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Find your center with meditation

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Here's to 2015 bringing us all abundant health, happiness & prosperity! A new calendar year is a great time to re-assess, re-affirm and rejuvenate. Meditation is a great tool to help get us back in touch with what we need, think clearly about the future and change habits that might not be serving us right now.

Meditation has been in the news a bunch lately. There have been a couple really wonderful studies done on how meditation can change our neural pathways and brain functioning to help mitigate our stress response, not only as we meditate but throughout our whole day. I've added a couple of links to the bottom of this newsletter if your interested in reading more about two of them.

I used to think that mediation meant being able to breath deeply in times of extreme emotion and bring whatever I was feeling (anger, frustration, anxiety) "under control." I found that doing this was not only unhelpful but impossible. A real mediation practice is just that, a practice. It has to be something that's done regularly with patience and compassion in order to receive its full benefits. Luckily, that doesn't mean you have to sit cross-legged in a meadow with no people, places or things surrounding you. Meditation can fit into anyone's day no matter how busy, noisy or crowded life gets.
Here are some suggestions on how to get started.

Chose a time during the day when you can sit quietly for 10 minutes. Before you start your day in the morning, just before bed, at the office, on a lunch break, whatever works best for you. Set an alarm for 10 minutes so you don't have to worry about how long you've been sitting there.
Sit in a chair with your feet grounded, or on the floor, legs crossed, with support under your seat if needed. Back straight, sit bones grounded, head erect, shoulders relaxed.
Breathe fully through your nose, without straining. Mouth closed, tongue lightly touching the roof of your mouth. Send each breath deep into your belly, feeling the belly expand and contract with each inhale & exhale.
Start to scan your body, from head to toes, sweeping your awareness through the body and noticing any sensations. Start with the top of your head, then eyes, nose, ears, mouth, neck, shoulders, all the way down to your finger tips and toe tips. If you notice that you're holding, crunching, straining anywhere, see if you can send your breath into that place to create space and relaxation there. Sometimes this body scan needs to be done a couple times in a row if it's difficult to relax your body or mind. If/when your mind starts to wander, think, plan, worry, day dream, just notice that it's doing so and return to your breath without beating yourself up.
When you're done with the body scan, return to your deep belly breathing and feel your feet firmly planted into the ground, if you're sitting on a chair. Feel as if there's a weight at the base of your spine (your tailbone) sinking into the ground, and the top of your head is being lifted up to the ceiling. This creates a slight traction through your whole spine.

You're done! Thank yourself for making the time to take care of yourself before you move into the rest of your day.

The key is to carve out those 10 minutes every day to give your brain and body time to re-set and relax out of fight or flight mode.
There are so many different types of mediation out there. You can search "mindfulness meditation" or just "mediation" and come up with lots of options.

I'm happy to talk about what kind of meditation may work best for you in our next session too!

Here's to the best year yet!

Mediation article links:
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2014/06/12/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/exercising-the-mind-to-treat-attention-deficits/?_r=0

Cold season

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Cold and flu season is hitting us like a polar vortex. It seems like most of us are either feeling sick, just getting over a cold or exhausted from fighting one off. 'Tis the season!

Here are a couple of health cultivating tips that can strengthen our immunity to fight off viruses or help shorten the duration of a cold/flu if it gets past those defenses.
In Chinese medicine, the easiest way for colds and flu to enter into our body is through the back of the head and neck. So, especially as the cold wind amps up, keep those areas covered with a scarf and hat.

Sinus rinses can be a life saver. They can keep mucous moving through the sinuses so it doesn't have time to stick around and brew up into an infection. I recommend using a netti pot/sinus rinse once daily through Fall and Winter. If you do get a cold, up it to twice a day. Always use water that has previously been boiled and cooled or distilled water only.

Get more sleep. In colder months our body's need more rest and down time. It gets dark earlier, so try to get to bed a little earlier too.

Meditate. More rest doesn't exclusively mean more sleep. It's important to take some time during the day to breathe deep and be still. That can mean 5 minutes or an hour, but carve out that time. There are so many different ways to meditate, it's important to find what works for you. Ask me in your next session how this may apply best to you.

Drink enough water. As the radiators kick on, so does the dryness in our homes and offices. So make sure you're staying hydrated throughout the day.

Incorporate more garlic in your diet. Garlic has strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties that help fight colds.

If you do get a cold, I like to gargle with a couple of drops of grapefruit seed extract in water, especially before bed, to help kill some of the virus/bacteria hanging out in our mouth and throat.

Our immunity is housed in our gut. The health of our digestive system directly correlates to the health of our immunity. To cultivate a healthy digestion in the colder months, eat 80-90% warm, cooked food everyday. Breakfast is a tough one for a lot of people to change. One really great option is congee. Congee is a rice porridge that you can add nuts, ginger, spices, fruit, vegetables, basically whatever you like, to make a warm, nourishing meal. You can make it ahead of time and warm it up with whatever additions you want in the morning. Here's a link to a helpful guide to basic congee, but there are plenty of recipes out there to fit your needs.
http://www.homemade-chinese-soups.com/cooking-porridge.html

Bone broth is getting it's props lately. There are restaurants popping up throughout the tri state area serving up this age old health cultivating broth. Fall and Winter are perfect seasons to nourish our bones and inner most tissues and cultivate a structure that can support us through whatever life brings us. It's cheap to make and you can make it fit your individual taste. Here's a helpful link that explains in a bit more detail the health benefits of bone broth and also gives easy recipes:
http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/

If you feel like you're getting a cold, come in for a treatment. We can work to help knock out the cold invading your system. If you've already gotten a cold or flu and are feeling sick, stay home, rest and follow these tips above.

Balance your fire this Summer

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Fire, the element associated with the Summer season, is flaring. As we melt deeper into the hot and sticky months of Summer, it can be cooling and rejuvenating to take stock of whether our fire is burning at a manageable, healthy pace.

Our fire element is all about connection. It connects us to ourselves, our ability to be exactly who we are, and to those around us. With warmer and longer days it's common to feel the desire to be a little more social and want to connect with others more often. The fire element houses our ability to be who we are and express that to those around us.
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A healthy fire element allows us to connect with people and be present without preconceived ideas or reactions. How can we listen to what people say without judgement? Can information be just that, information, without it shaking the foundation of who we are? We are constantly evolving, changing and working to cultivate new ideas and options for ourselves. Our fire element allows us to take in all opportunities for change and growth while remaining grounded in who we are.

In New York City, we are constantly bombarded with noise, information, instruction and details. Our fire element governs our ability to distinguish between what we really need to take in and digest (such as feedback on a project, the needs expressed by a partner, tips from your acupuncturist), and what can inform our thought process and decisions superficially without needing to incorporate it long term (like that loud roadwork, the sound of tourists rounding the corner or most of the evening news.

A great way to keep our fire burning bright without burning out, is to check in consistently with the relationships in our lives. Can we fully connect to co-workers, friends, family, partners on appropriate levels and with healthy intensities?
Cultivate self-awareness by asking, "How can I be the person I know I am throughout my daily life?"
The pericardium (the sac surrounding and protecting the heart) and heart are organs associated with the fire element. Asking ourselves these questions without judgment and with kindness will feed our fire element and begin to open up congestion in and around the chest and heart.

Your water element

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

I am currently reviewing in depth the five elements in Chinese medicine and would love to share with you some ways to incorporate these theories into your daily lives.

The five elements are water, wood, fire, earth and metal. These elements house each of the meridian systems, along which are the acupuncture points, and correspond to all of our internal functions and interactions with the outside world. I'll talk briefly today and during subsequent entries about some of the attributes that correspond to each element so we can recognize when they are in dysfunction. Then, I will offer tips on what we can do to get back on track.

These are huge, complex topics but I will try to simplify the major concepts to convey the gist of each elemental function to help you incorporate them into your life right now. I'm always happy to discuss any of these topics in greater depth during our sessions.

We'll begin with the water element because we are currently in the season associated with it: Winter.

In the Winter, living things need to live off the resources they have stored up through the year. We need to conserve our energy so that we can reemerge and start growing and producing again in the Spring.

The systems related to water are kidney and bladder.
Kidneys control what we do with our resources and give us the potency to be in the world and be ourselves.
Bladder controls the storage of water. It is the body's energetic savings account. It controls how we use our resources.

Our water element is our connection to our origin and our path. It allows us to define our existence and connect to where we come from and where we are going. It roots us in knowing who we are.

One way to gauge how our water element is doing is to take a look at how we use our resources. Ask ourselves questions like:
Am I spending more than I make?
Am I saving more than I need to live comfortably?
Do I overwork myself because I am afraid I might not have enough, or it may not last?
Am I expending my resources by pushing myself too hard physically?

If you're spending more than you have, or saving too much out of fear, then your water element may need to be addressed.

A nice way to nourish your water element is to develop a plan for you financial present and future, a plan that is in alignment with keeping healthy and happy. 
Check in with your pace at work and make sure that pace is in alignment with your goals and overall health.

Winter is a great time to take stock of how we are doing in all aspects of our lives and determine ways to best use our energy and resources. Eat warm, hearty soups and stews, whole grains, dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds and steamed winter greens are a great way to fortify the kidneys in the Winter.
Activity and exercise should also be geared toward conserving our resources. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation are great year round, but especially important in Winter. 
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine will help support you through any imbalances that come up through the year. We can discuss one on one about exactly what is going on for you and develop a plan to equalize the body's systems to get you on track to feeling your best.

Stay tuned for the next newsletter where we'll discuss the wood element, the element associated with Spring. It's just around the corner, polar vortex or not! 
 

And, as always;

Whatever your injury, Chinese medicine advocates immediate treatment. Treat minor problems promptly and they are much less likely to develop into larger, chronic conditions.

New Year 2014

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Happy New Year! Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Today marks the first day of a new lunar year, the year of the Wood Horse. Each year has it's connection to an animal and an element. There are twelve animals and five elements that cycle through and give each year it's own individual characteristics. 

The horse is a dynamic, powerful, determined and loyal animal with the potential for rapid movement and changing directions. With this enthusiastic motivation behind us, it seems like a great time to check in with our goals and objectives and plan for a productive year achieving what's important to us.

The wood element is associated with growth, strength, flexibility and something fresh and new coming out or breaking through. This year harbors huge potential for change. Change can be turbulent at times, but a strong wood element is flexible and sturdy through the turmoil.

This year carries huge potential for creation and growth. Good luck to everyone in this coming year!
 

Stay healthy this winter

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

2014 has started off with a polar vortex bang. This kind of cold doesn't visit the tri-state area too often, so it seems like a good time to discuss some ways we can keep ourselves warm and healthy this winter.

Other than bundling up when we're outside, here are some tips for staying warm from the inside, out.


Eat more soup.
Bone broth soups made with chicken, beef, lamb, pork bones help boost vitality and tonify our stored energy reserves in the body. It can also help with joint pain and body aches that are worse in cold weather. Here's a link to making bone broth soup at home: http://mindfulmealsblog.com/2013/11/06/guide-bone-broth/
Vegetable broths are great too, and super easy to make. Just throw a bunch of your favorite vegetables in a pot with some water, or veggie broth, and simmer for an hour or two. Add in your favorite spices to taste. 

Cook with warming herbs.
Herbs such as cinnamon, garlic, ginger, horseradish, cayenne, cardamon can help warm us up. Onions are also warming and nourishing, they're not herbs, but good to remember to add these in when cooking.

Drink warm beverages.
Keep water at room temperature and drink warm teas instead of iced drinks.

Exercise.
Cold has a way of contracting and constricting, which often makes it tougher to get moving and exercise. We want to conserve our energy in the winter, so workouts don't have to be strenuous right now. We do, however, need to keep moving and get our blood flowing through this time. Activities like yoga, tai chi, qi gong, stretching are really beneficial this time of year.

Keep your neck and low back warm.
Wearing a scarf can help protect us from contracting colds and look European while doing it. We also want to keep our low back covered up and warm, so maybe wear an extra undershirt, tucked in.

Get lots of sleep.
We tend to need a little extra sleep during the winter. Since it gets dark so early, try to get to bed a little earlier. Sneak in an extra hour or so of sleep this season.

And, as always;

Whatever your injury, Chinese medicine advocates immediate treatment. Treat minor problems promptly and they are much less likely to develop into larger, chronic conditions.

Self care between acupuncture treatments

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

"So, now what?" is a common concern after an acupuncture treatment. During a session things can shift profoundly in many different ways and we are sometimes left wondering what the best way to keep the healing going is. As part of an ongoing series, How To Care For Your Injuries; let's discuss how best to care for ourselves between acupuncture treatments.

Here are some suggestions for what to do post-treatment and between treatments.

In the hours directly following an acupuncture treatment:

Drink plenty of water.
Eat warm, nutritious food.
Avoid carrying heavy bags, especially on one shoulder. This is especially important when being treated for back, neck, shoulder pain and headaches.
Try to take it easy; do not work-out directly after a treatment and try not to do any big heavy lifting or excessive standing.
Do pay attention to any changes that happen post-treatment. This can include; increased range of motion, decreased pain level or frequency of pain, postural ease (feeling like it doesn't take as much effort to hold correct posture), an overall sense of well being, better sleep, things like that. How long do these sensations last for you?
Use some heat on any soreness that comes up. This can mean using a heat pad, hot shower, warm bath. Unless an area is already inflamed (hot, painful to light touch, swollen), heat will keep things moving and reduce soreness.
Walking, without heavy bags, can help your body integrate and adjust to any changes that happened in the session.

In the time between treatments:

Drink plenty of water.
Stay away from processed foods.
Resume any physical activity that is part of your daily life. Walking is always great.
Keep up with any corrective exercises and lifestyle changes we discussed in treatment.
Use heat with sore, tired muscles.
Get lots of sleep.
Make sure you are breathing deeply into your belly throughout the day.
Stretch a little before bed and take your big joints (neck, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles) through their range of motion upon waking.
Take breaks throughout the day when you are at a computer; close tour eyes, move your neck and shoulders around, take a walk around the office.

Keep each treatment going by listening to your body and taking care of it, no matter how long it is between sessions. Our body will tell us what it needs. We just need to cultivate ways to listen to it and incorporate self care into our daily lives. 

Whatever your injury, Chinese medicine advocates immediate treatment. Treat minor problems promptly and they are much less likely to develop into larger, chronic conditions.