Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taoist 5 Elements Nutrition - Spring

Even though we might not think about it much, the food we eat is a form of medicine in that everything that goes into us has some kind of effect on our body – either therapeutic or harmful, it does something to us. We can begin to look at our diet (lifestyle eating habits) as a powerful way to change our health. From a mind-body-spirit viewpoint, food can be used to affect our physical bodies, our emotions, and our sense of purpose in life.

According to Taoist philosophy and Chinese medicine, the Spring season most strongly affects our Wood Element. This includes our physical Liver, the emotions of anger-frustration-resentment, how we respond to stress, and the spiritual potential of being kind and benevolent. Our Liver stores and cleans toxins out of our blood, so it is very important “spring clean” and support our Liver during this season.When our Liver is clogged up or over saturated with toxins that have built up we can experience a variety of health problems like food intolerances, digestive discomfort, physical pain, moodiness, PMS, deteriorating eyesight, finger and toe nail issues, too much anger, and being overly sensitive to daily stress.

Here are some nutritional suggestions for Spring, Liver/Gall Bladder health, and overall lifestyle considerations:

Suggestion #1: ENJOY your food! What fun is it to eat in a way that isn’t delicious and satisfying? This is all too easy to do with things that are fat and sweet, but what about things that are just good for you, like fruits and vegetables? When you eat healthy, think about how wonderful you are being to yourself.

Suggestion #2: Consciously let your food stimulate all of your senses. For example:

Touch/Feel – cut and prepare your food in a way that feels good to your mouth. Do you love to bite into a whole fresh strawberry, or do you tingle all the way down to your fingertips when you eat chopped strawberry pieces on top of hot oatmeal?

See – use several colors together so that when you look at your food it reminds you of a beautiful painting. Imagine a bright green salad with a little bit of chopped white chicken, deep yellow mango chunks, and a pop of little red cherry tomatoes.

Smell – incorporate your favorite spices so that you savor the smell. Pears sprinkled with ground cardamom… mmmm….

Hear – play some nice background music while you eat. Classical, jazz, or acoustic guitar can create the perfect atmosphere.

Taste – mindfully delight in the flavor of your food. Add some fresh home-grown Basil to a salad or pasta sauce, close your eyes, and thoroughly relish each bite.

Mind – use your sixth sense as an intention to allow your body to absorb all of the healing energy from your food. When you eat fresh greens, chew them well, swallow, and feel their energy washing over your Liver.

If you need any help in this area, watch one of the cooking shows on TV and see how the famous chef’s present beautiful scrumptious works of art on their plates.

Suggestion #3: Try to use locally grown organic foods that are naturally growing from the Earth right now. For Spring this is mainly leafy greens and baby vegetables. From your own yard pick some dandelion leaves (that have not been treated with chemicals), wash them, and either put them in a salad or pour some boiling water over a handful to make an infused herbal tea.

Suggestion #4: A fresh juice of carrots and apples is great for your liver! If you have a home juicer, use 4 carrots, 1 apple, and add a few sprigs of parsley (makes 1 serving). If you don’t have a home juicer, get a chair massage at The Oriental Healing Arts Center then walk across the parking lot to Organic Oasis Restaurant and they will make a great fresh juice for you.

Suggestion #5: Goji berries, also known as Gou Qi Zi in Chinese medicine, are becoming popular and easy to find. Very healing to the Liver (when used in moderation as opposed to excess), they are a great edible “herb”. Cook a tablespoon into your oatmeal, or sauté a small handful with chicken or green beans and walnuts. (available at The Oriental Healing Arts Center)

Suggestion #6: Use the “51% Rule”. With all of the above suggestions, try to do these things 51% of the time. Too great a change can lead to frustration or failure, while incorporating a smaller change can still give you good results and you can realistically succeed!

To learn more about cooking with edible herbs for Spring/Liver health, sign up for my workshop on Saturday May 16, 4-6pm. (see details at www.touchoftao.com)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Hospitals Now Offer Complimentary Alternative Medicine

A career in Complimentary Alternative Medicine includes Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic and more. At The Oriental Healing Arts Center, we all love our jobs! This link is to a great article on how a career in this field is expanding in hospitals, offering wider employement opportunities and income options. Why? Because the public loves us!! (And we love them too!)


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anxiety, PTSD, OCD & Massage Therapy

By Susette Jenkins L.M.T.

As a licensed massage therapist, working with excess stress and anxiety is a main theme of my practice. I see mild forms of anxiety, in other words clients expressing that they are feeling anxious about work, relationships or taking their upcoming final exam. I also see more severe cases of chronic anxiety and its related counterparts ranging from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), panic attacks, and depression.

So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is defined as distress, or unease of mind caused by fear or danger of misfortune. Another way to put it is the feelings you have when you are stressed.

With PTSD something triggers a memory and your body reacts as if the threat of the event is happening right now. PTSD can be a result from war, abuse, accident, or natural disaster. In these cases of extreme stresses and fight for survival you do what is necessary to protect and preserve yourself. When life is calm you may not have let go of that wonderful life preserving energy and it is coiled tightly in your body ready for the next attack and as a result you are now overreacting to non-threatening situations.

With OCD you are constantly worrying and doing the same repetitive task over and over again (such as washing you hands, turning a light off and on, or making sure you locked the doors) because it gives you a feeling of control, comfort and security. Again this is a fear-based compulsion because if you weren’t afraid of something why would you need to feel secure?

With panic attacks you can have chest pain, heart palpations, shaking, trouble breathing and sometimes feelings of fear, dread, or going crazy.

People can develop anxiety even if they haven’t been through a traumatic event such as war, abuse, accident or natural disaster. For example, anxiety can manifest from other stressful life situations such as: surgery, pregnancy, miscarriages or childbirths, marriage, divorce, toxic relationships, change of jobs, moving, family illness or the wear and tear of a long term overburdened schedule. It is important to realize that both micro and macro stresses depletes body resources and the energy it needs to function properly.

Depression can occur because you have been in a stressful or anxious state for so long your resources become depleted and you crash.

Truth be told if you look at all the reasons for anxiety the theories are endless (including genetic factors), so let me give it to you from a massage therapist standpoint. Something has happened that has put your body into over-drive. A massage therapist can help restore balance and then enhance health, especially when it is complemented with Oriental medicine techniques and special meditative exercises such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I will describe more about this below.

Breathing & Massage
As massage therapists one of the first things we do is to bring awareness to and support proper breathing.

Correct relaxation breathing is the number one way, in my opinion, to alleviate anxiety. When stressed, your breathing shifts to small shallow gasps of air in your chest rather than slow deep abdominal breaths. This can cause neck and shoulder tension because you are using the smaller muscles in your upper body that quickly become exhausted. You have to breathe more rapidly because lungs aren’t completely filling with oxygen so you compensate for the loss which keeps
you in a state of anxiety and desperation.

With abdominal breathing your diaphragm drops, forming a vacuum to allow air to completely fill your lungs. When your lungs fill properly your internal organs are naturally massaged, promoting them to fulfill their vital functions such as de-toxing your blood and absorbing nutrition from your food. Abdominal breathing also pumps lymph and venous blood (blood retuning to the heart) that runs though the abdomen. Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation portion of the nervous system), which allows full dilation all the way down to the cellular levels so even the capillaries (blood vessels one cell thick) are open and able to deliver oxygen and nutrition to every cell in the body.

The Power of Healing Touch
Just being touched is healing in and of itself. It has been proven over time that out of our 5 senses, touch is the one sense that if not satisfied will cause us to perish. Touch is the first sense that develops when we are an embryo. Healing touch can relay compassion, relaxation, and security. Our deep desire for healing touch comes out in our language, like “Let’s keep in touch”. People who are touch deprived (something very common in our non-touch American society) can try to fill the void with other addictions such as food and alcohol.

Getting a weekly massage even for just 15 minutes is a wonderful way to nurture and put yourself at ease. For people who have anxiety because of previous negative touch experiences, building a professional relationship with an understanding massage therapist can be a wonderful experience. During these customized healing sessions (often times fully clothed) you can experience the feeling of safety touch can bring.

Acupressure and Oriental Medicine
Therapists trained in Oriental medicine are able to make energetic assessments to restore health and balance. Meridians are channels of energy that run though the body and connect with all your systems (urinary, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive etc) Acupressure points are the transistors we use to increase or decrease the function of that system or organ thus helping you attain balance and health at a deeper level. For example we have very specific protocols to help headaches, high blood pressure, IBS, insomnia, and depression. In cases of anxiety everyone is different but your therapist has the ability to customize a treatment protocol and wellness program that is right for you. We usually manipulate the points with special massage techniques and we also have a variety of non-needling techniques we can use, such as:

Cupping: A special suction technique to pull out toxins deep in the body.
Moxa: A special herb used to warm acupressure points or meridians.
Gua Sha: A technique that uses jade or bone as massage tools
Auricular therapy: Similar to reflexology this treatments places beads into points in the ears for a healing effect.

Herbs, essential oils, Five Elements nutrition, or special QiGong exercises may also be used to complement your series of healing session.

Emotional Balance
There are extreme emotional components with anxiety because something has “upset” you and caused you to go into overdrive. It could be something physical, emotional or spiritual, conscious or unconscious. The emotions you feel could be fear, anger, grief, worry or even elation (you know the times you just start laughing hysterically and can’t stop before you crash into a depression again).

From an Oriental medicine perspective emotions are simply viewed as information. “Emotion” is derived from the Latin “e-mot” or “outward moving”, meaning the outward expression of inner feelings. When you become tense you can clamp down on that outward movement. Emotions are after all nothing but a chemical reaction inside your body and can be stored in your tissues.

As you relax in a safe place those emotions can release and continue to move out allowing proper body balance and function to be restored. Even if you are not sharing with your massage therapist the emotion you are experiencing during the session they know how to coach you to relax and breathe though the experience allowing you to internally discover balance, peace, bliss and often times deeply personal insights.

Self-Healing and Empowerment
Tai Chi and QiGong are meditative balancing exercises that can either complement your massage session or be stand-alone therapies. Both teach you proper relaxation breathing and meditative body stances. We always encourage our clients who suffer from chronic anxiety or depression to enroll in one of these classes to support them if they have the desire to manage their own health.
Tai Chi is a Chinese style of martial arts preformed slowly. You may have seen it practiced in the parks around town or on TV. It builds strength and endurance. How it directly applies to anxiety is that it teaches you how to relax under stress so you don’t clamp down on your emotions. Tai Chi takes commitment but you are getting more than exercise. You are teaching your body through movement not only how to be appropriately assertive and protect yourself and be smooth, harmonious and relaxed in the world.

QiGong means “Energy Work”. There are thousands of QiGong exercises. Each is designed to do something different such as lowering high blood pressure or strengthening your tendons. My favorite for anxiety is a QiGong called Ba Duan Jin translating as “8 precious movements for longevity”. Each movement is designed to nurture your internal organs and bring overall balance. It is simple and easy to learn and wonderful to do to transform anxiety and rise above depression.

How to get started:
Please visit us at the Oriental Healing Arts Center 2636 Spenard Rd.
Walk in Services available 7 days a week
Full body healing sessions are available by appointment. We have several levels of therapists to serve you.

General Relaxation Massages and Rejuvenation:
Walk-in Chair Massage & Reflexology foot spa: are available on a walk in basis open Mon-Sat 9am –10pm and Sundays Noon-8pm. This is the best service to alleviate immediate pains and anxieties until a full body session can be scheduled.

Student Clinic: Relax while helping one of our students learn to be a licensed therapist. Students practice daily Qi Gong and meditation and the foundation of oriental medicine and acupressure. Please understand that students are practicing a general relaxation and rejuvenation massage and may not treat serious medical conditions.

Professional: Our top graduates until they have acquired 2 years of experience. Professionals can start customizing their massage towards specific individuals for relaxation and rejuvenation. Hour and a half session’s available.

Therapists Qualified for Therapeutic Treatments & Cases of Chronic Anxiety:

Oriental Healing Massage Therapist:

At least 2years of experience
Additional training in oriental medicine and non-needling techniques
Practice daily meditation and self cultivations of Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga
Many have studied in China or with Chinese masters
Have the ability to customize a session right for you.

Master Massage Therapist:
At least 5 years of experience
Additional training in Oriental medicine and non-needling techniques
Practice daily meditation and self cultivations of Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga
Have studied in China or with Chinese masters
Have achieved a higher level of Cultivation and Intuition
Have the ability to customize a session right for you.

Master Healer & Spiritual Director:
25 years experience in the Taoist Arts (Chinese Medicine)
Tai Chi & QiGong Master and Instructor
Herbal Consultations
Sees the root of the disease on the spiritual level
Specializes in: Energy Healing, Qi Healing, Spiritual Healing
Serious requests only

Susette Jenkins is an Oriental Healing Massage therapist at the Oriental Healing Arts Center. She works with Anxiety and Depression as well as PMS, IBS, Headaches and Fibromyalgia. She is available for workshops and teaches Tai Chi and Ba Duan Jin Qi Gong on Wednesday Nights 7:30-8:30pm
Other Beginner Tai Chi, QiGong classes available 7 days a week. For more information visit our Center or web site at www.touchoftao.com

Anxiety & Acupuncture

By Paulette Marin, D.O.M., L.Ac.

While conventional medicine is primarily concerned with a physical reason or cause of symptoms, Acupuncture, as a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, looks for mind-body-spirit links to chronic illness. Even though many of the symptoms are physical, we look for an emotional or spiritual disharmony going on that corresponds to the physical message the body is producing. Acupuncture treats both the physical body and emotional mind at the same time, seeing no separation between the two.

An acupuncturist will do an in-depth health intake that focuses strongly on your lifestyle, as inappropriate lifestyle is seen as the main cause of disease. Specifically, some of the main causes of disease are:

1 Improper diet
2 Too much work
3 Not enough rest/sleep
4 Too much emotional upset
5 Lifestyle not harmonious with external environment

An energetic diagnosis will be made based on the relative strength or weakness of your internal organs from a Chinese Medicine point of view, and the relationship of your internal organs in working harmoniously with each other. An acupuncturist will then use a variety of treatment techniques including things such as very fine needles, herbal formulas, and qigong exercises to re-balance your mind-body-spirit system. Often, lifestyle is addressed to show how changes in some areas will help to alleviate your symptoms.

A basic energetic view of anxiety is a disconnection or lack of communication between Fire (the heart) and Water (the kidneys). Fear is the emotion most associated with the Water element. Usually we can point to something we are afraid of, like heights, or snakes, or the dark. Joy is the emotion associated with the Fire (the heart). Anxiety lives more in that connection between the Fire and Water.

Anxiety can be a bit more free-floating than fear, and is sometimes harder to define. In the ancient Chinese classic text, the Ling Shu, anxiety is described as the feeling of going too far or too fast. We probably have all experienced that feeling at one time or another. If it becomes a chronic state of being however, disharmonies in one’s health can occur.

As the Water energy of the body, located in the pelvic area, is heavy, calm, and acts an anchor for the heart (Fire). The Fire energy of the body, located in the chest, is light and energetic. Imagine a strong anchor holding a balloon on a string. Water energy would be the anchor and Fire energy would be the balloon. The balloon string is the connection between the two. When chronic anxiety symptoms occur, there is an energetic image of the anchor (Water) not being strong enough to hold onto the balloon (Fire). The balloon is shaking or let loose as the anchor struggles to regain control of it. The acupuncturist will re-establish control of the balloon (Fire).

Acupuncture has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for symptoms of anxiety when used alone, and the effectiveness can be increased with the use of Chinese herbal formulas and the practice of special QiGong exercises and Tai Chi.

Paulette Marin is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Director of the Acupuncture Program at The Oriental Healing Arts School of Massage Therapy.

Anxiety: Herbal Tea & Meditation

By Karen Eckman, LMT

Herbal tea and meditation are two of the best natural fixes for anxiety. The drinking of beverages stimulates our digestion, which is associated with feeling grounded and secure. Two of the most recommended herbs for anxiety are Valerian and Kava Kava (be sure not to use Kava Kava if you have Liver disease). Both are very easy to find at the store. A favorite anxiety tea is chamomile, valerian and lemon zest, about a teaspoon total steeped in hot water for five minutes. Another blend is valerian, thyme, and lavender. These are meant to aid relaxation short term, so only use occasionally or for periods shorter than two months. Longer than that can increase anxiety, which is where meditation comes in.

Think of meditation as the quick fix you can do any time. Allow yourself the opportunity to turn away from outside stressors and focus on your inner calm. Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe. Notice if your breath is high in your chest. If it is, allow yourself to relax and move your breath to your belly. Now take a moment to take a mini vacation. Imagine you are on a beach somewhere warm. Use your five senses to bring you to your beach. You see bright sun, calm sparkling water, birds, and a long stretch of beach where you are all alone to relax. Feel the sand between your toes. Feel the wind caressing your skin. All you can here is the gentle waves, and the sounds of birds. Perhaps you can taste the salt on the air and the feeling of the warm air going in and out on your breath. You smell the sun and the salt and the clean fresh air. Take time to observe the crispness of the colors around you, especially the blue of the sky and the water. Whenever you are here at your private beach, everything is in its place and you don’t have any cares. You beach is just for you, private and safe. You can even imagine the perfect beach blanket or beach chair to relax on. Make this your private oasis for you to use anytime.

Also fun and very effective is to combine the two. Prepare your tea and make time, ten to fifteen minutes to sit, sip your tea, and spend some time at your own secluded place. Visualization has a wonderful effect on your physiology, and has the magic to take you any place you want to go. Even to a calmer peace of mind. “

Karen Eckman is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Herbal Apprentice at The Oriental Healing Arts Center. 907-279-0135

Anxiety & Tai Chi

By Lao Shih Clint Seyer

What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an excess condition arising from our internal relationship with external affairs. Anxiety is the uneasiness caused by our acquired insecurity of the unknown based on past experiences. A pre-anxiety state is initiated when the mind focuses on unfavorable “What if...” outcomes of a future interaction, desire or event. The thought of “What if...” becomes “charged” with emotional distress from internalized emotional trauma of past experience. When a thought becomes emotionally “charged”, it inflames a sense of urgency to the “What if...” thought, making it appear more real. This charged reaction generates a sense of insecurity (threat). This mental/emotional “perception” signals the body to constrict into a hyper-alert survival mode (tension) resulting in the physical manifestations of anxiety. When these energetic psycho/emotional/biological elements fuse we experience a fully manifested state of anxiety (energetic excess).

Anxiety trademarks include: overall muscle tension and constriction, quick shallow breathing, stomach upset, “butterflies” or nausea, obsessive thought, hyper-sensitivity, headaches, high blood pressure, perspiration or cold sweats, nervousness, emotional withdrawal, irrationality or irritability and in extreme cases “panic attacks”. Simply put, a condition of anxiety is initiated when the mind focuses on what could happen and not what is happening. Over time, this pattern becomes our primary template of internal response to external interactions, desires and/or events. When this occurs, anxiety becomes a chronic disharmony that will diminish our quality of life. However, we have a choice of how we feel and respond. We can re-invent our response patterns through the time-proven oriental healing arts.

The tonic to prevent or alleviate anxiety lies in intervention, education, re-training internal patterns and mindful awareness. Intervention may include massage, herbal support, and counseling. Opportunities for understanding life’s energetic principles are available through workshops at the Oriental Healing Arts Center. Re-training of thought, emotional and lifestyle patterns can be learned through Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation classes. The community at the Oriental Healing Arts Center invites you to explore the many avenues for positive intervention, education and training available.

Tai Chi and Qigong cultivate self-empowering practices we can use to defuse the spiraling cycles of anxiety. The anxiety cycle begins with a consciousness of uneasiness heightened by emotional distress, manifesting in physical tension that focuses the mind on the heightened uneasiness adding more emotional charge and creating more tension. While anxiety is a normal response to uncomfortable situations, unchecked it can become self destructive to one’s desired goals. Finding ways to manage anxiety through internal intervention offers many rewarding opportunities for enrichment, success and satisfaction in life. Tai Chi and Qigong cultivate the profound mental and physical skills to alleviate anxiety in the student.

The first intervention is awareness which is a primary benefit of learning Tai Chi and Qigong. We can not take action for self care if we do not realize we need self care. It is common to underestimate or ignore our stress levels. These practices effectively elevate the mind’s sensitivity to one’s state of relaxation or disharmony. Students cultivating awareness can intervene earlier and more effectively to defuse anxiety through acquired Tai Chi and Qigong relaxation techniques.

As anxiety’s internal tension manifests, the student is trained to respond with slow, deep, mindful breathing that is essential to the practices of Tai Chi and Qigong. The breathing techniques are not simply “taking a break”, but a specific, focused and intentional technique with a predictable outcome of relaxation. This occurs because the mind can only focus attention on a single conscious thought in any one moment. When the mind focuses internally on slowing and “lowering” the breath, the engaged mind quiets. This detaches the consciousness from the “external” distress and enhances biological events that encourage a state of relaxation. The spiraling energetic excesses of anxiety begin to reverse.

As the agitated mind/body state eases, the Taoist arts student has several options to further restore calm within. One option is mindful detached observation and release of mental/emotional/muscle tension. Another is Qigong; a discipline of coordinating mind, breath and simple movement and posture. Tai Chi provides a series of whole-body meditative movements in harmony with the breath. With these options, the mind calms, the body relaxes, and emotional charges subside. This allows one to observe difficult circumstances with a receptive, quiet mind rather than drown in escalating mind chatter. This ability to quiet the mind, invites clarity, inspiration and insight and with it; empowerment. With practice, students develop new, healthy stress-response patterns that bring calm, confidence and opportunity to personal challenges.

These mindful and empowering disciplines are mastered through Tai Chi and Qigong training. As the student internalizes these arts, life becomes easier, more fulfilling and harmonious. As successes grow with practice, the mind and body respond more easily and quickly because they work and have for millions over countless centuries. My tai chi/qigong students often comment on their increased sense of confidence, enjoyment and self reliance from their training. They cultivate skills that offer an alternative to stress, anxiety and crisis thinking. Learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable and create opportunity over your anxiety.

Clint Seyer

Anxiety & Massage Therapy

By Adam Butler, LMT
We live in a world of instant communications, express shipping, and drive- through everything. We can board a plane at dawn and be virtually anywhere in the world by the time the sun sets. Yet in this world of ever increasing speed, it seems that one thing we cannot escape is stress. Work, school, family, the economy; sometimes it seems that we are under a constant bombardment from all sides. All these constant pressures translate into stress which builds up in the body until the stress overloads the system.

Most people are aware of the physical manifestations of too much stress, knotted muscles and physical fatigue, but many people are unaware that too much stress also manifests mentally and emotionally. One of the most common psycho-emotional manifestations of stress is anxiety. Anxiety is an internal response to stress and includes symptoms of fear, apprehension, and worry as well as physical sensations such as palpitations, chest pain, sweating, and/or shortness of breath.

While it is normal for everyone to experience some degree of anxiety in their lives, more and more people are developing anxiety disorders and experience intense and prolonged periods of distress and uneasiness, often for no apparent reason. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people, including 40 million adult Americans, are affected by anxiety disorders and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 major depression, which includes anxiety disorders, will be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

It’s pretty clear that this is significant problem that is greatly affecting the lives of many people. So, what can massage do to help? One of the major ways massage helps to relieve anxiety is by relieving the stress that is often an underlying cause for the anxiety. Massage has been used for this purpose since ancient times by every culture on Earth. While this is significant in and of itself, research has shown that the benefits of massage extend beyond just stress relief. Numerous studies have demonstrated that massage decreases depressed moods, anxiety levels, and stress hormones and a study comparing massage to other relaxation techniques showed that while all the techniques studied resulted in lower anxiety levels, the group receiving massage additionally showed changes in behavior and stress hormone levels.

So for anyone suffering under the burden of an anxiety disorder, or for anyone who feels the pace of life is leaving them behind, remember there is something safe and natural to be done. The gentle, comforting, nurturing touch of a massage therapist can help you shed your unease. A caring touch is just a phone call away.

Adam Butler is available by appointment for Massage Therapy at 907-279-0135.