Fire/Water Solstice Balance

 By Licensed Acupuncturist Austin Dixon

Am I the only one feeling like there is too much happening and too many places to be right now?

Probably not. This feeling is typical for this time of year. There is a lot going on and we want to do all of it. Our busy Spring/Summer schedule can make us feel excited, energized, yet completely overwhelmed and exhausted. You might find yourself overdoing it a bit and craving down time but struggling to find it. This kind of constant activity leaves us feeling burned out and resentful. Though we are responsible for knowing our own limits and not over-committing, we aren’t completely to blame for our packed schedules. Nature plays a role as well.

Chinese Medicine is based around the balance (yin and yang) in nature. We are a part of nature and very much influenced by its changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Changes in the seasons affect our physical and emotional balance.  In the Spring, Yin (calm, cooling, slow energy) is moving into Yang (energetic, hot, fast energy) preparing to peak at the height of summer.  It is only normal that as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer our bodies do, too. We start to crave more activity and movement. Plans get made, vacations are set, and the next thing we know we have no down time. We have completely lost our friend, Yin, that we got to know so well over the Winter. We can’t just ignore Yin during the summer months and hope that sleep will balance it all out. We have to create our own Yin moments. When we balance our Yin and Yang we are at optimal health and all the systems in the body run properly and smoothly.

Here are some ideas for balancing your Yin during the summer….

  • Get acupuncture. Even if you “don’t have anything wrong”, acupuncture helps balance the body and improve the function of all the systems.

 

 

  • Get a massage. Massage not only feels good but also has many health benefits.

 

 

 

 

  • Meditate. You don’t have to sit for hours everyday to meditate. Start with 3 minutes of quiet everyday. And remember, meditating doesn’t mean you sit without having thoughts. That is practically impossible. Meditating is sitting quietly noticing your thoughts. That’s it. If that feels like too much to ask, try focusing on your breath by making the inhale and exhale equal. 3 minutes will fly by.

 

  • Exercise in the morning. Exercising is a Yang activity. Our Yang energy is rising in the morning and peaking at noon. When we exercise in the morning we are working with natural energy of the day when neither Yin nor Yang are in full force. After noon Yin begins to increase. The later we get in the day the more present Yin is. Honor the flow and keep your evening activities relaxed and calming. If you want to be a Yin Yang Overachiever you can even plan a noon nap everyday. Countering the most Yang part of the day with the most Yin activity.

 

  • Do Tai Chi and/or Qi Gong. Both of these are forms of gentle exercises designed to bring body awareness and superior health and wellness. It is best to do at sunrise and sunset, but you will still get the benefits anytime of day.

 

 

  • Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is when our body replenishes itself. It is a Yin activity. Sleep is extremely important to keeping a good balance.

 

  • Don’t drink too much coffee. Coffee gives us a false sense of energy all the while depleting the reserves we do have. I love my cup of coffee, but too much of it will have me running on empty.

 

  • Food! It is important to balance Yin and Yang foods with an extra emphasis on the Yin. Most veggies are Yin and cooling, especially the green, leafy ones. Fish and seafood are cooling as well as seaweed. There is a lot of information online about how to eat in alignment with the seasons and Chinese Medicine.  

 

 

I hope you have found this helpful. It is hard to live a balanced life these days. Start small and feel proud of the small successes. Good luck everyone!

May and June Fundraisers benefit ALS research

May and June Pay-What-You-Can Community Acupuncture Saturday fundraisers at Armonia Health LLC have been dedicated to raising funds that support ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) affecting people in our Durham community.
 
May’s fundraiser supported the Freelon ALS fund, Phil Freelon is a Durham based architect known internationally and his wife Nnenna Freelon is known well in the jazz and music communities.  Both my husband Alex Weiss and I have known Nnenna for many years and it felt important for me to support her husband’s fund. Our May 3 fundraiser raised $300 for the Freelon ALS fund.  We wish you Phil much loving support and for your family too, let us know how else we can help.
We continue in June to raise awareness about this disease that is not uncurable, it is underfunded.
Here is some information about this disease:  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a progressive neurological disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. When motor neurons that connect nerves and muscles die, people lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. Without stimulation, muscles become weak and atrophy. Most people with ALS become totally paralyzed as they lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and breathe.  Every 90 minutes, someone with ALS dies and another person is diagnosed.  The average age of diagnosis is 55; however, cases of ALS also appear in people in their 20s and 30s. Military veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS as the general population. Athletes also seem to be more susceptible. No one is sure why.  The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is 2-5 years. 20% live 5 years or more; 10% percent live more than 10 years.
Coincidentally, our community acupuncturist Austin Dixon had already been thinking about helping her ALS client’s foundation.  Austin and I have agreed to offering community acupuncture on alternate Saturdays, so on June 3, the funds Austin collects at our Pay-What-You-Can Community Acupuncture fundraiser go towards Andrea Lytle Peet’s Team Drea Foundation.  I asked Andrea and Austin to write a little about their work together:
From Andrea:  “Before I started acupuncture, my hamstrings were so tight they’d pop with every step. The relief I get is magical!
After I was diagnosed with ALS in May 2014 at the age of 33, I encouraged my friends & family to do a race that represented a challenge to them and use it as an opportunity to raise money for ALS research. So far, 150 people have participated — taking on everything from an Ironman triathlon to a 5k and we have raised $165,000! Thanks to my slow progression (plus acupuncture and physical activity), I am still able to race. I have done 4 marathons, 9 half marathons, and 4 triathlons on my recumbent tricycle. So the Team Drea Foundation’s mission is both about raising money for ALS research and living bravely, appreciating what our bodies can do”
From Austin:  “Andrea is my first ALS patient. Not only is she a delight to work with, I have learned a lot from her. During our acupuncture sessions I focus on loosening her tight hamstrings and improving/maintaining her respiratory function. At the end of each treatment there is a palpable difference in her hamstrings and she reports feeling looser. Though the respiratory function is harder to measure in this setting I trust that the acupuncture is also helping with that.”
Be inspired by this amazing woman for overcoming adversity, here is picture of her on her trike!
Acupuncture with a licensed acupuncturist is one of the safest ways of addressing musculo-skeletal issues and pain. In Chinese medicine theory, when the energy (Qi) flows, there is no pain; when there is pain, the Qi does not flow. Acupuncture is based on helping energy flow, which in turn innervates the nervous system, the lymphatic system, and the circulatory system.  Contact us if you have questions on how our practitioners can help you and what sessions best fit your needs and your budget.  We want to support an integrative model in health care!
Call us at (919)-251 9698 to schedule for a community acupuncture session during the week or for the Saturday Pay-What-You-Can community acupuncture fundraiser or use our online scheduling for individual sessions http://www.armoniahealth.com
In Service,  Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss L.Ac. and the Armonia Health team

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Grand Opening Office Warming Spring 2017

 

What a beautiful Saturday it was at Armonía Health LLC’s Grand Opening April 8, 2017!  It was an afternoon celebrated with multi-cultural ceremonies, music, and food and Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss’ long-time clients and friends shared some heartfelt words.

 

 

A big thanks to Li-Lan’s parents flying in from Taiwan and Paraguay and brother coming from Mexico City and creative husband Alex Weiss.

Purchasing an office condo is no easy task and Li-Lan is so grateful for the people that made the process fun, timely, and organized:  commercial realtor with Century21 Elaine Boyle, intuitive Aninda Valentini, Nancy Mayer attorney-at-law, Steve Carscadden of Carscadden Financial Services, and James Samson who started the business loan process for M&F Bank in Durham.

 

Thank you to our multi-ethnic caterers: Maria Espita from Toledo’s Mexican restaurant on Hwy 55/54 in Durham, Rangadevi Hernandez of Govinda Catering in Hillsborough, Hong Kong Dim Sum Express on Guess Road in Durham, and gluten-free baking by Antonio Gonzalez.

 

Heartfelt thanks for our invited speakers who shared about creativity, diversity, service, friendship, faith, and ways that Chinese medicine has helped them: Judith Winston of Health Touch NC LLC, Adriana Suarez and Oscar Garcia, Diane Dorney Hayes, Rosa Galvan of Rosa’s Cleaning and Painting, and Roberto Copa Matos of Old Havana Sandwich Shop in Durham.  Your shares provided such richness to the event.  Fun video clips of the event are at Armonía Health LLC’s YouTube channel!

 

Armonía Health and Li-Lan’s vision of affordable, quality Chinese medicine and wellness care with Spanish-English speaking practitioners and interpreters would not be possible without our community acupuncturist Austin Dixon, Reiki and Life coach practitioner Raquel Dominguez, and Li-Lan’s assistant Monica Paredes.

The afternoon was best summarized by one of the event’s caterers Rangadevi Hernandez of Govinda Catering:  “The first event of my afternoon was the Grand Opening of Armonia Health’s community acupuncture clinic in Durham. Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss first envisioned this bilingual community-centered health center nine years ago, and was celebrating the manifestation of that long-awaited vision.

Boy, do Lilan and her  husband,  musician Alex Weiss,  know how to    throw an interesting party! One of  Lilan’s signature traits is her reverence for diversity, which was  evident in the crowd of friends and well-wishers who came to bless the  new space. The ceremony began with  a Taiwanese prayer to the Four Elements of Nature, followed by Alex  playing a native Earth-healing song  on his  Cherokee-made wooden flute.  Next there was a Taiwanese style ribbon-cutting and ceremonial  entrance into the office,  accompanied by Alex on his trumpet.  You can see a brief video here (Instagram literally only gives you a minute to work with). I also want to mention that the entire ceremony was translated into both English and Spanish  (with some Mandarin thrown in for extra exoticity)”

Vocalist friend Shana Adams rounded out our Open House ceremony with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace to honor the power of faith and spirituality.

And then the FIESTA!  Good food, nice people, fun music with Steve Fishman and Alex Weiss of The Un-Incorporated followed by Juanito Lagina with Latin American folk traditions!!

Chinese Year of the Rooster 2017 Predictions

Wake up to a new Year!  Year for gatherings, primarily peaceful, overall there will be many demonstrations.  People will also have fun socializing.  Unpredictability of when protests may happen. Be aware that demonstrations will happen.

The Breakdown of structures that have been standing firm for a long time.  There will be changes in the way government is organized, the way people of vote, corporations being re-structured.  Great year for team building.

Good year for losing weight.  Will spend on smaller luxuries, people will budget.

Check mechanical things, get repairs made.

Countries who invade other territories not theirs will encounter protest and backlash.  Most of the time between countries there will be war of words.  Famous people and world leaders will be held accountable for what they express.  A lot of nationalism, people will hold onto views very strongly.

Domineering attitude will be frowned upon.  Not good year to lie and be able to get away with it, consequences will show up.  Introverts will do well and come forth into the public limelight, their voice will be heard and gain power.

Short term stocks will not do well in the long run.

Small/shorter travel trips this year.  Good year for entertainment, construction, remodeling, and local cooking restaurants.

Good year to start new business in the holistic health realm: Chinese medicine, ayurvedic, traditional healing systems.  Great year for art, jewelry, and anything that help people remember beauty, creativity, and whimsicallness.

Fitness shall be fun, slower, and softer: tai chi, yoga, ballroom dancing…  People will have fun getting in shape.  Cardiopulmonary system in people with issues will be affected, get treatment early, especially around pre-existing clotting issues.  Issues with the neurological system, nerves ampted up (already from last year).  Add essential fatty acids into the diet to help with the skin and nerves.  Brain will feel like it’s stuttering, ok if you have memory issues or difficulty finding words, it’s not permanent or dementia; it’s just a bad year for short term memory.

Important to meditate, deep breathing, rest more, eat light, good year for recovery, but have to make concerted effort.  Emotions will feel ragged.  Will be good year to catch migraines early and keep from progressing.  Kidney deficiency will show up as result from last year, hold off from doing knee and hip replacements.  There will be an overall blood supply deficiency so store up blood if you have to go thru surgery.  Eat bones broths and soups to support the Kidney energy.  Good year to nourish the Kidneys.

Intuition will be enhanced in people, we will be able to feel more other people’s feelings.  Good year to heal from feelings not expressed from the past.  Better for the shadow to come out than stay in, like Dr. Rosita Arvigo grandma’s saying “Better an empty apartment, than a bad tenant”

Psychological/Emotional imbalances • People will feel more irritated, critical and pickier than usual. • Perfectionism will emerge in previously easygoing people. • Many will feel scattered and confused. • Expect more fear and anxiety, also in animals. • Children may become afraid of the dark, give them a nightlight • People may feel sad a lot from a tired heart.

Good to support the liver: leafy greens, shoots; but liver problems will be mild.

Good year for charisma and charm in relationships.  Good year to connect with new people or reconnect with old ones.  Romanticism.  Cheerful year to enjoy small beautiful things.  Great year for personal creativity, will soothe the soul. Good year for getting together with family and friends in quieter more passive gatherings.  Is another good year for having children.

Previous years were bad for addiction, this year people will catch themselves sooner before escaping.

Live webinar from Lillian Bridges on www.medigogy.com

Lillian’s website:  www.lotusinstitute.com

Email lilan@armoniahealth.com if you are interested in the complete PDF file.

Winter, Water, and Reflection

This blog post was first published in December 2013.  It has been updated with tidbits of how to connect with this element and it’s associations, and enhanced with another reflective video at the end.
Water is the first of the Chinese Five Elements as well as the last, it is the turning point that marks the end as well as the beginning.  How so?  Fall (Metal element in Chinese medicine) is the preparation of the dormant stage of winter we are currently in;  the leaves that changed colors last month have now fallen but are compost to nourish new growth in the spring.  During the whirlwind of 2016 and now into 2017, do you feel you are able to hibernate right now?   Are you one to crave hibernation or are afraid of it because it feels like spiraling down a dark hole and hard to come back out?
Some of us are being pulled by the events happening in the US at the start of 2017 and may struggle to balance our desire to be active in our community and serving others and also taking time to replenish and retract inward.  It may be increasingly difficult to do just one and not the other.  The time has come to do both.
Here are some suggestions for self care in tune with the Water element, so one can more quickly expand and retract without feeling overwhelmed:  Make note to reflect, meditate, or have a meaningful conversation with another person, make a conscious effort to slow down your pace of walking, breathe deep when you are in the bathroom and taking a shower, say thank you to the water you drink, create a ritual with water, don’t rush if you don’t have to, let yourself sleep more, feel how warm cooked soups, stews, and freshly blended/squeezed juices taste and feel to you.  This is the season for focusing on balancing our Water element, but the following information is also beneficial for health maintenance and longevity.

The associations of the Water Element in the body are connected to the Kidney and Bladder organs and meridians, which have the following physiological functions in Chinese medicine:

  • Kidneys are the source of the body’s vital energy, the “pilot light”, both the Yin and Yang
  • Kidneys store essence, which refers to the body’s DNA and genes, as well as sexual drive and function
  • Kidneys rule the bones and teeth
  • Kidneys manifest in the head hair and open into the ears as hearing
  • Kidneys are also called the Kidney-Adrenal glands, which in modern Western perspective encompass the adrenals as well as the whole endocrine system.
  • Kidneys helps with the deep inhalation of the Lungs
  • Kidneys control the quality and quantity of urine
  • Relates to winter season, the temperature is cold, the food flavor is salty, connects to the low back and knees
  • Kidney energy becomes depleted with prolonged fear, fright, and trauma especially during childhood and teenage years, overwork, excess physical activity, chronic disease, all addictive behavior including excess sexual activity, multiple close births and excess blood loss for women, a lack of discipline and encouragement during childhood.
There are two ways that the Water element can be out of balance in Chinese medicine diagnosis:  a deficient Kidney Yin condition or a deficient Kidney Yang condition.  One may exhibit a dominance of either Kidney yin or yang deficiency, but can experience symptoms of both; in the general population, Kidney deficiencies may start to show up around age 35 or older as adrenals start being taxed and Kidney essence starts to decline.

Deficient Kidney Yin condition is distinguished by:

  • Pain and ache in the lower back and knees
  • scanty, dark urine
  • red tongue
  • feeling of fever in the afternoon
  • flushing of the cheeks
  • insomnia, especially waking up in the middle of the night with difficulty falling back asleep
  • night sweats, hot flashes
  • feelings of heat in the palms and soles of feet
  • infertility, premature ejaculation, anxiety, palpitations, prematurely gray hair, feeling “tired and wired”

Deficient Kidney Yang condition is distinguished by:

    • chronic fatigue and exhaustion
    • cold limbs with difficulty getting warm
    • frequent urination daytime or night time
    • edema/water retention in the lower limbs
    • achy knees
    • diarrhea, especially urgent in the morning
    • poor appetite
    • difficulty losing weight over a long period of time
    • infertility, low libido
Both the Kidney Yin and Yang deficiencies are like “burning the midnight oil” or “running the engine near empty” consciously or unconsciously.
What are ways to nourish Kidney energy from Chinese medicine perspective?
  • Start with lifestyle habits that nourish and strengthen the GUT/Digestive System.  From the Chinese medicine Organ/Element association, we refer to this as the Spleen system. For more information on Spleen energy, visit this previous blog post Spleen: The Mother of all Elements.
  • Cultivate deep breathing habits through regular exercise, joyful movement and/or meditation
  • Additional ways to balance Kidney energy specifically include consuming dark fruits and vegetables such as red grapes, prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, blue corn, eggplant, seaweed, mushrooms, squash, black sesame seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, black beans, cinnamon, romaine, escarole, endive.  Roasted meats, slow-cooking foods, bone broths, miso soup are also great Kidney tonics.
Was this blog too much information to absorb?  No worries =)  Just watch these two videos of water, breathe in how they make you feel and replay that feeling in your mind’s eye throughout the day or come back and watch them again.  You will naturally embody the energy of water.
Our licensed acupuncturists are skilled and happy to work with you with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary recommendations to help you understand how to support your Water element and its associations.  Call us today to schedule your appointment.
This is a video of a creek from a hike on the first snow in Durham of 2017, view it from YouTube to get the full sound effect of the water and watch the snowflakes:

What Is Qi Gong?

“To study and at times practice what one has learned, is that not a pleasure?”  -Confucius
lilan qigongQi (pronounced CH-EE) is the Chinese word for “life force or life energy”.  It is the inherent power that flows through all living things, including inanimate objects like mountains and rocks.  For humans, having healthy Qi involves having an abundance of vitality but also having the Qi flow smoothly and unimpeded through ones body.
Gong is translated as “work”, but not with a solely negative connotation as modern society often uses the duality of “work vs play”.  Gong here relates to the benefits gained through continuous practice; I like to say “the pleasure of focused attention”.
So Qi Gong means working with life energy, learning how to control the flow of qi in body, mind, and spirit to improve health and wellbeing.
My earliest exposure to the practice of Qi Gong was from my father.  I was living in Honduras, so I was in middle school.  I’m not sure what prompted him to teach me some of these ancient Chinese techniques, but I clearly remember the core lessons: horse stance, the importance of both feet feeling stable and connected to the ground, resting the tip of the tongue on the top palate to connect the body’s energy line from tailbone to head, and correct posture for proper flow of Qi.  I remember liking the lessons even then.
It is no surprise, looking back now, that I have made Chinese medicine my practice and my life, of which Qi Gong and the understanding of Qi is a bit part of. That was over 20 years ago and I’m still practicing the basics, as well as having learned a lot of other fun Qi Gong exercises that I look forward to sharing in class.

Reflection from student in the spring 2015 series: “I really am glad i was able to get a nice foundation in the Qi Gong. It was such a nice way to fully shift out of the work day. Sometimes I stay in work mode, so I really noticed the difference from how I felt when walking in vs. leaving. I taught it to my mom this weekend and hope to do some videos for her so she can remember.”