Saturday, December 25, 2010

Juice Fasting: Day 2

Christmas Day - I can't believe my kids slept in (which means I also got to)! I'm very low key on the holiday, but apparently Santa stopped by with something small and fun for the kids to play with.
Last night the abdominal massage I did with Marjoram essential oil felt incredible. This morning I got up and did a little extra personal hygiene to go along with the fast: face mask with French green clay, rose hip seed oil, and water followed by a nice long body brushing, and then an essential oil blend of Rose Geranium and Combava in jojoba carrier oil immediately after my shower while still wet. All this with a fresh juice of carrots, apples, orange, lemon and lime for breakfast - what a way to start the day!
I've felt very clean and light all day. Morning yoga and tai chi was smooth and strong, like my muscles were enjoying going extra slow with my mind focused deeply inside.
Even though it is just barely above zero, I've felt a little on the cold side today so have kept most of the juices warm. More tomato with cayenne and flax seed oil, and instead of the leek/watercress broth today I've had plenty of my favorite liver cleansing "tea": 1-2 slices each of organic lemon and lime, a small dollup of maple syrup, covered in just boiled water.
My sister is doing great. I laughed yesterday because after the first juice she started talking about recipes I could cook after we are done. Today she got up early and has been very motivated to organize a lot of stuff. Wow - I'm doing that again too!
One of the biggest things I notice about fasting is that time slows down. It really seems like I always get an incredible amount of things done in a short period of time. I become very aware of how much time is normally spent cooking and eating food. (Passing thought - "wouldn't it be great to juice fast every day, or for a really long time?")
How long will I continue the fast? I'm not sure - this time I planned to feel and listen to my body rather than pre-determining a set amount of time. So far I feel great, clear, light, happy, and as far as hunger goes we've both been very satisfied from the juices. I'll probably go another 2-4 days and then ease lightly back into eating normal again. I like to end a fast by making a rice congee and eating just that for one day, then adding vegetables to it the next day.
Tonight I'll do another abdominal massage, this time with Coriander essential oil. The fast will continue pretty much the same as today. My body will feel hungry again when it's time to be done. Until then, I love juice fasting!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Juice Fasting: Day 1

It's December 24th, 3 days past solstice, and time for my annual cleansing fast. My sister did this with me last year, and she wants to do it again - yeah! It's more fun with a friend.

Successful fasting takes preparation, intention, and getting into the mindset. I've been saving this time off for over a month, so I'm ready. My intention this time? Internal cleanliness and beauty - a gift to myself this winter season.

I went grocery shopping a few days ago to make sure I had lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to juice and make warm clear broths with. Plus over the last few days I've been eating lighter to prepare my body.

Today I woke up and had a large glass of water because I was thirsty. After running a few quick work related errands, I came home and made the first juice: 5 carrots, 3 green apples, 1/2 lemon, 1 small tangerine (all organic). Delicious!!

After drinking this I put on a special pot of broth that will sit warming all day, and I'll drink some whenever I feel the urge. Take 1 leek washed and cut into large chunks, the other 1/2 of the lemon from the carrot/apple juice, 1 handful fresh parsley, and 1 bunch fresh watercress. Put into a large pot (I used a 4-quart size), cover with water, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then turn off and ladle out the clear broth as desired. Reheat as necessary.

I started to incorporate this broth into fasting several years ago whan I read a great book called "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano. She basically said that if she noticed her clothes getting a little tight, she would immediately make a leek or watercress broth and drink it for a weekend, thus going back to a trim size where her clothes would fit well again. The broth is a diuretic, but also nourishing. I add parsley for the vitamin C and lemon for a little extra flavor. The leek is great for the lungs during fall/winter. I've recommended it to several clients who have had excess edema they needed to clear and everyone found it to be delicious.

After sipping a few cups of warm broth throughout the afternoon, I just made a second juice from 4 tomatoes, 1 carrot, 1/2 lemon, 3 small cloves garlic, and a chunk of cabbage. I lightly warmed this on the stove (remove from heat before it simmers), added a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a squirt of flax seed oil. MMMMM....This is amazingly satisfying, warming, and tasty!

I'm happy, feel great, and have had an incredible urge to clean house all day. Tonight I'll keep drinking the leek broth and probably make one more juice in a couple of hours - carrot/apple again. I'll also do a special abdominal massage with essential oils before bed - for myself, I'm thinking Marjoram or Coriander oil, both of which will enhance my dream state.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recipe: Creamy Dreamy Risotto

This recipe came about as I was playing with my new pressure cooker over this past summer. Pressure cooking is something I have never done until recently, but I was very interested in trying it because the pressure causes the energy of the food to go inwards and deep, all the way to the Jing level of your body. This is in contrast to cooking a soup, for example, which would expand the energy of the food outwards.

One of my favorite nutrition sources, Paul Pitchford, in his Healing With Whole Foods book, suggests that by eating pressure cooked food with intention and reaching such a deep energetic level one can work on healing both physical and emotional issues that are held deeply within the bodymind. One can also access this deep level to cultivate spiritual growth. Ok – I’m going to try this for a while and see what I think.

I have to say that so far just by taste alone I am very impressed with pressure cooking. Among several dishes I’ve made absolutely perfect black bean soup in just over 20 minutes, but this risotto is my favorite.

My sister says this is the one dish I make that she thinks about, wondering when I’m going to make it again. So many others that have tried it have asked me how to make it that I’d like to share the recipe. Beware – it’s super easy to make and can be addictive.

8 organic tomatoes
1 organic lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh sage chopped (or ½ tsp. dried)
1 box or bag Italian Arborio rice (about 3 cups dry)
1 cup bleu cheese crumbles
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
sprinkle of quality salt
extra water

1. Rinse the rice and set aside.

2. Cut up the tomatoes and de-seed the lemons but keep the peel on. Peel the garlic cloves. Feed all of these through a juicer. If you have 3 cups of rice you will need about 7-8 cups of liquid, so add enough extra water to make this amount. Use 7 cups if your tomato juice is very thin, and 8 cups if the tomato juice has any thickness to it. If you’re not sure, use 8 cups. [If you don't have a juicer you can substitute a bottle of organic tomato juice with the juice of one lemon squeezed into it.]3. In the pressure cooker, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the sage and let it infuse the hot oil for a moment before adding the rice. Coat the rice and stir for about 1-2 minutes.

4. Add the juiced liquid and extra water, sprinkle of salt, stir and cover. Allow the pressure to build and cook on high setting for 7 minutes once the pressure phase has started. After 7 minutes remove from heat and allow the pressure to release.

5. Open the lid and stir the rice mixture. Add 2 tbs. butter and the bleu cheese sprinkles. Stir again and it’s ready to serve. Goes great with a salad and whole grain crunchy bread. (As the instructor of the Five Elements Nutrition Program at our school, I absolve you from any guilt for eating butter in this dish. Sometimes experiencing great happiness when you eat will neutralize a moderate amount of butter.)
Depending on serving size, this recipe serves between 6 and 8 people. Enjoy!
[Note: If you are going to buy a pressure cooker, look for one that is stainless steel. It costs more than aluminum but is worth it! I have a Fagor brand and am very happy with it. I have no financial interest in saying this.]

Overview of the Psoas Muscle

I had heard of the psoas muscle before since I had been taking Anatomy & Physiology for pre-nursing requisites in college. I don’t think I had ever given this particular muscle much thought except to memorize its name and location for an upcoming test. Now, as a Massage Therapist, all muscles have taken on a new and much more interesting meaning. Muscles are no longer just a list of names and locations to memorize but paint an eloquent picture of the human landscape. Every movement, no matter how small, and every emotion is influenced by our muscles and tension patterns held by them. One muscle that particularly relates to all aspects of one’s life is the psoas. I know that may sound a little bizarre to describe a muscle as affecting ‘all aspects of one’s life’, but the psoas is truly remarkable and responsible for many of our postural and emotional responses. Liz Koch’s The Psoas Book has also really opened up a new way of perceiving muscles for me and I give credit to her wonderful book for most of the information here.

There are technically two parts of the psoas muscle, the psoas minor and the psoas major. The psoas minor is found in less than 50% of the population and is considered a vanishing muscle left over from our evolution into bipedal humans. The psoas major is the main part of the muscle and I will refer to it as the psoas from here on. The psoas is approximately 16 inches long and directly links the ribcage with the legs. It originates superiorly from the vertebral bodies and intervertebral disks of the twelfth thoracic to the fifth lumbar, and from the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae. The psoas then inserts inferiorly with the iliacus muscle by way of a common tendon to the lesser trochanter of the femur. These two important hip flexors are collectively known as the iliopsoas.

Internal location of the iliopsoas and external corresponding structures. The red areas on the surface of the body indicate possible areas of pain/discomfort associated with the psoas.

The psoas is located at the deepest core of our structure, where our ‘gut feelings’ reside. Sometimes our first instincts begin here. The psoas is strongly innervated since it inserts directly behind the diaphragm along the lumbar spine. At the L1 vertebrae, the psoas and diaphragm junction at the celiac (solar) plexus, directly linking psoas function to our breathing and digestion. This relationship illustrates that a constricted psoas can adversely affect one’s breathing and digestion. This area holds a lot of personal power and energy, so it is important to understand how interconnected our bodies are physically and emotionally. The lumbar plexus is also embedded in the surface of the psoas, which directly supplies energy to animate the legs and strongly influences both sexual and anal functions.

Starting from the lumbar spine and crossing over the hip joint, the psoas directly affects range of motion of the pelvis and the legs. The psoas has many functions, with the most direct and obvious being its role as a hip flexor. It supports the free swing of the legs while walking and is very important in transferring weight though the trunk to the legs and the feet. Sturdy and balanced walking should originate from the core and not from more superficial muscles. Through the action of walking, the psoas also acts as a hydraulic pump, stimulating and pushing fluids in and out of cells. The psoas plays a big role in posture by acting like a guide-wire that stabilizes the spine. Rectus abdominis counterbalances the tension of the psoas. When this relationship is out of balance it often leads to the ‘chest-out-belly-in’ posture. The psoas also has an intimate relationship with the internal abdominal organs by acting as the psoatic shelf. The psoas creates a support base along the bottom and back of the pelvis, upon which the abdominal organs rest. Therefore, tension in the psoas affects the space and function of the internal organs.

Because the psoas is so integral to the makeup of our body it is important to understand how it affects us in everyday life. First it is worthy to note that the prime function of bones is to bear weight and act as a lever system, whereas muscles serve as the pulleys that move the bones. This is an important fact because as soon as muscles start being used to support weight and resist gravity they no longer serve their original purpose. Over time, this improper use can put stress on the bones changing their shape, effecting the articulations of joints and even decreasing blood circulation in surrounding tissues. The psoas is a core muscle and therefore sets the tone for other muscles in the body. The resting length and condition of the psoas influences the relationship of bones and therefore influences the range of motion and articulation of the joints. A shortened psoas can cause many postural problems limiting range of motion in spine and limiting movement of the pelvis and legs. This may be seen as a forward thrusting of the pelvis and can be caused by the psoas being continually contracted or misused, sometimes stemming from poor body mechanics learned at a young age. A shortened psoas can lead to exaggerated curves in the spine known as lordosis – excessive forward curvature of the lumbar spine (saddle back); kyphosis – excessive backward curvature of the thoracic spine (hunch back); and scoliosis – abnormal lateral curvature of spine (side-ways S curve).
A shortened or chronically constricted psoas can affect many aspects of a person’s life, physically and emotionally. A shortened psoas can lead to a chest-out posture where the ribcage is thrust forward. This posture emphasizes thoracic breathing instead of abdominal breathing and prevents the diaphragm from contracting fully. The limited range of motion of the diaphragm leads to decreased massaging/stimulation of the internal organs which subsequently can lead to impairment of nerves and blood circulation. When the psoas is shortened it decreases the space in the lower trunk of the body and can affect many other internal structures in the area. This includes the abdominal aorta, which runs next to the psoas and may affect circulation; pressure on the lumbar plexus and autonomic ganglia can affect adrenal and kidney function; and many menstrual cramps in women can be caused by a contracted psoas putting pressure on the organs. Having muscles supple and open in the pelvis allows for the free circulation of sensations. Without this, sexual dysfunction and loss of connection with the sexual organs may also result. Sexual energy can become blocked and restricted leading to inability to orgasm in women and even impotency in men.
Because the psoas lies at the core of our or body and is one of the main flexors, it is important to note its role in the fear reflex. The fear reflex is one of our most basic instincts that is integrally part of us with the purpose of protecting us from any stimulus that our body may perceive as harmful. This reflex signals all flexor muscles to contract and results in what is known as the fetal position, giving the body a form of defense and protection. Our instincts during the fear reflex give us an option to fight or flee (the famous fight-or-flight response), preparing us to take action or evade a stressful/dangerous situation. In today’s world it may not seem like we encounter this reflex all that often, but with the constant stimulation and stressors present in modern society we are exposed to much more than we are aware of. The constant barrage of stimuli that we are subjected to on a daily bases gives our bodies a certain level of stress and activates our nervous system and fight-or-flight response. How one handles such stress greatly depends on how one has been conditioned over their lifetime. Those that have learned to relax deeply and return to a more neutral functioning after the reflex has been activated will have a lot less tension held in their body. This could mean just letting yourself unwind at the end of the day or even meditating. This gives the nervous system and muscles a break and helps to bring your body back into a more balanced state. For many people it does not work this way and they do not, or can not, avoid the constant stimulation and stress, and therefore there is no refractory period from the fear reflex. In other words, there is no recovery time between the body’s reaction to one stressor before another one comes along. What happens here is that the fight-or-flight cycle is never finished so stress and disharmonies with in the body begin to build up. As the tension and stress accumulates in the body it begins to affect different aspects of one’s health, namely in the manifestation of anxiety. Anxiety in the body can be expressed as many different things form digestive issues, muscular pain or weakness, and even decreased immunity.
Since we are constantly dealing with so many stressors in daily life it is easy to see how this can negatively impact our bodies. Muscles hold physical and emotional tension so it is important to have an understanding and awareness of our bodies so that we can deal with stress appropriately. The psoas, being a major flexor and postural muscle, goes through a lot during a lifetime. Working with the psoas to help it release and elongate is a very intimate process in body awareness. At first you must become aware of your body and the subtle sensations within. The Constructive Rest Position is a great way to begin to understand and become more aware of the psoas and the core of your body. This position allows for passive release of the psoas by letting gravity do all the work. To take this position Liz Koch says to “lie on your back, bend your knees to about 90 degrees, and place your feet on the floor in line with your hip sockets, 12 to 16 inches from your buttocks. Be careful not to flatten or exaggerate the curves in either your lumbar or cervical spine.” This may be uncomfortable at first but relax and make sure to use no force and allow your body to rest naturally on the floor. Bring your awareness to your pelvis and notice what feels tight, restricted, or areas that are resisting the pull of gravity. After hold this position for a while you will notice your low back will release and sink further towards the ground. “This is a result of the psoas muscle releasing.” Make a conscious effort to stay in the moment and pay attention to the sensations of your hip sockets and low back. “Being in the moment forges new nerve pathways by letting go of old conditioning”, allowing us to better understand and communicate with our body. You can stay in this position as long as you like, usually about 10-20 minutes.

Constructive Rest Position

Once you become aware of the internal sensations and skeletal positions associated with releasing the psoas you can move on to more actively working the muscle. There are many positions to elongate and stretch the psoas, but the most important thing is appropriate body awareness so that the muscle is isolated while the rest of the body is relaxed. After releasing the psoas in the constructive rest position one can easily move into the active supine stretch. Continue lying in the constructive rest position. Begin by bringing your right thigh up toward the trunk of your body and gently hug your right knee. Be very aware to not move or tilt the pelvis while raising the right thigh and focus awareness to softening the hip joint. Now you are ready to stretch the left psoas. Slowly begin to extend the left leg out while keeping the pelvis still. The goal here is to isolate the movement of the leg from the pelvis. Focus your attention to the left hip socket and allow it to soften and release, feeling the psoas lengthen. Use no force and extend your left leg slowly into the stretch. Notice any sensations that you experience and STOP if anything is painful in the low back, and go back to the constructive rest position to help release the psoas again.
The active supine stretch is a gentle and easy way to begin working and elongating the psoas. Any variation of the lunge, or runners stretch, also focuses on stretching the psoas. Yoga also offers many great poses that work with lengthening the psoas, most notably pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). For more information on specific stretches you can visit ( where Liz Koch has put together a nice summary on 10 poses beneficial for the psoas.
Releasing and stretching the psoas are both very important to the overall health of the body. By gaining better awareness of our bodies and being able to understand our bodily sensations we can start to change some of the negatively conditioned muscle patterns and practice proper body mechanics. To do this we must also strengthen our muscles. Before you begin to tone the psoas you must make sure that it is released. If the psoas is not released, your body will try to compensate incorporating the wrong muscle groups to perform the movement. To practice this next move for toning the psoas we will be using the same position as in the Active Supine Stretch (can also be done with the right leg planted at a 90 degree angle on the floor). Be sure to keep your pelvis stable so that the proper muscles are engaged. Once you are able to fully extend the left leg (or whichever side you are working on) you are ready to start toning the psoas and leg muscles. Begin by lifting the left leg about 6 inches up to the height of your hip socket. Slowly move the extended leg up, down, sideways left and right, and diagonally. Liz Koch says “When lifting your leg, think of the psoas muscle falling back along the spine and scooping the leg off of the floor.” This imagery will help isolate the appropriate muscle groups.

There are many different approaches for working with the psoas. They vary from indirect, such as the movement arts, to direct, such as manipulation in bodywork. The movement arts include such things as Jujitsu, Aikido, Tai Chi, and other martial arts. The stance and posture of Tai Chi utilizes gravity to one’s advantage. “In Tai Chi the body is placed in a position where the six outward rotators are eccentrically contracting with the abdominals and gluteals relaxed. This eccentric contraction of the six outward rotators counteracts the short resting length of the iliopsoas as well as gravity.” To sum it up, the use of the appropriate muscles and gravity are utilized to stretch the iliopsoas and associated hip flexors. Tai Chi posture and movement are great for the entire body and with regular practice and discipline can help stretch and tone muscles while opening joints and increasing range of motion. Yoga is another form of mindful body movement that can help to stretch and strengthen both body and mind. It is very important to be aware of your own body and own limitations during yoga. Never push yourself further than where you feel comfortable. This can be severely counterproductive and even lead to injury. Finding a good instructor who understands the appropriate approach to postures and can guide you through the correction of postures is essential. This will insure that you are using the correct muscle groups and learning a proper technique. All together, any of the movement arts that focus on mindful body movements will benefit not only the psoas but the entire body, mind, soul.
Bodywork for the psoas, and just bodywork in general, comes in many different styles and options. Finding the one that appeals and suits you is as important as finding an experienced practitioner that you trust. There are some practitioners that focus souly on the psoas and deeper core muscles and then there are those that work with the entire body. One form of bodywork that works by directly manipulating the psoas is Rolfing. Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organized the whole body in gravity" (Wikipedia – Rolfing: Rolfing releases bound up and adhered fascia by directly manipulating the psoas and connective tissues around it. This form of therapy can be powerful and overwhelming for some and is not recommended for everyone. Others may find it exactly what they need. A less intrusive method that focuses more on refining awareness of one’s body and works to change muscle tension patterns is The Feldenkrais Method. Feldenkrais really emphasized developing the mind-body connection and awareness through movement as ways to learn one’s own body. These are only two of a vast array of bodywork options. Look into local practitioners in your area to find out what is available to you and what will work for you.
As you can see, the psoas is a very powerful muscle, responsible for much more than we give it credit for. Developing and attuning the body-mind connection is very important to understanding our own bodies, how they work, and what we can do to help achieve harmony with in. As Liz Koch says, “An understanding of the influences of the psoas muscle on skeletal balance, muscular tone, and the health of the breath, nerves and viscera, builds the foundation for comprehending the indispensable role the psoas plays in having not only a healthy physical life but also a healthy emotional life.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blindfolded Massage 09/10/10

At the beginning of our massage course the instructors had mentioned a blindfolded massage, I instantly felt a little nervous about it! But thought that it would be at a latter date and I would work through the anxiety. Then one day Michelle announced that the following class would be the day!! The anxiety had worn off but unfortunately physically I was not feeling well. I woke up with pain in my neck, shoulders and back all of which made me feel exhausted and sensitive. Because I was feeling so tired Carrie and I decided it would be best if I gave the first massage so that I could wake up a little bit. Beginning the massage was the easiest part. Being able to sit down was great because I didn't have to use my spacial awareness as much, I was grounded and the table was right in front of me! Going through the head and face felt good but there was some worry of poking an eye or finger in the mouth etc. Once it was time to stand up things got a little more complicated, for a couple of being the use of oil, it was hard to gauge the amount that was coming out of the bottle until there was too much. Also the draping and wanting to be respectful of the hand placement. It was a lot of fun to mentally visualize the individual muscles that I was working. I was fortunate that I am familiar with Carrie and her body, I think that it made me more comfortable and also easier to know where her body parts were based on "landmarks". For example: for both draping and massaging her legs, I first found her knee and was able to judge where her hips were because of my familiarity of her body length. As far as making the 1 hour time limit I think that I was only about 5 minutes over. It was great not looking at the clock and thinking about how much time had passed or was left.
Receiving the massage felt pretty much the same, except with more giggling! It was fun and light hearted. I look forward to trying another blindfolded massage again after working in clinic for a while!

Highlights of TCM Examinations and Treatments

Over the last few months I have had a wonderful introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and many of the unique modalities used to bring the body back into health and harmony. Many of the examinations and treatments used in TCM are very different from what Western Medicine is used to. By using non-invasive procedures and knowledge of the five-element theory TCM can identify disharmonies and restore balance to the body.
A few of the diagnostic procedures and therapies new to me that we were able to explore and practice in class were: tongue and pulse diagnosis, moxibustion, cupping, and auricular therapy.

As far as I know, tongue examinations are not a common place practice in American healthcare. Until this class I had never cared or desired to inspect other people’s tongues. In TCM it is said that the appearance and health of ones tongue directly reflects what is going on inside the body. In other words, imbalances within the body that we cannot see will manifest on the tongue. What a fascinating concept! It does make a lot of sense if you stop and think about it since the tongue is the only internal organ that is easily accessible to look at. Once you start looking at tongues you realize how many different shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and coatings are possible, and they all mean something different. It takes practice and knowledge to become good at tongue diagnosis but it is a valuable skill to have. One peak at a person’s tongue can give you a lot of information. For example; an abnormally pale tongue indicates deficient blood or Qi; a red tongue that it much redder than normal indicates a heat condition in the body; scalloped edges from teeth along the sides indicates dampness in the body; pale tongue with depression at the root (back of tongue) indicates decreased Jing(essence) pointing to deficient Kidney Qi; thick mucus coating points to digestive issues. These are few of many possibilities. With a trained eye this form of examination can be very useful.

Another interesting examination used in TCM is that of the pulse. This is not what most people in the Western world would think of when it comes to checking ones pulse, the standard quantifiable beats per minute and systolic/diastolic pressures. Instead, this is in an in-depth analysis of the radial pulse. TCM has three different positions on each hand for taking the pulse with each corresponding to a different organ.
There are two different positions for the pulse of the kidneys. The left side represents the Kidney yin, whereas the right side represents Kidney yang. There are also different depths at which a pulse can be read, either superficial, middle, or deep. Over time and with patience you can begin to feel the subtle differences in people’s pulses and decipher what they mean. A slower pulse is a sign of cold or insufficient Qi to cause movement, where as a rapid pulse is a sign of heat. An empty pulse which lacks strength and feels weak is a sign of deficient Qi or blood, where as a full pulse which feels strong and pounds hard is a sign of excess. There are many different classifications of pulse and to become good at pulse diagnosis takes many years of practice and experience. It is truly an art.

After the examinations are complete a treatment plan can be put together that can include a variety of modalities such as acupressure massage, moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, acupuncture, auricular therapy and Qi Gong. Three that were new and unheard of to me were moxibustion, cupping, and auricular therapy.
Moxa is a dried and sifted form of the mugwart plant that is burned during moxibustion treatment. Moxa smolders, releasing smoke and creating a lot of heat and is burned either directly on or above the skin. Moxibustion is used to bring warmth, blood, and qi to a specific area such as a meridian, acupoint, or body part. This treatment aims to clear damp, free the movement of Qi and blood, coursing Qi, dispersing cold, and warming what is cold. Moxa treatment is great for deficiency syndromes and is greatly tonifying. There are different methods of burning moxa. A more direct method involves small cones that stick to the skin and are great for specific acupressure points alone or along a meridian. Moxa-irons are small metal boxes with a handle. The moxa is burned in the box and then rubbed over a client’s lower back to tonify the kidneys. There are also moxa sticks which can be used just above the skin. Energy work along with moxibustion strengthens the treatment and achieves better results. Treatment durations and amount used vary depending on client feedback and desired effect. Contraindications and cautions include pregnancy, heart condition or circulation disorders, signs of heat (a burn, rash, inflammation), on the face and sensitive areas, over a tumor, over damaged ligaments and tendons (until inflammation has gone down), and on persons who have just overeaten, are very hungry, or intoxicated (large shifts in energy can cause a person to pass out). Moxa also helps to boost the body’s immune system (wei qi).

Cupping is a method of drawing the skin up into cups using some form of suction over specific acupoints or areas of tension. Traditionally, fire was used to create a vacuum inside of a glass cup which would draw the patient’s skin up into the cup creating a nice suction grip. This method is still used but to avoid the dangers that fire can pose an alternative way has been developed. Now it is not uncommon to see the use of plastic cups with a small detachable hand pump that is used to draw the skin up into the cup getting the same desired effect. The purpose of cupping is to help dispel stagnations and relieve areas of tension and is usually prescribed in cases of excess, such as knots and pain. It relieves congestion and inflammation while opening up pathways to provide the smooth flow of Qi and blood to the area while eliminating toxins. Cupping is used in the West and in China to help an array of disorders from respiratory disease (chronic cough, asthma), paralysis, gastrointestinal tract disorders, frozen shoulder, depression, and soft tissue pain just to name a few. Cupping is preformed over fleshy areas of the body using different sized cups for the desired area. Although cupping is painless it can and usually does leave a mark. The suction that is used draws blood and toxins to the surface which can leave a mark that looks like an unsightly bruise. The mark usually disappears within a couple of days depending on how bad the stagnation was in the area. People with a lot of stagnation and tension will experience more blood and darker blood coming to the surface at the cupping site than those who do not have as much tension. Cups can be left on for anywhere between 8-15 minutes depending how quickly blood comes to the surface or until the desired effect is reached. The major contraindications for cupping include: inflamed areas on the skin (or any rash, open wound, ect..), high fever, convoulsions and cramping, easy bleeding (bleeding disorders, blood thinners), and areas over the lower back and abdomen during pregnancy.
Auricular therapy is a type of reflexology that involves the outside auricle of the ear. Just like there is reflexology for the hands and feet, there is also one for the ear. There are over 200 points in there ear that correspond to internal and external body structures and organs. Through these points a practitioner can stimulate all organs and functions of the body to help the body move back into a balanced state. This type of therapy was developed in China thousands of years ago but in the last century has been elaborated upon by the French. It has shown great results for helping with pain and pain management, stress and emotional disorders, addiction, common illnesses, chronic conditions, and much more. Stimulation of these points can be done through a variety of methods including needling (acupuncture), electrical stimulation, magnets, or ear beads (acupressure). Using ear beads was the method that was shown in class. Ear beads are very tiny round balls that can be made of gold, silver, or a small seed and have a small piece of adhesive to hold it in place over a selected point. A point combination of 5-8 points is selected for treatment in one ear and the beads are left in place for up to a week. The client is shown where each of the beads has been placed and is instructed to stimulate them manually up to 3 times a day. Auricular therapy using ear beads can be used to treat or help almost any ailment, disease, or condition since it has relatively no side effects and contraindications. Soreness at the point location and some possible temporary side effects such as nausea and dizziness can occur due to shifts in energy and changes in the body but these are usually brief and rare. Those who are pregnant, have just under gone an organ transplant or are in remission from cancer should consult their physicians before opting for any additional therapies.
I have learned so much about TCM in the last few months and it has been a very rewarding experience. Not just the new and exciting treatments but an entire new way of looking at and thinking about health and homeostasis. I have only barely scratched the surface here with this highlight of a few interesting examination and treatment methods but the foundation on which this knowledge rests goes so much deeper. The five element theory, which all of these treatments and diagnoses are based on, is truly a beautiful and elaborate web of the human microsystem. I encourage anyone who has an interest in these modalities for personal or practical use, or even just pure curiosity, look further into it. There are so many choices and possibilities when it comes to health treatment options, do not think that you are limited to only a select few!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blindfolded Massage

My classmate and I gave and received blindfolded massage last week. I found it to be a rich experience. I received first, and contrary to my usual trance, I worked hard to pay attention to the sensations.
Starting at the head in the usual pattern, it felt kind of tentative, and slightly off center, but as Trinity progressed she seemed to gain more confidence in herself. the rhythm was good, not a lot of fumbling and stumbling. She paced the massage well, and did a 1 hour pattern pretty close to on time.
When I was blindfolded, I was disoriented a bit at first. The blindfold was pressing against my contacts funny, and they kept feeling weird throughout the massage. Working on the head and face pattern was different, not used to not being able to see, but the hardest part was worrying about poking her in the eyes. I had to switch out oil bottles because the first one I had felt wrong, didn't glide right. It was a little awkward doing the pecs, first worrying about draping and exposure, and then I bonked her on the chin when I switched sides. I was informed that my arm and leg draping was good, did covered abdomen massage, and covered glute massage. I slipped off of the center of the back a bit during the back section, but once I got centered again it worked better.
When giving a blindfolded massage, you can tell where you are by the muscles themselves, and you can gauge your pressure easily. My only big issue was being unable to gauge how much oil I was getting from the bottle. Several times I had to squirt more onto my hands, and once or twice I had to wipe off a bunch. I think that if I had been using a pump bottle I might have done better on oil amounts, but I haven't practiced much with one in regular use.
I think that giving blindfolded massage can make you a better therapist, because you rely on your sense of touch more and you listen more for feedback from your client. Working in dim light is often very relaxing for the client, and I have occasionally caught myself working on someone with my eyes closed. Touch and hearing are really the only senses you need; I haven't figured out what help smell and taste give, unless you are using moxa or incense or scented candles.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Six Week Case Study

Over the course of six weeks we were given the assignment to massage only one person. We were given this assignment so that we as massage therapists would have the oppurtunity to experience the changes in a single persons body wheather it be muscle tension or any mental as well as physical improvements. I chose to work on a 32 year old licenced massage therapist who for the past couple of years has been experiencing alot of pain around her upper back and shoulder area.

Some of this pain could stem from her spinal/ hip missalignment. since she happens to work for a chiroprachtor she is able to receive spinal adjustments as often as her schedule allows her to. She told me her spine and hips have improved significantly due to the adjustments ,yet she like most hard working massage therapists forget or don't even consider to take time out for themselves. over time all that physical work begins to wear you down physically and mentally. In my first session with her we sat down and went over all her medical history I scanned the form looking for any specific areas that stood out or seemed out of balance. she was very open to the idea of receiving any kind of massage for six days a week. Due to her past massage school experiences she had been exposed to the concept of oriental medicine but they had only touched on the subject very briefly. oriental exercise and medicine had always held her intrest so she was very eager and facinated to learn more about the practice.

On day one I gave her just a general relaxation massage to introduce myself to her body and get a feel for her muscles. throughout the massage I used very long soothing strokes feeling for any areas of tension. throughout the next couple of days I found she was tight and knottted usually in the same areas which was around the neck , trap , and shoulder area. some of the sessions she seemed very down and emtionally distraught, so with her permission I incorporated very calming anti-anxiety accupressure points such as stomach eight and stomach forty. Throughout our massages I tryed to channel very calm, loving, and compassionate energy. I gave her some chi-gong exercises to do to help improve her motivation and open her heart center, such as smiling heart chi-gong she told me she loves that chi gong and does it every morning which helps her to start the day off right. The experience was a very rewarding and awe inspiring awakening to the power of massage. throughout those six weeks her stress and tention areas began to melt away she was able to have the motivation to get up early and workout, and she felt everything about her life had completely shifted in a positive way. In the end she requested that I be her only massage therapist which really filled my heart with joy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Case Study

(s) My client is a 55 year old female. She's in good shape and eats healthy. She's suffering from migraines and bouts of insomnia. She also claims to get very anxious at times. Her right rhomboid is sore as well as the right shoulder. She thinks she has frozen shoulder and tendonitis on that side. Her main goal is to relieve shoulder pain, stress relief, better sleep, and general relaxation.

(o) My client relaxes easily, partly due to her being comfortable with me and partly because she is looking forward to some quiet time. Her traps, neck, rhomboids and levetor scapulae are constantly tight and dense- these muscles include teres minor, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and subscapularis. The erector spinae group of muscles down the back always seemed to have knots in them. This was more so on the low back. Biceps in the arms felt a bit more tense in the right arm. The IT band was problematic and tight. Rectus Femoris also tight with knots/ "speed" bumps. I could not do a deep clearing stroke on the legs. Throughout the massages I noticed the right shoulder gained more range of motion and flexibility. The IT band also let up over time. She was seemingly happier and more relaxed. She didnt slouch or slump her shoulders as much as she was before. She also said she felt more energized, pain reduction in the shoulder, and could sleep better at night. It took about 3 sessions to really notice a significant difference in how she felt.

(a) Throughout out time together I made sure to move very slow through the head/scalp massage to relax my client. I taught her 3 centered meditation for during the massages and to use outside of our sessions. On days that her anxiety level was high I would do a nice foot massage first and do some energy work to draw the energy down. When she experienced headaches I would work the pain path in the arms, including points LI 11,10,9, and 4. I also incorporated the S.I points 11 and 12 and L.I 16 all located around the shoulder to help with the shoulder pain. Energy work in the arms to draw the energy out through the fingertips and open up the pathway for the pain to travel out. Lung 1 and 2 were also included into the treatment plan, more towards the end. I used the LV/GB grasping down the legs to open up the meridians. This will help wood imbalance, manifested in the nails being ridged. The upper back got extra attention around the rhomboids and made sure to work S.I 10 on the scapula. Deeper pressure was often applied the erector spinae and focused more on the low back. When shoulder pain and headaches were at a high i would focus more on the arms, shoulders, neck, and back, and skip the legs completely besides compression. All these teqniques seemed to work for my client over time with pain relief and over all sense of well being.

(p) I plan to keep working with this person for as long as I can. I would like to assign and teach some Qi Gong movements to help her low back, which would include: Reaching for heaven and earth, accept the moon qi, and painting the world. Rowing on the lake would also be good for range of motion in the shoulders. I would also like to use the 9 points to revive the yang for depression issues and to restore energy. I would like to draw up a 5 element chart and map out imbalances to help her further. My client is very curious about chinese medicine, and would love to see some more results. I would also like to do a moxa/kidney treatment that we recently learned to help the low back and kidney qi. I will encourage her to use the meditation daily, especially before bed. I would like to practice Smiling Heart Qi Gong with her as well because its my favorite Qi Gong and opens the heart center

In conclusion I would say that I could see a significant different in body tension and some internal changes. Its amazing what a month and a half of consecutive massage can do. I am excited to learn more about Oriental Medicine and use it in the practice. I feel like the things i have learned here at OHAC are beneficial to my practice and make a tremendous difference. They can be life changing and are always positive. I cant wait to see what other positive changes I can make in my life and others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chronic Fatigue Findings

Instead of blogging on my case study, I offer this. I found it very interesting. Especially the end comment that this virus was also found in prostate cancer patients.

Makes one think...

Monday August 23, 2010

Chronic Fatigue Linked to Mouse Virus in U.S. Government StudyAugust 23, 2010, 3:13 PM EDT

By Michelle Fay Cortez
Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Almost 90 percent of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome showed signs of infection with a novel mouse virus in a U.S. government study, raising fresh questions about the cause and treatment of the debilitating condition.
Researchers from the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and Harvard Medical School found the virus in blood samples taken from 32 of 37 patients with the syndrome, bolstering a finding with a related virus last year. The new infectious agent was also found in three of 44 samples from healthy blood donors, according to the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It was the first time the mouse virus has been found in people or in the blood supply, deepening the mystery surrounding CFS, a condition that affects more than 1 million Americans, mainly women ages 30 to 50. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said there was no sign of the virus in a similar study earlier this year. Those results were confirmed by the current FDA researchers, who analyzed some the CDC’s samples using their own laboratory methods.
“The study doesn’t prove these viruses are the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome,” said Celia Witten, director of the FDA’s Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies, who oversees the lab where the research was conducted. “More research is needed.”
Testing Drugs
Antiviral drugs, including Merck & Co.’s Isentress and Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Viread, should be used to treat the patients to see if it gives them any respite, French and Canadian researchers wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.
While there isn’t sufficient proof that the mouse viruses cause chronic fatigue syndrome, a study showing whether antiviral drugs are an effective treatment could help confirm the hypothesis, said the doctors led by Valerie Courgnaud, from the University of Montpellier in France.
There is no evidence that the viruses are transmitted by blood transfusions or that they lead to any type of human disease or illness, Witten said in a telephone interview.
There are no specific tools to pinpoint chronic fatigue syndrome, which is typically diagnosed after patients experience extreme fatigue for at least six months. The condition is marked by a relapse of symptoms after mental or physical exertion, sleep that doesn’t refresh, and joint and muscle pain.
The link between chronic fatigue and the retroviruses was identified previously by a team led by Vincent Lombardi of the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, in Reno, Nevada, and published in October in the journal Science. The researchers analyzed the genes in tissue samples collected from 101 patients with chronic fatigue, and in 68 the scientists found evidence of a related virus known as XMRV. The virus was also identified in some prostate-cancer patients.
--Editors: Donna Alvarado, Jeffrey Tannenbaum
To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

©2010 Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Case Study

My case study included six massages spread out over a period of nine weeks. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen my client at least once a week, but because of our different schedules and time constraints it took nine weeks to complete all six massages.

My client was a 42 year old female. During the first intake the client told me that she was on blood thinners (Coumadin). In January of 2009 she was experiencing pain in her legs, sever fatigue and dizziness. She ended up in the emergency room and it was discovered that she had many blood clots in her left leg. She was admitted to the hospital and stayed for a week under close supervision until she was stable enough to go into surgery where the Doctors placed a filter in her Vena Cava. The filter was put in place to help catch the clots so they would not go through her heart, into her lungs and cause a possible pulmonary embolism.During this time she was also placed on blood thinners, namely Coumadin, to help prevent further clotting. Her leg gets achy when she is on her feet all day and she has been told to elevate it at the end of the day. She now takes blood thinners daily and sometimes hydrocodone for the pain in her legs. The Dr.’s say she will probably have to be on Coumadin for the rest of her life. Because of the blood thinners she tends to bruise easily. She used to go in for lymphatic drainage massage (usually only the axillary and clavicle area) twice a month but doesn’t do this anymore. She has been cleared by her Dr. for regular massage therapy.

During her time in the hospital she also drastically lost weight. Since then she has had low energy and no regular physical exercise plan and has put on a lot of weight. This makes her upset and sometimes sad and frustrated about her lack of energy. She experiences swelling in her legs after extended periods of being on her feet (walking, standing, ect..) and has had difficulty staying active because of this and stress with kids, work, and everyday life. She has said that when she can fit in regular exercise her leg feels less achy and she sleeps better.
Also during the intake she indicated that she has a medium stress level and holds her stress in her shoulders and low back. She also tends to get very bad headaches when she gets very stressed out. Works in an office and has for most of her professional life.

My client’s main goal for her massage was relaxation. I could tell by the way she spoke and the concerns she had that her thoughts seemed hurried and rushed. Her eyes looked tired and tended to sigh often while she talked. Her skin was healthy and soft, well tanned. Although she had not been doing regular exercise and had gained some weight, her muscle tone was still good and her energy felt strong but tired. She had lots of tension in her neck and upper traps, with a large knot in the left occipitals. She was very sensitive in the neck area. Small bump on palmar side of right forearm (says it has been there since she was young) that could be a possible ganglion cyst. Her left leg was noticeably more swollen than her right from the iliac crest to her ankle, seemed to be more so around thigh area. Edema but not pitting. Feet were both cold and limited ROM in hip area. Some tension in low back and erector spinae and knots in L levator scapulae and R rhomboids. All shu points on back felt good except for small pluckable knot in R LV shu point.

Because of the clients blood thinner medication I used only light/moderate pressure with lots of soothing strokes. She was sensitive in certain places, liker her neck, but liked a little more pressure on her back and so I adjusted accordingly. I spent a good amount of time on face and head massage to open up and relieve tension in that area to help with headaches. I did more detailed work on her neck and upper traps to help loosen and break up stagnant energy. On her arms I emphasized strokes toward the body to help with lymph drainage and included Li 11, 10, 9 &4 to open up arms and give stagnant energy a place to go. She did not want abdominal work during the first few massages but during the last two sessions I did do some work through the sheet. On days when she had a head ache I was sure to include grasping down the GB meridian and lots of scalp massage, Li 4. Strokes on her legs were all towards the body to help with lymph drainage and I always gave a very nice foot massage to help soothe and relax. Points in her feet and legs included following Ki merdian from Ki 1, 2, 3 & 7 (8x). Lv 2-3 (50x). and St 36 (8x). On her back I used a little more pressure. Mostly long gliding strokes with focus on knots in levator scapulae and rhomboids. Sacral roll on low back and grasping. All shu points were included and stimulated 24x. On our last session I did reviving the yang to help with her low energy level (Ki1, Ki3, Sp6, St36, Cv12 Pc8, Li4, Gv15)

Over the course of the 9 weeks of treatment I saw some alleviation of tension in the neck, specifically the knot in L occipitals released. Tension also decreased in shoulders and rhomboids. When massages were weekly I noticed that her left leg was not as swollen most likely due to lymph drainage and increased circulation to that area. Her headaches were not as frequent and were always gone by the end of a massage. She really enjoyed all massages and felt very relaxed and rested. She and I plan on continuing to work together once our schedules settle into a regular routine. Now that I have learned the 64-point acupressure foot massage I would like to include that into the massage for her left foot/leg. Also, I would recommend a longer session with time at the beginning for a QiGong. She is open and interested in QiGong and I was hoping to start showing her the Dragon QiGong, which is good for weight loss and tonifying the meridians.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arthritis Case Study

Nearly one in five Americans have arthritis or chronic joint symptoms. So not surprisingly there are two people in my household with some form of arthritis. With so many people having an issue with arthritis I chose it as my topic to research in pathology class so I would be more knowledgeable when I need to help a client with arthritis and so I could learn to better help the people close to me.

The person I chose for my case study has arthritis in her hands and ankles, a degenerative disk in her low back, and had recent surgery for a bowel obstruction. In the five elements of TCM arthritis would fall into the wood element, the low back pain would be influenced by the water element, and small intestine issues are part of the fire element.

For her six weeks of weekly massages I started out with the general one-hour relaxation pattern with some extra attention to her hands, ankles, and knees. I taught her the Small Intestines qigong for the dragon qigong we do in class to help with her digestion, but also because the movement rotates the wrist and arm up to the shoulder blade where she holds a lot of her tension. After two weeks with that qigong I showed her the Painting the World qigong to give some range of motion movements to her low back and also to massage the abdomen. I showed her yin-yang palms to get her wrists moving and the blood flowing. I told her how to massage her own abdomen with oil in a clockwise motion to help her heal from the surgery and to get her bowels moving.

Depending on what concerns she had the day of the massage I used some different acupressure points. Large Intestine 20 for her sinus headache along with the Large Intestines pain path down the arms for headaches. I used Stomach 8 to help calm her mind on a day she was noticeably stressed out, and spent some extra time on Stomach 41 for anxiety which I always use in a massage.

After six weeks of weekly massage she told me that she was pain free in her hands for 10 hours after the massage and pain free for 8 hours in her back. She really enjoyed the qigong movements. there was less inflammation in her back, the muscles around that vertebrae were less tense, with less chronic pain overall. she also commented that she felt a huge difference the next day in whether she drank a lot of water or not. Not drinking enough water left her feeling more achy the next morning.

If I was to continue working with this client I would make sure to keep up with the qigong movements, adding more when she felt like she had the ones I taught her memorized. I would make sure to spend extra time round rubbing her joints and low back. Now I know how good it feels to have a lot of time spent on round rubbing, especially rubbing clockwise on the low back, I would make sure to include it in her massage. I would get some Po Sum On oil to use when massaging her hands, Po Sum On oil is warming, helps to relieve pain and aids in circulation.

She loved getting massaged and was a great person to work with. Even with out the changes in her chronic pain she was very happy just to be relaxed after her long hours at work.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Healing a Dancer

A dancer in my class moves very stiffly and rigidly. Though she tries very hard and loves the class, she keeps getting frustrated over not having the same fluidity in her hips as the others. She would love to see me for a massage session.

The first thing I would check for would be to make sure there is no physical injury or condition that caused stiffness or inhibition of movements.

1. Upon examining her Mu and Shu points I expect that I would see that her kidney points, GB25 and BL23 are depressed to hollow, along with her bladder points, CV23 and BL 28 and her liver points may be a bit harder and blocked, LV 114 and BL 18. There is probably a deficiency in kidney and bladder points as well as an excess in the liver points, there may be some personal issues and discomfort with herself.

2. The major sign I expect to see in her tongue is that it is probably pale and swollen, possibly moist, denoting a deficiency in her yin energy and a definate yang deficiency. I would not be surprised to see redder, scalloped edges, some cracks, or a depression of the kidney area at the root of her tongue.

3. Although I see problems in almost all of her elements, the main one that I see would be a deficiency of her water element, the kidney and the bladder. I see this manifested by her stiffness and lack of sense of where her body is in space. I would also classify some of this stiffness as a problem with her wood element as her core, the spine, is stiff and lacks flexibility. She no doubtedly feels a bit of frustration and this would manifest as some slight excess in the fire side of her being.

As for a massage, I would start off with a nurturing energy, trying to open up the bladder and kidney meridians, wanting her to be comfortable in her body and with the feelings that the dance brings out in her. I think I would spend some time nurturing the liver as I expect there is some anger that is causing some stagnation there. I would want to add some exercises that twist and bend the spine and core. I would want to help her to see her body as it takes up space and be able to visualize it on the different planes in space, right, left, up and down and to be able to visualize how the movements that I try to teach affects how her body moves through space.

Seeing the stiffness is not an uncommon thing. First of all, the fluidity very rarely comes with a new dancer, it is something that comes over time. A woman of western culture frequently has problems with many of the movements if she does not come from a movement background, as we in the west are taught to move in a way foreign to the movments of oriental and eastern dance, using parts of our body that are kept stiff and reigned in with western culture. Often a dancer comes with a past history of abuse or stifling of emotions that takes a while to work through and this can be seen as a stiffness in the body or a lack of ability or awareness of the body as it relates to it's place in space (of course this is barring physical injury, condition or limitation on her movements). In some cases, there may be an excess of heat or fire as there may be a deep seated anger at past treatment or experiences or an inhibition in the sexual power that comes out from feeling comfortable in one's own skin, and it takes time to work through those things until the individual is secure in themselves and ready to surrender to the joy that the movements of dance can bring.

Most of all, I would encourage this dancer to give herself time and love to bring out the beautiful woman and dancer that is hidden inside.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Five Element Nutrition: Food Poisoning Entering the Blood Level

My 6-year old son ate a boxed lunch at summer camp. Soon after, he started vomiting, had to come home, and continued to vomit intermittently through the night. He was able to drink fluids and keep it down for a while, so I let his body do its thing. I gave him a little clay water (Sonne’s #7) but he was stubborn about drinking it (kids!). It’s one of the best remedies for food poisoning I know of.

2 days later he started to get a mild fever. I used an essential oil blend (Ravintsara, Lemon, Frankincense) on his stomach, chest, back, and feet several times throughout the day. When he finally started to sweat I covered him with a light blanket to help it.

After sweating, he felt much improved but the sides of his ribs hurt (sign of wood/liver disharmony) and around his eyes started to get very dark (toxic blood – liver manifests at the eyes). Toxins can get into the blood directly from the stomach, so the bad food most likely started this. According to Chinese medicine the liver stores the blood, so toxic blood will produce signs of liver disharmony.

I gave him a homeopathic dose of an internal essential oil blend that detoxifies and balances the liver, once an hour for 4 hours (“Liver Balance”, available at The Oriental Healing Arts Center). After the 4th dose he showed improvement – got up and wanted to play.

At that point I went to the store and bought a large tub of organic strawberries (detoxifies and builds blood). I washed them off and let him eat as much as he wanted. I also gave him several drops of Dang Gui herb tincture (to help build his blood back). He received this tincture 2 times the 1st day and 1 time the next day, each time with strawberries.

I like to use food along with herbs in many cases. Here, the strawberries build blood and kids like them, so the Dang Gui has something to work with, thus enhancing the action of the herb. It worked very quickly to re-balance him.

Note: Had he not improved significantly with my treatment I would have taken him to his doctor for conventional assistance.

Five Element Nutrition: Clearing Heat

Background Story: My sister is queen of the hot peppers. She loves them so much she even went to New York to do this crazy contest at an Indian food restaurant where they dare you to eat an entire serving of some insanely hot food and if you win you get your name on the wall, a certificate, and a free beer. She won – no problem, barely broke a sweat. (By the way, I adore Indian food.)

So here in Anchorage, her friends told her that one of the restaurants downtown was making chicken wings with Ghost Peppers – outrageously HOT! Of course, she had to go. So she comes home later and I ask how they were. She says they made her sweat, burned her lips, and were the hottest thing she ever ate. I remark that you can’t tell her lips are burnt through the lipstick she’s wearing. Only, she tells me, she’s not wearing any lipstick. Oh…. The dark maroon lipstick was the burn. I saw that and almost cringed at what her stomach/spleen must be doing inside to manifest this way through the lips. I had work to do.

Experiencing extreme digestive heat, she drank clay water (Sonne’s #7) for the next day. It was the only thing she could handle taking into her system. It helped enough that she could get some decent sleep through the internal volcanic activity taking place.

I made her a cooling soup to eat for the next 3 days: very light broth base (flavor and nutrition), juiced celery bunch with ½ lemon including the peel (she won’t eat celery but it’s so nice and cooling I juiced it and added that to the broth – lemon was for coolness and flavor), small amount of white rice (soothing and easy on digestion), very small amount of mung beans (cooling, detoxifies). Once this had cooked together, I removed it from the heat and added a tub of cold plain yogurt (cooling, soothing), 1 finely chopped fresh cucumber (cooling), and sprinkled some dill on top for flavor.

It was simple to make, tasted great, soothed her digestion, and cleared the heat. She started to feel much better after the first bowl.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What if the world knew what happened after death?

What would happen In a world where every one knew you exist after this life and the only thing you can bring with you is the love you have developed for people. In a world like this what would change?

Every one in this world would express love for every person they came in contact with; cultivating both spirits. People here would be much more sensitive to interactions amongst each other ensuring that you don't "leave a bad taste" with someone. In fact any negative or absent emotion would be a waist of time for both parties.

Society would be more then tolerant towards differences in people and cultures; differences would be loved for the growth you get from loving something new and different. Bigotry would be near impossible if every one were sure that any time you aren't loving you are not preparing yourself for the next life.

Greed would be such a difficult emotion with the firm knowledge of love being the only lasting thing in the world. If you had more then enough money (amongst other things) why not trade that temporary surplus to someone who temporarily needs it while simultaneously giving and receiving the one thing that you know you will keep and continually build on.

people would be open to loving all the time getting to know people faster for who they are in each moment.
Loving your self and others all the time gives you a sense of peace, happiness and tranquility if we all felt this toward each other imagine what we could accomplish. Any one can and should be loved regardless of there actions because though there actions may be horrible in our eyes they are working with there own constitutions and tools they were born with that you would not be able to comprehend. in light of this we can not judge people for what they have done; what would this accomplish in the first place? To say Hitler was a bad man who is OK to hate because of his actions would be assuming you know Hitler and judging him for mass killings only sets you up for damaging negative thoughts stuck in your own head. Saying Hitler did horrible actions that you personally would never see the sanity in brings you away from judging a person with out ignoring the actions. you may ask what is a person other then the sum of actions they take in life the answer is in the infinite possibility of choices and actions to be taken in the future of this life and the next.

it may be impossible to know what happens after this life (or in the next 30 seconds for that matter) but i know that it is possible to love others and yourself for the endless possibility's of good which we all posses. Even if at the end of this life its a black void or any other endless possibility, in the life i am currently in thinking this way can only make a better person. Although this may not be possible as a world scale idea in my life time I can defiantly utilize it in my daily life and hope my ideas will make sense to others who can grow from them.

Vetiver Vision

My vetiver story takes place in India. It is a very busy marketplace, colorful, hot, and humid. There is a man selling clothing. He is older, short, he is very happy (content) with his life. He has a great family and is quite proud of his children and his home. He is a very wise man.

(Note:  Massage class assignment was to smell the essential oil Vetiver and describe how it makes you feel - tell the story it creates in you.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Whats in a smell?

Smell is one of our most primitive senses. It has many functions from protecting us from danger to letting us know if something delicious is around to eat. What is most amazing though is how it is tied to memory and mental imagery. Have you even smelled something that brought back a memory of a specific time or place? Or smelled something that just gave you a certain feeling inside? This concept was the basis of this assignment: Clear ones mind and then take a few whiffs of Vetiver, an essential oil, and then write a short story about what you envisioned from the smell.

"I am a young child. Curious and free. Somewhere deep in a heavily wooded forest. It is very green and beautiful. The sun is shining down and it is warm. There is a small cottage that is very homely feeling and a wonderful garden filled with many different plants, herbs, flowers. There are paths that wind through the garden and everything is beautifully put together. Very earthy and natural feeling. There is someone home in the cottage. Smoke is coming from the chimney. Inside there is a little old woman cooking. She looks kind and grandmotherly. There is something brewing in a large pot over a fire. She smiles. Herbs and plants of all kinds are hanging, drying. A lot goes on here despite the peacefulness. The cottage it cozy and welcoming feeling. Back outside I lay in the grass. The air is fresh and there are birds singing in the garden."

Sunday, June 6, 2010


A Smell of Vetiver

An old cedar chest stands open in a room in an old Victorian house. It could be in the attic, but there is not the thick layer of dust that is seen in most attics. It is a dark room, but there are gas lamps burning, adding a golden glow to the area surrounding the open chest. On the walls hang heavy red velvet drapes with silky twisted fringe of the same shade of rich red on the edges of the drapes. Only the drapes against the wall are visible in the light of the lamps, no wallboard is visible. The chest, much like an old steamer trunk with an open arched top and metal fittings along the edges, sits on an old braided rug, in shades of red faded to pinks. It too is clean, not covered in dust.

In the trunk are articles of clothing, tenderly folded and put away. On the top of the clothing, wrapped in fragile paper is an old dress, possibly a wedding dress, kind of ecru in color, not white, but not yellowed with age. It is covered entirely in lace and hand beading, the beads sparkle in the soft light of the lamps.

The smell of Vetiver

In class on friday we did a writing exercise where we smelled an essential oil called Vetiver, which I've never heard of before, and we wrote down what image/story came to mind when we smelled it. This is a description of the image that came to my mind:
There is a man in the woods, a father figure, he is a logger and he's stacking fresh cut wood. The sun is shining through the branches of the pine trees. The trees are tall, there's not much underbrush, and the ground is covered with pine needles. The late afternoon sun shining through the trees is creating sun beams because of the particles in the air. It is warm, quiet, and peaceful.
As an afterthought, it also smells like a dry sauna, the wood smell that is brought out with the heat, and the smell of eucalyptus that is usually used in saunas.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vetiver Oil the Scent that Encourages the Imagination

We were given an assignment in class to smell the scent of a certain essential oil and then write whatever comes to mind from the scent. so I centered myself for a bit then picked up the scent strip and with the inhilation of the scent I let my mind flow. The first picture that came to mind was a fresh green beautiful vegtable garden, where the air that is blowing all around me is fresh, clean , and crisp. Their is a forest of green everywhere the color of green pea pods. I'm reminded of something familar that I can't quite place.

Vetiver Oil Story

In our class, we were asked to write a story after smelling the essential oil "Vetiver". We were told to just write whatever came to mind. After we had written our stories, we were told that this particular essential oil is an Earth element oil. This struck me because earth element has to do with relationships(like family),and cycles (like life and death), both of wich were included in my story. Here it goes:

There's a beautiful scenery with rolling hills and fields of lovely flowers. A woman sits on a blanket. She is young, beautiful, with soft features. Her children run and play, a little girl and boy. They pick a boquette of flowers for their mother- they sing songs and play tag. They have a yellow lab puppy they play fetch with. Laughter fills the air as they roll down the giant grassy hill. Their mother is laying on her stomach, relaxing while she reads and listens to her children play under the hot sun. She feels gratitude for her surroundings and her beautiful family. A wave of sadness comes over her as she thinks about her late husband, who died shortly after her second child was born. She knows that he is with her in spirit, watching over her and her young kids. They are at his very favorite place. There is a beautiful oak tree which they sit under, that has his and her initials in a heart, carved into the trunk.

The Heart that boggles the mind

Our heart trully is an amazing yet complex organ. I never trully understood how much work our heart does to ensure that our blood gets pumped through our body on a daily basis. The physiology of the heart still amazes and befuddles my brain. When I read the article called "The Heart As An Organ of Perception" The heart turned into a whole new perspective for me. Everyday we come in contact with other peoples magnetic heart fields, yet we do not realize when this happens or we meet people and we tend to have a strong connection towards that person, almost a sense of feeling that you have known this person for you entire life. How is it possible for our hearts to send out a magnetic feild without our knowing? The western tradition is to live in your mind think with your mind anything beyond that will entail too much feeling. I think feelings truly scare people, so it becomes second nature to us to live in our heads. What if we started looking at life through the heart, and how much would that change our reality of life? I have to sign off for now but I have much more to add to this article.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stephen Harrod Buhner Article

"The body is a complicated symphonic system, much like nature itself..." Fantastic statement. I agree wholeheartedly! (Ignore obvious pun). This article is an eye opener that's for sure. Intangible touch is that feeling of wanting to reach out, reach through and experience bonds that overwhelm you, before your brain takes over. I love the idea of the dance. The moment when the soul essence inside us , and the soul essence from something outside us, met and mingled. Every day we walk through life and enter and exit the lives of others, seemingly separate and definitely unaffected. That's what I used to think anyway. Having some life experience under my belt and knowing better, I see each and every human interaction as a meeting of hearts and souls. Not that I always introduce myself well or that my heart is even open half the time, it's not. I am learning to close my eyes, feel the vibration and just sit with it for awhile. In time, I will learn to dance freely.

The other point that I enjoyed in this article was that of entrainment. Hearts oscillating, exchanging information, beating each to his own drum and altering heart function. That is when the dialogue begins. Without a word being said. Speaks volumes for this profession. The healer can literally oscillate health and well-being to a client, without any words being exchanged. And all of this comes naturally. Learning to sense my heart field, and eventually to guide and direct it, will deepen my relationship with the universe, thus enabling me to truly help another.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Emotions of the Heart

I've never thought of the heart as an organ of emotion. Sure we talk about having a broken heart, or loving someone with all our heart, but it seems to be more of a metaphorical saying, not something true. After reading an article called "The Heart as an Organ of Perception" by Stephen Harrod Buhner in the magazine Spirituality & Health, I have new ideas of what the heart really is capable of. The hearts electromagnetic field is 5,000 times stronger than the brain's and can be detected by sensitive scientific instuments up to 10 feet away. This explains the reason we can feel someone's presence without seeing or touching them. And why we can tell how someone is feeling just by being close to them.
Indigenous people tend to say they live in their heart, while we in the West tend to say we live in our heads, we don't take the time to pay attention to the feelings we get from our hearts, or we just assume those feelings are really coming from our brains.
As it says in this article, first we feel with our hearts, then we know with our brains.

The Extraordinary Heart

I first learned about the heart from a Western point of view. I was amazed by it then with all the functions that it performs. Beating away, keeping us alive, the heart functions has a pump, releases hormones, and is composed of neural tissues which make up it's own pacemaker. Now I have come to the see the heart in a different and even more amazing light. The heart is not just a muscle sustaining life, but it is also responsible for feelings, emotions, consciousness, perception, cognition, and the innate closeness that we feel towards other living things. Of course this is what is advertised, that love comes from the heart. But what does that really mean? and is there actually a science behind it? Turns out that, yes, there is. The article that we had to read in class was very interesting just in the research alone. I wish that there was a title on it, but it was by Stephen Harrod Buhner in Spirituality & Health, March/April 2006. The article illustrates these amazing aspects of the heart that have long been underestimated of disregarded in Western Medicine and mindset. The concept that really struck a cord with me was where in the body we live determines how we perceive and interact with the living world around us. Buhner explains that when asked where in the body they live indigenous people who still have a closeness with the earth gestured toward their hearts, while Western people usually gestured toward their brain. To live from the heart is to feel from the heart and learn and know after. I really like this way of thinking, it just seems to make so much more sense! The heart truly is an organ of sense, with the power to entrain ones entire body and interact with others heart centers. This is why two people can exchange information and communicate with out every saying a word, they do so through their heart fields. The more we learn to feel from the heart, the way our body was meant to feel, the more connected to the rest of the living world around us we will be. Living in our heads just gets us farther from intuitions and innate abilities to communicate instinctualy. Unfortunately, Western society has put so much emphasis on living in the head/brain that there seems to have developed a social phenomenon that I am going to call the mind-body-heart disconnect. Western society seems to view each of these as an independent entity and therefor misses the concept of the whole system. "The whole is far more than the sum of the parts", and that is just putting it lightly!

I am going to have to cut this blog short since I am running out of time, but I plan to post more since I am not done evaluating and reviewing the article.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Massage Therapy Is Not What I Thought It Would Be - It's More

By Shifu Chase Acuff, LMT

Here I go again, on to my next massage clients. I’m currently about 75 miles Northwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Moving along at about 120 knots and about 1200 feet up. At least that’s what it looks like on the dash as I peer over the pilot’s shoulder. This time, I’m heading out on a big, sleek, red and white turbo De Havilland Otter on skis. We should be arriving at the prestigious Winterlake Lodge in about another 20 minutes. Airplane is the only way in, unless you want to undertake the 90 mile snowmachine ride in from Talkeetna. In the summer, forget it. Too boggy.

My clients are onboard. They are to be guests at the Lodge for the next few days as the dog mushers blow through there at checkpoint four during the famed Iditarod Sled

Dog Race. They all look excited. A few VIPs from Anchorage, a couple from D.C. and another from North Carolina.

Oh nice! Here we go winging through the little pass again to the big valley where the lodge sits. Glacial-smoothed tundra stares right in my window. Awesome! We must be only 500' off the deck here.

Never would have guessed being a Massage Therapist would look like this.

This is my 5th or 6th time out now. I’ve been out in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, and it’s a different place, each season. In the winter there’s snowmachining, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, then when it warms, hiking, kayaking, fishing, heli-hiking, heli-flightseeing, great food, camaraderie and of course, great massages.

Usually relaxation massage out here. Just tuning up a body not used to winter sports or a long hike or maybe just a bit of indulgence to offset a hectic life. I might have to occasionally smooth out a casting arm being overused from going for those monster Rainbow trout. Out helicoptering from fishing hole to fishing hole the day before.

Yes, I’ve gotten in some great, kayaking, snow machining and fantastic heli-flightseeing and heli-hiking in between clients out here and, so nice, the staff gets the same gourmet food the guests get. Rough!

Now, my massage therapy practice is not always as glamorous as this, but it sure is interesting. My clients are so interesting. They open up to you as a massage therapist. You hear the back stories of CEO’s to a hairstylist in from Florida. You might find yourself doing massage by candle light because the generator just kicked off, or doing hard work with a line of chair massage clients at a health fair; in a hallway! I’ve done chair massage in the luxurious Denaina Convention Center for a Chamber of Commerce gathering, open-air massage at the raucous Downtown Market and an overnighter on the Kenai Peninsula for South Central Foundation, as well as numerous and ongoing gigs at many other places in town. It’s fun to be able to go into these places and meet people, where otherwise you would never go. It’s also nice to be so warmly welcomed and invited right on back into the business. Everybody likes having the massage therapist show up.

Your clients are interesting. They are all puzzles. Do they want relaxation, or therapy? Is it low back pain? Recent shoulder surgery? An old snowmachining crash still bothering them? Single mom of three needs TLC? Old injuries, or new? Recent life changes? What’s their rhythm, their depth? What approach, acupoint formula, should I use to give the client what they’re looking for? As I’m giving, is it working? Do I need to change approaches midstream? What do I need to say? Do I need to say anything?

A puzzle, the assessment, the approach. As my skills grow from further work on myself, advanced massage skills, acupoint formulas: the puzzle solving gets faster and the fix, more effective.

The puzzle, though, I find has more depth as I gain more depth. One can look deeper into a person and give, deeper, more refined care.

I was pleased to find, the years of Taiji and Qigong I had prior to massage school actually added to my understanding of massage clients and how to correct imbalances. I see things in body posture and movement and qi flow that tell me things.

I was actually opposed to going to massage school originally. I used to work in hospitals in varying capacities; I thought working with massage clients was like working with patients in hospitals. More of that impersonal, institutional relationship. I wasn’t interested in getting back to that.

I was wrong.

It’s much more personal and meaningful. Some of my clients have been with me for years. I have seen them change and grow for the better in those years. I’ve also been surprised at how fast and effective the massage techniques can be at times. Providing pain relief, relaxation and better health; and all with just my hands. Often times giving people hope, where before their was none.

So, entering the field of massage therapy has been quite the eye-opener. Quite meaningful as I improve people’s lives, and as I see the genuine appreciation on their faces. They don’t have to say a word. You do a good job; you read it on their face, you read it in their body. I get paid well for what I do, and, in addition, the greater "payoff", is in knowing I made a difference in someone’s life.

Shifu Lawrence Chase Acuff, LMT

Shifu Chase is a wonderful massage therapist formerly practicing out of The Oriental Healing Arts Center in Anchorage. He specializes in deep tissue massage and will leave you feeling like a wet noodle (that's a good thing!). He enjoys Tai Qi, QiGong, personal growth, and hosts a highly successful workshop called "Breath For Stress" which he has presented to several local businesses for their Workplace Wellness day.