just barely scratch the surface. That said, disciplines that deal with the overlap of the mind/body connection are gaining more and more traction within the mainstream, and Chinese Medicine is one of them.
We have all likely had the experience of how a good night's rest can help to quiet emotions like anger, or how the ability of a brisk walk can aid in gaining clarity on a mentally tough decision. Chinese Medicine, a tradition whose origins date back more than 2000 years, has seen a connection between the body and its various emotional states from the beginning.
In TCM, each emotion is associated with a specific organ system. Grief effects the lungs. Worry effects the digestive system. Stress, anger or irritability effect the liver. Fear shocks the kidneys. And the emotion of over-excitement is even included, which effects the heart.
If we take just a moment to consider these correlations, it is easy to see common manifestations of them.
When we are sad, often there is an aching in the chest, or our breathing may become more shallow (Lungs). With worry, some lose their appetite, or maybe turn to food for comfort (Spleen/Stomach). Both the Lung and the Spleen systems (in TCM) are where we get our daily energies from, so it is not surprising that with the associated emotions of sadness and worry, energy levels might dip.
Stress, which in TCM is said to stagnate Liver Qi, gets relieved when we move our bodies, circulating our qi and blood. Ever find yourself sighing a lot? It's a sign that your Liver Qi is congested. With over-excitement (or anxiousness), we might get a racing heart or a sensation of tightness in our chest.
Acupuncture, like other modalities such as reiki, meditation, massage, yoga or somatic psychotherapy, is a tool that can help us to get in touch with how we hold on to emotional states within our bodies. It can help us move through them when we don't always have the words to describe or access what we are feeling on a conscious level. And it is important to access these emotions, for if we don't have a way to release them, they can turn into deeper health issues down the road.
Have you been feeling out-of-sorts lately and you are not sure why? Maybe an acupuncture treatment can help you feel right again.