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Autumnal Transition Into Winter Tips

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Life feeling a little heavy lately? Has it been tougher to ward off colds? If so, you're in good company.
Fall is a time for turning inward and shedding what we no longer need. This introspection can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness, heaviness or being stuck, which can make it tough for the body to function efficiently and fight off those viruses and bacteria.

The good news is, Autumn is a great season to let that stuff go! In Chinese medicine, Fall is the season of the lung and large intestine, which means that it is an optimal time to let in clean, life-sustaining air and eliminate things that are no longer beneficial to our body.
Meditation can help give us the time and attention we need to make that discernment and get the body functioning optimally again. Eating in-season food will help keep us aligned and balanced too.

Here are some tips:

  • Incorporate more aromatic herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, cayenne and horseradish into your diet to help open your nose and breath deep.
    Eat in-season vegetables as often as possible; squash, pumpkin, turnip, sweet potato, apples, and pears to name a few.
  • Focus on your breathing while exercising. This is inherent in yoga and qi gong, but make sure you're moving with your breath and breathing fully during whatever exercise you choose. Even when walking around or sitting at a desk, make sure you're filling your lungs fully with air so that your abdomen rises and falls with each breath.
  • Meditation can be a useful tool to help us recognize what is blocking us from feeling our best and how to move it along or let it go. Here are some helpful links to guided meditations and lectures: Oprah and Deepak Chopra are starting a new series of guided meditations on October 31 focusing specifically on getting "un-stuck". Tara Brach is offering a new lecture series with guided meditation at a 90% discount before November 2. It is on-demand so you can access them whenever you want. Headspace is a handy guided mediation app with options for sitting, walking, commuting and eating meditations.
    These are just a few inexpensive options that I know about, there are so many more ways to get into mediation and connect back to yourself, please don't limit yourself to just these.
  • Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are great ways to address specific ailments or patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best. Come on in for a treatment to discuss your specific concerns.

It is a great time to connect back with yourself and allow your bodies wisdom to guide you back to health. Let's take advantage of it! 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.

Spring Back Into Health

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Ah, Spring. Trees and flowers are blooming, daylight is extended and temperatures are on the rise. I know it happens every year, but it always seems like such a nice surprise after Winter.

This re-awakening of nature's life and beauty also has a tendency to stir up pent up emotions we've been hibernating with through the cooler months like frustration and restlessness. Also being stirred up... Allergies.

Check out these tips on how to replenish your vitality through this lively, rejuvenating season.
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Start your day off with a glass of warm, or room temperature water with lemon before breakfast. This can help stimulate the digestion, support the liver and give you a little vitamin C boost.

Step up your physical activity a bit. Try getting outside for brisk walks more often. Spending time outside in nature is emotionally and physically soothing.
Eat locally grown produce. Some of my Spring favorites are; artichoke, asparagus, chives, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, radish, fennel, mint and parsley.

Use a sinus rinse to help flush allergens out of your sinuses. Always use pre-boiled or distilled water in your neti pot.

Get rid of some old baggage to make room for change and growth. Maybe sort through your wardrobe and donate what your don't wear. Or, find ways to de-clutter your inbox.

Write down things that make you happy in life and commit to cultivating those things in a small, or big, way every day.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective in combating allergies and soothing emotional volatility. Come on in for treatment to help support you through the season!

Happy 2016!

by Stacey Kaplan LAc, LMT

Happy and healthy new year to you!
Welcoming in a new year can be an exciting and daunting task. We often make resolutions that are challenging and beat ourselves up if we don't stick to them. Lets start this year off with gratitude and realistic health goals that will help make 2016 our best year yet!

Try keeping a daily gratitude journal. Keep a journal and pen by your bed to write down 3 things you are grateful for that day. Studies have shown, time and time again, that having gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

Start each day with the recognition that this is the only time this particular day will ever happen. Remind yourself to be present and mindful throughout the day so that you don't miss these once in a lifetime moments.

Make a resolution to be the best you possible. Then work on details that will help you maintain that.

Here's to the best year yet!

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:

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.

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:

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.