My girlfriend forwarded me an article entitled, "Got Snot? Top 3 Reasons (And Solutions) From Ayurveda", wondering if it would be a good solution to her Spring allergies. Now, with the wacky titles and topics I choose to ramble about on this blog, I should've been all over this. Not so - that snot silliness sat in my inbox unopened for two days! When grumpy asked me why I hadn't read her email, I asked her for a summary. My brain tuned out at the mention of "Boo Candy", which is what the author of the article calls turmeric honey at home around her kid. After another tongue lashing, I finally checked it out.
I must say this stuff seems awesome! It's pretty much just a crazy-staining yellow spice called turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory) mixed with raw honey. You can think of local raw honey like a flu shot for your eyes, nose and sinuses against allergies - it contains small amounts of the allergens, allowing your body to build up it defenses against whatever is causes it to go buck wild in that awful sneezy, itchy way.
I figured if I was gonna mix up vat of the stuff for my girlfriend, I should give it a whirl myself. The turmeric takes a little getting used to, but once I did I kinda started looking forward to my daily dosage of "the boo stuff". I can't fairly evaluate the effectiveness against allergies since I don't have them (yet... DMV area transplants seems to magically manifest allergies after being in the area for awhile). However, I did notice something else. Even with just a tiny 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric honey a couple times a day, my sugar cravings went down significantly! Often when one has a craving for sugar, it's the body's signal that it is seeking nourishing food. This quest is not only for calories; it is an attempt to get all the vitamins, minerals, and qi necessary for optimal functioning. Is boo candy the perfect dessert? You be the judge.
I get a little sad when I notice that a client that I've been seeing for a few weeks drops off the radar; they are nowhere to be found on the schedule for the foreseeable future. As acupuncturists, we are trained in a medicine that is very effective, but also very natural. As such, in many cases it takes a considerable amount of time and stick-to-it-ness for most ailments to resolve, just like you're not going to lose those 20 pounds after two weeks at the gym. Whether it's anxiety, back pain, digestive issues, or an irregular menstrual cycle, the struggles we face were not created overnight. Our bodies, minds, and emotions have been locked into no-so-great patterns often for years before the issue starts screaming loud enough for us to decide it's time to do something about it. The last ditch effort that many turn to, acupuncture, may be a concept better grasped as "acu-cise":
- Isn't this supposed to be fun? Maybe, but most times not right out of the gate. Just like exercise is uncomfortable and unfamiliar to your body in the beginning, acupuncture is foreign to the mind in the early stages. Lying still for half an hour with acupuncture pins and running on a treadmill can both be a boring chore until you get used to it.
- I don't think it's working... Human beings are simultaneously very complex and very simple. Often if exercise isn't working, it's because there are numerous other factors involved. However, you don't need Scooby Doo to solve the mystery - sleep, diet, and lifestyle are often just as important to getting into shape. The same applies to acupuncture, literally. Acupuncture sets the stage for appropriate changes to sleep, diet, and lifestyle (including exercise) to help your body and mind heal.
- [Fill in the blank] hurts! When you are working out to increase muscle mass, you are literally exercising to the point where the muscle fibers tear on a microscopic level. Take solace in knowing the pain and soreness is going to be repaired by your body shortly, and when it does it'll be stronger than it was before. In additional to any brief physical discomfort acupuncture pins can cause, sometimes they bring up deeper physical and emotional pain that's impeding progress. If you stick with the process long enough, the storm passes and sunny days lie ahead.
- Finally! Now I can get on with my life... It took hard work to get that Hollywood body - don't you want to keep it? That's why the gym is home to "the fit of the fit" and "those struggling to get with it" alike. Exercise works best when done regularly, even if you don't feel like you need it. Acupuncture is very similar, and often even more life-changing if done over time. Not only will regular acupuncture help you maintain your calm, clear-headed, pain-free self, it can help boost the immune system and help you negotiate life better. Little things that you thought were "just the way I am" will also begin to change, and insights to some of your life-long recurring troubles begin to bubble to the surface.
Dianne Connelly, one of the founders of what is now called the Maryland University of Integrative Health, used to always say to us, "Life is not a one-walk dog." It was her clever and poetic way of impressing upon us that the "work" is never over, and we must choose to practice the things that bring us health and happiness over and over again. So whether it is a healthy diet, regular exercise, daily meditation, consistent acupuncture, or ideally a combination of all of the above, settle on your own personal health recipe and stick to it.
I recently got "re-hooked" on this addictive little mobile app game (sad I know). It's set up so you get a limited amount of turns unless you pay $3.99 for the full version. The other option is to watch a video to get a few extra turns. I say video, but what I mean is a string of ads for other similar addictive games. It all of the sudden hit home with full force how much of a digital stimulation sinkhole we are all desperately trying to drag ourselves out of. A man with lesser willpower would have downloaded all six of those little games and been stuck in a recursive gaming loop until the end of time (I only downloaded three lol!). Many of us suffer the seemingly unrelated consequences of constant stimulation.
According acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the root causes of many mystery syndromes such as migraines, insomnia, and bipolar disorder stem from our bodies suffering a diminished capacity to self-regulate. Western medical scans and tests are inconclusive many times because the illness is not physical yet; it's on an energetic level, and our bodies as energetic systems (skeptics turn on some speakers and explain the buzzing noise that happens when you touch the little metal doohickie that plugs into your computer or stereo) are impacted in a real way by the outside energies to which we subject ourselves. Whether it's HD TV, Excel spreadsheets, Netflix, or Call of Duty, technology has provided us a veritable unlimited supply of "virtual caffeine". The tragedy is even though we know all these things cause the mental fatigue, lack of focus, and foggy thinking that over time cause bigger issues, the ubiquitous nature of these "digital durgs" makes withdrawing from the cyber rat race difficult to say the least.
So what can we do? The answer is relatively simple: unplug. The more you "be still" versus "do something fun or productive", the greater chance your body and mind will have to repair and restore balance to its energetic system. But how? Acupuncture is king (or queen if you prefer!) among ways to accomplish this. There is actually a protocol that has been used for decades to help people de-stress and detox from all sorts of addictions including drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, work, etc. It's called the NADA protocol, and it uses five ear points:Shen Men
: helps reduce anxiety, calm the mind, and restore a sense of authentic joySympathetic
: helps relax the nervous system and take your body out of "fight, flight, or freeze" modeKidney
: helps clear the kidneys, reduce fear, and increase willpower for kicking an addictionLiver
: helps aid the detoxification of the liver, reduce frustration, and give a sense of hope for overcoming addictionLung
: helps clear the lungs, reduce tightness and constriction in the chest, and restore the sense of connectedness to something bigger than yourself
This combination of points is so effective that people all over the world (including Hollywood stars
) are having them activated with acupuncture pins or other techniques to help restore balance and well-being to their lives. Even a gentle self-ear massage works wonders! My selfish hope for the world is that community and group acupuncture clinics will become as commonplace as coffee shops and fast food restaurants, giving everyone a chance to "unplug" from our digital lives and tap into a deeper sense of peace, happiness, and and well-being.
I recently switched to Lavender and White Tea natural deodorant. If I wasn't already, I am now officially the girliest dude in my family. I remember coming home all banged up from high school basketball practice and my mom would ask me if I wanted to take a hot bath. Uh, no! How ultra-uncool is it for a teenage wanna-be jock to take a bubble bath?! 12 years later and 20+ yoga classes under my belt, I sit in the very bath I vowed never to stand for. Well, almost… a few less bubbles and a little more Epsom salt than my mom’s brew, but still every bit as “pampery”.
The common sentiment out there is that we should suck it up and tough it out. Whether “it” is work woes or a bum back, the take home message is the same – push through it. It’s not until “it” has kept us up for 7 sleepless nights in a row that we cave into taking care of the problem. But the real problem is that we should be taking care of ourselves in order to avoid getting into the mess in the first place. Baths and aromatherpy, acupuncture and massage, herbal tea and fresh food – these are the keys to helping our bodies and minds maintain their ability to heal and ward off disease and defect. Far from a luxury, good self-care is what allows us to thrive!
My girlfriend and I recently ran straight trough this year’s hardcore flu like a running back through a weak defensive line. A day of a few sniffles and minimal bodyaches were all the poor bug managed to muster against our full-blown alternative medicine assault. The day went something like this:
7:00 AM dropper-full of Echinechea/Golden Seal
7:03 AM: vitamin C gummy bear with zinc (my girlfriend is a bit of a kid when it comes to pills)
7:30 AM: herbal tea
8:30 AM: hot bath with epsom salt
10:15 AM: more Echinechea/Golden Seal
10:16 AM: Gan Mao Ling (Chinese herb version of Echinechea)
2:13 PM: more herbal tea
3:45 PM: another vitamin C gummy
4:00 PM: power nap
5:43 PM: more Echinechea/Golden Seal
6:20 PM: soup with fresh garlic, ginger, and scallions
6:45 PM: more Gan Mao Ling
8:32 PM: vitamin C gummy
9:45 PM: Gua Sha (“skin scraping”, but really more like a massage)
9:58 PM: Bed time
Sounds like a lot, but most of these things are just a matter of remembering to do them, and doing them often enough for them to work. And if it’s a choice between a couple of 30-minute baths and some herbs, versus taking 3 days off of work and feeling miserable while doing it, I’ll opt for the girly man health regimen any day of the week.
Like Foghat said, "...take it easy" (more on this in a bit).
I'm named after my grandfather, who's a New Year's baby. Add my birthday being January 12th to the mix, and it's easy to see why I have a thing for New Year's. Did you know that folks born around this time of year are Capricorn according to the astrological chart? Hard-working, responsible, dedicated... words that describe these "mountain-climbing" people. And now that I've laid my credentials out on the table, I propose once again to take it easy, because it's a slow ride.
New Year's resolutions are a powerfully motivating, yet fleeting phenomenon. Why? For starters it's still cold outside. For the 62% of you out there that have a diet or exercise goal folded into your January 1st pact, know that your body has thousands of years of history and genetics telling it to rest and consume as many calories as possible. So set your weight goals, but set small, easy to achieve ones. Then once you reach them, set more. Baby steps could help you crawl right out of the "tight" spot you're in.
And remember it's a slow ride, so you'll need to fill up the ol' gasoline tank on the way. One of my favorite things to do is co-opt other holidays to renew my New Year's pledges. Chinese New Year (Sunday February 10th this year) is a fabulous time to recommit to your goals. And after you've cut your teeth with relatively easy goals, you can really take things to the next level over Lent. The practice of giving up something for six weeks has sealed the deal for me many times. I even keep July 4th on the schedule as the day I "declare my independence" from whatever is stopping me from being completely awesome!
Whatever your resolutions are for 2013, I wish you plenty of endurance, stamina, and fortitude in getting there. Change is hard work, and like anything hard, you just have to keep chipping away at it until you break through. Take it easy.
That's something that one of my former acupuncturists used to say. Millions of people regard December 25th as one of the holiest days of the year. Another segment of the population observes a whole 8-day stretch during the winter that often coincides with December 25th. You've also got the 7-day stretch of celebration that starts on the 26th. December 21st gets some pretty good press too - it is the shortest day of the year in terms of actual daylight hours, and nature worshipers out there find significance in this shift from days getting shorter to days getting longer.
I find it fascinating that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice are all significant days of reverence, and have something to do with light (or the lack thereof). So no matter what belief you ascribe to, there is something special about this time of year that goes very deep. I remember as a kid being torn away from the weeklong post-Christmas toy extravaganza to go to church on New Year's Eve. Sitting on a rock hard pew for hours waiting for the stroke of midnight while being lectured to about the exploits of people who passed away long ago was at the bottom of my list of things to do as a 12-year-old. In fact, church as a whole was a challenge for me - sometimes I listened to the minister, but mostly it was a back and forth between doodling on the program and struggling to keep my sleepy head from rolling over and slowly crushing my little brother.
Even though being a life-sized bobble head doll for 2 hours was rough on my neck, I always felt different after church. I always said I felt "clean", but maybe "lighter" is a better description. Many of my acupuncture clients leave saying similar things - Calm. Peaceful. Lighter. Clearer. I think there is something to be said about forcing yourself to sit still and be quiet for a while. Something inside shifts; the spirit (which I like to think of as the tiny piece of God you carry around with you at all times) gets a chance to renew, or re-center, or whatever it is spirits do. Whether it's listening to quiet music at home on a cold rainy day, spending an hour at a place of religious worship, chillaxin' in a recliner for some acupuncture, or sitting next to a lake or stream for a bit, take some time to be still this month and see what lies inside. Happy Holy Days, and may they help you be more whole and well.
One word: Chipotle
I find this string of rapidly expanding burrito joints pretty amazing. Chipotle, you're my idol! Here's why: they sit triumphantly at the crossroads between seemingly conflicting parts of our food culture, delivering us an option that solves many problems at once. This is the culinary conundrum boiled down to its essence:
- Healthy restaurant food (desirable) is relatively expensive (undesirable).
- Restaurant food that is served fast (desirable) is largely unhealthy (undesirable).
- Restaurant food that is inexpensive (desirable) is largely unhealthy (undesirable).
- Healthy and tasty home-cooked meals (desirable) are time-consuming and require skill to prepare (undesirable).
Now obviously there are a bunch of other factors in play, but this is the bare-bones dilemma that many of us face when deciding what our "face stuffing" will have in it. And I should say hefty bones dilemma, because chaotic jobs and home lives combined with money woes make speed and cost the driving forcing for many of us when choosing food... so we drive directly to the closest McDonald's (who, FYI, used to own the majority of Chipotle stock... how bout that for a plot twist?).
So how does Chipotle help guide us out of the Bermuda Food Triangle? For around $7, you can walk away with a meal that is healthy, served fast, inexpensive, and tasty.
With their naturally-raised, antibiotic-free animal products and lightning fast food preparers, they give people a great burrito (or chicken burrito bowl if you're following the latest Chipotle craze) in just a few minutes. The restaurant itself has a trendy and stylish, yet casual feel. So how do they make their profit? Because they lower their prices and use simple, yet elegant systems to deliver a few quality options, they are able to satisfy the needs of a large portion of the population. These satisfied folks come back and bring their friends and... presto, you've got people putting individual drops into the Chipotle money bucket, but instead of a leaky faucet rate of drops, you've got a torrential downpour of drops coming in!
So what does this have to do with community acupuncture? We use our simple, yet effective systems of acupuncture that involve mostly arm and leg points to meet the health needs of a large percentage of folks out there. And because we don't charge an arm and a leg, you can run out and tell your friends about how awesome community acupuncture is! It is healthy, served fast, inexpensive, and...
well not really tasty
, but definitely relaxing, mind-clearing, and ailment-healing.
So I'm sure many of you were impressed with my vast wine knowledge demonstrated in the first part of this series. How did I become such a huge wine connoisseur? Yep, you guessed it - Google. I love Google for many of the same reasons I love community acupuncture. And reason numero uno is that they both increase access to something extremely valuable (i.e., knowledge and healthcare), and make it affordable to just about everyone. Would it be nice to be able to sprint off to the doctor's office every time I had a scratchy throat? Maybe - they could tell me whether I was up against the common cold, strep throat, or this year's farm animal flu. Then again, maybe not. For many of us, that option is neither practical nor affordable.
So even though teasing out the symptoms using WebMD and a little Google, followed by a quick run to CVS may not be perceived as high quality, it is affordable and effective for 95% of what the average person will encounter. Community acupuncture is very similar when compared to one-on-one acupuncture. For the people that can afford the 100 bucks for their private acupuncture session, I say go for it. But if you're like me, it sure is nice to be able to pay $25. And even though without the private room I can't get pins in my back, and I can hear the guy next to me snoring, it doesn't mean I'm not receiving something that is quality.
One of my favorite quality returns a person gets from consistent community acupuncture treatments is a bit more subtle than the others. I like to think of it as "DIY acupuncture". I like home improvement shows, and there are two types. In the first type, they tell the homeowner to go away for awhile, then proceed to totally deck out the place, and finally the homeowner returns and is hysterical, speechless and bedazzled. In the other version, the show sends in a professional who has a tight budget, and this person helps homeowners do the work themselves. At the end, the homeowner is a little tired, but amazed at what they could do with a little help, and proud of the progress they made.
I've gotten both types of responses from acupuncture clients. When I used to do private sessions, I'd get a lot of folks who were amazed at what my treatment had done to reduce their anxiety; I usually spent about 30 minutes counseling them about it followed by a 15-minute acupuncture treatment. My favorite experiences, though, are with the community acupuncture clients who lie in the recliners for 45 minutes before signaling me over to pull out pins. When I ask how their treatment was, they often talk about how they were able to get themselves to relax after 20 minutes with the aid of the pins. They have a sense that they had an essential part in whatever healing took place in the session. I like community acupuncture because for a nominal amount, I get to help set the stage for people to do their own healing work.
This past weekend, an acupuncturist friend of mine was on the fence about doing private treatments versus doing it community style. I said, "Yeah, there are merits to both. Just look at all the possible ways to practice acupuncture kinda like a buffet; it's all food, just pick what best suits your appetite." Her response: "Yeah, but is it all quality food?"
I've gotten this question/viewpoint from instructors and peers before. To sum it up, the assumption is that the more time the practitioner spends with the client, the better the treatment. I began my acupuncture journey with full-body, private sessions like most folks, was trained to practice in this manner at Tai Sophia, and continue to have many friends and colleagues that only do private treatments. So when one of them questions the effectiveness of what clinics like OurSpace are doing, I do give the inquiry some thought.
Here's my first thought on the matter: Quality is often correlated with time, but not always. A bottle of 1962 Domaines Barons de Rothschild Chateau Lafite Rothschild costs around $1,300. On the other hand, you can raid your kid's piggy bank and grab some 2012 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc for 13 bucks. The extra time and effort it takes to raise that organic chicken (not to mention the fact that it literally grows slower than its chemically enhanced cousin) is why it tastes even more like chicken than regular chicken does. More time = Higher quality = Higher cost.
So where does that leave community acupuncture and its whopping 5 minutes of speaking with a repeat client before inserting pins, when compared to the 15-30 minutes you'll get in a one-on-one acupuncture session? Is it really the cheap, fast-food version of its three-course meal, two forks cousin? (Why are salad forks so small anyway? Makes it so hard to get the broccoli and the tomato on the darn thing at the same time...) I don't think so based on the gentle sleepy smile that is plastered on the faces of many of my clients as they float out of the door. It turns out less can be more: less time talking up front leaves more time for the client to rest with the acupuncture pins. Sometimes the acupuncturist treating in the private room says something very profound for the client, and the extra time spent on conversing pays huge dividends. Other times, after the first few minutes of checking in, nothing that will alter the course of the treatment is revealed.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to what do you expect when you request chicken for dinner (yes, the thing I like even more than acupuncture is food... chicken food) - do you want the half grilled chicken with a side salad or the chicken and rice casserole with green beans? Both take about an hour to prepare and cook. Both have a lot of good stuff in them. One has more chicken. And that ol' community acupuncture chicken don't cost an arm, or rather a wing and a leg.
Next week: How you're served makes a big difference.
Being that today is Election Day, the subject of this post should be a no-brainer... to someone that has a normal brain. Be it good or bad for you, I have to admit that my noodle is many things, but normal is not one of them. Let's see how far away we can stray from the subject of politics... I added curry powder to scrambled eggs the other day - delicious! Oh, and because we bought two cartons of organic eggs on sale before vacation, then bought eggs on vacation and brought some back because we didn't finish them, we now have a egg stockpile that would have you thinking today is Easter Sunday rather than Election Tuesday. Are we sensing a theme here? You guessed it: eggs.
I love 'em. They're the perfect food. Easy to make? Check. Inexpensive? Check. Plays well with other food. Triple check! Chop up the rest of that tomato, sprinkle in some baby spinach, and toss in those mushrooms that are past their prime and you have the perfect breakfast salad with a protein boost big enough to keep you going until lunch time. Left over rice + onion + egg = a quick and satisfying fried rice dinner. Sure, the jury is still out over just how many a healthy cholesterol level can handle, but nobody's perfect right?
Whether you like 'em scrambled or over-easy, use 'em to bake a cake or boil 'em for a portable snack, a healthy egg white omelet or a guilty egg nog pleasure, eggs are the versatile kitchen staple that has something to offer everyone. They are there when you need them and while they are rarely the star of the show, they provide what is needed to ensure the job is complete. Economical, practical, dependable, and when cracked open mostly transparent... 2016: The Egg for President?